In late October, a video went viral on Twitter, showing former British kickboxer Andrew Tate learning how to pray like a muslim from friend and fellow MMA fighter, Tam Khan. Days later, Khan confirmed Tate’s conversion to Islam.
It was a blow to Muslim women like myself, and to parents and others in the community who have breathed a sigh of relief since Tate was banned from every major social media platform in August. Our big fear: This could boost his popularity with some Muslim men. It’s a concern only heightened by Elon Musk’s decision to reinstate Tate’s Twitter account.
In one of Tate’s most infamous videos, he tells how he would react if a woman accused him of cheating: ‘It’s a blow from the machete, boom in her face and grab her by the neck. Shut up b**** … clap, clap, grab, choke,” he says. Tate has previously said in a tweet that “if you put yourself in a position to get raped, you have to bear some responsibility”.
Comments like this have made Tate a central figure in digital red pill culture and its increasingly violent overtones. The term “take the red pill” is a pop culture reference from the 1999 sci-fi film The Matrix; it means opening your eyes to the truth. What was actually a transgender allegory according to the film’s creator, Lily Wachowski, is now being used to represent a digital movement of mostly white ultra-conservative men who believe they are victims of feminism and mistreated by society.
What is particularly troubling to many in the Muslim community in the West is that Tate has become a role model for some Muslim men, especially after he expressed his admiration for Islam in this YouTube video. These men have taken to Twitter, in a corner of the social media platform that some in the community have nicknamed MT or Muslim Twitter, to align themselves with Tate and his views.
But many Muslims – women and men alike – also oppose this trend, warning of the risks involved if the toxic material spread by the likes of Tate is accepted by wider segments of the community’s youth.
Secondary school teacher Nadeine Asbali wrote in the New Statesman in August that Tate’s content “has an impact” on Muslim boys, some of whom share its content on social media. “Numbers like Tate praise even Muslims, imposing their own patriarchal ideas on a belief based on just the opposite,” she wrote.
Prominent Muslim intellectuals in the West — such as author Khaled Beydoun and Shabana Mir, a professor at the American Islamic College in Chicago — have also publicly expressed concern about the rise of the red pill culture among young Muslim men.
Others have been more direct in condemning the misogyny of men like Tate and explaining how their words and actions contradict the teachings of Islam.
Bilal Ware, a history professor at the University of California Santa Barbara, posted a series of Instagram posts criticizing da’wah influencers who host Tate on their podcasts and in YouTube videos. “Giving platforms to unrepentant misogynists, whether converts or lifelong believers, sends a clear message: Abusers are welcome.” He also took a stand against toxic masculinity saying, “The Islamic ‘manosphere’ has become a domain for distamed, intimidated men to act tough by bullying women. This is not Islam.”
Joseph Lumbard, an associate professor of Quranic studies at Doha’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University, has tweeted to challenge the suggestion that converting to Islam fully restores Tate’s reputation — despite not admitting his violent misogyny to the public. jaws. “Too many Muslim men try to give him a pass, claiming that ḥusn al-ẓann [having a good opinion] and that Islam wipes out all sins,” Lumbard tweeted Oct. 29. [wickedness] and fasad [corruption] those ATs [Andrew Tate’s] continue to promote social media platforms.”
This backlash from the community — and especially from teachers and scholars — is critical because Tate’s popularity represents a broader red-pill culture trend that is catching on among some Muslim men.
In recent years, digital platforms such as Twitter and Reddit have spawned what the Islamic online community calls “mincels” — Muslim incels. They use Twitter and Redditt threads to troll Muslim women online, blame single mothers for society’s ills, say a man has a right to beat his wife, and call for the return of women’s concubinage and advocate for a “non-binding nika”.
The irony is that many of those who spread red pill culture online belong to a white, ultra-far-right worldview that is often openly Islamophobic.
I am both wary and skeptical of Tate’s conversion, wondering what attracted him to my faith. Check out his earlier video where he responded to Will Smith’s “red table talk” with his wife Jada Pinkett-Smith about her infidelity by saying that seeing the clip made him want to convert to Islam because she was stoned to death in a Muslim country would be to death. I suspect it is white Islamophobic and Orientalist misconceptions that Islam is a religion that condones violence against women that are the basis for Tate’s conversion. “I’m going to find a nice Muslim woman and build a big pile of bricks in case she gets fresh,” Tate says at the end of the video.
I worry that Tate is taking advantage of his popularity among alt-right Muslim men to repair his image and rebrand himself.
We as a community must recognize that we also bear some of the blame for the popularity of Tate among some of our male youth. Our madrasahs, Saturday schools and households often fall short when it comes to teaching our Muslim youth about healthy relationships and respecting girls and women from an early age.
We need more and more Muslim men to join us in pushing back misogyny in all its forms – online, on campus, at home, on the street and in the mosque.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial view of Al Jazeera.