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.

9 Responses

  1. Interesting.

    I went to see if I could find moderate muslims condemning violence against the south park guys. I didn’t have to look very far:

    (I did see other people claiming no muslims had condemned the threats. They don’t seem to have looked hard).

    This is morally tricky. I absolutely defend free speech. The trouble is, there are plenty of evil forces both fake (like, it seems) and real who *want* violence.

    So what do we do? My vote is show the cartoons. Draw mohammed. Don’t put up with violence and stand up to hate speech whoever it comes from…

  2. “(I did see other people claiming no muslims had condemned the threats. They don’t seem to have looked hard).”

    That is what most bigots want to believe including Harry’s Place:

    It is strange how a media company would stop airing a program due to a “threat” by a couple of people hiding behind IP addresses. I believe South Park people themselves wanted the publicity no matter how damaging it was to Muslim kids who would be bullied even more at school.

    Plus why should a Muslim be expected to say sorry to the public on behalf of these anonymous people. Do Christians apologise for crazy people like Dr Harold Shipman?

  3. This Cohen / al-Khattab has been around for quite a while. He used to run a site called “Jews for Allah” (ala Jews for Jesus), which featured extensive pictures of himself over the years – before and after conversion, with his growing multi-wived Muslim family etc. I would be very highly surprised if he were not what he appears to be: A bitter former Orthodox Jew turned Muslim attention-seeking crank.

    • Thanks. I wonder if we can think of anyone else who has repudiated his past religion in bittter terms, and who can now be regarded as an “attention-seeking crank”?

  4. I am wary of notions that there is some “conspiracy” involved here. Khattab is exactly how he portrays himself, and he forces his family to go along with his views on a 24-7 basis. His discussion with Richard Dawkins (formerly by Channel 4 but now unavailable on YouTube) showed him to be either totally committed to an uncompromising Salafist agenda, or to be a superlative method-actor.

    Before it went down due to hacking I took a look at’s website. What I saw then was not a direct threat, (implied in some news reports) but a clearly veiled threat. The suggestion that “some people” might be offended enough to kill is the same tactic used frequently by Anjem Choudary, particularly in his speech outside Westminster Cathedral in September 2006 after the Pope’s Regensburg Address. A picture of the body of Theo van Gogh’s corpse (again mentioned in press reports) had been removed when I saw the site.

    But on the issue of South Park, what I found then was not the long turgid polemic that is now there, but a few short sentences, and a link to a YouTube video, featuring an interview with Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

    What I found most curious was the way that the video contained segments from the pre-Danish cartoon crisis episode “Super Best Friends”, which had been aired originally without controversy.

    For a website proclaiming that any depictions of a particular prophet were offensive enough to possibly lead to death, it seemed bizarre that it was hosting an embedded video that depicted the main prophet of Islam.

    The video interview also portrayed Parker and Stone in a good light, arguing coherently that when the Danish cartoon issue erupted, ALL newspapers should have reprinted the cartoons. I still hold to this notion myself – purely to show people what was being portrayed and understanding what went on (and not published merely to “offend”).

    The displaying of a video containing depictions of a prophet (a “sin”) while making veiled threats about fresh depictions (even with the same prophet hidden within a bear suit) seemed deeply hypocritical.

    But media-shores like Choudary, and his associated groups like the New York-based Islamic Thinkers’ Society, are always hypocritical. So the hypocrisy of and Khattab does not surprise me, and does not suggest conspiracy theories.

    But a good and thought-provoking post, Richard.

  5. I watched the South Park episodes which ironically were about how the rest of the world is scared of poking fun at the prophet of Islam. It is this power which the celebrities wanted to steal from Mohamed so they would not be ridiculed by the media.

    Morocco is actually a Zionist haven with a complete and free will thanks to the junta and investments from retailers such as M&S and Arcadia in manufacturing. That is definitely where I would go if I was working for Mossad.

  6. Sad indeed. Look how Mr Radical who is now hiding in Morocco was helping to make this new attempt easier for Americans to blame it on Muslims. Shame on you:

    Police search for second man over New York car bomb

    Just the way they love it:

    The Pakistani Taleban appeared to claim responsibility for the car…..

    Peter King, a Republican congressman from Long Island, drew a link to the recent dispute between a radical Islamic group and South Park, a satirical cartoon….

    Countries and Muslims blamed, but nobody really cares about the few couple of ugly men behind these “groups”. How very convenient. I hope they forgot to change wigs, and not just T-Shirts.

  7. […] the posting to the notorious and distasteful RevolutionMuslim website, which was in the news in April for carrying a threat against the creators of South Park; although his name has only just been […]

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