Muslim reformer Dr. Tawfik Hamid shares an inside look at brainwashing tactics used by radicals. These tactics were some the techniques used to radicalize him, before he broke free from Islamic militancy.
I’ll tell you from my personal experience what happened to me. The first day I was going to pray in the Jamaat-e-Islami mosque in our medical school. It [Jamaat-e-Islami] was legal back then in our medical school. I was invited by them to join because they recognized certain abilities in me. They asked me to join them and I was very excited to be invited, truly, to be invited by them. They were respected at that time. I met with some guy in front of the anatomy department [on campus]. He took me walking to the mosque of the radical group, Jamaat-e-Islami…
The first lesson I learned was [that] if I started to think, I will become an infidel.
He said to me, “Your brain is just like a donkey.”
The donkey, in Arab culture, represents stupidity by the way. So it’s insulting, but he wanted to convey a message.
He said to me, “The donkey can help you (or my brain can help you) reach the palace of the King, Allah O’Mighty, Islam! Once you reach the palace of the King, you are into it or at the door of the palace … do you take your donkey (your brain) inside, or do you leave it outside? And I was certainly welcome [inside].
So the very first step [to radicalization] was suppression of critical thinking. That is the very first step they do, to suppress the critical thinking of people using different tactics.
When we went in, they asked us to stand in a strange way. They wanted us to stand shoulder to shoulder, which is relatively common in prayers and mosque, to touch the shoulders. But they asked our feet should also be touching the feet of the other people. This was very awkward. I had to stand like a duck.
The imam of the leader of the prayers stood around for 20 minutes. I remember I had a lecture [to go to] and I was so annoyed with the delay. He wanted to make sure our feet were touching one another. I wondered why are we doing this. I prayed in many mosques and I never did this. At the end [of the prayer], the answer came.
The imam said, “God loves those who fight for his cause as if they are one cemented wall with no gaps between them.”
The moment they said this I felt I am at war now with the infidels.
Editor’s Note: Dr. Tawfik Hamid’s personal account is not a reflection of any standardized practices of recruitment and prayer in Islamic spaces. Most Muslims pray peacefully and stand shoulder to shoulder to show unity in mankind. The purpose of sharing Dr. Hamid’s account is to show how extremists pervert ritualistic practices in favor of their propaganda and cause.