By his personal admission, Haseeb Hamayoon at his most radical ranked a 9 out of 10 when it comes to his extremist views.
- Haseeb Hamayoon was as soon as chargeable for filming excessive Islamic propaganda to assist recruit ISIS supporters
- His ideological views had been reformed due to the founding father of the Unity Initiative, Usman Raja
- Usman and spouse Angela proceed to work to reform others, amid considerations COVID is fuelling radicalisation
In 2014, he was arrested in London together with two others whereas shopping for a knife and charged with planning to behead a civilian, presumably a poppy vendor, on Remembrance Day.
After spending virtually two years in jail whereas on trial, together with co-accused Yousaf Syed, Mr Hamayoon was acquitted and launched after a jury was unable to achieve a verdict.
Nadir Syed, Yousaf’s cousin, was jailed for all times for planning to hold out a Lee Rigby-style beheading round Armistice Day.
Mr Rigby, a 25-year-old Afghan conflict veteran, was murdered by Islamic extremists in broad daylight in a southeast London road in 2013.
A Saudi-born American with Pakistani heritage, Mr Hamayoon speaks with a slight Australian twang.
He insists he was by no means a part of a terrorism plot however was responsible of holding excessive Islamic views.
In an unique interview with 7.30, the 34-year-old revealed how his path to extremism was cemented in Perth, and particulars his journey again to reasonable Islam, due to British cage combating, combined martial arts knowledgeable Usman Raja.
The founding father of the Unity Initiative, Mr Raja has a troublesome exterior and a road credibility exhausting to match. He started working to vary the ideology of terrorists in London in 2008.
Along with his spouse, Angela Misra, the couple has labored with 200 convicted terrorists, returnee brides and extremists in Britain.
At one level they’d a contract for his or her work with the House Workplace.
The couple credit score their success to a holistic strategy, with a give attention to recognising the humanity in every particular person they work with.
Cage combating is a key instrument utilized by Mr Raja to persuade his college students the way in which they give thought to Islam is mistaken.
“You are not going to take info from somebody you do not respect,” he advised 7.30.
“We’re not speaking about some middle-class man who’s gone to school, you might be speaking a couple of street-level man that’s a part of the brotherhood.”
Extremist views rose from discontentment
Mr Hamayoon was on the run from the legislation when he moved to Australia.
He’d skipped bail after being arrested throughout an armed hold-up in his dwelling city of Chicago, and fled to Pakistan.
Then aged simply 21, his liberal American upbringing did not bode nicely there, and after a yr it was organized for him to attend cooking faculty on the Perth Institute Western Australia.
In 2008, utilizing his Pakistani passport, he was granted a pupil visa.
Mr Hamayoon recounted how he labored exhausting to slot in with fellow college students, turning to alcohol and marijuana. However because the years handed he was more and more discontent, and he determined he wanted to “self-discipline” himself and turned to Islam.
In 2011 he began to observe at an area mosque and was launched to members of Millatu Ibrahim. A bunch with the identical title was banned in Germany in 2012.
Haseeb described the mosque and its Imam as in opposition to extremism.
Nevertheless, he started to affiliate with some worshippers who had excessive views and met others from Sydney and Melbourne.
“All that is happening, me coming into the faith, me practising, me assembly these folks from Millatu Ibrahim at across the time when issues are taking place in Syria,” Mr Hamayoon advised 7.30.
“So there are plenty of feelings concerned. And it was being portrayed as, that is the correct factor to do, that is the proper path, you have to be going to battle in Syria as a result of your brothers and sisters are in want.”
‘Us vs them’
Presently, Mr Hamayoon stated racism was additionally fuelling his views.
“You might be strolling down the road [and] you are carrying your Islamic gown or a thobe or a hat and also you hear within the background, ‘Hey mussies strolling by, mussies strolling by mate’, and in order that sort of brings the hate out slightly bit,” he stated.
“It began placing perspective in my head of us versus them.”
After 5 years in Australia and failing to have his visa prolonged, it was organized for Mr Hamayoon to marry his cousin’s daughter. She was a British faculty trainer, and the couple moved to London to be nearer to her household.
“By the point I am leaving Australia, I had good connections with these people who find themselves now clearly referred to as extremists,” he advised 7.30.
In London, he used his Australian contacts to introduce him to “like-minded” Muslims and in 2013 was requested to develop into a cameraman for Salafi Media UK, a gaggle with hyperlinks to the banned extremist group Al Muhajiroun.
“Part of me is considering I am a bit scared,” he stated of his emotions on the time.
“However on the identical time, there’s [that] bravado act, that, ‘Oh s***, that is one thing critical,’ , ‘I wanna be part of this’.”
In his new position, Mr Hamayoon was chargeable for filming excessive propaganda that’s watched, in his personal phrases, by “hundreds and hundreds” of individuals, and he acknowledges that his position was to help in recruiting Islamic State sympathisers from world wide.
“When you had appeared on the movies, the manufacturing of these movies, I used to be answerable for recording these movies which might be extraordinarily excessive,” he stated.
‘I’ve needed to disarm guys with knives’
For Mr Raja it’s the extent of the radicalisation that makes Mr Hamayoon’s journey to reform exceptional.
By 2014, Mr Hamayoon was associating with a number of the most infamous terrorists in east London, an space that had develop into a hotspot for ISIS.
This included Brusthom Ziamani, who was jailed for 22 years for planning to behead a British soldier in 2015, and who final yr launched an ISIS-inspired assault in opposition to a jail guard. His sentence has now been elevated to life.
Mr Hamayoon had heard of Mr Raja and his work whereas in jail and requested authorities for his assist when he was acquitted and launched in 2016, describing himself at the moment as nonetheless “extraordinarily radical”.
“I spent two years in jail eager about the identical factor,” he advised 7.30.
Whereas Haseeb was nonetheless underneath fixed surveillance, Mr Raja spent a yr working to vary his ideology.
Mr Raja’s work has required numerous hours of what he calls interventions, the place he counsels terrorists and extremists one-on-one, for hours on finish, generally with cops ready outdoors.
“I’ve needed to disarm guys with knives. Actually, guys have pulled out knives to stab me after which I sit down with them afterwards whereas they break down in tears,” he advised 7.30.
Mr Raja first started his work when parole officers contacted him in 2008 to assist Yassin Nassari, who had been convicted of getting ready an act of terrorism after being discovered with plans to construct a rocket.
“We actually did 95 per cent of our work at no cost between 2008 and 2015, and that is the place the ball began rolling,” Mr Raja stated.
In 2015, the Unity Initiative signed a contract with the British House Workplace to work with convicted terrorists out and in of jail.
‘It is about recognising that particular person’s humanity’
The House Workplace has confirmed to 7.30 that Mr Raja and his spouse refused to signal a renewed contract in 2019 due to adjustments to the phrases and situations.
“By the tip of the contract, I felt that it was greatest at that stage for us to go our separate methods, as a result of it wasn’t in keeping with our imaginative and prescient and our strategy to coping with this concern,” Ms Misra advised 7.30.
“Until it is a holistic strategy, there’s very restricted impacts that may be had.
“There are plenty of tutorial methods of describing this however merely put it’s about humanisation, it is about recognising that particular person’s humanity to allow them to recognise the humanity in others.”
Raffaello Pantucci, a counter terror knowledgeable and Senior Fellow on the S. Rajaratnam Faculty of Worldwide Research (RSIS), supplies recommendation to the Unity Initative and describes the work of the group as “spectacular”.
“I feel this system is sort of efficient as a result of it is vitally sincere about what it does, and that’s actually necessary in the event you’re coping with attempting to influence somebody to reject beliefs,” Mr Pantucci stated.
“You actually need to be sincere with them and never seem like there basically on the authorities’s behest.”
Ms Misra works full-time as a physician and is dedicated to Unity regardless of the dangers, saying she needs a greater life for the couple’s youngsters.
“I need to dwell in a greater world, I need to see change,” she stated.
“We have the tutorial backing that proves that it really works, and there isn’t anybody else doing it and so it is virtually a case of if I do not, who will?”
The ‘important’ work of reformation
With a string of terrorist assaults throughout Europe final yr, and the UK upgrading its terrorism alert degree to extreme, Ms Misra says addressing and altering ideological views now’s important.
“I additionally need to level out that COVID has elevated isolation, individuals are quarantining, they’re self-isolating and they’re utilizing echo chambers on social media for speaking about these radicalised views,” she stated.
“It is just getting worse.”
Mr Hamayoon is now helping the Unity Initiative with its work and serving to reform others.
He is nonetheless a eager pupil of combined martial arts.
“I am coaching my thoughts to all the time be comfy,” he stated.
“That is what we’re all chasing. We’re chasing ease, we’re chasing that calmness.”
After a sparring session with Mr Hamayoon at a health club on the outskirts of London, he proudly declared to 7.30 how his excessive ideas that had been as soon as at a “9 out of 10” at the moment are zero.
“If it was to enter the negatives, I would in all probability be a adverse now,” he stated.