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23. Oktober 2007

Ed Husain and Edit Schlaffer © Xenia Hausner

Ed Husain talking to Edit Schlaffer

Ed Husain in mosque © F Guidicini

Ed Husain © Ed Husain

Ed Husain

One Man, Two Cultures. A British Islamist Steps Out

Ed Husain once hung on the every word of radicals. Now he is the best selling author of an advisor against terrorism.

From Edit Schlaffer

From Jihadist to post graduate student at an elite British university and member of the Labour party – that is the life of 32-year-old Ed Husain. In his bestseller The Islamist, he describes why he joined the radical British Islamists, what he saw and why he returned to a normal life.
At the agreed upon meeting point in a underground station in the middle of London, Ed is waiting; a typical English gentleman, clean shaven and dressed in a tweed jacket and khaki trousers. He greets me with a warm handshake and suggests a small Italian restaurant for our discussion.

It is hard to imagine that this is the same Ed who followed fundamentalists as a teenager. But then he was still the hot-headed Mohammed, on the path to Islamic world revolution. What brought the son of a middleclass, second generation Indian family to do this? This is exactly the question that baffles anti-terror strategist.

For Ed, school was the starting point. “I suddenly realized that although I lived in London, I had no white, non-Muslim friends, and had no contact with girls. I grew up in a male dominated world. During this phase of my life came the shock of Bosnia,” he continues. "Through TV news reports I observed how thousands of white, blue-eyed Bosnians were forced out by Serbs. Their only wrongdoing: they were Muslims.”
These events were exploited in the propaganda of fundamentalists to make young Muslims feel insecure. ‘Look at that,’ they would say, ‘do you really believe that you are British, that you belong here?’”

These arguments touched Ed. “I felt closed out of mainstream society.” An Eastern saying goes: ‘the surroundings of a young man define his destiny.’ This is exactly what happened with Ed.
Husain spent more time in the Mosques of east London than he did in school and sneaked out of his home at night to attend propaganda-oriented teachings against his fathers will.
It took two years before I was actually integrated into the Islamic network. I read Islamic texts that I found in the school library. There are most likely still there.”
He hung on the every word of radicals such as Omar Bakri, read the works of Osama bin Laden’s mentor Sayyid Qutb and eventually ended up with the militant group Hizb up-Tahrir, which finds democracy unacceptable. True Islam should struggle for the return of the Caliphate, the Islamic State.

His companions disappear for “trainings” in Arabic nations. Ed is fascinated with the vision of a new Islamic world order, and with a missionary fervour he distributes flyers at the most well-known university of England, gives idealistic speeches and rebels against his parents and the authorities.
His fellow fighters are a diverse group: a doctor of the Royal London Hospital, a banker from GP Morgan, a city planner.

Husain speaks of an unbelievable feeling of solidarity. “People who were born and raised in the West have never questioned ‘who are we?’” Was there the possibility of a turning point during this phase? “There were certainly other possibilities for all of us, if politicians had talked to us. Their biggest mistake was failing to do so.”
He and his friends felt inwardly torn. “I was told throughout my youth that alcohol and premarital sex wasn’t allowed for us Muslims. And then suddenly I’m at the university and it is exactly those activities that I’m surrounded by, but in no case am I allowed to take part in them. What should I do? My friends and I are avoided in the prayer rooms. That is the place where Islamic groups recruit their followers. And abruptly I was cut off from university events.”
Ed couldn’t take part in the permissive pleasures of his fellow students, and instead policed his Muslim colleagues, making sure they were modestly covered and wore the Hijab. He was convinced that the enlightened liberal thinkers of Europe didn’t understand the power of God. According to Husain, God is at the heart of the average Muslim mindset.

It took years before Ed disengaged himself from these entanglements. Falling in love with Faye played a large part in his decision to change. Faye was a smart young woman with whom he travelled to Saudi Arabia, in search of the true Islam. Today, Ed has returned to the Sufism of his father. He is a devout Muslim, a young father himself and full of new visions: to reconcile his identity as a British citizen and a Muslim and to adopt tolerance and plurality.

Ed Husain: The Islamist, Penguin, 2007.

This article was published in the Austrian Newspater "Kurier" on October 14th 2007.


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