The leaders of the largest armed force in history should wield it responsibly. Unfortunately, sometimes their “experts” turn out to be anything but. One shockingly Islamophobic policy paper masks fear and hatred as informed scholarship.
“A Strategic Plan to Defeat Radical Islam,” by Tawfik Hamid, appears in Countering Violent Extremism: Scientific Methods and Strategies (2011; revised and republished in 2015), a collection of position papers that the Air Force collected to inform military policymakers.
On his influential website, Hamid identifies himself as “an Islamic thinker and reformer, and one time Islamic extremist from Egypt.” He has numerous publications and television appearances. He has also advised the U.S. government on its involvement in the Middle East.
The most shocking aspect of Hamid’s paper is his concept of “passive terrorists.” Hamid argues that to combat terrorism we must address its ideological and religious roots in “Islamism,” defined (too narrowly) as “an interpretation of Islam that permits the use of violence to achieve political or religious objectives.”
Based mostly on “personal observations” and his own experience, he maps a pattern in which jihadists arise from formerly peaceful Muslim communities: Proliferation of extremist ideology leads to indoctrination, anti-Western propaganda, and women wearing the hijab (!); these produce a population of “passive terrorists,” from which terrorist organizations draw recruits. That’s right, Hamid explicitly links hijab-wearing women to terrorism. He even blames peaceful Muslims oppressed by violence for being complicit: “Passive terrorism … occurs when moderate segments of the population decline to speak against or actively resist terrorism.”
Hamid’s logic leads to a chilling call for more bloodshed. He urges an increase in violent force and a less apologetic attitude toward civilian deaths. A disturbing analogy likens fighting terrorism to chemotherapy: “It is unfair to blame the doctor for killing good cells, because doing so is inevitable to save the patient.” Hamid writes, “If we obsess about the humane treatment of our enemies, we jeopardize the lives of our own people.” (Aren’t our sisters and brothers in the Middle East also “our own people”?)
If this sort of drivel informs public policy, should we be surprised when our efforts in the Middle East go awry? When anti-U.S. sentiment fuels ISIS recruitment? When T.S.A. agents “randomly” single out women with head coverings and U.S. citizens perpetrate their own acts of terror against Muslim neighbors? It turns out we have our own ideological stumbling blocks.