Some people wonder why I am sympathetic to young people who respond to the call of evil cults and sects, although I abhor the groups in and of themselves.
It is because I recall my days at university as a particularly immature 21 year old, newly converted to Islam, targeted by clowns like Maajid Nawaz in his previous incarnation, to be talked into submission to accept that it was obligatory for me to work towards the reestablishment of a mythic khilafa.
I will be clear: this began within hours of my testimony of faith, just moments after that now world-famous ex-islamist had taught me the basics of Islamic practice, and it went on for months.
To my credit, I resisted those calls as best as I was able, but it was still a miserable time of relentless pressure. At the hands of the now repentant one and his companions, I was bombarded with hadith and religious-sounding arguments to convince me that I had to make a decision there and then, to ascribe to and promulgate this apparently urgent task.
Had I not been so shy and cautious, and perhaps younger, I might well have succumbed to the intense pressure that our famously argumentative friend put me under for months on end. Though I had friends who warned me about the seditious ideas of this individual and of others even more dangerous than him, it was nevertheless a troubling time for me.
I just feel grateful that this was in the days of the nascent web, when social media had not yet been imagined and before smartphones had been invented, when one could at least walk away (visits from the proselytisers excepted).
Nowadays it is relentless, the pressures made virtual. And yes, I have seen it with my own eyes: grown men targeting teenage girls first with their flattery and then with their preaching, bombarding the ignorant with apparently sahih hadiths that prove without a shadow of a doubt that what they say is authentic, true and obligatory.
In my day we were fortunate that it was all theoretical and a mere pipe dream for the activists that harassed us perpetually. Alas, in the early half of this decade, the zealots managed to convince just enough young and naive people that the promised caliphate had come, and it was their duty to make hijra to the supposedly sacred lands. Insert eschatological stories beloved across sectarian divides here.
Whether we call what the young and newly religious are subjected to grooming, preaching or dawah is immaterial to me. It is the reality that too many young people face today, as it was for me twenty years ago.
So of course I have little time for the radio talk show host that castigates these people today. Youngsters have my every sympathy. It is the propagandists, activists and prosletisers that I reserve my wrath for. The bullies that utilise the apparition of religion to exploit the ignorant and newly religious to forward their own aims and objectives.
I will stand with the bullied every time, whatever idiocy they go on to perpetuate. Naturally we all have personal responsibility for the decisions we ultimately take. In the end, I chose not to answer the call of Mr Nawaz and his goons, but that was mostly down to fortunate happenstance. I graduated from university and he went to Alexandria for his year studying Arabic, where he was thrown into an Egyptian prison for promoting a proscribed organisation. The rest, as they say, is history.