Mocking Islam in Christian Apologetics: David Wood and ‘Islamicize Me’

#Repost from 2020.

Islamicize Me, a play on the documentary Super Size Me (2004), is a 2018 mockumentary produced by several Christian apologists (David Wood, Vocab Malone, and Jon McCray) who, in the feature, act as a group of atheists that accept the challenge to live for thirty days as Muslims according to Islam’s textual sources (Qur’an, hadith, etc).

Some of these sources are from the hadith (later narratives about the deeds and teachings of Muhammad produced by Muslims in the tradition) that many contemporary Muslims ignore or do not know about. The mockumentary intends to show the absurdity of embracing the Islamic religion and living it out practically. The comparison to Super Size Me is plain: just as eating McDonald’s for thirty days will have disastrous effects on the consumer’s body, so does embracing Islam have a terrible impact on the individual’s religious and daily life.

The Motivation for Islamicize Me

Claimed to support producing Islamicize Me is freedom of speech (1). The apologists who produced the series are frustrated at death threats and real deaths over criticizing Islam and depicting Muhammad in cartoons or drawings.

In particular, the series was inspired by the tragic Charlie Hebdo shootings in France in January 2015 and the attempted murder of Robert Spencer who hosted a draw Muhammad cartoon contest in the United States in that same year. As Spencer said in an interview, the purpose of the contest for which the assassination attempt was made on his life is to,

“… gain a general understanding in the West that freedom of speech was important, was valuable, was worth defending, that the adage “I may not agree with what you say, but that I will defend to the death your right to say it” is an important foundation of any free society, and therefore that it is imperative that we stand up against violent intimidation and that we refuse to allow ourselves to be silenced by threats, silenced by murder, that we will not be intimidated into silence, but that we will continue to speak. If we allow ourselves to be intimidated into silence we are effectively giving the signal that terrorism works.” (1)

Jon McCray, one of the apologists behind the series, says the effort is about combatting terrorism and revealing the high number of terrorist acts carried out by Muslims,

“Everybody knows, or at least they should know, that Islam has a disproportional amount of terrorism compared to every other world religions combined. Since 9/11, there has been over 33 000 deadly terrorist attacks inspired by the teachings of Islam… If we are not allowed to critique Islam, then we are not going to be able to solve the problem of terrorism. As history has shown us, ignoring the problem will not make it go away. Terrorism will not stop if we just conform and accept Islamic ideology without questioning it” (2).

McCray says that not all Muslims are terrorists and claims that it is aimed at those considering joining terrorist groups. He wants them to “take a deeper look into the teachings that are found in the Qur’an and the Hadiths.”

Criticism of the Series

Islamicize Me has been criticized by some Christian apologists, notably James White who has debated Muslims and written about Islam respectfully and keenly.

White views the mockumentary as inconsistent with biblical values and identifies biblical texts such as 1 Peter (3:15-16) exhorting Christians to offer an account of their faith “with gentleness and reverence.” The letter of Ephesians says that in Christian conduct there is to “be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting” (5:3-4). There is also the discouraging of participating in “the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret” (5:11-12). In 2 Timothy, Christians must “not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition…” (2:24-26).

White, therefore, stated that there is nothing of the Gospel in the Islamicize Me videos: “They are meant to mock and offend and shock, but they are not meant to provide the truth so that upon abandoning error the Muslim might know where to go and what to do.”

Further, if one supports the use of mockery, then Christians themselves lose grounds for complaining when a mockumentary singling out their religious beliefs is produced by Muslims or atheists against them. Christians have ceded the moral ground.

White states that Islamicize Me uses the worst possible interpretation of the Islamic texts in question. If Christians are willing to treat Muslims in this way, then they should not be surprised when Muslims do the same to them. White argues that this approach undermines both truth and meaningful action.

Wood and the other apologists involved in the production of Islamicize Me are more concerned with having people abandon Islam than presenting them with the Gospel. The Gospel is merely an attachment at the end and it is not the driving force. White is more concerned with presenting the Gospel to Muslims and apologetics is used in service of that effort.

“They’re [Wood, Malone, and McCray] doing it to get people out of Islam. And then if you can get them into Christianity that’s great, but it’s a secondary issue. It’s not the primary issue… [They] think Islam is the worst thing to come down the pipe.”

White accepts that there is plenty of material in the Muslim sources that can be made fun of but this remains an inappropriate approach for Christians to engage Muslims: “I just don’t know what that’s supposed to accomplish. I don’t think the Gospel is actually promoted by the use of mockery and, yes, the other side uses mockery, but that doesn’t give us the right to use it” (3).

Responses to James White

Proponents of Islamicize Me have responded to White’s criticisms.

A common justification is that because figures in the Bible, including Jesus Christ and the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel, use sarcasm, mockery, and insults against certain groups of people, so too can Christians use insults and mockery. Robert Spencer supports Wood’s series because it tackles serious issues despite being “full of slapstick, broad (some would say tasteless) comedy and satire”,

“…the intention of the series is absolutely serious: to show to Muslims and to all people of good will that the canonical texts of Islam contain a great deal of material that is absurd and inhumane. Since some Muslims are harming people on a daily basis because of those inhumane teachings, this is an effort that is charitable at its core — not all Christian charity can be equated with niceness, although many people today assume they are identical. The series could result in some people not acting upon those Islamic teachings and thus not harming others, and that is a good thing, and something that Christians should want.”

What Islamicize Me portrays in its satire is all very real: “There are Muslims today who are doing and teaching all the things that are depicted in the series.” If indeed these doings have real-life examples, then it follows that satirical simulations of lesser transgressions are justifiable. There seems to be a moral legitimacy in doing this.

Some supporters of the series find that satire and mockery useful and superior to other ways of communicating a message because images can have an impact on viewers that might not happen through mere words or verbal communication. Visually acting out the absurdity of the teachings and message of the hadith gets the point across in a manner that articulating via words on a page will not.

It is further argued that there is an important distinction between making fun of people and making fun of positions. Islamicize Me does not make fun of Muslims or show hatred toward them. Instead, it makes fun of Islam.

James White’s Defense

For White, engaging Muslims is about changing hearts and the only way to do this is to emphasize the Gospel (the good news of Jesus Christ): “the Gospel is the core. It is the very matrix in which we work. It’s the essence of what we are communicating” (4).

White argues that embracing Wood’s approach will have the opposite effect because mocking Muhammad and Islam will not change hearts.

A critic of White may point out that Wood’s mockumentary has been helpful in removing many from Islam. But equally one might wonder how many the mockumentary has alienated and hardened from accepting the Gospel because it its approach.

What about the claim made by Wood that Jesus and some of the prophets like Ezekiel used mockery and that this provides justification for contemporary Christians to do likewise?

White responds by saying that “there are specific guidelines that are given to believers in the New Testament… the New Testament is our ultimate authority. It lays out the parameters, and so when we are given specific commands we make application of those commands to particular situations.”

Using harsh words in apologetics is not analogous to insultingly depicting an opponent’s views in the worst possible light. White says he uses “strong” words in his formal debates with Muslims that include “no insulting words”. Instead, he uses words that are in line with biblical parameters.

Referring to the Ezekiel justification to mock Islam, James says that this prophet “was called to do some really weird stuff because he was called to a specific situation with the people of Israel, the covenant people of Israel, not Muslims… he is dealing with the broken covenantal people in the situation of the exile and he is told to do some strange things by God. Not a single one of the New Testament writers uses him as an example of how we are to behave. But all of a sudden, if you want to become a hot head and mock and deride, well let’s go find Ezekiel…”

According to White, the New Testament provides general principles for how believers are to engage non-Christians in application to specific events. Islamicize Me fails to adhere to these values. White believes that Wood and his fellow apologists are anti-Muslim rhetoricians who happen to be Christians. In this hate, the Gospel is lost.


1. YouTube. 2018. Islamicize Me: Why?? (Robert Spencer, David Wood, Vocab Malone, Jon McCray and more).
2. YouTube. 2018. Ibid.
3. YouTube. 2018. Report from Around the World, “First Century Mark” Fragment That Isn’t, the Mockumentary, & the SBC.
4. YouTube. 2018. A Brief Rejoinder to David Wood, Vocab Malone, John McCray Regarding Islamicize Me Series. Available.
5. Tamney, Jospeh. 2004. “American Views of Islam, Post 9/11.” Islamic Studies 43(4):599-630; Dunn, Kevin., Klocker, Natascha., Salabay, Tanya. 2007. “Contemporary racism and Islamaphobia in Australia: Racializing religion.” Ethnicities 7(4):564-589; Hyun Jung, Jong. 2012. “Islamophobia? Religion, Contact with Muslims, and the Respect for Islam.” Review of Religious Research 54(1):113-126; Cheng, Jennifer. 2015. “Islamophobia, Muslimophobia or racism? Parliamentary discourses on Islam and Muslims in debates on the minaret ban in Switzerland.” Discourse & Society 26(5):562-586.

One comment

  1. Great piece, James. The one hole I see is the lack of any response to the justification of sarcasm, mockery, and insults based on how Jesus behaved. For the Christian he is the ultimate example, and he certainly made use of these more coarse tactics.

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