by MT Akbar
Islamophobic Industrial Complex:
What are the Quasi Muslims Really Selling?
Every day newspapers, TV shows, radio programs, new books and lectures revolve around the topic of the ‘threat’ of Islam and its relation to the West. Islam has become a commodity, a business to be exploited. The list of super stars and ‘experts’ that are part of this Hollywood-esque movement of cashing in on Islam has become quite long; at the head of the list are Quasi Muslims such as Brigiette Gabriel, Walid Shoebat, Nonie Darwish, and Ibn Warraq.
Quasi Muslims may not necessarily be born Muslims. Most haven’t lived in the Islamic world for decades and are far removed from the societies to which they once belonged. Most have left Islam long ago and hold positions in or are funded by special interest groups that seek “reformation” of Islam from the outside, unconditional support for Israel and a militant secularization of Islamic societies.
All of these personalities are united in the common claim to exclusive and special authority on Islam with intimate ‘insider’ knowledge of the “[h]earts and minds of Arabs…” and Muslims. Peddling their wares to an uncritical public, the expectation is that since Quasi Muslims are some combination of Arabs, ex-Muslims, and former “terrorists” their words are impenetrable and all those who criticize them either lack legitimacy or are engaged in a campaign of censorship. Attempts to hold debates or dialogue in a neutral platform are almost always rejected. In some cases, such as the case of Ibn Warraq, the very identity of these Quasi Muslims is unknown using the excuse that they would be killed if they didn’t hide their identity.
Quasi Muslims are not only united in a deep distrust of Islam and Muslims but also in a program of vile hatemongering thinly disguised as intellectual criticism and absolute truth. In a lecture at the University of Memphis, Brigiette Gabriel called Arabs “Barbaric.” Walid Shoebat and Ibn Warraq have consistently claimed that Islam is the new totalitarian threat to the world, the new “fascism,” the new “Nazism” even though these concepts are uniquely Western products. In any other circumstance or in reference to any other religion this rhetoric would be dismissed for what it is: hate speech. The apparent strategy is the repetition of these lies enough times for a long enough time until it becomes gospel truth.
Though the motivations behind this movement vary in the end what they all have in common is the drive to reform Islam and–as stated on the ACT (American Congress for Truth) website that many are sponsored by–to “fearlessly speak out in defense of America, Israel and Western civilization.” Shoebat, a Christian Zionist, believes in a dispensationalist theology in which the return of Jesus is predicated on the existence and unconditional support of Israel and its policies. Nonie Darwish is a member of an Evangelical Church and the creator of the website “Arabs for Israel” which claims to be an organization of Arabs and Muslims who “support Israel” and seek to “reform Islam.” One has to question the legitimacy of a movement which aligns itself so closely to the interests of another nation. These Quasi Muslims have no real or practical ability to affect any kind of true change in the Islamic world or on the Muslim mind. Their distance from the reality on the ground and their deep association and support for particular ideologies and states leaves their criticism hollow and falling on deaf ears.
So what are the Quasi Muslims really after? A brief look at some of the sensational titles of their literature reveals much: “Why We Want to Kill You,” “Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror,” “Infidel,” “Leaving Islam,” “Why I am not a Muslim.” All of the titles point at some sort of uncovering. Personal testimonials claiming to reveal the truth behind some secret, hidden agenda become instant bestsellers. Books bashing Islam have become conspicuously lucrative
A grave consequence of legitimizing these polarizing and obscurantist personalities is that it takes away from the scholars, academics, and lay people that are engaged in real reform and criticism. Voices such as those of Tariq Ramadan, Khaled Abu Fadl, Heba Ezzat, Suhaib Webb and others are voices that have a pulse on the Muslim community and are much more deserving of a hearing from the wider public.