hassan butt on islamic theology, terrorism and the separation of church and state

I hesitate to post this clip from the UK’s “Guardian.” It’s not difficult to imagine how a non-Muslim, if they were inclined to do so, might use the words of Hassan Butt, a purported former jihadist in Britian, and use them to justify policies and actions against Muslims that are contrary to our western principles of democracy and justice. I think, however, in this case, the good outweighs the bad. While what he says might be controversial, I think it warrants consideration… Here’s a clip:

When I was still a member of what is probably best termed the British Jihadi Network, a series of semi-autonomous British Muslim terrorist groups linked by a single ideology, I remember how we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy.

By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the ‘Blair’s bombs’ line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology.

Friday’s attempt to cause mass destruction in London with strategically placed car bombs is so reminiscent of other recent British Islamic extremist plots that it is likely to have been carried out by my former peers.

And as with previous terror attacks, people are again articulating the line that violence carried out by Muslims is all to do with foreign policy. For example, yesterday on Radio 4’s Today programme, the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said: ‘What all our intelligence shows about the opinions of disaffected young Muslims is the main driving force is not Afghanistan, it is mainly Iraq.’

He then refused to acknowledge the role of Islamist ideology in terrorism and said that the Muslim Brotherhood and those who give a religious mandate to suicide bombings in Palestine were genuinely representative of Islam.

I left the BJN in February 2006, but if I were still fighting for their cause, I’d be laughing once again. Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 7 July bombings, and I were both part of the BJN – I met him on two occasions – and though many British extremists are angered by the deaths of fellow Muslim across the world, what drove me and many of my peers to plot acts of extreme terror within Britain, our own homeland and abroad, was a sense that we were fighting for the creation of a revolutionary state that would eventually bring Islamic justice to the world.

How did this continuing violence come to be the means of promoting this (flawed) utopian goal? How do Islamic radicals justify such terror in the name of their religion? There isn’t enough room to outline everything here, but the foundation of extremist reasoning rests upon a dualistic model of the world. Many Muslims may or may not agree with secularism but at the moment, formal Islamic theology, unlike Christian theology, does not allow for the separation of state and religion. There is no ‘rendering unto Caesar’ in Islamic theology because state and religion are considered to be one and the same. The centuries-old reasoning of Islamic jurists also extends to the world stage where the rules of interaction between Dar ul-Islam (the Land of Islam) and Dar ul-Kufr (the Land of Unbelief) have been set down to cover almost every matter of trade, peace and war.

…If our country is going to take on radicals and violent extremists, Muslim scholars must go back to the books and come forward with a refashioned set of rules and a revised understanding of the rights and responsibilities of Muslims whose homes and souls are firmly planted in what I’d like to term the Land of Co-existence. And when this new theological territory is opened up, Western Muslims will be able to liberate themselves from defunct models of the world, rewrite the rules of interaction and perhaps we will discover that the concept of killing in the name of Islam is no more than an anachronism…

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  1. egpenet
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Christian fundamentalists, take heed. As soon as you are willing to fully accept Jeffersonian secularism, the sooner we can end Bush’s “crusade” against the “evil-doers”.

  2. Dr. Cherry
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    People are carrying on like Islam somehow invented the idea of killing people for not believing a specific dogma. This idea is as old as civilization itself, some fringe factions of Islam are merely the current practitioners.

    Will humanity learn that we can’t fight wars on ideas with bombs and guns?

    What escapes me is that we prefer to blame the ideology not the people practicing the killing.

  3. egpenet
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    The ideology and the people are one and the same. The sooner people subsume their theism into the personal realm and allow politics and commerce to create a functioning ethics based upon a secular market philosophy … the better.

  4. Dr. Cherry
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    The ideology and the people are one and the same.

    That is the silliest thing I’ve heard all day. It suggests that to combat a bad idea is to combat the person holding that idea. Ridiculous.

  5. mark
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Steve that Islam isn’t unique in the respect that it sanctions violence against non-believers. The thing that I found interesting about the piece, however, is the author’s proposition that church and state be separated. We’ve heard a lot of people calling on moderate Muslims to come forward and lead the fight against fundamentalists within their religion. This is the first time, however, that I’ve heard this idea that, if I’m understanding it correctly, people can stay fundamentalist – we just need to find a way to channel it within a different structure. At least I think that’s what’s being said. I’d like to hear from more former jihadists on the subject. It seems as though we’ve heard from everyone else.

  6. egpenet
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Turkey has a secular government … although I am not sure how much sharia law is applied in their juidicary. Turks I know say they are are free to practice their own form of Islam, which essentially IS an individual’s relationship with their God. The shia/sunni thing is a historical things exacerbated by the whims of radical clerics and now terrorists.

  7. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 2, 2007 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

    Just to help Mark be PC … Mark, I don’t think you meant that “Islam … sanctions violence.” I think you meant that some (mis)interpret Islam to sanction violence.

    Some fundamentalism produces what we’d generally agree is “good.” Aka, fundies who give lots of money to the poor because they think that’s what Jesus “literally” meant for them to do.

    The problem with trying to channel any destructive fundamentalist ideology is it’s essentially saying, “Believe what you want, just don’t act on it.” None of us can do this for long. If I deeply believe I can save the world by blowing myself up in a preschool, how long can I go on, with any integrity, without pulling the pin? Faith without works is dead. Belief without action is hypocrisy. Destructive ideology can’t be managed.

    It also can’t be stopped with bullets and bombs.

    What I heard Hassan saying is that destructive ideology needs to be dismantled through reason and intentional engagement of ideas. I’d add that it would help a lot to remove the catalysts (poverty, oppression, aggresion, etc.) that make folks easy pickins for extremist causes.

  8. mark
    Posted July 3, 2007 at 12:17 am | Permalink

    I’ll go with your reading. Thanks, OEC.

  9. Dr. Cherry
    Posted July 3, 2007 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I’m glad we got that one all figured out.

  10. Posted July 3, 2007 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    I’ve hated dogs ever since the late 70s when David Berkowitz was told by his neighbor’s dog Harvey to go shoot teenagers. I’ve been trying to warn people about them but most people don’t want to join the “k-9 war” because they’re intimidated by groups like the Humane Society.

    I don’t trust dogs. I think they are just pretending to be man’s best friend so they can get in our houses.

    Have you ever watched the Dog Whisperer? (National Geographic Channel, Fridays at 8pm ET/PT) I think Cesar Millan is a species-traitor. He has a training compound in Southern California where he sets up sleeper cells and plants them in communities around America.

  11. Robert
    Posted July 3, 2007 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    What’s it going to take for me to get banned from your site, Mark?

  12. mark
    Posted July 3, 2007 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Dog hate is OK. To get kicked off, you need to start talking shit about narwhals and/or Peter Falk.

  13. mark
    Posted July 3, 2007 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    If you want to get banned, just start a sentence like this:

    “So this one time, Peter Falk was fucking this dead narwhal…”

  14. mark
    Posted July 3, 2007 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    “…in character, as Columbo….”

  15. Robert
    Posted July 3, 2007 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    I had to look up ‘Narwhal’ in the dictionary. I did, and I still have no idea what it is.

  16. Robert
    Posted July 3, 2007 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

    I thought it was funny that people complained about foot-washing stations being put into some public restrooms somewhere. They whined about Muslims getting special treatment. But it’s pretty obvious it wasn’t done for the Muslims so much as it was done for the people who don’t like to use sinks where other people have had their feet. I’m tired of these people who are concerned about sanitary conditions getting special treatment.

    I walked into a public restroom the other day and took a look around. Things somehow looked different, and it made me uncomfortable. I thought to myself, “Those damn Muslims!” Then I realized I was in the women’s restroom.

  17. egpenet
    Posted July 3, 2007 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    And then a narwahl came out of the second stall wearing a trenchcoat, a cigar butt clenched in its teeth. Just left the room. Walked right out. Without a word. Didn’t wash its fins or anything!
    Suddenly the door swung open and there it was again. And it said, “Ah, you don’t have a light for this thing do’ya?” I didn’t say anything. “Nah. I didn’t think you smoked. Too clean cut.” And it disappeared again. Wow! Nice trenchcoat, though. London Fog.

  18. Posted July 3, 2007 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Narwals? Foot washing stations? Dog hate? What kind of discussion did I walk into? I better go back to watching the Tigers.

  19. Robert
    Posted July 5, 2007 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    I was watching the Tigers too…while I typed. That’s why I couldn’t stay on topic.

    My point was actually just that I think it makes about as much sense to blame Islam for suicide bombers as it does to blame a talking dog for David Berkowitz shooting people.

    As usual, nobody really noticed or cared about what I said.

  20. mark
    Posted July 5, 2007 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

    I care, Robert. You have no idea how much I care.

  21. Ol' E Cross
    Posted July 5, 2007 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    So … we should blame the woman in the polka dot dress?

  22. Robert
    Posted July 6, 2007 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    yes….if she is also wearing a dynamite corset.

    Besides being a very tacky fashion statement, it is certainly also an outfit only an insane person would throw together…even without the dress.

    I attended a campaign training seminar in Chicago once where a Clinton Administration official said in effect that as long as there were different races there would be racism, as if the fact of there being different races is the cause of racism.

    Recently I saw on the news that some guy had strangled his girlfriends baby. He said he did it because the baby stole and ate his sandwich or something. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the real reason.

  23. UBU
    Posted July 7, 2007 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    As usual UBU must return things to topic…

    It sounds to me like this guy is merely firming up his post jihadist career as an “expert” who will say just what Fox news and the right want him to say and get loads of money for his trouble…like all those Iraq exile experts who gave Bush such a clear view of the situation in Iraq…

  24. Robert
    Posted July 8, 2007 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    I felt like I HAD returned to topic. I should be more direct I guess…

    My point was that people shouldn’t believe things crazy people say. When crazy people do crazy things, the last people who’re going to be able to tell you why they did it are the crazy people themselves.

    Terrorists may think and say it is the Koran that commands them to kill people, but I am pretty sure it is their own psychosis which is to blame. I’m getting the impression that most people find this too disturbing to acknowledge.

    Personally, I wouldn’t find it comforting to think a normal person could pick up a Koran and suddenly go berserk. But for some reason, many people prefer this concept to reality.

  25. Posted July 13, 2007 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Actually I think we need to take this with a huge grain of salt. Butt apparently is getting rich selling his story. He’s an opportunist more than anything else – a dangerous one as his tact is to implicate all Muslims which sets the stage for the kind of anti Muslim acts that have been growing both in Europe and the US for the past few years. Its one thing to criticize militant Islam, its another to cast stones at anyone who belongs to this community. And he’ll make a good living casting these stones.

    This from Wikepedia on Butt:

    The writer Adrian Morgan has argued that”Hassan Butt is a fantasist, it seems. He certainly has had links with radical Islamists, but his desire to gain attention, to bask in limelight, is not the behavior of someone who is as involved in terror networks as he has previously boasted.” [8]

    One of the leading figures in the anti-war movement, the British Muslim activist Anas Altikriti, has strongly criticised Butt, arguing that, “Now that he has changed sides, rather than see the error in the methodology and ideology to which he once subscribed and which he peddled for years, he has adopted the posture of extremist once again – and is hurling abuse once more, albeit from the opposite side.” Altikriti concludes that “The call to change the face of Islam, attacking Islamic doctrine through the copy-and-paste methodology that falsely makes the Qur’an seem like a book of evil, is unjust and disingenuous.”[9]

    There has also been criticism from the Assistant Sectretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Inayat Bunglawala, who has argued that Butt is wrong to argue that “we do not need to revisit some of our own murderous actions overseas and examine whether they have contributed to the spread of violent extremism.”[10]

    The Muslim activist Faisal Haque has asked why Butt has not been arrested and suggested that Butt “may have been working for the security service”.[11] Butt has denied these charges saying he would inform the police if he would be aware of an impending terror attack, but that he was not an informer.[1]

    [edit] See also

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