Talk on Islam under fire

Speaker at Jewish center says he is former terrorist;
he calls violent Islam 'a threat to our freedom.'

Gregg Krupa / The Detroit News
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

WEST BLOOMFIELD -- Tawfik Hamid says he once was a
terrorist. But some local Muslims wonder whether it is

If it is, they ask, why would anyone invite him to
speak about Islam?

Hamid, a medical doctor, spoke at the Jewish Community
Center on Tuesday under auspices of the Zionist
Organization of America.

"The point is that his mission is just to tell people
about Islam, about the dangers of the terrorists,"
said Maya Veprinsky, executive director of the Zionist
Organization of America. "He understood the dangers
and stepped out from them."

Hamid said Tuesday: "The most critical aspect of the
phenomenon of violent Islam probably is not a
terrorist act, it is the threat to our freedom,
because if we let this teaching of violence and
teaching of hatred grow and grow more than this, one
day we will lose our freedom."

Hamid asserts that he once was a member of a banned
terrorist organization, Al-Gama'a Al-Islamiyya -- The
Islamic Group -- in Egypt and that he trained under
Ayman al-Zawahiri, who now is considered the
second-in-charge of al-Qaida.

Advocates for the civil rights of Muslims and
Arab-Americans criticized giving Hamid a platform.

"The point is that it's not a question of Islam being
reformed, as Dr. Hamid states," said Dawud Walid,
executive director of the Council on Islamic Relations
in Michigan.

"It is a question of some Muslims who need to be

Hamid also lacks the training to "just take it upon
himself as an entrepreneur to criticize our holy
texts, as he sees fit," he said.

But Veprinsky defended Hamid's expertise. "He is very
good with the Quran," she said. "He wrote a book on
the roots of jihad, and we made the decision to invite
him because I believe we need to explain to people
what is going on, right now."

You can reach Gregg Krupa at (313) 222-2359 or


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