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An op-ed, abbreviated from opposite the editorial page (though often believed to be abbreviated from opinion-editorial), is a newspaper article that expresses the opinions of a named writer who is usually unaffiliated with the newspaper’s editorial board.

Links to some of Dr. Hamid articles in major journals, please click on the article name and you will be forwarded to the external page:


The Last Chance for Egypt


By Tawfik Hamid


The current crisis in Egypt is not only threatening the stability of the land of the Pharoahs, but will likely affect the future stability of the entire Middle East. Problems escalated after President Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood brazenly issued a declaration that set him above the law and effectively gave him control over all branches of the Egyptian government.


There are three primary factors underlying the current crisis in Egypt.


The first is the fact that the two main factions that make up Egyptian society (that is to say, Islamists and Secularists) are poles apart. The former envision an Egypt in the mold of Iran or even the Taliban, while the latter hope for something more like Switzerland. Trying to create a constitution that that will satisfy both is akin to finding a middle ground between Thomas Jefferson and the Mullah Omar of Taliban.


The second factor is that more than 60% of the society voted for secular candidates in the first presidential race. Unfortunately, the secularists could agree on only one thing for sure: anything would be better than a continuation of the former regime-as personified by Shafik. The vacuum created by this lack of unity allowed the Islamist Morsi to rise to power. The majority secularist faction absolutely disapproves of the new Islamist constitution, and has become more vocal since the observable decline of the popularity of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood . Accordingly, any outcome that does not reflect their actual numbers can only occur via fraud. And they will not hesitate to use violence against the Islamists if the latter insists on forcing their strict Islamic agenda upon them.


The third contributing factor to the current crisis is the wholly separate power of the Military. None of these groups-the Islamists, the Secularists, nor the Military-is capable of controlling the country alone. Only a confederacy of at least two of the factions could effectively govern Egypt. The inability of the secularists and liberals to give any concession to the role of the Military in the new Egypt has made the latter-which was pivotal in removing Mubarak in Jan 25 Revolution-unwilling to strongly support them against the Islamists. This became painfully obvious recently when the Military refused to side with the anti-Morsi demonstrators-whose masses, incidentally, probably not much less the numbers of anti-Mubarak protesters during the Jan 25 Revolution. The secularists somehow failed to recognize that it was the Military-NOT their presence in Tahrir Square-that ultimately removed Mubarak from power. If the recently united anti-Islamist groups do not understand and embrace this simple fact, and refuse to give the Military some privileges-the outcome for the whole country will be disastrous. Egypt will likely fall into a very destructive cascade that will end in the creation of a Sharia-ruled failed state.


And the obvious fraud of the recent referendum by the MB-led government has only added more salt to the wound.


Morsi’s Islamist government clearly manipulated the referendum at every level. Public anger against the MB government made it virtually impossible to get a majority YES without fraud. This fraud included choosing mainly Islamist judges (and many unauthorized people to supervise the elections) following the refusal of most Egyptian judges to participate. The Islamists also employed an array of dirty tactics. For example, the Islamists who usually do the Fajr (dawn) prayer in the Mosque went immediately after the prayer to stand in queues in front of the election centers. After casting their votes, they then returned to stand in the same queues, slowing and muddling the election process and making it more painful for the secularists who generally vote later in the day. Because of the strict election time-line, these delay tactics resulted in the failure of many-if not most-anti-Islamists to cast their votes at several of the election centers. The Islamist judges who supervised the elections contributed to the mess by taking too much time to validate the voters. In many places-especially where most people are known to vote against the MB–voters stood in line for more than 7 hours without moving forward an inch. These dirty tricks allowed only early morning participants-mostly Islamists-to vote, and effectively prevented much of the opposition from casting a vote.


Had the referendum been conducted in a fair manner, the results of the first stage would have been completely different.



The international community must ask itself how it would describe a president like Morsi who took all power into his own hand and placed himself above the Law; who allowed thugs to surround the Supreme Constitutional Court of his country and prevent its judges from doing their job without raising a finger to protect them (of course, those same judges were poised to rule against his power grab), ; who turned a blind eye to his supporters’ vicious attacks (and murders) of those who were peacefully demonstrating against his tyrannical declaration.


US support for the Morsi government-as evidenced by the recent presentation of fighter aircraft to the MB-ruled Egyptian Military, and based on the hope that the MB will respect the peace treaty with Israel-is both shallow and short-sighted. Morsi’s real intentions regarding Israel were recently exposed in a video which shows him praying for the destruction of the State of Israel and the Jews. And anyway, betting on the MB now is betting on a faltering horse. The MB’s inability and unwillingness to encourage tourism due to their ideological beliefs will eventually cause the economic collapse of the country. Hunger revolts in the near future are not out of the question.


Furthermore, the very high and rising percentage of people opposing the MB will continue to undermine their ability to rule the country, especially if the majority turns to violence against the Islamists. The MB’s inability to rule the country was already apparent when they decided to close shops at 10 pm. The aim of this decision was to force people to go to sleep early so they could wake up for dawn prayer, as a preparatory step for the Islamic State and Caliphate as recommended by Hasan Al-Bana (the Founder of the MB). People simply ignored them, forcing the MB-led government to backtrack. Another possibility that might occur would be a division within the army, or even a coup, to side with secularists against the Islamists when the situation in the country turns ugly.


When the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) wielded political power following the removal of Mubarak, they issued a constitutional decision to criminalize discrimination based on religion, sex, or race. In the new Morsi constitution-which was written by the so-called ‘civilians’-this rule was removed in order to allow the Islamists to practice their discriminatory Sharia agenda in the future.


The current situation in Egypt can be described as serious crisis, sparked by Morsi’s refusal to cancel his dictatorial declaration. This situation, left unchecked, could easily push the country down the path of failed states controlled by Islamic Radicals.


There are only few things that could assist in preventing such a disastrous fate, which include:


1.      The international community MUST inform the Egyptian leadership that the acceptance of Morsi as president of Egypt was based on the approval of the Supreme Constitutional Court AND that his recognition as president by the free world is now in jeopardy as long as this court is unable to function normally and have its say in the current situation. In other words, the Supreme Constitutional Court must resume its function immediately, and be fully protected.


2.     Morsi needs to be informed that the fraudulent results of the referendum on the new constitution will NOT be accepted as the will of the Egyptian people UNLESS it is approved by the opposition leadership (Shafik,Sabahi, Amr-Moussa, and Abu El-foutoh) who represented 75% of the combined votes in the first presidential race, and who oppose the current constitution.


3.     Human rights activists must take Morsi to the International Criminal Court to answer for his passive attitude toward-and possible collaboration in-the recent killings of peaceful demonstrators in front of his palace.


4.     Morsi must be warned that his tyrannical attitude will deprive Egypt of badly needed financial aid from the international community and the US. The MB’s fear of economic failure-which would likely end their dream of proving to the Muslim world that “Islam is the Solution”-might force them to accept concessions in order to avoid such a defeat of their ideology.


5.     Morsi’s largely secular opposition must realize that without giving some concessions to the Military they will likely drive the country to become a theocratic stated ruled by Sharia and controlled by Islamic military power. The latter will be much worse than any secular military. Playing the game of politics correctly and giving some concessions to the Military can save the country from a disastrous future.


6.     The US should welcome opening a dialogue with Morsi opposition. This can create pressure on Morsi and push him toward changing his tyrannical decisions which brought nothing to the country but more instability.


7.     International organizations such as the European Union should offer to supervise or monitor another referendum, untainted by fraud, on the new constitution. -This would be very useful in helping to settle this explosive situation.


These measures are vital to resuscitate the country and to prevent it from going down a very destructive path.



Between Scylla and Charybdis: Our Syrian Polylemma


Looking for solutions to the Syrian Problem


By Tawfik Hamid


The American response to the Syrian problem is a classic example of the choice between multiple options that appear to be equally undesirable. It seems to be a matter of figuring out and then choosing the lesser evil. Our response to the violence and cruelty ought to be guided principally by the extent to which our decision will 1) affect U.S. interests in the region, and 2) result in the least possible bloodshed. Basing our decision on criteria such as “respect for human rights” will not work, as neither of the fighting factions care a whit for human rights. Both sides have committed atrocities that have been rightly described as war crimes.


Let’s take a look at our options:


Option 1: Support the Rebels


Cumulative evidence shows that the rebels in Syria have been infiltrated by both local and foreign Jihadists and Islamic radicals (many from nearby countries)- and that they are fighting to implement a radical Islamic agenda. They are not the sort of freedom fighters who will establish freedom for the Syrian people if they gain power. Quite the contrary. They will likely establish an inhumane, suppressive, and discriminatory Sharia system.

Many believe that Sunni Islamist control of Syria would create a Sunni belt to resist Shia expansion in the Middle East. This may not be true. History suggests that when faced with a common enemy, Sunnis and Shiites will easily unite. The parasitic nature of Sunni Islamists will allow them to accept U.S. support-right up until they win. Upon gaining control of Syria, they will very likely unite with Iran and Hezbollah against Israel and against U.S. interests in the region. The U.S. needs to distinguish between pro-American Sunnis andanti-American ones. The latter are absolutely not to be trusted. Indeed, they can be relied on always to act against the U.S. and its interests. Perhaps we should learn from our experience with trusting the Jihadists in Afghanistan-including our erstwhile compatriot Osama bin Laden, who later founded Al-Qaeda and attacked us on September 11.

Supporting the rebels ultimately means supporting Islamic radicals. They will turn on us the moment they gain control of Syria.


Option 2: Support (militarize) pro-American rebels


This selective form of support may be rather attractive in principle, but it is very difficult to implement on the ground. Dividing an army that is already united, and then trying to support one faction against all of the others is simply not feasible. Moreover, any such pro-American groups would be regarded as traitors by both the Jihadists and the Al-Assad regime; they would be fought and no doubt destroyed regardless of who emerges victorious. This option, while attractive on the surface, may bring even more division and more bloodshed in Syria.


Option 3: Unite the Opposition


One of the main problems facing the Syrian rebels is that they are not united under one banner. In fact, the opposition to Al-Assad includes both liberals (who are fighting for freedom) and radical Jihadists (who are fighting to implement Sharia and suppress freedom). Strange bedfellows indeed. And while they may be able to work together now to achieve the common goal of removing Al-Assad (on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend), in the end they will fight each other-and one of them will subdue the other by force. At this point it appears virtually certain that if the opposition does manage to defeat Al-Assad, they will turn on each other and civil war will ensue. If it were possible to genuinely unite the opposition, perhaps we could get a sense of what a future government in Syria might look like. However, failing real unification, U.S. support for the rebels will only prolong the conflict in Syria.


Option 4: Support Al-Assad to regain control of Syria


It is fair to say that while Al-Assad was a dictator-as with many other Arab regimes-large scale atrocities were not committed until after the rebels tried to remove him from power. Those same rebels would almost certainly resort to atrocities if anyone were to threaten their control.

Until recently, Al-Assad was able to maintain stability and protect the minorities in Syria. On the other hand, he was a strong ally of both Iran and Hezbollah.

Which begs the question: Can Al-Assad’s close relations with Iran and Hezbollah be broken? In other words, could the U.S. use economic and other diplomatic incentives to turn Syria against these two regimes, or at least to neutralize its support?

The Al-Assad regime is secular, which means its relations with Iran and Hezbollah are based more on shared interests than ideology. While it might be difficult to sway Hezbollah from supporting Iran as both are strongly founded on the same religious ideology, the lack of such shared ideological religious convictions between Al-Assad and these two regimes does suggest some potential that economic incentives could be effective in swaying Al-Assad from Iran and Hezbollah.

If Al-Assad wins against the rebels, the regime will certainly take revenge upon the opposition and there will be much bloodshed. Of course if the rebels win, they will definitely wreak havoc on Al-Assad and all those who supported him-including the minorities in Syria. And there will be much bloodshed.

Perhaps we could have rationally pursued this option early in the conflict. However, since Al-Assad has committed so many atrocities and since the situation in the country has become so chaotic, support for the regime has become both morally unacceptable and practically unfeasible.


Option 5: Do nothing


Doing nothing simply means the conflict will continue until one of the fighting powers gains military superiority over the other. While not supporting any of these rather unsavory factions may provide some moral satisfaction, we need to be aware that opting to stay out of it may ultimately result in more bloodshed and more instability in the region.


Option 6: Encourage internationally monitored elections


A scenario modeled on recent events in Yemen, wherein the president was removed, but was replaced by a duly elected successor is another possibility for Syria. As Sunnis represent the majority in Syria, elections would likely result in a Sunni regime. However, after the economic failure of Islamists in Egypt, many Syrians may refrain from supporting Islamists to rule the country.

Additionally, if Islamists were to come to power in Syria, it is very unlikely that the non-Sunni minorities would accept the oppressive Sharia Law that Islamists would try to impose on the country. This simply means that a democratic solution would in no way lessen the level of sectarian polarization in the country. And that disunity will be a very strong element against future stability of the country.

Regardless, the thought of elections in Syria right now is purely academic. There is simply no easy way that elections could actually be held in midst of the reigning chaos.


Option 7: Support a divided Syria


The possibility of a divided Syria is a very real one. Syria could in fact be divided along the following lines:

1- Sunnis75% (under the control of the rebels)

2- Alawites-12% (under the control of the Al-Assad regime)

3- Christians (10%), Kurds (8%), and Druze (less than 3%)

This option could theoretically bring stability to the country, though it is not without potential conflict. And the history and geography of Syria may actually allow such a division to occur. In fact there is precedent: during the French Mandate on Syria (1920-1946), the country was divided into several states.

Syrian minorities who do not want to live under the control of radical Muslims would likely welcome this arrangement; and the Russians might also accept it, as long as they can keep their naval facility at Tartus, in the Alawite part of the country. Alawites might also be amenable, as it would allow them to keep some power instead of losing all of it completely.

Islamic Sunni countries would likely reject this option as they desire a wholly Sunni-controlled Syria. A Sunni-controlled Syria would serve the interests of these Islamic countries and would be a serious threat to the U.S. and its interests in the region. A Sunni Islamist regime in Syria would be anti-American and very hostile to Israel, our only true ally in the region.

Too, a divided Syria could increase frictions with Turkey as it may encourage the Kurds in Turkey to separate and unite with their Kurdish brethren in Iraq, Syria, and Iran. On the other hand, a divided Syria would be good for Israel as the region adjacent to Israel is inhabited by Druze, who are less hostile towards Israel than are the Sunnis.

The U.S. may need to seriously consider this last option and probably ought to support it. All of the other options are either too risky, too impractical, or too anti-Amaerican. Some of them are contrary to our values, or carry known and unknown threats to U.S. interests. To implement a divided Syria may require expanded discussions and negotiations that include not only the leaders of the opposition to the Al-Assad regime, but also the leaders of the minority sectarian groups.


To conclude, with the current levels of political and sectarian polarization in Syria, keeping the country united seems unrealistic. Dividing Syria could be one of the very few remaining options that may bring stability and an end to the bloodshed. This may require a change in our approach to the Syrian problem. Perhaps we should be thinking not so much in terms of the regime vs. the opposition, but rather as a sectarian issue. A model that could be followed in such a case is the division of the former Yugoslavia in 1992 into smaller states after a series of conflicts and political upheavals. To implement such a proposal will require strong oversight and monitoring by the international community. History clearly shows that such divisions can lead to mass internal migration and attempts at ethnic and sectarian cleansing. Nevertheless, such an option appears to be the lesser of all the evil options we face today.


How the US Could have avoided the Attacks on its Embassies

By Tawfik Hamid

Mass Muslim protests spread throughout the Arab world in the wake of the release of the incendiary anti-Islamic film ‘Innocence of Muslims.’ US Embassies in Afghanistan, Tunisia, Sudan, Egypt, Yemen and some European countries were attacked by angry crowds shouting anti-US slogans and burning US flags.

The mob reaction initially started in Cairo and was then followed by attacks on US Embassies in other parts of the world.

This extremely angry reaction should lead us to question how the US should have immediately responded following the release of the movie to decrease the likelihood of such a violent reaction.

The key to this was early and effective intervention to prevent the transformation of anger into violence.

The following are a few examples of what the US could have done:

Initial statements

The earliest statements of the US Embassy in Cairo should have been better calculated. Changing the apparent US position of denouncing insults to Islam (exemplified by President Obama’s denunciation of Terry John’s Quran burning) to embracing the Mohamed movie would most certainly have made things worse. Similarly, condemning the movie as the Embassy had already done in its early tweets would have been seen by radicals as a sign of weakness and might have encouraged even more violent reaction against the US.

In such a Catch-22, the best approach would have been to issue a very short comment simply saying that the United States has no relation to this film. The longer the statement and the more apologetic it appears, the more Muslims would suspect that the US was indeed behind the movie, and is now trying to fix its error. The impact of the US Embassy reaction in Cairo spread quickly. In the internet era information in one Muslim country spreads to the whole of the Muslim world in a very short period of time.

Had the Embassy immediately pointed out the absurdity of blaming the US for the film by noting that in fact the producer was an Egyptian-and would we therefore blame Egypt for the film?-it might have ameliorated this very tense situation. Drawing a similarity in this case may have encouraged people to stop and think-and might have even helped prevent the rapid descent into mob mentality.

Timely High-level Political Intervention

Previous experience with the Muslim world shows clear evidence that the reaction to such religious issues can turn barbaric by some mobs. The US government should have called Mr. Morsy immediately to clearly hold him responsible for protecting the Embassy. Perhaps at least the Embassy in Cairo would have been safe. This call should have been made the moment the film was linked to the US-not afterthe Embassy had already been attacked. The timing of such a call is crucial in such situations.

Effective use of Social Media

Social media is widely used in the Muslim world, and. information spreads extremely quickly. And because many people meet together in the mosque for one or more of the 5 daily Muslim prayers, mosques act as both a conduit and a magnifying system for information derived from social media. After a link between the film and the US was created in an Egyptian TV program, social media played a vital role in spreading this inflammatory message. Social media monitoring with timely and effective counter-messaging could have changed the course of events. Such counter-messaging-which would need to avoid the appearance of government propaganda-could have included such facts as that the United States has more than 2000 mosques and Islamic schools Too, messaging should have included the use of Quranic verses (specifically, for example, Al-An’am [6:164], Al-Isra [17:15], Fatir [35:18], Az-Zumar [39:7]) to emphasize the principle that you cannot hold someone (such as the American people) accountable for the mistakes of someone else (such as the producer of the Mohamed movie). This, too, could have helped to reduce tensions.

Effective use of Arab Americans

Having Arab Americans speaking on Pakistani TV-instead of President Obama and Secretary Hillary Clinton-would have yielded much better results. Top US officials speaking in this situation only seemed to confirm the Islamists’ propaganda that the US government was in fact responsible for the movie. In Muslims culture people do not typically apologize for things that they have not done. It just begs the question: why would the President and Secretary of State apologize if they were not guilty? Arab Americans speaking positively about the US in the TV ad would relate more to people in the Muslim world and could have shifted the responsibility of creating the Mohamed movie to the individual level rather than making it look as if is the government was actually responsible.

To conclude, an immediate and effective intervention after the Mohamed film became widespread could have prevented a lot of violence. This does not in any way intend to hold the US responsible for the violence of the Muslim world, or to underestimate the more important role that Muslim leaders need to play in order to prevent their people from reacting so barbarically. The Muslim world needs to realize that unless fundamental changes are made to how Islam is being taught in its mainstream books, their religion will continue to be criticized. Muslim scholars should also learn that they need to stop insulting other faiths and beliefs before asking others not to insult Islam.


The Psychology of Appeasement

Why Radical Muslims Feel Free to Target the United States but Not France

By Tawfik Hamid

The difference between Muslims’ reaction to the French cartoons that insulted the prophet Mohamed and their reaction to the Mohamed film that was produced in the United States is striking. On the one hand, Muslim mobs viciously attacked US embassies, replaced the US flag with the Al-Queda flag, and killed many innocent people-including US ambassador Chris Stevens and other US diplomats. On the other hand, however, they did not dare react with the same violence against France, despite the very insulting nature of the French cartoons.

The factors that underpin this odd disparity in Muslim reaction must be analyzed.

The French response to radical Islam since September 11, 2001 can explain to a great extent this paradox.

It seems that the French have understood the mindset of the Islamists.

Analysis of the behaviour of most Islamic groups in the last few decades shows beyond doubt that the most important and significant issue for them-once they attain power-is to promote or enforce the Hijab (Islamic head scarf). They know very well that their agenda for Islamizing a society cannot succeed without this dress code.

The Hijab for the Islamists not only represents the honor and dignity of Islam & of Muslim women, but it also creates a sense of supremacy over other people who do not wear it and unites the Muslim culture as a separate and different entity within the society that uses the dress code. This, then, unites Muslims psychologically with the global Muslim community (Umma) rather than with their western or secular societies.

Many in the West may not be able to imagine how the issue of the Hijab is so fundamental to the Islamists. Nevertheless, the reality is that Islamic radical groups everywhere in the world care for nothing more than making Muslim women wear the Hijab.

Allow me to share my personal experience to illustrate the case. As a radical Muslim for several years earlier in my life (actually more than 30 years ago!), I can attest that literally the only thing that could have stopped me from committing a suicide attack or using some other form of violence (had been so inclined) was the certainty that my violent action would result in the banning of the Hijab for Muslim women. In other words, banning the Hijab-which was for me at that time the symbol of the dignity of Islam-was for me one of very few effective deterrents to violence.

It seems that the French have understood this somewhat bizarrepsychology of the Islamic radicals. It therefore did not take them long after 9/11 to ban the Hijab in their public high schools. The message that the French sent to the radicals was that if they dared to attack France as they had attacked the United States, the Hijab would be banned throughout the country-not just in the public high schools. Many radicals realized that the French knew their weak point and thus avoided-as much as possible-attacking France lest they ban the Hijab everywhere in the French Republic. For the Islamists this would mean an end to their hopes of Islamizing France in the future.

Using violence to try to prevent France from banning the Hijab in the high schools would have resulted in its ban all over France. The French were adamant. The Islamic radicals simply could not take this risk with the strongly determined French, as this could mean the end of the Hijab in France.

Unlike the French, American officials took precisely the opposite approach: they defended the Hijab, criticized France for banning it, and encouraged US female diplomats to wear it in their meetings with officials in Muslim countries. In fact, US female soldiers were for a short time actually encouraged to wear the Hijab in Afghanistan to appease the local Muslim population. This supportive attitude regarding the Hijab made radical Muslims realize that the US-unlike France-will never even come close to their weakest point or to banning the Hijab. Their reaction is not unlike that of a bully who realizes that his opponent will never hit him back.

Killing a few radicals will never deter the others because they actually want to die as martyrs and thereby enter paradise-a fact that many Americans simply cannot imagine due to cultural differences. Whereas, warning the Islamists either directly or indirectly that their attacks will result in a ban on the Hijab (as the French did after 9/11) would deter them.

Another factor that has likely played a significant role in weakening the Islamists’ reaction to the French cartoons is the French response to the problem-which clearly shows that they have learned from history.

Examining the Timelineof Muslim response following the publication of anti-Mohamed Danish cartoons on January 30, 2005 reveals that they stayed peaceful for four months after the publication. Violence did not erupt until 72 hours after the magazine apologized for publishing the cartoons. The apology in this case was seen as a sign of weakness and likely encouraged the Islamists to react violently. The French seem to have understood this lesson. Their response, as articulated by Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, after publication of the recent French cartoons was this:

In the current climate, the prime minister wishes to stress his disapproval of all excesses and calls on everyone to behave responsibly. “Questioned on RTL radio, he added: “We are in a country where the freedom of expression is guaranteed, along with the freedom to caricature. If people really feel their beliefs are offended and think the law has been broken – and we are in a state where the law must be totally respected- they can go to the courts.”

The French clearly stood for their values of freedom of expression.

On the contrary, the initial US response to the ‘Mohamed’ film–as seen in the tweets of the US embassy in Cairo– was mainly to denounce the film and its producers rather than defend the basic American value of freedom of speech.

5:53 a.m., 9/11/12. Shortly before noon local time, @USEmbassyCairo tweets: “Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy,” according to a screenshot captured by @NYCSouthpaw.

6:11 a.m., 9/11/12.@USEmbassyCairo tweets: “US Embassy condemns religious incitement” with a link to a statement, according to another @NYCSouthpaw screenshot. The statement “U.S. Embassy Condemns Religious Incitement” was posted on the Embassy of the United States Cairo, Egypt website in response to Egyptian media accounts of the film, though without a specific time-stamp:

The Embassy of the United States in Cairo condemns the continuing efforts by misguided individuals to hurt the religious feelings of Muslims-as we condemn efforts to offend believers of all religions. Today, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Americans are honoring our patriots and those who serve our nation as the fitting response to the enemies of democracy. Respect for religious beliefs is a cornerstone of American democracy. We firmly reject the actions by those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.

This weak US response is likely to have worked in the minds of Islamists in the same way as the apology from the Jyllands-Postenmagazine for publishing the Danish cartoons: it was understood by the Islamists as a sign of weakness, encouraging a violent reaction against the “weak” United States. In fact, the deadly anti-U.S. protests erupted in Pakistan essentially after (NOT before!) an ad on Pakistani TV featuring President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denouncing the movie “Innocence of Muslims”. As the ABC News put it:

“The ads have been running this week on seven different Pakistani television stations in an attempt to cool tempers over the film, but today’s protests were the largest seen so far since the controversy began in Pakistan last week with the attempted storming of the U.S. embassy”.

The same phenomenon was observed when thousands of Afghans turned violent, some even killing American officers, afterPresident Obama’s apology for the “inadvertent” Quran burning by American soldiers at Bagram Airfield on February 20.

Additionally, as a prophylactic move to avoid Islamist violence against France after publishing the cartoon, the French Interior Minister Manuel Valls recently threatened to expel radical Muslims from the country if they challenged France’s principles.

By comparison, putting the man allegedly behind the inflammatory film “Innocence of Muslims” under arrest in the US and holding him without bail was seen by many in the Muslim world as a sign of weakness. This move-which was also seen by many Muslims as a move to appease the Islamists–did not prevent (and possibly encouraged) violence. Within 48 hours of this arrest, most Christians living near Egypt’s border with Israel in Sinai had to flee their homes because Islamist militants set their church on fire, made death threats to their community, and gunmen attacked a Coptic-owned shop.

The difference in the reaction to Islamic related issues between France and the US can be further exemplified by comparing the response of former President of France Nicolas Sarkozy to the Danish Cartoon problem by saying on LCI television that he “preferred an excess of caricature to an excess of censorship”-to the recent US request to Google to consider banning the latest anti-Mohamed movie.

This is not meant to underestimate other factors that aggravate Islamist violence or to excuse the innate nature of Islamic radicalism but rather to shed light on some other factors that may aggravate or weaken it.

Another factor that could have also played a role in ameliorating the Islamist response to the French Cartoons is the fact that raising the flag of Al-Queda on French Embassies will not fulfil the grandiose feelings of Islamists compared to raising their flag on the embassies of the most powerful country on earth (the United States).

To conclude: the striking difference between Muslim reaction to the US and to France after publishing insulting material against the prophet Mohamed in both countries illustrates how, without thinking outside the box, the fight against Islamic radicals can go on forever, as simply killing some of the radicals does not deter the rest from conducting more violent acts. We may not be able to kill all the terrorists and Jihadists but perhaps by understanding and using much less costly psychological measures, we can deter many of them.


Underlying Factors behind Muslims Riots  

By Tawfik Hamid


The film” Innocence of Muslims” which denigrates Islam’s prophet Muhammad has sparked violent protests in many Muslim countries. Violent demonstrations initially erupted in Cairo followed by Libya in which the U.S. ambassador was killed. Later on, the furious demonstrations of Muslims spread globally. This problem can affect future relations between the U.S. and several Muslim countries. Additionally, the angry Muslim reaction can affect the handover of power in Afghanistan.

It is vital to understand the underlying causes that led to such furious reactions against the U.S.

The following components played a role in creating such a reaction:

Religious Factors

Mainstream sources of Islamic law establish the principle that anyone who insults the prophet Mohamed MUST be killed without even giving them a chance to repent. The existence of such laws creates a mindset among many Muslims that justifies the use of violence against those who are perceived as insulting the Prophet.  The violence in such cases may not be limited to those who are directly engaged in the insult, but it also affects those who gave them the freedom to do this. Thus, for instance, the U.S. is seen by many Muslims as a co-conspirator to insulting the founder of Islam.

Love to the Prophet

According to traditional Islamic teaching, in the Day of Judgment, Allah will order the Muslim sinners to go to hell. As related in one of the most reputable, classical collections of the sayings of Mohamed, the Hadith of Al-Bukhari, Muslims will then go to the prophet Mohamed to complain. The Prophet will do intercession (or ‘Shafaa’) to ask Allah to change his decision and allow them into the Paradise.  Allah – according to the story – will do this for the sake of Mohamed. This creates unparalleled love to the Prophet and makes many Muslims ready to defend him or his name with their lives as they feel that if they did not show anger toward those who insult him they may not be qualified to get his personal intercessions. The vivid descriptions of the torturing methods in Hell in Islamic core texts create a level of fear in Muslims’ minds that partially explain this fury to support the prophet just to avoid Hell.


Lack of important Cognitive Associations

Appeasement of the Islamists has impeded a vital cognitive process in human minds that is vital to prevent such furious reactions.

The human mind learns via creating certain associations. For example, if a student did not study and thus failed an exam, their mind will realize that this failure is their fault. This may lead the student to study hard to avoid failure in the next exam. If someone persuaded this student that their failure is NOT because of negligence, but rather because someone hates them, the student will not develop the vital association between a lack of studying and failure and will thus likely do the same mistake and fail again.

A similar problem exists in dealing with the Muslim world.

If Muslims had learnt that the negative image of Islam in the West is NOT the result of unconditional hatred to Islam as they think, but rather a consequence to the violent deeds of Radical Muslims all over the world, their brains would have created the vital mental association that would have encouraged them to fight radicalism in their own societies and thus improve the image of Islam.

Apologetic attitudes toward Radical Islam that tried to blame the West for the development of Islamophobia instead of blaming the Radical Islamists have actually made things worse as they prevented the development of such vital mind links. As a result, the Muslim world keeps blaming the West and the U.S. for the negative image of their religion instead of engaging in efforts to reform their religion, reduce or eliminate violence, and thus decrease the criticism of Islam.



Confrontation between Delusions and Reality

On one hand, many Muslims strongly believe that Mohamed is the best human being in everything and the best role model for mankind {Quran 33:21 There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and [who] remembers Allah often}. In some Muslims’ minds, these feelings can reach the level of delusions. On the other hand, mainstream Islamic books teach that the Prophet married a child of 6 consummated marriage at 9 years old [1,2], used to have sex with 9 wives in one night [3,4], had romantic feelings toward the wife of his adopted son and that a Quranic revelation made his son in law divorce his wife so that Mohamed can marry her[5]. Furthermore, authentic Hadith books mentioned that Mohamed killed all the men of some Jewish tribes, took the wife of the Jewish leader to have sex with her after killing her husband [6,7,8], and that he encouraged the killing of a respected old lady called Um-Querfa [9,10] in an extremely brutal manner because she criticized him.

Many Muslims feel disgusted of such stories, but they have to suppress their feelings and live in their ‘Delusions’ that Mohamed is the best role model for the world. The recent film depicted these stories in a way that released the suppressed conscious from its inhibition – and thus created a confrontation between the ‘Reality’ (as described in authentic Islamic books) and the ‘Delusions’. It is known that confronting Delusions with Reality can cause severe agitation. This complex mental phenomenon may explain the aggressive and furious reaction of some Muslims in response to the film.

To a great extent, anti-Americanism in the Muslim world stems from the supremacy feelings of the Islamists that the Muslim world must be the most superior power in the world – as it used to be at some stage of history. These feelings of supremacy have been nourished by the media, education, and religious teachings in several parts of the Islamic world. The film was an opportunity for Islamists to achieve a false feeling of ‘victory’ over the U.S. – as  many radical Muslims feel that invading the U.S. embassies, removing its flag and replacing it with the Islamic flag is a sign of victory (or superiority) over America. In fact, some Islamists in Egypt called the attack on the U.S. embassy “Gazwat Al-Sifara” which means the Islamic raid of the (U.S.) embassy. This description makes Islamists live again in the spirit of the early Islamic conquests and victorious raids against the “Un-believers”.


To conclude, the violent reaction of Muslims against the U.S. is the outcome of several factors. Understanding these factors is vital to developing effective approaches to deal with the Muslim world – profuse apologies and appeasement will not work. The US need to stand for its core values of freedom and liberty and must work on developing more comprehensive strategy to confront the phenomenon of Radical Islam.





[1] Sahih Bukhari Narrated Aisha: The Prophet engaged me when I was a girl of six (years). We went to Medina and stayed at the home of Bani-al-Harith bin Khazraj. Then I got ill and my hair fell down. Later on my hair grew (again) and my mother, Um Ruman, came to me while I was playing in a swing with some of my girl friends. She called me, and I went to her, not knowing what she wanted to do to me. She caught me by the hand and made me stand at the door of the house. I was breathless then, and when my breathing became Allright, she took some water and rubbed my face and head with it. Then she took me into the house. There in the house I saw some Ansari women who said, “Best wishes and Allah’s Blessing and a good luck.” Then she entrusted me to them and they prepared me (for the marriage). Unexpectedly Allah’s Apostle came to me in the forenoon and my mother handed me over to him, and at that time I was a girl of nine years of age. Volume 5, Book 58, Number 234

[2] Sahih Bukhari Narrated ‘Aisha: I used to play with the dolls in the presence of the Prophet, and my girl friends also used to play with me. When Allah’s Apostle used to enter (my dwelling place) they used to hide themselves, but the Prophet would call them to join and play with me. (The playing with the dolls and similar images is forbidden, but it was allowed for ‘Aisha at that time, as she was a little girl, not yet reached the age of puberty.) (Fateh-al-Bari page 143, Vol.13) Volume 8, Book 73, Number 151

[3] Narrated Qatada:
Anas bin Malik said, “The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number.” I asked Anas, “Had the Prophet the strength for it?” Anas replied, “We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men) to do sex.” And Sa’id said on the authority of Qatada that Anas had told him about nine wives only (not eleven). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 5, Number 268)

[4] Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet used to visit all his wives in one night and he had nine wives at that time. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 5, Number 282; see also parallel hadiths in Vol. 7, Book 62, Numbers 6 and 142)


[5] See Tafeer Al-Shawkani [in Arabic] for {Quran 33: 37-40} Published by Dar Al-Kitab Al-Arabi p. 510. Tafseer Al-Shawkani described that after the Quranic revelation {Quran 33: 37-40} Mohamed entered the room of Zeinab to have sex with her without permission, without contract, and without dowry….


 [6] Sahih al-Bukhari Narrated Abdul Aziz: Anas said, “…..We conquered Khaibar, took the captives, and the booty was collected. Dihya came and said, ‘O Allah’s Prophet! Give me a slave girl from the captives.’ The Prophet said, ‘Go and take any slave girl.’ He took Safiya bint Huyai. A man came to the Prophet and said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! You gave Safiya bint Huyai to Dihya and she is the chief mistress of the tribes of Quraiza and An-Nadir and she befits none but you.’ So the Prophet said, ‘Bring him along with her.’ So Dihya came with her and when the Prophet saw her, he said to Dihya, ‘Take any slave girl other than her from the captives.’” Anas added: “The Prophet then manumitted her and married her.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 8, Number 367)

[7] Sahih MuslimBook 008, Number 3329:


Anas, (Allah be pleased with him)reported: Safiyya (Allah be pleased with her) fell to the lot of Dihya in thespoils of war, and they praised her in the presence of Allah’s Messenger (maypeace be upon him) and said: We have not seen the like of her among thecaptives of war. He sent (a messenger) to Dihya and he gave him whatever hedemanded.


[8] Book of Tabaqat by Sad (andIshaq)”


Safia was groomed and made-up forthe Prophet by Umm Sulaim, the mother of Anas ibn Malik. They spent the nightthere. Abu Ayyub al-Ansari guarded the tent of the Prophet the whole night.When, in the early dawn, the Prophet saw Abu Ayyub strolling up and down, heasked him what he meant by this sentry-go; he replied: “I was afraid foryou with this young lady. You had killed her father, her husband and many ofher relatives, and till recently she was an unbeliever. I was really afraid foryou on her account”. The Prophet prayed for Abu Ayyub al-Ansari (Ibn Hisham,p. 766)

[9] Tabari: Allah’s Messenger sent Zayd to WadiQura, where he encountered the Banu Fazarah. Some of his Companions werekilled, and Zayd was carried away wounded. Ward was slain by the Banu Badr.When Zayd returned, he vowed that no washing should touch his head until he hadraided the Fazarah. After he recovered, Muhammad sent him with an army againstthe Fazarah settlement. He met them in Qura and inflicted casualties on themand took Umm Qirfah prisoner. He also took one of Umm’s daughters and Abdallahbin Mas’adah prisoner. Zyad bin Harithah ordered Qays to kill Umm, and he killed her cruelly. He tied each of her legs with a ropeand tied the ropes to two camels, and they split her in two. Tabari Vol.8:Page.96…

[10] Ibn Ishaq continues: Then they brought Umm Qirfa’s daughterand Mas’ada’s son to the apostle. The daughter of Umm Qirfa belonged to Salamab. Amr b. al-Akwa who had taken her. She held aposition of honor among her people, and the Arabs used to say, “Had you beenmore powerful than Umm Qirfa you could have done no more”. Salama asked theapostle to let him have her and he gave her to him and he presented her to hisuncle Hazn b. Abu Wahb and she bare him Abdul-Rahman . Hazn. Ibn Ishaq 980



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