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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 May 2007, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Inside the jihadi worldview
By Dominic Casciani
BBC News home affairs

Ibrahim Adam, Lamine Adam and Cerie Bullivant
Absconded: But what drives their ideology?
Three terrorism suspects on the run. One man tells of what it is like to think like a terror suspect - a man who spent his teenage years as an Islamist extremist.

Ed Husain is studying for his PhD. But as a teenager he became embroiled in the emerging Islamist political scene in east London and he says he became a leading activist opposing Western and British values.

The 32-year-old quit 10 years ago, and after spending years thinking about religion, society and his own past, has written a book of his experiences as a warning.

The world has moved on. One of the men he was closest to, self-styled cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, fled the UK after the July 2005 suicide bombings. Some of the organisations he says he was directly involved in say they have changed.

But he says the absconding of three men subjected to control orders means the authorities have not yet learned how to understand the jihadi mindset - and the Islamist ideology that underpins it.

"We face a new form of home-grown terrorism and our pussyfooting around issues in the name of not offending ethnic minorities will only compound the problem," Mr Husain says.

"The absconding of these three potential terrorists is only a symptom of a deeper problem: an unbridled ideology of lawlessness and vigilantism which continues to fester in our midst."

Ideological birth

So what makes a young man get involved? For Mr Husain, the journey began with a teenage awakening of identity, politics and religion.

Ed Husain's book, The Islamist
He came from a well-to-do South Asian background, his father a committed BBC radio man and their family's Islamic faith drawn from Sufi traditions of personal spirituality.

During his teenage years, he became involved in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a global political movement that calls for a single Islamic state across the Middle East. At the time it was headed by Omar Bakri Mohammed, before he formed Al Muhajiroun, a banned radical group whose name has featured heavily in recent terror trials.

While the movement's leaders now talk of intellectual persuasion, Mr Husain claims the ultimate logic remains the same: violence is at the heart of its revolutionary message.

Mr Husain saw a succession of young men like himself become radicalised by that message. Some travelled to Pakistan or elsewhere for paramilitary training. Young British men who fought and died, particularly in Bosnia, were lauded as martyrs.

One man he met in London was Asif Hanif, a quietly spoken young man who later blew himself up as the first British suicide bomber in Israel.

'Core messages'

It was only after seeing a stabbing at college involving fellow Islamists that Mr Husain says he began to look deeper into what he believed.

Asif Hanif and Omar Sharif, the 2003 Tel Aviv suicide bombers
Ed Husain met suicide bomber Asif Hanif (left)
"Here we tend to get a Pakistan-Arab version of Islam that is literalist, political and basically incompatible with British ideas. I now know that is not Islam. True religion is about coming to the service of all of God's creation."

What worries him most is that while we focus on counter-terrorism operations, neither government nor wider society have worked out how to address the street ideology.

"All these kids we are dealing with now, the ones who are going to jail, we are seeing the same thing that I saw when I was a teenager.

"Even if the government thinks that it has got on top of one problem, such as banning Al Muhajiroun, there will be other factions that will split. People break away and take up arms - that is exactly what the 7 July bombers did.

"Until we start dealing with the underlying Islamist ideology - challenging it head on with a well-thought out defence of both British values and the real messages of Islam - then we will not deal with the jihadis."

Accusations denied

Hizb ut-Tahrir is at the centre of that storm. It organises legally and holds both open public meetings and private study circles. It denies Mr Husain was ever a real member.

Omar Bakri
Omar Bakri Mohammed: Ed Husain was a follower
"While he may have attended our study circles and lectures in the early 1990s as he claims, like tens of thousands of others, he never joined Hizb ut-Tahrir," says spokesman Taji Mustafa.

"There are matters [Mr Husain describes] that we would not consider acceptable in Hizb ut-Tahrir and we certainly do not condone anything that he may say about himself or allege against others."

The organisation claims Ed Husain's accounts of the route that young men take are ancient history and partial. In particular, it cites opinion polls that suggest many Muslims around the world want Islamic law and governance at the centre of their states.

Ed has also been criticised by some Muslims and community groups who believe he has over-simplified the issues. Some of the people he has named as members of the broader Islamist family feel their views have changed from the days of student politics - but they have not been allowed to escape being labelled a potential threat.

One organisation he names, the Leicester-based Islamic Foundation, is today well-know among policymakers for its radical thinking on how Islam should fit into modern multicultural Britain.

So is his account dated? Mr Husain says not.

"We are dealing in 2007 with problems that were around but not recognised in 1997. We have allowed the creation of an Islamist underworld where these ideas go unchallenged.

"These people were not indoctrinated abroad. They were exposed to a Jihadi ideology here in the UK, here in London. This is why I believe addressing the 'conveyor belt' from ideology to terrorism is vital. We need to deal with this ideology."

The Islamist, by Ed Husain, is published by Penguin.

Some of your comments so far:

If a hundred people wrote a book describing the positives of Islamist movements around the world, you wouldn't bat an eyelid. As soon as one misguided individual who has misspent his youth chasing his ego writes a book on the negatives, you pounce on him like he is gold dust. This guy Ed Husain says nothing new, he repeats the same dribble that right-wing papers have been mouthing off for years.
Rajar Rajar, UK

While your children are out on the streets smoking, drinking and trying so hard to have an ASBO awarded, HT are helping youngsters to channel their aggression in to a political view. Young Muslims living in UK are upset with the current Governments foreign policy, the British Army killing Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq. The aggression and violence that has built up amongst Muslim youth towards the British system is the fault of our current government. The buck stops at Mr Blair- why don't we have a 7/7 inquiry get to the root of the problem. Zak, London UK

I do not support jihad in countries that are not killing Muslims, in countries where they are it is understandable. But in order to eliminate jihadis in the UK and other countries is by stopping the injustices around the world against Islam.
Mamunur Rahman, London

These youngsters are indoctrinated into this mindset, shame on the elders for not building bridges with wider society. Either accept the UK, and hold firm to your faith, your ethics or go back. I am a Shia Imami Muslim. All monotheistic faiths are recognised within the Ummah [brotherhood of Muslims]. Islam is as pluralistic as Christianity.
Asif, Surrey

The problem is not with any particular interpretation of Islam or specifically Islam itself. The core issue is religion in general. While the concept of Jihad may provide a mechanism through which Muslims can participate in violent conflict, violence in the name of blind faith is common across all major religions. If a solution is to be found it will not be through understanding or appeasement. We must challenge not only the religious extremists but also the more liberal believers who provide the pool from which the extremists are drawn.
James, Dundee

I went to university and was influenced by the preaching of political Islamic groups. While Ed Hussain is right that they need to be defeated ideologically, extreme interpretations of jihad mean that these people would fight against any opposition including Muslims.
Wissam Hussain, Solihull

It is the alienation of a culture and/or a religion that fosters the so-called 'extremist' ideology. When the term 'extremist' is used, the actual meaning is usually 'malevolent'. Islam is as peaceful and holistic religion as any other, but it has been warped and mis-represented by those who either have a political axe to grind or who are so alienated that they perpetuate a misguided version of a religion. This was also the case in the sectarian violence that plagued Northern Ireland.
Alan Price Fishe, London, UK

I am shocked that the authorities still do not seem to have a grasp on understanding the jihadi mindset breading in communities today and agree with Mr Husain where he highlights the fact that 'home-grown terrorism' is a potential problem and the government cannot afford to walk on eggshells when dealing with this issues for fear of offending ethnic minorities. If they communicate clearly their reasons behind there actions.
Tim Anderson, London England

Why is Hizb ut-Tahrir not banned? Surely it is time the pipelines of extreme Islamism were cut off as well as the finished products such as Al Mujahiroun - all credit to Ed Husain for standing up. We need more voices like his in modern Britain.
Richard Walker, York

Insteading of slagging off HT, why not take the time to read their website? What they say makes a lot of sense. Muslims in Islamic countries want the protection of an Islamic government so that they can no longer be invaded and occupied. That's their business and I think this is a good thing.
Bilal Patel, London, UK

There is injustice in the world Mamunur, but not specifically aimed at Islam. In Palestine, it is against Palestiians, in Iraq, it is largely Iraqis killing other Iraqis and who could defend the evil that was the Taliban. Herein lies the problem, a flawed perception of the West being anti-Islam. Most muslims are persecuted by other Muslims. Get real and accept the truth instead of blaming our society.The USA has a lot to answer for but being anti-Islam is not one them.
Dennis, Lincoln

This article, and the responses from individuals with a religious perspective, all go to demonstrate yet again that religion is the root of all evil. The sooner the human race dispenses with all such pernicious nonsense, the better for us all.
Bob Shaw, Glasgow, Scotland

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