Usman Raja, a veteran cage fighter in the U.K., is working to reform convicted terrorists and show them a new, more peaceful version of Islam. British officials are taking notice and hope to be able to replicate his success on a larger scale.
So far Raja has helped 10 convicted terrorists renounce their old radicalized views in favor of a more humanistic and tolerant interpretation of Islam. This version of Islam traces its roots back to the Prophet Mohammed, rather than relying on a more hard-lined Wahhabist approach.
Abu Bakr Mansha was convicted in 2005 of terrorism in an alleged plot to kill or severely harm a British soldier who had returned home from Iraq. He was released in 2009 under strict surveillance but again returned to prison after being assessed as “still dangerous.” After being released again in 2011, he entrusted himself to Raja, under which he appears to have shed his radicalized views. Mansha “learned the hard way,” and now wants to stop other young Muslims from repeating his mistakes.
Raja’s first example of reforming a former terrorist was the case of Yassin Nassari, a British-Syrian resident of London who was arrested in 2006 after police found instructions on how to make a viable rocket on his hard-drive, and violent videos of beheadings and terrorist attacks at his home.
When he was released in 2008, Raja found Nassari very reluctant to work with Muslim community groups used to rehabilitate offenders. Nassari heard about Raja through friends and agreed to meet with him. In the early summer of 2009 they met and forged a mentorship through mixed martial arts training, which allowed Raja to influence Nassari’s viewpoint.
While Raja’s success is fairly limited, it is with great strides such as these that British forces hope to spread a more passive interpretation of Islam throughout the nation.
Robertson, Nic, and Cruickshank, Paul (2012, July). A cagefighter's success fighting terror. http://www.cnn.com. Retrieved July 24, 2012, from http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/20/world/europe/uk-caging-terror-cases/index.html