Jee-hawd Watchers on converts and da’wah

Brother Habib Abbasi asked me to comment on a post made recently at Dhimmi Watch about converts, in which a series of ulterior motives are given for why westerners of various categories accept Islam. While browsing the blog (something I no longer do very often), I noticed that Hugh Fitzgerald, the author of the piece on converts, has also noticed a website called DawaNet (www.dawanet.org), from which he has somehow gleaned some excuse to link it to a “jihadist cult”.

I’ve more than once heard the complaint from non-Muslims that some Muslims they have met cannot possibly fathom why anyone would not be a Muslim. Hugh Fitzgerald is the precise opposite: he cannot fathom that anyone would convert to Islam because he or she believes in it, and not for some other motive. He cites “the clearly marginal characters, at the bottom of society, such as Richard Reid” and “the ex-gang members wishing to find another kind of community for solace, and choose the community of the umma al-islamiyya — such as Jose Padilla”. Let’s imagine for the sake of argument that Jose Padilla is guilty of whatever the US government supposes he did; this would make him, like Reid, one out of hundreds of this type of convert and hardly representative. Most converts do not become terrorists - fact - and they do not get involved in fighting either.

He also, of course, notices those who fall in love and “revert” to please their spouse, “and may come to realize that there is a bit more to this belief-system than had at first been apparent, and then are forced to cope as best they can”. Then there are those who convert out of a hunger “for the picturesque or unusual” and a desire to display “unusual tastes”. Then, of course, there are the “Serial Seekers After the Truth”, who jump on one religious bandwagon after another. Western society, he says, regards converts “as objects of great interest, especially if they appear outwardly to be respectable and not the dregs-of-society sort”, as was the case with Muhammad Asad, Muhammad M Pickthall and so on - and they have to be “western”, and the more famous the better. And apart from those who “tepidly” convert for marriage purposes, his only suggestion for what motivates the others is a “need for the solace of certainty, and of complete regulation of what is haram and what halal, a need to be special, when one is otherwise so un-special”. As for those who converted under Muslim rule, this must have been “to avoid either death, or the severe disabilities, the humiliation and degradation and insecurity of dhimmi status”, as if substantial populations of Christians does not survive in several Muslim countries to this day. (When, in an earlier debate with Spencer, I mentioned that Christians apparently preferred dhimmi status to removing themselves to the nearest Christian country, he called this ridiculous and asked me to bring my proof if I was truthful. Indeed, the fact that they did not remove themselves is proof enough.)

The notion of Islam being more convincing to the intellect than Christianity does not occur to Fitzgerald: the fact that it still has a main body, rather than several sects which were mutually hostile until they drastically lost influence in the 20th century; the fact that it is truly monotheistic and does not compromise on La ilaha ill’ Allah with man-made constructs which are not mentioned in the Bible in the way they are by Christians today; the fact that it has a law at all, rather than a vague set of principles with a handful of actual rules traceable to the original texts, most of which are ignored, increasingly so by people who demand to know why Leviticus can be used to condemn homosexuality but not the consumption of pork by Christians; all of this passes Fitzgerald by. (Read the comments to the piece, and you’ll discover how hundreds of years of Muslim dominance of Spain turned the Spanish into the mass murderers they were in their Latin American colonies. Someone might suggest a similar root-cause argument with regards to US-supported dictators and terrorism by some Muslims …)

In a more recent article, Fitzgerald attempts to incite fear and suspicion in response to the Dawanet website, and after seeing his recommedation to “take a tour” of it, I did so. The website merely gives advice on how Muslims might better give da’wah to non-Muslims; Fitzgerald has darker fears:

More than one John Walker Lindh — I can think of an East Coast example — has been set on the course of Islam and is off seeking a suitable bride in Yemen because of a smiling Pakistani roommate (or some such) he had at prep school and then at Harvard, or schools like it. The problem is everywhere, at every level. Eternal vigilance has to be exercised. This jihadist cult threatens everyone who does not belong to it, in a way that the Hare Krishnas and the other well-known cults never did. And it will permanently stunt the growth of all those who enter it. You do not want to stunt your child’s mental growth, do you?

The comparison of the so-called “jihadist cult” with the likes of the “Hare Krishnas and the other well-known cults” is ludicrous. The “International Society for Krsna [Krishna] Consciousness” has, in fact, been affected by a child abuse scandal in its Gurukula boarding schools; the flirty-fishing antics of the so-called Children of God are well-known, along with the notoriously repressive atmosphere in the cult houses, as reported by former members; and while no cult has recruited young people off the streets and prompted them to crash a plane into a skyscraper, one did persuade people to relocate to a remote forest encampment in Guyana and force them to drink poisoned fruit juice. Cults are generally regarded as malevolent and controlling, and renowned for such things as separating people from their families - something Islam, if people follow it correctly, does not do. (I’m not talking about moving out of the family home here; I’m talking about cutting off contact.)

There are, of course, some shaky facts on the site, including for example the replication of a “history of Islam in the Americas” which has appeared on a number of other sites; the site owners might do well to check some of the facts therein rather than simply reproduce material unquestioningly. But the tone of the site is entirely unthreatening and, in fact, does not encourage Muslims to take any aggressive position with non-Muslims with whom they come into contact (see this article by Abdul Malik Mujahid, for example).

A commenter calling herself “Jen” noted that in the section on women, “only two areas are addressed – the male speaking about women, and the hijab. This confirms for me that the Muslimah’s role is defined by the Muslim male, and that her dress plays a pivotal part in this defined role (to which she, for the most part, acquiesces), and you can be sure it’s not a liberating element”. Anyone who actually looks at the page will realise that the first thing the article advises is to “let the sisters speak”. The last is to ask women for their perspective on issues. So this is the furthest thing from the Muslimah’s role being defined by the Muslim male.

Fitzgerald encourages readers to peruse the DawaNet site, in order to circumvent Muslims’ da’wah efforts:

So you need to study with care those parts of www.dawanet.com that are most relevant and most revealing. It is not hard to do. You can print out some of the stuff and share it with other parents. You can protest — or better yet, preempt the efforts of the smiling lady who wants to come to St. Grottlesex or your child’s homeroom to tell everyone about the wonders of Ramadan. You may think, at first, that little harm can come of it. You would be wrong. An initial false impression about Islam, implanted in someone at an impressionable age, may be stuck and hard to eradicate later on. The first task of all Infidels is to sufficiently study the matter so that no matter what is presented to them, they cannot be fooled. The second task is to help inform as many other people as possible, no matter how long it takes, no matter how tiresomely pedagogic one’s tone may become, no matter how repetitious — repetition even of phrases, until your audience has thoroughly assimilated those turns of phrase and made them their own, even possibly not recognizing where they came from.

I fail to see what alarm the other parents at St. Grottlesex will feel at a potted history of Muslims in the USA and at people being encouraged to engage with those of other religions, the better to spread their own. I think some people might find it alarming that people wishing to distribute information about their religion and perhaps dispel a few stereotypes and suspicions are accused of some sort of plot to lure people into a “jihadist cult”. And misinformation, implanted at whatever age, often proves difficult to shake off, which is no doubt why Muslims feel the need to remedy the situation by informing the public of the Islam most Muslims practise every day, rather than what some Muslims do some of the time.

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