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Dr. Tawfik Hamid: Islam Needs Modern Interpretation

Tue, December 4, 2012

Ryan Mauro

Dr. Tawfik Hamid is the chairman of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies Study of Islamic Radicalism. He was formerly a member of the Jamaa Islamiya terrorist group in Egypt alongside Ayman al-Zawahiri, the current leader of Al-Qaeda.

Hamid is a self-described “Islamic thinker and reformer” that promotes a “reformation based upon modern peaceful interpretations of classical Islamic core texts.” One such interpretation is support for Israel, as articulated in his 2004 article, "Why I Love Israel Based on the Quran."

Hamid is the author of Inside Jihad and appeared in the Clarion Fund’s 2008 documentary, The Third Jihad. He has testified in front of  the U.S. Congress, lectured for the Pentagon and the U.S. Special Operations Command and was invited to speak at the Israeli Presidential Conference in 2009.

The following is ClarionProject.org National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro’s interview with Dr. Tawfik Hamid:

Ryan Mauro: Tell us about your work in favor of a reform in Islamic interpretation. Is there any progress being made in encouraging this reformation?

Dr. Tawfik Hamid:  I am working at three levels. First, I am trying to provide an educational system for young Muslims that encourages critical thinking, uses cognitive psychology and uses religious texts in a way that promotes peaceful coexistence with others.

Second, I am providing education that fights radicalism through a thinking process, instead of just a theological one.

Thirdly, I provide a modern interpretation of the Quran to diminish the level of hatred and violence that stems from traditional interpretations of the Quranic text.

These projects were welcomed by some leading religious scholars in Egypt, but the January 25th revolution interrupted this initial progress. This has delayed the first two projects, but the third one can still move forward. Many people in the Muslim world are starting to revolt against the traditional interpretations of Islam after they had to confront the Islamists who came to power. I am planning on making a modern interpretation of the Quran available as a book and on the Internet.

Mauro: You have called for reviving ijtihad, the Islamic process of challenging interpretations of the religion. Is it true that the “gates of ijtihad” were closed once the Islamic legal schools were established, and if so, what will it take for them to be reopened?

Hamid: Yes, it was closed. However, this closure was a human invention, and it is not actually written in the Quran, so it is not that difficult to reopen the gates. In the Sunni world, unlike the Shia, there is no specific body that can make this decision. However, support from Al-Azhar scholars can improve the acceptance of new ijtihad.

Mauro: What is the theological argument you make against Sharia Law?

 Hamid:  Many parts of Sharia Law are not in the Quran and actually contradict it, such as killing apostates, stoning women for adultery and killing homosexuals. Additionally, human interpretations of the religious text and the cultures of the time played a significant role in creating what is now called Sharia Law.

Mauro: What role does the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates in the U.S. play?

Hamid:  They have a strong group in the U.S. that is trying to improve the image of Islam and Sharia Law without having a real change in the traditional violent and inhumane interpretations of the religion. They just want to change the image without changing the reality.

Sadly, they are misleading many in the U.S. They have some liberals on their side who judge Islam based only on how some Muslims have treated them personally. The Muslim Brotherhood aims to stop criticism of Islam but is not ready to, for example, ask Muslims to stop criticizing the Jews and Christians in mainstream traditional Islamic teachings.

Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org's National Security Analyst and a fellow with the Clarion Fund. He is the founder of WorldThreats.com and is frequently interviewed on Fox News.