I’ve been reading the autobiography of this guy who used to be part of radical Islamist organizations in Britain. He grew up in a traditional Muslim household but rejected his family to become part of a fundamentalist Islamist Youth organization. He gets continually enchanted by increasingly pugnacious, haughty, violent, power-hungry Islamist groups. The more compelling their seemingly flawless ideology, the greater his commitment to the cause.
But one fine day when a christian boy was killed by Islamist youths over a pool game on his university campus and his superior failed to ease his shaky bloodied conscience, he realises he’s on the wrong side. Worse yet, he was pretty much responsible for the growth of radical Islam in his campus that eventually led to the impertinence of the Islamist youths, emboldening them to retaliate in violence over a stupid pool game.
Probably the only reason he wasn’t involved in the fight itself was because he was in the library. Cos this girl he admired liked being in the library too. HAH a love story disguised as some sombre rivetting account of his life as an extremist.
Anyway, he’s slowly drawn away from extremism and into traditional spiritual Islam. He travels to Saudi Arabia, Damascus, learns Arabic so as to fully comprehend the Koran, starts to appreciate the humility of having his huge head bowed onto the ground. And the rest is history. Over-correction much?
He has since co-founded a counter-extremism organisation called the Quilliam Foundation and is also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
“The first book I read about Islam in English was Islam: Beliefs and Teachings by Gulam Sarwar.
The first lines of Sarwar’s chapter read:
Religion and politics are one and the same in Islam. They are intertwined. We already know that Islam is a complete system of life… Just as Islam teaches us how to pray, fast, pay charity and perform the Haj, it also teaches us how to run a state, make treaties and conduct business and commerce.”
“After the talks I would spend hours in discussion with members of the Hizb, questioning them on matters ranging from the dialectical materialism of Marxists to abstruse points in Muslim jurisprudence. Whatever questions I asked, Hizb members always had answers. Nothing was unknown to them.”
‘How dare you call the kafir police’ shouted one. ‘Don’t you know its haram to get the kuffar involved in Muslim affairs? The Saudis invite the US to our countries, just like you. Go running to the kuffar.’ We had been trained always to link local issues to the global concerns of Muslims. Our shabab were doing well, very well. To link our expulsion from a mosque to US troop presence in Saudi Arabia was indeed an intellectual achievement of sorts. In years to come the Hizb would argue that every British Muslim difficulty, from terrorism to poor community relations, was a result of British foreign policy. And to this drumbeat, other Islamists would march.’
“That murder, the direct result of Hizb ut-Tahrir‘s idea, served as a wake-up call for me. Now every time I saw a leaflet with Hizb‘s flag and masthead posted above photos of the globe I felt nauseous. It was not mere PR – they wanted to control the world, to conquer countries.
“As a Hizb foot soldier I had been most impressed with Nabhani’s diagnosis and prognosis. How great, I marvelled, were the ‘systems’ of Islam. Now I discovered that Nabhani was not as ‘pure’ as he and his followers claimed. His ideas were derivative, fully formed Western political discourse but presented in the language of Muslim religious idioms, offering European political ideals wrapped in the language of the Koran in order to gain mass appeal in the Arab world.”
“My years of Islamist ranting now seemed so hollow, meaningless and destructive. It was God, I read in the Koran, who bestowed political leadership, mulk, and it was God who withdrew it.
God was no longer beyond human reach, in need of governmental endorsement. God was around us, in us, for us.
There was an elasticity, nuance, and plurality in the message of the Koran that Islamists had somehow overlooked, in the process reducing our noble faith to terrorism, anger and conflict.”