Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Dr. Tawfik Hamid's Impossible Dream

I was going to write a lengthy post about Dr. Tawfik Hamid, who spoke last night to a full house in the auditorium of Beth Tzedec Synagogue. (I took copious notes). I was going to say how refreshing--almost shocking--it was to hear an Arab stand up in public and commend the state of Israel, a land that is so respectful of its Muslim minority that it puts Arabic on its street signs and money. (Dr. Hamid commented re the fraudulent apartheid charge that if Israel were really the hateful, prejudiced place its critics claim it is, then why are Arabs always clamouring to get in, not out?) I was going to herald the way he didn't try to fudge the truth about Islam--how he didn't fall back on that "the true jihad is an internal struggle to follow God's path" palavar; how he admitted that "radicalism," including the propensity to slander Jews as "pigs and monkeys" isn't a fringe deal, but is mainstream, run of the mill, everyday Islam. I was going to mention the three factors that lured him, when he was a young medical student in Cairo, into the embrace of the campus chapter of Jamaa Islamiya, not the least of which was the opportunity to hook up posthumously with 72 hot-to-trot lovelies (an opportunity denied him in life because, as an unmarried practising Sunni, he wasn't allowed to get his ya-yas off with flesh and blood females; Shias, as he explained, are rarely enticed to become human bombs with the virgins payoff because they have that "temporary marriage" loophole).

I was going to delve into all the above--and more. But since Dr. Hamid's "solution" for Islam's mainstream madness is to appeal to young Muslims' "critical thinking," reinterpret holy texts such that the violent passages are not seen to pertain to present day kafirs (thus providing a theological basis for a non-threatening, defanged form of Islam), and embark on what I predict will be a fruitless seach to find influential imams to back his efforts, much as I admire the man's honesty, passion and bravery, I can't help feeling that, in terms of sheer numbers (there's only one of him and, what?, 1.6 billion or so other members of the ummah) he's attempting the impossible. But, hey, I've never been one to tilt at windmills, so why listen to me?

Update: Here's Dr. Hamid explaining his "ABCs of Radicalism," a series of questions which reveal whether or not a respondent subscribes to a threatening form of Islam. I suggest it be administered as a pre-condition for participation in any interfaith Kumbaya 'n' Samosas fĂȘtes.

Update: One might have hoped that Beth Tzedec's senior rabbi,  Baruch Frydman-Kohl, a chap who's been known to partake in more than a few of those K 'n' S gatherings, would have taken Dr. Hamid's message to heart. Alas, he wrapped up the night's proceedings with some barely comprehensible message about "hermeneutics" (which, unless you'd heard the word before sounded like "Herman Nooticks"--who he?) and how, essentially, we're all the same blah blah blah mushy mushy squish. So don't expect him to use the ABC test on any "interfaith" imam anytime soon.


PaladinPhil said...

He might be spinning a pipe dream. All he has to do is keep preaching it and selling it. Martin Luther was a pebble that started an avalanche. I hope that eventually he gets some success in his goal.

scaramouche said...

I hope so too. I'm just not counting on it.

Josephine said...

Excellent post, Scaramouche.

Kudos to Dr. Hamid for trying.

What did you think about his comment about not having to be afraid to publicly criticize Islam anymore? I wish someone had asked him about that. Isn't Wafa Sultan still in hiding?

I'm not suggesting that he was being dishonest. I just wonder if he really feels safe and, if so, why.

scaramouche said...

He may feel safe, but who knows how many fatwas there are on his head? I think he was being sincere, and I appreciated his honesty re the real Islam. My concern, though, is that he really didn't get into "jihad is the way; sharia is the goal" and Islam's plans for global conquest(which started way before the Saudis got oil-rich in the 70s, the time he identified as the start of today's violent radicalism). Also--no mention of Sayyid Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood, which got its start in Egypt and continues to play such a key role in "radicalism". Also--he has much greater faith in the appeal of "critical thinking" than I do. Islam, after all, means "submission," not "let's think it over." Also--unless he manages to get some really high profile imams onside, I don't think his theological interpretation is going to hold up against traditional interpretations. Also--he might have mentioned something about the Leftist-Islamist alliance, and how it's attempting to put an end to a common enemy (Zionism, capitalism, modernity, etc.).

All in all, though, I thought he spoke very well.

Josephine said...

Good points. I can't disagree with any of them.

I just figured that Dr. Hamid's time was short, so he limited his speech to his own area of expertise. He has devised a way of identifying and exposing extremists (his ABCs) and a system for reforming the violent teachings of Islam and that's his focus.

I think his emphasis on encouraging critical thinking is very important because, as he noted, that's the first thing Muslims are taught to turn off when they're being radicalized. It's a classic tactic used by cults.