“Why not Keanu Reeves?”
I confess that was my first reaction upon learning that former kickboxer and internet personality Andrew Tate, described as the “king of toxic masculinity,” had recently converted to Islam. Buddhists get the Beastie Boys and Tina Turner. Hindus get Julia Roberts. Sadly, we get one of the world’s most notorious and influential misogynists, who is currently detained in Romania under suspicion of sex trafficking, organized crime and rape.
Tate’s poisonous influence on men was well known to those who follow online misogynists, but he’s recently found mainstream ignominy thanks to his Twitter exchange with Greta Thunberg. The self-proclaimed “Top G” made an ill-founded decision to tweet at the 20-year-old climate change activist with a photo of him standing next to one of his 33 luxury cars and bragging about their “enormous emissions.” Thunberg’s savage response made Arya Stark look like a demure pacifist.
Islam encourages radical forgiveness and Muslims are encouraged to think best of their brothers in faith. Yet, I still can’t shake the suspicion that Tate’s conversion was merely a religious faith washing of his notorious and violent brand of misogyny. Although he might be reciting the Quran, he’s still performing the same old hate. It doesn’t take an expert on world religions to know that men have historically used and abused religious texts to dominate and subordinate women with a celestial stamp of approval.
Indeed, promoting violence and hatred against women without any accountability or reprimand has long been a feature with Tate, not a bug. In 2015, Vice reported that Tate was arrested on suspicion of rape in the U.K., but authorities declined to prosecute (Tate denied wrongdoing). In another video, Tate bragged that “40% of the reason I moved to Romania was because rape laws are more lenient there. I’m not a f------ rapist, but I like the idea of just being able to do what I want.”
I still can’t shake the suspicion that Tate’s conversion was merely a religious faith washing of his notorious and violent brand of misogyny.
Even after converting to Islam, Tate still behaves like a caricature of Frank Mackey, the men’s rights activist and self-help guru played by Tom Cruise in “Magnolia,” who grifts off the insecurity and anger of weak men. Instead of using his charisma and talent to guide them to therapy, empathy and healing, Mackey pours gasoline on their rage and gives them a convenient scapegoat: women.
Dangerously, Tate’s base doesn’t consist only of the stereotypical right-wing fanboys, incels, budding alt-right recruits and white supremacists. It includes some of my friends, who are educated Muslim family men living in the suburbs who have also been taken in by Tate’s ugly messaging and fear-mongering. They assure me they don’t agree with everything he says, but they stress “he does make some good points.”
When I ask them to elaborate, they say he’s the only one speaking the truth and not being cowed by “political correctness.” All of them share the lament that “feminism has gone too far,” and that “everything is too gay.” When I ask for specifics, they usually repeat MAGA talking points about critical race theory and transgender activism in schools, even though they can’t provide specifics. Our conversations end abruptly when I ask them if they’d be comfortable with their daughter dating a man like Tate. (I also wonder how Muslim fans of Tate will look at him after learning he is buds with Tommy Robinson, a man who said Islam is a “disease” and Muslims are invading Europe.)
Nonetheless, they echo Tate’s claim that he is the real victim here. Their fear, anxiety and anger reminded me of my conversations with some white Trump supporters who believe that America’s attempts at racial equity are actually agents of oppression that will only result in their active emasculation and displacement. Power, whether through patriarchy or white supremacy, is often fragile and weak.
While detained, Tate tweeted a Quranic verse, “Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.” He also tweeted, “They plot and plan, and Allah too plans, but the best of planners is Allah.” “They” apparently means “the Matrix,” but Tate assured his followers that “God is on our side, so the Matrix will not win. Inshallah.” Most people realize “The Matrix” is a fictional movie made by two trans women who loathe right-wing fascism. But in the same way that religious texts can be manipulated for perverse ends, online misogynists have corrupted the movie’s message. Those who choose the red pill are actually the enlightened few.
Here’s hoping Andrew Tate can emerge from his crises as a better man — and a better Muslim.
As a practicing Muslim, it’s painful to see Tate’s perverse example inspiring young people to convert to Islam for all the wrong reasons. Instead, I invite Tate and his Muslim followers to actually spend some time learning about the Prophet Muhammad and how he treated his wives. The prophet told his followers that “the most complete of the believers in faith is the one with the best character. And the best among you are those who are best to their wife.” He never lifted a finger against his wives, let alone encouraged or celebrated violence against them.
The prophet also did chores in the house, helped his wives and was self-sufficient. In fact, his first wife, Khadija, was older than him, had more wealth, was his employer and initiated the courtship. If the prophet were alive today, Tate and his fanboys would mock and reject him as a beta cuck.
Still, here’s hoping Andrew Tate can emerge from his crises as a better man — and a better Muslim. He should use his platform and his faith to heal broken men and guide them toward loving relationships with women, instead of using women as convenient targets of their anger and insecurity. If he does that, he can become a positive Muslim role model for millions of men around the world. Based given his recent actions and rhetoric, however, it’s more likely he’s using Islam to advance his hateful grift and misogyny.