Why a British Muslim of Pakistani Origin Defends Israel
Kasim Kaz Hafeez, a British Muslim of Pakistani origin, is a proud supporter of the State of Israel. As the founder of the Israel Campaign and a member of the advisory board of Stand With US in the United Kingdom, he frequently tours the world speaking out for Israel and publishes pro-Israel articles such as one titled Muslim, Zionist and Proud, which was printed in Yedioth Achronot. However, Kasim was not raised to be a pro-Israel activist. Kasim's very own father was deeply anti-semitic and would state, "Hitler was a great man; he just didn't kill enough Jews." Unfortunately, Kasim's father was not alone in thinking like this.
Growing up in the United Kingdom, the whole atmosphere that surrounded Kasim was very anti-Israel. He was raised seeing graphic images produced by anti-Israel activists who claimed that Jews were killing innocent Muslims and causing Muslim suffering. He claimed that the religious wing of Lashkar e-Toiba, the Pakistani Salafi terror group that targeted the Chabad house in Mumbai, India, had an office in the UK for a while and many British Muslims attended their events. The Lashkar e-Toiba, like Palestinian Islamist groups, believes that Jews are descendants of apes and pigs, and views Jews to be enemies of Islam that must be destroyed. According to Kasim, anti-Israel radicalism within the British Muslim community was particularly articulate in the later part of his childhood, following the Salman Rushdie affair in the 1990's.
However, after wandering into a bookstore and discovering Alan Dershowitz's book The Case for Israel, Kasim began to question the anti-Israel views that he was raised with. Originally purchasing the book in order to prove it wrong, instead Kasim's world was turned upside down. According to Kasim, "The section about the region, the war of independence and refugees just was crazy. I couldn't believe what I was reading. It seemed pure fantasy. I'd not heard anything even similar. It's why I researched more as I still couldn't quite believe what he wrote was true." Yet, after doing research in order to confirm whether what he read was true, Kasim came to the conclusion that he should come to Israel in order to see the reality for himself, since he was in such a shock that all of the facts related to Israel supported Alan Dershowitz's assertions.
Kasim claimed that in Jerusalem, "you see this idea of apartheid shatter within minutes. You see people of all religions and races going about their day to day business without any restrictions, contrary to everything I'd been told and believed. I spoke to a variety of people, just chance conversations and it was strange to hear Arabs say they were proud to be Israeli. You know I had this mentality of sympathy for them; you must be so oppressed, yet they were happy and found my attitude quite funny. [...] When I actually went to the Old City, you see Muslim, Christian and Jew all together, where else in the Middle East would you see that? When I was in Saudi Arabia, Saudi authorities cracked down on Muslims who they believe to be deviant as they don't follow their ideology, but here in Israel I'm seeing people going about their day to day lives worshiping at their holy sites."
After his trip to Israel, Kasim became a dedicated pro-Israel activist and has been working to convince other Muslims to support Israel. He has had some success. Some Muslim people who used to condemn Israel instantly thanks to Kasim now understand better Israel's point of view. For example, Kasim asserted that although he faced a hostile audience in Halifax, Canada last October, "I've had a few instances even in Halifax when Muslims will say, look I may not agree with everything but its given me things to think about. That's the start you know; its' creating cracks in the lies they may have accepted as truth. So that's one of the best feelings, when I do have Muslims and it's made them think, challenged what they believe and their ready to take it further."
By Rachel Avraham