Robert Spencer's May 2005 exchanges with Khaleel Mohammed should have been the end of Khaleel Mohammed's short happy career as yet one more "Islamic reformer" (move over, Reza Aslan, Mustafa Akyol, Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, Kamal Nawash, the excitable Irshad Manji, there's room on the bench right here).
These "reformers" tend to be short on proposals for genuine Islamic reform and long on publicity-gathering, media appearances, and support of all kinds -- would that Jihad Watch had 1/100th of what they are taking, or rather, raking in.
He has a special shtick, I understand, this K.M. Before audiences at Florida synagogues, he behaves like that character in Dickens who was always saying, "I wants to make your flesh creep." He warns them about anti-Jewish sentiments among Muslims. He scares them. They love being scared. He tells them that his heart and his mind are in the right place, and with the support of people like you, we "reformers" will take back Islam. Or words and sentiments to that effect. The audiences love it. He pockets his speaking fees.
Khaleel Mohammed is not up in the platitude-and-shallow-plongitude range of Tom Friedman, but what he makes by means of these appearances is nothing to sneeze at if you have arrived in the United States from Guyana and are an Assistant Professor somewhere. America, truly the "goldene medina."
And right now, of course, all that Reformation of Islam stuff is hot, hot, hot. So is that related topic, the War For the Soul of Islam. So shell out money, American infidels, and American government programs of Reach-out and Out-reach to the Muslim world. Shell out money, big foundations -- all to those Muslim Bright Young Things who will most assuredly wish away Hadith and Sira. You can even find a few who will dare to speak of a new reading of the Qur'an. Fat chance. How this will be done? Who will do it? How will hundreds of millions of Muslims be persuaded to accept it? Which hadith will go? Which passages in the Qur'an, the Word of God, do you think you can excise or interpret away? Which details in the life of Muhammad, uswa hasana, al-insan al-kamil, do you think can simply be cut out? His marriage to little Aisha? The massacre of the Banu Qurayza? The Khaybar Oasis attack? The murder of Asma bint Marwan? Or a hundred others? No can do. None of that is ever explained.
Rattle the isnad-chains that bind you as you wish. Take out your Brooks and Warren and try to interpret away passages in the Qur'an. Perhaps we can convince all those Believers that it is just mystical poetry, Rumi avant la lettre, or like the Song of Songs. You know, allegories. Like Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, or Spenser's Faerie Queen, or medieval debat of The Owl and the Nightingale. Stuff like that.
Yet there are plums in the pudding: see, for example, in Robert's earlier debates with Khaleel Mohammed, the snippet of made-up dialogue between Robert and the "reformer"; the mursal hadith discussion, and the reading of Qur'an 3.28. But the whole pudding is so nutritious, that I think I am going to save some, so I can savor it s-l-o-w-l-y.
Perhaps Robert's criticism gets to him, as it clearly does, because Robert is daring to interfere with his income -- especially those talks at synagogues and elsewhere where, after his "I-wants-to-make-your-flesh-creep" presentation, he then reassures his audiences that it is easy to derive all kinds of good things from the same texts -- skip abrogation. And of course, once the subject of Muhammad, the Perfect Man, is touched, then there can be no criticism, express or implied, whatsoever.
But what is Khaleel Mohammed? A native of Guyana who came to this country, a professor now at San Diego State University. And apparently he "seen his opportunity and he took it," like Jay Gould in the Gilded Age. A Muslim, he has parlayed that into being an "expert" on Islam. Next stop: possible agent, bookings, the works. Shtick: Good Moderate Muslim, Who Both Warns and Yet Offers A Message of Hope.
Yes, I'd like the check now, please. Make it out to "Khaleel Mohammed." That's right -- "Khaleel" and not "Khalil." Thank you.