Muslims Against Sharia burst onto the scene last week with its announcement of a counter-bounty on the head of the probably-imaginary Abu Omar al-Baghdadi (al Qaeda’s own version of Keyser Soze). Bearing the slogan “Acknowledging Mistakes, Accepting Responsibities, Moving Forward” they seemed almost too good to be true. Unfortunately, they almost certainly are – as it is not clear that any of their members are actually Muslims!
The MASh manifesto sets out their stall quite explicitly:
– “We, as Muslims, find it abhorrent that Islam is used to murder millions of innocent people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike.”
– “Twenty-first century Muslims have two options: we can continue the barbaric policies of the seventh century […], or we can reform Islam to keep our rich cultural heritage and to cleanse our religion from the reviled relics of the past.”
So far so good. MASh appears to do exactly what it says on the tin: they are Muslims, and they are against sharia.
So it was surprising to see, buried away in their Blogger profile, that one of their main “Team Members” was Atlas Shrugs (aka Pamela Geller) – the right-wing, Bushier-than-Bush blogger who only last month was calling for Islam to be banned. Had Pamela “reverted” to the one true religion?
And why would MASh take on such a high-profile blogger and keep her hidden away? Did they think having an anti-Islam neocon on board might undermine their credibility? Or are they actually anti-Islam neocons themselves, and they simply forgot to cover their tracks by tidying up their Blogger profile?
The Freethinker asked MASh spokesman “Khalim Massoud” outright: “Are you in any way connected with American neocons?” – thereby giving him the chance to come clean and explain the Atlas connection. He answered:
Neocon is a vague term. If it means that neocon is a former Liberal who
became a Conservative after 9/11, then, in a way, we are all neocons. We get
blamed from both sides. There are people that see us as Islamic conspiracy
to decrease non-Muslim vigilance. Others see us as a neocon conspiracy to
divide the Ummah. There is no point in trying to convince either; they
already made up their minds. But since most of those people probably believe
that Bush and the Jews orchestrated September 11 attacks, we don’t want to
waste our time alleviating those concerns.
Oh dear. Concerns not really alleviated, Khalim. Concerns somewhat intensified.
What about Atlas herself? Although a prominent Team Member, she had made no mention of them on her blog – and she is prolific, to say the least – in spite of their headline-grabbing counter bounty earlier in the week. Why so coy?
The Freethinker: I notice that Muslims Against Sharia is one of the 4 Blogger blogs you administer [actually, ‘author’ is more accurate]. Was it your idea?
Atlas Shrugs: NO but I love it.
The Freethinker:How did you become involved with them?
Atlas Shrugs: They asked me …
The Freethinker: What exactly did they ask you for?
Atlas Shrugs: Uh… to join them. What is it you are getting at?
Uh… just wondering what a conservative Jew was doing in a group called Muslims Against Sharia.
An hour after that first question was answered, Atlas Shrugs broke its silence on MASh with a hasty post:
Why didn’t Khalim mention his high-flying team member when he was given the opportunity? He responded much later in the day (hey, it was Sunday – maybe he was in church):
We consider Ms. Geller an exemplary anti-Dhimmi and are honored by her involvement with Muslims Against Sharia. If every American felt about terrorism the way Ms. Geller does, we would be much farther ahead in the fight against terror than we are now. So, to make it absolutely clear, we would be happy to publicize our association with Ms. Geller.
Well, there you go. It’s public now.
I received a invitation to contribute to the MASh blog yesterday evening. I joined, but I won’t be contributing. It seems the only qualification necessary to join this group is to be “against sharia” – but it does raise the question of what the “Muslim” part of the name is for.
The latest member of the team is Ted Belman of Israpundit. Whatever their true motivations, MASh are laying themselves wide open to accusations of being a “Zionist conspiracy” – and a fair proportion of Muslims need no prompting to throw that one about.
Whether they really are brave reformists or just the product of some neocon fantasy is impossible to say. Only one thing can be stated with any certainty: Muslims Against Sharia is a misnomer.
NEXT WEEK: The Freethinker investigates “Atheists Against Secularism” – what exactly is Pope Benedict XVI’s role in this organisation?
UPDATE: (11th Oct) MASh founder Khalim Massoud is interviewed here by All American Blogger.