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Confessions of a former jihadist
July 3, 2007 1:12 AM   Subscribe

I was a fanatic...I know their thinking. If a British former muslim jihadist is to be believed, "the engine of [their] violence" is not western foreign policy, but certain fundamental tenets of islamic theology. Hassan Butt's previous MeFi appearance was two years ago (before he left the jihadist network in February 2006). Also, a video and transcript of a 60 Minutes interview.
posted by lifeless (42 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Those who actually believe in fundamental tenets of any theology which sees itself as a "one true way" without tolerance for any other view, they're gonna target anything that disagrees with them. They have to, it's how they keep their followers frothing at the mouth.

This is not limited to islamic belief. Any extremist monotheistic fundamental belief structure is by definition, exclusionary.

To make it work, one has to have a "them" upon which to target the "us." Otherwise, whoever started this ball rolling will be found to be blowing hot air and the followers will eventually desert the blowhard.

So long as one can target a "them," the "us" people will be able to rally around each other and against the targetted "them". They'll have a purpose - to bring that "them" down. And yes, some "us" people will be willing to lay down their lives to take down that "them." Cuz they're sheep.

I don't have to be a fanatic to know how they're thinking.
posted by ZachsMind at 1:37 AM on July 3, 2007


Invading a country is obviously going to irritate someone or many , fundamentalists or not. Of course the religious bosses are going to exploit the most easily gullible and indoctrinable for their purposes, christian muslims or whatnot.
But the main reason why radicals have managed to increase their following is because most Muslim institutions in Britain just don't want to talk about theology.
I don't really think this is the cause of increases in radicalism ; I think that the advent of an irrational beliefs in all-powerful and benign entities such as "markets" , the glorification of money as an end (rather then an instrument) combined with a perception of increased uncertainity for the future is breeding a "perfect storm" for fundamentalists, no matter how good (or worse, how lacking) the education systems are. The delusion that the Almighty is going to protect you, that you are doing good and the sense of belonging to a group are very powerful motivators and expecially powerful for poor, insecure people.
Crucially, the Muslim community in Britain must slap itself awake from its state of denial and realise there is no shame in admitting the extremism within our families, communities and worldwide co-religionists.
Similarly, other religious people should start realizing they are employing passive-aggressive , less spectacular but not less dangerous forms of terrorism and delusion of superiority, when they picket people or start spreading rumors on "how bad" a person is, because they are "unbelievers". Also cutting funds to scientific research is not the same as NOT funding some research with your own money, expecially when the funds are then redirected to so called "faith based" initiatives.

Also demanding that "evolution" is taught as a "scientific method based-theory" in schools goes a long way confusing kid on what science really is. Blaming other people for "not supporting" troops is often a coverup for the incredible hypocrisy of predicating "thou shalt not kill" and then condoning the troops killing others.

On preview: what Zach said.
posted by elpapacito at 1:53 AM on July 3, 2007


So now we get the daily mail agenda driven right into the front page of metafilter.
posted by srboisvert at 2:14 AM on July 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


That WikiPedia article is a bit silly: not that those legal classifications don't exist, but to call that a fundamental tenet of Islamic Theology is absurd. The theology that Butt was exposed to and which radicalized him was not fundamental to anything though you might call it fundamentalist. Far more useful WikiPedia links in understanding the milieu Butt was operating from would be Qutb , HT, Muhajiroun, and Salafism.

You could also check out this recent thread where the article was also posted.
posted by BinGregory at 2:27 AM on July 3, 2007


Pardon, by "the article", I mean the lead link to the Daily Mail.
posted by BinGregory at 2:29 AM on July 3, 2007


If a British former muslim jihadist is to be believed, "the engine of [their] violence" is not western foreign policy, but certain fundamental tenets of islamic theology.

So the West is off the hook then for its foreign policy? "They" simply hate freedom. It's not "our" fault in any way?

I call bullshit. Extremeists of all stripes exist. What gives them voice and makes them dangerous is when the broader public gives them support because these nutters are preceived to be acting in broader interests of justice AND NO ONE ELSE IS.

The IRA, as an example, needed and received the support of the broader Irish population - a population which rightly felt themselves ill-treated by the British governement. No one in the government was was listening to their legitimate grievances, so they supported "the terrorists."

Injustice provides extremeists with nourishment. Remove the injustice and the extremeists starve from lack of support and simply disappear.

20 years ago, the focus of the search for those responsible for the recent events in London and Glasgow would have been in Ireland. Today, after Peace Accords have been reached in Northern Ireland, I'd bet they don't even cast a glance over at the Emerald Isle.

As Pat Buchanan observed, "They are over here because we are over there." Period.
posted by three blind mice at 2:47 AM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Well, a central support column of the IRA was (at least fiscally) NOT people who lived in Ireland but lived abroad.

I have to disagree tbm. I think if the US adopted a aggressive isolationist stance, as we have done in the past, Islamic radicals would still be bombing whomever they could as part of their evangelic zeal.
posted by Dagobert at 3:20 AM on July 3, 2007


So, in other words, the jihadists are insane.
posted by caddis at 3:50 AM on July 3, 2007


I think if the US adopted a aggressive isolationist stance, as we have done in the past, Islamic radicals would still be bombing whomever they could as part of their evangelic zeal.

It's always fascinating to see people whose sense of causality is utterly broken.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:05 AM on July 3, 2007


At risk of posting flame-bait, if the British government in the 1980s had responded to the problem of the IRA as the US government today is responding to salafist-inspired terrorism, they'd have sent RAF Vulcans to bomb the crap out of Boston. (And probably ended up hitting Ann Arbor: "they're both in North America, what's the difference?".)

There's a standard method for dealing with ideologically-inspired insurgencies (as three blind mice sort of observed): you cut the militants off from their base by identifying their grievances and giving their base enough of what they want to calm them down. At the same time you pursue an intelligence-led policing approach, the aim of which is to take the militants into custody with minimal collateral damage (killing the civilians among whom they swim contributes to the sense of grievance that militants thrive on; killing militants creates martyrs, leading to more grievance, and so on). You negotiate with the moderates and ignore the extremists, and you do so in good faith because if you don't, you're handing the militants more fuel for that sense of grievance.

This all takes a very long time -- years -- and enormous patience, but it works. It worked in Northern Ireland. It worked in Germany, France, Italy, and Greece against various insurgencies. It nearly worked in Spain against ETA (but the government blinked).

Making it work against radical islamism ... is going to be hard, because the problem is international in scope. Worse, a chunk of the grievance goes back to perceived mistreatment of the entire middle east over a period of many decades by western governments who have behaved in cynically exploitative ways with the aid of a co-opted parasitic ruling class. Accusations of neocolonialism are by no means misplaced, and redressing that sense of grievance is going to take a long time and involve considerable pain as, for example, the ongoing cosy relationship with the Saudi monarchy comes in for some re-appraisal.

Another chunk of the problem is that historically western powers have viewed any local, popular political movements in the middle east as a threat and acted against them. From Mossadeq in Tehran in 1952 on to Saddam in 1991 (who, for all his faults, was a pan-Arab nationalist leader of a modernizing party movement -- yes, a bloody-handed fascist, but I think we can see in retrospect what he was holding the lid down on), we've targeted just about every regime that looked capable of standing up to us.

And the result? Instead of dictators we can negotiate with, or even democratically elected social democrats (a possibility as late as the early 1950s), we're facing a billion angry, disenfranchised people and an inchoate but angry islamic counterpoint of liberation theology that's used by the angriest fringes as an excuse for nihilistic attacks.
posted by cstross at 4:10 AM on July 3, 2007 [14 favorites]


... Islamic radicals would still be bombing whomever they could as part of their evangelic zeal.

Sure, but then they'd be no more of a threat than a Korean kid with two handguns or a redneck American with a truck load of fertilizer - both of which are far less dangerous to you than driving your car. Individual radical people do individual radical things. Big deal. It is when radical people do things that a broader public admires and encourages that you get trouble and more radicals. Addressing the cause of public support and ignoring the motivations of the radicals seems to me to be the proper response to Islamic radicalism, but so far, this has not even been tried.
posted by three blind mice at 4:10 AM on July 3, 2007


In case it's unclear, the person I blame for the current middle-eastern mess is William Gladstone, who in 1876 published a pamphlet that, with 20/20 hindsight, had disastrous consequences.

(And if that's not early enough for you, I'll make a bid for Napoleon Bonaparte, whose invasion of Egypt in 1798 really kicked over the beehive.
posted by cstross at 4:14 AM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Broken? I love that when someone dares to disagree with a local expert, it means something is broken.

Care to debate opinions? I'm completely sure that one of us will convince the other...it happens all the time.
posted by Dagobert at 4:14 AM on July 3, 2007


Broken? I love that when someone dares to disagree with a local expert, it means something is broken.

That's a cute strawman. You really shouldn't knock it over like that, you're going to damage it.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:16 AM on July 3, 2007


Great comment cstross.

if the British government in the 1980s had responded to the problem of the IRA as the US government today is responding to salafist-inspired terrorism, they'd have sent RAF Vulcans to bomb the crap out of Boston

They would at least have rounded up the dozen or so people I knew who arranged NORAID block parties and sold "IRA ALL THE WAY" t-shirts at my high school in Philadelphia. Tortured and water-boarded the lot of them, they would have.
posted by three blind mice at 4:17 AM on July 3, 2007


If a British former muslim jihadist is to be believed, "the engine of [their] violence" is not western foreign policy, but certain fundamental tenets of islamic theology. Hassan Butt's previous MeFi appearance was two years ago...

I don't think his rationalisation is to be believed. It's more likely that he was trying to take revenge for having been constantly teased at school.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:53 AM on July 3, 2007


if the British government in the 1980s had responded to the problem of the IRA as the US government today is responding to salafist-inspired terrorism, they'd have sent RAF Vulcans to bomb the crap out of Boston

Nah. The US isn't bombing Saudi Arabia. Replace Boston with Toronto, maybe.
posted by Leon at 5:05 AM on July 3, 2007


BUTTS LOL
posted by quonsar at 5:43 AM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why is this an either/or discussion?

I certainly think that in many cases, Western foreign policy, and monetary and trade policies, are certainly a motivating factor, especially for the elites and clerics that orchestrate or encourage this sort of behavior. Indeed, for the leaders it's probably about money and power. But they use religious rhetoric to whip up the troops. Seems pretty par for the course for me.
posted by chlorus at 5:58 AM on July 3, 2007


As Pat Buchanan observed,

This is never a good basis for making a point. Anyway it's blindingly obvious to anyone who takes a step back here that both arguments are true at the same time. Unjust foreign policy inflames extremists and their supporters; extremists seek excuses for their extremism and find it in unjust foreign policy.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:07 AM on July 3, 2007


Uh gee, could it be a combo platter? That a climate of general discontent that we had a big part in creating combined with the effoerts of some apocalyptic loonballs (with resources) maybe create a climate for disaster? Ya think?
posted by jonmc at 6:23 AM on July 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


apocalyptic loonballs (with resources)

It's not altogether clear whether this refers to them or us.
posted by Grangousier at 6:27 AM on July 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


If you went by the media response, being killed by an Islamic terrorist is like 10,000 times worse then dying of cancer. It's so idiotic. Terrorism is a minor, minor threat and people act like it's the end of the world.
posted by delmoi at 6:33 AM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


In this case, them, although I see your point.
posted by jonmc at 6:34 AM on July 3, 2007


The US has not been "aggressively isolationist" since the beginning of the 19th century. Unless one considers the Barbary Pirates to be religious fundamentalists (and not corsairs), we were not being terrorized at that point in history.
posted by solipse at 7:27 AM on July 3, 2007


If you went by the media response, being killed by an Islamic terrorist is like 10,000 times worse then dying of cancer

See also: hate crimes.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:33 AM on July 3, 2007


well I'm over 35, single and female adn in transition out of living in the US, I guess I'm going to be hit by that damn terrorist than find a second husband eh?

not that I care much for either choice. oy.
posted by infini at 7:50 AM on July 3, 2007


Salafism/Wahhabism isn't really fundamentalist in nature. They are severe revisionists who have worked hard to undo all scholarly discourse and development since the time of Prophet Muhammed. A fundamentalist is more like someone who has gone to an Islamic academy and received a degree in jurisprudence and can trace the history of Islam, make balanced debates about points of fiqh (protocol based on hadith and Quran) and can otherwise engage in the fundamentals or basics of the practice of Islam. It's silly of me (speaking as a Muslim) to lament the hijacking of a word, but these people that run around claiming to be the voice of Islam are not fundamentalists, but simply neo-jihadist arses.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:27 AM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


See also: hate crimes.

Comparing the response to the two is silly. It's like the government and media are obsessed with terrorism way out of proportion to how dangerous it is, whereas hate crime laws generally affect sentencing and so forth.
posted by delmoi at 8:30 AM on July 3, 2007


chlorus, game warden to the events rhino, jonmc,
Wow, you 3 must have had a mind-meld going on there. You all posted (roughly) the same (great) comment nearly together.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:43 AM on July 3, 2007


Foreign occupation, it seems – not religion – is the core motivating factor behind suicide terrorism. From Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza and the West Bank to Sikhs in India, from the jihadists of 9/11 to the secular Marxist Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka – for all of these, it is "a nationalistic response." [...] Professor Pape says that while al-Qaeda terrorists are twice as likely to be from a country where radical Salafist/Wahhabist Islam is widely practiced, they are 10 times more likely to have come from a country that has U.S. troops stationed in it.... according to a Saudi poll after 9/11, 95 percent of educated Saudi males between the ages of 25 and 41 agreed with bin Laden's goal of driving Americans off their holy land.

Note to the Daily Mail's pet terrorist - Bin Laden is a fanatic right now, and his declaration of war explains very clearly why his movement is after American blood: troops in Saudi, support for Israel, and the then-blockade, now-occupation of Iraq.
posted by stammer at 8:43 AM on July 3, 2007


Isolationism is superficially attractive, but I can't see how it would be feasible in practice. The world is too interlinked and US interests too global to permit you to retreat from strong involvement in world affairs.

Compare the US's failed isolationist policy in Europe in the 1930s with the successful containment of Communist expansion from the 1950s onwards. Sure, there was a cost in treasure and war, but would the US really have been better off with a Soviet-dominated Western Europe?
posted by alasdair at 9:02 AM on July 3, 2007


Oh dear.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:04 AM on July 3, 2007


Ha! I remember this guy - he always came across as an attention-seeker, and nothing more. A kid, playing at being a tough guy, who'd actually run a mile if he met a real big bad terrorist.

I must commend him, though, for having so quickly mastered the Daily Mail house writing style that you'd be forgiven for thinking that this was actually written by one of their staff writers. There's clearly talent there.
posted by flashboy at 10:35 AM on July 3, 2007


delmoi: You wouldn't consider the media obsessed way out of proportion about hate crimes?

One black teen shoots another black teen in a major metropolitan area and it may not even MAKE the news.

But if a straight teen kills a gay teen, it will be the lead.

Which teen is more dead? Which teen is worse off?

That's what I was equating to your statement. Being shot during a robbery or being blown up in a hijacked plane are both equally dead.
posted by Ynoxas at 11:50 AM on July 3, 2007


If you went by the media response, being killed by an Islamic terrorist is like 10,000 times worse then dying of cancer. It's so idiotic. Terrorism is a minor, minor threat and people act like it's the end of the world.

While I agree with this statement in general one only has to look at the nature of the Bush response to "terror" over the lat six years — invasion and occupation — to see that there is now a clear momentum building to a much more dangerous confrontations.

Also more motivation and resources have been directed to asymmetrical groups like Al Quaeda creating the near certainty of more terror attacks domestically including the catastrophic potential of a nuclear attack.

It's ironic that what was a minor threat to the individual is growing because we over hyped it (and under prepared to prevent it) so much.
posted by tkchrist at 11:58 AM on July 3, 2007


excellent point tkchrist
posted by caddis at 12:40 PM on July 3, 2007


In breaking news, it would appear that socialised medicine causes terrorism.
posted by rhymer at 4:12 PM on July 3, 2007


"Unjust foreign policy inflames extremists and their supporters; extremists seek excuses for their extremism and find it in unjust foreign policy"

It's a shame that'd make such a poor T-shirt slogan. I guess you could shorten it to "which came first: chicken or the egg?" but most people just wouldn't get it.

Terrorism is always reactionary. It occurs because enough people are upset with the status quo. It's a catch-22 though. After terrorism starts, if the corporate or government entities responsible for the status quo that made so many unhappy were to then change their practices, it'd appear they were letting the terrorists 'win.'

The delicious irony is that after the first car bomb kills the first innocent? Nobody wins. There are no victors in a war where the battlefield is stained by the blood for which one or both sides of the battle claimed to have been defending.

Who stands for you?
posted by ZachsMind at 5:16 PM on July 3, 2007


Burhanistan: Salafism/Wahhabism isn't really fundamentalist in nature...

Well, one could quibble that their literal reading of scripture/extreme dislike for ta'wil can be called fundamentalist, but I agree that the term doesn't carry over all that well to Islamic discussions on account of its previous baggage wrt to Christians. Most muslims could conceivably be labeled fundamentalist based on the belief in the Quran as the inerrant word of God, but using the term that way would just muddy the waters. On that note, another bit of Christian jargon that ought to be used less since it really impedes understanding is the call for "Reformation" in Islam (like by Inoculatedcities in the parallel discussion), when the salafi-jihadis the US is fighting are in fact closer to Reformers than they are to Orthodoxy.
posted by BinGregory at 7:02 PM on July 3, 2007


Closely related and very good reading:
Media Reliance on Former Terrorists and Radicals is a Joke:

For the most part, however, this alternative discourse took the form of every day Muslims, like those that play cricket for their nations, who do comedy, and set up magazines and websites discussing the precise theological issues that Hamid and Butt didn't know how to address once, and wish to be spokesmen for now. I do take umbrage in the fact that back when these easily duped figures like Butt and Hussain and Hamid were agitating for Global Caliphates, my friends and I would confront them at various Islamic conventions and call them traitors to the Islamic tradition and yet now the WSJ and Observer are parading these figures around as talking heads, while not acknowledging the existent discourse among Muslim communities that challenged them previously.
posted by BinGregory at 6:12 AM on July 4, 2007


(via Indigo Joe)
posted by BinGregory at 6:14 AM on July 4, 2007


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