Saturday, January 23, 2016

Was Nabeel Qureshi a fake Muslim?

I've seen Muslims attempt to discredit Nabeel Qureshi on a couple of grounds:

i) They say he was never a real Muslim in the first place because he was an Ahmadi, and Ahmadis aren't true Muslims. Some of them compare that to how Christians disassociate themselves from Mormons.

Now, I can understand this objection from a Muslim standpoint, but it's only persuasive to insiders, not outsiders. It's hardly a reason for a Christian to view Nabeel as a fake Muslim. From a Christian standpoint, if Islam is a false religion, then the difference between one sect of a false religion and another sect of the same false religion is often insignificant. 

By the same token, the attempted parallel with Mormonism fails from a Christian standpoint. If I think Christianity is true, then I can distinguish true Christians from heretics. I have a standard of comparison. 

Indeed, the objection either proves too much or too little. Sunnis don't think Shiites are true Muslims. Shiites don't think Sunnis are true Muslims. Likewise, the Ibāī deny that Sunnis and Shiites are true Muslims. And, of course, you have lots of vicious factions within Sunni Islam, Shiite Islam, &c. 

ii) Now, I'm not saying you can't draw any lines at all. I think Hinduism and Islam are both false religions, but I don't think Hindus are Muslim, or vice versa. Likewise, I might say a Muslim modernist is not a true Muslim. 

The point, though, is that an outsider will draw the lines differently than an insider. Muslims can tell me that Ahmadis aren't true Muslims from their frame of reference, but they can't tell me that Ahmadis aren't true Muslims from my frame of reference. They can't dictate to me what's the proper frame of refernce. I don't share their standards. I have my own standards. My criteria will differ from theirs. 

I'd only agree with them if I was one of them. But that's the very thing we don't share in common. 

iii) Ironically, I expect much of the animosity which Muslims have towards Nabeel is because they view him as a traitor. But he can't very well be a traitor if he was never one of them. 

iv) In addition, they've taken issue with his statement that if he were still a Muslim, he might join the jihad. They object that since he was an Ahmadi, and Ahmadis reject jihad, he's dissembling. 

Now it's possible that his claim is inconsistent in that regard. It's possible that he's hyping his Muslim background to make his conversion more sensational and salesworthy. I don't rule that out. 

However, it could be a sincere statement. For instance, I've read that during WWII, many Anabaptists volunteered for military service. Although Anabaptists are officially pacifistic, Anabaptist communities suffered a significant defection rate during WWII. 

And that wasn't hypocritical on their part. The fact that they were raised in pacifism, indoctrinated in pacifism, doesn't mean they signed on the dotted line. Although nonviolence is part of the Anabaptist package, not everyone raised in a theological tradition views their theological inheritance as a package deal which they must accept or reject in toto. 

More to the point, some young men find the prospect of literally fighting for a cause enormously appealing. Consider how successful ISIS has been at recruiting Westerners. These are man (and women!) with no background in Islam. Or consider foreigners who volunteered to take sides in the Spanish Civil War. There are young men who find that thrilling and self-validating–at least in theory. For better or worse, many men are warriors at heart. The fact that some of them were taught otherwise doesn't change how they feel. Actual combat may disillusion some of them. So there's nothing inherently disingenuous in Nabeel's statement. 

v) In addition, it wouldn't surprise me if Nabeel is referring to Islam in general: to its early authoritative texts. Because he's no longer a Muslim, he can view it with greater detachment than when he belonged to one particular sect. 


  1. Amen! Every new Muslim convert to Christianity, the Muslim community will try their best to discredit that person saying things like he wasn't a Muslim from the beginning just like they did with Nabeel, "Son of Hamas" Mosab Hassan Yousef and many others!

  2. For some reason this article reminded me of Ergun Michael Caner. He made himself over after 9/11 and skillfully rode the Muslim-curiosity wave for quite awhile. Got himself some nice speaking engagements, a couple of sweetheart employment gigs, and even some published material.

    Like the "Iron Sheik" from 80's wrasslin'. Good fun.

    1. Yes, that's something to keep in mind.

  3. I don't think Nabeel is being hypocritical or deceptive. It's only that since having left Islam he now has a firmer grasp and understanding of Islamic teaching, tradition and history that he now sees how terroristic jihadist theology and practice IS in keeping with Islamic teaching and Muhammad's example.

    It's analogous to my leaving Roman Catholicism for imperfect reasons. For example, that Catholicism teaches justification by strict merit works. When in fact Catholicism doesn't teach that kind of crass Pelagianism. In the case of Nabeel, he now sees Islam as worse than he thought. Whereas now I see Catholicism as not being as bad as I once thought (though still bad).

  4. In john 9 the people tried to say that is was not the man born blind. A simple way to rid oneself from an incontinent truth.