The Twisted World of Craig Considine
How much damage does his flagrant misinformation about Islam do?
Craig Considine, a lecturer in sociology at Rice University in Houston, is full of love – or so he would have us believe. Love, that is, for Islam, its prophet, and its holy book. It’s a love that Considine – a self-declared Christian – can’t stop affirming. On January 9, for example, he tweeted: “I ️[heart emoji] the Qur’an because it emphasizes humanity.” On January 10, he tweeted: “Why is Prophet Muhammad ️[heart emoji]’d by Christians like me? Because he confirms the veracity of the Bible & encourages positive dialogue w/ Jews/Christians.” On January 11, he tweeted: “’The difference between us & you is no bigger than this line,’ said the Christian King of Abyssinia to Muslim refugees from Mecca, who had just explained the Qur’an’s position on Jesus & Mary.” And on January 12, he tweeted: “I ️[heart emoji] the Qur’an because it celebrates diversity.”
Whereas Considine’s love of Islam would appear to be absolute and unqualified, however, his attitude toward Judaism and Israel is something else again. As David Gerstman noted in a January 9 article for Middle East Forum, Considine “recently appeared on a Twitter video wearing a kufiyah and touting the organization PaliRoots, which claims to promote Palestinian culture and identity. He could barely contain his enthusiasm about Palestine's ‘beautiful culture.’” What’s PaliRoots? At its blog, Gerstman encountered a systematic “denial of Jewish history and Israel's existence.” In other words, it’s another one of those toxic groups that insist, either ignorantly or dishonestly, that the Palestinians, as we know them today, have been around for centuries. According to PaliRoots, the Palestinians even turn up in “numerous hieroglyphs in Egyptian documents.” The name of Palestine derives from the Hebrew; PaliRoots describes it as Greek in origin. Moreover, observed Gerstman, PaliRoots ignores the fact that the Roman Empire, “in an attempt to erase any Jewish connection to the land,” changed Judea’s name to Syria Palaestina. In short, to quote Gerstman, PaliRoots is a purveyor of “ahistorical claims” that amount to “anti-Israel, anti-Jewish propaganda,” and “Considine's proclamation of its trustworthiness further exposes him as a hack.”
Who is Craig Considine? A graduate of American University, the University of London, and Trinity College in Dublin (he received his Ph.D. only five years ago), he’s written a half-dozen or so books and innumerable articles – many of them for the Huffington Post – in which he depicts Islam as pretty much without blemish. In April 2015, for instance, he maintained that “Jesus Christ and Prophet Muhammad are kindred spirits…. Jesus and the Prophet were proponents of peace.” (Never mind that for the latter, “peace” meant submission – or else.) Considine went on: “Like Jesus, Prophet Muhammad forgave his enemies. After a victorious battle in Mecca, Muhammad released his enemies and told them that they were free to leave unharmed.” (Small detail: unlike Muhammed, Jesus never led an army into battle in the first place.) There’s more: Jesus Christ and Muhammad both “cared for other people and groups as much as their own followers.” Of course, anyone who is even glancingly familiar with the subject would recognize this as sheer poppycock.
Some apologists for Islam labor to “reinterpret” problematic passages of its holy books. Considine takes an easier route: he simply wills those passages out of existence. As for those of us who insist on attending to those passages – and who therefore have serious reservations about the spread of Islam in the West – Considine’s verdict on us is clear: in a November 2015 article, he maintained that we’re guilty of “cultural racism.” But, you might sputter in reply, Islam isn’t a race. Considine disagreed: “Racism is no longer about race (skin color) but culture.” So there! “Cultural racism,” he explained, “happens when certain people perceive their beliefs and customs as being culturally superior to the beliefs and customs of other groups of people.” If you feel, then, that Western concepts of individual liberty and equality under the law are superior to, say, a culture defined by honor killings, polygamy, and the systematic oppression of women, you’re a “cultural racist.” Simple as that.
Considine is in an entirely different league than your standard-issue cynical academic who, without paying particular attention to the history and doctrines of Islam, reflexively accepts its more ardent adherents as convenient allies of the left. Indeed, even to say that he’s one of those duplicitous characters who, professing to be Islam experts, claim that ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and other terrorists have misread the Koran is to drastically understate how far he’s capable of going. Dig this jaw-dropping assertion from 2014: “Islamic values as expressed by Muhammad, and American values as expressed by [George] Washington, are quite similar. Muslims and non-Muslim Americans can look to the example of Prophet Muhammad and George Washington as a way to build bridges of cross-cultural understanding.” As Robert Spencer commented at the time: “Yes, Muhammad was exactly like George Washington. You remember the stories: George consummated his marriage with Martha when he was 54 and she was nine, and she was one of about a dozen wives of the first president; Washington once personally beheaded between 600 and 900 Redcoats; married his former daughter-in-law; declared that he had been commanded to fight against people until they confessed that there was no Constitution but the Constitution and he was the first president — so many similarities.” Just in case you still don’t get the full picture, check out this 2016 declaration by Considine: “I fully recognize Muhammad’s greatness. He was an exceptional person; he might even be the greatest and most influential human being ever to walk the face of the earth. Prophet Muhammad brought love, peace, and much more to a part of the world that had little of these things.” To read such blatantly counterfactual pronouncements is to wonder: is this a case of staggeringly brazen deceit, or self-deception on a well-nigh unparalleled scale?
His take on the fire that broke out at Notre Dame Cathedral last year on the night of April 15 was predictable. On April 16, at a time when the smoke had yet to clear Newsweek’s website ran a stunningly inappropriate piece by Considine entitled “Notre Dame and Al-Aqsa Fires Give Christians and Muslims a Chance to Work Together to Repair Their Sacred Spaces.” The piece began:
The world watched as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned, due to a disastrous inferno that nearly crippled the 850-year-old church. Nearly 3,000 miles away, the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem also dealt with an apparently accidental fire of its own.
The al-Aqsa fire received much less attention in the news, but the burning of this 984-year-old mosque draws our attention to two of the important sites in Christendom and the Islamic world. While the fires are indeed unfortunate, they provide an opportunity for Christians and Muslims to reflect upon their common humanity and assist each other in the repairing of sacred spaces.
Now, if you didn’t know about the al-Aqsa fire, that’s because it was a very minor event indeed, one that was believed “to have been started by children playing in the courtyard,” and one from which the mosque, according to Smithsonian Magazine, “escaped relatively unscathed, sustaining damage to a single mobile guard booth.” Meanwhile, of course, Notre Dame suffered a catastrophic degree of destruction that may or may not be reparable. To call it “unfortunate” was a colossal understatement that suggested a remarkable tone-deafness. To jump, while everyone else was still in shock, to the goofy idea that this incomparable loss for Christendom and for the Western world represented some kind of “opportunity” was nothing short of bizarre in its utter insensitivity – a shameless exploitation of a national and civilizational tragedy to push a personal hobbyhorse. Furthermore, to speak of Christians and Muslims joining together to repair their sacred spaces is to deep-six the fact that the Notre Dame conflagration was only one of many church fires that have taken place in France in recent years, committed by Muslims in the name of Allah. But in a society that has grown accustomed to near-daily acts of Islamic terror (and endless petit-jihadist car-burnings) and that seems to have chosen to acquiesce in the gradual Islamization of its culture and laws, both government and church officials are terrified by suggestions that the Notre Dame fire might have been an act of terrorism. Unsurprisingly, Considine doesn’t go near any of this. For him, the historic fire at Notre Dame and the inconsequential one at al-Aqsa teach some sappy, delusional lesson about moral equivalence, interfaith initiatives, whatever.
But perhaps the single most consequential work of Considine’s still young career is a 2010 documentary film, Journey into America, which was produced, written, and narrated by Akbar Ahmed, a former Pakistani ambassador who was Considine’s professor and mentor at American University and on which Considine is credited as director. A revealing piece of work, the film recounts a year-long trip around the U.S. by Ahmed and several of his acolytes, Considine included, in search of American Islam. Ahmed’s narrative voice is preternaturally soothing; he talks endlessly about interfaith bridge-building; and he intermittently praises America and its people. But he also treats Americans’ concerns about sharia law, honor killing, and the like – and their tendency to associate Islam with terrorism (imagine!) – as examples of vile prejudice. He interviews Noam Chomsky, who describes America as “a very frightened country…From the very beginning [of American history] there’s been a strong element of fear.” (What an insult to the incredible courage of our earliest settlers!) Can Americans, asks Ahmed in a wounded tone, ever “accept those who are not like them?” (This about a country whose people, on average, are less bothered by ethnic or religious difference than the inhabitants of almost every other country on earth.) Ahmed reports on a company where Muslim workers quit because they weren’t allowed special prayer breaks. (“They lost their jobs,” says Ahmed, “but maintained their honor.”) A young Muslim boy’s account of how the police “searched our whole house” is implicitly presented as evidence that Muslim families are being unfairly harassed by law enforcement. (If Ahmed or Considine looked into the reason for the house search, their findings are omitted from the film.) Ahmed quotes an imam – a convert – who says the West has a history of a “thousand-year war with Islam.” (Yes – a war of defense against jihadist conquest.)
What about terrorism? What about 9/11? Ahmed mentions them only in passing; he visits New York but skips Ground Zero. There’s no hint that any of the mosques he visits might have terrorist links. He praises a Las Vegas imam for helping ensure that “sin city remains spiritually pure”; a quick Google search shows that the imam in question has, of late, been busy establishing a “Muslim village” – i.e., a Muslim enclave and potential “no-go zone” for infidels – to separate his congregants from the iniquitous nonbelievers. On Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Ahmed shakes his head at the “pure debauchery” on display and observes that “for Muslims, this does pose a problem.” Indeed, there’s much about the spectacle of American pluralism in practice that Ahmed patently deplores and that, under a regime of the kind that he served as Pakistani ambassador, would be stamped out mercilessly. But Ahmed concludes his film by purring that America’s “pluralist vision” is “in jeopardy” – threatened, to be sure, not by the prospect of European-style Islamization but by the bigotry of Americans who have problems with things like “Muslim villages” and special Muslim prayer times at workplaces. The most important point to be made about the film is that represents the most dangerous kind of jihad – namely, the smooth-talking kind of stealth jihad that employs the language of freedom as part of a slick, long-term effort to trim away at that freedom.
The one thing that’s beyond doubt is that there’s a lot more where that came from. Though still in the first phase of his career, Craig Considine is poised to develop a very high profile. His CV is already voluminous, listing innumerable lectures and panel discussions that took place under the auspices of (often terrorist-connected) mosques, Islamic conventions, Muslim Student Associations, and the Islamic Society of North America, of publications (as we’ve seen) in prominent venues like Newsweek and the Huffington Post, and of appearances on CNN, MSNBC, CBS News, and other mainstream media that rarely if ever, these days, welcome the participation of forthright critics of Islam. The problem, needless to say, is that while Considine’s flagrant misinformation may be thoroughly transparent to some of us, the knowledge of many Americans about Islam, even nineteen years after 9/11, remains rudimentary – thus making it frighteningly easy for a zealous fellow traveler of Islam to exert an inordinate impact on public opinion. It is alarming, and depressing, then, to contemplate the damage that Craig Considine can do in the years to come. Let’s keep our eyes open and our powder dry.