The Twilight Zone
By Sophia Rose Shafi
Last week I braved a beautiful but cold Colorado winter night to hear Tawfik Hamid speak on the subject of “Islamic radicalism.” I only did this to (1) avoid another night of re-working chapter one of my dissertation, and (2) because as an Islamic-scholar-in-training, I thought I should expose myself to alternative “viewpoints.” After going through heavy security, which would have been 10,000 times worse if I was a hijabi, I took my seat in the fourth row. I listened to the sponsor (a University of Colorado group I will leave un-named in this article) praise and then introduce Dr. Tawfik Hamid, (a medical doctor) as an expert on “Islamic radicalism,” although he has no credentials in religious studies, history, or political science. Then Hamid began by telling his story, which as far as I could find has never been substantiated by anyone reputable.
The story goes something like this. Hamid’s father was a Marxist and his mother was disinterested in religion. At age sixteen, Hamid suddenly had an epiphany – he wanted to serve god! Shortly afterwards (and quite conveniently), he joined the Jamaaat Islamiyya, a group he described as a “cancer” which controlled its members by constantly invoking Islamic warnings about hellfire. Hamid described these in great detail: “The boiling water will be dissolved over their heads… [the boiled skins will be replaced] with new skins so that they can be boiled again and again,” to the shock of the audience.
Hamid also described the suppression of sexual desires in the Jamaaat Islamiyya and went on to argue that suicide bombing is a result of sexual suppression. Apparently, young Shi’a men are not suicide bombers as much as young Sunni men because the Shi’a practice of temporary marriage allows Shi’as to have sex constantly. His words, “We had no reason to stay here. But 72 reasons to go there,” were premised with a line he uttered frequently throughout his lecture, “This may seem strange to you…” In other words, Muslims are oddities – if they don’t have sex they strap on a package of explosives and expect to be ushered to jinnah and seventy-two houri. My impression is that it made the audience feel mighty good and superior about themselves, being normal human and all.
Now, I could probably stop here, because anyone reading this can see where Hamid was going. Although it is difficult to think of anything worse than categorizing all Muslim men as either sexually obsessed automatons or sexually repressed sociopaths, it actually went downhill from there. Hamid claimed that all schools of shari’ah advocated stoning women and killing gays, that there had been 15,000 attacks by militant Islamicists in recent years, that the “majority” of Muslims in the world (all 1.2 billion) were radical (even if they seemed nice, they would turn on you in an instant), and that a “mainstream teaching” in Islam is the belief that Jews are “pigs and monkeys.”
When Hamid stated, “Hitler was not defeated by peace, love, security and interfaith dialogue” and advocated attacking Iran, it was sad to hear such calls to violence, and ones that were applauded with such enthusiasm. However, the most disturbing moment came when Hamid mentioned Muslims killing other Muslims and several members of the audience laughed. I felt like I was in a bad episode of The Twilight Zone. When Hamid finished, the audience gave him a standing ovation. I remained seated with my hands folded. I felt sorry for Tawfik Hamid and those in the audience who thought Muslims being blown up or beheaded by other Muslims was something to laugh at and applaud. I still feel sorry for them, that they have so much hate in their hearts.
Loving is far better. It does not exhaust one’s heart and makes it possible to have compassion for those who find tolerance such an impossible task.
** Dr. Tawfik Hamid visited Boulder, Denver and other Colorado locations as part of his tour sponsored by The 5280 Coalition. The Coalition advertises the Islamophobic movie “Obsession” on their website, the same film gifted to unlucky newspaper subscribers in swing states during November of 2008.