An Interview With a Muslim Apologist

Part One
By Yomna El-Saeed
Freelance Writer- Egypt

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Soliman is an electronics engineer, an international orator of Islam, and a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.

“A Muslim apologist, an author, and a citizen of Egypt”-  this is how Fadel Soliman very briefly presents himself. But there is more, much more to tell about who he is.

Soliman is an electronics engineer, an international orator of Islam, and a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars. He is a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He received his Master's degree in Sharia in 2008.

He trotted the globe presenting Islam and debating other religions; in churches, universities and governmental departments, such as the American Department of Defense, as well as in international events, such as the Frankfurt International Book Fair. His main focus is on training Muslim youth on how to present Islam and refute misconceptions about it.

He wrote Muslim Copts Before Muhammad, a book tracing the history of Arianism.

Interviewing this man is such an interesting thing. He is very down to earth, friendly, with a typical Egyptian sense of humor. He answered my questions spontaneously like he was chatting with an old friend. Here they are:

OI: How, When and Why did you start Da’wa?

-I Immigrated to America in 2000 with my wife and two kids. Over there, I volunteered in some Islamic associations for Da’wa. I, also, represented [these] Islamic associations in a conference in the UN that takes place in the 10th, 11th, and 12th of September every year. So, during the 9/11 attacks I was at the heart of the event.

And by the way, I consider myself one of the survivors of these attacks. On that day, I had some Arab friends visiting the states for the conference. We finished our breakfast at 8:00am and our session was at 11:00am. So, I decided to take them in a tour to visit the World Trade Center. We waited half an hour for a cab to take us but it was in vain. You can imagine how fuming and annoyed we were, while Allah was saving our lives!

Anyway, since that day I decided to head totally to presenting Islam, after I saw the Old America vs. the New America.

In that day, after evacuating the UN building, at about 6pm, my friends and I were hungry. They were all wearing beards, so I am the one who went to buy us food. Buying the food, I was astonished that the night clubs, and theaters around me in Manhattan were all open and people went there like any normal day! My friends didn’t believe me when I told them what I saw, until the mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani declared the closure of these places.

When I went back to Washington DC, where I lived, I found many supportive non-Muslims. Some non-Muslim women came to the mosque wearing hijab, and asked to company the Muslim women in the shopping malls, so that when a fanatic attacks a Muslim woman, they have to know that he’s attacking non-Muslims as well.

But the spirit of solidarity changed within a month. The same supportive people changed, they attacked us afterward. Media changed them.

Whoever watches the TV for half an hour will watch over and over a video along the lines of Taliban members blowing the head of a woman just because she didn’t cover her face. Islam was widely defamed and slandered in the media.

In the Meantime, the Washington Post published an article that vilified Prophet Muhammad.

Back then I was the Muslim Chaplain in the American University in Washington DC. I wrote an article replying to it and sent it to the newspaper but they did not publish it.

I wrote a petition and the Muslim students signed it to publish the article, but this was the very e-mail I received from the WP editor:

“Dear Soliman:  Yes, thank you for sending me your article.  I found it interesting.  I have read several other articles about Aisha's age and have spent some time researching the issue on the Internet, mainly out of personal curiosity.  But it strikes me that the scholarly, historical questions about Aisha are not the real issue.  When people like Jerry Vines attack Muhammad as a "demon-possessed pedophile," they are not making a scholarly argument. They are simply vilifying a religion.  To respond to them with an informed, factual argument may be giving them too much credit. It is as though on a school playground, one kid says to another: "Your mother is a fat cow! Your sister is a slut!"  Do you think that the proper response is: "No, my mother is not a cow, she is a human being, and I can prove it by bringing a copy of her birth certificate to school tomorrow. As for my sister, her virtue is intact.  I will bring a copy of her certificate of marriage to prove that, too.  So there!"  I think rather the proper response may be to a) punch the kid in the nose b) walk away and never speak to that kid again c) tell a teacher. Best rgds, Alan”

And he, on my behalf, decided to walk me away and never speak to him!

At that time I realized that the story is all about the media. And Muslims do not have media.

OI: How hard was it to shift to the field of Da’wah?

-Allah SWT facilitates everything. I’d like to tell everyone not to think about themselves, but what the Ummah needs from them. In the past the restaurants had signs “No Niggers, No Jews, No Dogs” The Jews changed their stereotype by working on the new generations, instead of trying with the old generation with wrong perception in their minds. They concentrated on education and the media [and now they are ruling the world]. This is because they cared about their own Ummah.

Muslims nowadays need huge efforts to change their bad stereotypes in America, for example, but they work as doctors and engineers. No Muslim teachers, nor  journalists. They prefer medicine and engineering because they are more lucrative. They are self-centered!

But whoever puts the interest of the Ummah first, Allah will never leave them without help.

OI: Who are the Sheikhs/Imams who mentored you in the beginning of this path?

-You won’t believe it. The one who supported me and helped me most to be an Imam, after Allah, was sheikh Anwar al-Awlaki; the Al-Qaeda man!

He was arrested in 2006 in Yemen and was brutally tortured. He got out in 2008 a different person. The first thing he did after he was out was writing an article criticizing the Muslim Brotherhood. I opted to email him and start by checking up on him. He replied. I then emailed him asking about the article but the email bounced back. His email was shut down, and I quickly saw his picture on Al-Jazeera as the first theorist of Al-Qaeda. There is an old video on the internet of me and my wife and son sitting beside him eating with him. And then I shot two videos refuting his new ideas. They were never his original ideas.

Beside al-Awlaki, I was much influenced by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. I read five books about him and I was tremendously attracted to him. I read his books and I followed his news, so whenever he comes back to Egypt on a vacation from Qatar I go ask him my questions. He always answered my questions and recommended me more books. This happened for several years. I like his courage. He’s a rare brand of Sheikhs who can easily retreat from old fatwas.

I was also very much influenced by the books of Sayyid Qutb and Imam Hassan al-Banna.

Related Links:
Diaries of an Imam (Series)
Migrant Churches — A Type of Community Church
Experience of Female Reformed Pastor

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