Conversions and Conspiracy Theories and

The controversy over the censorship of South Park has brought renewed attention to, the website on which the threat to the programme’s makers was made (more accurately, it was a sinister “warning”, but the intent is clear). As has been widely reported, the site revels in being as distasteful as possible, while just about staying within US law; most egregiously, perhaps, is a page making fun of the death of Daniel Pearl. Like al-Muhajiroun in the UK or Westboro  Baptist Church in relation to Christianity, Revolution Muslim represents a marginal perspective; the ADL calls it a “fringe” group, while CAIR suggests that

…it may be a “setup” to smear Islam.

“They say wild and irresponsible things periodically,” [Ibrahim] Hooper told “There’s a strong suspicion that they’re merely a setup to make Muslims and Islam look bad. They say such wild and crazy things that you have to wonder.”

It is also noted that the group behind the site consists of a small number of converts – and that the site’s founder (who has since moved to Morocco) was formerly an Israeli settler in the West Bank; Fox News reports:

…Formerly known as Joseph Cohen, al-Khattab is an American-born Jew who converted to Islam after attending an Orthodox Rabbinical school, which he later described as a “racist cult.”

The 39-year-old New York taxi driver launched with the mission of “preserving Islamic culture,” “calling people to the oneness of God” and asking them to “support the beloved Sheik Abdullah Faisal, who’s preaching the religion of Islam and serving as a spiritual guide”..

Some are now claiming a conspiracy; one site speculates that “the CIA” is behind it. But as with other conspiracy theories, the supposed evidence of the conspiracy actually collapses in on itself – if the CIA or Mossad wanted to use an agent provocateur, surely a former Israeli settler would be the last person to use as the front man? Of course, some people have set themselves up as fake extremists: last year we saw Glen Jenvey’s “Omar Jenvey” stunt, but there wasn’t any coherent political strategy behind his antics. And in the case of Zachary Chesser, the man who posted the South Park threat, there’s no reason not to believe that he is a genuine convert to fundamentalism. But in all these cases, whether real or fake, the key to understanding the motivation is more likely to be found in psychological dysfunction than political intrigue.

PS: Last year, the anti-Muslim blogger Paul Ray (“Lionheart”) complained that a threat against him had been published on by a certain “Bilal”, who was associated with Islam4UK, the successor outfit of al-Muhajiroun. This occured after someone had posted a fake message supposedly from Ray to the site; Ray wrote on his blog that

There is a fraud out there that is going around forums and blogs posting in the same name as I use as my nom-de-plume ‘Lionheartuk’. This person is obviously not man enough himself to put his own name to his words so is stirring things up with Moslems and using my name so that I take the flack.

(I also received a message from a pseudo-Ray around the same time; whether this was the same person or someone else is unknown). This suggests that at least one outsider has made postings to the site with a view to manipulating the discussion among readers – again, something which has been seen before.