The following are excerpts from an interview with Azzam Al-Tamimi, director of the London-based Institute of Islamic Political Thought, which aired on Press TV on December 31, 2009. The interview was conducted in English.
Azzam Tamimi: As a Muslim, I would love to see as many people as possible convert to Islam, embrace Islam, because I feel it is... I enjoy Islam, I love Islam, I think Islam is salvation for me. That's the salvation I would like to offer to other people, and that is a feeling that is shared among Muslims in general. That is one thing.
It is something completely different to try and convert people, to pressure them, to harass them, in order to Islamize them. This doesn't happen anywhere. Actually, this notion of Islamizing Europe is a false notion, because we Muslims – as legitimate citizens of Europe – want to live our lives, like everybody else seek to live their lives – in comfort and happiness. And for this, we need to take care of our children, we need community schools, we need mosques, etc. That should not be seen as a threat to anybody. I don't mean to threaten anybody's way of life by maintaining my own.
Interviewer: Yes, but Dr. Azzam, there is something which is perceived in the West – that the very moment you want to remain a Muslim, it means that you are trying to Islamize.
Azzam Tamimi: Well, the others are trying to de-Islamize me.
Why do they feel threatened by the minaret? What is so threatening about the minaret? If they have confidence in a certain culture they adhere to, why is my culture so threatening? I suspect that they are simply afraid of that wall of ignorance coming down. People might just get interested, you know. People sometimes talk about how badly some Muslims behave in Europe – contributing to the fear... That exists! When we want to provide for a counter image, by telling people, "No, this is not what Islam is about, Islam is about something else. Islam is so beautiful" – we are accused of seeking to Islamize the others. If people want to choose... In a democracy, people have the freedom to choose. Okay, let them choose! If they love Islam, if they like Islam, why hinder their choice?
You know, if people just paid attention to what has happened over the past two centuries – it was actually the Europeans who colonized Muslim lands and sought to impose their own values and cultures on us by force!
Interviewer: Through colonization.
Azzam Tamimi: Even secularism. Secularism came to the Muslim world either during the colonial era or the post-colonial era – where governments were installed by the colonial authorities to make sure that their interests are best protected.
Show me one place in the world where the Muslims impose themselves on others. In the early history, Muslims were perceived... Like, my own ancestors, who were Christian... I am a descendant of Tamim Al-Dari, who was a Christian, before embracing Islam. In the Sham [Levant] area, most of us were Christians. We saw the Arabs, who came from Arabia, as rescuers, because they liberated us from the Romans. We liked Islam, and we embraced it.
That's how it happened – whether in Africa, or in India, in North Africa – anywhere. Even here, in Europe... People who embrace Islam embrace it out of their free will. But there is another additional, important element – and that is the potential of defiance within Islam – the potential for defiance, the capacity for defiance. Who today is standing in the face of imperialism? Who today is saying "No" to America in its attempts to conquer the world – in Iraq, in Afghanistan, everywhere? Who is standing in the face of capitalism, which is causing so much pain and agony to the oppressed peoples of the world? It's the Muslims!