Calling Spades Across the Divide in the Comedy of Errors – The Saga of Umar Lee and the Islamists

By Ahmed Younis and Dr. Bassem Youssef

Umar Lee left Islam — and then came back.

One of the things Egyptians and Americans have in common is professional wrestling. Weekly translations of the glory years of WWF episodes have ensured that there is nothing missed (in translation) between the youth of our two worlds. From Hulk Hogan, The Rock and the John Cena to the Iron Sheikh and Nikoli Volkov (everyone’s favorite dirty bastard communist villain) – we are all on the same page.

So, you can imagine that when writer and speaker Umar Lee left Islam, we felt the need to narrate this episode of “Islamist Wrestling – The Clown Series.”

For Umar Lee, the real human under the costume, we wish nothing but the best in the healing of his heart and his search for Grace and Mercy from the Almighty. We believe in his freedom to choose any faith and search for his truth on this earth.

Umar Lee, the cartoon wrestler that represents the comedic end of the Islamist spectrum of confusion, however, we will show no mercy in jokes.

According to Dilshad Ali of Managing Editor of the Muslim Channel at Patheos, “Lee cited numerous reasons for going back to Christianity, including infighting and division in the Muslim community, being judged on things like a woman’s hijab or the length of a man’s beard, on apostasy, on how Muslims are killing Muslims, on how he doesn’t know a happy Muslim and a host of other reasons.”

Here is what’s curious:  Lee was a little known phenomenon until he released a video approximately one year ago accusing many people of many things. Among them, he criticized women who wore a hijab (head scarf) not conservative enough to his liking, calling them “HOE-Jabis” instead of “Hijabis” and underscoring that they are whores for not covering to his liking. This, of course, is consistent with connection between most Islamists and cocaine-addicted pimps that sell sex. They both see women as either avenues of power or pieces of meat for entertainment.

Umar branded himself as “The Correctifier” (you can’t make this up folks), whose job, like most Islamists, is to correct. Like the Saudi religious police meeting an Irish Leprechaun at the time of evening prayers at a bar in Jeddah, Umar was ready to correct. That is, correct the deviations he sees others are engaged in. And like a steroid-filled wrestler in a rural American gym, Umar Lee threw chairs and opponents over the ropes once the cameras turned on. He once challenged rival Muslim liberal convert Muhammad Michael Knight to a boxing match. Literally.

When he attacked a person of note in the music/art world of doing shows to “spit game” to young Muslim women and trick them into temporary marriages, a series of self-proclaimed American Muslim “activists” on Facebook took the accusation and ran with it. They took it upon themselves to “speak the truth” and expose those people taking advantage of … wait for it … OUR WOMEN.

All of these people jumped on one man because “The Correctifier” called him out in a video. When Umar Lee left Islam, the only person to call him early on and show support was this same person he cursed in his videos – a Prophetic example indeed.

Umar Lee even perfected the ultimate wrestling move. He tried to rebrand from the bad guy to the good guy! Recently he claimed that he got a vision in his sleep of a Saint, and he immediately realized the wrongs of Salafism and changed his approach to Sufism. And it worked! Many of his old friends and supporters said he was now an infidel because to them he was no longer “hard core” enough.

Who was saying this? Black, White and Latino converts to Islam in the middle of America who imported something other than Islam and are spreading it fast – all disappointed in the performance of their chosen wrestler.

You can imagine their horror when he published a video saying that he left Islam and accepted Jesus Christ as his savior. I’m sure some of those Salafis went back to drinking Johnny Walker! Maybe they felt vindicated when he later released a statement through a friend on Facebook saying that he was going into hiding to think things through and that he “jumped the Jesus shit.” Maybe it gave them hope that he will return to the abode of clowns and wrestlers in yet another form. Like … Super-Just-Kidding-Wahhabi-Salafi-Man!

And in fact, a few days ago, Popeye announced he is coming back to Islam.

The takeaway? Islamists are no different than cartoon characters and professional wrestlers.

They are usually an exaggerated version of a minute detail in a history of 1400 years, amplified to deafening levels of noise and thereby totally washing out the essence of Islam. Oftentimes that detail is inextricably linked to the glorification of a concept, norm or trait of ancient times.

So, if at the time of the Prophet there were no paved roads, Islamists walk the streets of Philadelphia in 2013 with short pants, despite no impending floods. If the toothbrush at the time was a twig from a tree and the cologne consisted of unhealthy oils meant for burning, then in Los Angeles we are going to call Colgate toothpaste the enemy of religion and lead a jihad against the automated toothbrush as an innovation in worship.

Like wrestlers, they come in many shapes and sizes, like bad knock-off Frolex watches from the street vendor. At their core, they are fakes just like the people they are attempting to imitate.

Islam is a beautiful way of life under threat from Islamists and their failed strategies, ideologies and now economic/social policies. There is a mass exodus of people leaving Islam around the world because of the ugliness that Islamists have reaped in the public square.

The story above with all of its details is a true story. And it is a story that plays itself out in Muslim societies globally every day. The simpleton approach of Islamists to religion, economics, society, individual growth etc. are not enough to satiate the appetites of either those whom were born into Islam or those that come to Islam throughout their lives. Islam is need of no more clowns.

Let us as Muslims declare our independence from the Islamists and their funders of cash and providers of ideology. Let us as Muslims not cower, allowing them to make a mockery of a great faith. The tragedy is that their hearts and the hearts of so many are turned away from a beautiful way of life, because the teachers are as confused as the students, and their cultural sources of knowledge are obsolete in modernity.

Dr. Bassem Youssef is a Cairo-based Cardiac Surgeon and satirist. He hosts Al Barnameg (The Show) Egypt’s first live audience satire show. Last week he hosted “The Daily Show’s” Jon Stewart on-set in Cairo.

Ahmed Younis is an American public intellectual and social entrepreneur of Egyptian descent based in Huntington Beach, Ca. who tweets @ahmedyounisjd. 

  • Noah Smith

    I’ve heard that the de-conversion rates for both Christian to Muslim and Muslim to Christian converts is 80%

  • Msironen

    They can’t all be right, but they can all be wrong.

  • Dalia Hashim

    The overall message of this article may be to claim that Umar Lee and his likes do not represent islam however, grouping Islamists in one box is no less of a stereotype. So in denying a stereotype you have perpetuated another. For that reason and many of its likes many of those who look to follow Salafis or MB through wearing a Niqab are being hated and stereotyped both in the west or closer to both the writers’ home in Egypt. your words are powerful, so choose them carefully please.

  • nmr

    Hating on the Salafis or Islamists is like hating orange. Sure, the color may not look good on you, but it might work for other people, and hey- it does bring out the royal blue of that carpet. Islam is a rainbow of colorful interpretations, but someone with an active imagination and a curious nature (likely characteristics of Umar Lee) will probably not fit for long in certain spectra.

    What is sadder and more sobering is that Muslims today are often encouraged not to question, not to think for themselves, not to discuss. Do you realize that in the first two centuries after the birth of Islam there were nineteen different schools of religious law? There was an active translation program of Greek texts into Arabic? Masjids had libraries (and not just religious texts) built next to them? Unless we capture that original spirit of inquiry and innovation, we will be forgotten on the dust bin of history.

    Also- hope everyone will be keeping safe in the protests. Love the spirit of freedom & solidarity, but scared for you, too.

  • Aaron Vlek

    Marginalized US males of a certain age and all ethnicities have a long history of attaching themselves to historic movements and then ensconcing themselves in the hate and costumes of their heroes. Thus they become caricatures and cartoon cutouts of these images and movements. Skinhead Nazis who know nothing of history come just as quickly to mind as do the likes of Umar Lee. Beyond the clichés of dress and a few buzz words, they present nothing of themselves but the hatred which is the real justification of their actions. It seems a uniquely American phenomena and one rooted visibly in comic books and a desperate search for heroes. Perhaps this speaks more of the nature of marginalized American souls themselves than it does the movements they plagiarize.