The unsuccessful terror attacks in the UK this month have prompted a number of welcome responses from voices in the British Muslim community. Increasingly moderate Muslim voices in the UK are speaking out against Islamist inspired violence. In earlier articles I discussed the views of Ed Husain and Maryam Namazie, who have openly challenged the views of radical Muslims in the UK. There are other commentators also worthy of mention.
Safraz Manzoor is a writer, broadcaster and documentary maker. He argues that it is no longer acceptable for the Muslim community to try and pretend that jihadists somehow exist in limboland - at one remove from the religion and the greater Muslim community. In his view denial is no longer an option and he challenges British Muslims to "accept that the cancer of extremism affects their entire community".
In the past leaders of the British Muslim community have tended to blame the media for spreading misinformation and stereotypes, but it seems this is changing. Remarkably, following the London and Glasgow attacks, the Muslim Council of Great Britain, that has tended to take defensive positions in the past, condemned the bombers in unambiguous language ... "These people do not care who they kill, their aim is to undermine British society and to sow hate, anger and suspicion. We cannot allow them to win."
Another courageous British Muslim who is speaking out is one Hassan Butt, a former member of what he terms the 'British Jihadi Network'. This is a man who admits to cheering the July 7th attacks on the UK two years ago.
In a recent article in the Observer, Butt casts derision on the popular view that the motivating force behind UK Muslim radicalism is Iraq and 'Blair's bombs'. He claims that it suited the ends of his group to have the public believe that this was the chief motivating factor, when in fact the movement was driven by Islamic theology.
After the recent UK attacks, the mayor of London 'Red Ken' Livingstone, got up on his soapbox and engaged in his usual line of commentary - blaming Iraq and British foreign policy for the mindset that leads to terrorism. Butt's reaction was to say that if he had still been in the British Jihadi Network, he and his associates would have been laughing at Livingstone's thesis. Of course he acknowledges that Muslim deaths as a result of the Iraq war generate anger, but what primarily inspired the BJN was the struggle to bring about a revolutionary Islamic state based upon Islamic codes of justice, not the activities of Tony Blair.
Islamic doctrine lies at the root of the division between moderate Muslims and Islamists. Butt stresses that formal Islamic theology does not allow for separation between the state and religion. This is why radicals when confronting other members of the Muslim community will often ask "are you Muslim or British?" ... "are you Muslim or American/Canadian?". The implication being that if you claim to be 'Canadian' for example, then you can't be fully Muslim.
There is a deeper theological source for this refusal to embrace the modern state. Islamic jurists in earlier periods developed 'rules of interaction' between Dar ul-Islam (the Land of Islam) and Dar ul-Kufr (the Land of Unbelief). Modern jihadis reason that since no pure Islamic state is in existence, the entire world is part of Dar ul-Kufr. It follows in the minds of some, that jihadis are therefore free to destroy who and what they will - including bomb attacks upon unarmed civilians.
In quitting BJN, Hassan Butt came to accept that he was no longer a pilgrim in a 'land of disbelief', but that he was a British citizen. This is a victory of realism over Islamist thinking that has become deluded, no matter how seemingly justified it may be when viewed in the light of the Islamic canon. Fact is, the Islamic jurists of former dynasties birthed a vision of their world that may have been a possibility during the period of the Abbasids, but that has no hope of realization in the world of the modern nation state with its 'armor' of technology. The jihadi vision is quixotic and in the final analysis, futile. This is why it is imperative that Islamic theologians in the West find a way to move beyond the old dichotomy that divided Dar ul-Islam from the lands of the infidel. There is a middle way and Muslims of goodwill are in the West are in the process of discovering it.
Hassan Butt offers an answer to this age-old split between the Islamic lands and the lands of the infidel. He refers instead to the "Land of Co-existence". Furthermore he believes that as this concept comes to be accepted more fully, a theology will evolve that will enable Western Muslims to "liberate themselves from defunct models of the world".
Like Ed Husain who split from Hizb ut-Tahrir, Hassan Butt has been subjected to negative attention from former associates. Both of these men are inspirational, and it is their type of progressive thinking coupled with courageous action that will help to open the path to the 'Land of Co-existence'.