LONDON – Jemima Khan, the ex-wife of the cricket legend Imran Khan, is being accused of backing reformed jihadists as she has become a patron of an organisation called Quillium Foundation that will be launched this week to combat terrorism.
Jamima said that the challenge to Islamism could only legitimately come from within the Islamic community if it is to have any impact. She has formed a group of other reformed Muslim radicals who will work for her like Hassan Butt, once a member of the Britain’s extremist group Al-Muhajiroun, who is so exasperated at still being the target of police investigations that he is willing to plead guilty to past crimes and take his punishment – if that is what is required to escape his former life.
Hassan Butt claims Greater Manchester police are harassing him over suspicions that he is secretly still a jihadist. Yet he says he now works to woo Muslim extremists away from violence – and that the Home Office encourages his efforts.
His predicament reflects a wider dilemma for the government: how far should it use draconian legal measures to combat terrorism and how much should it trust moderate Muslims and reformed jihadists to win over extremists?
He rejected extremism and jihad after he was horrified by the London bombings in July 2005. “I also began to discover deeper theological flaws in the jihadi world view,” he said. “These doubts drove me to begin a battle of ideas with my former associates. Slowly, I began to recruit over a dozen young British Muslims, who used to be hardened radicals, out of the network.”
When Mr Butt flew to Pakistan while preparing a BBC documentary about his journey from extremism he was questioned on departure and return. Police then demanded him to hand over the BBC material relating to the documentary. They have also demanded that a freelance journalist, Shiv Malik, hand over the manuscript of a book about Butt. Since Hassan Butt has not been arrested, the police demands were seen by Malik and media organisations as excessive.
Last week Malik won the right to appeal against the “production order” to hand over material. Lawyers said in court that part of the investigation is “designed to determine, among other things, whether Butt’s renunciation of terrorism is in fact genuine”.
Mr Butt protested that he had nothing to hide. “I’m shocked,” he said. “Why all this cat and mouse stuff? I’m not trying to run.”
The former jihadist claims that the investigation is ruining his attempts to convert radicals. “People don’t want to see me. Obviously they know I am under surveillance,” he said. However, he admits there is a problem for the authorities in whom to trust. He claims various Muslim bodies have taken government money to combat extremism, but have done little. The Quilliam Foundation, which has not received any government funding, is now intent on promoting the view that mainstream Islam does not condone violence or jihad.
Ed Husain, a former member of Hizbut-Tahrir, is one of the founders. Another patron is Lord Ashdown, the former Liberal Democrat leader. Husain, the author of The Islamist, said: “For the first time in western Muslim history, a Muslim group is challenging extremists using a scriptural and theological paradigm. There has not been a categorical refutation of Islamism by any Muslim groups, we are the first to do it.” He points out that even some respected Muslim scholars have not unequivocally condemned suicide bombings in regions such as Palestine but members of Quilliam see it as unIslamic.
Quilliam will mount campaigns to show that intellectuals whose writings have inspired extremism in Britain, such as the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb, are regarded as “fringe” figures in the wider Islamic world. Majid Nawaz, another former extremist and founder of Quilliam, said: “Extremist groups should be starved of the oxygen and tackled in debates. It will be a long struggle, but it’s something we need to do.”
Source: The Nation, 21/4/2008