Was marching on 15 February 2003 a waste of time?
by Ian Sinclair
20 December 2014
Was it a waste of time marching on 15 February 2003? Did the march have no effect on British politics? Many people believe so. This account from Maajid Nawaz of speaking to a bomb-maker in an Egyptian prison suggests the march had one very important, far-reaching influence:
‘So when I was in prison in Egypt as a political prisoner there… one of the things I did was have a conversation with a convicted, professional bomb-maker… He was from Dagestan. He came to Egypt to train Egyptians to cross the border into the Gaza Strip to train Palestinians to kill Israelis. He was caught, thankfully, and he was put in prison. The conversation I had with him was after the mass protest movement in Britain against the  Iraq War. I said to him the following, I said “Look, the majority of these people protesting – first of all the largest protest against the Iraq War wasn’t in Pakistan, it wasn’t in Saudi Arabia, it wasn’t in Turkey, it was in Britain, this country you want to blow up. Second fact, most of the protesters were non-Muslims. So what does that tell you about the people you define as your enemy? In fact, Turkey is a member of NATO that is part of this alliance, so surely you should be trying to blow-up Turkish Muslims instead of the Brits who are opposed to the Iraq War.” First of all I got a look from him that kind of told me he wanted to kill me. That conversation lasted over a couple of weeks and one day I was in my cell and he came knocking on the door and he said “Maajid you know I’ve been thinking”. This is a guy who knows how to make bombs and kill people. He says “You know I’ve been thinking” because we had a lengthy conversation about it. He said “You are right”. After seeing the photographs I showed him from the newspapers of the mass protests against the Iraq War, he said “You are right, these people aren’t my enemy”. He was still a terrorist, he was still an Islamist, he was still an extremist, but he no longer believed in targeting Britain.’ – Maajid Nawaz, former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir and co-founder and Executive Director of Quilliam, Overtime with Bill Maher, October 25, 2013
This account concurs with an interview Moazzam Begg gave in 2008 about being a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay:
‘The Stop the War movement has become a buffer between people who may want to carry out acts of violence on innocent Westerners, and the government itself that does carry out acts of violence against people in the Middle East. I had a conversation with the only self-described member of Al Qaida I’ve met, in Guantanamo. He said that people in the West are not innocent because they vote in their leaders and therefore must share part of the blame. I explained that most people vote on domestic issues like the health service and roads. I said that you’ll probably find a great number of them don’t support the war, but when you strike you don’t discriminate. Then he started thinking about it a little bit. The Stop the War movement is a buffer which helps prevent terrorism in a way that the government would never conceive; when they see people demonstrating against the war it helps to pacify some of the radical elements who would otherwise have said, “They’re all the same – go and bomb the whole lot of them.”’