Fundamental Islam linked to terrorism 

Buffalo News 

Dr. Tawfik Hamid nearly boarded a plane decades ago on an eventual path to holy war with the United States. Instead, he took an opposite route and now travels throughout Europe and North America warning about what he experienced firsthand as a member of a jihadist group run by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current second in command of al-Qaida.

"One single mistake, and I would've been sitting with al-Zawahiri instead of sitting with you now," he said in a recent interview with The Buffalo News.

Hamid, an Egyptian-born medical doctor, psychologist and author of "The Roots of Jihad," travels throughout the world discussing Islam on college campuses, at churches and synagogues and in nonprofit organizations.

Hamid was in Western New York in October for a series of private talks and will return for a presentation at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Love Joy Gospel Church, Lancaster The former member of Gama'a al-Islamiyya, which is identified as a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department, has plenty to say about Islam and terrorism - and some of it doesn't sit well with American Muslims.

Hamid worries that Westerners have become too politically correct, refusing to accept that current Islamic teaching - not poverty, not Israel and not the war in Iraq - is the root cause of Muslim terror. "I believe Islam can be taught in a peaceful manner," he said. "But it's unfair to say the current dominant form of Islamic teaching, which is salafi Islam, taught in mosques and universities, is peaceful." Quite the contrary, said Hamid, who traces the spread of this virulent form of Islam to the rise of Saudi Arabia as an economic and political powerhouse.

Salafi Islam originated in Saudi Arabia decades ago, and as that country's oil profits grew, the fundamentalist strand began spreading throughout the Middle East. Among other teachings, salafi Islam calls for the killing of apostates, considers Jews subhuman, encourages the beating and enslavement of women and urges war to convert nonbelievers, said Hamid.

"These are fundamentals of Sharia law. This is what they teach in the mosques and the universities," he said. Hamid was attending medical school in Cairo when he joined Gama'a al-Islamiyya, intent on becoming a more observant Muslim. "I was not thinking of doing evil to anyone, absolutely not," he said. Within a few months, though, he became a self-described "vicious monster, like a beast," due to the group's teachings on Islam.  

Encouraged by al-Zawahiri, Hamid considered fighting the Soviets as part of the resistance movement in Afghanistan - a move that likely would have put him in line to become a key cog in Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida, the terrorist group responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Those terrorists, too, were encouraged by warped Islamic teachings, particularly among Sunni Muslims, Hamid said. Sunnis forbid sex outside of marriage, creating a sexual suppression in young Muslim males who haven't accumulated enough wealth to marry, said Hamid.

At the same time, they believe beautiful virgins await in heaven for men who abide by Islamic tenets. Sunni men stuck in this situation would die for a cause "just to make sex in paradise," Hamid said. "It is embarrassing, but it is what I used to think." As much as he thought of violent acts, though, Hamid couldn't bring himself to do them.

He left Gama'a al-Islamiyya in search of a different understanding of Islam. Hamid's preaching, however, soon got him run out of a mosque by a rock-throwing group of men who threatened his life, he said. Hamid changed his name and fled Cairo in 1992.

He moved to the West three years later but refuses to identify the country where he lives for fear that it would put him and his family at risk.

Even in the United States and Europe, Hamid believes moderate Muslims are in the minority. Hamid accused Muslims in the West of feeding into the radicalization of Islam by not forcefully confronting fundamentalist Islamic teachings.

"Because of them, reformation is not happening," he said.

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