Turning Satire into Truth

by Nathan Hamm on 1/11/2005 · 2 comments

Brian Whitaker of The Guardian has a truly fascinating story.

An intriguing news item was emailed to me last week. The CIA, it said, is trying to infiltrate Muslim groups, both in the US and abroad, by training its agents to act as muezzins in mosques.

The muezzin is the man who summons the faithful to prayer, traditionally by climbing to the top of a minaret five times a day to issue his call. This places him in a uniquely useful position, according to a senior US intelligence officer quoted in the report.

“He is a highly respected member of Islamic society and, as such, almost beyond suspicion,” the quote said. “Not only that, but the towers provide a perfect vantage point for our agents to see what is going on at ground level.”

The CIA opened its first muezzin school at a deserted army airstrip in Virginia in 1989, with the school being specially equipped with six minarets from which its agents could practise, the report said. It added that the CIA was now capable of producing up to 100 qualified muezzins each year.

Asked about the difficulties of mastering the adhan – the call to prayer – in Arabic, one former CIA muezzin was quoted as saying: “Oh sure, it’s hard as hell. The adhan is a bitch, let me tell you. It takes months and months of hard work. And if you haven’t got the voice in the first place, there’s jus’ no way.”

Who, pray tell, broke this incredible story? Why, none other than our good friends at the Hizb ut-Tahrir mouthpiece Khilafah.com.

The only problem is that, as you can probably tell from the “The adhan is a bitch, let me tell you,” line, it’s a load of crap. Back to Whitaker.

The entire story is a joke. It first appeared more than three years ago on a satirical website called the Rockall Times, under the headline “CIA scales new heights in war against ragheads”.

Khilafah.com amended this to read: “CIA scales new heights in war against Islam”, but otherwise reproduced the story unchanged.

The Rockall Times sounds like the name of a newspaper – but Rockall is a lump of granite sticking out of the Atlantic ocean, halfway between Ireland and Iceland. It is 30 metres long, 25 metres wide and 19 metres high, and its only permanent inhabitants are periwinkles and a few other types of mollusc. Periwinkles do not read newspapers.

You probably noticed that the Khilafah.com link doesn’t work. But, ask and Google delivers. Here is a screen capture.

Whitaker remarks that the guys over at Khilafah.com, quite likely a humorless lot, either overlooked or misunderstood the countless signs that The Rockall Times is a humor site. Or, it’s just that for them, the shoe fit, so they slipped it on.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Tatyana January 11, 2005 at 11:59 am

Another one, “: 9/11 is joint CIA/MOSSAD enterprise, whole bunch of “there is not one American soldier in Iraq”, oh and don’t forget so called Izraeli death rays (transmitted onto whole wide Arabic world, of course, with surgical precision)…

Nathan January 11, 2005 at 12:29 pm

What each of those have going for them though is that, as far as we know, they weren’t cribbed intact from a humor website.

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