Azzam Tamimi on a Timer


Almost two years ago, I identified Azzam Tamimi, a Palestinian who heads the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in London, as a Hamas extremist. I brought chapter-and-verse quotes from Tamimi’s radical statements. I also expressed astonishment that Georgetown University’s John Esposito sat on Tamimi’s board and cooperated with Tamimi on book projects. Later I was even more astonished to learn that Tamimi had attended a Ramadan reception at the U.S. ambassador’s residence in London.

On Tuesday Tamimi gave a television interview to Tim Sebastian (BBC HARDTalk), and this dialogue took place:

Sebastian: You advocate the suicide bombing. You said on an internet chat forum early in 2003: “For us Moslems martyrdom is not the end of things but the beginning of the most wonderful of things.” If it’s so wonderful to go and blow yourself up in a public place in Israel why don’t you do it?

Tamimi: Martyrdom is not necessarily suicide bombings as you call them. Martyrdom is…

Sebastian: No, please answer my question. It was a serious question.

Tamimi: I’m trying to answer it…

Sebastian: Why don’t you do it?

Tamimi: I’m trying to answer it because this is a concept. Unless it is explained, how can you answer it? Because martyrdom means giving, sacrificing yourself for a noble cause. Now these bombings, the human bombs…

Sebastian: Are you prepared to do this or not?

Tamimi: I am prepared, of course.

Sebastian: You would [go] and blow yourself up?

Tamimi: No. I’m trying to explain to you…

Sebastian: Ah—so it’s okay. So that’s just for the poor and the disillusioned to go and blow themselves up? You would not be prepared to do it…

Tamimi: Most of the…

Sebastian: …you advocate other people to do it?

Tamimi: Unless you give me a chance to explain…

Sebastian: Please… Please…

Tamimi: Not a single person of those who bomb themselves, bomb themselves because they are desperate or poor. It doesn’t happen because of this. They do it because they want to sacrifice themselves for a cause after all avenues have been closed before them. If the Palestinians today are given F16s and Apache helicopters …

Sebastian: No—please come back to my question. Please come back to my question. Why if it is so glorious and honourable to do this, why don’t you do it?

Tamimi: I would do it…

Sebastian: When?

Tamimi: If I have the opportunity I would do it…

Sebastian: When are you going to do it?

Tamimi: When? If I can go to Palestine and sacrifice myself I would do it. Why not?

I appeal to Professor Esposito, once more, to distance himself from this walking time bomb, by resigning from the board of Tamimi’s institute. And now that Tamimi has declared his intent, I urge the State Department to reassure us that he will never again be permitted to set foot in the United States, as he did in 2002 (i.e., post-9/11). I don’t want to be on a London-New York flight with Azzam Tamimi, and neither do you.

Update, August 16, 2006: Here is Azzam Tamimi in fine form, at a rally somewhere in Britain to mark the most recent “Jerusalem (Al-Quds) Day,” introduced by Ayatollah Khomeini to the Muslim calendar. By the way, Professor Esposito is still on Tamimi’s board.