Ed Husain. 2007. The Islamist: Why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left. Penguin Books: London, 290 S., 14.45 € / GBP 8.99.
Mohamed M. Husain’s book is a protest against political Islam. It is based on his own experience as a British Muslim of Indian descent who grew up in London, rebelled against the traditional Islam of his parents and became an extremist. He eventually saw the error of his concepts and activities. The book is captivating and extremely timely. Why are young educated British Muslims becoming extremists?
Ed Husain explains life, tactics and training within radical Islamist organisations in Britain. Factors which contributed to his joining several Islamist organisations were: being a misfit at school; an unwise selection of text books by the Religious Education department of his school (Gulam Sarwar’s Islam: Beliefs and Teachings, written from an Islamist perspective); friendship with young Islamists; clever recruiting strategies of Islamist organisations, using the idealism and enthusiasm of young people; youth rebellion; attraction to Islamist propaganda; discrimination of non-white minorities; radicalisation of young British Muslims by the killings of Muslims in the Balkans in the early 1990s; wide-spread influence of Islamism in British mosques.
Mohamed M. Husain (born in 1975) became active in the Young Muslim Organisation UK (YMO) of the Jamat-e-Islami and the Hizb ut-Tahrir. Jamat-e-Islami was founded in 1941 by Abul Ala Mawdudi (1903-1979), a Pakistani journalist. He promoted a new brand of Islamic ideology, highly politicized and deeply anti-western. The aims of Jamat-e-Islami are : to change Muslims, to make them live Islam not just as a religion but as a complete code of life for all areas of life; to establish an Islamic State because the aims cannot be realized as long as power and government are in the hands of unbelievers (kuffar). British politics, the Queen and democracy are considered man-made and must be replaced by God-made politics and political institutions (“Allah’s law in Allah’s land”). “Islam is a revolutionary doctrine and system that overthrows governments. It seeks to over-throw the whole universal social order” (Mawdudi. In: The Islamist, p. 36). Organised struggle to do so is considered the only way to please Allah.
The other Islamist ideologue read and absorbed by the young British Islamists is Sayyid Qutb, chief ideologue of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (hanged in 1966 by the Egyptian government). His most influencial book Milestones was again published in 2006 in Birmingham. Qutb had adopted Mawdudi’s paradigm but developed it further. Mawdudi’s gradualism and gaining power via parliamentary democracy was replaced by taking power by force. “Islam is the solution, the final solution for all the world’s ills” became the battle cry. “Allah is our Lord. Mohammed is our leader. The Qur’an is our constitution. Jihad is our way. Martyrdom is our desire” (Hasan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood) became the motto of young British activists.
Ed Husain moved from the Jamat-e-Islami to the Hizb ut-Tahrir which had been established in 1952 by Taqiuddin al-Nabhani (1909-1977). The Hizb aims ultimately at a complete destruction of the existing political and social order and replacing it with the “khilafah” (the Islamic caliphate), the worldwide Islamic state of the Muslim “ummah”. The Hizb plans to do this in three stages (“secret stage”, “open stage” and by military means; p. 93).
(Moham)Ed Husain was trained in weekly meetings of the secretive cell structure of the Hizb to be uncompromising, unwavering, disciplined and openly confrontational (“Never defend, always offend!”), skilled in open debates in universities and Muslim gatherings, linking local issues to global issues of Muslim concerns and grievances, manipulating Muslim emotions and skilfully mobilising Muslim support for the Hizb. Hizb activists are integrated into powerful networks and sworn into strict secrecy. They promote radical ideas of world domination among Muslims, and cleverly use intense media interests and coverage to their advantage. The Hizb speedily responds to international affairs by issuing and distributing tens of thousands of leaflets, stickers and posters by their activists, circulating press releases and condemning global players. “As an Islamist, I saw everyone along religious lines, and all non-Muslims as inferior to us” (Ed Husain, p. 130).
When a Christian young man was killed by a Hizb activist, it served as a wake-up call to Ed Husain. His reading of history at university helped him to investigate and compare. He gradually withdrew from Hizb ut-Tahrir, got married and eventually found peace in Sufism. He studied for several years in Syria and Saudi Arabia to learn Arabic and to understand Islam in Arabic contexts while his wife taught English at the British Council. He is now working towards a PhD at Oxford University. His time in Saudi Arabia and especially seeing the realities of Wahhabism were eye openers to him. Back in Britain he joined the Labour Party and is now convinced that moderate Muslims need to stand up against Islam being hijacked by Islamists with their destructive agendas.