I think everyone posting in this thread should read THIS BOOK.
Readable, honest and deeply introspective work from a British Bangladeshi.
Husain fondly describes his early years at William Burrough primary school in the 1980s, where he plays with 'Jane, Lisa, Andrew, Mark, Alia, Zak' and learns about Islam from his family and his family's Bengali spiritual guide Shaikh Abd al-Latif (Fultholy Saheb) (p. 9) he called 'Grandpa'.
In the early 1990s Husain goes to Stepney Green, a boys school that was virtually all-Muslim and dominated by immigrants and gangs, and dubbed the "worst school in Britain" by the tabloid press (p. 7). He has few friends and feels himself a "boffin" misfit, but finds some satisfaction in studying Islam along with a new friend Brother Falik. Their text, Islam: Beliefs and Teachings, by Ghulam Sarwar, is "the first book I read about Islam in English."
He had been taught by his father that Islam and politics didn't mix, but Sarwar preached that 'Religion and politics are one and the same in Islam', and this became the "one part of the book has stayed with me." Later, Husain felt misled by Sarwar. As he explained: "What I did not know at school was that Sarwar was a business management lecturer, not a scholar of religion. And he was an activist in the organisations that he mentioned [ Muslim Brotherhood and Jamat-e-Islami]. Sarwar's book was not the dispassionate educational treatise it purported to be." He added:
"he was also the brains behind the separation of Muslim children from school assemblies into what we called 'Muslim assembly', managed by the Muslim Educational Trust (MET) [of which Sarwar is the Director]. What seemed like an innocuous body was, in fact, an organisation with an agenda. In my school, a Jamat-e-Islamic activist named Abdul Rabb represented the MET and awarded us trophies and medals for our performance in MET exams. Ostensibly it all seemed harmless, but the personnel all belonged to Jamat-e-Islami front organisations in Britain. Their key message was that Islam was not merely a religion but also an ideology that sought political power and was beginning to make headway."
At the invitation of Brother Falik he becomes active in the Young Muslims Organisation which had a large following at East London Mosque and was associated with Jamaat-e-Islami and Islamist leader Abul Ala Maududi. His family strongly opposes the political Islam of Jamaat-e-Islami. When his father makes him choose between Islam and the family, Husain runs away, finally coming back when his father backs down and allows him to continue visiting the East London Mosque.
Later he moves on to Hizb ut-Tahrir, another Islamist group with a more intellectual and international outlook that emphasizes the need to reestablish an Islamic Caliphate unifying the Muslim world, or ummah, in one unified state. After two years in HT he drops out and attends meetings of the Islamic Society of Britain, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
Husain writes that in the mid-1990s, he became disillusioned with Islamic groups in the UK and more interested in the relatively nonpolitical Islamic scholars Hamza Yusuf and Nuh Ha Mim Keller. After a period working for HSBC, Husain moves with his wife to Damascus to study Arabic and teach English at the British Council. Still teaching for the British Council they move to Jeddah Saudi Arabia to be close to Mecca and Medina. There he becomes disillusioned by "the naked poverty" and inequality which he feels makes a mockery of his early belief in the solidarity of the ummah.
All my talk of ummah seemed so juvenile now. .... Racism was an integral part of Saudi society. My students often used the word “nigger” to describe black people. Even dark-skinned Arabs were considered inferior to their lighter-skinned cousins. I was living in the world’s most avowedly Muslim country, yet I found it anything but. I was appalled by the imposition of Wahhabism in the public realm, something I had implicitly sought as an Islamist.
Also disillusioning was the lack of chaste behavior and respect for women
In supermarkets I only had to be away from Faye [his wife] for five minutes and Saudi men would hiss or whisper obscenities as they walked past. ....
We had heard stories of the abduction of women from taxis by sex-deprived Saudi youths. At a Saudi friend’s wedding at a luxurious hotel in Jeddah, women dared not step out of their hotel rooms and walk to the banqueting hall for fear of abduction by the bodyguards of a Saudi prince who also happened to be staying there. ....
Why had the veil and segregation not prevented such behaviour?
Husain returns to London after the 7 July 2005 London bombings.
Husain criticises Islamism and argues that the desire for the re-establishment of an Islamic caliphate is borne out of an alien, Wahhabi or extremist interpretation of Islam. The idea of a pure Islamic state, is 'not the continuation of a political entity set up by the Prophet, maintained by the caliphs down the ages (however debatable)'. The ideas of HT founder Nabhani "were not innovatory Muslim thinking but wholly derived from European political thought," including the anti-liberal democrat Rousseau.
Husain writes in The Islamist of his former association with Inayat Bunglawala, Dhiren Barot and Omar Bakri Muhammad.
Husain finally severs his links with Islamism by "rediscovering what he describes as 'classical, traditional Islam', which includes Sufi mysticism."
According to observers, The Islamist highlights the "paradoxes of political Islam: a movement that is avowedly anti-secular, anti-modern and anti-Western, it has been profoundly shaped by modern Western secular ideologies."
"O people, we created you from the same male and female, and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may recognize one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the most righteous. GOD is Omniscient, Cognizant." (49:13)