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Inside the Islamist boxing ring

Bassem Youssef

Published: Updated:

“The Big Show,” “The Rock” and “John Cena” are just some of the famous names in wrestling. The three of them are popular not only in the U.S., but also in the Arab world. Have you seen the huge venues where these competitions are held? Have you seen the direction, the shooting, the angles, the impressive colors and the fireworks, the huge screens, the massive numbers that make sure to attend these competitions and the millions who watch them on TV across the world?

What's interesting about the sport is that everyone who follows up on it knows very well that it's fake. The strikes aren't real and the dramatic moves don't fool anyone older than 12. In the end, the winner of this sport is decided on via backstage agreements in order to have new fights and create a scenario that the wrestlers have vendettas against each other, so the viewers pay more money.

This stars have well-built bodies but they don't strike with real violence. They have vibrant names like “The Hooligan,” “The Hurricane,” or “The Avenger.” But they are names that come with the fame and that aim to add a cinematic dimension to the “action” in the ring.

Blockbuster Islamists

There are also cinematic figures in the Islamist world. Legendary figures placed up with the stars and treated as sacred. But I will not speak about them today. I will speak about those who were influenced by them.

We think that the extremist Islam which emerged in the recent years is only limited to our Arab region. Truth is, it has been exported to Europe and America. It has devotees and defenders as well. These people are not only of Arab nationalities or origins but they also include people of American, African and Latin origins residing in America and Europe.

One of these people was an American man called Umar Lee. Umar Lee became famous on social media as a fierce defender of Islam. But he didn’t only attack the imperial West which he lives in, he also attacked Muslim women and men because they “sold out their principles to the West.” He attacked veiled Muslim women because they don't wear the veil like they should. Instead of calling them “hijabis” - meaning veiled women - he called them “HOEjabis.”

Umar Lee attacked Muslims who try to co-exist with the West and try to represent Islam in a new light. To him, such people are hypocrites attempting to forge the religion.

Umar Lee was not merely a blogger on the internet. This man has plenty of devotees who encourage him when he attacks the enemies of Islam.

To complete the scene that we see in wrestling rings, he called himself “The Correctifier” who “corrects religion for Muslims” since their practicing was not enough. He took pride in himself by taking pictures of himself with an Arab sword and threatening the enemies of religion, just like wrestling heroes go to the ring holding axes and weapons as proof of power and tyranny.

Umar Lee is not an individual case but a case that is spreading across Muslim societies in the West. These extremists who think they were sent to complete religion for others have become a heavy burden for Muslims in the West. They make foreigners repel from Islam and they also make Muslim societies in the West repel from Islam. Muslim youths find themselves besieged between a western society that cautiously looks at them, because of people like Umar Lee, and a failed Islamic preaching system that allowed people like Umar Lee to surface on the Muslim scene.

We think that the extremist Islam which emerged in the recent years is only limited to our Arab region


To complete the scene we see in the wrestling ring, Umar Lee recently announced he converted to Christianity because, he said, Islam was no longer the religion of love and peace he embraced! You can imagine the reaction of the Islamist youth that used to support him and cheer for him during his fights in their wrestling rings. Umar Lee converted to Christianity and renounced Islam after he accused all centrist figures in the Muslim society in America of treason. It seems that the saying “inside each extremist there is a small apostate who wants to appear” is true.

What he did and what people like him do is an extension of absurd intellect. Umar Lee, “The Correctifier,” of the drawn Arab Sword is not very different from the fake wrestlers and clowns who arrogantly brag about their faith and righteousness to others.

Umar Lee is no different than those who took to the street to display martial arts at the Rabaa mosque during protests calling for “peace.” In the end, they are all skillful actors who took shallow concepts from religion and failed to attain anything other than hatred and loudmouth violence. But they are liars, phonies and actors just like the WrestleMania stars; “An exterior appearance, void of content.”

At the time of writing this piece, Umar Lee, with tearful eyes and a quavering voice, announced in an online video that he once again returned to Islam.

Let the play continue and let the wrestling keep going, and let the deceived audience, which willingly choose to be deceived, pay the price for this absurd play.

(I am honored to write this article in collaboration with Dr. Ahmad Younes, one of the Muslim intellectuals in Los Angeles and one of the prominent figures who defended Islam against the right-wing movement there.)

This article was first published in Egypt-based al-Shorouk on June 25, 2013.
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Bassem Youssef is is an Egyptian doctor, satirist, and the host of El Bernameg (“The Program”), a satirical news program broadcast by a private Egyptian television station. The press has compared Youssef with American comedian Jon Stewart, whose satire program The Daily Show inspired Youssef to begin his career. Despite all controversy and legal debates it has sparked, El Bernameg has been a major success. It is constantly topping the regional YouTube charts, making Youssef's YouTube channel one of the most subscribed to in Egypt.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.