Tawfik Hamid (55), an Egyptian native, is a congenial fellow with a ready smile, and from his pleasant demeanor you would never guess that he was once in the company of radical Islamists. While at Cairo University Medical School, Dr. Hamid had occasional meetings with Ayman al-Zawahiri, at the time a promising doctor who later became Al-Qaeda’s second in command. An Islamic thinker and reformer, Hamid was at one time (35 years-ago) a member of the radical Islamic organization Jamaa Islamiyah (JI) of Egypt. Ultimately, his awakened human conscience recognized the threat of radical Islam, and he subsequently started to teach modern and peaceful interpretations of classical Islamic core texts.
He has been a guest speaker at governmental forums both within the U.S. and internationally. He has spoken and testified before the U.S. Congress House Armed Services Committee; the Future Summit, at the invitation of Israel’s President Shimon Peres; U.S. Department of Defense offices at the Pentagon; Special Operations Command; the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI); National Security Agency (NSA); and appeared on a wide spectrum of shows, from CNN-TV to Fox News and C-SPAN, and his articles and op-ed have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News, VOA, France 24, RT (Russia Today), the Jerusalem Post.
Joseph Puder (JP): Your thoughts on the US “War on Terrorism”?
Tawfik Hamid (TH): In my opinion, the US war on terrorism has been unsuccessful.
Every evidence is showing that many radical Islamic organizations have been expanding in several parts of the world since the beginning on the War on Terror. Just see the map of ISIS, Boko Haram, Libya, Iraq, Syria and you will get the answer. In fact, the Taliban now controls major areas in Afghanistan and they are coming back to power.
JP: Can you chart for our readers a winning strategy against Islamist terrorists, such as the Islamic State (IS)?
TH: To defeat radical Islam the U.S. and the West need to do the following:
1. Define Radical Islam (President Obama has refrained from connecting terrorism with Islam).
2. Fight the militants more effectively.
3. Use effective negative deterrents to deter the radicals from committing more attacks.
4. Support theological reforms within Islam that encourage peaceful co-existence.
5. Support effective educational tactics to counter the thinking traits that breeds radicalism (such as absolutism, being judgmental, literal understanding of the Islamic texts).
6. Support what I call Shaking the Foundation strategy (SFS), to make the radicals lose trust in their religious texts, and the basic tenets/foundations of Islamism.
7. Weaken the hijab phenomenon via the use of several approaches and tactics.
8. Make countries, organizations, institutions, and individuals who support and promote the radical ideology accountable for their actions, and for supporting the phenomenon of terrorism (similar to the terrorists who translate the radical ideology into action)
9. Use the Internet more effectively to counter the radical messages.
10. Stop political correctness by honestly addressing the problem of radical Islamist terrorism. PC prevents serious discussion, or criticism of Islam.
JP: What do you see as common among Sunni groups such as the Islamic State, Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates, Hamas, and Hezbollah (Shiite). Conversely, how do these groups differ from one another?
TH: What is common to all of these groups mentioned is that they all strongly believe in the following: Apostate killing. Beating and stoning women to death for alleged adultery. Calling Jews pigs and monkeys. Declaring war on non-Muslims to spread Islam, while offering non-Muslims three options: Subjugation to Islam, paying Jiziya (a humiliating tax), or to be killed.
Enslavement of other human beings, generally non-Muslims. Fighting and killing Jews before “the End of Days.” Gay killing.
The above groups differ only in the tactics to be used, but not on general strategy, in order to create the system that will implement their barbaric values.
JP: Your thoughts on groups/organizations such as CAIR?
TH: A group/organization such as CAIR is not constructive. CAIR is an obstacle to inter-religious understanding and cooperation because it does not have a clear stand against the above ABC‘s. So they simply try to do sugar coating on the current understanding of Islam, and Sharia Laws. Organizations like CAIR are simply waiting until the number of Muslims becomes big enough to impose their vision of Islam, and to control western societies, or at least influence their political policies.
A true moderate organization must be able to immediately denounce the ABC’s listed above, and stand publicly and unambiguously against them. The Muslim world must not expect the world to call Islam peaceful as long as it promotes the above teachings.
JP: What are the prospects of Islamic reformers winning the debate within Islam? Can reformers such as yourself overcome the financial resources of the Wahhabis and Fethullah Gullen (of Turkey) establishments, and bring about reformation in Islam?
TH: Reformers are currently facing death threats and lack of support. Their only hope to affect a change is via the Internet. They will never be able to win this debate without external support. Currently, it is all individual efforts with limited success.
JP: Hamid explained that the root causes of radical Islam are in fact embedded within the religion, and are being taught by the bulk of mainstream Islamic teachers, as that is where most of the funding can be found. At the same time, Hamid added, the Internet has become the key in empowering younger Muslims to reject the well-funded traditional branch of the religion that fuels extremism.