The deportation of Abu Hamza and the story of Hassan Butt
It’s taken far too long but thankfully the day of Abu Hamza al-Masri’s deportation has arrived. This evil one-eyed Egyptian-born Sunni preacher, best known for his hateful views and involvement in terrorism, has been in prison in Britain since 2004 and is now finally to be extradited to America to face terrorism charges.
My only experience of such people involved meeting a young man named Hassan Butt in 2008. Butt, known in the Muslim community as the Al Qaeda supergrass,” was allegedly a former recruiter for the organisation. I met with him after he wrote an article for the Daily Mail in which he stated:
“My plea to fellow Muslims: you must renounce terror… My pleas to fellow Christians: you must renounce racism.”
These words came from a man, born in 1980, who had previously said of Britain:
“I feel absolutely nothing for this country. I have no problem with the British people… but if someone attacks them, I have no problem with that either.”
These words came from the very mouth of a man who had been a member of the now banned radical Islamist group Al-Muhajiroun. Butt claimed to have taken tea with Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the 7 July bombings, recruited upto 200 people to undergo jihadist training in Pakistan and raised between £7,000 and £9,000 a month towards the “cause.” Here was someone who had concluded that:
“I would agree to being called a radical and one day I may even be called a terrorist, if Allah permits me. That is something it would be an honour to be called.”
On the day Butt’s “Damascene conversion” article was printed I was working with an American billionaire vodka tycoon on his various projects in the UK. The man concerned came to London on a periodic basis and always began his day by scouring his favourite right-wing paper for whatever took his fancy. If there were something or someone he liked the look of in it, he’d yell across the room: “Get ‘em round.” More often than not, when I made the call, such people would turn up as many sought funding for their projects. Few of them ever got whatever they were after as this individual was especially careful with his dollars.
On reading Butt’s article, which I admit I also found well written, the Jewish billionaire was thoroughly impressed. He said: “I like the sound of this guy. Get him round.” At the end of the article was a Gmail address so reluctantly, imagining that no doubt MI5 would begin monitoring my own account, I sent off a message. Within minutes, Mr Butt was on the phone.
Butt told me that he’d be in London in the following days to appear on Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman so I invited him to lunch. On the day in question, an extremely well presented 27-year old appeared in a brand new £50,000 Audi Q7. After he’d parked, I said: “That’s a nice car.” His response: “The BBC have loaned it to me.” I was perplexed and thought this unlikely, but let it go.
I introduced Mr Butt to the vodka tycoon and for the next hour, the Muslim and the Jew chatted about the differences and similarities between their religions and ways of life. The utterly charming Butt wanted the billionaire, who happened to own a publishing house, to pay for and print his autobiography. The aggressive billionaire had another agenda. His vision of how to unite the religions was to produce a leaflet. He ranted: “It’ll begin thus: ‘If I want to worship a tree, I’ll worship a tree’.” An impasse was reached.
Over lunch at Choy’s on the Kings Road, the conversation continued hopelessly in the same vein. When it was over and as Butt drove away in the Q7, all I could think of was that the security services would most probably now begin monitoring our business activities.
That night, Butt appeared on Newsnight and beat off all of Jeremy Paxman’s attacks. I suppose all who recruit for terror organisations are probably charm personified but Butt most definitely showed his utter brilliance of mind when put up against the media’s finest.
Butt’s strategy worked as he was subsequently invited by the then Minister of State for Security, Counter-terrorism, Crime and Policing, Tony McNulty, to advise them on how to stop young Muslims being “radicalised.” Butt, whom a government source described as having “understood the terrorist mindset perfectly,” had managed to get to the heart of the British government.
The next move of this man, who was arrested but released without charge on five counter-terrorism charges between 2002 and 2008, was to claim that Greater Manchester Police were harassing him. Many of his allegations, though, were illustrated to be pure fantasy in the transcripts of interviews held with them:
“I actually arranged myself to be stabbed in the shoulder, sorry in my arm and in my back because I knew if I said I had been attacked Shiv ([Malik] a freelance journalist and co-author of Butt’s autobiography, Leaving Al Qaeda: Inside The Life And Mind of A British Jihadist) was going to ask for some proof so basically I stabbed myself… you know it was just part of the whole scam.”
I do not know what has become of Butt now but the last reports of him I have been able to find were published in the Daily Mail in July 2009. Here, the paper reports that he “hurled an onslaught of race abuse at police” during an argument over where his Audi Q7 was parked. How odd that that vehicle, supposedly loaned by the BBC, had surfaced again but equally strange was that this educated man was accused of shouting such things as: “Do you like feeling Pakis up?” and calling police “Gestapo,” “bald dogs” and “members of the BNP.” This portrayal was most certainly at odds with the Butt that I met, but plainly he was the Jekyll and Hyde of Al Qaeda.
Whilst my encounter with the pseudo-terrorist Butt was almost certainly with a young man of fantasist tendencies, Abu Hamza truly is a preacher of hate and a force for evil. This hook-armed “terrorist facilitator with a global reach” claimed tens of thousands in benefits in Britain yet also incited others to blow up our citizens. He solicited murder and stirred up racial hatred yet happily ran up legal costs at this nation’s expense. As such, Abu Hamza’s downfall is very much welcomed and his deportation from the British Isles will be celebrated not just by Her Majesty the Queen but indeed by the whole nation.
Watch a Channel 4 News video clip featuring Hassan Butt at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_t3uw2nZ7kY