He regularly takes provocative stances

The Guardian reported a few days ago that Maajid Nawaz (who, from what I’ve seen, has been moving ever farther to the right lately) has been talking up trumpish conspiracy theories.

The prominent radio presenter and activist Maajid Nawaz, co-founder of a respected British anti-extremist thinktank and a one-time government adviser, has alarmed former admirers and academics with his interest in conspiracy theories about the lockdown and voter fraud in the US election on his Twitter account.

As an LBC radio host, he regularly takes provocative stances, but now a string of controversial and potentially harmful tweets is prompting further questions.

Followers were initially alarmed when Nawaz, who set up the Quilliam Foundation in 2008, inspired by his own move away from Islamic extremism, retweeted a “fascinating thread” in November last year on how the “myth” of a killer coronavirus pandemic had been spread. Nawaz adds he has no opinion on this claim.

No opinion on it but retweets it anyway, regardless of the harms of treating a lethal pandemic as a “myth.”

After the US presidential election, Nawaz tweeted a series of claims that fraud had taken place, questioning the credibility of the voting machines and reproducing some of the arguments put forward by Trump’s former legal cheerleader, Sidney Powell, whose claims proved so outlandish that she was eventually disavowed by the former president.

Following the attack on the US Capitol, Nawaz retweeted false claims that it was antifa, or anti-fascist groups, who orchestrated the raid, rather than Trump supporters.

Last week Nawaz also challenged Facebook to explain why it had marked one of his posts as false. He had drawn attention to allegations that America’s chief medical adviser to the president, Dr Anthony Fauci, had invested in the Wuhan laboratory suspected by some of leaking the virus into the human population. The wild allegations about Fauci – for which there is no evidence – were contained in a Fox News report from Steve Hilton, the British former public relations adviser to David Cameron.

If you’re promoting loony claims from Fox News, you’re not an anti-extremism campaigner any more.

Sunder Katwala, the director of the thinktank British Future, is one of those who has been attempting to hold Nawaz to account for spreading unproven theories and scare stories. He argued that the presenter poses more of a problem than conspiracists because of his LBC platform, the fact that he leads a counter-extremism thinktank and is also a prominent British convert from extremism. Katwala, a former general secretary of the leftwing Fabian Society, believes Nawaz’s public profile makes such references to “conspiratorial propaganda more worrying”.

“It has been alarming to witness this evolve from unusual misreadings of the US constitutional process into an interest in electoral fraud conspiracies,” said Katwala. “I cannot conceive of a benign explanation for participating in and spreading QAnon-inspired online conspiracies.”

A wacky sense of humor?

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