Here’s my four-sentence review of Dr. Tawfik Hamid’s new book Inside Jihad: How Radical Islam Works; Why It Should Terrify Us; How to Defeat It. Buy this book. Read this book. Refer to this book. Share this book.
I’ve read and reviewed counter-jihad classics by bestselling experts including Robert Spencer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Bernard Lewis, Andrew Bostom, Wafa Sultan, Brigitte Gabriel, Mosab Hassan Yousef, and Phyllis Chesler. I think highly of each. This is how good Inside Jihad is. If someone said to me, “I want to read just one book about jihad.” I’d give that reader Dr. Hamid’s book.
Inside Jihad is brief. Hamid’s style is direct and fast-paced. He says what he needs to say without sensationalism, emotionality, literary ambition, or apologies. He pulls no punches.
Tawfik Hamid was born and raised in Egypt, the most populous Middle Eastern country. He was raised Muslim. Hamid’s mother was a teacher; his father, a surgeon and a private atheist who taught him to respect Christians and Jews. The family observed the Ramadan fast but had little other religious observance. Arabic is his first language and he has studied the Koran in the original Arabic. From 1979-82, he was a member of Jamaa Islamiya, a terrorist group. He met Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al-Qaeda.
Hamid grew up under Gamal Abdel Nasser’s pan-Arab socialism. Nasser wanted to modernize Egypt. He suppressed the Muslim Brotherhood, executed one of its leaders, Sayyid Qutb, and curtailed travel to and from Saudi Arabia, fearing Wahhabi influence.
The 1973 Oil Embargo sparked a revival of Islam. Muslims concluded that Allah rewarded Saudi Arabia for the Saudis’ strict religious observance. Allah’s reward was the Saudi ability to humble the United States.
Islamization in Egypt “started mildly enough.” Hamid warns the reader to pay careful attention to slow Islamization. He says that the same methods that were used in Egypt are now being used in the West. “The more we surrender” he warns “the more Islamists will demand.”
The camel’s nose under the tent was something few could object to: individual prayer. Previously, if an employee interrupted his workday to perform one of Islam’s mandated five daily prayers, it was perceived as bizarre. Now it was admirable.
Another straw in the wind: the hijab. In school photos taken before the 1970s, many Egyptian girls are without hijab. After America’s humbling in the oil shock, more and more girls began to wear hijab. Men stopped wearing gold wedding bands; gold was deemed “un Islamic” for men. More toxic Islamizations, including Jew-hatred, followed. Imams preached that Jews are monkeys and pigs and that they poisoned Mohammed.
Islamization on campus also began in an innocuous way: Islamists used the moments before class began to talk about Islam. One day, the Christian professor of one class said that it was time for discussion of Islam to stop and the academic hour to begin. The Islamists called the professor an infidel and broke his arm. “The Christian students were terrified,” Hamid reports.
“I remember the first time I looked at a Christian with disdain,” Hamid reminisces. He was reading a required textbook. The book told him that Mohammed said, “I have been instructed by Allah to declare war and fight all mankind until they say ‘No God except Allah and Mohammed is the prophet of Allah.’” Hamid, who had previously had Christian friends, turned to a Christian student and said, “If we applied Islam correctly, we should be doing this to you.”
Jamaa Islamiya actively recruited medical students like Hamid. It took six months for Hamid to become “sufficiently indoctrinated.”
Hamid details several lures that recruiters used to bring young people into their movement:
Author Don Richardson estimates that one in eight verses in the Koran mentions Hell. By contrast, the Old Testament mentions Hell once in every 774 verses, and it is never described as graphically as it is described in the Koran. Hamid quotes Islamists using many Koranic passages that vividly describe Hell to terrorize potential members: “garments of fire shall be cut out for them … burning water will be poured over their heads causing all that is within their bodies as well as the skins to melt away … they shall be held by iron grips; and every time they try in their anguish to come out of it, they shall be returned and told ‘Taste suffering through fire to the full!’” Infidels in Hell will eat thorns and drink scalding water as if they were “female camels raging with thirst and disease.” Their intestines will be cut to pieces.
Another method used to Islamize recruits was “al-fikr kufr” – “one becomes an infidel by thinking critically.”
Recruiters flattered recruits, telling them that they were superior to non-Muslims. “Take not Jews and Christians for friends,” they quoted from Koran 5:51. Jews are monkeys and pigs: Koran 5:60. Those who worship Jesus are infidels: Koran 5:17. Do not offer the greeting “As-salamu alaykum,” or “peace be with you,” to Christians or Jews; whenever you meet Christians or Jews in a road, force them to its narrowest alley: Sahih Muslim. Muslims who did not carry out jihad were also inferior.
Terror recruits’ emotional outlets were cut off. They were forbidden from creating or consuming music, dance, or visual art. They were discouraged from having sex, but lured with promises of great sex in paradise. The houris – dark-eyed virgins – are graphically described in Muslim literature as very soft, without complaint, and easily satisfied. Houris regain their virginity immediately after sex. Men are promised organs that never go limp. Mohammed, recruits were assured, could have sex with eleven women in an hour.
Finally, the example of Mohammed himself was not to be questioned. Mohammed married a six-year-old. He raped war captives, in one case immediately after decapitating the captive’s brother and father and after she had witnessed her mother being carried off also to be raped. Mohammed approved of the dismemberment of Um Kerfa, a poetess who criticized him. Mohammed is the “perfect example, worthy of emulation.” Muslims today must unquestioningly approve these behaviors.
Hamid’s fellow extremists were aware that Muslim countries were no longer in the cultural forefront. Islam had spread as far as Spain and India in only the first century after Mohammed’s death. Terror recruits believed that early Islam’s success was caused by strict adherence to Islamic doctrine. They believed that their strict observance could bring back Islam’s early dominance.
Some wonder how women could be recruited into a movement that keeps them in an inferior position in relation to men. Hamid clarifies: Muslimahs were told that they would be superior – to infidel women.
Hamid expounds uncompromisingly on the power and importance of hijab. He insists that when prominent Westerners such as Nancy Pelosi and Laura Bush travel to Muslim countries and wear hijab, they are making a grave error. Hijab is not “a neutral, or merely traditional, fashion statement.” Hijab’s purpose “is not modesty or to encourage observers to focus on a Muslim woman’s personality.” Hijab exists to proclaim “deep Islamic doctrinal connections to slavery and discrimination. Western women who cover themselves are unwittingly endorsing an inhumane system.” Hijab’s purpose, Hamid argues persuasively, is to create a society where superior free Muslimahs are visually distinct from inferior infidel slave women.
Islamists “despise women who did not wear hijab. We considered them vain … we believed they would burn in Hell.” Further, “the hijab serves to differentiate between slave girls and women who are considered free … it creates a feeling of superiority among the women who wear it.” The Koran promises that women who wear hijab will not be “molested.” Women without hijab are slaves and can be raped without guilt.
Australia’s foremost Muslim cleric restated this Islamist position in 2006. In Sydney, fourteen Muslim men gang-raped non-Muslim women. Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilali said that it was the victims’ fault. “If you take out uncovered meat” and cats eat it, the cats are not to blame. Women possess “igraa,” “the weapon of enticement.”
Hamid emphasizes that hijab is both vanguard and emblem of Islamic supremacy. During their 1953 meeting, the first thing Sayyid Qutb asked Nasser to do was to force women to wear hijab. A YouTube video documents this conversation. In the video, Nasser is speaking to a large assembly. When he repeats Qutb’s demand, the crowd laughs. One wag shouts out, “Let him wear it!” Nasser points out that Qutb’s own daughter does not wear hijab. The crowd laughs even more, and bursts into applause. This video is at least fifty years old. It is a reminder that fifty years ago, countries like Egypt and Iran were modernizing. Women, in cities at least, could be seen in public in miniskirts and without hijab.
Hamid reports that the Muslim Brotherhood does not announce its end goal openly. “They pose as peacemakers … The Muslim Brotherhood will accept circumstances that offend their beliefs – temporarily – if doing so will advance their goals.” They will – temporarily – permit western dress for women and alcohol consumption. This is all part of taqiyya. The Muslim Brotherhood has a four stage plan: at first, merely preach. Then, move on to participation in public life. Next, consolidate power “while faking legitimacy.” Finally, enforce sharia.
A few turning points turned Hamid away from Islamism, for example, when a fellow terror recruit described his plot to bury alive an Egyptian police officer.
Hamid had been studying the Bible so that he could better debate Christians. Jesus’ words haunted him. “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” He asked himself, what profit to Islam if it subjugated the entire world but lost its soul? “Exposure to the Bible was crucial in helping me question the violent aspects of Salafist teaching.”
His medical studies also gave him pause. “I wondered if the divine DNA molecule was violent. Did it attempt to conquer the rest of the cell? Did it try to force other cellular components to behave like itself? It did not. Rather, it worked harmoniously within an organism to create and sustain life.”
The clincher for Hamid was “the existence of alternative forms of Islamic teaching.” Hamid met Muslims called “Quranics,” who reject the hadiths. The Quranics “stood against killing apostates, against stoning women for adultery, against killing gays. They viewed the Islamic Conquests as immoral and senseless.” The Quranics “allowed me to think critically.” “If this alternative sect had not been available, it would have been much more difficult for me to resist jihadism.”
After recounting his own history, Hamid turns his attention to the international scene. Hamid makes mincemeat of a slew of Islam-apologetic arguments. He insists that it is utterly wrong-headed to blame Islamism on poverty, global warming, lack of education, discrimination, Islamophobia, dictatorial regimes, colonialism, imperialism, or the treatment of Palestinians by Israel. President Obama’s statement that ISIS is “not Islamic,” was the “most ill-informed utterance of all.”
Hamid stresses that one must attend to what Muslims say to each other, in Arabic, about their faith, not just what propagandists in the West say in English to a media that never seems to hit Muslims with any hard questions. Hamid cites the example of prominent Saudi Sheikh Sale al-Fawzan. Al-Fawzan says that “slavery is part of Islam” and “slavery is part of jihad, and jihad will remain as long as there is Islam.” Anyone who tries to extract slavery and jihad from Islam is an “infidel.” Familiarity with such pronouncements would have prepared the world for ISIS’ practices.
Dr. Hamid’s righteous indignation – and his courage – reach heroic heights when he castigates his fellow Muslims, not just for being passive in the face of terror, but for secretly applauding it. “A large percentage of Muslims today passively approve of Islamic terror,” he says. “They minimize it, shift the blame, or do nothing.” They are “secretly proud.” Terrorism gives them “a sense of victory and power.”
Muslims often can’t bring themselves to perceive terrorists as bad people. “It is widely believed that a Muslim who fulfills the Five Pillars of Islam is virtuous” – whether he’s a terrorist or not. “Islamists cannot be bad Muslims because they perform the superficial rituals.”
Hamid unpacks in detail several different taqiyya strategies Muslim apologists use to mislead Westerners into thinking that they oppose terrorism while in fact supporting it. Hamid lists seven questions that must be answered by any spokesperson for Islam. Every American politician should read these pages; voters should photocopy them and mail them to elected officials. Students should have them on hand before they head off to college.
“Many Muslims seem to have this tendency to point fingers at anyone but themselves,” he observes. Islam fosters a “culture of deflection” that “makes it very difficult for Islam to correct itself.” Many insist that Muslims did not carry out the 9-11 attacks. It was the Jews! They insist. “This denial is a form of passive terrorism.” Hamid writes perceptively that “Redemption from shame is not and can never be the product of denial. It comes rather from honestly admitting fault and then confronting it openly.”
I’ll mention that Islam, unlike Christianity, lacks the ritual of confession. For two thousand years, Christians have been following scriptural dictates to confess their sins to others, and to atone for them. Self-examination is valued in Christian-influenced cultures – enough so that politicians caught in scandals are often advised to appear on the highest-rated talk show that will book them and to offer a “mea culpa,” a phrase from Catholic confession. There is no comparable Muslim ritual.
Hamid is equally gloves-off in his criticism of the West. He reminds the reader of how gradually and innocuously Islamization had begun in Egypt. He says weak Western military response to jihad is comparable to using too few antibiotics to treat an infection. Surviving bacteria become resistant, and more virulent. He lambastes moral relativism. He utterly rejects comparisons between jihadis and fundamentalist Christians and Jews. Hamid singles out one voice – that of pseudo-scholar Karen Armstrong – for special condemnation. He accuses Armstrong and others like of her “paving the way for Islamic barbarity.” Armstrong is “spectacularly representative of the multicultural revisionism and moral backsliding that are helping to cripple efforts at genuine reform of Islam.”
His critique of Western liberals’ enabling of jihadis is echoed in many memoirs by Islam-critical Muslims and former Muslims, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali. “It is strange how Christianity is constantly assailed by Western progressives” including the American Civil Liberties Union. “The ACLU said nothing about installing Islamic footbaths in restrooms … at a taxpayer-funded public institution in 2007.” Hamid sticks his hand in a real hornet’s nest: immigration. He believes America should change its policies to weed out jihadis.
Dr. Hamid remains a Muslim. He loves his religion, and he wants to save it. By writing this book and speaking out as he has, he is risking his life to do so. The final portion of the book offers his complete re-interpretation of Islam and the Koran, and his plan for defeating extremism.
Muslims like Dr. Tawfik Hamid inspire my hope and admiration. In his excellent book, one sentence struck me as most poignant and worth lengthy pondering. “I often wonder how al-Zawahiri would have turned out if his childhood religious education had promoted love instead of hate and violence.” Dr. Hamid is doing his part to re-interpret his beloved natal faith, Islam, in a peaceful and loving way. One can only wish him good fortune in that herculean effort.