March 12, 2024 - 2:00pm

Shaun King has found a new demographic to swindle: Muslims. The Black Lives Matter activist recently declared that he, along with his wife, converted — or “reverted” as Muslims often put it — to Islam on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan, under the guidance of popular Palestinian-American imam Omar Suleiman.

After affirming the Muslim creed — that there is only one God and his messenger Muhammad — King, who used to be a Christian pastor, addressed a crowd, proclaiming that his decision to convert was due to the “past six months of suffering, pain and trauma that we’ve seen in Gaza”. He went on, while donning a keffiyeh, to praise Gazans’ “faith and their devotion to Islam”, which “not only opened my heart but has opened the hearts of millions of people around the world”.

This, however, isn’t going to be the beginning of a genuine spiritual odyssey; instead, it marks the next stage of King’s career as a performative activist. Before it was Black Lives Matter. Now he has detected where the wind is blowing and knows that Palestine, specifically Gaza, is the hottest, most en vogue issue within the activist world.

King’s record as a grifter and pathological fabricator runs long and deep. Many activists have complained about how he has repeatedly received donations in the name of the families of victims of police shootings in America, yet none of the money seems to have ever reached the families, leaving them feeling exploited and denouncing King for profiting from their pain.

In relation to Israel-Palestine, King claimed that he worked “behind the scenes” to secure the release of two American citizens held hostage by Hamas. However, the families have refuted this claim, saying that he was not involved in the negotiations for their release and lied about it.

Religion can be lucrative for hucksters and charlatans. There are plenty of examples across multiple religions of frauds cultivating a loyal, stable and unfortunately credulous following to be shaken down for their personal enrichment. Because Islam and Muslim identity has been racialised for decades, King isn’t simply adhering to a new theology. Rather, he is adopting a new “exotic” racial identity to enhance his branding as an activist fighting for “racial justice” and saving oppressed people. And there’s no better way for King to ingratiate himself with American Muslims before rinsing them than to tub-thump on the question of Palestine.

Don’t be surprised if King organises fundraisers to feed the needy children of Gaza and later can’t prove if the money went to them. If he possessed a genuine desire to help the people of Gaza, then there would be no need to have the added gimmick of converting to Islam alongside it. Plenty of non-Muslims have been emotionally affected by the war in Gaza and feel a deep solidarity with its suffering people, and have done much more to help them than King ever could.

Common humanity is all you need to help the Palestinians — and to do that it’s best to stay well away from Shaun King.

Ralph Leonard is a British-Nigerian writer on international politics, religion, culture and humanism.