“Islam is very simple,” says Yusuf Estes, the celebrated “revert” to, and missionary for, Islam. Estes was formerly a Christian preacher, and now has found an even better way to make a living, as a missionary for Islam, exploiting his previous life as a Christian to maximum effect. “It is easy to explain. Basically, there’s God and there’s you.” It’s an attractive idea for many Spiritual Searchers suffering from all kinds of anomie in the Western world. Tiens, they say to themselves. Think of that. “There’s God and there’s you.” What could be better? For these Spiritual Searchers, or at least the ones who make their way to Islam, are so often self-absorbed — which is why they are on a Spiritual Search in the first place, and are not content to dance with the boy what brung “˜em — that if they are offered a faith that, in the presentation of Yusuf Estes, puts you front and center in direct unmediated contact with God, that can sound attractive. “Basically, there’s God and there’s you.”
And if you are further choosing a faith that has been much in the news, and is identified with all kinds of — brividi — “transgressive” activities, you seem to yourself even more unusual, even more special. And what fun it is to acquire an Arabic name that you may adopt, or use alternatively with your given non-Arabic one, or possibly not use it at all, but just quietly take secret pleasure in it. Why, it’s a little like Huey, Dewey, and Louie, with their secret decoder rings, and passwords for entering the clubhouse, that they are given when they become Junior Woodchucks of America.
And there’s something else when you join Islam. All of a sudden, you think you have a wonderful instant community — just add Islam: the Umma of Believers. And it’s true, when you have expressed an interest in Islam: you may find yourself immediately surrounded by Believers intent on pressing you to convert. They make much of you. They keep in close touch with you. They are warm. They are friendly. They seem so deeply concerned and considerate. You do not know that they have been told to be careful what they allow you to learn about Islam. You do not know that they are deliberately withholding a great deal from you, while in order to convert to Christianity or Judaism you must learn a good deal, to make sure you are not undertaking this conversion lightly.
The Muslims in charge of your conversion have been told that they should not go into certain things at first, but only let you discover them slowly, and possibly not for a long time. No need to discuss the Hadith and Sira, or to make sure that potential “reverts” find out about the Banu Qurayza, the Khaybar Oasis, Asma bint Marwan, or little Aisha. No reason to have them find out too much — read too many — of the Hadith. No need to have them really to make sense of all parts of the Qur’an — including Sura 9. No, all of that can wait until you have recited the Shehada, become a Muslim, and otherwise inveigled ever deeper into its mysteries, but in a way that will lead you carefully from one point and then to another, at a careful pace. Many ex-Muslims who were not born into Islam, but converted to it, have testified — openly or in some cases most discreetly, about how they were deliberately misled about Islam until, in a sense, it was too late.
You are welcome. Your conversion, as a Westerner, greatly heartens Muslims. They love to produce lists — often crazy lists — of “famous Westerners ” who converted to Islam. It’s quite a disappointing list, and of course it’s full of inaccuracies. Neil Armstrong did not convert to Islam, but you can understand why Muslims would wish to believe that an American astronaut, the first man to walk on the moon, had become a Muslim. There are oddballs — the French doctor Bucaille comes to mind — who are on this list, and whom no one outside the world of Islam has ever heard of, but whose stories are known to many Muslims. These stories provide them with the illusion that people are coming to Islam, and not just the economically and psychically marginal, but all kinds of bigshots, such as “Doctor Bucaille.” And they repeat, over and over, the baseless claim that Islam is “the world’s fastest-growing religion.”
What is amazing about Yusuf Estes” claim is not that it is not true, but that it is the very opposite of true. In Islam the individual Muslim is not alone with God. Instead, he is a “slave of Allah” and the rules of his mental and moral and other kinds of servitude are all set out in the Shari”a, the Holy Law of Islam. So you”ve Got Friends. Every Muslim is your new true-blue friend. And, because of how Muslims are taught to view the world, every Infidel who somehow makes problems for Islam, who insists, for example, on the right of free peoples in the West to exercise their freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of conscience — is now your enemy. All your former Infidel acquaintances and friends and relatives are now estranged from you. Or if they are not estranged, you see them as potential converts, or more exactly in your view “reverts,” whom you may cultivate either for that reason, or because you want to make sure that you do your bit to present Islam as entirely unthreatening, perfectly domesticated, utterly swell, save of course for that handful of “extremists” here and there and everywhere who manage to so “distort” and “pervert” it. You never, however, offer chapter and verse, never give any details of exactly how they “distort” and “pervert” the Message of Islam.
Is it true, in the end? Is what Yusuf Estes said true? Is it true that in Islam, it’s “just you and God” and nothing else? For the disaffected Catholic, for example, who doesn’t like the Vatican, and the cardinals, and the priests, and wants something “purer” — and what could be “purer” than “just you and God”? — Islam might hold appeal. Many will like the idea of a faith where it’s really all so simple, and with such seeming autonomy — “hey, if I become a Muslim there’s just God and just me” — which accords with the o”erweening self-centerednesss and sense of mental entitlement of so many, but it is false. In fact, Islam is the most regulating of all faiths. It’s a Total Belief-System. It tells its adherents what to do, and does not suggest but rather offers a complete list of what is Prohibited, and what is Commanded. It does not offer room for possible autonomous moral judgment, for at every step one is discouraged from one’s own questioning, is told to be “a slave of Allah” and to realize that whatever Allah wills must not be questioned. Indeed, the constant use of verbal formulae reinforces the view that Allah is completely in charge — “inshallah” means “Allah willing” this or that may happen, or may not happen. It also suggests, furthermore, that it is not the role of the individual to question anything that Allah wills, no matter how crazy or cruel it might seem to be to someone morally aware, because, as another famous formula has it, Allah Ta”allah Knows Best. One submits, one never questions, one never has an occasion to exercise moral sense.
And far from being a faith that allows for individual autonomy, Islam is a collectivist faith. One’s sole duty is to Islam. In Islam, it is perhaps most accurate to say that neither Allah nor even Muhammad, that exemplary Perfect Man, is being worshipped, but rather Islam itself. Yes, in Islam one worships….Islam. And the individual adherent, that “slave of Allah,” must conform outwardly to Islam, and, ideally, live in a state where the Holy Law of Islam, the Shari”a is enforced. Shari”a is the formal legal embodiment of what is contained in Qur’an and Sunnah (“Sunnah” being the customs and ways of the earliest Muslims, the written record of which customs and ways can be found mainly in the Hadith and Sira). The individual Muslim does not matter. He becomes part of the Umma, the collective. If your taste runs to crowd psychology and to mass rallies that meander on a course rather than require True Believers to collectively heil-hitler out their collective madness in serried ranks, as at so many Nuremberg Rallies, and you actually look forward to being one of a million or two million people surging over the bridge and throwing stones at the Devil, and then walking seven times widdershins round the Magic Wonderstone within the Ka”aba (with its veil, or hilweh, demurely draped over it), then Islam is for you.
Islam is for the person who can’t stand to have to make choices, can’t stand to have to exercise moral sense, and wants, wants, wants, to be part of a faith that is collectivist. You are part of the Army of Islam, and once in, you can’t get out. You must owe your loyalty only to Islam and to fellow Muslims, never — in the slightest way — to non-Muslims or to any legal or political institutions or social arrangements that are the product of non-Muslim societies and peoples. It’s a Collectivist Faith, and because it purports to regulate every single area of life, it is a Totalitarian Faith. And while it has been from its inception, technological developments have given totalitarian movements the ability to more thoroughly penetrate and dominate the minds of those over whom they have a hold, whether the hold is mainly one limited to a specific state (as Nazi Germany, or Communist Soviet Union) or is a hold based on an ideology spread among True Believers not only in Islam-ruled lands but also in lands where non-Muslims have not yielded to Islam.
So there it is. The crackpot, and no doubt venal Yusuf Estes, making himself a better living than he might have been making as what he probably was previously — a low-level elmer gantry — can tell the naive and ignorant Spiritual Searchers who know nothing about Islam that “there’s just God and there’s just you.” No Qur’an, no Sunnah, no Shari”a. No — just you and just God. He’s got it exactly wrong. Islam is the most legalistic, collectivist, and even totalitarian of faiths. If you try to leave Islam for another faith, or for no faith, you can be killed, and you are certainly viewed not as a free individual freely exercising your choice, but rather as a defector from what is seen by Muslims (and rightly) not so much as a faith but as the Army of Islam.
No need to listen to crackpots. Hit the books. Study up. Or if you don’t want to do so, then come right here to Jihad Watch and take the Online Short Course. There are new lessons, for those with minds to make sense of things, put up here every day.