Is it him? That shiny bald head, manicured beard, and gradient “I’m a celebrity” sunglasses are unmistakeable. A four-minute clip of Andrew Tate, a controversial figure who is known for making vulgar and inflammatory statements about women, has infiltrated the intimate boundaries of my smartphone through a forwarded WhatsApp video. Prior to this, I’ve actively avoided researching or discussing Tate, despite his notoriety on social media – I’d hate to give any more airtime to the self-proclaimed misogynist who is already one of the most frequently googled people on the internet.
But this time I give in, and a quick search leads me to the original video, posted on YouTube a year ago by a “male self-improvement” podcast that hosts “Womanizer Wednesdays”. In the three-hour interview, Tate spews some twisted and simplistic statements about Islam in his apparent attempt to praise the religion.
Those sharing his content – particularly older men who aren’t on social media – may be oblivious to the fact that Tate is a controversial and notorious misogynist, and that he was arrested on Thursday in Romania on suspicion of rape and human trafficking (after a very satisfying Twitter exchange with Greta Thunberg). Along with his brother, Tate has been under investigation for the kidnapping of two young women and participation in a criminal group that sexually exploits women.
Unfortunately, Muslim men have flocked to Andrew Tate’s throng of virtual followers since his conversion to the faith two months ago. Many are thrilled that a popular, unfiltered Western kickboxer-turned-influencer has good things to say about Islam. Though some are ignorant of Tate’s rise to fame, and his worrisome, anti-women sentiments, others are aware of his past but claim that his conversion to Islam means he is “forgiven” for past sins and awarded a clean slate.
In the wake of Tate’s conversion, corners of Twitter have witnessed heated debates among Muslims about how we cannot “judge” a fellow brother in Islam, and how we must welcome him to the faith and assume the best of him, in accordance with our religious ethics. But as a Muslim woman who believes Islam treats females with dignity and honour, I can’t help but take it personally and feel hurt and disrespected when confronted with a Tate quote or endorsement – or a forwarded WhatsApp video.
Let me explain.
In a podcast interview last year, Tate stated: “I am absolutely sexist, and I’m absolutely a misogynist.”
During the #MeToo movement in 2017, Tate tweeted his belief that rape victims bear some responsibility for being assaulted, and was then banned on the app (he was recently reinstated after Elon Musk’s takeover). In August 2022, he was banned from TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube for violating the hate speech policies and community guidelines of these platforms.
Among countless controversial moments, Tate has said that women “belong to men” and should “shut the f*** up, have kids, sit at home, be quiet and make coffee”. I can’t bring myself to type out some of his more colourful comments about my gender, many of which are highly offensive and, frankly, quite frightening to read as a woman.
Tate’s discourse, replete with curse words, derogatory descriptions of women, and overall misogynistic ideology, has appealed to disenfranchised and radicalised males whose idea of manhood is linked with the subjugation of women. Unfortunately, his opinions share some overlap with interpretations that extremist factions often wrongly attribute to Islam – the sort of hyper-patriarchy that is practised by groups like the Taliban, but does not reflect the religion practised by the majority of Muslims today.
The warped interpretation of “Islam” that Tate subscribes to is not the one that I strive to practise and embody, and I’d argue that his conversion did a great disservice to Muslims. My religion is already heavily scrutinised for its patriarchal interpretations by ultra-conservatives, and the last thing it needed was a very vocal misogynist to declare his allegiance to it. It’s an embarrassment to be honest; something to be swept under the rug, not celebrated or boasted about. Yet many Muslim men did celebrate following Tate’s conversion – a reaction that only disrespects women and validates violence against them.
In one video, Tate discusses finding an “Islamic-a**” wife to keep alongside a pile of rocks “in case she gets fresh”, alluding to the violent and archaic practice of stoning.
Shocked and disturbed by the fact that there are men in our communities who would quote Tate rather than unequivocally denounce him, Muslim women have been vocal about the dangers Tate’s popularity poses to our communities. Yousra Imran, author of Hijab and Red Lipstick, wrote that his conversion was a “blow” to Muslim women, and that she was both “wary” and “sceptical” of his motivations for aligning with Islam. “I suspect that it is white Islamophobic and Orientalist misperceptions of Islam as being a religion that permits violence towards women that are the basis for Tate’s conversion,” she wrote.
In an article for Muslim Matters, Maryam Amir, founder of Qariah – an app that centres the voices of female Quran reciters – clarifies that it isn’t his conversion that’s problematic, but the way some Muslim men have jovially reacted to it. She points out that the identity and platform that Tate has built for himself contradict the prophet Muhammad’s tradition of honouring and empowering women, stating, “The Prophet is associated with uplifting women. Contrast this with Andrew Tate, whose brand is associated with men who harm and objectify women.”
A recent piece published by The Muslim Vibe dissects the ways in which Tate is certainly not an ideal role model for Muslims – from his arrogance and use of abusive language to his excessive materialism.
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Thankfully, there are male Muslim scholars who are speaking up, too. Bilal Ware, for instance, has been outspoken against the trumpeting of Tate and his conversion. His recent Instagram post states: “The ‘Muslim manosphere’ has become a preserve for emasculated, intimidated men to play tough by bullying women. This is not Islam.” Even underneath this post, however, there are a slew of Muslim men defending Tate’s “Muslimness”. Ugh.
Despite these efforts to highlight the discrepancies between Tate’s platform and Islam, videos of his rants are still racking up views. I can only hope that his much-publicised arrest in Romania will finally discredit him, and raise more mainstream awareness about his dangerous, misogynistic ideology, which is at total odds with Islam. If they have any sense at all, his Muslim supporters will distance themselves from the man they previously placed on a pedestal – especially if he is found guilty of the acts on suspicion of which he has been arrested.
“Muslims are the only people who defend their religion – they defend their beliefs, they refuse to be mocked ... I respect people for sticking up for what they believe in,” states Tate in the aforementioned year-old video that was forwarded to me on WhatsApp. While Tate was referring to violence-inciting stereotypes, this statement ironically resonated with me. I suppose he’ll respect me for refusing to sit back while he makes a mockery of Islam, and for defending my faith, which bears no semblance to the ideology he promulgates.
Oh wait, I’m a woman – and if anything is clear, it’s that Tate has no respect for my gender.