More on the Western fetishizing of Islamic worship

The Canadian ex-Muslim Eiynah, also known as “Nice Mangos” —it’s telling that many ex-Muslims, but not ex-Jews or ex-Catholics, must hide their identity—drew my attention to an article in Time Magazine with this tw**t:

And Eiynah’s right with her claim that similar displays by Christians would be cringe-worthy. In fact, we don’t even have to speculate about it: we already have an example in the form of “Tebowing.” Tim Tebow, a former quarterback for the Denver Broncos, used to drop to his knees on the field after a victory, genuflecting and thanking the nonexistent god he loved so fervently. Here’s one of his poses. He did this so often that it became a meme, and a subject of national debate.


And indeed, a lot of people liked Tebow’s behavior, for there are always those who prize public displays of Christianity. Indeed, at the University of Florida, Tebow used to wear Biblical verses on the black pigment that quarterbacks often wear under their eyes (supposedly to stop sun glare). You can look up this verse for yourself.


Credit Chris Graythen/Getty Images

But, as the New York Times recounts, there was plenty of criticism of this excessive religiosity as well, with Tebow being seen by some as a “religious nut job.” There’s even a a website that mocks his gesture, showing people Tebowing all over the globe. So yes, there’s not universal approbation for public displays of Christianity on the athletic field.

But there is for Islam. We’ve already seen the huge outpouring of enthusiasm for Ibtihaj Muhammad, the American who fenced in the Olympics wearing a hijab. Even Hillary Clinton tweeted about that, even though there was nothing courageous or heroic about Muhammad’s act, and in the end she turned out to be a pretty nasty exponent of anti-Semitism. There’s nothing to celebrate about an athlete from the U.S. wearing religious garb during the Olympics, particularly a garment that is a symbol of oppression: of a religion that views women as temptresses who can incite men’s uncontrollable lust by showing a wisp of hair. Yes, women have the right, or should, to wear hijabs everywhere, and some even claim to do it by “choice”—although what does that mean when there’s often severe social pressure by family and peers to conform? But let’s not deem the wearing of headscarves to be “heroic”. What would be “heroic” would be a woman in Iran or Saudi Arabia—where wearing the head-shackle is mandatory—to take it off in public.

But of course the Western media, even on the Left, have bought into Islamic exceptionalism: what would be cringe-worthy or mocked if it were done by Christians or Jews is seen as wonderful when done by Muslims. This is done out of fear—fear of two sorts. Fear that one could be attacked physically for criticizing or not sufficiently deferring to a religion whose adherents have made “I’m offended” their trademark, and fear that one will be called a bigot for not sufficiently osculating the Oppressed. It all stinks, for it’s all about celebrating the inimical effects of religion on human behavior.

But according to the latest venue to osculate Islam, Time magazine, the religion is all positive. Have a look at this headline below (click the screenshot to go to the site)

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 6.50.59 AM

My first temptation is to say one could write a counter-headline: “20 beheadings and 5 gays thrown off buildings show the negative power of Islam.” But, that aside, I bet that Time hasn’t used examples from the Olympics to show the positive power of Christianity or Judaism! Nope, it’s Islam that must be coddled and its “positive power” extolled at all costs.

Time gives three examples, and maybe the first one does show a salubrious influence of the faith on one athlete, Mo Farah, who won the men’s 10,000-meter dash. I quote from Time:

After he crossed the finish line, Farah fell on the track again—this time to pray. He bowed his head before a stadium of adoring spectators. That performance was just as dramatic as racing past Kenya’s Paul Kipngetich Tanui to win this third gold medal.

Farah’s prayer can help counter the damaging stereotypes of Muslims held by many around the world. For Farah, and scores of Muslim athletes, faith is not incidental, but central to their excellence in sport. “I normally pray before a race,” Farah said. “I read du’aa [Islamic prayers or invocations] think about how hard I’ve worked and just go for it.”

First of all, it’s not a stereotype of Muslims, at least one I’m familiar with, that their faith is “incidental”. We all know that it’s one of the faiths most closely bound up with politics and social lives. As far as Farah’s performance is concerned, maybe his faith had something to do with it, but we don’t know for sure. He feels it does, but that’s not even evidence for a placebo effect. All Time can really say is that Mo Farah prays before he races, and he won.

What about athletes who don’t pray before they race, because they’re atheists, and they win too? Would you say that shows the “positive power of atheism”? Does Michael Phelps’s stupendous performance in the Olympics show “the amazing power of cupping”?Why wouldn’t Time write that? What about an athlete who wins wearing his lucky shoes? Would Time say “Olympic athlete shows positive power of lucky shoes”?

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 6.51.40 AM

Britain’s Mo Farah celebrates winning the Men’s 10,000m during the athletics event at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on Aug. 13, 2016. Photo: Frank Fife, Getty AFP Images.

Time‘s example number 2 is a hijab-wearing weightlifter from Egypt:

Donning all black with a red headscarf, the colors of her nation, the diminutive [Sara] Ahmed lifted a combined weight of 255kg (562lbs) to claim the bronze medal in the 69kg weight class. The feat, given her nationality and ethnicity, was unprecedented. Ahmed became an instant icon in her native Egypt, becoming the first female medalist in the nation’s 104-year history in Olympics’ competition and the first Arab woman to win an Olympic medal in weightlifting.

As she bowed her head to receive her medal, Ahmed represented world-class power, strength and Muslim womanhood, disrupting tropes that have enabled headscarf bans in France and trite oppression narratives in America and elsewhere.

Time doesn’t report anything that Ahmed said about her faith. She just wore a hijab when lifting. How does that show the positive power of Islam? We see here Time’s virtue signaling: “See, we’re not racists because we love those who wear hijabs!” And, of course, Time doesn’t point out how in places like Iran, Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabia, women are deliberately weakened by the state—on religious grounds.

The last example is Ibtihaj Muhammad:

Ibtihaj Muhammad was a star in the Muslim American community long before she stepped onto the global scene. But her story was about far more than being “the first U.S. Olympian to wear a hijab during competition.” She championed a cause long-ignored by non-Muslims and Muslims alike: the distinct experience of African American Muslims and the distinct perils often created by intersecting racism and Islamophobia.

The other cause she champions, which Time didn’t mention, is to promulgate lies about Israel on her social media site (they were pointed out to her, but she refused to retract them). But that means nothing alongside the fact that she wore a hijab and is considered “oppressed”. (I don’t find much evidence for that.) Yes, kudos to her for her persistence, but in the end, she became a fencer because no other sport was open to a woman who refused to remove her hijab. Had she doffed that symbol, she could have played any sport she wanted.  The hijab limits women, even when they wear it “by choice”.


  1. Kevin
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Delusional athletes.

    Positive power of exercise and hard work and diet and genetic advantages. What a disconnect to reality.

    If these athletes want to show the positive power of religion, they need to pray everyday without working hard and show that their God favors them above others. Good luck with that. And good luck finding a FINA approved swim suit that covers the head. Good grief.

    • sensorrhea
      Posted August 18, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      Sounds like an awesome experiment, though.

    • Posted August 19, 2016 at 4:11 am | Permalink

      + 1

  2. Posted August 18, 2016 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    Amen to JAC and Kevin. I am sick and tired of all of this “thanking god” for the victory, the home run, the touchdown, etc. These individuals are apparently clueless re the obvious corollary – all of the losers not being worthy of god’s intervention.

    • Posted August 18, 2016 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      And – if I was king, I would hand out fines left and right for any religious displays. I think the NFL banned the bible verses on the face, but needs to take the next step.

      As per usual, most folks don’t pay attention to their own holy books – e.g. Matt 6:6 “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” And Romans 14:22 “The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves.”

  3. barn owl
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    It’s a shame that none of the immensely successful Jamaican athletes appears to be a devout Rastafarian – otherwise, Time might have an article about the positive power of cannabis.

    • Kevin
      Posted August 18, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink


  4. E.A. Blair
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Here is my response to Tebowing:

    “Dear Praying People,This is God. I’m sorry but I can’t answer your prayers right now. Tim Tebow is fervently praying for Me to help him complete his next pass, and has promised to do that little thing he does every time he thanks Me (he looks so cute when he does that).

    Your prayer is very important to Me. Please stay on your knees and the next angel, saint or deceased relative will be on the line to intercede for you, and I’m really sorry for any deaths, illnesses or natural disasters that happen during the game due to My negligence.”

    I’ve use this in comment sections for several years, editing it as necessary to apply to high school cheerleaders, coaches and various others.

    • Posted August 18, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      ‘Tebowing’ sounds like something they’d do to you at a frat house party, then post on YouTube.

  5. Heather Hastie
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    Religion does nothing for an Olympic athlete if they don’t train hard for years and have the right genetic make up on their side. There is a psychological element to success but religion is not required to fulfill it, just some form of positive thinking and the ability to focus the mind.

  6. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    I made this up based on Muhammad’s spot on The Late Show w/ Stephen Colbert, feel free to correct it or point out misleading things:

    TV Guy : Hello, Ms. Muhammad. Nice to have you on the show. It’s exciting that you are in the Olympics, congratulations.

    Ibtihaj Muhammad: I wear a hijab!

    TV Guy: I see. Would you like to tell us about that?

    IM : it means “to cover” in Arabic.

    TV guy : do you ever remove it?

    IM : yes, with friends and family.

    [cue TV guy and IM fencing ]

    TV audience: But I thought… oh let’s not be mean now…

    BTW I styled this after Daniel Lin, he has done some great tweets like this.

  7. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Just a small piece of religious garb may be all right. But the difference between Mo Farah and Michael Phelps is that the latter had the good taste, I hope, to perform his magic rituals in private instead of subjecting everyone else to the disturbing sight.

    Still, you can’t forbid people to have bad taste.

  8. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    For me, the Ibithaj Muhammad story is the most astonishing. But PCC(E) : her parents make her wear the hijab, especially when she was just starting sports. I’m not sure she has much say. Hopefully when she gets older … nahhhhh, she’ll keep wearing it.

    • Posted August 18, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      She can’t even maintain that it’s a choice, then. I wasn’t really aware that she was forced to wear it when younger. If that’s the case, the claim that she did it in the absence of social pressure becomes dubious. And yes, she’ll keep wearing it, because that’s her main claim to fame. Without it, she’s just another fencer; with it, she’s the Hijabi Fencer.

      • eric
        Posted August 18, 2016 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

        Well, let’s be a bit more charitable; she’s one of maybe the top 100 women sabre fencers in the world. Frankly if her religion were ignored, that would still be a claim to fame.

        However, she did not distinguish herself particularly well in the bronze medal bouts. Her teammates Wozniak and Zagunis both fenced much better, and nobody on either team complained as much or got as many reprimands for pushing the limit of the rules. I thought she should’ve been substituted for Aksamit after the first round, and that has nothing to do with religion – it had to do with her being an obnoxious brat to the ref, and potentially costing the team a few penalties for taking off her mask when she wasn’t supposed to. Thank goodness she got it under control before we lost any points for her temper, but in terms of showing Muslim women how to behave in sports, it wasn’t a shining moment – and that had nothing whatsover to do with what was on her head, but rather what was in it.

  9. darrelle
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    The post race interview with the 3 US young ladies who swept the podium in the women’s 100 meter hurdles was a bit embarrassing.

    • Posted August 18, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Yes I found that very cringe-worthy.

  10. daddylove
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    If you’ll be strangled by your brother or father for removing the hijab, it DOES speak about the power of your religion, but not in a very positive way.

  11. Posted August 18, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Most Brits are find of Mo Farah because he’s British – but you wouldn’t see The Guardian celebrating the Power of Farah’s Britishness.

    On the contrary, Britain’s celebration of Olymic success is something sinister:

    This Olympics hysteria shows that Britain has turned Soviet

    • Posted August 18, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Fond of

      Bloody autocorrect.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted August 18, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      I’m sorry, but I find Simon Jenkins’s article preposterous. At one point he is comparing the BBC and its viewers to the Soviet Union; at the next, to the (semi-fascist) BNP. The fact is that in the UK we love sportspeople doing their best, especially if they’re Brits, and on the whole we accept what they do by way of celebration.

      So what if Mo Farah chooses to celebrate his triumphs with a prayer? He has done it entirely by his own efforts; and I suspect that at the end of the day he understands that. At least he is not presuming to impose his faith on anyone else.

      • Posted August 18, 2016 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

        No need to apologise for finding a Jenkins’ article preposterous. This is the guy who blamed architects for terrorism:

        The modern urban obsession with celebrity buildings and high-profile events offers too many publicity-rich targets. A World Trade Centre, a Mumbai hotel, a Boston marathon, a Nairobi shopping mall are all enticing to extremists. Defending them is near impossible. Better at least not to create them. A shopping mall not only wipes out shopping streets, it makes a perfect terrorist fortress, near impossible to assault.

        • somer
          Posted August 19, 2016 at 6:42 am | Permalink

          Simon Jenkins would be so much happier if we had to spend 10 times longer doing our shopping and being so much more virtuous

  12. sensorrhea
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    “Tom Cruise’s latest blockbuster shows the positive power of Scientology!”

    • Posted August 19, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      The sad thing is, doesn’t Mr. Cruise make that exact point? 😉

      • sensorrhea
        Posted August 19, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        Of course! But Time magazine does not.

  13. Billy Bl.
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    The Christian god is whipping Allah’s sorry butt at the Olympics. Maybe the giant Jesus is a bit too intimidating.

  14. harrync
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    10,000 meter DASH? Now, that’s a race I would have liked to have seen.

  15. Nicholas
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Can somebody explain me the difference between forcing women to wear headscarves or hijab in public and forcing women to wear shirts or tops in public?

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted August 19, 2016 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      I cannot. But allow me to go on:

      Oh no, is this a weak form of the “we all wear clothes” argument? This occurred to me as well. WHERE DID CLOTHES COME FROM?? Could it be… RELIGION?!

      I am reminded of Sam the Eagle : “underneath their fur, cats are COMPLETELY NAKED!”

      • Posted August 19, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        Also a somewhat bad one, since there are jurisdictions (Canada, for one) where women *don’t* have to wear tops.

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