Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Jihadist-Turned-Zionist Makes Case for Israel

December 2, 2012 9:24 am 1 comment

Kasim Hafeez spoke before a StandWithUs meeting at Temple Israel in New York City on Nov. 15. Photo: Maxine Dovere

NEW YORK—In 2000, as a young teenager on a trip to Pakistan to visit family, Muslim ex-radical Kasim Hafeez saw violence praised and “learned” that America, the Jews, and Israel were behind all wars and world difficulties.

Back home in Nottingham in the United Kingdom, he found hate was rampant. Material was openly displayed in bookstores and the promotion of violent jihad was a routine part of Muslim student activities. He “rather proudly” considered himself a radical.

At university, he campaigned against Israel, promoting—and believing—that “all evils” trace back to Israel and the United States. He planned to return to Pakistan and join Al Qaeda.

Alan Dershowitz changed that plan. His book, The Case for Israel, changed the young radical’s plans and altered his life. Although he used all means to discredit the book’s ideas, he found that facts overwhelmed the fiction he had learned.

“A distance started to emerge,” Hafeez, now 28, tells JNS.org in an interview from the New York City office of pro-Israel education group StandWithUs, which sponsored his recent U.S. trip.

Dershowitz’s text was the first non-jihadist material Hafeez had read about Israel, and it prompted Hafeez to travel to the Jewish state.

“I wanted to see the apartheid state,” he said. Instead, Hafeez says he saw “a population as living completely normally—Muslims, Christians and Jews.” All he had been taught suddenly “made no sense.”

“For the first time, I had some clarity about Israel,” Hafeez says. He returned to the UK and says he knew he had to speak up.

Hafeez says “there is an awful situation, particularly bad on UK campuses.”

“Nothing stops the anti-Semitism and the anti-Zionists,” he says. “Now, I am proud to support Israel. It’s the right thing, the moral thing to do… I’m in it for the long haul.”

Hafeez now regularly speaks with Muslims on campuses and challenges students from similar backgrounds to his to at least “think about it” when it comes to hating Israel.

“Israel is a great mobilizing point in the Arab world,” he says.

Hafeez says the media in England “is inherently anti-Semitic.”

“Among Pakistanis much of the anti-Zionist sentiment is based on Israel’s relationship with India,” Hafeez says. “Kids grow up hating.” The young activist then pauses.

“I feel lucky,” he says. “I could have been dead. I don’t want people to go down the path of hatred.”

Hafeez and his family typify the immigrant experience. He notes that his grandparents were “simple working people.” His parents, now divorced, are a Pakistani-born factory worker and a Pakistani-English-born school administrator. He has one sister, a teacher, who is married to an accountant. He studied political science and is now working at Nottingham University. Most of his family is not politically involved—except his father, an admirer of Hitler. Father and son have not spoken for almost a decade.

Revisiting the initial trip to the Jewish state that changed his outlook, Hafeez says, “When I traveled to Israel, I wanted to see for myself. I really went on a negative research effort: it is difficult to give up what you had been willing to die for, and see that people you had believed to be the oppressors are really not.”

However, conversations with “shopkeepers, Arabs, people in general” revealed a “normal Israel” to Hafeez, he says.

“In the UK, hatred and misinformation creates barriers to peace and understanding,” he says. “While I am not saying to everybody ‘Wave the [Israeli] flag,’ I am saying ‘Let’s look at the situation with more balance and understand both sides.'”

JNS.org asked Hafeez if he feared for his safety, both in England and while traveling. “People who use threats and intimidation are bullies,” he says. “I refuse to deal with a coward like that. There have been some who attempt to threaten, saying ‘Are you that dirty Jew supporter? I simply say, ‘I am a Zionist—with a great upper cut.'”

What does Hafeez see as the best way to educate?

“Conversation, connections on a one-to-one basis—It’s essential to get the facts into the arena,” he says. His message is simple: “Don’t hate. It poisons the individual.”

“No child is born to hate,” Hafeez says. “No child is born an anti-Semite or xenophobic. Israel is not just about the conflict. People are interested in what is relevant to them.”

Hafeez has brought his message of tolerance and understanding to eight groups in recent months. “People are very surprised,” he says. “It gives people hope. When I speak at campuses with audiences politically, I recognize the hatred and anger that [they have for] me. The moment the hate goes, anything is possible. Hate is destructive to who you are as a person.”

Hafeez will soon return to Israel to run the Jerusalem Half Marathon. He says his work has begun to influence friends to stop automatically hating Israel.

“When you are not obsessed with hate, you live a much fuller life,” he says.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Blogs Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Natalie Portman Says She Behaved Like ‘Average Everyday Jewish Mother’ on Set of Latest Movie

    Actress Natalie Portman acted like a typical “Jewish mother” on the set of her latest movie, Jane Got a Gun, the Israeli-born star told the New York Post‘s Page Six on Sunday. The 34-year-old, who also co-produced the western, said she made it her job to look out for everyone involved in the project, because the film has had to overcome “so many obstacles,” such as losing its director early on. She explained: “Actors changed. We suffered financial and legal challenges. We endured so many replacements. There were delays. […]

    Read more →
  • Israel Music Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    Scorpions Lead Singer Sends Message to Israel Ahead of World Tour, Tel Aviv Performance (VIDEO)

    “We’re looking very much forward to coming back to Israel this summer,” said the lead singer of the German rock band Scorpions in a video on Monday. “Make sure you don’t miss it because we rock you like a hurricane!” said a jovial Klaus Meine, quoting the band’s seminal 1984 anthem, “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” The hard rock band lands in Israel for a show at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena on July 14 as part of its 50th anniversary tour. It will be the band’s third time […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    The Collected Works of Primo Levi, Edited by Ann Goldstein (REVIEW)

    Primo Levi and Elie Wiesel were the two most immediate and authentic literary voices who gave witness to the Holocaust. Wiesel was an extrovert and a very public figure who wrote initially in French. Levi was a modest retiring chemist who wrote in Italian. Whereas Wiesel was rooted in the Eastern European Jewish Hassidic world, Levi was the product of an assimilated, secular Italian society that saw itself as Italian first and Jewish as an accident of birth. As Levi himself said, “At Auschwitz I […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Lifestyle Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    Wine Brings Judea and Samaria to Tel Aviv

    JNS.org – Wine has long been considered a social lubricant, and it’s Nir Lavie’s hope that wine from his Har Bracha Winery in the Samarian hills will serve as a social lubricant between the city-goers of Tel Aviv and the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria, two locales split geographically, and often politically, on the left and right of the country. The new flagship store of Har Bracha has recently popped its corks on 190 Ben Yehuda Street in Tel Aviv, […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Gentile Actor Zachary Levi Says He’s Denied Roles for Being ‘Too Jewish’

    Gentile Actor Zachary Levi Says He’s Denied Roles for Being ‘Too Jewish’

    Actor Zachary Levi said casting directors have denied him roles for being “too Jewish,” despite the fact that he is not a Jew, the New York Daily News‘ Confidenti@l reported on Wednesday. “I guess they were looking for more of a corn-fed, white boy look,” he said. “My family is from f****** Indiana! Come on, I’m like dying here!” The Thor star clarified that he is Welsh, and that Levi is actually his middle name, while his real last name is Pugh. He said he […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Spirituality/Tradition Tracing Chabad’s History and Success (REVIEW)

    Tracing Chabad’s History and Success (REVIEW)

    The secret of Chabad’s worldwide success is revealed by veteran Chabad shliach (emissary) Rabbi David Eliezrie in his new book, The Secret of Chabad. The Chabad movement was founded by Rabbi Schnur Zalman of Liadi, Belarus, in 1775. Years later it came to the US with the arrival of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn in 1940, after his escape from Nazi-occupied Warsaw. Upon his arrival in New York, a number of his co-religionists advised him that there was no place for traditional […]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Rapper B.o.B’s New Song Invoking Antisemitism, Holocaust Denial Has Jewish Group ‘Deeply Troubled’

    Rapper B.o.B’s New Song Invoking Antisemitism, Holocaust Denial Has Jewish Group ‘Deeply Troubled’

    A Jewish human rights organization expressed concern on Wednesday over a new song by a popular US rapper that includes lyrics promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories and cites a Holocaust denier, The Algemeiner has learned. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was responding to Tuesday’s release of B.o.B’s “Flatline,” the lyrics of which include: “But before you try to curve it, do your research on David Irving; Stalin was way worse than Hitler, That’s why the POTUS gotta wear a Kippa.” Irving is a historian who has questioned […]

    Read more →
  • Business Features World-Changing Israeli Technologies Wow at Global Investor Summit

    World-Changing Israeli Technologies Wow at Global Investor Summit

    JNS.org – You’re cruising along the highway. Suddenly, your car starts to sputter, your engine grumbles, and your car comes to a screeching halt. The tow truck drags the car to a local auto mechanic. Damage: $1,000. You have no idea whether or not the mechanic is trying to do one over on you, but you will soon, thanks to a new Israeli innovation. Engie puts the car owner in the driver’s seat by providing a special malfunction reader that simply […]

    Read more →