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Tagged: / Posted: 11 February 2009

If you check back on all of the many hundreds of newspaper, radio and TV stories to which Hassan Butt has contributed, can anybody think of any good reason why the following short paragraph is the only item that has appeared anywhere in any UK national newspaper to reveal some rather important information?

 10 Feb 2009: The Guardian - Page 10 - (101 words)

National: Terrorism: 'Al-Qaida insider' admits he is a professional liar
A British man who fooled the media into believing he was an al-Qaida insider has admitted in court that he made up the claims. Hassan Butt received significant media attention and was invited to meet a government minister to discuss ways to combat terrorism, as well as featuring heavily in BBC News, national newspaper and US television reports. However, at a trial of another man accused of terrorist offences, Butt said he told stories "the media wanted to hear" and was "a professional liar". He also admitted faking injuries to make it appear he had been attacked by extremist Muslims.
And now read this, written by somebody who is (or was recently) a student journalist and who got to the truth while the mighty mass media missed the point. This was written in Arena magazine in May 2008, nine months before Butt made his admissions in court:

An explosion of hot air

There’s a bit of a fuss going on at the moment about a guy called Hassan Butt. You may know him from such quotes as, “One day I may even be called a terrorist, if Allah permits me. That is something it would be an honour to be called” (one wonders what is so hard about it if you’re really that into the idea) and “I have no problem with the British people, but if someone attacks them, I have no problem with that either” (Riiiiiight.) Hassan Butt is a nobhead.

I happen to know that first-hand, because I met him when I was a student reporter. At the time I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but a man standing on the steps of the Manchester University students’ union saying that he had recruited 200 Britons to go and fight with the Taliban, however unconvincingly, seemed like a story. Butt said he was a spokesman for al-Muhajiroun, some extremist group which I think has now disbanded (possibly in order to get away from the association with him), but at the time we were told it had an office above a curry house in Rusholme. It wasn’t clear what Butt actually did on their behalf apart from stand in the street alienating people. Later, he tried to sell his ‘story’ to The Mirror for £100,000; they ran some articles about him, but didn’t pay up.

So in 2007, Butt decided he would officially renounce terrorism. Which statement presumably ran along the lines of, “I have no problem with terrorists, but if someone locks them up indefinitely without trial, I have no problem with that either.” Everyone from the Daily Mail to Prospect magazine ran that; he even appeared on Newsnight claiming to have been a former recruiter for al-Qaeda “who is now turning extremists away from terrorism”. If you would like to read about it, tap his name into Google; about a million words of the crap that he spewed around this time will come up.


Much as we might all want to believe that former ‘extremists’ are rational beings, whose minds can be changed, Hassan Butt is not evidence that they can. The only thing Hassan Butt is evidence of is that even nobheads can have their moment in the sun with the right story.

You see, Hassan Butt is a cultural terrorist. Terrorism is the prism through which he is shaping himself as an outsider, because otherwise he’d just be an outsider because he’s a bit of a loser. It’s like with a teenager who says that they like Marilyn Manson – they know that if they listen to a certain type of music, dress a certain way, make certain statements, people will be afraid of them. It gets them attention, and in a way that they can control.

The authorities, as might be expected, take Butt a bit more seriously than I do. Earlier this month he was arrested just as he was about to board a flight to Lahore, that well-known centre of terror renunciation, and he is not due to be released until tomorrow. And apparently last week Greater Manchester Police tried to oblige the author of a book about Butt to reveal his source material. The author suggested to the Media Guardian that the police were handing such production orders around “like sweets”, which is either a very sad indictment of Asian confectionery or evidence that Butt’s incoherence may be catching.

I suppose it’s their job to take him seriously; and of course if he or someone like him does kill or injure people then it will cease to be funny. I almost laughed at the ‘martyrdom’ videos which were released earlier on in the 21/7 bombers’ trial – they, like many of Butt’s pronouncements, just seemed so childishly amateur, so pathetic – but when you think about how close they came to doing real harm, it’s sickening.

Even so, I want to return to that point about control. Hassan Butt, I would contend, knows that he’s a nobhead. So he disguises himself as a prolific Islamic extremist (let’s face it, it’s either that or pretend to be a paedo if you want the really good tabloid coverage). The thing he fears most is being exposed for being a bit dim, a bit of a prat, a wannabe thug with no actual capability of hurting anyone. If you really want to kill people, you probably shouldn’t stand in the street jumping up and down shouting “I’m a terrorist”, because even Greater Manchester Police will cotton on to that one.

Thus if I belonged to that venerable service, my only question to Butt would be, “Are you a nobhead?” Perhaps if we all just acknowledged that he is, public resources and indeed attention could be better spent on working out how to make life safer and better for the other 60,999,999 people in Britain.

Emma Bartley — 20/05/08 Category:News





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