On Saturday I was invited, as an agnostic who has interviewed an American imam, to hear a lecture by Walid Shoebat, a former Muslim turned Christian. It was given at an evangelical church just a few miles from my college.
There were only about 50 people present, but I can’t recall (at least in person, and in California) ever coming across quite so paranoid a public presentation. Walid Shoebat talked about Muslims and Muslim Americans in the way that I imagine average Germans must have whispered under their breath to one another, in the 1930s, about Jews.
No, I’m not exaggerating.
In Shoebat’s world, Muslims, including Muslim Americans, are scary. And he offered up his fright of Islam in the context of biblical prophecy, making claims like the following:
- It is America’s contemporary destiny to function as God’s instrument of war against nations allied with Satan.
- Nationalism is God’s will; internationalism, the devil’s.
- The antichrist will come, not out of Christian Europe, but out of Islam, and he will be a Muslim “worshiping the god of war” (that is, Allah).
- Pergamos, an ancient city in what is now Turkey, is the “seat of Satan.” (Walid Shoebat derives this insight from Revelation 2:13, concluding that John the Revelator is talking about Islam in the last days, and where the devil will be born.)
- John Wesley, says Shoebat, also thought that Islam would be the seat of the antichrist.
- The harlot of Revelation 13 is the Catholic Church (something Martin Luther also thought), and the beast she will ride is Islam.
- The god of Islam is not the same monotheistic god that Christians and Jews worship, but the ancient pagan goddess Artemis. Walid Shoebat says Artemis was associated with the crescent moon (what is now Islam’s symbol) and a meteorite (which Shoebat takes to be the black stone at Mecca).
- Wherever Muslims immigrate to a Western nation, and present themselves as moderate or peaceful, they are engaging in deception. Here’s Shoebat: “Peaceful Islam is a Trojan Horse.” As for moderate American Muslims, Shoebat sets them in a double bind: if they’re moderate, they’re not really practicing their religion; if they get radicalized, they’re showing Islam’s true colors. Put differently, Shoebat embraces the same definition of Islam as, say, Osama bin Laden.
- Barack Obama is not the antichrist (something apparently widely believed among evangelicals), but he is a Muslim (or Muslim sympathizer) who loves the call of prayer above all other sounds and promotes the Muslim practice of Zakat (almsgiving; one of the five pillars of Islam). Shoebat says you can see Obama support Zakat in a speech at YouTube. I’m guessing that Shoebat thinks Zakat is bad because it’s a form of socialism. Or perhaps he thinks the money really goes to terror cells in America, not the poor. Either way, I think Shoebat meant to imply that our president is a Muslim socialist who wants terror cells fully funded in the United States. Why else would Obama say anything nice about Zakat?
I wish I had brought a recorder. It was really quite the performance. And it was disorienting because he served up his out-group spiel against Muslims mixed with a folksy serving of Herderian patriotic demagoguery and pulpit humor.
But his jokes were mostly of the ugly sort. For example, see if you think this is funny: when, after the next terrorist incident in America, you direct your fire at random Muslim Americans that you might encounter on the street, don’t confuse them with Indian Sikhs:
Big turban, good; small turban, shoot.
Yes, Walid Shoebat said that.
And Shoebat has a real hard-on for gays (of the strictly metaphorical sort, of course). His talk was interspersed with asides to them, calling gays, more than once, “disgusting” and beyond his comprehension.
In the question and answer session after his talk, I couldn’t help but ask a question that I thought would be interesting to hear his response to:
Would you permit Muslim Americans their First Amendment right to build an Islamic center, on property owned by them, a few blocks down from Ground Zero?
Over my dead body.
In other words, Walid Shoebat believes that Muslim Americans are collectively guilty for what happened on 9-11 and would try to prevent them from exercising their 1st Amendment right to peaceable assembly.
And with that I decided that I was done with Mr. Shoebat. Loving people practice their faith with love, hateful people with hate.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Update: Looking at YouTube, I’m surprised to discover that Mr. Shoebat has been invited onto “straight” news shows on CNN and is a regular on Fox (recently appearing, for example, on Hannity’s show). And he even has a Wikipedia bio page.