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The Islamist: Why I joined radical Islam in Britain, what I saw inside and why I left Paperback – 3 May 2007
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A persuasive and stimulating book. -- Martin Amis
All who glibly generalise about the no-man's-land between terrorism and multiculturalism should read this articulate and impassioned book. -- Simon Jenkins, Sunday Times
Captivating, and terrifyingly honest ... a wake-up call to
monocultural Britain, it takes you into the mind of young fundamentalists,
exposing places in which the old notion of being British is defunct.
Husain's account is not sensationalist, tending more to
understatement than to hyperbole ... A complete eye-opener. -- David Aaronovitch, The Times
Insightful and gripping -- Sunday Times
About the Author
Ed Husain was an Islamist radical for five years in his late teens and early twenties. Having rejected extremism he travelled widely in the Middle East and worked for the British Council in Syria and Saudi Arabia. Husain received wide and various acclaim for The Islamist, which was shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for political writing and the PEN/Ackerley Prize for literary autobiography, amongst others. He is a co-founder of the Quillium Foundation, Britain's first Muslim counter extremism think tank. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.
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It's a classic case of the closing the stable after the horse bolted with the UK taking matters overseas to fight these issues rather than firstly trying to deal with the home-grown variety that in essence caused the only terrorism on its shores. The book remains very honest and again shocking into what was allowed to go on unchecked for such a long period of time.
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The author, Mohammed Mahbub ‘Ed’ Husain, was raised in England by devout parents from Bangladesh and India who demonstrated a sincere, quiet faith in Islam. As a child, Ed had the rare opportunity to study with Shaikh Abd al-Latif a master of several Muslim mystical traditions and a spiritual leader who taught him “a certain way of being gentle and God-revering.”
Despite this early training by an Islamic scholar with a depth of understanding few could hope to achieve, the teenage Ed found himself drawn to a radical, politically motivated organization. Its philosophy was based on that of Abul A’ala Maududi, who was an aggressive proponent of an Islamic state. It was essentially a political movement rather than a spiritual doctrine.
Ed was recruited by a classmate and became a member of the innocuously named Young Muslim Organization (YMO), expecting to be part of a grand effort to spread the teachings of the Prophet and improve conditions for Muslims worldwide. However, Ed found the YMO employed methods that appeared reasonable and desirable to the vulnerable young people who were drawn into their ranks. There was much talk about the heart of Islam but in practice the YMO is a public relations machine many of whose members seemed to Ed to have little understanding of Islam, the Koran, or the Sharia.
Looking back, Ed Husain realizes that by joining the YMO, he changed, if not in the way he might have wanted. “Now I was not a mere Muslim like all the others I knew; I was better, superior.” So for five years Ed Husain was an active member of organizations including the YMO and the more aggressive Jamat-e-Islami. He states that, “We continued to disrupt meetings of other Muslim groups, to plaster the walls of inner-city London, England with our posters,”
Ed Husain looks back on this portion of his life with shame. He recognizes that he had dismissed the expertise of scholars on Muslim affairs. His understanding of his behaviour is worthwhile, but he is certainly very hard on his youthful self.
Now far removed from his experiment in fundamentalist religion, Ed Husain is co-founder of the Quillium Foundation, a British-based counter-extremism organization. His loathing for violence is evident in the painfully honest record of his own divergence from the path of the Prophet: “I had advocated the ideas of Muslim domination, confrontation, and jihad, never for one moment thinking that their catastrophic consequences would arrive on my own doorstep.”
Husain describes his book as an explanation of extremist thought and how fanatics penetrate Muslim communities. He explains the truth behind their agenda of subverting the West and moderate Islam. This is a very personal, soul searching book. I found it interesting and thought provoking. It is a book I would heartily commend.
It is Husain's journey to this point that provides the narrative, and in his calm and transparent prose the author has managed to pen the most terrifying story I have ever read.
Here was an ordinary British Muslim with a loving and supportive family who started life a poster-boy for integration as a colour and faith-blind student at a multi-ethnic primary school. Without personal tragedy or disaster, without any poor experiences at the hands of the "Establishment", this happy schoolboy found himself recruiting "soldiers of Islam" to destroy his country, and toppled on the brink of taking that route himself.
So complete was his indoctrination that even years after his epiphany he found himself experiencing a uniquely Islamic doublethink when it came to the traditions and institutions of his country.
What terrifies about this book is the sheer ordinariness of Hussain's experience. Through no great genius or inspiration on the part of those who recruited him to the Islamist cause he found himself turning his back on family and nation, burning with a hatred for everyone outside his own small clique.
Husain was bright enough to see the cracks in Islamism - the lack of genuine Koranic scholarship, the transmutation of religion into politics, the racism at the heart of Saudi Arabia, and the exploitation of ignorance and disillusionment among young men. It is clear from his experience that most are not so well equipped.
This book provides an explanation not only for recent events in the UK but also across the wider world. A must-read for anyone with an interest in the future.
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