Photo Credit: Dr. Tawfik Hamid
Dr. Tawfik Hamid

They made him an offer he had to refuse.

Dr. Tawfik Hamid said when he was asked to help kidnap an Egyptian policeman and bury him alive, it was clear he was on the wrong path in 1979.

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“I had been brainwashed by Jemaa Islamiyah and even believed that Jews were a devil, says the medical doctor, who is an Islamic reformer and author of “Inside Jihad.”

Then, living in Egypt, Hamid set upon a path where he would re-interpret sections of the Koran to show it was a religion of peace and did not advocate hate and murder. He said he’s gotten numerous death threats from people calling him a Zionist, an apostate, someone who must be killed and an enemy of Islam.

“I ignore these threats because there are two ways to die,” he said. “Either to die as a coward who refused to stand against evil, or die as a brave human being. I choose the latter.”

Watching videos of pro-Palestinians beating up Jews in New York City, the 59-year-old, who lives in Washington D.C., says if he could tell them something, he would tell them one message: “Shame on you. You do not belong to our human civilization. We need to respect people irrespective of religion. As long as you have such hatred to the Jews and Israel, do not think you are any part of any solution. Hatred doesn’t solve problems. Love does.”

Hamid says the anti-Semitism in America was like a disease growing but nobody wanted to see it clearly. He said he was not surprised by the recent attacks.

“It’s like boiling water,” he said. “You don’t see it until it reaches a hundred degrees. There were bubbles, but maybe it was 70 degrees, then 90. Now it has reached a boiling point.”

He praised one of President Donald Trump’s decisions and said some American Jewish voters will regret voting for President Biden. But he said the true test of Biden would be in the days to come.

“Trump’s decision to move the embassy to Jerusalem was the most rational reaction to what Hamas was doing,” Hamid said. “When you teach children mathematics by calculating how many Jews you kill, when you teach them how the prophet teaches how you must kill Jews in the future, when you see excessive anti-Semitism promoted in the media, you need to give your opponent shock therapy. You need to show that [their] extreme actions will not be rewarded but will get you the opposite of what [they] want to achieve…

“Some American Jews are so liberal they think about that more than being Jewish. Some who thought in an anti-Trump way because of his personality and were naturally turned off by things he said were not able to analyze logically what was happening. I don’t like to generalize…. But some percentage of American Jewish voters will recognize Biden is not the best choice for Israel. But it depends ultimately how Biden will react. Will he move the embassy back to Tel Aviv and will he show weakness? That and Iran will be the real test.”

Hamid said he believes Israel is on a collision course with Iran and that there will likely be war in about five years.

“Israel cannot tolerate a nuclear Iran,” he said. “Other countries such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates also don’t want Iran to have a nuclear weapon. Israel does not want war with Iran but it if it comes to pass that Iran gets nuclear weapons, it will be a matter of survival for Israel to stop it.”

Hamid also said it would be a mistake for Jewish men to refrain from wearing their yarmulkes or for women to stop wearing religious garb as was suggested by president Biden’s official for Jewish affairs, who tweeted that if they felt unsafe, they should do so and could also ask their rabbi.

If Muslims were attacked, he said, no one would be calling them to refrain from wearing Muslim garb or identification markers.

“You would not find a single person in government or anywhere telling Muslims not to wear their clothing or a hijab and if you did, they would be called an Islamophobe,” he said. “Instead of standing against evil, you have suppression of Jewish identity.”

He said Jews are often the scapegoat and remembers when they were blamed for the worsening of the Egyptian economy. He said he asked people if that were the case, why was the economy booming when Jews were there in 1952 but when Jews were expelled the economy didn’t improve? He got no answer.

He said he’s been to Israel three times and liked Benjamin Prime Minister Netanyahu when he met him but said it was not his place to offer an opinion on who should be the next leader.

Hamid believes, he said, that many Jewish leaders and Jewish people around the world make the mistake of thinking that wanting something good to happen means you should blindly believe it. He pointed out that since the charter of Hamas includes killing Jews, the conflict is over religion, not land.

“Giving land will never be the solution to the problem,” he said. “Israel gave land and anti-Semitism grew. Israel gave land and the media continues to speak against the country. Social media is terribly against Israel. If I was an Israeli official, I would never trust someone who believes that I should be killed as part of their religious duty. The most important step for peace is to stop the hate.

He said that there is a misconception among some Jews who think if you show love to another group that group will reciprocate with love.

“We would all like for there to be peace and no more war between Israelis and Palestinians and an end to hating someone because of their religion or because of their race. But reality doesn’t always match up with what we would like to see happen.

He said meanwhile that he was encouraged that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently said that there should be a new interpretation of the hadith that Muslims should kill every Jew, that it should not be taken literally. He said other portions say good things about Jews and one most look at the correct way to interpret the Koran.

Habib does not see a Palestinian revolution happening against Hamas, despite the fact that their leaders are corrupt in that they take money meant for the Palestinian infrastructure and use it for their own bank accounts or weapons.

“When you are dealing with radicals, there must be a strong reaction to deter them,” he said. “I think if Osama Bin Laden would know that after 9/11 the hijab would be forbidden in Europe and America, he might not have done that. A strong military response is needed. But for suicidal people, it’s hard to always know what will be enough to deter them. I do think the U.S. should have had a stronger military response after the USS Cole attack in 2000, but we cannot say for sure that it would have prevented 9/11.

He said peace is unlikely to come any time soon but if it will, it must start with education and with the media not fostering hate.

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Alan has written for many papers, including The Jewish Week, The Journal News, The New York Post, Tablet and others.