World in Brief: Global round-up

The World Today Updated 7 December 2018 Published 2 August 2013 2 minute READ
Photo: John McHugh/AFP/Getty Images

Photo: John McHugh/AFP/Getty Images

Politics: From radical Islamist to parliamentary candidate

After the next general election in 2015 there may be one member of the British Parliament whose unique political education marks him out from the rest.

Southend-born Maajid Nawaz began his political career with the radical Islamist Hizb ut-Tahrir, which campaigns to reinstate the Islamic Caliphate. He helped to establish the party in Pakistan and was its leader in the Egyptian city of Alexandria until he was arrested in 2002 and sentenced to five years in prison.

It was in Cairo’s British-built Tora gaol that he met the full spectrum of the Egyptian opposition: violent jihadis and bomb-makers, senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders including its current Supreme Guide, Mohammed Badie, and the liberal Ayman Nour, who stood for president against Hosni Mubarak in 2005.

‘With its rich mix of prisoners, from the assassins of Sadat all the way through to liberals and homosexuals, Tora became a political and social education,’ he writes in his memoir, Radical. On walks around the prison yard, Nour taught him to ‘think beyond Islamism’.

On release from gaol, Nawaz left Hizb ut-Tahrir and completed his political rebirth by helping to start the Quilliam Foundation, an organization supported by the British government that is devoted to fighting Islamist extremism. In July he was selected as Liberal-Democrat candidate to fight the London seat of Hampstead and Kilburn, a marginal constituency.

Today, Tora gaol has changed – and remained the same. It is home to ex-President Mubarak and his two sons, as well as some of the Muslim Brotherhood leaders arrested after the toppling of President Mohamed Morsi by the Egyptian army.

Some British Muslims say Nawaz, by veering from one political pole to the other, does not speak to their experience.

But there is no doubt that he knows Islamist politics from the inside.

Kazakhstan: Alphabetic switch for Latin lovers

For the third time in a century Kazakhstan is to have a new alphabet, changing from Russian to Latin in what will mark a further loosening of links with Moscow.

President Nursultan Nazarbayev has said that the change does not indicate any ‘geopolitical preference’ away from Russia, and is aimed only at promoting ‘global integration’.

But some Kazakh intellectuals say the move is needed to overcome Kazakhstan’s ‘colonial identity’.

The change will be made gradually over a decade to avoid upsetting the communal balance between the Kazakhs – about two-thirds of the population – and Russianspeakers, almost a quarter. Kazakh, a Turkic language, was written in Arabic script until 1929 when it changed to Latin following Atatürk’s modernization of Turkish.

In 1940, Stalin standardized the Central Asian languages on Russian.

Azerbaijan, in the Trans-Caucasus, has successfully moved to Latin script, but attempts to make the changeover in Central Asia have been muddled, with the process still not complete in Uzbekistan 20 years after the change was announced.]

Europe: Holiday reading for Europeans

Not everyone will be reading the latest Robert Galbraith on holiday. Here are some intriguing European best-sellers.

Germany: Er ist Wieder Da (Look Who’s Back) by Timur Vermes. Hitler awakes from his bunker in 2011, becomes a ranting YouTube sensation and launches a new political career. This novel has taken Germany by storm, while raising some concerns whether a cardiganwearing Fuhrer is a proper subject for comedy.

France: Petite Poucette (Thumbelina) by Michel Serres. The 82-year-old philosopher and member of the Académie Française pleads for indulgence towards the young generation growing up amid the ruins of French culture and society. With thumb and iPad, instead of pen and paper, he believes young people can invent a whole new way of living.

Portugal: Porque Devemos Sair do Euro (Why We Should Leave the Euro) by João Ferreira do Amaral. Portugal is being choked to death by the euro which has become ‘the new Deutsche-mark’, claims the Eurosceptic economist. Breaking a taboo on the euro propelled this incendiary tract to the top of the bestseller list.