Serving Winnipeg's Jewish Community Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google BookmarksSubmit to TwitterSubmit to LinkedIn Youtube

By BERNIE BELLAN
Anyone who has been reading this paper the past few years would realize that the line I have been taking vis-à-vis accommodation between Israelis and Palestinians is what would be termed “leftist”.

Myron Love, in contrast, is decidedly right wing – and Myron’s regular op-eds have served as a good balance to what I have been writing.
Yet, after having listened to Kasim Hafeez speak to the new “Israel Advocacy” group on two occasions these past couple of months, I’ve begun to question some of my own previously held notions about the possibilities of reaching any sort of real accommodation with Palestinians. I had already met – on two different occasions in Israel, Khaled Abou Toameh, a Palestinian journalist who writes for the Jerusalem Post, among other publications, and about whom Myron wrote a terrific piece several issues back. So, it was not as if I wasn’t acquainted with a Muslim who could write and speak quite cynically about other Muslims – and not from a safe distance either.
Kasim Hafeez also is willing to take on all comers when it comes to debating the true dangers of Islam. Having him here in Winnipeg is a luxury in that it allows us to hear the views of someone who doesn’t hold back out of concerns for political correctness when it comes to serving up the straight goods about Islam.

Between Kasim and Khaled – both of whom are as cynical as they come about Islamic aspirations, I’ve been left wondering whether the hard-line position that Myron has been promoting when it comes to dealing with the Muslim world might not be the more practical approach than the softer line I have been pushing.
Here’s why: Kasim Hafeez speaks as someone who was indoctrinated within a style of Islam that is not as extreme as what, say a nutcase group such as ISIS would be pushing, but nonetheless, hatred for Jews within Kasim’s Pakistani upbringing in Britain was taken for granted.
During Kasim’s talk on January 15 I asked him whether it was not true that many Muslim immigrants who had moved to Western countries were not, in fact, wanting to get away from the more extreme forms of Islam that had been practiced in their native countries?
“Yes, that’s true,” Kasim agreed. “The first generation of Muslim immigrants did come to the U.K. and Canada to get away from Islamic control (Sharia law)…but later generations are harkening back to the old ways.
“Two things happened,” Kasim suggested: “When an immigrant community first arrives in a new country, for the most part they want to integrate into the larger community.
“But, younger generations find themselves struggling for an identity. And, as happened in Britain, when the members of the younger generation see their new adopted country giving weapons and support to Israel, they ask themselves: ‘How can we be loyal to this country?’ “
So, the question that I wanted to ask Kasim, emanating from his observation about the generation of which he is a part, is how much hatred of Jews is a natural part of being a Muslim? Kasim said: “Demonization of Jews is the default position in much of the Muslim world.”
To that end, Kasim lays most of the blame on Saudi Arabia and the extreme form of Islam practiced there known as “Wahabism”. I noted in my last “Short takes” column that Kasim alluded to one organization in particular, known as the “Al Magri Foundation”, which is Saudi financed and which has laid down deep roots in Canada, as an example of the type of organization that fosters the kind of antipathy for Jews that is so typical among young Muslims. As for distinguishing between Jews and Israelis, moreover, Kasim explained that Muslims generally find it difficult to understand the difference. We’re all the same, in essence, in the minds of most Muslims.
Kasim went on to discuss the virulent hatred between Saudi Arabia and Iran. One observation he made that most of us there that evening found particularly surprising was that “Iran hates Saudi Arabia more than it hates Israel.”
As for the U.S.’s role in the Middle East, Kasim had this to say: “To be hated in the Middle East is no big deal. The real danger is to become irrelevant” which, Kasim argues (along with a great many other of Obama’s critics), is what has happened.
For anyone who may be naïve about Islam, Kasim would say this: “Islam, at its core, is about conquest.”
There have been three stages of Islam, Kasim noted: As a “desert religion”, as a “global empire”, and as an empire in “decline”, i.e. the Ottaman Empire, culminating in the past century with the artificial creation by colonial powers of Muslim “nation states”, something Kasim described as a “complete failure”.
“The problem” in dealing with the failure of the attempt to create Muslim nation states, however, according to Kasim, is that “instead of asking how we can remedy this we look backward” to past glories, such as the Islamic Caliphate, which is what ISIS is doing.
Thus, an organization such as the Al Magri Foundation says to young Muslims: “You don’t belong here.”
But, because of Saudi Arabia’s huge influence in so much of the Muslim world, Kasim warned, “Things are going to get a lot worse because we can’t deal with the core issue, which is Saudi Arabia, unless the oil money runs out.”
Turning to ISIS and its nihilistic ideology, Kasim said: “ISIS ideology maintains that if there is an Islamic state (which is what ISIS claims to have created in Iraq and Syria) then, by law, it is every Muslim’s duty to emigrate to that state. But, if you can’t move there, then kill the infidels where you are and strike terror.”
Interestingly, however, Kasim suggested that “ISIS doesn’t care about Jerusalem. It’s Mecca and Medina that are important” and nothing else.
“Under Islamic law the only mosque you can travel to visit is in Mecca or Medina,” he added.
The Catch 22 in dealing with ISIS, however, is that if you attack them, you inflame Muslim passions; but if you don’t attack them and allow them to remain where they are”, you are also in a terrible conundrum.
Kasim had these observations to make about other players in the Muslim world:
Jordan – instead of launching a full military strike on Jordan, ISIS is reaching out to Palestinians there.
Hamas – terribly weakened – “at a critical collapse point now”, Kasim said. “They took a battering from Israel”, they’re “being attacked by Egypt”.
Turkey – “sees the Arab world as weak, sees itself on the rise.” Turkey “supports proxies on its border regions while looking on.”
Finally, Kasim had this to say about our situation right here in North America: “The Jewish community in North America is making the same mistake that the Jewish community in the U.K. made, which is: “If you don’t say anything (about Islamic extremism), the problem will go away.”
Notwithstanding that I’ve given a bleak summary of what a former anti-Semite had to say about the danger inherent in ignoring Islamic extremism, I will still continue to look for other viewpoints that might offer a somewhat less bleak outlook. It’s important, however, to continue offering as wide a range of views as possible within this paper.

Add comment


Security code
Refresh