British ex-jihadis form ranks for tolerance

Discussion in 'The Intelligence Cell' started by redgrain, Apr 30, 2008.

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  1. LONDON - They once plotted insurrection in Britain. Young, middle-class, and angry, they were the vanguard of a generation of disaffected Muslims that, at its most extreme, gave rise to the July 7, 2005, transportation bombers.

    But now, in one of the most visible assaults on political Islam from within the British Muslim community, a network of ex-radicals launched on Tuesday a movement to fight the same ideology that they once worked to spread.

    The Quilliam Foundation – named for a 19th-century British convert to Islam – aims to propagate a tolerant and pluralistic view of Islam among young Muslims who are the most vulnerable to radicalism.

    "We are trying to rescue our faith from those who have sadly hijacked it," says Ed Husain, author of "The Islamist," a book about his own radical years, and deputy director of the foundation. "There is a Western Islam in the making and it is not arrogant or extreme."

    Mr. Husain has said that as long as Islamist militants provide "social honor" for suicide bombers and spuriously use doctrine to justify violence and political aims, "then we will continue to see mass murderers being respected as martyrs."

    Guided by mainstream Muslim scholars and supported by prominent politicians and academics, the group of around a dozen ex-radicals plans to expose what it calls the weaknesses of Islamist rhetoric and actions – in short, to recapture Islam from the ideologues and terrorists.

    "We are trying to fill a vacuum. The ideology of Islamism has sadly become the default for political discourse among young British Muslims," says the foundation's director, Maajid Nawaz, a former radical who until last year was a leader of the Hizb ut-Tahrir (Liberation Party) group, which wants to revive an international caliphate across the Muslim world, although it advocates doing so through nonviolent means.

    Aside from think-tank work of getting their ideas into the public domain, the foundation also plans to set up a task force of ex-radicals who can "go to the hot spots and work on the grass roots to deradicalize people and the contacts that we have known in these movements for a long time," Mr. Nawaz says.

    Yet in the complex constellation of ever-changing British Muslim movements, it is too early to say whether the Quilliam Foundation will prove to be an effective and exemplary voice that resonates with the wider community.

    Some critics have warned that it is just another stripe in the colorful and contrasting rainbow of Muslim opinion in Britain. Others say that they are "defectors" who have moved to the mainstream where they will have little chance of appealing to young radicals.

    "They will have a hard time reaching out to people who are actively involved in extremist organizations," says Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence in London. "But they probably do have the capacity to go into schools and certain other environments and have some leverage there because they are Muslims who were involved in radical activities."

    Terrorism expert M.J. Gohel says that Europe has never really had an independent grass-roots movement that could challenge the ideology of Al Qaeda.

    "Therefore if there are people that have the platform and the ability to challenge and expose myths that Al Qaeda purveys then that is very important and significant," he says. "It is pivotal to win hearts and minds and to prevent new generations of young impressionable people from joining terrorist groups. The language of hate has to be countered with the language of moderation and reason."

    But he adds that Quilliam, which is funded by private donations, will have to prove its financial independence to keep its integrity intact.

    The initiative comes at a crucial time in Britain's struggle with radical political Islam. A spate of arrests, terrorism trials, and convictions may give the impression that the authorities are coming to grips with extremism, but security services still warn of at least 2,000 dangerous Islamists on their radar.

    The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, signaled last week that Britain could not arrest its way out of the terrorism threat. "We need to prevent people from becoming terrorists and supporting terrorists in the first place," she said. "That means challenging the sort of ideology that supports terrorism."

    Mr. Neumann says the government is disillusioned with established groups like the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) for failing to combat extremism – both vocally and effectively.

    Quilliam says it can succeed where the MCB has failed because of the personal narratives of its leaders. Nawaz spent 12 years in Hizb ut-Tahrir after turning to the movement out of disaffection with the racism and discrimination that poisoned his teenage years in southeast England.

    His story is typical of the drift into radicalism that overcame many young British Muslims who rejected the conformity of their parents and turned to firebrand rhetoric and intoxicating ideas of ideologues.

    There were secret meetings, conversion missions, evangelistic forays to university campuses and foreign countries. But after more than four years in an Egyptian jail, Nawaz says he had the time to reflect on the true meaning of his faith.

    "I began to realize that what I had subscribed to was actually Islamism sold to me in the name of Islam," he wrote recently. "And it is with this realization that I can now say that the more I learnt about Islam, the more tolerant I became."
  2. A hopeful sign, but will it catch on with the "...many young British Muslims who rejected the conformity of their parents and turned to firebrand rhetoric and intoxicating ideas of ideologues" ?

    I suppose they have more of a chance of reaching these radicals then anyone else, but will they be branded 'traitors' and have a fatwah issued against them?
  3. I think the answer is in the statement above, clearly some are seeing that radical Islam is not the way ahead and trying to reach out to those who have not yet had that damscene experience.

    Just think of the fear we had a few years back about the various Christian based cults, yes they may still exist in some form or other but most have faded away.
  4. You may be right - but to many young Muslim men, radical Islam seems to have more appeal then what they see as a 'conformist' stance. As to fundamentalist Christians, they haven't gone away in the US by any means.
  5. The Quilliam Foundation appears more likely to attract non-Muslims than Muslims. Judging from internet chatter and articles in the media, I think that many Muslims are not hugely impressed by the ex-radicals. This is because:

    1. Most Muslims never joined these organisations in the first place, and resent the attention given to them in the media.

    2. The Quilliam Foundation is closely linked to well-known neo-cons (Michael Gove and co) who are seen as Islamophobics.

    3. Ed Husain's interpretation of aspects of Islamic theology has been criticised for its lack of scholarship.

    Interestingly a lot of the criticism has come from prominent mainstream or liberal Muslims.

    Ziauddin Sardar is a (very) liberal Muslim writing in the Guardian:

    In the interests of balance, this is the response from Maajid Nawaz, head of the Foundation:

  6. Good stuff, mate.
  7. I see Ed Husain has a book out. :roll:
  8. TheIronDuke

    TheIronDuke LE Book Reviewer

    These orginisations appear to be a step in the right direction. Jemmima Kahn kicked one off a couple of weeks ago (could be the same one?).

    What bugs me however is the 'Proceeds of Crime' issue.

    Jemmimas lot were headed up by a Brit ex-Jihadi who claimed to have raised tens of thousands of pounds for Jidad. Sent hundreds of Brit Muslims overseas for training and generally spread the good word.

    He was batting on about how Manchester Rozzers were watching him. I hope they were and think himself lucky. A couple of decades ago E Div Regional Crime Squad would have proved he raped The Archbishop of Canterbury and nicked his bike.

    Today? He's writing a book. Touring the world making documentaries.

    "We are trying to rescue our faith from those who have sadly hijacked it," says Ed Husain, author of "The Islamist," a book about his own radical years, and deputy director of the foundation.

    Should the profit from these books be siezed as Proceeds of Crime?
  9. Yes, Jemima Khan was at the launch of the Quilliam Foundation.

    The Manchester "jihadi" you are thinking of is Hassan Butt. He gave many interviews to the media in 2001-2002 bigging himself up as a terrorist but when MI5 investigated him, he turned out to be a walt. He is currently writing a book on his "experiences" with the journalist Shiv Malik.

    I don't think he is involved in the Quilliam Foundation, whose founder members are more associated with Hizb ut-Tahrir and more London-centred. Ed Husain wrote "The Islamist" about his time in HT.

    Clearly being an ex-radical is turning into a nice little earner in some circles :D
  10. Happens all of the time. Look at Tom Hayden and Jane Fonda. Better than making bombs anyway.
  11. Are we supposed to be grateful for their change of heart?
    Sorry but that kind of extremism is not part of being British, anyone who wishes to practice it ought to be ejected by whatever means necessary.
  12. TheIronDuke

    TheIronDuke LE Book Reviewer

    He's written it. Nine of your English pounds.


    If the cops cant nick him for his demented rantings up until 7/7, why can the ARA not nick his cash under the Proceeds of Crime Act?
  13. See my previous - walting is not (unfortunately) a crime in this country.

    If he'd done half the things he claimed, he'd be in an orange jumpsuit faster than you can say 'moqtada al-sadr' :)

    Here's some 'lively' views about Mr Butt from the brothers at MPAC:

    The morale vacuum that is ARA has been or is about to be disbanded and its remaining staff transferred to SOCA, since they cost more from the public purse than they managed to reclaim from the crimbos.
  14. TheIronDuke

    TheIronDuke LE Book Reviewer

    [Slightly off topic] Did you see ARA defence of the figures? They came up with an equation. For every £1k taken out of the hands of crims, UK society was saved £10k. Because the cash would fund guns, drugs, cyber-crime, people smuggling etc. Made the figures stack up nicely. But yeah, it made sense to give the remit to SOCA. Because they've got big sticks.[/off topic]

    SOCA are nicking all sorts, and making inroads. Round my way they recently nicked a house, Range Rover, Aston Martin, Shogun, a boat bizzarely, a jet wash machine?

    So why cant they have a pop at reformed Zombies getting fat on transatlantic interviews with CBS and book royalties?
  15. I wonder if he wrote this literary masterpiece himself, or was it ghost written by that born again ambassador of peace and former Minister for Education, the spud munching Martin McGuinness? Sounds like they could have a lot in common.