In a paper published by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Dr. Tawfik Hamid, a self-described former Islamic extremist, argues that the hijab is helping the spread of Islamic extremism. Hamid, now a senior fellow at the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. asserts that Muslim women wearing the hijab form a “catalyst” for the spread of Islamic extremism, writing: “In turn, the proliferation of militant Salafism and the hijab contribute to the idea of passive terrorism, which occurs when moderate segments of the population decline to speak against or actively resist terrorism.”
He clarified his views to Quartz, telling them that he was targeting “the phenomenon of hijab,” not individual women wearing the traditional Muslim headdress, comparing it to how “cigarette smoking contributes to developing cancer,” while not being the only factor. He bases this argument on the fact that Islamic extremism in the last 30 years has only developed in countries where the hijab is common, which extremists have slammed as being an unsubstantiated causality.
The paper featured contributions by several researchers and academics, and was originally published in 2011 but reissued last year, and the offending passage was brought to light by The Intercept. Arun Kundnani, an New York University professor and expert in counter-radicalization policy, was critical of Hamid’s claims, telling The Intercept that they “should not have been included in any kind of government training material or published research,” because the purpose of his chapter “is not a genuine investigation of the roots of violence, but rather an attempt to supply national security agencies with bogus surveillance rubrics.”