Narrative and Ideological Warfare: The Ongoing Battle Between Liberty and Authoritarianism

By Jan Jekielek
Jan Jekielek
Jan Jekielek
Senior Editor
Jan Jekielek is a senior editor with The Epoch Times and host of the show, "American Thought Leaders." Jan’s career has spanned academia, media, and international human rights work. In 2009 he joined The Epoch Times full time and has served in a variety of roles, including as website chief editor. He is the producer of the award-winning Holocaust documentary film "Finding Manny."
and Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick
Jeff Minick has four children and a growing platoon of grandchildren. For 20 years, he taught history, literature, and Latin to seminars of homeschooling students in Asheville, N.C. He is the author of two novels, “Amanda Bell” and “Dust On Their Wings,” and two works of nonfiction, “Learning As I Go” and “Movies Make The Man.” Today, he lives and writes in Front Royal, Va.
March 29, 2022Updated: May 24, 2022

“It’s a war over narrative,” says Maajid Nawaz, “and whoever gets to define the narratives around world events gets to define how those events are perceived and how we respond to them.”

In this episode of “American Thought Leaders,” host Jan Jekielek and Nawaz, the author of “Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist Extremism,” discuss the World Economic Forum, the erosion of Western liberties, and the ways ideology shapes our world.

Jan Jekielek: On a Rogan podcast, you once said, “When there’s no such thing as truth, you can’t define reality. And when you can’t define reality, the only thing that matters is power.”

Maajid Nawaz: I’m glad you began with that quote. That’s the heart of modern ideological warfare.

It’s a war over narrative, and whoever gets to define the narratives around world events gets to define how those events are perceived and how we respond to them.

There’s a concerted effort to destroy the idea that there is any way of agreeing upon truth.

Those who push this ideology of relativism and materialism are obsessed with attaining power. If they take power, they can shape the reality they find objectionable into their own interests. And that explains the ideological war we’re in.

During the COVID mandates, traditional disciplines that relied on their own set of standards in the pursuit of truth were weaponized to achieve political objectives. Narratives were deployed.

Mr. Jekielek: You’ve had a life that I think helps you look at this through a very wise lens.

Mr. Nawaz: I was an Islamist revolutionary who wanted to establish a caliphate. From the age of 16, I’d engaged in ideological debates. I attempted to undermine open democratic societies from within by ideological critique, not for the purpose of establishing a caliphate in the U.S. or in the UK, but to recruit Muslims who are born and raised in these countries to do what I did.

I helped to set up Islamist revolutionary groups in the UK, Pakistan, and Denmark. I was in Egypt when I was detained after the 9/11 attacks.

Mr. Jekielek: How did you begin doing that in the first place?

Mr. Nawaz: I was born and raised in Essex in the UK. But how does a 16-year-old from there end up on that path?

That was the time of the Bosnia genocide. The Srebrenica Massacre left 6,000 Bosnian Muslims in a mass grave.

Islamist revolutionary groups began recruiting young, angry Muslims like me who felt we were being attacked on our own continent. And it was true. The genocide was happening and nobody was doing anything about it. That was the beginning of my journey of anger.

We arrived at the conclusion that we needed an Islamist ideological state. We took the word caliphate from traditional Muslim theology, but we modified it for our ideological purpose. We organized ideological groups and tried recruiting from the armed forces. We believed that once we had enough recruits, we might incite military coups in those countries and establish this caliphate.

Mr. Jekielek: And you were imprisoned in Egypt?

Mr. Nawaz: I was 21 years old. It was just after the 9/11 attacks, and that’s when the game changed. We weren’t breaking any laws, just proselytizing for this idea of a caliphate. But all Hosni Mubarak needed to know was we were members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, which was the name of our group.

My house was raided around 3 a.m. They ripped my infant son from my arms, blindfolded me, tied my hands behind my back with rags, and put me in this van. The journey from there was a nightmare.

Mr. Jekielek: You’ve mentioned that Amnesty International took an interest in you.

Mr. Nawaz:  Amnesty’s campaign was the beginning of my change of heart. What I’ve said in my autobiography “Radical” is that where the heart leads, the mind can follow. Until that point, I had considered Amnesty to be a soft power tool of Western colonialism. Yet here was Amnesty saying, “These guys hate our guts, but they deserve some rights. And they certainly didn’t deserve to be put in jail just for their ideas.”

When Amnesty campaigned for our release, it softened my heart. It was a human-to-human bond, as opposed to an ideological bond. And then I began debating in prison with liberal political prisoners, communists, jihadis, Islamists. And I read everything I could get my hands on.

It was those kinds of debates—and the softening of the heart caused by Amnesty—that eventually led me to no longer being able to subscribe to this ideology. I served my full sentence and got back to the UK.

I am still a Muslim, but I can no longer subscribe to the ideology of Islamism, of forcing Islam on society.

Anyway, this is how you weaponize arguments for the purposes of serving an agenda. You have to destroy before you build. You undermine the belief system of people to a point where they don’t know who they are anymore, and then you package an alternative for them. This process of radicalization relies on a grievance.

The Bosnian genocide is a classic case in point. The U.N. troops stood by and 6,000 Muslims were killed. So now you’ve got a grievance, and the solution isn’t found in the democratic setup. That’s where we brought in the idea of a caliphate.

You can see how nefarious actors could use legitimate grievances to radicalize society. If we don’t want that to happen, then we have to make sure those grievances are addressed.

Otherwise, you end up with radicalization and what we might call the cycle of violence.

Mr. Jekielek: You said that you have to destroy first before you …

Mr. Nawaz: Build Back Better. Ring a bell?

Mr. Jekielek: Well, okay. Why are you saying that?

Mr. Nawaz: Well, the Great Reset is this process in action. It’s why I have been able to recognize it and warned against it. If you’ve got the World Economic Forum saying we need this global crisis and the COVID emergency for a Great Reset, that’s the destruction part. A reset means getting rid of the old and starting again.

Mr. Jekielek: Build Back Better is often associated with the Biden administration, but you’re saying it originally started with the World Economic Forum?

Mr. Nawaz: All of the world leaders use that phrase, not just Biden. It’s a World Economic Forum phrase, and the ones using it are all graduates of the World Economic Forum Young Leaders program. And then you hear clips of Klaus Schwab, the leader of the World Economic Forum, saying, “The graduates of our Young Global Leaders have penetrated the Cabinets of the world.” And then he goes on to say, “Half of Canada’s Cabinet are members of our World Economic Forum.”

Mr. Jekielek: Klaus Schwab has written the books “The Great Reset” and “The Great Narrative.” I think lots of us wonder whether these people are ideologically aligned or is there some kind of command and control structure like there might have been in your organization?

Mr. Nawaz: You’ve got the ideological element in The Great Reset, but we know there’s an administration behind it. There were annual meetings in Davos. The Young Global Leaders had meetings outside of Davos, and we know that the purpose was to send them into various positions to bring about change. We know because they’ve told us that.

Keep in mind, for example, that Klaus Schwab says half the Canadian Cabinet had been penetrated by the World Economic Forum. Under Trudeau, they started freezing the bank accounts, the corporate accounts, of truckers protesting mandates. They made threats about taking their licenses.

That’s called tyranny.

If Trudeau got his way, the vaccine passports would be used to put an infrastructure in place for the QR code checking-in and checking-out system. And as we now know, governments are seeking to replace paper money with government-controlled digital money, which is how you end up with a Chinese social credit system. So if you oppose that government, as happened in Canada, government can switch off your money. That’s how you get total control over society.

Why would you destroy your own open democratic societies? It’s because we’ve come to a crossroads.

Remember the beginning of our chat. Whoever controls the narrative controls your perception of reality. The state can no longer control the narrative, because the internet has democratized access to information. Add cryptocurrency to that, and you’ve lost control. When you’re losing control, like an abusive husband, you get violent. You clamp down. You try and maintain your grip on power. So that’s why I think we are in for a bit of a rough ride, unfortunately, until the dust settles.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.