On Sunday, March 25, on its 60 Minutes show CBS aired an interview between correspondent Bob Simon and the former spokesman of the British radical Islamist group Al Muhajiroun. The subject of the interview, 26-year old Hassan Butt, claimed that he had left support for killing behind him. Butt’s apparent Damascene conversion, however, does not sit easily with his track record.
He told Bob Simon that in his past “we would take away the innocence from the person so they were no longer innocent men, women and children… and hence, combatants and allowed to be targeted.” Yet Butt asserted that now, “killing for the sake of killing, and killing in the name of Islam for the sake of killing, is completely and utterly prohibited. And there’s a big disease, a big problem and a cancer in the Muslim world. And it’s a very dangerous cancer, and it needs to be dealt with.” In the interview, as he said these words, Butt’s face showed no emotion. His voice was slower, and more importantly he did not blink at all, as if his face had become a mask. Close scrutiny of his demeanor gives a strong impression that Butt is lying.
The leaders of Al Muhajiroun and its successor groups (Al Ghurabaa and the Saved/Saviour Sect) have always been scrupulous in their gathering of textual information from the Koran and the Hadiths to justify violent jihad against “enemies of Islam”, including infidels, and even old women who did not show enough respect:
“At the time of the Messenger Muhammad (saw) there were individuals like these who dishonored and insulted him upon whom the Islamic judgement was executed. Such people were not tolerated in the past and throughout the history of Islam were dealt with according to the Shariah. Ka’ab ibn Ashraf was assassinated by Muhammad ibn Maslamah for harming the Messenger Muhammad (saw) by his words, Abu Raafi’ was killed by Abu Ateeq as the Messenger ordered in the most evil of ways for swearing at the prophet, Khalid bin Sufyaan was killed by Abdullah bin Anees who cut off his head and brought it to the prophet for harming the Messenger Muhammad (saw) by his insults, Al-Asmaa bintu Marwaan was killed by Umayr bin Adi’ al-Khatmi, a blind man, for writing poetry against the prophet and insulting him in it, Al-Aswad al-Ansi was killed by Fairuz al-Daylami and his family for insulting the Messenger Muhammad (saw) and claiming to be a prophet himself.
Shortly after these incidents the people began to realize that insulting the Messenger of Allah (saw) was not something to be taken lightly and that by doing so would mean that you would be killed for it, a concept that many have seem to forgotten .”
Photographs of Hassan Butt from two or three years ago show him looking more “Westernized” than he appears on CBS. In his interview for Bob Simon, he wears a smaller beard, but his head is shaved underneath an Islamic cap.
There is much in Bob Simon’s interview that seems authentic, such as claims that Butt raised $300,000 for jihad, with professional Muslims knowing that their donations would be sponsoring armed jihad. Butt’s claims that drug-dealing was used by Muslim extremists to finance jihad tally with known facts – heroin from Afghanistan and hashish from Pakistan have long been used to finance jihadist operations. Despite this, the claims that Butt is now working to teach Muslims the “peaceful” truth at the heart of Islam and leading them away from extremism just do not ring true.
Butt was born in Luton, and attended the University of Wolverhampton. He had been expelled from university after physically attacking an open homosexual. Butt said in 2005 of his victim: “If someone wants to do it privately, that’s fine, but don’t come out publicly with it.” There seems to be something here that Butt is not being “public” about. He had reached the age of 25 in August 2005, and was claiming that he had never dated, as his associations with radical Islam had taken precedence.
In 2005 Butt told Prospect magazine: “My mother is arranging for me to get married. Unlike Pakistani tradition, which doesn’t allow you to speak to the girl beforehand, I’ve made sure that I’ve spoken to the sister, made sure that I’m compatible with her. Obviously, I’m not going to date her or court her.”
In the CBS interview, Hassan Butt claimed that Mohammed Sidique Khan, leader of the four bombers who blew up parts of London’s transport network on July 7, 2005, killing 52 people, had become radicalized after being urged to embark on an arranged marriage. Butt claims that other Muslims have become radicalized “as a result of them being tried to being forced [sic] to marry someone they don’t want to marry”. This argument is weak to the point of being specious.
In August 2005 Butt said that he first became introduced to radical Islam via the pan-Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. This happened, he claimed in Prospect magazine, when he was 17. In Sunday’s broadcast interview, Butt claims that his adoption of radical Islam happened when he was only 16.
Butt’s revisionist account of his history also extends to the numbers of people he had recruited to fight against coalition forces. He tells Bob Simon that he recruited between 50 and 75 people to undergo jihadist training in Pakistan. Yet in January 2002, Butt telephoned the BBC in Lahore, Pakistan, and claimed that he had recruited 200 volunteers to join the Taliban.
With such glaring discrepancies in his own accounts of his life and experiences, it is clear that there is nothing substantial in any of Butt’s testimonies that can be relied upon. Butt tells Bob Simon that he knew Mohammed Sidique Khan, but claims not to have known of the bomber’s intentions. Yet in May 2003, Butt told the Times newspaper that he knew of a number of British Muslims who wished to become suicide bombers. He said: “The number is getting close to 50. They are aged 17 to their late thirties. They are contacting me about organization.”
“They are waiting for the right time, the right people. You don’t just do it as individuals [sic], you do it as an organization. It’s about screening them, testing them, making sure they are sincere. Then, when it’s right, believe me, they’ll all be used.”
Butt spoke to the Times after two British-born Muslims had traveled to Tel Aviv. Asif Hanif had entered Mike’s Bar on the sea front on April 30, and detonated an explosive belt. Three people died and 60 were injured in the explosion. His companion, Omar Khan Sharif from Derby, had failed to detonate his bomb. Sharif’s decomposing body was found 12 days later, floating in the sea. Butt had claimed to the Times that Hanif and Sharif had both approached him for advice on carrying out their “martyrdom operations”.
Butt had been officially expelled from Al-Muhajiroun in January 2002 after he had boasted to the BBC about his recruitment of jihadists. Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, who had founded the British branch of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and who had founded Al Muhajiroun in 1996, claimed that Butt did not represent Al Muhajiroun and was acting alone.
Butt had gone to Pakistan in March 2001, and had been leader of the Al Muhajiroun office in Lahore. In September 2001, Butt had allowed US-based Islamist Junaid Babar to stay at the office. In August 2004, Babar admitted to a New York court that he had set up a terrorist training camp in Pakistan, and also that he helped a terrorist bomb plot in London. This plot has led to a trial of 7 individuals, which is still continuing.
The alleged leader of these 7 individuals, 25-year old Omar Khyam from Crawley, had earlier been sent to Kashmir by Al Muhajiroun. His family had gone to Kashmir to rescue him in 2000. This may be the “17-year old” that Butt admitted sending to Pakistan in his interview with Bob Simon. During his trial, Khyam admitted his involvement with Al Muhajiroun and that he attended a training camp in Kashmir when aged 17, but he has not said that he was sent there by the group.
On October 25, 2005, the BBC aired an investigation by journalist Richard Watson. For legal reasons connected with the still unfinished trial, Watson disguised Junaid Babar’s name as “Shafique”. Watson said: “I’m in Cheetham Hill, in the northern suburbs of Manchester. I’ve just met with Hassan Butt, the British jihadist who was with Shafique in Pakistan. He won’t be interviewed. But we understand from a very well-placed source that Mohammed Siddique Khan stayed at Hassan Butt’s flat in 2003 and met with the self-confessed Al Qaeda fixer Shafique, both in Pakistan and back in Leeds.”
After being officially expelled from Al Muhajiroun, Butt had returned to Britain in November 2002. On Monday December 2, 2002 Hassan Butt was arrested. Held at Paddington Green police station, the high security location in west London where Britain’s terrorists are investigated, Butt was later released without charge.
In October 2001, Britain’s defense minister, Geoffrey Hoon, had warned that any Briton found fighting coalition forces would face prosecution. Technically, Hassan Butt did not fight jihad, despite his claims of recruitment. In 2001, 200 British Muslims who had fought abroad were already known to the UK authorities, but so far none have been prosecuted. The reasons for Butt not being charged under the Terrorism Act 2000 have never been adequately explained; this act specifically makes it illegal for UK citizens to incite terrorism abroad, or to arrange terrorism training.
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. In August 2004, he claimed to have recently met with “an autonomous Islamist cell in the UK which possessed large quantities of Semtex, and which was capable of launching an immediate and major attack.” He told his interviewer that he was “without a doubt” under MI5 surveillance.
He also said that he prayed “to Allah that he accepts me as a martyr. If that’s tomorrow, then tomorrow. If not, then whenever Allah wills.” When his interviewer asked why he did not carry out his alleged wish, Butt said: “Everything needs to be done in an organized manner, with the current organizations that are working around the world.”
Butt announced his conversion to “peaceful Islam” in January 2006 at Cambridge University’s debating union. He preaches now that actions such as those carried out by the 7/7 bombers were wrong. In August 2005 he had said that if the world was to come under the banner of Islam “a lot of killing” is unavoidable. He claimed then that the 7/7 bombers were not immoral, but were guilty only of tactical errors: “I am not in favor of military action in Britain but if somebody did do it who was British, I would not have any trouble with that either.”
Butt now claims that his family has rejected him for being a traitor to Islam, and he is under death threats from his former associates. He is writing a book, he says, about “moderate” Islam.
I do not buy into Hassan Butt’s “conversion”. I do not believe that he is doing anything other than “taqiyya”, presenting a new gloss to the same hateful dogma he has previously espoused publicly. It seems he always wishes to be a center of attention. Previously he courted publicity by outrageous claims. Now he is courting publicity by claiming to have made a radical decision to become moderate.
There is no convincing explanation for his previous radicalism, not even an admission that when he boasted of his jihad recruitment he was young and naive. He has made absolutely no attempt at a full confession of his previous “sins”. Perhaps such a confession would put him at risk of jail, but it would give his current posturing more credibility. Just because Hassan Butt claims he has reformed, that is no reason to believe him.
The original article can be found at http://www.familysecuritymatters.org/