Transition from Extremism - Usama Hasan at European Zeitgeist 2011

Uploaded by zeitgeistminds on 17.05.2011

>>Usama Hasan: Good morning. My name is Usama Hasan. I am an academic, an astronomer, a
scientist, and also a part-time imam. I grew up in London. For about 20 years since
I was a teen, I was firmly an Islamist, somebody who highly politicized Islam and was convinced
and was taught by the various groups and circles I moved in that the entire world was at war
with Islam, the entire non-Muslim world was at war with Islam. And we had to struggle
to bring a (inaudible) to an Islamic revolution and establish a noble Islamic state.
Whilst I was an undergraduate at Cambridge about 20 years ago -- during my Christmas
holidays, actually -- I went to Pakistan and crossed the border to Afghanistan and trained
and fought briefly with the mujahideen in Kunar in eastern Afghanistan.
This was against the Communists, just after the Soviets had left. So I took part in that
war briefly, including taking part in artillery fire at the front line.
After that, I supported the Bosnian war. I had friends who died in the Bosnian war. And
the Afghanistan experience meant that many of us had sympathies for al-Qaeda as al-Qaeda
evolved from the anti-Soviet struggle then. After 9/11, I began to really soul-search
because Osama bin Laden, of course, was a hero of the anti-Soviet war but now had taken
this crazy path of issuing a fatwa saying all western taxpayers were legitimate targets.
And I began soul-searching to understand, you know, what exactly was going on.
I spent a year in Pakistan in 2003. I, in fact, met somebody there who claimed to be
in touch with bin Laden. This was in Islamabad, and he announced at a dinner party where we
were that Osama bin Laden was alive and well and that their work was continuing.
Anyway, I came back from there very disillusioned with the state of Islam in Muslim countries,
and all these notions of an Islamic state I realized were nonsense. What you needed
was basic justice and economic equality. And the July the 7th bombing was the last
straw for me. I realized not only had I rejected all of that excessive politicization, but
now I had to openly speak out and fight against that nonsense, and that's what I continue
to do, and along with Maajid and others, have received a lot of intimidation and even death
threats for the work we do now.