Skip to comments.Why I Am Not A Muslim
Posted on 10/16/2001 8:39:29 PM PDT by An Old Man
Ibn Warraq is the author of Why I Am Not A Muslim
Given the stupefying enormity of the acts of barbarism of 11 September, moral outrage is appropriate and justified, as are demands for punishment. But a civilized society cannot permit blind attacks on all those perceived as Muslims or Arabs. Not all Muslims or all Arabs are terrorists. Nor are they implicated in the horrendous events of Tuesday. Police protection for individual Muslims, mosques and other institutions must be increased.
However, to pretend that Islam has nothing to do with Terrorist Tuesday is to wilfully ignore the obvious and to forever misinterpret events. Without Islam the long-term strategy and individual acts of violence by Usama bin Laden and his followers make little sense. The West needs to understand them in order to be able to deal with them and avoid past mistakes. We are confronted with Islamic terrorists and must take seriously the Islamic component. Westerners in general, and Americans in particular, do not understand the passionate, religious, and anti-western convictions of Islamic terrorists. These God-intoxicated fanatics blindly throw away their lives in return for the Paradise of Seventy Two Virgins offered Muslim martyrs killed in the Holy War against all infidels.
Jihad is a religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of the Prophet Muhammad [the Prophet]. It is an incumbent religious duty, established in the Quran and in the Traditions as a divine institution, and enjoined specially for the purpose of advancing Islam and repelling evil from Muslims.
The world is divided into two spheres, Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb. The latter, the Land of Warfare, is a country belonging to infidels which has not been subdued by Islam. The Dar al-Harb becomes the Dar-al Islam, the Land of Islam, upon the promulgation of the edicts of Islam. Thus the totalitarian nature of Islam is nowhere more apparent than in the concept of Jihad, the Holy War, whose ultimate aim is to conquer the entire world and submit it to the one true faith, to the law of Allah. To Islam alone has been granted the truth: there is no possibility of salvation outside it. Muslims must fight and kill in the name of Allah.
We read (IX. 5-6):Kill those who join other gods with God wherever you may find them;
IV.76: Those who believe fight in the cause of God;
VIII.39-42: Say to the Infidels: if they desist from their unbelief, what is now past shall be forgiven; but if they return to it, they have already before them the doom of the ancients! Fight then against them till strife be at an end, and the religion be all of it Gods.
Those who die fighting for the only true religion, Islam, will be amply rewarded in the life to come:
IV.74: Let those who fight in the cause of God who barter the life of this world for that which is to come; for whoever fights on Gods path, whether he is killed or triumphs, We will give him a handsome reward.
What should we make with these further unfortunate verses from the Quran:
*Torment to Non-believers->IV.56
*Only Islam Acceptable-> III.85
* No friends from outsiders->III.118
*No friends with Jews, christians->V. 51
* No friends with non believers->IV.144, III.28
* No friends with parents/siblings if not believers->IX.23
* Fight non-believers->IX.123 * Kill non-believers->IV.89
*Anti Jewish verses->V.82
* God a "plotter"->VIII.30
* Idolators are unclean just because they are idolator->IX.28
* Forcing non-believers to pay tax->IX.29
* The Torment of Hell->XLIV.43-58
* All except Muslims/Jews/Christians/Sabeans will go to hell->II.62, V.69
* Cast terror in the hearts, smite the neck and cut fingertips of unbelievers->VIII.12
* Smite the neck of unbelievers->XLVII.4
* Severe Punishment for atheists->X.4 ; V.10 ; V.86
* Severe Punishment for non-believers->XXII.19-22 ; LXXII.23, XCVIII.6
*Punishing non-believers of Hereafter->XVII.10
* Punishing for rejecting faith->III.91
* Non believers go to hell->IV.140 ; VII.36 * Partial Believers go to hell too->IV.150-1
* Sadistic punishments->LVI.42-43
* Punishment for apostates->XVI.106 ; III.86-88 ; III.90 ; IV.137.
* Threat of punishement for not going to war->IX.38-39, XLVIII.16
*God making someone more sinful so he can be punished more->III178
*Intentionally preventing unbelievers from knowing the truth->VI.25 ; VI.110
* Intentionally preventing unbelievers from Understanding Quran->XVII.45-46
* It is God who causes people to err and He punishes them for that->XVII.97
* God could guide, if he chose to, but did not->VI.35
* Intentionally misguiding those whom he pleases to->XIV.4
* Willfully misguiding some->XVI.93
* God causes human to err->IV.143 ; VII.178
* God deceiving humans->IV.142
It is surely time for us who live in the West and enjoy freedom of expression to examine unflinchingly and unapologetically the tenets of these fanatics, including the Quran which divinely sanctions violence. We should unapologetically examine the life of the Prophet, who was not above political assassinations, and who was responsible for the massacre of the Jews.
Ah, but you are confusing Islam with Islamic fundamentalism. The Real Islam has nothing to do with violence, apologists of Islam argue.
There may be moderate Muslims, but Islam itself is not moderate. There is no difference between Islam and Islamic fundamentalism: at most there is a difference of degree but not of kind. All the tenets of Islamic fundamentalism are derived from the Quran, the Sunna, and the Hadith Islamic fundamentalism is a totalitarian construct derived by Muslim jurists from the fundamental and defining texts of Islam. The fundamentalists, with greater logic and coherence than so-called moderate or liberal Muslims, have made Islam the basis of a radical utopian ideology that aims to replace capitalism and democracy as the reigning world system. Islamism accounts for the anti-American hatred to be found in places far from the Arab-Israeli conflict, like Nigeria and Afghanistan, demonstrating that the Middle East conflict cannot legitimately be used to explain this phenomenon called Islamism. A Palestinian involved in the WTC bombings would be seen as a martyr to the Palestinian cause, but even more as a martyr to Islam.
Ah, but Islamic fundamentalism is like any other kind of fundamentalism, one must not demonise it. It is the result of political, social grievances. It must be explained in terms of economics and not religion, continue the apologists of Islam.
There are enormous differences between Islamic fundamentalism and any other kind of modern fundamentalism. It is true that Hindu, Jewish, and Christian fundamentalists have been responsible for acts of violence, but these have been confined to particular countries and regions. Islamic fundamentalism has global aspirations: the submission of the entire world to the all-embracing Sharia, Islamic Law, a fascist system of dictates designed to control every single act of all individuals. Nor do Hindus or Jews seek to convert the world to their religion. Christians do indulge in proselytism but no longer use acts of violence or international terrorism to achieve their aims.
Only Islam treats non-believers as inferior beings who are expendable in the drive to world hegemony. Islam justifies any means to achieve the end of establishing an Islamic world.
Islamic fundamentalists recruit among Muslim populations, they appeal to Islamic religious symbols, and they motivate their recruits with Islamic doctrine derived from the Quran. Economic poverty alone cannot explain the phenomenon of Islamism. Poverty in Brazil or Mexico has not resulted in Christian fundamentalist acts of international terror. Islamists are against what they see as western materialism itself. Their choice is clear: Islam or jahiliyya. The latter term is redefined to mean modern-style jahiliyya of modern, democratic, industrialised societies of Europe and America, where man is under the dominion of man rather than Allah. They totally reject the values of the West, which they feel are poisoning Islamic culture. So, it is not just a question of economics, but of an entirely different worldview, which they wish to impose on the whole world. Sayyid Qutb, the very influential Egyptian Muslim thinker, said that dominion should be reverted to Allah alone, namely to Islam, that holistic system He conferred upon men. An all-out offensive, a jihad, should be waged against modernity so that this moral rearmament could take place. The ultimate objective is to re-establish the Kingdom of Allah upon earth...
It is surely time for moderate Muslims to stand up and be counted. I should like to see them do three things:
2. All moderate Muslim citizens of the United States should proclaim their Americanness, their patriotism, and their solidarity with the families of the victims. They should show their pride in their country by giving blood and other aid to victims and their families.
3. All moderate Muslims should take this opportunity to examine the tenets of their faith; should look at the Quran, recognize its role in the instigation of religious violence, and see it for what it is, a problematical human document reflecting 7th or perhaps 8th Century values which the West has largely outgrown.
While it should not be too difficult for moderate Muslims to accept the need to denounce the violence of Terrorist Tuesday, I am not at all optimistic about their courage or willingness to proclaim their love for their chosen country, the USA, or examine the Quran critically.
Too many Muslims are taught from an early age that their first allegiance is to Islam. They are exhorted in sermons in mosques, and in books by such Muslim intellectuals as Dr Siddiqui of the Muslim Institute in London, that if the laws of the land conflict with any of the tenets of Islam, then they must break the laws of the infidels, and only follow the Law of God, the Sharia, Islamic Law.
It is a remarkable fact that at the time of the Gulf War, a high proportion of Muslims living in the West supported Saddam Hussein. In the aftermath of the WTC terror, it is now clear from reports in the media that many Muslims, even those living in the West, see these acts of barbarism as acts of heroism; they give their unequivocal support to their hero, Usama bin Laden.
Few Muslims have shown themselves capable of scrutinising their sacred text rationally. Indeed any criticism of their religious tenets is taken as an insult to their faith, for which so many Muslims seem ready to kill (as in the Rushdie affair or the Taslima Nasreen affair). Muslims seem to be unaware that the research of western scholars concerning the existence of figures such as Abraham, Isaac and Joseph or the authorship of the Pentateuch applies directly to their belief system. Furthermore, it is surely totally irrational to continue to believe that the Quran is the word of God when the slightest amount of rational thought will reveal that the Quran contains words and passages addressed to God (e.g. VI.104; VI.114; XVII.1; XXVII.91; LXXXI.15-29; lxxxiv.16-19; etc.); or that it is full of historical errors and inconsistencies.
Respect for other cultures, for other values than our own, is a hallmark of a civilised society. But Multiculturalism is based on some fundamental misconceptions. First, there is the erroneous and sentimental belief that all cultures, deep down, have the same values; or, at least, if different, are equally worthy of respect. But the truth is that not all cultures have the same values, and not all values are worthy of respect. There is nothing sacrosanct about customs or cultural traditions: they can change under criticism. After all, the secularist values of the West are not much more than two hundred years old.
If these other values are destructive of our own cherished values, are we not justified in fighting them both by intellectual means, that is by reason and argument, and criticism, and by legal means, by making sure the laws and constitution of the country are respected by all? It becomes a duty to defend those values that we would live by. But here western intellectuals have sadly failed in defending western values, such as rationalism, social pluralism, human rights, the rule of law, representative government, individualism (in the sense that every individual counts, and no individual should be sacrificed for some utopian future collective end), freedom of expression, freedom of and from religion, the rights of minorities, and so on..
Instead, the so-called experts on Islam in western universities, in the media, in the churches and even in government bureaus have become apologists for Islam. They bear some responsibility for creating an atmosphere little short of intellectual terrorism where any criticism of Islam is denounced as fascism, racism, or orientalism. They bear some responsibility for lulling the public into thinking that The Islamic Threat is a myth. It is our duty to fight this intellectual terrorism. It is our duty to defend the values of liberal democracy.
One hopes that the U.S. government will not now act in such a way that more innocent lives are lost, albeit on the other side of the globe. One hopes that even now there is a legal way out in international courts of law. The situation is far more delicate and complex than a simple battle between good and evil, the solution is not to beat hell out of all Arabs and Muslims but neither is it to pretend that Islam had nothing to do with it, for that would be to bury ones head in the Sands of Araby.
Over the past few years and with the global coverage of television, we have witnessed scenes of devastation from around the world, of famines, earthquakes, floods and natural disasters in which thousands upon thousands of people may have died. But none of these events touched us as deeply as have the events of 11th September 2001. This was a blow to the heart of civilisation itself, and it was perpetrated deliberately by our fellow human beings. We saw the scenes of rejoicing from Palestine and wondered what the Americans had done that these people could hate them so much.
Most religious leaders - Muslim as much as Christian and Jewish - have been united in their condemnation of the terrorists. Even Iran and Libya have condemned the atrocities, while Pakistan, the state both geographically and theologically closest to Afghanistan, has agreed to help track down the terrorists.
Since the terrible events of Black Tuesday millions of words have been uttered and written seeking to explain how and why such a catastrophe was possible. We have heard much of the lax security at American airports, of the fanatics' burning hatred of America and of the part played by the US government's support for Israel. But as the dust begins to settle we begin to hear the beat of another idea amid the noise: "Islam itself is not to blame".
At a time when the American government is trying to gather together the widest possible coalition to fight terrorism the idea that Islam itself is not to blame is a comforting mantra. This view has been supported, as one would expect, by many Muslim leaders, and every Islamic apologist has leapt for his pen in defence of this thesis. In a letter to the Times of London, nine Muslim leaders wrote:
"Islam condemns such abhorent behaviour and the Holy Koran equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of the whole of humanity."
Yet just a few years ago, one of the writers of this letter was calling for the death of Salman Rushdie.
Of course, we must not condemn all Muslims for the actions of a few of their co-religionists. But we can and we must condemn Islam to the extent that that it preaches terror. To pretend Islam is a religion of peace and love is to delude ourselves. If we continue to do so we will never understand this tragedy. Islam, which means "submission", submission to the will of God, has been a religion of conquest. Convert or die. To argue that it is only a few Islamic extremists who are guilty rather than Islam itself is to argue that it was only a few Germans who were responsible for the holocaust, not Nazism itself.
The professor of Islamic studies at the University of Birmingham, Prof. Jorgen Neilsen, wrote in the Times on 15th September:
"Muslims young and old have been as horrified by these events as everyone else. But they are also apprehensive about the reactions of their neighbours and the public generally. They know too well that they very easily become exposed to popular hatred in a way that no other community currently seems to. At the time of the Omagh bombing no one suggested that Roman Catholics en bloc were complicit, nor was there talk of a retaliatory strike against the Vatican. Such a suggestion would have been as absurd then as blaming Muslims for New York now."
It is certainly true that many Muslims young and old were horrified. But quite a few young Muslims in Britain were absolutely delighted that America - who they have been taught to regard as the Great Satan - had been bombed. We read in the Times of young Muslims in Bradford explaining to reporters their lack of sympathy for the Americans by saying: "We are Muslims first". Schoolboys in Paris told their teacher with pride: "Now you see what we Arabs can do!"
Professor Neilsen continued in his article:
"Islam does not teach revenge. It does not encourage the killing or oppression of non-Muslims; jihad is not holy war."
But holy war is precisely what Jihad is. The west will never understand what happened in New York and Washington if such blatant falsehood is allowed to go unchallenged.
Britain has a very poor record in dealing with Islamic extremism. Britain has been a safe haven for terrorists from Egypt, Yemen, India, Chechnya and Iraq, and is a fertile recruiting ground for young men ready to go and fight in the dozens of hotspots around the world where Islam is in conflict with other religions and cultures. All young Muslims are taught from an early age that they are Muslims first, and British, French, German or American second. In any conflict between their native country and Islam they must side with Islam. It need not be so. But before this can change Islam itself must change.
There has been much talk of American "arrogance", of America's failure to address the legitimate grievances of the Muslim world. Were the terrorists seeking to punish the Americans for their arrogance? Partly no doubt, but they have a deeper agenda. It is doubtful if any action the Americans could have taken would satisfy them. What they want is nothing less than world domination. To achieve this they must first precipitate World War III, a holy war against the Great Satan. If America retaliates with massive air strikes against its perceived enemies, World War III is indeed the likely outcome. Large numbers of innocent Muslims will be killed. That can only serve to drive many moderate Muslims into the arms of the fundamentalists. Every young Muslim who sees his family members killed becomes another potential suicide bomber.
In the heat of war anyone is capable of inhuman acts. But to murder innocent people in cold blood and to sacrifice one's own life: Ah, that takes absolute conviction: that takes religious fervour. The madrasas of northern Pakistan which trained the Taliban have been instilling that conviction, that fervour, in thousands of young Muslim men for the past ten years.
The fundamentalists believe totally that the Koran is the absolute and final word of God. In it He enjoins every Muslim to wage holy war against the infidels. The West, for all its military might, could not win a world war against a billion Muslims and the West will never accept domination by such an alien culture. The war would be long and bloody. There could be no winners.
Yes. Above all, America must not seek justice and retribution on its own. It must forge an alliance with its allies and with as many of the Islamic states as possible before striking back. What we need now is restraint and only that force necessary to bring the guilty to justice.
One worrying feature so far has been the total absence of any call to involve the United Nations. The UN could be the first real casualty of this war. Since the end of the Cold War America has rarely avoided the temptation to go it alone; to act out its role as the new Leviathan. To do so now could be little short of catastrophic and the consequences could dwarf anything we saw in New York last week.
Another worrying feature was president Bush's call for "A Crusade against Terrorism". Well, I don't know how much history they taught the future president at Harvard, but for sensitivity at a time when you are trying to rally support from the entire Islamic world the use of the C-word must rank as probably the most monumental gaffe from an American president in the past 100 years.
Assuming America, gung-ho as always, can be persuaded to wait until everyone is on side and to take its Islamic allies into its confidence before striking back, then there is a chance that the escalation can be minimised. But that of course will not be the end of the problem. The grievances of the poor and dispossessed will not have been resolved just because America has either killed or brought Osama bin Laden to justice.
America will have to recognise that globalisation means engagement. They will no longer be able to treat the rest of the world as just so many potential consumers of American goods and services. The rich do have a duty to the poor, and the polluters do have a duty to the planet.
But even if the United States were to accept their global responsibilities, this would not be the end of the problem either. Islamic fundamentalism will still exist and the Koran will still be calling for Jihad against the infidels. Islam itself will need to change.
The concepts of human rights and democracy are alien to Islam. Even though most Islamic countries signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights when it was first promulgated in 1948, many have since then hedged their bets and have qualified their support by signing for example, the so-called Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights. This later document accepts human rights "insofar as they conform to Islamic law", which is not very far. There is no concept of freedom of speech in Islam. Ask our friend Dr Younus Shaikh languishing on death row in Rawlpindi for explaining what life was probably like at the time of the Mohammed. There is no equality of treatment for men and women under Islamic law. Ask any young woman who has just been raped and as a result is now facing prison for indecency. Or any young woman from Bradford sent to Pakistan to be married against her will.
The gulf in understanding between Islam and the modern world must be bridged and it is Islam and the Muslim world that must change. All Muslims need to learn that, first and above all, we are human beings; that we share our common humanity with everyone else on this planet regardless of race, religion, colour or sex. All religion must be interpreted in the light of that simple fact.
In the meantime Muslims must not allow themselves to be used by the fundamentalists. They know that what happened in New York was evil and brings shame on the perpetrators. To side with the fundamentalists would be to share in their guilt. Muslims must stand up and be counted on the side of civilised values and, just as the Christians have had to do over the last four hundred years, must be prepared to critically evaluate and reject some of the more violent and primitive facets of their religion.
Christianity only became civilised after the church was forced to accept that it did not hold all knowledge of the cosmos nor have the complete prescription for everyone's life. Islam still believes that it has such a prescription, but it is a pre-enlightenment, pre-scientific prescription based on the medieval values of a desert people. It may have power, wealth, numbers and conviction, but it no longer has any relevance for the modern world. Muslims are prisoners of their belief that Islam has all the answers. Ordinary Muslim men and women must make a stand against the fundamentalists. Muslim men and women must shake off the chains that bind them and stand side by side with us in a world where human rights and human values are universally respected.
The magnitude of the terrorist attack on America has forced Muslims to take a critical look at themselves. Why have we repeatedly turned a blind eye to the evil within our societies? Why have we allowed the sacred terms of Islam, such as fatwa and jihad, to be hijacked by obscurantist, fanatic extremists?
Muslims are quick to note the double standards of America - its support for despotic regimes, its partiality towards Israel, and the covert operations that have undermined democratic movements in the Muslim world. But we seldom question our own double standards. For example, Muslims are proud that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the West.
Evangelical Muslims, from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, happily spread their constricted interpretations of Islam. But Christian missionaries in Muslim countries are another matter. They have to be banned or imprisoned. Those who burn effigies of President Bush will be first in the queue for an American visa.
The psychotic young men, members of such extremist organisations as Al-Muhajiroun and 'Supporters of Sharia', shouting fascist pbscenities outside the Pakistan Embassy, are enjoying the fruits of Western freedom of expression. Their declared aim is to establish 'Islamic states'. But in any self-proclaimed Islamic state, they would be ruthlessly silenced.
This is not the first time concerned Muslims have raised such questions. But we have been forced to ignore them for two main reasons. In a world where it is always open season for prejudice and discrimination on Muslims and Islam, our main task has seemed to be to defend Islam. The other reason concerns Ummah, the global Muslim community. We have to highlight, the argument goes, the despair and suffering of the Muslim people - their poverty and plight as refugees and the horror of war-torn societies.
So, all good and concerned Muslims are implicated in the unchecked rise of fanaticism in Muslim societies. We have given free reign to fascism within our midst, and failed to denounce fanatics who distort the most sacred concepts of our faith. We have been silent as they proclaim themselves martyrs, mangling beyond recognition the most sacred meaning of what it is to be a Muslim.
But the events of 11 September have freed us from any further obligation to this misapplied conscience. The insistence by the Muslim Council of Britain that the Islamic cause is best served by the Taliban handing over Osama bin Laden, is indicative of this shift. The devotion with which so many Muslims, young and old, in Europe and America, are organising meetings and conferences to discuss how to unleash the best intentions, the essential values of Islam, from the rhetoric of jihad, hatred and insularity, is another.
But we have to go further. Muslims are in the best position to take the lead in the common cause against terrorism. The terrorists are among us, the Muslim communities of the world. They are part of our body politic. And it is our duty to stand up against them. We must also reclaim a more balanced view of Islamic terms like fatwa. A fatwa is simply a legal opinion based on religious reasoning. It is the opinion of one individual and is binding on only the person who gives it. But, since the Rushdie affair, it has come to be associated in the West solely with a death sentence. Now that Islam has become beset with the fatwa culture, it becomes necessary for moderate voices to issue their own fatwas.
So, let me take the first step. To Muslims everywhere I issue this fatwa: any Muslim involved in the planning, financing, training, recruiting, support or harbouring of those who commit acts of indiscriminate violence against persons or the apparatus or infrastructure of states is guilty of terror and no part of the Ummah. It is the duty of every Muslim to spare no effort in hunting down, apprehending and bringing such criminals to justice.
If you see something reprehensible, said the Prophet Muhammad then change it with your hand; if you are not capable of that then use your tongue (speak out against it); and if you are not capable of that then detest it in your heart. The silent Muslim majority must now become vocal. The rest of the world could help by adopting a more balanced tone. The rhetoric that paints America as a personification of innocence and goodness, a god-like power that can do no wrong, not only undermines the new shift but threatens to foreclose all our futures.
Ziauddin Sardar is a leading Muslim writer.
by Paul Kurtz
Editor-in-Chief, Free Inquiry magazine
Professor Emeritus of Philosophy,
State University of New York at Buffalo
I wish to speak personally and not on behalf of the Council for Secular Humanism.
The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11th has shocked the civilized world and has rightly brought forth expressions of regret and condemnation. What has stunned everyone is the apparent willingness of nineteen terrorists to commit suicide by slamming their aircraft into targets and their absolute insensitivity to the deaths of thousands of innocent people. Some of the terrorists apparently are men in their late twenties and thirties who have taken months or years to train for their deadly mission. A soldier sent into combat to inflict damage on his enemies usually has some hope of coming out of the battle alive; but not in these cases, where death was inevitable. How could they have acted in this way? What were their motives?
We know that the suicide bombers in Israel and Palestine who enter into crowds of innocent people, including women and children, often yell "Allahu akbar!" (God is great!) as they blow themselves to kingdom come. In many cases families of the bombers when interviewed applaud their sons or brothers, for their "heroic deeds." In one case, the father even hoped that his second son would make the same sacrifice.
Obviously, the motives are religious. And they are based upon a deep faith that they are doing the work of Allah and will be rewarded in heaven after death. According to the story, such a hero who dies for Islam will have seventy or seventy-two virgins throughout eternity. All enemies of Islamas perceived by themare considered evil and need to be destroyed. Their victims are dehumanized. Here the jihad is considered righteous and just because it is done in the name of God.
Contrast this with the faith of Christians and Jews who pray to God, implying that he is on their side. They often claim that any retribution they may take is in the name of their God and religion.
As the United States in grief and fear responds to these terrorists, one should ponder the opposing religious premises in this conflict. Are we about to enter a Holy Warin the name of Godas viewed differently by the contending factions? Clearly the acts of the Islamic terrorists are unconscionable. But what about self-righteous retribution done with the conviction that God "is on our side"? If He is, why did He allow more than 6,000 innocent people to die in the World Trade Towers; and why will he allow the death of tens of thousands of innocent victims who will surely die in retaliatory military strikes?
Unfortunately, the basic religious premises of this conflagration are not open to discussion. There is all too little inquiry into the foundations of religious beliefs. It is considered in bad taste or intolerable to do so. The age-old jihad is based in the Koran and Hadith (traditions), as the Judæo-Christian response to it is often rooted in the Bible. These documents were spawned in nomadic and rural societies in the infancy of the race and are not appropriate to the modern world. We should seek to find common ground with other human beings -- by opening up discussion of the grounds of revelation in the Old and New Testaments and the Koran -- and by refusing to allow these ancient documents to dictate our policies.
The Koran is a good case in point, because if one studies the history of Islam, one finds that it expanded its hegemony by the use of the sword. Mohammed himself raised an army of ten thousand men and destroyed his enemies and he advanced Islam by ruthless methods. The jihad has been practiced throughout history by the militant believers in Allah and Muhammadby North African Moors, in Spain, France, and the Mediterranean, by the Ottoman Empire of Turkey in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, and by the Mongol invasions of Europe. The Crusades, seeking to defend the Christian faith in the 11th and 12th centuries, were led by militant Christians who attacked Islamic lands and seized the "Holy Land" from Muslims, only to have it retaken. The Holy Inquisition sought to expel Jews and Muslims from the Iberian peninsula in the 15th century. The jihad was halted two centuries ago when the European colonial powers, especially France and Great Britain, conquered many Islamic countries in North Africa and the Middle East. It was resumed again after the Second World War when these countries were liberated and established their own feudal theocracies. And it has continued to grow as the fundamentalists gain ground and terrorize governments and impede any measures against them.
The battle for Palestine in part is between Jews who believe the Old Testament and Muslims who revere the Koran. Today significant peace-loving and democratic Moslem minorities exist in all the countries of the Westespecially the United States, Germany, France, England. But what is not discussed and needs to be discussed, urgently and critically, are the foundations of the claims for the jihad. One can argue that Islam will continue, of course, as the creed of a great civilization. But there is a difference between a liberal reading of the Koran with an emphasis on symbolic pronouncements, and the literal reading of the Koran and the Hadith which justifies jihad. The literal tradition condemns to death those who seek to break away from Islam; those who blaspheme it are considered foes. The jihad needs to be interpreted in light of the fact that these revelations have doubtful foundations. We need Koranic criticism and we need to discuss the Koran carefully, without any condemnation in doing so. If the Koran and Hadith are used to repress others or to unleash a holy war, then we need a clear discussion of how and why and to show the fragmentary and questionable grounds of this faith which so inspires many Muslims to die in the name of Allah. A similar kind of free inquiry should apply to the Bible.
Free Inquiry magazine was founded in 1980 in response to the emergence of the Religious Right and their use of the Bible to justify repression in the United States and to bridge the separation of church and state. If the Koran and Bible are used to justify wars of aggression or retaliation, then they have to be read critically. Alas, they are still not in most parts of the world.
Fundamentalist Muslims hate the modern Western world, its devotion to democracy, civil liberties, moral freedom, reason, and science. In its place they would establish a medieval and barbaric patriarchy, which suppresses women and freedom of inquiry. Modern Muslims realize that Islamic culture will not advance until it enters into the modern world and accepts democracy, secularism, and rational scientific inquiry. They are intimidated by fundamentalist mobs.
In the current situation we advocate caution and prudence; and we hope that the hysteria and frenzy on all sides will abate. Those who commit heinous crimes of terror must be brought to the bar of justice. But the terrorists are an international problem, not the exclusive problem of the United States, and we need an international convention of all civilized nations of the world -- Moslem and Western, Christian, Jewish, and secularistas President Mubarak of Egypt has advised. Unilateral actions by the United States is imprudent. We need all civilized nations of our planetary community to act in concert against terrorism.
We realize that the American people are seeking justice; and they wish to punish those who would commit such foul deeds. President Bush has called for an all-out war against terrorism, but had unfortunately used the term crusade to describe that war. He is to be commended for recognizing the threat and asking Americans and others in the world to deal with it. However, I would urge a reflective response. Any action that we take should be in concert with all our allies in the democratic world and also with the support of moderate Muslim nations. The United Nations should be involved and an international peace-keeping force needs to be created. All terrorists should be brought to the World Court in the Hague for a trial.
A cloud of fear overlays America. People are afraid to travel. There is apprehension of spies in our midst. And there are calls for a limitation of our civil liberties. There are fears that a police state will in time result. We should not turn against our Muslim neighbors, the vast majority of whom are not committed to holy jihad. What is essential is that although we need to defend ourselves, clearly, we also need to protect our cherished civil liberties and our constitutional guarantees and guard against their erosion and abrogation. The United States has been in existence for over two centuries, and our Constitution has safeguarded this great democracy. We should not, in a fit of fear and anger, be willing to suppress our precious liberties.
* We need free inquiry of the religious premises of the growing conflagration.
* We need rational debate of the questionable premises of a "holy war" or jihad.
* We need a rational debate of the biblical call for retribution.
* We call upon the United States not to act unilaterally and to petition the United Nations to establish a peace-keeping force.
* All terrorists when apprehended should be brought to the World Court at the Hague and put on trial.
* The basic constitutional civil liberties of America should not be abrogated.
The tragic incidents of September 11 have shocked the world. It is unthinkable that anyone could be so full of hate as to commit such heinous acts and kill so many innocent people. We people of Muslim origin are as much shaken as the rest of the world and yet we find ourselves looked upon with suspicion and distrust by our neighbours and fellow citizens. We want to cry out and tell the world that we are not terrorists, and that those who perpetrate such despicable acts are murderers and not part of us. But, in reality, because of our Muslim origins we just cannot erase the "stigma of Islamic Terrorism" from our identity!
What most Muslims will say:
"Islam would never support the killing of innocent people. Allah of the Holy Qur'an never advocated killings. This is all the work of a few misguided individuals at the fringes of society. The real Islam is sanctified from violence. We denounce all violence. Islam means peace. Islam means tolerance."
What knowledgeable Muslims should say:
That is what most Muslims think, but is it true? Does Islam really preach peace, tolerance and non-violence? The Muslims who perpetrate these crimes think differently. They believe that what they do is Jihad (holy war). They say that killing unbelievers is mandatory for every Muslim. They do not kill because they wish to break the laws of Islam but because they think this is what true Muslims should do. Those who blow-up their own bodies to kill more innocent people do so because they think they will be rewarded in Paradise. They hope to be blessed by Allah, eat celestial food, drink pure wine and enjoy the company of divine consorts. Are they completely misguided? Where did they get this distorted idea? How did they come to believe that killing innocent people pleases God? Or is it that we are misguided? Does really Islam preach violence? Does it call upon its believers to kill non-believers? We denounce those who commit acts of violence and call them extremists. But are they really extremists or are they following what the holy book, the Qur'an tells them to do? What does the Qur'an teach? Have we read the Qur'an? Do we know what kind of teachings are there? Let us go through some of them and take a closer look at what Allah says.
What the Qur'an Teaches Us:
We have used the most widely available English text of the Qur'an and readers are welcome to verify our quotes from the holy book. Please have an open mind and read through these verses again and again. The following quotes are taken from the most trusted Yusufali's translation of the Qur'an.
The Qur'an tells us: "not to make friendship with Jews and Christians" (5:51), "kill the disbelievers wherever we find them" (2:191), "murder them and treat them harshly" (9:123), "fight and slay the Pagans, seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem" (9:5). The Qur'an demands that we fight the unbelievers, and promises "If there are twenty amongst you, you will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, you will vanquish a thousand of them" (8:65).
Allah and his messenger want us to fight the Christians and the Jews "until they pay the Jizya [a penalty tax for the non-Muslims living under Islamic rules] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued" (9:29). Allah and his messenger announce that it is acceptable to go back on our promises (treaties) and obligations with Pagans and make war on them whenever we find ourselves strong enough to do so (9:3). Our God tells us to "fight the unbelievers" and "He will punish them by our hands, cover them with shame and help us (to victory) over them" (9:14).
The Qur'an takes away the freedom of belief from all humanity and relegates those who disbelieve in Islam to hell (5:10), calls them najis (filthy, untouchable, impure) (9:28), and orders its followers to fight the unbelievers until no other religion except Islam is left (2:193). It says that the "non-believers will go to hell and will drink boiling water" (14:17). It asks the Muslims to "slay or crucify or cut the hands and feet of the unbelievers, that they be expelled from the land with disgrace and that they shall have a great punishment in world hereafter" (5:34). And tells us that "for them (the unbelievers) garments of fire shall be cut and there shall be poured over their heads boiling water whereby whatever is in their bowels and skin shall be dissolved and they will be punished with hooked iron rods" (22:19-22) and that they not only will have "disgrace in this life, but on the Day of Judgment He shall make them taste the Penalty of burning (Fire)" (22:9). The Qur'an says that "those who invoke a god other than Allah not only should meet punishment in this world but the Penalty on the Day of Judgment will be doubled to them, and they will dwell therein in ignominy" (25:68). For those who "believe not in Allah and His Messenger, He has prepared, for those who reject Allah, a Blazing Fire!" (48:13). Although we are asked to be compassionate amongst each other, we have to be "harsh with unbelievers", our Christian, Jewish and Atheist neighbours and colleagues (48:29). As for him who does not believe in Islam, the Prophet announces with a "stern command": "Seize ye him, and bind ye him, And burn ye him in the Blazing Fire. Further, make him march in a chain, whereof the length is seventy cubits! This was he that would not believe in Allah Most High. And would not encourage the feeding of the indigent! So no friend hath he here this Day. Nor hath he any food except the corruption from the washing of wounds, Which none do eat but those in sin." (69:30-37) The Qur'an prohibits a Muslim from befriending a non-believer even if that non-believer is the father or the brother of that Muslim (9:23), (3:28). Our holy book asks us to be disobedient towards the disbelievers and their governments and strive against the unbelievers with great endeavour" (25:52) and be stern with them because they belong to Hell (66:9). The holy Prophet prescribes fighting for us and tells us that "it is good for us even if we dislike it" (2:216). Then he advises us to "strike off the heads of the disbelievers"; and after making a "wide slaughter among them, carefully tie up the remaining captives" (47:4). Our God has promised to "instil terror into the hearts of the unbelievers" and has ordered us to "smite above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them" (8:12). He also assures us that when we kill in his name "it is not us who slay them but Allah, in order that He might test the Believers by a gracious trial from Himself" (8:17). He orders us "to strike terror into the hearts of the enemies" (8:60). He has made the Jihad mandatory and warns us that "Unless we go forth, (for Jihad) He will punish us with a grievous penalty, and put others in our place" (9:39). Allah speaks to our Holy Prophet and says "O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and be stern against them. Their abode is Hell - an evil refuge indeed" (9:73).
He promises us that in the fight for His cause whether we slay or are slain we return to the garden of Paradise (9:111). In Paradise he will "wed us with Houris (celestial virgins) pure beautiful ones" (56:54), and unite us with large-eyed beautiful ones while we recline on our thrones set in lines (56:20). There we are promised to eat and drink pleasantly for what we did (56:19). He also promises "boys like hidden pearls" (56:24) and "youth never altering in age like scattered pearls" (for those who have paedophiliac inclinations) (76:19). As you see, Allah has promised all sorts or rewards, gluttony and unlimited sex to Muslim men who kill unbelievers in his name. We will be admitted to Paradise where we shall find "goodly things, beautiful ones, pure ones confined to the pavilions that man has not touched them before nor jinni" (56:67-71).
In the West we enjoy freedom of belief but we are not supposed to give such freedom to anyone else because it is written "If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good) (3:85). And He orders us to fight them on until there is no more tumult and faith in Allah is practiced everywhere (8:39).
As for women the book of Allah says that they are inferior to men and their husbands have the right to scourge them if they are found disobedient (4:34). It advises to "take a green branch and beat your wife", because a green branch is more flexible and hurts more. (38:44). It teaches that women will go to hell if they are disobedient to their husbands (66:10). It maintains that men have an advantage over the women (2:228). It not only denies the women's equal right to their inheritance (4:11-12), it also regards them as imbeciles and decrees that their witness is not admissible in the courts of law (2:282). This means that a woman who is raped cannot accuse her rapist unless she can produce a male witness. Our Holy Prophet allows us to marry up to four wives and he licensed us to sleep with our slave maids and as many 'captive' women as we may have (4:3) even if those women are already married. He himself did just that. This is why anytime a Muslim army subdues another nation, they call them kafir and allow themselves to rape their women. Pakistani soldiers allegedly raped up to 250,000 Bengali women in 1971 after they massacred 3,000,000 unarmed civilians when their religious leader decreed that Bangladeshis are un-Islamic. This is why the prison guards in Islamic regime of Iran rape the women that in their opinion are apostates prior to killing them, as they believe a virgin will not go to Hell.
Dear fellow Muslims:
Is this the Islam you believe in? Is this your Most Merciful, Most Compassionate Allah whom you worship daily? Could Allah incite you to kill other peoples? Please understand that there is no terrorist gene - but there could be a terrorist mindset. That mindset finds its most fertile ground in the tenets of Islam. Denying it, and presenting Islam to the lay public as a religion of peace similar to Buddhism, is to suppress the truth. The history of Islam between the 7th and 14th centuries is riddled with violence, fratricide and wars of aggression, starting right from the death of the Prophet and during the so-called 'pure' or orthodox caliphate. And Muhammad himself hoisted the standard of killing, looting, massacres and bloodshed. How can we deny the entire history? The behaviour of our Holy Prophet as recorded in authentic Islamic sources is quite questionable from a modern viewpoint. The Prophet was a charismatic man but he had few virtues. Imitating him in all aspects of life (following the Sunnah) is both impossible and dangerous in the 21st century. Why are we so helplessly in denial over this simple issue?
When the Prophet was in Mecca and he was still not powerful enough he called for tolerance. He said "To you be your religion, and to me my religion" (109:6). This famous quote is often misused to prove that the general principle of Qur'an is tolerance. He advised his follower to speak good to their enemies (2: 83), exhorted them to be patient (20:103) and said that "there is no compulsion in religion" (2:256). But that all changed drastically when he came to power. Then killing and slaying unbelievers with harshness and without mercy was justified in innumerable verses. The verses quoted to prove Islam's tolerance ignore many other verses that bear no trace of tolerance or forgiveness. Where is tolerance in this well-known verse "Alarzu Lillah, Walhukmu Lillah." (The Earth belongs to Allah and thus only Allah's rule should prevail all over the earth.).
Is it normal that a book revealed by God should have so many serious contradictions? The Prophet himself set the example of unleashing violence by invading the Jewish settlements, breaking treaties he had signed with them and banishing some of them after confiscating their belongings, massacring others and taking their wives and children as slaves. He inspected the youngsters and massacred all those who had pubic hair along with the men. Those who were younger he kept as slaves. He distributed the women captured in his raids among his soldiers keeping the prettiest for himself (33:50). He made sexual advances on Safiyah, a Jewish girl on the same day he captured her town Kheibar and killed her father, her husband and many of her relatives. Reyhana was another Jewish girl of Bani Quriza whom he used as a sex slave after killing all her male relatives. In the last ten years of his life he accumulated two scores of wives, concubines and sex slaves including the 9 year old Ayesha. These are not stories but records from authentic Islamic history and the Hadiths. It can be argued that this kind of behaviour was not unknown or unusual for the conquerors and leaders of the mediaeval world but these are not the activities befitting of a peaceful saint and certainly not someone who claimed to be the Mercy of God for all creation. There were known assassinations of adversaries during the Prophet's time, which he had knowledge of and had supported. Among them there was a 120 year old man, Abu 'Afak whose only crime was to compose a lyric satirical of the Prophet. (by Ibn Sa'd Kitab al Tabaqat al Kabir, Volume 2, page 32) Then when a poetess, a mother of 5 small children 'Asma' Bint Marwan wrote a poetry cursing the Arabs for letting Muhammad assassinate an old man, our Holy Prophet ordered her to be assassinated too in the middle of the night while her youngest child was suckling from her breast. (Sirat Rasul Allah (A. Guillaume's translation "The Life of Muhammad") page 675, 676).
The Prophet did develop a 'Robin Hood' image that justified raiding merchant caravans attacking cities and towns, killing people and looting their belongings in the name of social justice. Usama Bin Laden is also trying to create the same image. But Robin Hood didn't claim to be a prophet or a pacifist nor did he care for apologist arguments. He did not massacre innocent people indiscriminately nor did he profit by reducing free people to slaves and then trading them.
With the known and documented violent legacy of Islam, how can we suddenly rediscover it as a religion of peace in the free world in the 21st century? Isn't this the perpetuation of a lie by a few ambitious leaders in order to gain political control of the huge and ignorant Muslim population? They are creating a polished version of Islam by completely ignoring history. They are propagating the same old dogma for simple believing people in a crisp new modern package. Their aim: to gain political power in today's high-tension world. They want to use the confrontational power of the original Islam to catalyse new conflicts and control new circles of power.
Dear conscientious Muslims, please question yourselves. Isn't this compulsive following of a man who lived 1400 years ago leading us to doom in a changing world? Do the followers of any other religion follow one man in such an all-encompassing way? Who are we deceiving, them or ourselves? Dear brothers and sisters, see how our Umma (people) has sunk into poverty and how it lags behind the rest of the world. Isn't it because we are following a religion that is outdated and impractical? In this crucial moment of history, when a great catastrophe has befallen us and a much bigger one is lying ahead, should not we wake up from our 1400 years of slumber and see where things have gone wrong?
Hatred has filled the air and the world is bracing itself for its doomsday. Should we not ask ourselves whether we have contributed, wittingly or unwittingly, to this tragedy and whether we can stop the great disaster from happening?
Unfortunately the answer to the first question is yes. Yes we have contributed to the rise of fundamentalism by merely claiming Islam is a religion of peace, by simply being a Muslim and by saying our shahada (testimony that Allah is the only God and Muhammad is his messenger). By our shahada we have recognized Muhammad as a true messenger of God and his book as the words of God. But as you saw above those words are anything but from God. They call for killing, they are prescriptions for hate and they foment intolerance. And when the ignorant among us read those hate-laden verses, they act on them and the result is the infamous September 11, human bombs in Israel, massacres in East Timor and Bangladesh, kidnappings and killings in the Philippines, slavery in the Sudan, honour killings in Pakistan and Jordan, torture in Iran, stoning and maiming in Afghanistan and Iran, violence in Algeria, terrorism in Palestine and misery and death in every Islamic country. We are responsible because we endorse Islam and hail it as a religion of God. And we are as guilty as those who put into practice what the Qur'an preaches - and ironically we are the main victims too. If we are not terrorists, if we love peace, if we cried with the rest of the word for what happened in New York, then why are we supporting the Qur'an that preaches killing, that advocates holy war, that calls for the murder of non-Muslims? It is not the extremists who have misunderstood Islam. They do literally what the Qur'an asks them to do. It is we who misunderstand Islam. We are the ones who are confused. We are the ones who wrongly assume that Islam is the religion of peace. Islam is not a religion of peace. In its so-called "pure" form it can very well be interpreted as a doctrine of hate. Terrorists are doing just that and we the intellectual apologists of Islam are justifying it. We can stop this madness. Yes, we can avert the disaster that is hovering over our heads. Yes, we can denounce the doctrines that promote hate. Yes, we can embrace the rest of humanity with love. Yes, we can become part of a united world, members of one human family, flowers of one garden. We can dump the claim of infallibility of our Book, and the questionable legacy of our Prophet.
Dear friends, there is no time to waste. Let us put an end to this lie. Let us not fool ourselves. Islam is not a religion of peace, of tolerance, of equality or of unity of humankind. Let us read the Qur'an. Let us face the truth even if it is painful. As long as we keep this lie alive, as long as we hide our head in the sands of Arabia we are feeding terrorism. As long as you and I keep calling Qur'an the unchangeable book of God, we cannot blame those who follow the teachings therein. As long as we pay our Khums and Zakat our money goes to promote Islamic expansionism and that means terrorism, Jihad and war. Islam divides the world in two. Darul Harb (land of war) and Darul Islam (land of Islam). Darul Harb is the land of the infidels, Muslims are required to infiltrate those lands, proselytise and procreate until their numbers increase and then start the war and fight and kill the people and impose the religion of Islam on them and convert that land into Darul Islam. In all fairness we denounce this betrayal. This is abuse of the trust. How can we make war in the countries that have sheltered us? How can we kill those who have befriended us? Yet willingly or unwillingly we have become pawns in this Islamic Imperialism. Let us see what great Islamic scholars have had to say in this respect.
Dr. M. Khan the translator of Sahih Bukhari and the Qur'an into English wrote: "Allah revealed in Sura Bara'at (Repentance, IX) the order to discard (all) obligations (covenants, etc), and commanded the Muslims to fight against all the Pagans as well as against the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) if they do not embrace Islam, till they pay the Jizia (a tax levied on the Jews and Christians) with willing submission and feel themselves subdued (as it is revealed in 9:29). So the Muslims were not permitted to abandon "the fighting" against them (Pagans, Jews and Christians) and to reconcile with them and to suspend hostilities against them for an unlimited period while they are strong and have the ability to fight against them. So at first "the fighting" was forbidden, then it was permitted, and after that it was made obligatory" [Introduction to English translation of Sahih Bukhari, p.xxiv.]
Dr. Sobhy as-Saleh, a contemporary Islamic academician quoted Imam Suyuti the author of Itqan Fi 'Ulum al- Qur'an who wrote: "The command to fight the infidels was delayed until the Muslims become strong, but when they were weak they were commanded to endure and be patient". [ Sobhy as_Saleh, Mabaheth Fi 'Ulum al- Qur'an, Dar al-'Ilm Lel-Malayeen, Beirut, 1983, p. 269.]
Dr. Sobhy, in a footnote, commends the opinion of a scholar named Zarkashi who said: "Allah the most high and wise revealed to Mohammad in his weak condition what suited the situation, because of his mercy to him and his followers. For if He gave them the command to fight while they were weak it would have been embarrassing and most difficult, but when the most high made Islam victorious He commanded him with what suited the situation, that is asking the people of the Book to become Muslims or to pay the levied tax, and the infidels to become Muslims or face death. These two options, to fight or to have peace return according to the strength or the weakness of the Muslims." [ibid p. 270]
Other Islamic scholars (Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi, Ga'far ar-Razi, Rabi' Ibn 'Ons, 'Abil-'Aliyah, Abd ar-Rahman Ibn Zayd Ibn 'Aslam, etc.) agree that the verse "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them" (9:5) cancelled those few earlier verses that called for tolerance in the Qur'an and were revealed when Islam was weak. Can you still say that Islam is the religion of peace?
We propose a solution.
We know too well that it is not easy to denounce our faith because it means denouncing a part of ourselves. We are a group of freethinkers and humanists with Islamic roots. Discovering the truth and leaving the religion of our fathers and forefathers was a painful experience. But after learning what Islam stands for we had no choice but to leave it. After becoming familiar with the Qur'an the choice became clear: It is either Islam or humanity. If Islam thrives, then humanity will die. We decided to side with humanity. Culturally we are still Muslims but we no longer believe in Islam as the true religion of God. We are humanists. We love humanity. We work for the unity of humankind. We work for equality between men and women. We strive for the secularisation of Islamic countries, for democracy and freedom of thought, belief and expression. We decided to live no longer in self-deception but to embrace humanity, and to enter into the new millennium hand in hand with people of other cultures and beliefs in amity and in peace.
We denounce the violence that is eulogized in the Qur'an as holy war (Jihad). We condemn killing in the name of God. We believe in the sanctity of human life, not in the inviolability of beliefs and religions. We invite you to join us and the rest of humanity and become part of the family of humankind - in love, camaraderie and peace
It's a long read, but from a perspective not often seen.
*Warraq's piece here all ready has its own post here.
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