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CNN’s Glass Jaw Journalism

Muslim representation within mainstream media has often and for a long time been simplified, propagandised and imprecise. Sana Noor Haq’s CNN article on ‘Andrew Tate’s Muslim fanbase…’ has unsurprisingly not done much to buck that trend.

The article – if we should generously refer to it in those terms – aims to demonstrate the impact that Andrew Tate’s conversion to the Islam has had, asserting that Tate’s adoption of the Islamic faith has provided him the opportunity to indoctrinate ‘Muslim men and boys with sexist rhetoric, while promoting a distorted version of Islam to justify his self-proclaimed misogyny and obsession with male dominance’.

The case is supported at the piece’s head by the anecdotal experience of an anonymous interviewee who holds Tate’s online rhetoric responsible for unfavourable attitudes adopted by her ex-fiance and siblings. Whether this is true or not is by the by, though it ought to be considered that for anybody’s conversion to Islam to make another Muslim ‘very, very angry’ is, for a Muslim, an odd emotional response.

The article though proceeds to lay out a conceptual framework where these alleged sexist and misogynistic views are adopted and promulgated by a hereto fictitious online sub cult comically dubbed the ‘akh right bros’. This ‘strand of Muslim male influencers’ is so haphazardly imagined that it manages to place in this concocted fraternity not only Mohammed Hijab – who as this article will go on to demonstrate has disavowed the Red Pill community in explicit terms – but also Myron Gaines who does not explicitly describe himself as a Muslim and is certainly not publicly practicing.

Sana relies for her flawed analysis on Harvard PhD candidate Javad Hashmi. In May 2021 responding to a video in which Hashmi appeared with internet personality Abu Layth, Mohammed Hijab remarked that Hashmi’s allegorising of Quranic passages was tantamount to disbelief. Since then, Hashmi has become what might mildly be described as obsessive, with streams of tweets in which he has referred to Hijab amongst other things as an ‘anti-Shi’a sectarian bigot’ despite Hijab participating in multiple debates with members of the Shia community. It should be noted that Hashmi’s perennialism which he has admitted is a non-normative within mainstream Islam renders this spiteful appellative somewhat superfluous.

Not only that, but despite the professional expertise that Hashmi’s Harvard position might imply – and that Sana appears to have taken for granted – his fanatical sensationalism has convinced him that Hijab has acquired ‘pope like status’. In granting credence to the idea that there actually exists a concerted online brotherhood called ‘akh right bros’ – an idea so ridiculous its laughable – CNN have allowed the incoherent and cringeworthy pun-work of an infatuated and self-obsessed troll to be deployed within their article as if it were an objective description of the online space.

Such lazy reporting smites the entire news organisation. Hashmi’s review is accepted and published at face value without consideration of the fact that Hashmi is not a disinterested party. The accompanying blunders evidence in truth that his biases in this regard fatally affected his judgment, and as a consequence irreparably wounded the reputability of the piece.

Part of the faulty framework adopted, positions red-pill ideological stances as being consonant with traditional understandings of Islam, a view which is unsurprisingly lethargic. The truth is that that the worldviews are fundamentally distinct. Islam is based in a holistic and comprehensive system of ethics and morals, which incorporates within that heuristic a rubric for family organisation that is cooperative and complimentary, oriented towards the singular creator and Divine. Red pill on the other hand, is indulgent, hedonic, and most importantly godless.

If Sana wished to interrogate the views of Hijab on the Red Pill movement, she may have approached him for comment. This did not happen. Had she Googled perhaps, she would have found videos in which the platitudes of Kevin Samuels are referred to as ‘nonsense’ that ‘Muslims should never subscribe to.’ Had she bore the pains to watch what YouTube conveniently refers to as a ‘short’ entitled ‘Why “Red Pill” Muslims are an Abomination’, she would have found the following comments:          

‘…[T]hose associated with Red Pill… are a shame on the Muslim community and are an embarrassment to themselves […] They have no problem attacking Muslim feminists on the basis that they oppose the Quran and the Sunnah on so many of the injunctions they have, and attitudes they may have. But Red Pill undoubtedly does the same thing, in the commodification [and] the objectification of women, in the telling of men to have intercourse as much as possible, pick-up artist tricks, moral decadence. […] All these things that go completely against the Quran and the Sunnah and you want to associate with this movement! Why not just associate yourself with the Prophet Muhammad (saw)’

It remains shocking, that such explicitly titled videos, and such unambiguous statements are completely disregarded in favour of simplified fabling.

The sad truth is, that Sana has unfortunately fallen into the same error which leads to an incorrect appreciation of Muslim positions within political, social, and economic debates. With the battleground in the minds of many drawn with progressive feminists on one side and misogynistic red-pill antagonists on the other, Muslims are increasingly being asked to pick a side. To be critical of liberal feminism immediately places them in the latter camp.

Islam in truth rests with neither. To be ‘in opposition to so-called Western values’ does not mean being ‘in favour of a version of Islam that is rife with misogyny’ as Hashmi’s ill-advice misconstrues. To be in opposition to feminism does not mean you have taken the proverbial red pill. The conservative body of Muslim opinions does not rest comfortably and uniformly on either side of the political spectrum. Should the mainstream media wish to engage intelligently with Muslim thought production, and indeed to appreciate the rich and nuanced contributions that Muslim dawah carriers have to make, they should resist the temptation to reduce everything to low resolution grand conflicts between right and left, and learn to appreciate the conservative Muslim voice for its novelty.

Politics & IR student, interests in Islamic Studies, current events and History