Christopher Hitchens Converts to Islam

Christopher Hitchens, perhaps cleaning himself for a trip to Mecca. Photo from Vanity Fair.

Despite  his long history of unpredictable political and personal turns, Christopher Hitchens has completely shocked me with his recent decision to accept Mohammed as a prophet, a totally unexpected development coming so soon after his anti-theist polemic God Is Not Great.

The swaggering pundit made his devoutness evident in a very subtle fashion in an essay for Slate  that touched on the controversy about Danish cartoons that mocked Mohammed. Hitchens wrote: “Not very long ago, [Kurt Westergaard] joined with other cartoonists in an open society in drawing some caricatures of the alleged ‘prophet’ Mohammed.”

Pay careful attention to the punctuation of that sentence. If you write “the alleged prophet Mohammed” that means you’re a disbeliever. If you go for simplicity and just use scare quotes to say “the ‘prophet’ Mohammed” you are again indicating a lack of faith. But Hitchens used both the word alleged and guarded quotes around prophet, indicating that he objects to who those who question Mohammed’s status as a messenger of Allah. This combination could be read as a double negative. Through this very sly grammatical trick, Hitchens is affirming his newfound faith. We can expect him to make the trek to Mecca fairly soon.

Or it could just be that Hitchens is now a clumsy writer with a sledgehammer prose style.

The Hitchens article by the way contains a fairly significant and telling error. He states that the only publications in America with the courage to print the Mohammed cartoons were “the conservative Weekly Standard and the atheist Free Inquiry — two outlets (for both of which I have written) with a rather small combined circulation.” He doesn’t seem to know or to remember that Harper’s, a very well known and generally liberal monthly, printed all the cartoons along with Art Spiegelman’s quite astute analysis. By ignoring Harper’s Hitchens is able to pretend that all mainstream journals were cowed, a typical example of how Hitchens is willing to forgo accuracy in order to turn issues relating to Islam into melodramatic morality plays.

(Thanks to Daniel Radosh  for noticing Hitchens’s rhetorical overkill).

14 thoughts on “Christopher Hitchens Converts to Islam

  1. “Or it could just be that Hitchens is now a clumsy writer with a sledgehammer prose style.”

    That’s it, Jeet, nip at the great writer’s ankles.

  2. Hello my friends. Wish you well.
    What know about Islam?
    Is it because some Muslims have committed heinous crimes imagine that Islam is a religion of murder (although that certainly did was prohibited in Islam). Is Forgotten bloody wars committed in the name of the church? Is Forgotten or church scandals instruments such as forgiveness? Does this mean that the Christian religion bloody? Of course not.
    Secondly Where identified Islam?
    Many of the books that talk about Islam in the West by non-Muslims, like to ask the Portuguese for India ???!!!!
    Do you know, for example, that Islam requires Muslims believe Jesus peace be upon him, who does not believe it is an unbeliever !!!!!!!
    Did you know that Muhammad was saying (will not enter Paradise will not even believe Thabwa not even believe you if you did something to Tahabpettm, you spread peace).
    Did you know that Muhammad had to say (throwing Zmia not me) Zmia mean Christian or Jewish.
    My friends:
    Islam does not judge by the actions of some, and you ask yourself why all this attack on Islam, according to Al-Hikma (more successfully increased your enemies) and already Valasla religions become more prevalent every day confined thousands. Are all these terrorists love blood.???

    1. i think commentators from on this forum have been poisoned the deliberate western deception about islam. tell them that islamic rules of engagement do demand that priests, thier worship places should be protected

  3. Or he was drunk.
    Jeet, Hitchens is a polemicist who gets by because people read his articles as quickly as he writes them. You could tear many of his cheap pieces apart (particularly his slapdash Slate articles) much more meaningfully rather than with your own cheap attack on punctuation.
    Also, you ruined my lunch with that picture.

  4. David: Maybe the remarks about punctuation were cheap or petty but I think language matters. Hitchens was once quite a good prose stylist so it’s sad for me to see how crude his columns now are as writing (leaving aside whatever political disagreement I might have with him). You’re right that Hitchens writes too quickly, but that’s the essence of my complaint.

    Sorry about the photograph — it’s a bit over the top, I realize. But it captured my sense of Hitchens as a writer in decline: the photo is a perfect metaphor for the state of Hitchens’ prose.

  5. Stumbled on this through a Google image search for Hitchens and thought I’d leave a comment though it’s pretty old now. Think the punctuational analysis is a bit of a stretch. I’ve never really given the thing any thought, but I always thought of using quotation marks in a mocking fashion still as a method of quotation; your tone and emphasis on the quotation marks simply tries to convey your dismissal of the opinion inside of them. I wouldn’t call this any sort of a double negative, I’d just say that Hitchens is making clear the intention of his quotation marks. Either way, I’d say this is arguable – at the very least a bit of nitpicking worthy only of a copy editor’s time; to cite it as evidence of Hitchens transformation into “a clumsy writer with a sledgehammer prose style” seems a bit extreme.

  6. This article fails on so many levels. What point are you making exactly? You are incredibly pedantic and do not actually address any of the serious points Hitchens makes.

  7. I sens ENVIE and JEALOUSY in most of the comments. I believe Christopher Hitchens is GOD sent to many of us. lol
    I like the guys mind and guts, something so many of you lack.

  8. Jeet,
    do you by any means dispute the messangership of prophet Muhammad? could u be looking for honest proofs about his true prophethood or you are simply one of those blind haters?

  9. Muhammed pbuh is mentioned in the Torah and the gospel,old testament Jesus prophesies his coming eny person who can read will no this unfortunately the Jews and Christians have removed it from they books,jesus says I must go for he the spirit of truth the praiseworthy the comforter to come his name shall be ahmad,god speaks about these ppl in the Quran I will show them my signs in themselves and the world yet will not believe they will be arrogant and pridefull boasters these are the very ppl who are attacking Islam but it back fires on them

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