John Mohammed Butt
|John Mohammed Butt|
|Other names||John Butt|
|School||Deobandi Sunni Islam|
|Co-creator of New Home, New Life|
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Born John Butt in Trinidad in 1950, his early life was spent in Walton-on-Thames, England and he attended boarding school at the Stonyhurst College, before becoming a hippie and traveling to Pakistan.
Conversion to Islam and life in Pakistan
He converted to Islam in 1970. He then spent eight years studying at Darul Uloom Deoband, graduating in 1984, the only Westerner to do so since its foundation in 1866. Although he continued to live mainly in Swat, he began spending part of each year as the Muslim chaplain at Cambridge University. He left Swat in 2010 when his house was washed away by floods.
In 1993 he worked with the BBC World Service to create a new Pashto and Dari radio soap opera. Loosely based upon the format of The Archers, BBC Radio 4's long-running series, New Home New Life became so popular that it has been credited with influencing the Taliban not to press ahead with plans to outlaw radio.
When the Taliban began to gain influence in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he saw their radical interpretation of Islam to be in conflict with the traditional Islamic tolerance of tribal culture. In response, he established the Pak/Afghan Cross-border Radio Training and Production (Pact) project in 2004, producing the Across the Border programme to confront what he saw as Islamic extremism.
He has continued to promote what he sees as 'mainstream' Islam, and has been among those pressing ahead with plans for a new Islamic university in Jalalabad, offering a moderate alternative to radical clerics:
It makes perfect sense. There is currently nowhere in Afghanistan where a young man can do higher Islamic studies. They go to Pakistan, where as we know some of them have become radicalised.
- Ghouri, Nadine (22 January 2011). "John Mohammed Butt: The hippy who became an imam". From Our Own Correspondent. BBC Radio 4.
- Albone, Tim (9 December 2007). "Cambridge mullah John Butt takes on radicals with radio". The Times. Retrieved 23 October 2001.
- Brockes, Emma (23 October 2001). "A long way from Ambridge". The Guardian.