A recent Intercept article highlights a white paper, published in 2011 by the Air Force Research Lab, called “Countering Violent Extremism: Scientific Methods & Strategies.” Specifically, the article looked at a chapter within the document titled, “A Strategic Plan to Defeat Radical Islam,” written by Dr. Tawfik Hamid. According to the Intercept article, Dr. Hamid is a self-described former Islamic extremist and fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies. He is also a writer for the website Newsmax, where he publishes a column titled “Inside Islam.”
Dr. Hamid makes two main points in his chapter from the white paper. His first point: The primary reason Salafists become terrorists is the deprivation of sexual needs. He claims that Sunni Muslims are more susceptible to becoming terrorists because they are not afforded a mutta or a temporary wife to ease their sexual deprivation. Shia are the minority (roughly 10-13 percent of the Muslim population), but there are still Shia terrorist groups.
Obviously, his argument ignores the other fundamental needs that push a person toward a life of terrorism. Although sex is a primary human need within Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is not the only reason these men fall prey to radicalized Islam. There are other fundamental physical, economic, and social factors that must be considered, such as safety and security, food/water, the feeling of belonging, the feeling of importance within their community, lack of education, and unemployment. The missing fundamental needs cumulate and cause the person to reach a point of hopelessness. Once they reach the point of hopelessness, they are most vulnerable to radical Islamic recruiters and their propaganda.
The second point that Dr. Hamid tries to make is the most controversial. He states that “passive terrorists” are those who tolerate and reinforce terrorism instead of standing up to extremist views and behavior. The fact that there are enablers within the Muslim community that allow terrorism to proliferate is true. However, Dr. Hamid tries to make the link between wearing a hijab and being a “passive terrorist,” which is unsupported and erroneous. Many women face serious injuries such as acid attacks or even death if they don’t wear a hijab in some Muslim countries. Other women in Westernized countries choose to wear them as an outward sign of their faith.
Many have taken to social media using the hashtag #passiveterrorism to protest Dr. Hamid’s claims.
— Heena Khaled (@HeenaKhaled) February 24, 2016
— samayya (@SamayyaAfzal) February 24, 2016
— Rim-Sarah Alouane (@RimSarah) February 23, 2016
The Intercept article claims that Dr. Hamid is spreading “Islamophobia.” Although I don’t agree with almost all of Dr. Hamid’s conclusions, his chapter in the white paper does not seem to be malicious or actively aimed at spreading hatred. His arguments seem at most incomplete and misleading. My main concern is that Dr. Hamid is misleading the airmen that use the white paper to try to further their knowledge on Islam and terrorism. Perhaps in the future, the Air Force and other agencies that use Dr. Hamid will vet his information more carefully before it is used again.
Image courtesy of the uno.edu