Hassan is the author of Prophecy
and the Fundamentalist Quest. Please visit
her website at: www.farzanahassan.com
(Mohammed Mahbub) Husain, author of the book The
Islamist, recalls how as an Islamist, he
“believed that history was a clash between good and evil.
We represented the former; the West the latter and we had to
prevail.” In his engaging and insightful memoir published
by Penguin books, the author appropriately captures the gist
of Islamist philosophy by exposing the Islamist agenda of “confronting
the West in its own backyard.”
book chronicles phases of Husain’s life that led to his
conversion to a virulent strain of radical Islam and his journey
back to the spiritual Islam practiced by his South Asian British
the writings of Maududi, to Syed Qutb, to Nabhani, founder of
the militant Hizb ut-Tahrir, Husain describes the rhetoric,
propaganda, mind-control tactics as well as the insidious and
pervasive networks that sustain and empower radical Islam. The
manner and methods the radical leadership employs to incite
hatred of everything non-Islamic, particularly Western, are
all telling accounts of radical Islam’s ambitions to not
only gain visibility, but also exclusive control over public
offices, institutions and spaces. As an Islamist, Husain envisioned
a new world order where “Muslims would be first-class
citizens, the kuffar (the ingrate) would be put in
its place and an army would declare war.” The Islamic
state would be a theocracy. “In Islam, we don’t
rule, Allah rules. Human beings do not have legislative power.
The world today suffers from the malignant cancers of freedom
and democracy,” declared an Islamist associate of Husain.
Even the “sisters” who many of the “brothers”
dated were issued ultimatums to wear the hijab and eventually
the niqab. One of the Salaf with whom Husain hobnobbed for a
while “fell head over heels in love with one of them simply
because she had covered all. “As courting and dating were
considered morally degenerate, my members found partners of
the opposite gender under the pretext of marriage,” he
states. Husain also laments the higher divorce rate among Islamists
compared to ordinary Muslims.
author enjoyed these Islamist activities for a while before
realizing there were hierarchies and profound division even
among those who wanted to unite the world under the banner of
radical Islam. The Hizb shunned the followers of Maududi and
the Salaf, who claimed to follow the example of the heroic first
Muslims, as simply elitist.
it was the murder of a fellow student by a Hizb member that
finally sowed the seeds of discontent in Husain towards radical
Islam. He would from then on try to keep away from the weekly,
sometimes daily gatherings. “Britain offered the Hizb
the freedom to express its ideas freely and recruit uninhibitedly.”
Husain also regrets that as an Islamist, he had lost his “ability
realized soon enough that the path of Islamism was at best murky.
He decided to abandon it and for a while, even struggled to
keep his faith. He concluded that if he were at all able to
remain a believer, his God would have to be “beyond gender,
limitation and even conceptualization.” Along with this
realization, Husain also became a “better Briton”.
All this took place before the world changed on 9/11.
even a reformed, de-radicalized Husain felt somewhat “joyful”
at the news of the attacks. “Any attack on the bullyboy
of the world, ardent supporter of Israel, puppet master of Arab
dictators and exporter of McDonald’s style globalization
was certainly good news for the rest of us”. The backlash
against Muslims and the resultant isolation they had felt in
the aftermath proved to be the last hurdle for Husain towards
shedding his animosity for all things Western.
story is not unique. Radicalized youth in the West often fall
prey to Islamist propaganda in similar fashion. In many ways,
Husains’ tumultuous spiritual journey represents the ongoing
tussle between militant Islam and mystical Islam. After a long
stint with radicalism, he comes to the conclusion that it is
tolerance, humanity and a very personal devotion to God that
constitute Islam’s true essence.
this begs the question: Why are so many Muslims led astray?
Is there something in the sacred texts of Islam that lends itself
readily to radical interpretations? Indeed there are such verses,
but Husain fervently believes that the real problem lies in
the literalist and obscurantist interpretations of these texts.
the end of the book, the author compares Levantine Islam with
Syria as an example, to the Wahabi Islam of Saudi Arabia. While
the atmosphere in Syria tends to be one of aloof religious liberalism,
Saudi Arabia actively engages in propagating its rigidly puritanical
also draws a distinction between Islamism and Islam. But this
purported distinction again raises some questions: Are the differences
largely determined by the extent of adherence to Islamic pretext?
In other words, are the differences one of ideology or simply
religious practice? Are all Muslims ideologically Islamist and
simply derelict in religious observance? Is Islamism built on
the tenets of Islam and therefore a valid strain among its many
expressions? Is Islamism a natural extension of Islam? Is a
global political agenda germane to Islam lending validity to
the Islamist viewpoint?
does not pose these questions but arrives at the categorical
“Religions are not for governments or states; they are
would readily shun such suggestions. They believe there is only
one valid interpretation of Islam – theirs -- - and since
they see Islam as a monolith, they also view the Western world
as a monolith, thus directing their animosity towards all things
Western. In the end, what will win the fight against radicalism
is how well these attitudes are recognized and how effectively
they are countered. Nonetheless, Husain provides an accurate
and timely window into the minds of contemporary Islamists.
The Islamist is a must-read for all who wish to understand
the causes of radicalization and possible solutions.