'Fight radical Islam with ideology'

Former terrorist tells 'Post': No mercy in dealing with terrorism.

Tawfik Hamid 248  (photo credit: Courtesy)
Tawfik Hamid 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Radical Islam, the kind in evidence in the Mumbai attacks last month, will not be defeated unless it is confronted at the ideological level, an expert and former member of the terrorist organization Jamaa Islamiya told The Jerusalem Post on Monday. "I believe that we should learn from the Mumbai attacks a lesson that we should have no mercy when it comes to terrorism and the ideology behind it," said Tawfik Hamid, an expert on Islamism and counter-terrorism, before speaking at a global terrorism and counterinsurgency conference in Tel Aviv. "These people are just the product of an ideology. As the civilized world, we should not wait for catastrophes to happen," he said. In addition to a small number of actual terrorists, there is also a large number of people who sympathize or condone terrorism, evidenced by the lack of demonstrations or even religious fatwas in the Islamic world against terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden, Hamid said during Monday's conference, which was organized by the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies at the Jerusalem-based Shalem Center. The Egyptian-born Hamid was once a disciple of Aiman Al-Zawahiri - currently al-Qaida's No. 2 - and is the author of Inside Jihad: Understanding and Confronting Radical Islam. He argues that a "complete strategic plan" or holistic approach that deals with radical Islam from an ideological, educational, psychological, military, intelligence and counter-intelligence level is needed to make a change in the culture. Radical Islamist groups such as the Jamaa Islamiya use psychological "brainwashing" tactics such as suppressing critical thinking, frightening their followers with visions of hellfire and creating impressions of a preferable second life, he said. In addition, such groups also exploit "sex deprivation" in young men - who are forbidden to have sex before marriage and are often forced to postpone marriage due to economic reasons - to encourage them to die for Allah and meet their virgins in paradise. "We need to talk about ideology, reformation, education, how the Koran can be interpreted in a different way, how education can play a role in educating young children," he told participants. "You have to teach love. You have to counterbalance the brainwashing tactics that are used." In addition, psychological tactics can be used, such as spreading rumors that mock or distort the image of jihadists, such as bin Laden, or helping to create positive associations of the United States and Israel by linking these countries to certain concepts like good values, he said. Historian Bernard Lewis of Princeton University told the conference that while it was not quite correct to say that Islam is a religion of peace, it was equally misleading to say that Islam is a religion of war. Unlike Christianity, he said, "it recognizes war as a fact of life and it regulates it." Suicide is a major sin in Islam that is met with heavenly retribution, and noncombatants should not be attacked - principles that are disregarded by terrorists, Lewis said. "The terrorist organizations would certainly like to see this and persuade others to accept it as a religion of war, a war between true believers and disbelievers, a continuation of war going on for more than a millennium," he said. "We should make every effort to reject, not strengthen this interpretation, and make contact with a growing body of Muslims that don't share that view." He added that the three major religions believe they are in a final phase of a great cosmic struggle between forces of good and evil - one that could eventually lead to mutual destruction and cause them to meet their fate in paradise or hell. And unlike the Cold War, where nuclear destruction was a deterrent for both sides, these rules don't apply to Islamist radicals. "If they believe that, then mutual destruction is not a deterrent but an an inducement, and that is what makes the current situation extremely dangerous," he said.