Hassan Butt, a 26-year-old British Muslim and former jihadist, recently renounced violence in the name of Islam. He made his about-face public early last year at Cambridge University in England where he announced his strategy to confront radical Muslims.
In an interview he explained how he was recruited by the "Network," a web of radical Islamic organizations loosely affiliated to Al Qaeda, when he was only 16. During the 10 years he spent in the Network he personally recruited between 50 and 75 people, including a 17-year-old boy, to receive terrorist training in Pakistan.
He said, "We were very well versed in the Koran, in the verses of the Koran, in the sayings of the prophet ... how it was permissible for people to go around killing innocent men, women and children" ("60 Minutes," March 25).
But something happened that changed his mind.
After the London subway bombings in 2005 that killed 52 people, he began asking theological questions of his handlers. He wanted to know whether the bombings that killed innocent people could ever be justified in Islam. He waited, but he never received an answer.
That's when he decided to go his separate way and embrace a new mission – a mission that challenges violence rather than condones it.
His transformative experience reminds me of the story of Paul in the Bible who changed his violent ways of persecuting Christians to begin a new life focused on saving lives rather than taking them.
One day as he was on his way to arrest more Christians, he was suddenly blinded by a light. A voice spoke to him and asked him why he was persecuting Jesus. Paul said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" (Acts 9:6, New King James Version). He left his old life behind and began preaching Christ's message of love and redemption.
The darkest of thoughts and intentions would confuse us by saying that we don't know what the right thing is or we don't want to do it. But such thoughts and feelings can't remove the truth within each one's consciousness that causes us to love good and to do good.
Why? Because God has created each of us as His good child. We have been made with a productive purpose that not only blesses others but also brings peace to our lives. The Bible says, "We are his [God's] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works" (Eph. 2:10).
God imparts the truth to us that turns us to good.
The message we get from God may come in different ways. It may be an intuition that tells us to look at something in a new way or our conscience may nag at us to be more compassionate and less judgmental. But one thing is for sure: God's messages of truth and light always help dissolve whatever darkness needs to be destroyed – whether it's fear, anger, human will, confusion, or hatred.
And these good messages enable us to feel more like the child that God has made us to be – full of love, joy, and peace.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote, "Christ is the true idea voicing good, the divine message from God to men speaking to the human consciousness" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 332).
It may seem that many of these good messages from God aren't being heard or are being ignored. But good is persistent because God is. As the book of Psalms says, "He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence" (72:14).
You are all sons of light,
sons of the day,
and none of us belongs to
darkness or the night.
I Thessalonians 5:5,