Hassan Butt, the former spokesman for Al-Muhajiroun, has demonstrated his chameleon-like tendencies and has morphed into the new pin-up boy for the Islamic Reformationist cause.
In a re-branding as clumsy as when the Post Office became Consignia, Butt has turned his back on his terrorist buddies and now would like to let everyone know how to sort out the whole Muslim problem.
Normally, this complete about turn in personality would warrant a detailed examination under the Mental Health Act but in today's Britain it now means a career as the media's resident Muslim "expert" and perhaps a book deal in the offing as well.
For those not familiar with Hassan Butt, he was one of the breed of cartoon villains that frequented the airwaves along with Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri - an Islamic Dick Dastardly to Britain's Penelope Pitstop for anyone wanting a Wacky Races analogy. He was beloved by the media as he fulfilled all the requirements of an "interview-able" Muslim - a tendency to hyperbole, frequent use of the words Kaffir and Jihad (as if he were being paid per usage), and wild (unsubstantiated) allegations of thousands of British Muslims lurking in the shadows ready to unleash death and destruction in what he euphemistically termed "martyrdom operations".
But that all changed in February 2006. For reasons largely undisclosed, Butt suddenly went from being a fully paid up member of the raving loony society to be Mr Reasonable who wants to engage with mainstream society and tell them all about what is wrong with Islam. This makes me wonder why this sudden sea change occurred.
Is it that Butt visited his local job centre and found a lack of employment opportunities for mouthy ex-nutters? Is it that he has been an agent provocateur all along (using that old negotiation strategy of initially strongly siding with an opponent who comes to rely on your support and then completely changing sides so that opponent feels marginalised)? Or perhaps he has genuinely completely altered his world view in the space of a few months. Whatever the cause, the only thing that has apparently remained unchanged is Butt's impoverished understanding of Islam and Muslims.
In the last few days since the London and Glasgow car bomb attempts, Butt has been a busy boy with a string of radio and television interviews as well as articles (or in fact the same article) published in such disparate newspapers as The Daily Mail and The Guardian. He is the new kid on the block as far as reformationists go, and has a new raison d'etre - the total makeover of Islam (with lashings of shameless self promotion at the same time).
Butt's premise is that the root cause of terrorism perpetrated by Muslims is not misguided anger about interference and invasion of Muslim lands but rather a deep and hidden desire to build a new global Islamic state. He calls on Muslim Scholars to "...go back to the books and come forward with a refashioned set of rules and a revised understanding of the rights and responsibilities of Muslims."
This, he says will liberate British Muslims from "...defunct models of the world." On Newsnight on 2/7/07 Butt said that "...What it (terrorism) really boils down to is Muslims have a basis in Islam in carrying out terrorist attacks". And, warming to his subject he went on to say "Most Muslims would agree in private that the western way of life is degenerate and eligible for attack". Suffice to say that this totally outrageous statement went completely unchallenged by Gavin Esler, the presenter.
What I think it really boils down to is that Hassan Butt has always been ignorant about Islam. Whilst he was with Al-Muhajiroun his ideas of Islam became even more distorted and since leaving them he has relied on neocon Reformist sound bites to save his skin from the law upon returning to the UK. Only a person with a truly distorted idea of Islam would think that the verses in the Quran dealing with war are instructions for Muslims in Britain to kill non-Muslims. Butt now wishes to take his strange understanding of Islam and reform it and then enforce it on the rest of us. What he really needs to is get some decent tarbiya from a real Islamic scholar and then he will realize that Muslims do not need to reform Islam in order to live in a multicultural society but rather Muslims need to reform themselves and follow Islam.
There is no doubt that Butt is a consummate, eloquent salesman who knows the right vocabulary for the right audience but, whether he is the young radical spewing forth poisonous invective or the new soft focus re-branded Butt, the same flawed individual remains. He has read the signs correctly and knows that the west is desperate for a quick fix on the Muslim problem and he is ready to stake his religion on them listening to him.
Hassan Butt would like Muslims to make a U-turn away from 1400 years of scholarship, knowledge, received wisdom and tradition. I would like to send a message to him (with apologies to Margaret Thatcher): You turn if you want to, but the Ummah is not for turning.