Getting on for two years ago now, we found ourselves eagerly awaiting the publication of Hassan Butt's Leaving al-Qaeda: Inside The Life And Mind of a British Jihadist. I mean, what could be more interesting than the true story of one young British Muslim's flirtation with the sworn enemy of the Western world? I even remember calling Butt's publishers on several occasions to enquire about getting hold of a review copy. Each time I called, the book had been delayed, although I was assured that they would send me an uncorrected proof as soon as one bacame available.
Funnily enough, we never did receive that review copy. The last we heard of Butt, he'd been arrested in Manchester because it was though that he was set to admit involvement in terrorist acts in the book, which was being co-authored by the freelance journalist Shiv Malik.
So it was with great interest that we read this morning of Butt's recent appearance at the Manchester trial of another man accused of terrorist offences, in which he admitted that he was "a professional liar" who had said what "the media wanted to hear". In short, he was a fantasist, albeit a fantasist who wanted to make some money out of the media interested in former Islamic extremists. He took everyone for a ride – spoke to the papers, grabbed himself a book deal with a large publishers and even got himself invited to advise government ministers on extremism.
But he was never a member of al-Qaeda, and he never recruited British Muslims to fight for the Taliban. I wonder if this will now draw a line under the rent-an-ex-Jihadi fascination we've seen in the past few years?