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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 October 2018

Maajid Nawaz finds man who saved him from thugs over 25 years ago

The individual stepped in to defend a 15-year-old Nawaz when he was set upon by a group of racist attackers

Maajid Nawaz told radio listeners about the man who saved him from a racist attack. Lauren Lancaster/The National
Maajid Nawaz told radio listeners about the man who saved him from a racist attack. Lauren Lancaster/The National

An anti-extremism activist and radio presenter has found the man who he believes saved his life over 25 years ago after posting an appeal on Twitter.

Maajid Nawaz launched the appeal to find a man he called ‘Matt’ on the social network by posting an excerpt from his book, Radical: My Journey out of Islamist Extremism.

The man stepped in to defend a 15-year-old Nawaz when he was set upon by a group of racist thugs at Chalkwell Park Fair in Southend.

“In sudden horror, mixed with perverse relief, I watched as the skinheads swivelled their attention to Matt instead,” he wrote.

“Like famished hyenas they descended upon him, plunging their knives deep into his torso, beating on his head with their clubs and knuckle-dusters.”

Until Monday, Mr Nawaz didn’t knew what happened to the man after the paramedics took him away in an ambulance.

However, once he tweeted his appeal to find the man, it took less than a week for the director of the anti-extremist Quilliam Foundation to find the man.

After the story was covered by a local newspaper, the man sent a message to Mr Nawaz through his radio website page – although Mr Nawaz did not share his name, he let his followers know the man was not called Matt, after all. The two will meet on Thursday.

Mr Nawaz told the BBC the incident caused him to distance himself from his white friends, one of the first steps towards his radicalisation. Later, he joined Islamist group Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahri, ending up in prison in Egypt post-9/11. After his release, he dedicated his time to countering extremist narratives through his organisation, the Quilliam Foundation.

Journalist Katie Feehan, who kicked off the campaign to find ‘Matt’ shared her delight at the reunion on Twitter.