A blistering and important article from first time contributor Freethinker – and I believe the sites first by a non-Muslim. Pitch perfect, beautifully put and yet very uncomfortable reading nonetheless – I think largely because he clearly has in depth knowledge about Islam and provides a clear headed and humane analysis, rather than the psuedo-intellectual feel good emotional posturing Muslims are used to and seem to prefer. There is so much more I want to say about this superb piece, but I don’t want to hijack it so will let you read it for yourselves…
As a Non-Muslim, I want to talk about something for which I can give a unique perspective on. I have spent years researching Islam inside and out through academia. I have repeatedly interacted with Da’wah speakers through online forums, events, and plain old street Da’wah [broadly speaking, Muslim proselytising, but nowadays a fashionable movement often taking its cue from Salafism – Ed] . Speaking as a non-Muslim (you can throw in ‘evil Kufaar with the Akhlaq of a worm and the Iman of a greasy wheel’ if you like!), I’ve got to say some unflattering things about Islamic proselytising (and some of the other faiths/ideologies) many may not want to hear. But these are the realities of how many if not most non-Muslims feel about attempts to convert them to Islam. I’m also going to give you some further basic statistics and facts about Da’wah and some productive ideas for the things Daiis [those involved in Da’wah] can achieve.
Most non-Muslims regard Da’wah as a joke. Think about the underlying concept: A White, job-secure, Female or Male is walking down the street and they have a passing curiosity with Muslims and their faith (this usually doesn’t mean they want to convert, it is mostly mere curiosity on the same level as how to get the cream into cream crackers). They are then asked to change their whole lives by a bunch of total strangers who often just emigrated from war-racked (even if those wars were caused by the West, which the average Westerner may not know or, shamefully, care about) countries which are being torn apart by Islamist groups of one sort or another.
How many Da’wah guys ask themselves: ‘Am I actually offering this person something better than what they already have?’ Most Da’wah guys I know are thoroughly ignorant of Western culture, much like the majority of Westerners are of anything remotely Islamic. I come from Ireland, and one said to me in the midst of a polite discussion ‘Uh, I know its a Christian country … but that’s all I know’ – right on the steps of the GPO, one of Ireland’s primary historical landmarks. They hang around with their own crowd online and down at the Masjid/Halaqah/whatever, looking at feel-good ‘You-trash’ rants from demagogic yahoos, like the utterly NOT Islamically educated Salafo-spielwinder Zakir Naik, making no effort to find out about the wider community they live in. Ultimately, their effort to ‘convert the other’ is the same effort that drives so many other proselytising efforts be they to bend to the Cross, to Shiva or science. It’s about ego, and making the ‘other’ familiar. They project their own preconceptions of the big bad decadent ‘Kufaar’ [it usually means a pejorative term for non-Muslims, often deployed by salafis and others in the same way as the ‘N’ word by racists] onto their audience and assume that they are living in endless sin, and are really unhappy, deep, deep down. But they never ask what kind of life they have, or indeed is the ‘sin’ they accuse Westerners of living in (sex outside marriage, whatever) actually that sinful/negative? And are they actually unhappy with their life and god, or is that wishful thinking really? Nor do they try to empathise in any real, deep way with their audience. They never ask: ‘Well, is there anything good that could be said about about Western culture?’ ‘And is this replacement I am suggesting actually any better for these people?’ These are tough questions which they rarely have the self-awareness to deeply, objectively consider, any more so than when the US invaded Iraq, or when Christians or Secularists proselytise to Muslims, Hindus or whatever (not trying to compare Da’wah speakers with the former, just pointing out what this kind of logic can lead to). They just bang off endless slapdash Salafi mnemonic call-centre catchphrases and swill-bytes which as Ashari’s Assemble has pointed out, may work well for the speakers corner crazy-crackers or on Ummah / Sunni / wanna be a good bearded Thaubi [the long white dress like outfit Salafis and other ostentatious Muslims are often seen weraring – a Saudi as opposed to Islamic garm] but can’t quite trim it that way/whatever forum, but are useless if it comes anywhere near an educated, informed audience, who are the people one really needs to convince.
They expect somebody to change their whole life (in reality, usually including cutting off all/ many of their ties with friends, family, etc. and totally changing their personal day-to-day routines) but don’t ever ask if this is actually any better for their audience in the real world. For a critically educated Western audience, used to and experienced with hardcore religious conversion attempts (ask the Catholic Church here in Ireland, with its favourite hobby of chucking kids bodies down wells) complete with similar sound bytes drawn from the Bible, this usually sounds utterly stupid. The central foolishness of somebody who emigrated because of superior job opportunities/education/whatever to the West, and then turns around and says ‘But we’ve got a better way of life, it’s just not implemented right’ is a ridiculously weak argument which most of the Da’wah lads rarely convincingly get around.
(No, blaming Western imperialism doesn’t work – no matter how savage, immoral and exploitative it was: the obvious, cold, harsh and logical counter-questions are ‘then why did Muslims come off the true, perfect path so easily? If it expects human beings to live up to rules they really can’t, then doesn’t that mean it isn’t so perfect/can’t work in practice? And why did the West come out on top? What exact point in history did this happen?’ – once again rarely answered effectively, nor can they necessarily be answered effectively, as in so many other faith/secular systems – like Communism most obviously.)
The audience look at someone they regard as a Third World immigrant (it doesn’t matter if he graduated from MIT and owns half a city) and his funny skullcap/beard, and will usually think of him as a strange, weird fanatical little person who is best avoided, frequently sympathised with (‘God, that poor silly man’) and often laughed at in secret. They may not say that to the Da’wah guys face of course, but that is what they usually think (In Ireland and probably much of Europe, people rarely say what they think, thanks to political correctness. You have to look at what they actually do).
Obviously, The West has set up many of these dynamics to begin with, through its own policies, and through interpersonal interactions on the ground. Many Westerners are quietly ostracising Muslims (I know because I have seen it in person and in the workplace as well as its more obvious manifestation in the media/online, whatever), hence why they hang around in their own neighbourhoods, setting up their own Halaqahs [study circles] and friendship networks.
Faced with this cultural reality of ‘Assimilate or be nobody,’ many Muslims turn to the siren-song of Salafism, with its simple rituals, easy, straightforward logic, and charismatic leaders in the likes of IERA and elsewhere. They attempt to ‘change the other’ (just like a filled litter-bin of Western, Hindutva and other ideologies did in the past, and worryingly, present) because they see no middle-ground. Naturally, like any other faith (and most secular ideologies to be honest), they want to believe that in the end, the Ummah, their community, their ideology, will prevail. Sadly, when dreams meet reality – that is when disappointment rears.
The idea seems to be that Westerners ‘just don’t know’ about how wonderful their particular conception of Islam is, and if they can only get past the media (not saying it isn’t perniciously nasty in its distorting, disproportional pursuit of Muslims at times, or driven by Orientalism) and myths (not saying they don’t exist, they most definitely do, and have obvious and often horrific consequences for the Muslim community, like the endless blind eyes turned to the last 200 years of Western aggression), they will have a vast army of converts, and some even see a peacefully converted West coming about somehow. Now first off, lets run a thought experiment: How the hell would a converted, Islamic West just come about/work in practice? There would need to be vast, systematic institutional changes before this civilisation even began looking into something like this. Bear in mind that the legal, bureaucratic, media, and even cultural spheres would all be basically hostile to any such eventuality. And there would need to be huge changes, a new world or pan-Muslim Caliphal bureaucracy not to mention dozens of new institutions all working together. It took 50 years for the European Union alone to do that, and it hasn’t been that successful. There’d have to be thousands of Fiqh [legal] scholars educating literally millions of new Fuqaha. Tens or hundreds of thousands of new mosques. Where are the resources for all this supposed to come from? Generating Islamic institutions originally took centuries back during the Rashidun through Abbassid era and was heavily based around post-conquest booty, and even then the Caliphate did basically fall apart. We’re not even in radio distance of any one of these basic prerequisites for large-scale conversions, leaving aside whether resurrecting a medieval system and stapling it onto a modern, technologically driven world with a completely different set of economic, cultural and social factors is really a good idea.
Leaving that aside, lets face it: How many actual people convert because of Da’wah? Many if not most conversions happen within the context of marriage, and despite the endlessly quoted show-curtain sound-byte of ‘20,000 people converting’ in Britain, half usually convert back/become Eid Muslims, and most are usually from minority groups (yes, most of the Females who convert are not White – both sides seem to think the large numbers of Black Females who convert all have the power of invisibility) or people who aren’t representative of the wider community, or involve people who are on the outskirts of society anyway-they usually don’t have enough clout to make wider conversions possible. Get out your calculators: At that rate of conversions, most likely about a third of all Brits (a country with a relatively high conversion rate) will be converted in a thousand years. And can even this present conversion rate keep going? Can the Islamic awakening (the cultural movement which has led to increased Islamisation across most countries which has been going since the 70’s) keep throbbing on for another ten centuries? I doubt it. Just like the Arab nationalism of the 1950s and 1960s, as well as so many Western nationalist, religious and cultural (lets take, say, Irish nationalism/Catholicism in my own country) movements, sooner or later people get older. Energy runs out. The lads want to settle down. Soon their lives become about getting an extension for their house that the wife’s been on about and promotions to that sales position everybody’s being yammering for, rather than a bunch of abstract dreams. I know the progression, because I dabbled in Socialism in university – it was fun for the first few years, but eating dishes entirely of re-hydrated noodles while your friends move on and grow up gets old real quick – and no amount of determination or temper tantrums about ‘The System’ and ‘man-made laws’ will make up the difference. Soon the revolutionaries have families and get old. They settle down, get anaesthetised, and while they may pretend they still care, like some raddled hipster, their kids DO NOT keep up the fight (or come up with their own, often totally contrary revolution) and soon ‘Che’ shirts replace revolution like fashioned-out garish Calvin Klein Hijabs replace a genuine statement. So this massive cultural shift going on for another thousand winters, once the oil money runs out?
In reality, Muslim communities are increasingly secularising and assimilating into larger Western communities. It is happening much slower than in other groups because of dynamics set up by the wars in the Middle East, but it is still happening.
So Da’wah is about window dressing: The devout Muslims get to feel better that they are making an effort to expand (or at least preserve) the Ummah according to some silly set of ‘austere,’ ‘Getting back to basics’ of Islam stuff – AKA Saudi oil-faith Wahhabi maid-beating ideology repackaged for wider Muslim audiences who are often at a loss for what to do, living at a time of immense social ferment – and win a couple of debates against usually clueless Western speakers (because most Western debaters who know something about Islam usually don’t care enough to engage in debate with Da’wah guys, and correctly don’t regard them as a threat). The actual situation (if you look into statistics which I am similarly not bothered looking into here) is that in the long term, Muslims will assimilate into the West just like every other ethnic minority that comes here.
All Da’wah does is give the Right-wing bastards yet another rock to fling at Muslims, and if anything is probably giving the Trump/Brexit/nationalist apocalypse horsemen another leg up. ‘Oh look men of the West, the Caliphate is coming! To arms! I’ll defend you, just like Charles Martel!’ They quietly cooperate with Islamists on the mass conversion (and ‘Muslim birth bomb’) falsehood – it likely boosts their election chances. Right now, the West is becoming ever more racist, more nationalistic, with the likes of Trump coming into power everywhere.
There is no chance whatsoever for mass conversions. Look into the book ‘The Rise and fall of the ‘Salafi Da’wah’ in America’ with its endlessly depressing tale of enthusiastic, hardcore Mr. Smith goes to Washington type proselytisers being ground down by the harsh reality of indifference, ever-increasing Salafo-Spartanism and internecine fighting and being churned into divorced, drug-using cynical wrecks.
On an interpersonal level, I must say most of the Da’wah guys I have met are basically decent and sincere (I’m talking about Ireland, where the savage neo-imperialist criticism constantly swilled at the community and the counter-flow of Saudi-dollared Salafi waffleology in the UK hasn’t caught on yet – though give Rashid/Andalusi/Tortzis etc. and their narcissistic, soundbyte-doping, slavery-advocating ilk time) even if I fundamentally disagree with many of their notions. Daiis in the West are not operating a ‘faith for food’ racket that many Christian outfits operate. (Though in Africa, the supposed vast numbers of reversions and glistening photo-shopped meetings we see on you-spiel videos seem little different to me.) They want to change the world, for the better and make a real contribution to society. Their search is the search for the perfect society we all look for in our own way.
Yet we should not ignore that the world Da’wah movement is dominated by Salafism, which is in turn being pushed forward by the World Muslim League, the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and other front organisations for the Mecca-Bulldozing Saudi Monarchy. Even if many Daiis don’t realise it, they are basically working to spread Saudi propaganda – a regime which many of them despise. They don’t, indeed can’t realise it because of the multiple front organisations, highly non-centralised, unsupervised and opaque funding pathways which would be hard for Columbus to navigate. The same organisations can be funding the Gaza War orphans and ISIS at the same time.
If I may say, the Da’wah guys should set their sights more realistically: They need to be open to true dialogue (where they don’t try to convert people, but genuinely listen to what they have to say). That way, they can express their feelings, fears, angers, and ideas, and patiently listen to the other side’s equivalent notions, even if they disagree with them. Both can mythbust in a balanced and informed way which truly speaks to the ‘other’s’ concerns. Both groups can learn, and come away with something. And hopefully, this might ease the tensions between the communities. Many are engaged in charity work which I strongly admire (I’ve done secular homeless charity work myself, and know at times what a thankless job it can be), and these are areas where the Islamic youth can make a real difference. There are causes out there crying out for help from young, determined, talented individuals. Or they can engage with local politicians to push for changes that they want, within the existing political pathways, frustrating and time-consuming as these can be (don’t worry, we ALL feel the same way about that County Councillor as well). Please, don’t waste your youth and energy on a cause which will inevitably dead-end. And I must say – The same applies to so very many Christian evangelist, secular or other proselytisers currently shivering or sweating around countless airports and public buildings across Western cities, using exactly the same methods Da’wah groups use.
The Twitter Age is not going to generate some vast civilizational change no matter how much some might want it to – if it didn’t work over the last thousand years, it ain’t going to work now. And this is sadly the reason why non-Muslims don’t convert to Islam and Muslims don’t convert en masse to Christianity or any other ideology/religion: Its too big a change. Speaking as a non-Muslim ‘native’ Irishman, I am basically happy with my life. I have no interest in conversion: I’ve read the Qur’an, and Bukhari/Sahih Muslim’s Hadith, as well as numerous other literatures (Ishaq, Shafi, Malik, Tabari, the much-maligned Waqidi, etc., all the lads), and of course the endless ‘Science and the Qur’an’ leaflets (funded by the Saudis, whose scientific research includes researching the temperature in Hell – wonderful use of time). I’ve gone to talks, chatted with and gotten to know Muslims, even lived in a Muslim country. I feel Islam has many truths. It has many things to recommend it, like a strong sense of a moral community (not always acted on in principal, just like most non-Muslim ideologies including secularism of course) no alcohol rules and other sensible moral injunctions. The Muslims I know are good neighbours, hard workers, respectful human beings and for the most part thoroughly decent. But I just don’t feel the faith works for me either on a personal level or gels with my political/scientific/philosophical concepts. This doesn’t mean I don’t respect it, or am some wantonly Abu Jahl-like evil character cackling away like Montgomery Burns or have been deceived by some grand conspiracy. I’ve read out verses from the Qur’an in the original Fushah. I’ve heard the call to prayer splashing out from a thousand mosques in Cairo and heard Nasheeds sung. It is sublimely, angelically beautiful, and Islamic texts and culture are rightly regarded as amongst the major contributions and civilisations of mankind, whatever the haters say. It just means it is not for me – this doesn’t mean I feel Muslims don’t have the right to worship, or that their views, identity or spirituality should be dismissed out of hand. I am not so presumptious as to think that my path would work for everybody or even anybody else. Nor do I think Western secularism is necessarily the answer for all the Middle East’s problems either, even if I don’t think much of Sharia as the panacea Islamists present it to be. I just don’t want to participate in this faith myself. And I don’t feel I should be regarded as some second-class citizen wallowing in shirk because of that choice. I give to charity, I work hard, and I feel the numinous in my own way. My own path works for me.
That is probably the same calculation many if not most Westerners make when exposed to Islamic culture. The harsh reality is that most westerners Are basically happy if you look up world happiness statistics. These indicate they are basically happier on average than Muslims (mostly due to wealth, not spirituality, where the two cultures work out about even at generating contentment). The notion that Westerners ‘Need’ Salafism is about as wishful thinking as the Middle East ‘needing’ to convert to Christianity and Mecca being turned into a Walmart. It is wishful thinking and self-projection. The shift in Westerner’s lives, and the basic package the Da’wah guys offer is too much cost for too little gain, and no cut-‘n’-paste slogans, dismissive waffle (‘You’re a racist/Islamophobic- but you can’t proselytise in my country because our religion is right and you’re wrong and Western men can’t marry Muslim women, even if I can marry/have a little Mu’ta [‘temporary marriage’] with a Kufaar now and then,’ etc.) or shift in marketing will make up the difference.
I am not sure how Da’wah people might feel reading this, but I would be frustrated. It is never easy hearing one’s own ‘path,’ one’s own identity, being rejected. And I am aware that many Da’wah proselytisers do not subscribe to Salafism, despite its dominance in the trade. But that is the reality. At the end of the day, successful societies are based on the ability to take that tacit rejection and still get on with each other, applying the same rules to each human, in practice, not as some vague principles which are contradicted in the same breath. Otherwise it is a nasty free-for-all as in India 1948, Germany 1933-45, and so on, where very few people end up dominating everybody else, often with horrific consequences. If we could all respect each other’s differences and choices, and treat each other as true equals (no Burka bans, Jizayah taxes or Bumiputera policies [policies favouring Muslims in Malaysia] here thanks), that would be ideal.
Sadly, most types of proselytizing (Christian/Secular proselytizing included) aren’t really about that. It is about converting the ‘Other’ into something more familiar, a pale reflection of oneself. It is, sadly, an extension of the ego. It is not about serving the actual needs of the person one is trying to convert. It is not about asking that tough question: ‘do I actually offer that person something which will work for her/him? And is this actually a better way of life?’ If Muslims are allowed to proselytize here, but Non-Muslims are not generally allowed to proselytize in even nominally ‘Islamic’ states, doesn’t that tell us that maybe there are things to feel good about the West after all such as an open faith/ideas market? At the end of the day, Muslims emigrated to Western countries, not usually the other way round. Assuming every last Muslim who came here wasn’t some media-zombied sheep, I think we can safely say that the West has some good things to recommend itself, not ignoring its flaws. Lets all please listen to the ‘Other’, rather than trying to convert them.
A great piece. Funny and true. May you be blessed with a thousand virgins.
Cannot help but agree, and I participate in da’wah efforts. SALAFISTS are a major problem and there is nothing good yet to come from them ever. Their books are replete with bad opinions about other faith movements, even Muslims, often seeking to legitimise their blood and making their possessionsite and women as objects to keep.
I found this To be an extremely shallow argument. The author obviously has had sone Negative experiences and has knowledge of terminology but it reads as a Bitter rant
I’ve been a Muslim for 40 years, and I’ve studied it for longer. The only serious study of the effectiveness of “Da’wah” activities I know of is “Islamic Da`wah in the West: Muslim Missionary Activity and the Dynamics of Conversion to Islam” (Oxford University Press, 1992) by Prof. Larry Poston, a specialist in Missiology at Nyack College in upstate New York. Nyack College trains Christian missionaries; Poston researches the competition, especially Islam.
Poston reviewed several thousand accounts of people who converted to Islam, looking for the reasons they became interested in the religion. Were they approached by a “Da’wah worker”? Did they attend a speech or lecture? Did they read a pamphlet? See a video, or a power-point presentation? No, no, no, no. 98%+, no on all of those. So, what got them interested in Islam? 99%, “I got to know a Muslim.”
I spent a bunch of years working in sales and advertising. If you have one campaign which is 98% ineffective, and one that is 99% effective – which should you do? Simple choice, it would seem.
Even if the “Da’wah” industry wasn’t so overwhelmingly funded by Saudi fundamentalism, and even if they weren’t so often intrusive and obnoxious, “Da’wah” activities are a COMPLETE waste of time. They serve only to prop up frail egos and assuage guilty consciences among Muslims whose own lives are not going well.
The idea that society will somehow be perfected if only enough people can be converted is a sort of spiritual Ponzi scheme. It’s based on false premises – and not very good ones at that. Preaching to the choir, and trying to get more people to join the choir. This is why “Da’wah” seems so much like multi-level-marketing – and inspires the same kind of aversion. Everyone in the west has run into proselytizing cults – door-to-door Christian missionaries like Jehova’s Witnesses, Mormons, Moonies, Hare Krishnas, Amway or Mary Kay or Tupperware recruiters, “Da’wah workers”, and all have the same off-putting characteristics and methods.
Anyway, Allah doesn’t want it! He says very clearly, “For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had Allah willed, He could have made you one community.” (5:48) and “We have made you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes, that you may keep coming together, to know one another.” (49:13)
I think you could probably write a very interesting article too!
Let this article not fool anyone. It was written by Yousef al-Khattab as an attack on conversion and da’wah activities. Although there is much truth in the article about the downfalls of those performing dawah, it will not stop authentic street da’wah continuing.
Just curious, what is this “authentic street da’wah” that you’re on about? Care to expound on its “authenticity” and what exactly that even means? Might it possibly be somewhat akin to that “strongest opinion” the Wahhabis are always banging on about? Is it something other than the real-life telemarketing techniques employed by every single street da’wah dude and tablighi ever?
Da’wah that does not call to a false cult, ideology, that is more centred on personally getting to know the person that is being given da’wah rather than using some GORAP method to score some prize fish for the shahadah meter. Da’wah is never the same to any two individuals, so there is a lot of groundwork involved. More than just handing out pamphlets in the street. More than just learning and parroting Ahmad Deedat arguments, and a lot more than this article above rants on about helping to reinforce the negative stereotypes that have been cast on anybody doing da’wah in the 21st century. It is not just Wahhabis ruining the da’wah scene, but Sufis who call to Shaykhism and tareeqahs. Authentic da’wah is calling to Islam with the correct tools in hand.
Poston’s book is not the ONLY “serious study” of this topic, but it is definitely the most comprehensive one I know. There is also a growing body of literature on Western converts to Islam, some of it very much relevant to this topic.
This rant is superb. Love it to the core xD especially for the Salafi Spartans lol. The first we need is deep scholarly discussion free from salafism mutants!
This type of da‘wah does not work. People follow their desire, not reason, so although the rational arguments are sound, they will not accept the truth because they simply don’t want to.
On the other hand, if you purify your self and your behaviour is appropiate for a servant of the Merciful, you will cause people to love islam and they will want islam to be true, and they they’ll be open to the rational arguments.
I know people on this website,and I have had a less than civil conversations, but I need some help right now, please.
I have an uncle who I recently found out is a big Zakir Naik fan in the sense that he watches his full lectures, and considers him one of the greatest scholars to have ever lived, due to being able to do stuff like quote scripture/hadith from memory( he also admires Ahmad Deedat and his South African movement and considers it great as well). According to him Naik when one watches his full lectures never says stuff like “all Muslims should be terrorist”, and his ban from the UK or other countries is based on people defaming him or taking out of context. Having read other articles by you guys regarding Naik, I am not taking his claims too seriously but when we discussed about it, I was unable to properly explain what is wrong with Zaik, and his movement as whole, and thus I was unable to change his mind at all. I admit I’m concerned as my uncle said he takes his own approach to spreading Islam from Zaik which to me does not signal a good sign, and I really like my uncle, and don’t want him to be influenced by salafism or people like this. If there is any advice on what to do I would really appreciate it.
Also Eid Mubarak
I think a lot of truths have been said in this essay, and as an opinion piece, it is great. However, as a critique of Dawah at times it makes less sense to me. Reading through it, I got the impression that the writer at times slipped from writing to critique Dawah, to writing to critique and question the need/necessity of religion. I feel like a truer critique of Dawah would keep the necessity/function of religion out of the argument. Speaking of religion in terms of ‘gain’ and ‘cost’ and ‘basic happiness’ reveals a secular premise. It reminds me of that phrase Hamza Yusuf said, that “all arguments against the existence of God are from the point of view that there is no God”.
I am not a Muslim so forgive me if I butcher this, but doesn’t the Quran say something about those who seek the truth with sincere hearts will find it? And that some will never convert? I think that’s the very first and final word on Dawah, really. I don’t think Dawah is very convincing and nor do I think mankind will ever convert en masse to Islam, no matter how convincing and powerfully persuasive Dawah ever becomes. This world was never built as a paradise where we are all united under one shared belief. I do not think that is part of God’s plan, much like the Quran says/implies. I DO think much of Dawah is wasted energy, but so are many things humans spend time doing. Like the essay suggests, the best ‘Dawah’ is setting an example of character and virtue – that at least is what got me interested in Islam in the first place.
Thank you for these insightful remarks – I agree completely! But do remember that this was written at a time, a few years ago, of grossly exaggerated and self congratulatory claims by ‘Dawah’ organisations who in their quest for publicity and funding showed minimal self awareness and probably would benefit from some ‘painful life lessons’ – such as what you mentioned about if God wanted us to all be one religion, He could have arranged that quite easily, or as Ibn Arabi said, don’t be so obsessed with your own religion that you don’t see the beauty of everyone elses.
What do you think of Andrew Tate? I follow a Muslim/ME news page on Instagram and they posted quite a critical article of Andrew Tate. The comments from Muslims in the comment section somewhat broke my heart. They kept defending him and referring to his recent conversion!? I’m not even Muslim, but I’ve been on the brink of becoming one for a while. I think many Muslims deal with an insecurity complex about how the West views their faith, and when relatively prominent Western figures pay Islam attention, they celebrate ecstatically, more than they should. In a way this is really nice, it’s simple and winning and sweet. In other ways I feel like many drop all critical thinking and get their priorities in a twist amidst their celebrations. Which ultimately isn’t very Muslim because the Quran always advocates for using your brain. It’s like if a wolf dressed up as a goat and said to the goats, “Hey guys! I’m gonna be a goat and play with you today!” and instead of being sensible about it, the goats just went, “WOOHOO, another friend! Welcome, welcome!”. There’s ways of celebrating someone’s conversion as well as having a healthy dose of doubt about their intentions and influence on the faith community. It’s possible to feel both joy and doubt at once. There is, after all, a community to protect.
Maybe I’m just being dramatic/emotional at finding something I dislike so closely associated with something I’ve grown to admire. I think Tate is a fool who causes harm. But at the same time I try to remember I can’t judge him, I can only doubt and be critical of him. I think with all the woke/feminist discourse about, it inadvertently created an appetite in the ‘masses’ for someone as unapologetic and outspoken as Tate. It’s the misogyny fighting back. I guess we couldn’t expect to change society without a bit of a fight from people nostalgically wedded to “how things used to be”. Especially from people not well-educated in recognising misogyny. Especially among females with a lot of internalised misogyny and that aren’t skilled in self-reflection.
But even as I speak against Tate, I remember that I didn’t get vaccinated, and I was at the receiving end of a lot of virulent speech against “anti-vaxxers”. About how we cause harm etc etc etc. But I don’t think I caused harm, I just had a different approach. Andrew Tate probably thinks a similar way. I think receiving that backlash made me realise how tyrannical people can be when they think they’re morally in the right. Often their moral pride gets wound up in it, and they become little dictators. Sometimes when I talk strongly against Tate I remind myself of how the virulent “pro-vaxxers” talked about people like me. So I try to tone down how I talk about him, and I try to see things more in perspective. I don’t even know that much about him to be honest. I have a lot of things I prefer to do rather than educate myself on that guy. But I can recognise misogyny quite far off, I think. Nothing he says is new. Tate is just another sensationalist who will be forgotten, I hope. But it does hurt to see the rubbish he’s spouting being praised. Even Paul from Blogging Theology, sometimes posts about him -_- which I find a bit of a nuisance.
I know this is a bit of a brain-dump but I’m stranded in a place where there’s no Muslim community to talk to (and I have no Muslim friends), and the first place that came to my mind was this blog, since it’s the first place where I found really sensible and self-aware criticism of the Muslim community. I’m not really expecting a reply, but it’s nice to write out all my thoughts somewhere 😀
Thanks once again for this thoughtful contribution. I think it’s very honest and I think it deserves an honest answer.
I don’t like it when people are fake and don’t level with you about what they REALLY think. It can be anything – scientists pretending to be objective when what they REALLY believe in is eugenics under a new name, Evangelical Christians pretending to follow Christ whilst preaching hate against immigrants or Muslims coming up with fake answers to questions about Islam to try and appear liberal or on the other hand ‘authentic’. It’s just crap because the genuine seeker wastes huge amount of time unless he or she is cynical enough to distrust everyone…in which case they still end up wasting a huge amount of time. I think it’s the same with feminism, MRA’s and ProVaxxers. They say they are about equality, ‘saving grandma from Covid’ or whatever and most of the people who follow these movements truly do believe that but I think that’s fake and the ideologues who ‘run’ these movements (broadly elements in the media-academic complex) are deliberately fake.
So first of all I should level with you and tell you where I come from: I regard feminism & ‘Men’s Rights Activist’s’ as they exist in the West today (and most other places as well) as intentional borderline hate speech with the purpose of radicalising people, especially vulnerable people. I think most feminists nowadays are an exact mirror image of misogynists, use the same generalisations and caricatures as them (‘be careful when you stare into the abyss for the abyss stares back at you’ and all that) and you can see this if you engage with both sides. For example, for MRA’s practically NOTHING is rape, don’t believe women, they are all liars, asking for it etc. Feminism: believe all women, everything can be rape, don’t trust men. They will both argue when confronted about their extremism and borderline sociopathic lack of empathy for the sufferings of the ‘other’ gender that it is a ‘reaction’ to historical persecution by the ‘other’. To me this is ‘which came first, the chicken or egg?’ and I don’t believe that just because you are persecuted historically this gives you now ‘carte blanche’ to get your own back, otherwise the cycle will just continue all the way back to Cain and Abel.
To be brief, I do believe that many women in the developing & Muslim world, faced with un-Islamic rules such as marriage restriction and other excesses DO have a need for feminism. If feminists all originated from Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia and had more or less the same rhetoric, I would and do support them cos I get it. In the West however, I don’t so much.
There is a concept in ethics (I believe) called ‘The Limitation of Sympathies’. It basically means charity begins at home…and stays there. I’ll be nice to my family. Or neighbours. Or British people. Or maybe my friend’s gay so I care about LGTBQ. But things that don’t affect me directly – such as the 2 million kids a year that were dying from malaria, well I don’t care. Humans have limited sympathy. Like charitable donations, you don’t have infinite money. If it goes to The Terrence Higgins Trust or WWF then guess what, less or none left for the African babies dying of malaria. Same with your emotional and intellectual bandwidth that you direct to these issues. So, in London 2 million people show up on the streets for ‘Pride’ and there is a month of cultural events in schools businesses etc. Cool. How many people show up for ‘Make Poverty History’ or Disability Awareness? Therefore, limitation of sympathies. You have limited time and sympathy.
So I’m a guy of a certain age. I’ll be aware of well-known facts that I saw growing up: all the homeless rough sleepers were men (its changing now). Most of the people killing themselves and doing dangerous jobs like mining and oil rigs etc were men but all anyone cared about was that the top 0.1% of men have ‘the power’ like Bill Gates. Everyone is prison was a man. They get raped in there very often. But people think it’s funny. Nearly all of the alcoholics and drug users are men but no one is losing sleep. Boys fail at education and now get in to Uni less than girls but it’s their fault, we need to focus on women in chess instead because Netflix tells us so in ‘The Queen’s Gambit’. So I am aware of male victimhood. I don’t see any patriarchy here, or if there is it is a spectacularly stupid one that ends up victimising the very conspirators it is meant to benefit. Yes, feminists say the patriarchy harms men but they don’t do anything about it. I know men who have suffered like this and as I’ve said, I myself am a man.
You are a woman. You will be aware of women who are beaten, trafficked, sexually harassed and many other egregious things. Perhaps equivalent to the male victimhood list I presented above. It doesn’t matter. If we both exercise the ‘limitation of sympathies’ it will cause us to focus on the group we are members of or identify with and not empathise with the others. The institutionalisation of this type of borderline or actually sociopathic unconcern for the ‘other’ is feminism, MRA’s, nationalism, religious extremism etc. That’s my take on the issue so you know where I am coming from.
In my opinion, currently, in the west, it is the feminist lobby which is now in charge at an institutional level. MRA’s may talk trash but they are not in charge nor have the exposure that feminists will get from the media-academic complex. So this lobby is gloating and abusing its power: its fine for Andrea Dworkin to say that ‘all sex between a man and a woman is hard to tell apart from rape’, for J.K Rowling to cuss out male to female transitioners but to say absolutely nothing about the far greater number of female to male transitioners and for prominent activists to say that huge numbers of men or even all of them are capable of sexual assault. But as soon as I say anything the other way it’s going to be a ‘misogyny’ problem. Which brings us to people like Andrew Tate & Jordan Petersen.
Just to lay my cards further on the table, when I saw your email, I was just sitting through the movie ‘John Wick 3’: they graphically killed about 300 guys, several by stabbing them in the groin, having dogs attack their crotch etc. Halle Berry and the other girls got off without a scratch though. Nowadays people will just complain about why Halle didn’t have a bigger role. Same thing happens in most movies; men are made victims of violence and women are sexualised (Bond is the classic example). Both are wrong. I would expect a self-respecting woman to be offended at the objectification of women in cinema and I would expect self-respecting men to watch movies like this and say, ‘hang on’.
I think the ‘Sexual revolution’ is broken (I broadly agree with Angie here: https://soundcloud.com/low-society/133-the-case-against-the-sexual-revolution-featuring-louise-perry?si=ecf63d4a634b45d8b6931f003ef18e67&utm_source=clipboard&utm_medium=text&utm_campaign=social_sharing) & I’m totally against porn, cam girls and all that stuff – but I don’t think it’s all a male conspiracy. I think sexual morality lessons from sex positive feminists like Gloria Steinham who think Miley Cyrus is a ‘victim who is regaining her power’ and that sex work is fine as long as men don’t profit from it are fake and I don’t buy this ‘porn stars/sex workers are the victims and men are the exploiters’ narrative from feminists. Jenna Jameson made hundreds of millions of dollars from pornography, in movies she directed and produced, so we can’t solely blame the men. I don’t see any winners in lonely sexually frustrated men paying money they don’t have to masturbate to sex workers who in turn may be exploited. Ditto ‘OnlyFans’. Even Instagram is mainly guys looking at girls in their underwear. There are on average no winners in this but sometimes a ‘pimp’ or a ‘whore’ like Jameson or Tate make it big.
Both men and women started this ‘sex is empowering’ and ‘reverse slut shaming’ where we went from cussing out non-virgins (wrong) to dissing women who hadn’t done a laundry list of sex acts (also wrong). The same thing that happened with sex happened to women’s careers: you were insulted for NOT being a housewife; now you are insulted for not being a ‘career woman’. Being chained to a sink or to a desk: being a man’s slave or a corporation’s slave – is that the only visions that feminists and MRA’s have?
You insightfully recognised the Muslim psychology behind their reception of such characters: they are basically like broke people who suddenly get to hang out with Taylor Swift at an after party. Some of this is to be expected: Muslims will celebrate when they see a member of the ‘other’ convert, especially if that is a member of a group which has been traditionally hostile to Muslims. It’s kind of lame but understandable. I would say Muslims need to be a bit more ‘selective’ in that I think a lot of ‘Dawah’ is targeted at socially vulnerable people who then go on to leave Islam but that’s a big topic. With any ideology you are going to get ‘marketing’. Look at feminism and its current ‘trendiness’ and fawning over celebrities and the fashion industry when they pledge their allegiance (ignoring all the harm these industries have done and still do to women), as well as the danger of ex-communication or not pledging your fealty.
Jordan Petersen is a snake. As ‘The Guardian’, in a rare bout of insight once called him, he’s the ‘stupid person’s smart person’. I’ve never liked him because of his lame ass comments about Muslims (where even before he was famous, he was precluding even the POSSIBILITY of dialogue with ‘Islam’, like even communication is impossible. That’s just asshole behaviour). He’s basically Alt Right and I hate those guys because they are just a new iteration of Western Supremacy. In issues like Islam and immigration I do think he has made statements which are dog whistling, hate speech type remarks but that he can weasel out of. He’s basically a more presentable ‘silver fox’ version of Ben Shapiro, who looks too much like a creep to really be trusted.
However, I do think on feminism he is relatively academic and although I might not agree, I think when feminists accuse him of misogyny or hate speech they are just trying to assert that anyone who disagrees with their tenets is beyond the pale. That way lies madness. I hate Trump’s crew for example. But I recognise that you can’t exclude 49% of the voters from dialogue because you will radicalise them and when they feel they have no legitimate electoral or media-academic outlet, they will become violent – with some justification. All media personalities and singers and academics are liberals. they ALL (claim to) agree with feminists and LGTBQ and climate change or whatever. It doesn’t matter who is right. When one party monopolises the entire media or academic infrastructure that’s bad. As the old Galician Jew said:
‘When someone is honestly 55% right, that’s very good and there’s no use wrangling. And if someone is 60% right, it’s wonderful, it’s great luck, and let him thank God. But what’s to be said about 75% right? Wise people say this is suspicious. Well, and what about 100% right? Whoever says he’s 100% right is a fanatic, a thug, and the worst kind of rascal.’
People who think they are DEFINITTEY right forever and ever amen, whether that’s in religion, politics, what colour shirt to wear or whatever are always dangerous. It took me a long time to learn that and I learnt it the hard way by being one of these people.
So, when you shut down Jordan Petersen, you get…Andrew Tate. It’s a gangsta rap, ghetto version of Petersen. Same thing happened with feminists, did they not go from talking to then blowing stuff up like the Suffragettes and literally doing suicide attacks? Hence, if you ignore or caricature your opponent’s concerns, you radicalise them.
Now I don’t quite agree with you that Muslims are fawning over him. I think the same issue is happening in Muslims as in the wider west i.e. the culture wars, liberals vs the rest. So Wajahat Ali on MSNBC did a hit piece, lots of guys like Javed Hashmi and many others online and most recently Imran Mulla bashed him in MiddleEast Eye, which I think you mentioned:
Now you will notice that SOME of these guys and especially Ali are living in the la la land where traditional Islam is compatible with modern liberalism. They are just the opposite end of Salafis and in fact are trying to act as ‘harmless Muslims’ by agreeing with the dominant ideological strand current in the West. A lot of the stuff I’ve seen online is a bit out of order: Tate is quoting Quran and Muslims are cussing him out so as to show their ‘liberal’ friends what good ‘allies’ they are. It’s all a bit ‘Uncle Tom’. But then yeah, I see how a lot of Muslim men are supporting him and that would look bad too.
But then some women DO support these types of guys too. Up until recently in social surveys (unreliable as they are), a large majority of women didn’t support feminism. A lot of them – a majority, don’t support abortion. We shouldn’t perhaps dismiss or infantilise and say this is the result of internalised misogyny. It’s as unfair as saying women are dumb and just get brainwashed by anyone. Actually, that’s true for all humans, me and women and then also has to be applied to feminism. If you are teaching it in all movies and colleges then they will also internalise that. Isn’t this similar to what Chomsky calls ‘manufacturing consent’? Let’s see what women think without presupposing that OF COURSE they should be feminist or whatever. Ditto for any subject. Of course, no one wants to do that because they are, to paraphrase Jeremey Corbyn, ‘nervous about democracy’.
I think it is very dangerous to dismiss your concerns about Tate and his harem lifestyle. Similarly, for you it will be unhelpful to dismiss why men find him attractive (and they do). It could just be – and believe me, its quite possible, that they are assholes influenced by porn who think they have a ‘right’ to women; such men are indeed creeps. Or it could be that they have some legitimate reasons to be attracted to him and we need to meet each other in the middle. I’m not sure either but I think you answered your own question better than my rant by comparing the Tate issue with the vaccine – and he’s against the vaccine mandates as am I and I totally agree that the groupthink and coercion which went on around the vaccine to cause a lot of young people to take them unnecessarily especially as they have a negligible or nil effect on transmission was a major human rights violation – what happened to my body my choice? Is that only for abortions?
Also, the ‘brand’ of Islam he’s converted to is ‘Salafism’ so most of his supporters are from that grouping, to which my old friend Paul Williams sadly now belongs as well. But I don’t think Tate is going away. Him or someone like him will be around – and he will appeal more to non-Muslims than Muslims because the ‘crisis’ of masculinity and feminism are going concerns mainly in the West. IMO if feminists or MRA’s ‘win’ it will make things even worse.
So as you said, I don’t think there’s a need to do huge research on Tate but at the same time, why do we have to go ‘all in’? Let’s defer judgement on his conversion – maybe he is an asshole and will stay an asshole or maybe he is an asshole and will become a saint or maybe there’s and outside chance that he’s not all that bad and will become whatever. I don’t know either but as they say – ‘when in doubt, do nothing’.
If you (or anyone else reading) have other questions I might be able to help with, but they don’t want to post them here, I can be reached at email@example.com
Hello! Thank you very much for your thorough and nuanced response, I really appreciate it! I feel really grateful to have my question so thoughtfully addressed.
At the risk of adding nothing of value to your comment section, I haven’t got much to say in response, and I agree with practically all of the stuff you’ve just said. I feel like you’ve given me the missing piece in a jigsaw that I’d been puzzling over for a while. I used to volunteer to write for a ‘women in finance’ start-up thing. I wrote about three articles before I stopped because I didn’t like it. I used to un-tag myself in the articles when I was tagged in them on linkedin, I was ashamed. I could never put my finger on why I never liked it. It felt like every sensible thought I had and that smart people around me had, led to feminism. I concluded that any resistance I had must be internalised misogyny. It never occurred to me that I was getting too stuck on my female perspective. It also never occurred to me to ask a male about feminism, which is kind of sad, so it was really eye-opening reading your perspective on it. It never felt natural to hate on men, so its a relief finally being able to understand why I don’t need to hate on them in the name of justice.
I really like that Galacian Jew quote you mention.
I don’t like Jordan Peterson either, but I never had a strongly articulated reason why. I’m not massively familiar with his stuff. I think he’s quite a melodramatic guy and I think he over-thinks a lot of things but is skilled at hiding that fact. Not sincere overthinking either, the type of overthinking that comes when you’re not well-experienced in being taken down a peg or two and when you believe in the power of your own intellect too much. His tearful confusion over not understanding Islam’s appeal made me realise how out of touch he was (I think it was in his podcast with hamza yusuf). It didn’t feel like he was saying “wait, I genuinely don’t get this”, it felt like he was saying “wait, I’m smarter and more insightful than these people – why do THEY get it and not me? I must be missing something, its the only answer”. I also think he knows that agonizing over big questions publically (esp with tears in his eyes) makes him look good/sincere.
About Paul Williams, I casually enjoyed his content but more recently I started getting a bit annoyed at some of his posts. ‘Salafi’ wasn’t in my vocabulary. I think the thing with him is he’s falling into the trap my mum did of letting his desire to make his religion look good, eclipse his intellectual honesty, so I lost trust in him a bit. I think since committing to Islam he’s starting to have a strong agenda. I guess that’s what can happen when your religious opinions start to ossify, like my mum’s did. Maybe I’m being too harsh though, I can see myself acting like that too under certain conditions. Maybe the pressure of having a large audience is getting to him, I suppose.
About Andrew Tate, I’m not as perturbed by him and his influence as I was at first. I think I was perturbed because I genuinely don’t know many/any real-life Muslims well, so it was easy for me to get a wrong idea of how Muslims in general receive Tate, based on internet comments. So it’s really nice hearing that it’s more mixed than that. Your input has helped a lot in that regard, I’m quite comfortable going back to ignoring Tate, like I did before that IG post disturbed my peace.
Thank you again for taking the time to write this out! Will probably be in touch again with another question another time 🙂