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Recanting Jihad
November 16, 2009 6:59 AM   Subscribe

Renouncing Islamism: To the brink and back again — A generation of British Islamists have been trained in Afghanistan to fight a global jihad. But now some of those would-be extremists have had a change of heart. Johann Hari finds out what made them give up the fight.
posted by netbros (16 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
The tl;dr version is pretty simple: bored kids with a lopsided view of injustice go to a third world nation with nonexistent infrastructure and rampant ignorance of the religion decide to chill out and focus on their own lives again.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:09 AM on November 16, 2009 [5 favorites]


In Mazratora Prison, Maajid was held in solitary confinement for thee months. It was a bare cell with no bed, no light, and no toilet: just a concrete box. Then he was taken out suddenly and told his trial for "propagation by speech and writing for any banned organisation" was beginning in the Supreme State Emergency Court. But Maajid's Islamist convictions were about to be challenged from two unexpected directions – the men who murdered Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, and Amnesty International.

The last time I speak to Maajid he is on the refugee-strewn North-West frontier of Pakistan, touring the country's universities. He is lecturing to huge audiences about his own experiences, and arguing against literalism in Islam. The massed ranks of the neo-Taliban are not far away. "People here and in Britain keep saying – we've been waiting for something like this for such a long time," he says over the telephone. "They're so happy people are starting to speak out. They're terrified to do it themselves, but this emboldens them."

Chill out? Not so much.
posted by netbros at 7:20 AM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is good reading.
posted by notsnot at 7:31 AM on November 16, 2009


Nice to get some returning to saneness...but what percentage of those who train for jihad renounce it compared to those who do not renounce jihad?
posted by Postroad at 7:59 AM on November 16, 2009


what percentage of those who train for jihad renounce it compared to those who do not renounce jihad?

I'll admit I don't know too much about statistics, but I have a hunch that knowing that percentage may not tell you much -- it strikes me that if you're zealous enough to get together the wherewithal to actually get yourself to a training camp and start the training, you're way beyond the pale when it comes to religious fervor, and the likelihood of your dropping out is pretty remote anyway. It's not as if getting yourself to a training camp is something you do on the weekend, in between trips to the drug store and the library.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 AM on November 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is that. Though even if a handful of extremists renounce, and then go to talk to other vulnerable youth (who, until now, had been exposed to a one-sided Islamist message), that would make the Islamist recruiters' job a lot harder.
posted by acb at 9:02 AM on November 16, 2009


"Wahabis are great at painting themselves [an Islamic] green on the outside, but when it comes to that internal aspect, it's not there. You pray five times a day, but why? Because God's told you to pray five times a day. You pay your charity – why? Because God's told you to pay your charity. This God of yours is telling you a lot. And why does he tell you to do that? Because if you don't do it, you'll end up in a fire. It's all based on being frightened. There's nothing to nourish you."

My, that does sound familiar. People really are the same everywhere, aren't they?

Less snarky though, great article with a lot to think about.
posted by Naberius at 9:36 AM on November 16, 2009


Who knows how to stop a terrorist organization? The PLO.
posted by Freen at 9:46 AM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Johann Hari is all kinds of awesome all the time.
posted by HotPants at 9:58 AM on November 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Thanks for this post. The article addresses a lot of questions I have been wondering about. Getting straight answers from ex- jihadists is a great approach!
posted by nowonmai at 10:11 AM on November 16, 2009


Thanks for the great article. I liked the comparison one guy made with communism, it made me think of The True Believer.
posted by Sova at 10:23 AM on November 16, 2009


Though even if a handful of extremists renounce, and then go to talk to other vulnerable youth (who, until now, had been exposed to a one-sided Islamist message), that would make the Islamist recruiters' job a lot harder.

True, but I'm not seeing what knowing the precise percentage of people who do that would tell you.

Again, I'm not really debating the idea that some people do renounce the fundamentalist idea of Jihad after they get to a camp -- hell, I once met someone who went to a seminary and got two months away from taking Holy Orders before he said "wait, what am I doing?" so I know the eleventh-hour change of heart is possible. I'm just genuinely curious as to what one thinks knowing the statistics OF that happening would be illustrating.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:03 PM on November 16, 2009


Thank you for posting. Excellent article.
posted by Roach at 2:13 PM on November 16, 2009


That was a great read. Thanks for the post.
posted by dhruva at 8:12 PM on November 16, 2009


What?

You mean the word Obama never SAYS

UNPOSSIBLE!
posted by HTuttle at 11:07 PM on November 16, 2009


Very good article.
posted by hoskala at 9:21 AM on November 17, 2009


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