Maajid Nawaz
© Maajid Nawaz/Twitter
Maajid Nawaz, LBC radio presenter and Quilliam Foundation leader.
Presenter criticises far left and far right after 'racially motivated' attack outside theatre

The LBC radio presenter Maajid Nawaz has said he does not "harbour hate" towards the man who attacked him outside a theatre in central London, as police investigate after reports of a racially aggravated assault.

Nawaz was hit from behind outside the Soho theatre on Monday after 7pm by a white man who the presenter described as "a racist coward", posting a photo of the cut to his forehead caused by a punch with what could have been "a signet ring".

He criticised far-left social media users for politicising his attack by highlighting his centrist views, which they apparently claimed "legitimise rightwing hate". Nawaz is the founder of the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism organisation.

Maajid Nawaz

Born in Southend-on-Sea, Essex to a British Pakistani family, Nawaz is a former member of the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. This association led to his arrest in Egypt in December 2001, where he remained imprisoned until 2006. Reading books on human rights and interacting with Amnesty International, which adopted him as a prisoner of conscience, resulted in a change of heart: he left Hizb-ut-Tahrir in 2007, renounced his Islamist past, and called for a "secular Islam".

After his turnaround, Nawaz co-founded Quilliam with former Islamists, including Ed Husain. He wrote an autobiography, Radical (2012) and has since become a prominent critic of Islamism in the United Kingdom.

He is a weekly columnist for The Daily Beast, and his writings have been published in various international newspapers, he appears frequently on television, and has delivered lectures including at the UK Defence Academy and Marshall Center for Security Studies. His second book, Islam and the Future of Tolerance (2015), co-authored with neuroscientist Sam Harris, was published in October 2015. He was the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for London's Hampstead and Kilburn constituency in the 2015 general election.

He also criticised far-right figures for "callously casting doubt on the fact that this racist attack even happened", adding: "Some Islamists online are openly celebrating this attack, wishing the racist had 'finished the job'.

"I mentioned ... the white skin colour and non-Muslim background of most of those who helped me because their examples alone debunk the bigotry and cynicism of the extremes from these three wings."

The attacker immediately fled the scene but Nawaz said there were witnesses who heard the racial abuse and have given statements to the police, who "have his face on CCTV".

On Tuesday afternoon, Nawaz paid tribute to his "samaritan" on Twitter, sending his "deepest gratitude" to his family after they were "so kind to him" after the attack.

The man said he witnessed "the appalling, unprovoked attack" on Nawaz, and had called the police and spoke to officers. He credited Nawaz for remaining "dignified and composed" and said he cannot wait to pick "the moron who did it" out of a police lineup.

Earlier, on Facebook, Nawaz thanked witnesses, nurses and members of the emergency services for treating him with diligence and care, saying he owed a huge debt to the two witnesses, "both white non-Muslims", who called the police and consoled him before emergency services arrived.

"Your kindness kept me sane," he said of the witnesses, while also thanking Soho theatre "for identifying the racist assailant on their CCTV footage".

Nawaz said: "People from all ethnicities and all faiths and none helped me yesterday. It's in that spirit that I wish to carry on my work. I do not wish to harbour hate for my attacker. I've already been down that path at a younger age and I have seen how it leads to nothing good."

The Metropolitan police said they were called to a report of a racially aggravated assault in Dean Street at 7.10pm.

A spokesperson said: "Officers attended the location. The suspect had made off prior to the arrival of police. An investigation has been launched. There has been no arrest at this stage."