Hello. I’m an obscure investigative journalist with questionable credentials and a thinly veiled agenda. Lately the media has been giving a lot of attention to Maajid Nawaz, who casts himself as a “reformer” of Islam. I could use the space and audience I have here to engage his arguments and point out where he is wrong, and possibly acknowledge a little bit of truth in what he is saying, working to build agreement and consensus in spite of disagreeing on certain issues.
But instead, I’m going to do something original and groundbreaking that I don’t believe has ever been done before. I’m going to completely ignore Maajid Nawaz’s arguments and instead, cast several unsubtle aspersions on his character and motives. Let’s look now at some unflattering highlights of his life and paint the worst picture of him that we possibly can.
Exaggerated Background: Much of Maajid Nawaz’s credibility is rooted in his background as a former “radical” (note the quotes to introduce subtle skepticism), and the time he spent in an Egyptian jail being tortured. But I can use his background to exploit the fact that he was associated with radical extremist groups to cast him as an uneducated fuckup from the very beginning who had little in common with mainstream Islam, and who should barely be trusted to speak for himself, let alone 1.7 billion Muslims.
“Yeah, you should doubt his story,” says a person we contacted for this piece who may or may not be a reliable source himself. “Don’t trust Maajid Nawaz.”
As for the time he spent in an Egyptian jail being tortured, I can’t take that away from him, but I can imply that it wasn’t really as bad as he made it sound, and that he’s milking it to gain sympathy and add weight to his empty arguments. Part of him probably even enjoyed it a bit, sick freak that he is.
Lack of Education: It is outrageous how the media casts Nawaz as some sort of expert on Islam, when he has no training or experience that qualifies him as such.
It’s true that he has written two books on the topic, founded a non-profit think tank, and has dedicated his adult life to studying and speaking about Islam which, in addition to his unique life experiences, may in the eyes of some give him at least a basic knowledge and credibility on his subject. But he thinks things that I disagree with. He thinks things that challenge mainstream Islam, and thus by definition, he cannot be considered an expert. Anyone who suggests Islam needs major reforms cannot be an expert because Islam is perfect, and so the mere suggestion is a red flag signaling one’s incompetence.
The beautiful thing about this part of my piece is that even if he does have some measure of expertise, I’ve sowed enough seeds of doubt about his expertise such that you, the reader, might be afraid to be seen as uneducated yourself by agreeing with his arguments. The innuendo here is that even if Nawaz sounds like he’s making sense, if you agree with him you are being unsophisticated, perhaps even bigoted and Islamophobic.
The Profit Motive: Maajid Nawaz has written two books, but what he doesn’t tell you is that at least some of the profits from them have gone straight toward lining his own pockets. In addition, Quilliam, the “non-profit” organization he founded? It pays him a salary as well. He uses that money to buy nice clothes for himself and his American wife (his second), to travel all around the world, and probably on a number of other things that have absolutely nothing to do with Islam.
In addition there was one time that he really did go to a strip club, which is like a gift that keeps on giving when it comes to questioning his motives and true beliefs. No authentic Muslims have ever done anything as illicit as this, and it totally undercuts everything remotely reasonable Nawaz ever has said or will say again.
Questionable Associations: Many of you know that Maajid Nawaz has a professional association – and possibly even a cordial friendship – with Sam Harris. You all know Sam Harris: he’s an atheist whose books you haven’t read, but whom we have already succeeded in packaging as a bigot and an “Islamophobe.” And now that I’ve tied Maajid Nawaz to an Islamophobe, I’ve got one more little treat for you. I’m going to emasculate Maajid Nawaz by playing on racist stereotypes.
See, Sam Harris is a Jew, and Maajid Nawaz is a Muslim speaking out against mainstream Islam. So I can take a swipe at Maajid for being a traitor to his race by attacking his own and being subservient to a Jew. I’m not saying this outright, I’m just implying it, so it’s still within the bounds of acceptable journalism.
Summing up, I hope this short reframing of the life of Maajid Nawaz has been enough to make you question the veracity of every word that comes out of his mouth. His arguments are frequently eloquent and logical, so the best strategy we have to defeat him is to make people think he has an ulterior motive or a hidden agenda, so that people look past the actual arguments he is making. Normally I would prefer to just ignore him, but all the media attention he is getting kind of made this piece necessary to try to deflect attention away from the things he is saying.
The bottom line is, Islam doesn’t need reform, and anyone who suggests that it does is wrong. If people keep saying that it does, we also have more aggressive terms we can use, like “bigot” or “Islamophobe” or “murtad” in order to make you stop saying it. And if a person is successful at attracting attention with his arguments like Maajid Nawaz has been, then we can write entire articles meant to undercut their credibility and intimidate people into silence.
Remember: Islam doesn’t need reform. And while you might not remember any details from this essay, the main idea I would like you to take away is that you shouldn’t trust Maajid Nawaz.
You are compelled by the Quran to increase your knowledge. For the sake of your afterlife, here are two more articles that might just get you into Jannah: