John Mohammed Butt

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John Mohammed Butt
Born 1950
Other names John Butt
Era 20th Century
Region Muslim Scholar
School Deobandi Sunni Islam
Notable ideas
Co-creator of New Home, New Life

John Mohammed Butt is an Islamic scholar and broadcaster, noted as the first and (as of 2011) only Westerner to graduate from Darul Uloom Deoband.[1]

Early life[edit]

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.[2]

Conversion to Islam and life in Pakistan[edit]

Arriving in Swat in 1969, he was impressed by the tribal way of life and (unlike most of his fellow hippies) settled in the area, learning Pashto and Dari (he speaks a total of seven languages).[2]

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.[2] He left Swat in 2010 when his house was washed away by floods.[1]

Broadcasting career[edit]

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.[3]

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.[2]

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.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Ghouri, Nadine (22 January 2011). "John Mohammed Butt: The hippy who became an imam". From Our Own Correspondent. BBC Radio 4. 
  2. ^ a b c d Albone, Tim (9 December 2007). "Cambridge mullah John Butt takes on radicals with radio". The Times. Retrieved 23 October 2001. 
  3. ^ Brockes, Emma (23 October 2001). "A long way from Ambridge". The Guardian.