As’ad Abukhalil: “The Economist and Ex-Muslims”

 

Prof. As’ad Abukhalil takes on the latest reliance by The Economist on “lazy cliches” regarding Islam and Muslims in relation to apostasy and Atheism.

Abukhalil takes issue with its essentialization based on anecdotal stories, inaccurate relaying of the facts as well as relying on the testimony of Islamophobic bigots such as Ibn Warraq who have a clear agenda.

On Ex-Muslims

by As’ad Abukhalil (Al-Akhbar English)

There are so many obsessively redundant stories about Muslims and Islam. They are too familiar: stories about the veil, Jihad, the status of women, minorities and apostasy. Western reporters love to search and find a Muslim in the West who tells a story of persecution by Muslims. These stories are sexiest when the person elaborates on his new freedoms in the West and how he/she was not able to breathe until their arrival in the West. They tell about their past suffocation and how they could only read and enjoy “Lolita” in Western countries.

But the stories of apostasy still resonate. Westerners don’t know that apostasy laws were common at the time when they were promulgated in Sharia. The Economist is sometimes reasonable, but other times indistinguishable in its resort to lazy clichés about Muslims. The new issue of the Economist has a long article about “Atheists and Islam.” In the article, all the familiar clichés are squeezed in to draw a most dramatic picture that is worthy of movies about medieval Europe. It operates under the classical premise: that one story about one Muslim suffices to tell the story about all Muslims. And in singling out a story or two about Muslims in the West, the writers don’t know that they often fall victim to deception.

In the last few decades, Western governments developed asylum laws which permit a person to obtain legal status if she/he can establish real concern for safety in his/her homeland. I have served as a consultant to many lawyers and law firms in the West and saw the most bizarre stories by people who are desperate to stay legally in the US. Some people talk about how their tribes (even when “the tribe” does not even apply in Damascus or Beirut) will kill them, because they once told a cousin that they are secular. Another claims that his tribe – again – kills its members if they exhibit effeminate tendencies. And many have stumbled on the legal premise of fear of apostasy. They tell a judge (with no background or knowledge of the Middle East) that governments there typically behead apostates.

The Economist’s article belongs to this genre. It talks about how only in Turkey and Lebanon atheists can live safely, but only quietly. Where do they get this information from? This doesn’t seem to be from someone who know people in the region. I, for one, became an atheist in my teens. My friends and comrades in Lebanon (Lebanese and Palestinians) were also vocal atheists, and none of us faced persecution or even harassment for our views. There is no evidence for any such persecution. Many of my “Facebook friends” are young Arabs who identify their religion as “atheists.” And no one is persecuting them. The Saudi government is a rare exception in this case. But Saudi Arabia is often the exception, although it gets good press here in the US. TheEconomist says that eight states in the region have apostasy punishment on the books, but does not say that no one can find one case of implementation of the law in this case, even if you go back decades in time. There is a clear concoction of a dramatic alarmist sensationalism that does not conform to the facts.

The Economist in fact admits that “such punishments are rarely meted out” but does not admit that they are NEVER meted out. The Economistin this article befitting Fox News or the National Inquirer, even talks about “vigilantes inflicting beatings or beheadings,” but gives no examples or specifics. And the article assumes that the rise of the Islamists is adding to the dangers ostensibly faced by atheists, but fail to notice that atheists and secularists have in fact become more assertive and more self-confident. And in referring to the past, the article refers to medieval Arab and Persian poets and writers who were atheists, but then adds that “several were famously executed.” But such judgment has now been discredited by historians. We don’t believe, for example, that Ibn al-Muqaffa` or Bashar Bin Burd were executed for their atheism, but for their political inclinations or for their involvement in palace politics.

The shoddy quality of the article is further revealed when it concludes with an interview with “Ibn Warraq,” who is a right-wing Zionist propagandist who lives in the West under a false name because Muslims around the world – according to his tale – are chasing him because he is an ex-Muslim. But I have been an ex-Muslim since my mid-teens and I have not been chased by Muslims: not in the Middle East and not in the US, and I never hid behind a pseudonym.

The question is this: Why are some Western reporters so easily fooled, especially in cases when the lie and tale befits the paradigm of hostility to Islam and Muslims?

Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Sympathizes with Terrorist Anders Behring Breivik

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali‘s autobiography is one in which she is the perennial victim of “Islam” and Muslims. When she first burst onto the scene in Europe she was received enthusiastically, as a “brave” woman who was informing the West about the dingy, backward and oppressive “Mooslims.” Ali positioned herself as the standard-bearer of Enlightenment values, affirming the superiority of the West over the Muslim East, confirming the wild-eyed-Orientalist essentializations and fears about pending Islamization.

Ali has always been a useful militant voice for the anti-Muslim movement, expressing vividly the racism and hate that they could only ponder in their minds but dare not speak. Take this sample of her extremism, in an interview with Reason Mag,

Reason: Should we acknowledge that organized religion has sometimes sparked precisely the kinds of emancipation movements that could lift Islam into modern times? Slavery in the United States ended in part because of opposition by prominent church members and the communities they galvanized. The Polish Catholic Church helped defeat the Jaruzelski puppet regime. Do you think Islam could bring about similar social and political changes?

Hirsi Ali: Only if Islam is defeated. Because right now, the political side of Islam, the power-hungry expansionist side of Islam, has become superior to the Sufis and the Ismailis and the peace-seeking Muslims.

Reason: Don’t you mean defeating radical Islam?

Hirsi Ali: No. Islam, period. Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful. It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now. They’re not interested in peace.

Reason: We have to crush the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims under our boot? In concrete terms, what does that mean, “defeat Islam”?

Hirsi Ali: I think that we are at war with Islam. And there’s no middle ground in wars. Islam can be defeated in many ways. For starters, you stop the spread of the ideology itself; at present, there are native Westerners converting to Islam, and they’re the most fanatical sometimes. There is infiltration of Islam in the schools and universities of the West. You stop that. You stop the symbol burning and the effigy burning, and you look them in the eye and flex your muscles and you say, “This is a warning. We won’t accept this anymore.” There comes a moment when you crush your enemy. 

Reason: Militarily?

Hirsi Ali: In all forms, and if you don’t do that, then you have to live with the consequence of being crushed.

Ali is still used as a potent symbol by the acolytes of the anti-Muslim movement whenever they want to trot out the horrors of Islam, (remember her article on “The War on Christians”) and as their vision of what a “Muslim should be.”

Unfortunately for Ayaan H. Ali, her personal story is full of lies. She never saw war in Somalia, her family fled to Kenya. She was not forced into marriage, but willingly consented to it. She was never threatened with death or honor killing by her family.

Even though Ayaan H. Ali’s compulsive lying and long and detailed radical anti-Muslim activism is catalogued and a matter of record, she is still a darling of the Right. In this respect she lines up well with the fake ex-terrorists/fake ex-Muslims: Nonie Darwish, Wafa Sultan, Ergun CanerWalid Shoebat, Kamal Saleem and Zacharia Anani‘s of the world who routinely fleece crowds for untold sums, in return for providing the service of bashing Islam and making the crowd feel better about themselves.

Just as Walid Shoebat was recently paid to tell a crowd of Texans about the evils of Islam, and to once more recount the false story about how he transformed from terrorist to Jesus-freak, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was invited to Germany to receive the Axel Springer Award, to recount her “escape” from Islam.

Sympathy for the Devil

In her acceptance speech, Ali expressed her sympathy for terrorist murderer Anders Behring Breivik. Her writings were included in Breivik’s manifesto and she took the opportunity of the speech to try and distance herself from his actions while squarely putting the blame for Breivik’s massacre on his targets.

[T]hat one man who killed 77 people in Norway, because he fears that Europe will be overrun by Islam, may have cited the work of those who speak and write against political Islam in Europe and America – myself among them – but he does not say in his 1500 page manifesto that it was these people who inspired him to kill. He says very clearly that it was the advocates of silence. Because all outlets to express his views were censored, he says, he had no other choice but to use violence.

Firstly, notice the weaselly double-talk on behalf of Ali, she says she is only against “political Islam,” but the fact is, as we showed above, she wants “Islam crushed.”

Secondly, who exactly are the “advocates of silence” that are part of the grand conspiracy of aiding “Islam” in “overrunning” Europe? Presumably the Leftists, as David Vickrey writes sarcastically,

Yes, the “advocates of silence” left Breivik with no other choice than to hunt down teenagers systematically.  Who wouldn’t be driven to desperate acts by this terrible “leftist” conspiracy?

Shockingly, and perhaps because Ali gave her speech in English rather than German the crowd responded with a standing ovation. Vickrey notes,

Maybe because Ayaan Hirsi Ali was speaking English her words didn’t provoke outrage among the German listeners.  On the contrary, her speech was met with a prolonged standing ovation.  The first to leap to his feet and clap was the writer Henryk Broder – cited by Anders Behring Breivik numerous times in his manifesto as an inspiration.

However all was not lost, there was a voice of reason that stood up in the crowd,

Fortunately for us, however, a voice of reason was in the audience, and his reaction was reported in Cicero:

„Träume ich oder passiert das gerade wirklich?“, fragt raunend Daniel Gerlach, Chefredakteur der Zeitschrift Zenith, der im Publikum sitzt. „So reden rechtsradikale Verschwörungstheoretiker. Das ist der Gipfel, den Massenmord durch Breivik damit zu erklären, dass die islamische Gefahr in Europa von dunklen Mächten verschwiegen worden sei.“ Gerlach scheint einer der wenigen Zuhörer im vollbesetzten Festsaal zu sein, die über die Rede entsetzt sind.

(Am I dreaming, or did this really just happen?” asked an astonished Daniel Gerlach, editor-in-chief for the magazine Zenith, who was sitting in the audience.”This is how right-wing conspiracy theory believers talk.  This really takes the cake, explaining Breivik’s murderous rampage as the result of mysterious dark powers keeping quiet about the dangers of Islam in Europe.”  Gerlach seems to be one of the few listeners in the packed hall who is shocked by the speech.)

Breivik, like many in the Islamophobic right was an admirer of Ali’s, and there is no better way to conclude than the way Vickrey did,

In his 1500-page manifesto, Breivik expresses his deep admiration for Ayaan Hirsi Ali, writing that she deserves the Nobel Prize.  For the time being, she will have to make do with the Axel Springer Bild-Zeitung Prize.