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The following is a Post interview with Magdi Allam conducted in 2006 during which he criticizes radical Islam.
Prominent Egyptian-born editor Magdi Allam, who has been living in Italy for the past 30 years, was in Israel this week to receive an award for his "exceptional journalistic work and commitment to freedom of the press."
Allam, 54, shared the $1 million Dan David prize with three other journalists - Monica Gonzales of Chile, Adam Michnik of Poland and Goenawan Mohamad of Indonesia. The prizes were awarded at a ceremony on Sunday at the Tel Aviv University campus.
The prize committee praised Allam "for continuously voicing his opinion against extremism and in favor of tolerance."
The committee members said Allam proves that "positive dialogue with moderate Islam is both possible and necessary."
Allam, who studied sociology at La Sapienza University in Rome, today serves as deputy editor of Corriere della Sera, Italy's largest newspaper.
Over the past few years he has won the admiration of many in the West for his open and daring criticism of radical Islam. In his writings and public appearances he has even gone as far as attacking what he describes as the weakness of the West in the face of radical Islam.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Allam expressed deep concern over the emerging alliance between Muslim fundamentalists and extremists living in Europe.
He also warned Israel against believing that Hamas would one day change its radical and dangerous ideology. Hamas's terrorism against Israel, he explained, is ideological terrorism. "They simply want to destroy Israel and that's all," he said. "That's why there's no point in talking to them."
Do you think the international community and Israel are doing the right thing by boycotting the Hamas government?
I believe it was a big mistake in the first place to allow Hamas to participate in the election, because it's a terrorist organization that does not recognize Israel's right to exist and does not abide by any agreements.
What about the belief that Hamas may change its strategy now that it's in power?
If Hamas wants to change, it should have done so before the election. It's a grave mistake to think that such a change could happen after its victory in the election.
Today we see that it was a big mistake to permit Hamas to participate in the election because it has not changed, and will not change, its position. In the best case, it would agree to a long-term hudna (cease-fire) with Israel. But that does not mean it will ever accept Israel's right to exist.
When it talks only about a hudna, it is actually saying that it doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist. It is not talking at all about peace and a just and permanent solution, as we all want for the sake of the two people.
But isn't a hudna better than violence and bloodshed?
What does a hudna mean? From an Islamic point of view, the hudna only means a temporary cessation of war activities. It is based on the Hudaibiyah example, when the Prophet Muhammed preferred not to enter Mecca. He waited for one year to prepare new forces to invade Mecca and occupy it. This hudna does not mean recognition of the other side and its right to exist. It only means winning some time to prepare for achieving what they really want.
When we examine Hamas's ambitions, we see that its constitution calls for the destruction of Israel and the establishment of an Islamic state based on the sharia law. I don't believe we can allow Hamas to reach its goal because this means the destruction of Israel. And it would also harm the Palestinians themselves. Hamas's strategy won't lead the Palestinians to statehood and peace based on coexistence alongside Israel.
Many Palestinians say there is no alternative to Hamas and that they would not vote for Fatah because of corruption and abuse of power. Do you think it's a good idea to bring down the Hamas government under the current circumstances?
I believe that we should criticize the lack of democracy and corruption that existed in the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat. But we can't deny others the right to live. This is a basic right for all people and it's non-negotiable. By denying Israel's right to exist, we are causing a lot of harm to both Israelis and Palestinians.
There is no alternative to peace between Israel and the Palestinians - one that is based on a two-state solution where both people live next to one another peacefully. The solution begins by recognizing Israel's right to exist.
There's a majority on both sides that believes in the two-state solution. The biggest obstacle to peace and coexistence is Palestinian terrorism that seeks to destroy Israel. Terrorism harms not only Israel, but the Palestinians as well.
How serious do you think are the reports that talk about al-Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups moving to the West Bank and Gaza Strip?
Hamas, al-Qaeda, Hizbullah and Iran all share the same ideology of violence, terror, death and denying Israel's right to exist. They resort to terrorism to achieve their goals. We live in a world that is united in many ways through economy, information and technology. Unfortunately, there is also another kind of unity between those who believe in the ideology of force and violence. This is an ideology that is based on strong opposition to the US, the West and Israel. It is based on radical Islam, and its followers are responsible for the terror bombings in Iraq and Britain. Israel has also been targeted by extremists in Europe who have allied themselves with radical Islam, when two British nationals of Pakistani origin carried out a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv in 2003. We must pay attention to this dangerous phenomenon of Westerners finding a common ideology with radical Islam.
How do you think Israel and the West should respond to the Iranian threat to develop nuclear weapons, and calls by its president to destroy Israel?
Iran is a main threat to stability and security in the world. When Iranian President Ahmedinajad talks about his intention to acquire the nuclear bomb and at the same time to destroy Israel, he is assuming the role of the new Adolf Hitler and the head of a Nazi Islamic regime. He is a threat not only to Israel, but to Arab countries, especially in the Gulf. Iran is a real threat that should be dealt with instantly. We must stop this mad regime. If all the diplomatic initiatives fail to convince Iran to abandon its efforts to obtain the nuclear bomb, there will be no other choice but to launch a military strike.
What, in your opinion, is the best way to stop the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and terror?
Today the modern world must stick to the principle of the right to live and liberty for all. This is what human civilization is about. We cannot accept any compromise on this principle. Israel is making a big mistake if it thinks Hamas will ever change. This week I read an interview with Ismail Haniyeh in an Israeli newspaper in which he said he was prepared for a hudna if Israel withdrew to the 1967 borders. The talk about a hudna only confirms Hamas's long-standing position that it is opposed to Israel's right to exist.
It would be a big mistake to think these statements reflect flexibility and pragmatism on the part of Hamas.
Israel must stick to its principles, because this is the only way to guarantee your right to exist. There is a global war between those who deny the others' right to exist and those who carry the ideology of violence and terrorism. It's a struggle between civilization and radical Islam and terrorism. Muslims are the biggest victims of the terrorist attacks. True, Muslims are the ones carrying out most of the attacks, but the majority of the victims are Muslims in Iraq, Algiers, Jordan and other countries. The civilized world must not give up on the right to live for all. If we exclude Israel, we will open the door wide open for terrorism against all of us.
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