Fitz disses the brothas

Hugh Fitzgerald, Robert Spencer’s deputy and second windbag in command at Jihad/Dhimmi Watch, has a bit of a cob-on about converts at the moment, with one article after another puzzling over why anyone would want to convert to Islam; any motive is considered by him other than actually believing in it. This week it’s the turn of black American converts to get the treatment. Why would any African-American convert to a religion which has what he considers to be such an abysmal record on slavery, and a community which treats black fellow Muslims as badly as they do? As with middle-class white converts, the answer, of course, may well lie in one simple fact: they believe.

The first disadvantage of converting, apparently, is the lack of music:

Islam does not permit music, though here and there folk music has been allowed. But music having to do with religious worship is absolutely forbidden. When black Americans convert, they are throwing out all of Gospel music, doubly wicked in Muslim eyes: the music itself is forbidden, and this particular church music takes its texts from Old Testament stories (stories involving Jews, and the Promised Land).

Actually, Gospel music is not forbidden due to its Old Testament references; in fact, Islamic literature makes much of the works of the Israelite Prophets and their antecedents (‘alaihim as-salaam). Of course, this is a transparent attempt at an insinuation of anti-Semitism; the reason Gospel music is prohibited is because the use of musical instruments and public female singing is prohibited. “Shaikh” Abdullah Faisal once told his followers that some of his teachers in Saudi Arabia were amazed when he told them that in his former church, the Salvation Army, worship involved performances by these singing girls. Of course, Muslim women do sing, but not to men. Islam offers a very rich repertoire of singing material known as nasheeds and qasidas, but they are sung a capella, in gatherings rather than performances, and by men and women separately.

A reference to a “Promised Land” is problematic for Afro-Americans anyway, for whom there really is no promised land, since they have been separated from Africa to the extent of not knowing for the most part where exactly their individual ancestors came from (quite apart from the fact that a fair percentage of their ancestors came from Europe, not Africa). They arguably have a better right to America than whites, because they did not choose to usurp it from its original inhabitants, but were taken there by force.

It is curious that real Muslims regarded (and may still regard) Elijah Muhammad’s Black Muslims as not the real thing, partly because of the claims made on behalf of Elijah Muhammad himself, and partly because of the music that occasionally was allowed (and may still be) at certain gatherings of followers.

In reality, real Muslims regard the so-called Nation of Islam as “not the real thing” because their beliefs are radically different. Their religion is an invented one which uses some Arabic terminology, but their theology and their practices are at great variance with Islam. They are polytheistic, and their beliefs regarding the origin of white men are kufr. Some NOI members do from time to time become Muslims, and there are rumours every so often of Louis Farrakhan or his organisation accepting real Islam, but the NOI historically is an un-Islamic racist sect which uses a bit of Arabic terminology.

When black Americans discard Christianity for the sake of Islam, because they are fooled into believing that Islam is somehow the correct vehicle of protest, they manifest ignorance of the whole horrible Arab slave trade. That trade began earlier and ended (where it did end) later than the European slave trade. Also, it was, because it involved the castration on site of so many black African children, much greater in scope. The mortality rate was something like 90%, so that only 1 out of 10 black male children seized and castrated by the Arab slavers actually made it to the slave markets of Riyadh, Cairo, Baghdad, Damascus, Algiers, Istanbul, and similar centers of Islam.

The castration of slaves, or indeed anyone, is forbidden in Islam. One can find this written in any number of Islamic legal textbooks. The difference between Islam as it should be practised and what is practised by the rulers, in particular, is great; there are many sayings by both the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) and by scholars about the dangers of getting too close to the rulers. There were many incidents of scholars being tortured or murdered by the agents of the rulers for not accepting heresies they were trying to advance.

I am not in a position to dispute his figures and do not defend what he is describing. But Afro-Americans, and others of the Black diaspora, who convert to Islam do not seek to emulate the Arab slave-merchants of old in any case. They tend to focus on traditional scholars, both Arab and African (and in some cases even Indian), and on the “Salafi” movement.

Those Afro-Americans who are made the obvious target of a campaign of Da’wa (as are immigrants from Latin America), and who choose to embrace Islam, are unwittingly, with that “reversion” to Islam (one in which they are seldom presented with the full meaning, or texts, of Islam), also turning their back on, discarding, jettisoning, the place of Biblical imagery and of the Bible in the history of black America. Decades ago, when the Black Muslims first got started (and because of Elijah Muhammad’s own claims, and other doctrinal irregularities, Arab Muslims never considered them to be “real Muslims” and even today are contemptuous of “Black Muslims” as opposed to “black Muslims”), much was made of their ability to supposedly “straighten people” out — have them wear coats and ties, give up drugs and alcohol, and so on. Well, perhaps. But what it also did is cause them to abandon their entire pre-Islamic history, and to thus sever ties with their own past, their own relatives who remained Christians or part of a Christian or Judeo-Christian tradition.

So, he admits (contrary to his earlier assertion) that the “Black Muslims” are rejected because of their doctrine and not because of the music they play in their worship. In fact, there are some mainstream Muslims who use music in their religious activities, particularly some so-called Sufis. This is not Islamically correct, but they are Muslims and not a home-grown sect. The NOI is only the best-known of a number of invented Afro-American religions which use Islamic terminology; to be a Muslim, one has to believe what Muslims believe, and witness to it. The NOI do not.

The “loss of history” argument is a commonly-heard one, but in fact it applies to anyone who leaves one community for another: he becomes part of it and begins to consider their history more important than his own. This happens, for example, when someone exchanges one citizenship for another, often necessitating learning about his or her new country’s history or culture. Of course, Islam does not demand that anyone cuts ties with their family; it demands the exact opposite, as is well-known.

Finally, let’s talk about racism. Anyone who has spent even a week in the Arab states of the Gulf, or taken a summer course in Arabic in Cairo or Damascus, knows that the most racist, most skin-color aware societies on earth, are those of the Arabs — despite all the talk of a “universalist” religion. One student of my acquaintance, who had taken courses with, and been brainwashed by, Bruce Lawrence of Duke University, to regard Islam as a great thing, then spent a summer in an Arab country. He came back completely disabused — no greater racists, he insisted, had he ever met in his life. He was from rural South Carolina.

Funny, I know people of African origin who spent time in the Arab world, including Syria, and did not come back with tales of all the racism they encountered. They went to study Arabic or to seek out religious people such as elderly pious shaikhs. They came back very much impressed by what, and those whom, they saw. Their faith in Islam was strengthened, not weakened. In some Arab regions there are very strong connections with parts of Africa, Hadramaut and its diaspora being a major example. Every Muslim knows that the practices of common people are not to be confused with authentic Islamic practice. If one looks in the right places, one finds many Muslims dissatisfied with the contempt some Arab immigrants show Afro- and Latin Americans. The tensions surrounding Arab corner shops in black and Latino districts of many US cities has seen much discussion on Muslim blogs (start here).

Why this information is not more widely written about in the press, including the black press, by black ministers who should try to hold onto their flocks and not let wanderers be seduced by the siren-song of Islam, which for more than a thousand years has meant nothing but kidnapping followed by enslavement or death at the hands of Arab slavers, is beyond me.

Of course, for many Africans Islam meant no such thing. It was better associated with the likes of Omar Tall al-Futi, ‘Uthmaan dan Fodio and other major scholars, such as those of Timbuktu and later Sokoto, than with the slave trade and its associated banditry. There were not only African scholars, some with chains of transmission traceable to India in three or four generations, but also African sultans. The fact is that Africa was used and abused by both its northern and its eastern neighbours for centuries; it still continues to pay vast sums to service usurious loans to its former colonial slave-masters. Added to this is the undeniable fact that Africans, Muslims and others, collaborated in the slave trade, and that Africans and mixed-race people owned African slaves in the Americas and elsewhere. The notorious slave-raider Muhammad “Tippu Tip” al-Murjebi, who raided out of Zanzibar, was half African.

And even today Arabs continue to show their contempt and hatred for blacks, not only in the enslavement of black Africans by Arabs in Mali and Mauritania, but by the Libyan mobs that attacked black African students and lynched a black diplomat a few years ago; by the Moroccans who have been known to deal with black African migrant workers by taking them and dropping them in the middle of the desert with no possible way of survival; and of course by the behavior of that member in good standing of the Arab League, the government of the Sudan, which over 20 years, killed or starved to death nearly 2 million black Africans in the southern Sudan, with survivors often enslaved.

Well, Europeans and Americans treat refugees barely any better, whether they come from Africa or anywhere else. The Blair government tried to impress the anti-immigrant press by denying benefits to some refugees, among the results of this were reports of women begging in the streets of London for sanitary towels. The Americans turned back ships full of Jewish refugees from Europe, with some of them finishing in countries later over-run by the Nazis. The violence in Libya in 2000, occasioned by rumours of an African expatriate raping a local girl, is indefensible, but hardly unique to the Muslim world.

There’s much more to add. But the Islamic Da’wa campaign in America involves the clever targeting of blacks. The Boston Mosque was placed right across from Roxbury Community College, and part of the “deal” was for the mosque members to offer “free lectures” to students at Roxbury Community College and 2,500 “books on Islam” (you can guess which kind) for the college’s library. In other words, the Mosque’s backers were planning on using it as a center for conducting Da’wa among the black population of Boston. One wonders if the Rev. Eugene Rivers, or other ministers, have taken note of the history of Islam, of the tenets of Islam, of the menace of Islam to the wellbeing of those whom they instruct and guide and elevate and offer solace to.

The actual “deal” involved a bit more than that, as is explained in the Boston Globe:

Under the 2000 deal, the Islamic Society of Boston bought the Roxbury land, valued at $401,187, for $175,000. The remainder was to be paid in kind: the Islamic Society was to maintain a playground and park by the Roxbury parcel for 10 years, offer lectures on Islam at Roxbury Community College next door, help develop an Islamic library there, and assist the college foundation in fund-raising.

So, the mosque was to assist the college in fund-raising and maintain their playground and park for ten years - perhaps this would account for just over $200,000? How much is a gardener’s yearly pay in Massachusetts? Fitzgerald makes presumptions about the nature of the books being supplied, when he could perhaps ask someone at the college - assuming they were supplied; you cannot build an “Islamic library” from da’wah pamphlets.

Slavery was implicitly recognized by the American Constitution. But it is so no longer. Fortunately, the Constitution has always been subject both to formal modification (amendments)through the express will of the people, and to judicial interpretation (“It is a constitution we are expounding” wrote Chief Jusice Marshall in Marbury v. Madison). There is no way to modify the passages in Qur’an, the sayings and acts of Muhammad in the Hadith and Sira, that allow, permit, even offer rules for, the institution of slavery. Muhammad himself, and his Companions, owned slaves — the slaves taken in battle. It is not possible, therefore, for any Believer to denounce slavery as a moral evil, for that would be to condemn Muhammad. And he is uswa hasana, the Model for All Mankind. So it just can’t be done.

True. But slavery was part of the human condition from ancient times until the last hundred years. The notion of abolishing it altogether gained popularity in Victorian times as a direct result of the abuses in the slave trade at the time: the banditry, the deaths at sea, the murderous contempt with which those in charge often treated the slaves, the miserable conditions on some plantations, and so on. There were those who objected on other grounds, such as that it instilled laziness in white farmers who did not work, relying on slaves to actually do their work for them.

In fact, Islam encourages the freeing of slaves by such measures as making it an expiation in a number of situations, giving rise to the suggestion that the abolition of slavery may be its ultimate goal. A slave’s life in Islam (if not in every Muslim society where slavery was widespread) is vastly more comfortable than it was for most African slaves in the USA; they were supposed to be part of the owner’s household, eat the same food and wear the same cloth (none of this “slave cloth”). It is not permitted to whip or otherwise strike a slave. And a slave woman who bore her master’s child became free, along with the child, on the master’s death.

As for the US Constitution, it appears that judges have arrogated the right to read words into it rather than out of it. The First Amendment is a case in point, clearly mentioning Congress, but invariably applied to any American public authority. The same documents were used to uphold, and then strike down, racially discriminatory laws. Nowadays, liberals use the term “fundamentalist” to describe interpreting the Constitution according to what it actually says, not what people have chosen to say it means. You cannot do this with primary Islamic texts.

Black Americans, like other Americans, like Infidels everywhere, who because of the actions of Muslims themselves, and despite the efforts of the political leaders in the Western world to repeat pious nonsense about the real nature of Islam, are beginning to realize that as a vehicle for the expression of discontent, Islam is not exactly ideal. For Islam represents the greatest successful imperialism — Arab imperialism — in human history. After those it directly conquered in the Middle East and North Africa and Hindustan, the greatest victims have so far not been white Europeans, but black Africans, hideously seized, castrated, dragged to the Muslim slave markets by coffle and dhow, with 90% of them dying on the way. Islam demands that converts (“reverts”) simply regard with indifference or hostility their entire non-Islamic past. That leaves the non-Arab convert alone — with no music, no art, no history, with essentially nothing but Islam.

Again, slavery was not the sole experience black Africans had of Islam. Most black African Muslims did not live in Arab-run Islamic states, but in African-run ones (the Omanis in East Africa were a notable exception, but their domain was limited to the coastal region). Both East and West Africa have Muslim cultures of their own, including scholars who are well-recognised internationally, and using Arabic, the vernacular, and the colonial languages. It has been an important factor in da’wah among both black and white Europeans and Americans. A lot of young Muslims in both the UK and the US know more about the Fulani jihad than they do about the corruptions of the slave trade (in fact, there were incidents of African jihad leaders waging war on Arab slave traders). While Islam for the first few centuries was indeed Arab-dominated, the Arab world later fell under Turkish domination. Every part of the Islamic world has an Islamic culture based around a regional non-Arabic language: Persian, Turkish, Urdu, Malay, Swahili. This hardly represents a wholesale rejection of local culture in favour of a monolithic Arab-Islamic one.

I could go on quoting at length from this article (there is only two more paragraphs); but the reader gets the picture. Islam is not a good vehicle of protest, according to him - but the issue of people converting to Islam because they are dissatisfied with what they have found elsewhere has already been dealt with by, for example, Abdul-Hakim Murad:

Just as the namaz [salaat] prayer is invisibly invalidated if the niyya [intention] at its outset is not correct, similarly, Islam will not work for us unless we have entered it in faith, out of a sincere questing for God’s good pleasure. If things are not going right for us, if we find no delight in our prayers, if Ramadan simply makes us hungry, if we cannot seem to find the right mosque or the right company to take us forward, then we would do well to start by examining our intentions. Did we become Muslims only, and purely, to bring our souls to God? Other reasons: solidarity with the oppressed, admiration for Muslims we know, desire to join a group, the love of a woman - none of these are adequate foundations for our lives as Muslims deserving of Allah’s grace and guidance.

I would dispute the notion that any great number of converts enter Islam as a protest. Rather, their protests would lead them to investigate Islam, perhaps as a result of meeting Muslims through their activities, or because they see the other side of western civilisation (I count myself among these people). The actual appeal to black Americans is often made in terms of Islam being their real ancestral religion, before they were enslaved, which is often (though not always) true. This, in itself, is not a good reason to change one’s religion, but it is a powerful appeal for an alienated minority, practising the religion of their former persecutors and slave-masters without being respected by them, to investigate Islam. One might add that man-made ideologies into which protests often directed themselves have become discredited, and even at the ballot box, a vote for a major party seldom translates into serious reform, while a vote for a minor party, particularly in a non-proportional system like the one we have here in England, is likely to be a wasted vote.

The issue of prison da’wah, which Fitzgerald raises in this article, is a problematic one. People often find religion in jail, and not just Islam, but the community’s recent history of da’wah seems to revolve around prisons and ghettoes. The former may well be a legacy of the Nation of Islam, while the latter has much to do with the fact that most Muslim immigrants, in the UK at least, end up in ghettoes themselves. Back home, of course, many of them were farmers, and there has been no serious attempt to give da’wah in rural areas or anywhere outside urban ghettoes. This means we draw our fresh blood from the roughest parts of the population, which has a lot of ill effects on our people, which may well be the reason why a brother observed that in Saudi Arabia, people said they could recognise the English Salafis by their anger.

The fact remains that, as with all his sneering treatises on converts to Islam, Fitzgerald contemplates any number of reasons why black Americans might accept Islam, but does not consider belief; one might bear in mind that people’s belief tends to strengthen after they convert, even if their journey into Islam began out of dissatisfaction or alienation or protest. The arguments he gives as counter-appeals are just as weak, based on ignorance of (or wilful blindness to) real black African history. The bottom line is that people become Muslims to become Muslims, not to become Arabs or Pakistanis; if the behaviour of common Arabs towards black Africans today is some black mark against Islam, how can anyone expect Christianity to have much appeal to black Americans given that when it was at its height, before the secularisation of the 1960s, white Christians treated their fellow believers like sub-humans, even in church? While the history of the Arab slave trade may not be well-known among Afro-Americans, the history of white, Christian America is studiously ignored in Fitzgerald’s proposals for counter-appeals.

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