Kasim Hafeez was born into a British-Muslim household to Pakistani parents. “With the constant drip of indoctrination at home and in my circle of friends, [I] became both anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic in my teen years,” he writes on his website. He says his father would frequently praise Adolf Hitler, describing the Nazi dictator’s only shortcoming as his failure to kill even more Jews during the Holocaust. In his community, he was bombarded with messages calling for the destruction of Israel, which was perpetually presented as a terror state.
Hafeez says he was further radicalized while at university, and that his hatred for Israel and Jews became an “obsession.” He often attended rallies in London where speakers called for Israel’s destruction and where many in the crowd waved Hamas and Hezbollah flags. He says he intimidated Jews at university and believed in violent jihad.
Hafeez began to doubt his beliefs after reading Alan Dershowitz’s book, “The Case for Israel,” which he read as an exercise in deconstructing “vile Zionist propaganda.” In 2007, he flew to Israel and was “shocked” by what he saw.
Today, Hafeez is an adviser for StandWithUs U.K., a pro-Israel activist group and is a fellow of The Lawfare Project. He often speaks on college campuses and to communities in the U.K., U.S., Canada and Israel.
The following is ClarionProject.org National Security Analyst Ryan Mauro’s interview with Kasim Hafeez:
Ryan Mauro: What did you see in Israel that “shocked” you so much?
Kasim Hafeez: Other than the driving? But in all seriousness, I would say almost everything. You know, when you have been given this image of an apartheid state and Israel as the enemy of Islam, you obviously have a preconceived idea.
So, in Israel, I'm seeing the road signs, in Hebrew, Arabic and English, I'm seeing Hasidic Jews and hijab-wearing Muslims going about their day-to-day business along with every kind of color and creed. It was an assault on the senses, in a great way, to speak to Arab Israelis and Druze Israelis who are patriotic and love their country. It was a huge eye opener for me.
One of the most significant things for me was, when you talk to the anti-Israel activists, they want Israel off the map. They have real hatred. Yet, speaking to the average Israeli, I got two responses: "We just want to be left alone,” or “We just want peace.”
Day-to-day, I didn't meet this anti-Arab, anti-Islam voice that is portrayed as mainstream Israeli opinion. It's frankly nonsense, as is the myth of apartheid.
Mauro: What do you say to Muslims who argue that their faith commands them to fight for Muslim control of Jerusalem and the replacement of Israel with Palestine?
Hafeez: I'd say firstly, why? So we can have situations like Syria, Egypt and Pakistan, where the weak and innocent are butchered for no reason?
Secondly, I'd say it's rubbish. They are subjectively using verses and context to support their cause. Muslims in Israel have more rights than anywhere else in the Middle East. That is a fact, and I don't remember seeing a single mention of Palestine in the Quran, but I am familiar with this particular verse:
“And We said after Pharaoh to the Children of Israel, ‘Dwell in the land, and when there comes the promise of the Hereafter, We will bring you forth in [one] gathering.' " (17: 104).
But my support of Israel is based on it being a liberal democracy. Sadly, many in the Muslim world have used the Palestinian cause, which is an Arab nationalist cause, and infused it with religion to broaden its scope and support. This has been orchestrated starting with Hitler’s good friend, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, continued by the Muslim Brotherhood and other streams of radical Islam with their delusions of global domination.
Mauro: If the U.S. stopped supporting Israel and withdrew its military from Muslim lands, would Islamic extremists stop hating and attacking us?
Hafeez: Let me ask this: People say that if Israel stopped the "Occupation," they would have peace, yet in 1948, up until 1967, Israel did not control Gaza or Judea and Samaria, but they still had war and terror.
It's just a pretext. It isn't about U.S. troops being in Muslim lands. Radical Islam is a supremacist movement, which looks to subjugate all who don't believe their narrow minded doctrine, including other Muslims.
Look at Mali, Libya and Pakistan. Sufi Islam has taken a battering, with mosques destroyed and many Muslims slaughtered because their beliefs differ from those being exported by Saudi Arabia.
These people will hate America no matter what. As the world’s superpower and democracy, it is in complete polar opposite to what they stand for, so it's a battle of ideas, and foreign policy can never be used as an excuse for terrorism.
Mauro: How has the Muslim community in Britain reacted to your activism? Are you finding that there are a lot of Muslims who silently agree with you?
Hafeez: There's been various opinions. Some people hate me. Some people I've spoken to are not supportive of Israel, but they see it very balanced. One thing which surprised me was the messages I received during Operation Pillar of Defense from Muslims saying they are sad to see people dying in Gaza, but that they understand that Hamas is the real criminal and the blood is on their hands.
But for many, they want to just live their life, pay their bills feed their families, and let’s face it, no one wants the headache of going against the extremists or the generally held narrative in the community.
Mauro: Do you find that the Muslim-American community is different than its counterparts in Europe?
Hafeez: In some ways, yes, America has some amazing people in the Muslim community that are speaking out against the extremists and standing up for human rights. The likes of Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, Raquel Saraswati and Qanta Ahmed, these brave voices of moderation, tolerance and honesty are real role models for Muslims living in the West. We don't have that. Much of the discourse is controlled by radicals who seize the leadership of communities and are often empowered by European governments.
At the same time, you have organizations in the U.S. who play a duplicitous game of portraying a moderate front while at the same time promoting the Muslim Brotherhood agenda in the West.
[ad] Also, I would say that the situation in terms of radicalism is not as bad as Europe. For too long, the tolerance of radicalism has caused them to continually push the boundaries, so now we have a situation where it's very difficult to say this is no longer acceptable.
I think in the United States you have, to some extent, maintained a red line of what is too far. But you know, complacency is dangerous and if you are not vigilant, you will face the same issues we are tackling here in Europe. The rise of radical Islam has in turn led to the rise of the far-right as they feel their governments aren't doing anything, so it's vital Muslims speak out against the radicals and say they do not speak for me.
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.