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April - May 2005

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Portrait of a Terrorist

by Krishan Gopal Dutt

Hitherto an Islamic extremist/terrorist has commonly been defined as (a) an uneducated, and in some instances unemployed fanatical Muslim from an Arab, African or Asian country with a low enonomic status, and who (b) has been brainwashed by fiery sermons of hatred and violence by Mullahs and Imams of mosques who promise the reward of nubile virgins in Junnut (paradise) to all Muslim martyrs.

While (b) above remains the same - a classic case being that of the notorious Egyptian-born cleric Abu Hamza who for years has urged young Muslims at Friday Namaaz held at the controversial Finsbury Park mosque in north London to go abroad on Jehad to fight alongside fellow Muslim mercenaries notably in India and Afghanistan, and to attack targets in Britain in the name of Islam - (a) above has seen quite a dramatic change in recent times.

Now a new and equally fanatical and determined breed of Islamic extremists has emerged from within the British Muslim community, many of whom were born here. And this has sent alarm bells ringing through the corridors of Westminster and across the country, and highlights the serious dilemma of homegrown terrorists who mean to harm the British way of life.

This new type of dedicated extremist has probably had a good education in an English school where he played football with English classmates and could have had a White girl friend.. And unlike his father who, after all these years in England still wore the Shalwar-Kameez and spoke no English, and whose only recreation was long and frequent visits to the local mosque, the second -generation immigrant wore designer jeans and a flashy baseball cap and enjoyed a drink or two in a pub. And according to his teacher while at school he was studious, diligent, soft-spoken and courteous.

So how did a grammar school boy like Saajid Badat from Gloucester turn into an ardent follower of Al-Qaeda with a rabid anti-West fervour and become a murderous (Islamic) terrorist?

This is a question raised not only by the indigenous Briton who understandably feels threatened by the presence in British society of such dangerous trouble-makers, but is also on the lips of UK-based Muslims who are baffled, and rightly alarmed, at this new and sinister development which does not bode well for the Muslim community resident in the UK

The sensational case of 25-year-old Saajid Badat of Pakistani origin - making headline news in the national press - who was born and grew up in Gloucester and is currently held in police custody accused of plotting to blow up a plane in mid-air with an incendiary device concealed in his shoe- similar to the Richard Reid episode in 2001 - has caused considerable consternation.

Saajid, after leaving school with a clutch of GCSEs and A-levels, moved to London to enrol for a sociology degree in a university. But while in London things began to go wrong for the lad from Gloucester; the teenager soon got into wrong company.

He came under the influence of fanatical Muslim clerics - Mullahs and Moulvis one sees roaming the capital city preaching the word of Allah - and became more involved with Al-Qaeda activists and sympathizers at meetings in the various Islamic centres and mosques in the metropolis.

His father Muhammed, described as being ‘very strict and religious’ and who had been on Haj pilgrimage to Holy Mecca no less than 10 times, demanded his son dedicated his life to Islam by becoming a cleric and was highly critical of Saajid pursuing a University education. In the early stages Saajid disagreed with his unrelenting father and left home for some time. All this time Saajid’s mother Zubeida remained in the background and was non-committal as is customary with illiterate Muslim women from backward rural areas in the Orient.

In the next three years Saajid travelled to Pakistan, then to Taleban-run Afghanistan. And it was there that he became a full-fledged Al-Qaeda recruit and underwent firearm training at terrorist training camps set up by Osama bin Laden and his diehard cronies. And Saajid’s belief in Islamic militancy got a fillip from loud readings from the Koran by Arab mercenaries amidst vociferous cries of Allahu-Akbar..

It is noteworthy that while under training in Afghanistan Saajid had the company of reportedly no less than 40 fellow Britons - all Muslim and mostly of Pakistani origin – including Richard Reid, the South London petty criminal of Jamaican heritage who had converted to Islam.

Saajid and Richard got together and hatched a dangerous plot of blowing up planes in mid-air. But while Richard Reid boarded the flight from Paris to Miami on 22 December 2001 - with a new (British) passport with no indication of his ever been to Pakistan and Afghanistan - Saajid Badat dropped out at the last moment and returned to England to join an Islamic college in Blackburn.
Saajid had given up Western attire and dressed in Arab-style flowing robes, grew a long beard, and spending many hours reading the Koran – with the fire of Islamic extremism still burning in his heart - and began preaching anti-West sermons at the local mosques. Whilst bitterly opposing American military intervention in Iraq, Saajid vehemently condemned British Kaffirs for what he described as their un-Islamic stance.

In the aftermath of Reid’s arrest and a long prison sentence in USA, the net was closing on Saajid Badat, and he was arrested on terrorist charges in November 2003. At the time of his arrest, Saajid’s mother announced, without any flicker of emotion, "My son’s faith is keeping him strong, and even if he is jailed for a long time he is not bothered nor are we; the most powerful Allah will look after him."

The terrorist’s mother showed no signs of remorse or regret.

Saajid, who has pleaded guilty and is to be sentenced at the Old Bailey on March 18 - making this the first-ever case of a homegrown terrorist to be given a custodial sentence – has been described by his relatives and close friends as an ‘Angel.’

A more appropriate definition of Saajid Badat would be ‘Angel of Death’ who was prepared to kill hundreds of innocent people he never knew - and willing to kill himself as a suicide bomber . And whom Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, Head of Met’s Anti-Terrorist Branch, referred to as the terrorist who was engaged in ‘one of the most serious crimes that one can think of.’
Perhaps the most eloquent quote was that of Saif-ud-din, a dear friend of mine whose beautiful couplet in Urdu goes as follows:-

"Array Bhai (O’brother) why indulge in all this Taa’asub (religious bigotry) and Tash’adud (violent aggression) in this troubled world when the human race so desperately seeks and needs compassion and tolerance."

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