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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?

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  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    You have done all of these things and in fact you have not responded to being called out on your contradictions.

    It’s very strange that you are not “worried” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s lying about her life biography, her desire to “crush Islam militarily,” her sympathy with Norway terrorist Anders Breivik, etc. Instead you are worried by our critique.

    In fact it does not appear you asked them because then you would have quoted exactly what they said. I don’t know what Muslim in their right mind actually agrees with Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s ranting against Muslims and Islam.

    There shouldn’t be any confusion regarding our position on Maajid or the seating guidelines if you read the article. If you actually had a point of contention you would have raised them but you didn’t.

  • The greenmantle

    I admit that was one of my points . But also I felt it betrayed the view that these organisations were set up like some sort of western NGO bit like Oxfam with guns 🙂
    You may not be aware but this site is plagued with rabid nutters who post bollocks on old threads . Most new comers who are genuine post on new threads . Your MO is more like the former than the latter and as such is likely to be treated as such
    Sir David .

  • Chameleon_X

    “Oh come on I wasn’t for a minute suggesting thats what everyone on this site was doing!!”

    Neither was David if I read his post literally. I think he was referring to the loon propaganda that these organizations actually even have an active mission statement to threaten the world with. You asked the question of whether this site “was supported by people who supported the mission statements of organisations like Hamas and Hizb ut-Tahrir.” Call me completely ignorant of the scary world domination scenario that could apparently be upon us all, but I have no idea what these mission statements even are to be able to answer that question. Since you seem to be so fully aware and concerned about what these mission statements are and how they are being implemented today, could you please address my humble ignorance by quoting these scary mission statements word for word? I might need to invest in a hardened bunker or buy some serious firepower to repel these invaders.

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