Yesterday, Jihad Watch writer Christine Williams posted a link to this story from Christian Today, along with some commentary praising Wall Street Journal reporter Sohrab Ahmari for his courage. Ahmari had announced his conversion to Christianity after two Islamic jihadists murdered Catholic priest Jacques Hamel:
There are two possible implications of this: it could be that Ahmari was so appalled as a Muslim by the murder of Fr. Hamel that he thought it an apposite time to announce that he was leaving Islam, or that Ahmari as a non-Muslim was so appalled by the murder of Fr. Hamel that he decided to stand publicly in solidarity with Roman Catholics. These are not mutually exclusive, but in any case, the coverage he got all opted for the first: in a photo caption, Christian Today wrote: “A leading Muslim journalist as announced his conversion to Catholicism with the hashtag #Iamjacqueshamel”:
Catholicism.org had the same interpretation; its headline reads: “Moslem Writer for WSJ Moved by Priest’s Martyrdom to Convert to Catholicism.”
Both the Christian Today piece and the Catholicism.org piece still identify Ahmari as a former Muslim. But when Jihad Watch published our piece with the headline, “Top Muslim Wall Street Journal reporter converts to Christianity after jihadist attack on priest,” Ahmari flew into a frothing, carpet-chewing rage. He tweeted at me accusing me of sloppiness and irresponsibility — in a tweet he has since deleted, apparently because in it he wrongly assumed that I had written the Jihad Watch post, when in fact Christine Williams had. How embarrassing to be sloppy and irresponsible in the process of accusing someone else of being sloppy and irresponsible. But Ahmari has something of a reputation for sloppiness and irresponsibility: the International Business Times wrote this about him back in 2012: “The more troubling issue is that the WSJ failed in its journalistic obligation to ensure factual accuracy, even on the editorial page. The WSJ’s editorial by Sohrab Ahmari was blatantly fallacious on multiple counts.”
Even though I took our post down at his request, in the course of our Twitter exchange, Ahmari was not only unaccountably abusive, but increasingly agitated, railing about the Jihad Watch “fevered swamps” in another tweet he later deleted — it wouldn’t look good, after all, for a Wall Street Journal reporter to betray that he has only a weak grasp of English idiom. He also accused me of being “irresponsible and malicious.”
Well, let’s see. Two sources currently identify Ahmari as an ex-Muslim; Christine Williams linked to one at Jihad Watch, and Ahmari is exercised only at Jihad Watch for this alleged inaccuracy — he has not publicly called out either of the other two in the way he called me out. He explained in another tweet that he was going after me first because Jihad Watch was “ideological trash.”
What’s more, Andrew Bostom has pointed out the fact that on page eight of Ahmari’s book Arab Spring Dreams, he identifies himself as “Iranian (with Azeri roots).” What an interesting self-description: the Ayatollah Khamenei is also an Iranian with Azeri roots. The overwhelming majority of Iranians with Azeri roots are Muslim or come from a Muslim background. Ahmari tweeted at me that he had never been Muslim, but had been a secular atheist — in yet another tweet that he curiously deleted soon afterward. There is no reason to doubt his self-description, even if he deleted it, but it is a perfectly reasonable assumption, and indeed a likelihood, that if he is an Iranian with Azeri roots, his secular atheist household was at least nominally Muslim in the Islamic Republic of Iran, in which he grew up and only left in 1998, and that when he announced his conversion to Catholicism in the context of the priest’s murder, he was renouncing even any cultural and vestigial attachment to Islam.
It could be that Ahmari is afraid of being targeted by Muslim hardliners as an apostate if he identifies as a former Muslim. His fear in that case would be understandable, if not particularly worthy of respect; but to lash out at those who reported about his actions accurately suggests other motives as well. The bottom line is that whether Ahmari comes from a Muslim or Bahai or Christian or Jewish or Zoroastrian background, and whatever religion he is now, even in his revulsion at the murder of Fr. Hamel, he feels the need to distance himself from genuine opponents of jihad terror, and to assure his colleagues that even though he opposes jihad terror, he isn’t going to do anything so politically incorrect as link it to Islam.
Irresponsible, inaccurate, and careless “journalists” such as Sohrab Ahmari have no business being employed by the Wall Street Journal or any other respectable publication. But nowadays the world is so saturated with identity politics that he no doubt has doors opening to him on the strength of his name alone, his lack of talent and journalistic integrity notwithstanding.