Who is responsible for the false narratives promulgated in the public domain? The authors themselves, who make up such tales, or the journalists who cover them, who go to print without checking the facts?
Well, in the case of my old friend, we know that the journalist in question was later sacked by his newspaper for plagiarism and allegedly fabricating quotes throughout his career. He was less journalist than amateur sleuth, easily taken for a ride because he had an agenda of his own.
As for that old acquaintance himself: who am I to question his recollections of his own life? I can only comment on what was apparent to me in our shared interactions over a period of about two years. Those moments so furiously mangled by the storytellers.
His account is widely known by now. He is free to retell his life however he pleases. But he should be challenged on some of his assertions, which damage the community to which he claims to belong.
One of those notions is the idea that prior to him renouncing his former beliefs, nobody challenged those ideas at all, which I can categorically state is utterly untrue. Even I — shy and retiring though I was — challenged him on his profound self-belief in the rightness of his ideas.
I remember catching up with him outside university one afternoon, following a lecture with Dr George Joffé. I looked my companion in the eye — still an excitable proselytiser for his cause — and suggested he attend the professor’s well-informed lectures to broaden his horizons.
The truth of the matter is that his ideas were constantly being challenged by his fellow students even then — by both practising Muslims and the larger student body. They were even being challenged by his friends, as witnessed in many a pointless argument, sowing discord all around.
I understand people have careers to construct and livelihoods to sustain. I understand that for some people this means doing whatever it takes, however mendacious or unpalatable. Just know that eventually lies have a habit of catching up with you. One day you’ll be found out, and everything you built on those flimsy foundations will come crashing down around you.