Sunday, July 01, 2007

The ex-jihadi's changing theology

Things that don't help us 'win' 'The War Against Terror'
The behaviour of Dick Cheney

Things that might help us manage the current situation better
Understanding what drives self-styled British jihadis.

Hassan Butt, former British jihadi who helped recruit UK Muslims to fight in Afghanistan explains his youthful political ideaology, his rather feeble argument that British Muslims have ''no covenant, no allegiance'' to Britain as 'they did not ask to be born here', and his hopeless pipedreams of a Sharia Caliphate here, ( August 2005, when he was 25 years old) in the usual depressing rent-a-rant illogical way i.e:

''The British establishment has always hated Islam. Look at the crusades''

''I would agree to being called a radical and one day I may even be called a terrorist, if Allah permits me. That is something it would be an honour to be called.''

Now here he is, writing in July 2007. He has renounced his previous groups, (and has been stabbed and threatened for it). Look how he has changed...

''I believe that the issue of terrorism can be easily demystified if Muslims and non-Muslims start openly to discuss the ideas that fuel terrorism. (The Muslim community in Britain must slap itself awake from this state of denial and realise there is no shame in admitting the extremism within our families, communities and worldwide co-religionists.) However, demystification will not be achieved if the only bridges of engagement that are formed are between the BJN and the security services.'' ( Butt, 2007)

He is talking about something that I have been driven to explore for two years. I wrote about it again yesterday in this essay that got bumped by the airport/carbomb stuff, called 'My Brother , The Bomber'.

In this blog, I have tried to look at some of the ideas that fuel terrorism. I have said many times that I believe the disasters of Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, rendition, torture, the witches' cauldron of sectarian violence that has developed in Iraq as a result of lack of post-invasion planning and the legitimacy of the war in the first place, act as a recruiting sergeant for the sense of rage and victimhood that extremists use to try to give credibility to their cause by pointing at ''Muslim global suffering''.

This is not to say that I blame Blair or the Government for the bombs. I am saying that the ISC did specifically warn Blair that invading Iraq was likely to raise the terrorist threat to the U.K. I have said that our actions at home and abroad, if they add to the sense of festering grievance amongst Muslims - and other subjects - by being heavy-handed, unfair, untruthful, etc, are not helping any of us. Nor is making us generally less free, helpful. If terrorists seek to attack our free society, yet fail, what is the point in us then attacking our own rights and freedoms ourselves? Own goal.

But Butt makes an interesting point: It's The Theology, Stupid. And yet we don't talk about that.

''By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the 'Blair's bombs' line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology.'' ( Butt, 2007)

Sometimes it seems to be almost taboo for non-Muslims, even Muslims sometimes, to try to challenge extremist beliefs by raising theological questions of the Qu'ran and Hadith and discussing/disagreeing. Why? Yes, for Muslims the Qu'ran is the holy and perfect word of God; none the less, as I understand it, learning from scholars is encouraged as part of development and witness to faith. With extremist Islamist belief systems, there is a definite theology there, there is a series of teachings interpreted by men. Who may be revered but who are only human. Who can be challenged.

It is time they were challenged and discussed, publicly, regularly; in many cases their teachings are illogical and debased, and cruel, and easily disproved. It is not just something that Muslims can take an interest in; if preachers are peddling an ideaology that tells young British men it is okay to kill the men and women and children you live amongst, then that needs to be spoken out against.

''By refusing to challenge centuries-old theological arguments, the tensions between Islamic theology and the modern world grow larger every day. It may be difficult to swallow but the reason why Abu Qatada - the Islamic scholar whom Palestinian militants recently called to be released in exchange for the kidnapped BBC journalist Alan Johnston - has a following is because he is extremely learned and his religious rulings are well argued. His opinions, though I now thoroughly disagree with them, have validity within the broad canon of Islam.''( Butt, 2007)

Here, (PDF) is a very respected Muslim scholar taking on the arguments of Abu Qu'tada, one of the main proponents of Islamist extremist theology. I found it both interesting and reasonably easy to understand. Like many non-Muslims, I have read the Qu'ran, and Hadith. I am not saying that I am a scholar, I am very far indeed from being knowledgable. I am merely a non-Muslim who is interested in theological issues, who enjoyed studying Theology at Uni and asking questions and reading different opinions. I can read around and apply critical thinking to sources, and if I can do it, so can anyone, surely? There is no harm in it.

''If our country is going to take on radicals and violent extremists, Muslim scholars must go back to the books and come forward with a refashioned set of rules and a revised understanding of the rights and responsibilities of Muslims whose homes and souls are firmly planted in what I'd like to term the Land of Co-existence. And when this new theological territory is opened up, Western Muslims will be able to liberate themselves from defunct models of the world, rewrite the rules of interaction and perhaps we will discover that the concept of killing in the name of Islam is no more than an anachronism'' ( Butt, 2007)

I'm delighted to be speaking briefly at a terrorism conference at Brunel University tomorrow. I will be going to another conference in September. With the current news, the need to hear each other and exchange ideas is more pressing than ever. I want to listen, I want to learn, I want to engage.

It's really encouraging that just as the latest generation of UK terrorist strikes have been so inept, so the man who was an active recruiter at the time of the 7/7 bombs has already grown up, and moved on, and is now bravely speaking out. Perhaps the ineptitude of the latest failed bombers is because the security services have disrupted their ability to fly out to Pakistan and train with more able bomb-makers and indoctrinators. In which case, well done to the security services and police. Perhaps we are closer to ''winning'' than we think. Winning back our freedom to think for ourselves and be ourselves, winning our young men back so they can think freely too.

UPDATE: cracking post by Septic Isle



Blogger Ana said...

Thanks for this well-thought entry. I often wonder just how the world will get out of this mindset we are in of terrorism, and Islamist radicalism, etc. etc. And I certainly don't have any clue on what can be done. But having two young grandchildren, and 2 young adult children, I can only have the hope that someone has the knowledge and foresight.

Perhaps, as you mention, we are closer than we think. I certainly hope so.

Best wishes from California. My thoughts are with you.

July 01, 2007 9:07 pm  
Blogger Ariel said...

"I want to listen, I want to learn, I want to engage" - same here, but I believe we have quite a way to go until this becomes the feeling of the majority and things start shifting. Unfortunately it would appear that "I-don't-give-a-fuckism" prevails still. How many more bombs will it take until we all start feeling concerned?

July 01, 2007 9:23 pm  
Blogger dave bones said...

his hopeless pipedreams of a Sharia Caliphate

I don't know if you are underestimating the strength of feeling and the weight of numbers who want this, or the efforts forces with a lot of financial clout have gone to to make sure it doesn't happen.

Muslims everywhere can see what has happened in the last fifty years.

July 02, 2007 3:14 pm  
Blogger granny p said...

Rachel I'm full of admiration for your knowledge and for what you're saying. Don't know enough to argue for or against, but it makes sense to me as it stands. I'm sure the young men will move on if allowed to - or if not blown to bits in the meantime - but we - everyone - muslim or not need to make sure they have somewhere to move on to. Listening is a good start.

July 02, 2007 3:55 pm  
Blogger Jane Henry said...

Rachel I agree with this totally. It is all too glibly easy to say well it's our fault for Iraq etc. I think we have over many many years done things in the middle east to inflame the situation/shamefully ignored the bigotry and poison being preached under our noses for the sake of misguided multiculturalism, BUT...

It isn't black kids going out with bombs, it isn't white kids. It is in the main muslim kids - fanatical extremist they may be but it is their twisted version of their religion which is making them follow this path and it is about time there was a proper debate about it. And about time that the muslim community started to root out the snake from their midst, or at least start to confront it.

I agree dialogue, listening, and understanding one another has to be the way forward otherwise we are in deep deep trouble.

I was encouraged that at least this lot, so far don't seem to be home grown.

July 02, 2007 4:54 pm  
Blogger miseryandsuffering said...

A few months back I think I upset you and some of your readers by telling you it's time to take down your 'I was on the train..' headline thing at the top.

Glad to see you've since gone ahead and removed it, and even better to see "It's not all about bombs these days. And I'm glad about that.".

Sounds like you're doing really well, and using your intelligent and interesting blogging to good effect. Go you!.

July 02, 2007 5:23 pm  
Blogger Jez said...

Ok, so you don't believe Tony Blair is responsible for 'the bombs' (7/7, I presume). Would you say 'islamic fundamentalist terorists' are responsible for the bombing of innocent Iraqis and other Arabs/muslims by 'our' forces? Let's not forget, that western colonialism, intervention, occupation (whatever you want to call it), isn't a new concept. On the other hand, let's keep in mind, that 'islamic fundamentalism' isn't that old.
There should be no acceptance of the murder of inncocents anywhere, but you are right: we should listen and lears. And we should drop the double standards whereby we are more shocked by a few hundred dead in one day in Britain or America than we are about thousands if not tens of thousands over years and decades in the Middle East or elsewhere.

July 02, 2007 7:30 pm  
Blogger Dr. Deb said...

Very provocative and important post, Rachel. Still trying to impeach Cheney and GWB here. Alas, we are mere mortals that cannot touch the power level.

July 02, 2007 10:15 pm  
Blogger dynamite said...

Mr Butt is a very articulate and courageous man, his sense of frustration with media misconceptions about Jihadism (?) is very palpable.

July 03, 2007 8:40 am  
Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Rachel I yesterday posted a lengthy piece that I had taken some careful thought and time over. But it has not appeared and I was wondering if there was any problem about it?

July 04, 2007 11:49 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

Ted, I'm puzzled. I only put comment moderator on today, having previously had a policy of only registered users commenting, (but freely and without comment moderation.)

I haven't had to block or delete any comments since I introduced comment registration ( in fact since FJL was jailed the number of hate comments has dwindled to zero - hence today's experiment to allow anonymous and non-registered comments through. If it stays nice, I'll go back to anyone can comment without moderation. But if it gets bad again I'll return to regsitered users only again).

So I'm sorry, not sure what happened to your piece. Would you like to try again? Or email it to me and I will put it through myself?


July 04, 2007 1:23 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Unfortunately, due to an influx of off topic anonymous idiocy, the 'return of the anonymous comment facility' experiment has been ended. However, comment moderator isn't on, so you can post away as long as you have a blogger or google account without me havign to read and approve everything.

Anything falling foul of this site's comment policy will be removed, but hopefully that won't be necessary as banning anonymous comments seems to stop all that nonsense.

July 04, 2007 8:34 pm  
Blogger David Mackinder said...

very helpful post; hope you enjoy your visit to Uxbridge (I'm going to be at our local Mind's AGM at the civic centre tomorrow afternoon)

July 04, 2007 10:22 pm  

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