WINNIPEG — Kasim Hafeez has seen the truth and, in an address to a largely Jewish audience at the Asper Jewish Community Campus on Feb. 6, he pulled no punches.
Wahhabism, the Saudi Arabian version of Islam, is little different than Nazism, Hafeez said.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas should be facing war crimes charges at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, he said.
Anti-Zionism is code for antisemitism, he said.
The Islamic concern for Jerusalem is purely political, he said. Until the creation of Israel, Jerusalem was unimportant to most Muslims.
And often, he noted, those who claim to be pro-Palestinian are just anti-Israel.
Hafeez, 29, a British-born Muslim of Pakistani origin, knows of what he speaks.
Until just a few years ago, he was part of that Jew-hating Muslim world. He was even ready to go to Pakistan to train as a terrorist.
His worldview began to change after stumbling across a copy of Alan Dershowitz’s book, A Case for Israel. “I figured it was just Zionist propaganda,” he said of the book. “I thought I would read it and be able to refute it all.”
Instead, Hafeez found that Dershowitz’s arguments challenged all of the myths about Israel and the Jews that he grew up with. And, he said, he couldn’t find any Muslim sources who could refute Dershowitz’s points.
He decided pursue this new line of research and read books by Sir Martin Gilbert and other pro-Israel authors. Then he decided he had to go to Israel to see this “apartheid, fascist” and “racist” country for himself.
Not surprisingly – considering where he was coming from ideologically – he was immediately detained after landing at Ben-Gurion Airport. “Although I was held back for eight hours, I was treated with respect,” he recalled. “The guard kept apologizing and offering me coffee and pastries. I understood that he was just doing his job.”
After leaving the airport, he found that people were friendly and helpful. He contrasted his reception in Israel with the religious pilgrimage that he and some members of his family had made to Mecca some years earlier.
“I had never faced such racism before,” he said of his Saudi experience. “Because of our skin colour, we were purposely ignored. At checkpoints, our group was held up in the heat longer than others. My aunt was pushed away from an ATV machine by a Saudi woman who told her that Pakistanis can wait. And, if we had had Pakistani passports, our treatment would have been worse.”
In Israel, Hafeez’s epiphany came when he stood before the Western Wall. “I watched Christians, Muslims and Jews peacefully and freely going to their places of worship and I burst into tears. I finally realized what Israel is all about – the only Jewish state in the world. It is about the survival of the Jewish People, their religion, culture and heritage.
“I fell in love with the place.”
It’s far from easy being a Zionist Muslim in England. Hafeez said he’s been marginalized by his community, and most of his family won’t talk to him any more (his sister, an aunt and his mother being the exceptions – although, he added, his mother is embarrassed by him).
Nonetheless, he feels compelled to speak the truth and cut through the lies. That truth is that of the two narratives concerning Israel/Palestine, one is the truth and the other is a pack of lies, he said.
“It was the Arabs, not the Jews who rejected partition in 1948,” he said. “It was the Arabs who attacked the new Jewish state. While I have sympathy for the Palestinian people, you can’t take their expressions of peace seriously when they are constantly showing maps of the land of Israel as greater Palestine.”
He urged his audience to get the facts about Israel out, especially on university campuses, to be proactive rather than reactive. “Hold regular events that promote Israel in the best possible way,” he said. “And show people that Israel is much more than just the conflict. Show all the ways that Israel is helping humanity. Be proud of Israel, not apologetic.”