Whilst idling my morning away scrolling through the stories and tweets on Twitter, I came across an exposé on Maajid Nawaz. This “shocking” piece was authored by New Republic’s Nathan Lean, who is, I am told, a scholar of Middle Eastern studies, political science, and international relations, and the author of what I can only imagine is a facetiously titled book, The Islamophobia Industry. The article in question is entitled What Does Maajid Nawaz Really Believe? My first series of internal responses to the title were profoundly philosophical – What do any of us really believe? Do our beliefs stay the same throughout the course of our lifetime? Is it possible to believe or disbelieve something and keep it hidden from our close friends and family? Anyway, after losing myself in pre-caffeinated pontifications for about fifteen minutes, I opened the link and began reading. Here’s how Nathan Lean begins his article:
Maajid Nawaz’s shoes clack against the hardwood floor as he ambles up and down the center aisle of the Oxford Union’s hallowed debating chamber. It’s January 2013 and the British activist, sporting a slick black tuxedo and a gelled coiffure, urges the House to accept the motion that the American Dream is a noble ethos to which all people should aspire.
You can learn quite a lot about the intentions and motivations of an author from the opening paragraph of an article. What foundation is Lean trying to establish here? Why open your piece on what Maajid Nawaz really believes with a description of him sporting a “slick tuxedo” in a fancy establishment like Oxford Union? Why build your entire article upon this particular statement of Maajid’s? And why on earth include the fact that he uses hair gel? I hadn’t even escaped the first paragraph before the rhetorical stench of regressive propaganda started rising from my iPhone, and I was quickly reminded of this smear by Murtaza Hussain:
For those interested, here is Maajid’s reply to that emotionally-driven, racist slur.
Maajid Nawaz just wants to be rich and famous! Surely this cannot be the primary point of Lean’s article, I thought. This has already been vomited ad nauseam by regressive liberal commentators and Islamist apologists. However, if Maajid does want to be rich and famous, then we must ask ourselves a very important question.So what? Wouldn’t we all like to be rich and famous? And if we can help make the world a little safer and assist disenfranchised people along the way, all the better. Sadly, Lean’s entire point did hinge on the proposition that Maajid is only out for those sweet Benjamins, or are they called Elizabeths in England, I’m not sure. Anyway, the point is, Maajid is actually making money by helping to de-radicalize otherwise dangerous Islamists, whilst trying to establish a bridge of communication between right-wing factions and liberal Muslims in the U.K. What a monster! This “exposé” screams of a sad man screaming, “why not me!”
Lean’s irrational case rests almost entirely upon the anecdotal and uncited testimony of those who used to be close to Maajid – those who now view their former friend and sibling as someone who has, perhaps, “lost his way” by associating with atheists and espousing a view contrary to his former ideology. Having said this, Lean does produce some primary source material to show that Maajid’s deconversion from radical Islam wasn’t an instantaneous event, but an elongated process. Lean’s piece of damning evidence comes from a public statement Maajid made after his release from prison:
“I have become more convinced of the ideas that I went into prison with.”
Let’s take a look at the whole quote:
“I have become more convinced of the ideas that I went into prison with,” he said. “After so many years of seeing the violence and torture [of the Egyptian authorities] I am convinced there is an alternative.”
Now, in the BBC HardTalk interview with Sarah Montague, Maajid did advocate for the peaceful establishment of an Islamic caliphate. This is shocking, right? No, it is not shocking at all to those of us who have read more than a single social-psychological journal article on the social and psychological issues surrounding the deconversion process.
In her peer-reviewed paper on Deconversion from Religious Movements, Jacobs remarks: …the more current literature examines the process of leaving as a gradual and voluntary phenomenon that reflects disillusionment with both the social and emotional dimensions of religious commitment.
Further, Ebaugh’s Role Exist Theory, as enunciated by Altier et al., highlights the gradual and complex process that an individual goes through before formally exiting a given role:
Ebaugh noted the process of exiting rarely occurs as a result of one sudden decision and often originates long before one is fully aware of what is happening or where events and decisions will lead. The process begins with a series of initial doubts, which cause individuals to question and reconsider their role. This stage is marked by the reinterpretation of role requirements and judgments regarding the perceived costs and benefits of meeting the role’s demands. This doubting process tends to be gradual and marked by feelings of dissatisfaction, rather than specific knowledge of its cause. Ebaugh suggested that while some may never proceed past this doubting stage, others occupy it for years and still others may proceed through it rapidly. Yet, at some point, all individuals emit cues suggesting to themselves and others that they are dissatisfied.
Thus, it can be true that Maajid’s deconversion-moment occurred exactly as he described it – in prison – but that the outward expression of that deconversion – a process which involved the obvious damaging and destroying of powerful social bonds with people who are now serving as ammunition for the Regressive Left – occurred as a slower and even more gradual process than his psychological separation from radical Islam.
Lean, having neither studied nor researched a single theory on the gradual social and psychological processes involved with deconversion, attempts in vain to demonstrate that Maajid is just a lying opportunist who does not believe what he says he believes – because look! He did not become outwardly de-radicalized in prison, but after! Case closed. I’m going home to tweet about how real Muslim women should be veiled and how no Arab man should ever openly espouse a secular and rational viewpoint!
Put simply, Lean’s poorly researched and ill-contrived argument is akin to contending that a gay person is not truly gay until they have announced it to the world. Or that one is not an atheist until they tell their friends and family, and post hilarious pictures of Jesus and Muhammad on Facebook and Twitter.
One of the numerous rancid cherries on the top of Lean’s steaming pile of regurgitated regressive nonsense has to be this paragraph:
On Twitter, Nawaz has posted controversial caricatures of Muhammad, urged veiled women to take off their hijabs, and questioned the state of mind of Ahmed Mohamed, the 14-year-old “clock boy”—all while trading “solidarity” hashtags with militant secularists and ignoring prejudice that faces his own religious group. Such is Nawaz’s playbook for achieving fame: court controversy by baiting religious believers (usually Muslims) and hitching his wagon to the provocateurs of the secular pundit circuit.
Once again, Lean is simply regurgitating the tired and inane motifs that have become a staple of the Regressive Left’s oversimplified, neon-lit narrative. Everyone hit the floor, find a safe space and cover your ears and brace your sensitive little heartstrings, it’s a “Militant secularists!” And you know who these “militant secularists” are, don’t you? They/we are the ones who, in face of smears and attacks from both the Regressive Left and the fascist Right, are peacefully advocating modern human rights for all, over and above the outdated, misogynistic and barbaric human-rights-infringing beliefs of a single group of violent and barbaric believers. The “secular pundit circuit” is yet another Regressive Left motif describing those evil and monstrous “New Atheists”, you know, fiends such as comedian and animal rights activist Ricky Gervais, scientist and liberal-feminist Richard Dawkins, the peace-espousing philosopher Daniel Dennett, and the evilest of them all, that baby devourer Sam Harris, who, regressive reporters report, can consume a total of 50 newborn Muslim infants in a single sitting.
I guess I could have just scrolled past this waste of internet space. I could have just laughed in private, or shot out a quick tweet about how the Regressive Left would save themselves a lot of time if they just created a single template on Google Drive with blanks left for the names of the victims of their vitriolic smears, but to be totally honest, I have far too much time on my hands of late.