Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Atilla Ahmet renouncing hate makes the Mirror

Musa Ahmet, has just called me sounding thrilled because the story I passed on to the Mirror about his brother Atilla speaking out against hate, and condemning the bombing of civilians has been published today.

When I interviewed him for the Sunday Times, Musa told me about how his brother had stepped in to protect a prison officer who was being threatened by another prisoner. (This was confirmed by the officer who made a statement to the court when Atilla was sentenced.)

When I managed to speak to Atilla in prison to check, he confirmed to me what Musa had told me after a phone call with his brother - that he wanted to apologise to the British and American people for the things he had said before he was jailed. Like this

This change of heart came about after Atilla got away from his extremist gang and began studying the Qur'an for himself in his cell. Musa had described when we talked to me how Atilla had often been heard been 'banging on the wall' of the adjoining cell to Musa, calling out to Musa how he was realising as he read that what he had been told was wrong, and there was nothing about killing civilians - especially women and children - or condoning suicide or suicide bombing in the Qur'an.

Yesterday I spoke to Atilla again. He said he was very keen to 'make things right' when he came out of jail; he hoped that he could get involved in anti-extremism work 'because I know how to get to them and say it, they will listen to me because I was there, I've done it, I was one of them'.
He asked me to come and visit him and I said I would do so as soon as possible.

Atilla is currently in isolation in the hospital wing for his own protection from the other Muslim prisoners, because of what he has said and done. It takes courage to apologise; it takes guts to say you are wrong and to try to make it right. Respect to Atilla for what he is doing.

The Mirror was the paper who outed Atilla as a hate-preacher when he was speaking at Friday prayers outside Finsbury Park Mosque, so he is really pleased that they have recognised his change of heart and reported it accurately.

Not quite as much space given to the new improved Atilla as the old scary ranting Atilla, but that it made it in at all is another hopeful sign.

Labels: , ,

12 Comments:

Blogger Zinnia Cyclamen said...

Lovely to read some good news. Hurrah for Atilla.

April 16, 2008 5:31 pm  
Blogger liat said...

Dear Rachel

Its very interesting to meet a seemingly kindered spirit. I too live in North West London. I too have had a horrific break in where I had to watch 4 guys with knives and guns beat up my mother and cleaner. I too climbed onto that heaving train at Kings Cross in the same compartment that a suicide bomber climbed into and blew up just as we left Kings Cross. I too smoke and was dying for one by the time I reached Russel Square. I must have arrived there slightly before you - before the police really knew what was happening - as I was shooed away by the police (in my sooty, glass in hair condition) to wander the streets of London in shock.

I read your article in the Times and that's how I found your blog. I gotta be honest with you - I don't I don't understand what you are trying to do. Its my understanding that you think that these radicalised muslims have seen the light and have apologized and now will be a greater asset to us by trying to deradicalise others. Maybe I'm too cynical but to me it looks hilarious. If I was Attila - stuck in jail with many non muslims angry with me and fewer muslims brothers to protect me - I too would say sorry and change my mind. Even worse, its making it viable to organise horrific attacks where people get killed and then to turn around and say - oops, we're sorry. We don't even know what affect their turnaround is having on the radicalised as we are not part of that culture. You know that any publicity is good publicity so even may be helping radical Islam in some way. I have seen Dispatches where you can see undercover foorage of non radical Muslims letting rip when they are in what they think is safe company. I think that you are allowing them to further snigger at the British public by accepting their apology.

On a more personal level, I hardly think of 7/7. Sometimes I have flashes of memory but not often. What makes you base your whole life and career around it?

April 16, 2008 5:54 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Hi

First of all I'm very sorry for what happened to you on both counts. I haven't come across you before and as you haven't left any contact details, I'm at a disadvantage - most people who were on the train write a private email to introduce themselves and say who they are, rather than a public comment so it feels very strange to be replying to you publicly about something so emotive and personal. After communicating with over 100 people who were directly involved
( and hearing from a few who claimed to be, but were not) I've never had an approach like yours before. So forgive me if I find this awkward. You're not the only person who has ever disagreed with me - just because people were on the same train doesn't mean they have the same brain! - as I've always said - but when been disagreeing with another '7/7 person' it's always been face to face or by email.

I'm taking what you say at face value, and answering you openly here, as it seems to be what you want. And like I said - I'm really sorry you got caught up in it too.

Can I go through some of your points? You said


Maybe I'm too cynical but to me it looks hilarious. If I was Attila - stuck in jail with many non muslims angry with me and fewer muslims brothers to protect me - I too would say sorry and change my mind.
I don't think it is hilarious, I don't know anyone who thinks it is funny at all. The point is that Atilla is far less safe since he made his position clear - he has been put in the hospital wing to protect him from the other Muslims for his own safety. If he wanted to be popular and safe, he should have carried on being an extremist and hanging out with the large numbers of radical Muslims inside the jail. The proof of the pudding is the fact that he has been moved for his own safety, which both my blog and the Mirror explain.

Atilla is not a bomber, nor was he part of a bombing cell. He is in a very different category. It would be naive to assume that all entrenched radicals can be deradicalised. They have to want to change and many don't (see the article where Musa talks about the man who has a long sentence and remains unshaken in his convictions - did you read it?). Atilla is unusual in that his sincerity in his faith has led him to this new position, based on much prayer and study of the Qur'an, which he knew little about before when he was coming out with conspiracy theories and hate-speech after being tutored by Abu Hamza ( odf all the starts to have in religious life). I have not referred to 'these radicalised Muslims' in general - but to Atilla & a few specific others. (The headline & strapline, in the Times, were misleading - but I did not write it and had no input into it. My original headline was 'Musa's Story: Looking for Paradise' and you can read the full article below, as I said.)

You said

Even worse, its making it viable to organise horrific attacks where people get killed and then to turn around and say - oops, we're sorry
I have never said anything like this at all, sorry, but this is quite misrepresentative. I've always said that everything I do, say, write about terrorism since that day when I escaped being killed has been about trying to stop it happening again. That's it, basically. I would never suggest that those who attempt to organise viable attacks can simply apologise. Sorry, but I find that quite offensive.

We don't even know what affect their turnaround is having on the radicalised as we are not part of that culture.

Well - it can be measured. You might have seen on Newsnight, for example, 3 young men saying they had been considering jihad but since working with Hassan Butt had changed their minds. That is a quantifiable result. That is why I am interested in supporting Quilliam and other initiatives. If they stop one potential suicide bomber - if they stop five, or ten - that is a good thing. I can't do much. But if others can, then I support it. What's the alternative? Nobody even trying?

You know that any publicity is good publicity so even may be helping radical Islam in some way.

I'm afraid I strongly disagree with that as well. Radical Islam and terrorism is all over the media all the time. The stories of those who change their minds are bad PR for committed jihadis, but good news for those hopeful of stemming the anger and threat of violence, which is most people. Including Muslim citizens of the UK.

I think that you are allowing them to further snigger at the British public by accepting their apology.

I accept what you think, but I disagree with you, sorry. I have seen no sniggering,only a man who has been moved for his own safety since speaking out.

Others who have spoken out have also been threatened with violence. This is a different person to the people you saw in the film you mentioned - I respond to people on a personal level, not because they are 'Muslims' and I may have seen film of 'Muslims' in a documentary. I responded to Musa and Atilla as individual people and made my judgement on that basis.

I know it is difficult not to feel angry and mistrustful after something so terrible. I try to stay as calm as I can and manage my reactions and be logical and evaluative about what I find and not let trauma or emotions guide me. People expect to find anger and hate, but I try very hard to be as I was before the bomb.

On a more personal level, I hardly think of 7/7. Sometimes I have flashes of memory but not often.

I'm glad that you have found yourself in this position. It affects different people different ways but I was out with some people from the train last night and everyone was reporting how much better it is.
What makes you base your whole life and career around it?

I'm assuming you didn't mean to be cutting there?! I don't base my whole life and career around it. I am married, I have friends and family and a whole private life I am very grateful for and don't blog about. I speak out about terrorism and write about because it is important to me to do what I can to play a small part in the debate, which is an important one, I think, and since I ended up with a platform by chance, I use it - this blog - to campaign and speak out about things that are important to me and other people including others directly affected by 7/7.

Everyone reacts in their own way after events and chooses their own path in life. Engaging with this difficult, complex subject tthis is meaningful and important to me - more meaningful than my previous job sitting in an office. Though of course, it is not nearly as well paid!

My career is as a writer. Terrorism is one of the things I write about. Writing about things I am passionate about is a privilege, even if it doesn't give me an expense account or a car allowance. But then again, I don't have to travel to work on a rush hour tube every morning either. After 12 + years of office life, that feels pretty damn good.

Cheers

Rachel

April 16, 2008 9:28 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

Thanks Zinia! I'll pass it on to Musa that you said that.

April 16, 2008 9:30 pm  
Blogger musa said...

Hi all, thanks zinnia,MY DEAR FRIEND RACHEL I LIKE YOUR REPLY TO LIAT AND THANK YOU DEEPLY.
LIAT IM SORRY TO HEAR ABOUT WHAT HAPPEND TO YOU.TIME WILL SHOW IF MY BROTHER ATILLA AND MYSELF ARE LIARS, I WAS IN PRISON WITH MY BROTHER FOR 9 MONTHS AND I KNOW HIM BETTER THAN OUR MOTHER KNOWS HIM,HE IS NOT WHAT YOU THINK HE IS,
EVEN BEFORE HE WENT TO PRISON HE NEVER EVER SAID FOR MUSLIMS TO KILL INNOCENT PEOPLE. ELDERLY, WOMEN, CHILDREN OR ANYONE OK, HE SAID SOME VERY STUPID HURTFULL THINGS WHICH HE IS SORRY ABOUT,I WAS IN THERE WHEN HE PROTECTED A GUARD AND IN DOING SO MY BROTHER WAS INJURED,HE HELPED A GUARD FROM ANOTHER INMATE,PLEASE BELIEVE ME IT WASNT TO SHOW OFF OK,IF HE IS LIKE YOU THINK, THEN WHY WOULD HE WANT TO SAVE THE GUARD,THE ANSWER IS...HE HAS CHANGED FOR THE BETTER AND REALISED THE TRUTH, LIKE I SAID LIAT, YOU WILL SEE WHEN MY BROTHER IS RELEASED FROM PRISON,AND AS FOR MY DEAR FRIEND RACHEL, KEEEEEEEEP UP THE GOOOOOOOD WORK.........MUSA

April 17, 2008 12:32 am  
Blogger DAVE BONES said...

What is a Peace-talk-jail-fanatic?

April 17, 2008 9:22 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

dunno

April 17, 2008 9:37 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

perhaps it would make a good name for a troll

April 17, 2008 5:24 pm  
Blogger The Monkeyman said...

I have a lot of respect for people who have a definitive ideological position and have the bravery to re-evaluate and change their minds. I hope he stays safe and helps others do the same.

Personally I think it is likely that a lot of problems we have with extremism in this country are that there are too many Imams that are seen as too out of touch to the younger generation of Muslims, creating a sort of vacuum in which young vulnerable men can be indoctrinated into groups with warped believes regarding religion and terrorism. Of course that isn't the only reason, but poor understanding of their religion in addition to people they can relate too taking advantage of them, mixed with the excitement and buzz of feeling part of something, and the underlying simmering bad feeling because of some of the actions of our own Government and certain Western nations, in combination makes for some serious sociological problems.

Btw, I only just read the article from the Sunday Times, thought it was excellent.

-Alex

April 18, 2008 5:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As someone in the area of 7/7 - I lived in Tower Bridge and was too lazy to get up in time to get there before the Tube was shut - I think I can follow where the chap above is coming from.

There is a modern trend for instant absolution. I go with the repentance, x years of good works and restitution & then absolution.

I wouldn't personally be shaking Musa by the hand at the moment - I would wait an see what he does in the years ahead - benefit of the doubt, tempered with a level headed appraisal.

The Anon

April 20, 2008 12:29 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

The Anon

He is innocent.

He was found to be so by a jury.

And I'm not daft

April 20, 2008 11:23 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

everyone else, cheers

goddamn I'm tired out

I hate Virgin trains

April 20, 2008 11:24 pm  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home