Do Unbelievers Have a Moral Right to Criticize the Quran?

October 5, 2008

According to ISNA president Ingrid Mattson, regarding the movie Fitna, “Defacing or destroying symbols of each other’s most cherished beliefs violates the basic principle of respect.” Note that Fitna examines certain verses of the Quran and the ways they are used by some Muslims to justify violence and hate toward unbelievers.

Let’s leave aside for the moment the question of whether unbelievers really should respect religious symbols they do not believe in. Applied to the Quran, this is quite an outrageous statement. The Quran is not just a religious symbol. It’s a book with words in it. Unbelievers are the subject matter of a great many of those words. Yet, according to Ms. Mattson, we unbelievers have no right to express our own opinion of those words? Unbelievers are supposed to be silent about what the Quran says about unbelievers?

Here is a small sampling of verses in the Quran that describe unbelievers. See if you think the Quran treats unbelievers with respect:

  • (2:89) …. The curse of Allah is on disbelievers.
  • (98:6) Lo! those who disbelieve, among the People of the Scripture and the idolaters, will abide in fire of hell. They are the worst of created beings.
  • (2:99) Verily We have revealed unto thee clear tokens, and only miscreants will disbelieve in them.
  • (2:171) The likeness of those who disbelieve (in relation to the messenger) is as the likeness of one who calleth unto that which heareth naught except a shout and cry. Deaf, dumb, blind, therefore they have no sense.
  • (8:55) Lo! the worst of beasts in Allah’s sight are the ungrateful who will not believe.

And here is a small sampling of verses that say what to do to unbelievers:

  • (8:12) When thy Lord inspired the angels, (saying): I am with you. So make those who believe stand firm. I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite the necks and smite of them each finger.
  • (8:39) And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do.
  • ((8:65) O Prophet! Exhort the believers to fight. If there be of you twenty steadfast they shall overcome two hundred, and if there be of you a hundred (steadfast) they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they (the disbelievers) are a folk without intelligence.
  • (9:5) Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
  • (9:29) Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.
  • (4:144) O ye who believe! Choose not disbelievers for (your) friends in place of believers. Would ye give Allah a clear warrant against you?
  • (48:29) Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves….

(Note that many Muslims interpret the above verses, and many others that are similar, at face value. Others are vague about how they interpret them, and others just ignore these verses. It’s probably only a small percentage of Muslims that thinks they should act on the above verses, but unfortunately this comes to millions of Muslims.)

So, according to Ms. Mattson, we unbelievers are supposed to respect those words which disrespect us, because they appear in a religious “symbol”. This is treating unbelievers as subhumans who have no right to think about or express our opinion on matters that concern us.

If Ms. Mattson and her ilk really want to ask unbelievers to respect the Quran, it is logical that first they should remove all references to unbelievers from the Quran. At that point, they could perhaps make the case that what is written in the Quran does not concern us.


If Not Now, When?

September 27, 2008

Some people say that Sharia is not an important issue for them, because Muslims are such a small minority (less than 1 percent in the US) that they have no political power anyway. Why get all worked up about an issue that isn’t much of an issue in the foreseeable future?

For those who think this way, I have two questions:

First, at what percentage do you think the Muslim population should be before Sharia becomes an issue that’s worth paying attention to? 5? 10? 25? 40? Pick one or name your own.

Second, what’s one example of a country in the world today that has the percentage Muslim population you’ve named (or higher), which includes a substantial Islamic orthodoxy, in which the Sharia issue shows signs of being resolved in favor of individual rights and freedoms? Here are some indications the country you choose will likely reach a favorable resolution:

  • There is a free and open discussion on the subject of Sharia involving all parties: Islamist Muslims, secular Muslims, non-Muslims, and ex-Muslims.
  • There is an absence of violent intimidation, and an absence of calls for censorship of the discussion of any aspect of Sharia.
  • The Islamist Muslims show signs of being swayed by the arguments against Sharia made by secular Muslims, non-Muslims, and ex-Muslims.
  • There is no sign of existing accommodations for Sharia that have already been implemented even though the Islamists are in the minority.

I’d love to see answers to those two questions by any Sharia procrastinators. Please ask your friends and family and leave a comment.

I don’t know of any country in the world with a substantial Muslim minority that fits the description above. Even in the US, with its tiny Muslim population, we have publishing decisions effected by violent intimidation, calls for censorship, exclusion of secular Muslim voices, fearful ex-Muslims, and accommodations for Sharia. The percentage of Muslims in this country, while small, shows no sign of becoming smaller, so the easiest time to deal with the issue of Sharia is right now. If we don’t deal with it now, how would waiting make it any easier?


Does The Democratic Party Want the Jihad Sympathizer Vote?

August 27, 2008

Ingrid Mattson was invited to speak at the Democratic Convention in Denver. She is president of the Islamic Society of North America, a large organization linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is waging “a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and ‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions,” according to the MB’s own words. The ISNA was also named as an unindicted co-conspirator in a Hamas terror funding case last year.

Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch lists 17 specific items which show Mattson to be a Jihad sympathizer and an Islamic Supremacist, each backed up by quotes and sources. I consider this post by Spencer to be a must-read article. I’ll just summarize two of his 17 points here:

First, Mattson praises the Jihadist, Maududi: “…. So far, probably the best work of Tafseer [Quranic commentary] in English is by Maulana Abul A’la Maududi.’” Spencer gives several examples of Maududi’s own writing which show Maududi fully supports offensive Jihad warfare and the worldwide imposition of Sharia. Here’s just one of those examples, from Maududi’s Jihad in Islam, page 9:

“Islam wishes to destroy all States and Governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the country or the Nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a State on the basis of its own ideology and programme, regardless of which Nation assumes the role of the standard bearer of Islam or the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic State. It must be evident to you from this discussion that the objective of Islamic ‘Jihad’ is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system and establish in its stead an Islamic system of State rule. Islam does not intend to confine this revolution to a single State or a few countries; the aim of Islam is to bring about a universal revolution.”

Here’s an even fuller expose of Maududi’s writings.

Second, a number of self-identified Muslim reformers and moderates have jointly criticized Mattson and ISNA. Here’s an excerpt from their statement, in which they take exception to the URJ (Union for Reformed Judaism) collaborating with ISNA:

ISNA… has a long history of association with extremist trends in Islam. ISNA has served as a front group for Wahhabism, the official sect in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the jihadist ideologies originating in Pakistan with the writings of a certain Mawdudi and the Deoband schools in that country — the latter of which produced the Afghan Taliban, and the Ikhwan al-Muslimun, or Muslim Brotherhood.

Ingrid Mattson, president of ISNA, revealed the style of radical rhetoric with which the organization is saturated ….

…. [The] noble goal [of furthering interfaith civility and cooperation], to which we as Muslims are called by our revelation and our traditions, cannot be served by flattery toward groups like ISNA, in which radicals are camouflaged as moderates.

…. We fear that heedless acceptance of ISNA as an ally of URJ does harm to both our communities, by legitimizing a radicalism that, regardless of ISNA’s rhetorical claims, is fundamentally hostile to Jews and suppresses the intellectual and social development of Muslims.

Nawab Agha, president, American Muslim Congress
Omran Salman, director, Aafaq Foundation
Kemal Silay, president, Center for Islamic Pluralism
Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, executive director, Center for Islamic Pluralism
Salim Mansur, Canadian director, Center for Islamic Pluralism
Jalal Zuberi, Southern U.S. director, Center for Islamic Pluralism
Imaad Malik, fellow, Center for Islamic Pluralism
M. Zuhdi Jasser, president, American Islamic Forum for Democracy
Sheikh Ahmed Subhy Mansour, president, International Quranic Center

So, my question is this: It would not have been difficult to vet Mattson before giving her such a prominent role at the Democratic National Convention. Since this vetting either was not done or did not result in her exclusion, it seems likely that one of the following must be true:

  • The Democratic Party does not know about the Islamic Jihad and Islamic Supremacy.
  • The Democratic Party does not care about the Islamic Jihad and Islamic Supremacy.
  • The Democratic Party wants the votes of Jihad sympathizers.

In fairness, some Republicans have, in the past, been equally clueless about Islamic Jihadists and Islamic Supremacists. However, the biggest gaffe in this election has been committed by the Democrats, at their most prominent event of the election cycle. This is an opportunity for the Republicans to distinguish themselves relative to the Democrats. I’d love nothing better than a little partisan competition to see which major party can best protect the country from those with the viewpoint espoused by Mattson. Ultimately, we need to have both the Republicans and Democrats on board to be successful in defending our way of life against both Jihadists and peaceful Islamic Supremacists.


Who Deserves Our Sympathy: Embarrassed Muslims or Mutilated Muslims?

July 28, 2008

Recently, the president of the UN Human Rights Council placed a ban on religious debates in their council. As a result, a discussion about stoning women, marriages for girls as young as nine, FGM (female genital mutilation) and honor killings was stifled. All of these practices are based on Islamic law and/or are considered Islamic by those Muslims who practice them. So, in the case of Islam, stifling discussion about religion means stifling discussion about human rights violations.

According to a joint statement prepared by the Association for World Education and the International Humanist and Ethical Union for the UN, 96% of Egyptian women’s genitals are mutilated despite the fact the practice of FGM was outlawed in 1997. Yet the Egyptian UN delegate was only concerned about exposing the link between Islam and FGM, not about the plight of mutilated girls and women. It seems he cares more about protecting Muslims from embarrassment than he cares about protecting Muslims from mutilation.

Similarly, the Muslim delegates seemed to be more concerned about embarrassment than about the victims of honor killings, stonings, and child marriages.

If these issues were more broadly discussed, solutions may be found. This shows that stifling free speech which may offend “religious sensibilities” has real victims, in the form of mutilated and/or dead women, and married little girls. Is it more important to protect Muslims from being embarrassed, or to protect the real victims? Remember this question the next time you read about how important it is not to offend Muslims.


Notice What Does NOT Offend Muslims

July 8, 2008

The Amboy Times has posted a growing list of Things That Offend Muslims. Several of the items on this list have been protested quite visibly by many Muslims, in some cases including death threats, violence and even murder.

Thousands upon thousands of Muslims have protested a bunch of cartoons published in Denmark. Muslims worldwide have expressed their outrage, not only through peaceful protests, but also by burning down embassies and murdering innocent people.

More recently, the movie Fitna was produced by Geert Wilders, a Dutch PM. Again, thousands protested.

Now, let’s look at what does NOT offend Muslims….

If worldwide demonstrations, violence, and mayhem shows us what offends Muslims the most, then it is equally revealing to pay attention to the events that do not cause sufficient offense for Muslims to muster any noticeable protest at all:

  • Apostates Tortured, Killed: As we have noted, apostates of Islam may be threatened with death, even in the West. Recently, a Muslim man who converted to Christianity in Iran was arrested, tortured, and may yet be killed. Many other apostates have been killed, beaten, or threatened. Where’s the Muslim outrage over this travesty? Why are there no large, visible groups of Muslims fighting for the right of apostasy?
  • Religious Minorities Persecuted Throughout Muslim Lands: Christians, Jews, Bahais, Hindus, Buddhists and others are persecuted throughout the Muslim world. Why aren’t Muslims more offended by this than they are by a movie?
  • Women Treated as Second Class Citizens: In Pakistan, thousands of women in prison are rape victims. Honor killings, stoning of adulteresses, and FGM (female genital mutilation) plague the Muslim world. Saudi women can get into trouble for driving a car. Why no big demonstrations against this appalling treatment of women? Is this less of an offense than a cartoon?
  • Islam Linked to Militant Jihad by Muslims: Muslims are offended when non-Muslims discuss Islamic Jihad (which was one subject of the movie Fitna). However, there are Muslims who have linked militant Jihad to Islam, in modern times and throughout history, yet these Muslims who promote militant Jihad are never protested in a large way by other Muslims. A press release may be issued, but Muslims are not demonstrating in the streets over this. Why the double standard?
  • Mohammed’s Example Justifies Marital Sex with Nine-Year-Olds: According to a Saudi marriage official, a girl can be married at any age, even one year, so long as the marriage isn’t consummated until she is nine. This is based on authenticated Muslim Hadith (traditions) that Mohammed married Aisha, his favorite wife, when she was six and consummated the marriage when she was nine. How is it possible that Muslims aren’t sufficiently offended by the Saudi’s comment to protest his words?
  • Jews Marked for Death Worldwide: According to Palestinian cleric Wael Al-Zarad on Al-Aqsa TV, the Muslims’ blood vengeance against the Jews “will only subside with their [the Jews] annihilation.” This is not the only recent example of Muslims calling for a new Jewish holocaust. Why are Muslims not offended by these calls to genocide? Why is there no obvious sign of Muslim outrage over this?
  • OIC Moves to Quash Free Expression in the West: The OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference) is making bold moves to stifle criticism of Islam through the UN. There is a plethora of other Muslim groups attempting to stifle free speech about Islam in the West. All Muslims who embrace free speech and free press must be terribly embarrassed about this. Where are the demonstrations?
  • Slavery Practiced by Muslims: Recently, UAE royals enslaved 17 women at a luxury hotel in Belgium. Slavery has never been entirely abolished in the Muslim world. Surely this would be enough to generate some Muslim outrage, but I have seen no mass demonstrations against those Muslims who continue this abhorrent practice.

It isn’t that no Muslims are offended by the above list. On the contrary, there are some examples of decent Muslims speaking out against abuses committed by Muslims, often in the name of Islam. To notice the lack of public demonstrations over the above list does not disparage the tremendous efforts of these brave individuals and small groups. However, the Muslim community as a whole does not seem sufficiently disturbed by the items on this list to protest them en masse. Why would some cartoons be more offensive than torturing and killing apostates? Why would a movie be more offensive than declarations of genocide? Where are the Muslims who would demonstrate in the streets for the right of apostasy, true equality for religious minorities in Muslim lands, equality for women, full renunciation of militant Jihad, marriage for adults only, respect for Jews, free expression, and a real abolition of slavery? Hello? Are you out there?


Would It Be Wrong to Reject a Muslim Presidential Candidate?

July 8, 2008

Many people believe Barack Obama is now or once was a Muslim. Setting aside, for the moment, the question of whether or not there’s any truth to those rumors, what if a Muslim did run for President? Would it be appropriate to elect a Muslim President of the United States at this moment in history? Various commentators have expressed dismay at the notion that a Muslim could be rejected for the office of President based on his religion. Recently, for example, Colbert King of the Washington Post wrote:

What will they [orators 150 years from now] say about our professed fidelity to religious freedom when they find out that many of the Americans who thank God for their religious liberty are also ready to turn their backs on a candidate if they think he is a Muslim or Mormon?

This clearly implies Mr. King believes that to turn our backs on a Muslim presidential candidate would be religious bigotry.

Let’s interject some common sense here. We have been attacked by Muslim Jihadists, and are in the midst of an ongoing conflict with Islamic Jihad. Even if there was no inherent conflict between certain Islamic doctrines and our Western values, this would not be an appropriate time to elect a Muslim to the Presidency. I have no objection to electing a Japanese-American as President at this time, but it would not have been appropriate to do so in the context of WWII. This is not bigotry, but simply acknowledgment of a basic principle: when an individual is a member of two groups, and there is a conflict between those groups, we cannot be completely certain where his loyalties lie. Maybe we can be certain enough to be the individual’s friend, but not certain enough to elect the individual President. The stakes are just too high.

In addition, a significant number of Muslims believe that Islam ultimately requires the removal of non-Muslims from power and implementation of Sharia law worldwide. There is considerable evidence that this agenda is being advanced by stealth. Sharia is in conflict with our Constitution, violating such principles as freedom of speech and press, freedom of religion, equality under the law, and more. This conflict would need to be decisively resolved, such that Sharia would no longer be considered a valid source of law by mainstream Muslims, before it could be appropriate to elect a Muslim as President of this country.

Is Obama, in fact, a Muslim?

From the evidence I’ve seen, I think it’s virtually certain he was raised as a Muslim, at least for a period of time. Taking into account his Muslim background, there is also a small chance he remains a closet Muslim, as we can’t read his mind to find out what he really believes in his heart. For a Muslim to deceive non-Muslims (taqiyya) in certain circumstances gets the green light by Sharia law. For example, according to Imam Abu Hamid Ghazali as quoted in Reliance of the Traveller, a classic book of Islamic law, lying is permissible to reach a permissible goal that cannot be reached by telling the truth. If, for example, a Muslim believed that he would have to lie about his faith in order to be elected President, lying in this context would be permissible according to Ghazali.

Of course, just because lying can be justified in Islam does not mean that Obama is a closet Muslim. Not all Muslims practice taqiyya, and non-Muslims can also be dishonest. However, since it appears Obama has been dishonest about his Muslim upbringing, is it wise to trust his honesty regarding his current religious beliefs? And, given that there’s probably a small chance Obama is a closet Muslim, would it be responsible for us to risk it? That’s a judgment call each of us can make, but it certainly is a legitimate consideration that has nothing to do with bigotry, and everything to do with national security.


Ground Rules for the Religious Pluralism Club

June 26, 2008

On a regular basis of late, Muslim spokespeople have called for “interfaith dialog”. They evidently want Islam to be viewed as a mainstream religion in a pluralistic world. This fits with a general desire for Islam to be respected by non-Muslims. It’s true that mutual respect is a desirable thing; however, for this to happen, I think it’s important for religious leaders to establish ground rules. Every community needs ground rules so that members can get along with each other, and a pluralistic community of religions is no exception. Here are five simple rules I would propose, based on fairness, which I believe are reasonable prerequisites for joining the club of religious pluralism:

Religious Pluralism Ground Rule #1: Anyone Can Leave Any Religion

Oops, it appears that Islam is starting off on the wrong foot by breaking one of the very most important ground rules for fairness amongst religions. According to Sharia, the punishment for leaving Islam is death for men, and either death or life in prison for women (depending on the school of Sharia). Although few Muslim countries today enforce this punishment, vigilante enforcement is such that apostates from Islam fear for their lives, even in the United states. As long as this is the case, Islam is a religion that people can enter but cannot leave without risk. Why should other religions accept Islam when Islam traps its believers, including converts from other faiths, like flies on flypaper?

Religious Pluralism Ground Rule #2: Anyone Can Promote Their Religious Beliefs to Anyone Else

Unfortunately, things don’t get any better for Islam here. It naturally follows that if Muslims are not allowed to leave Islam, non-Muslims are not allowed to do anything which might persuade Muslims to leave Islam. Christian missionaries throughout the Muslim world face persecution. In “moderate” Turkey, missionaries are sometimes arrested or deported, even though missionary activity is ostensibly legal. Niyazi Guney, Turkish Ministry of Justice director general of laws, has commented that “Missionaries are more dangerous than terror organizations.” Even in the West, police have been known to support Sharia rules banning non-Muslims from proselytizing Muslims though there is no legal basis for it. For example, in Britain, a constable told two preachers they couldn’t preach in a Muslim area. In the US, a Christian preacher at UC Irvine was assaulted by Muslim students, while campus police did nothing.

Even simple religious expression that falls far short of missionary work is banned for non-Muslims under Sharia. Displaying religious symbols and building new places of worship, for example, are forbidden for non-Muslims.

Meanwhile, under Sharia, Muslims are free to promote their faith to non-Muslims all they want, as well as building mosques and displaying Muslim religious symbols, which clearly violates the fairness principle.

Religious Pluralism Ground Rule #3: Anyone Can Criticize Any Religion

Hmmm…. Islam just gets further in the hole with this one. As noted by Robert Spencer in this must-read article, the Organization of the Islamic Conference is making a concerted effort, and a successful one, toward shutting down all criticism of Islam. Add to this the efforts of organizations such as CAIR, the MSA, and the MSU, to name a few, and it’s easy to spot a trend.

I would also note that mainstream, traditional interpretations of the Quran are severely critical of non-Islamic faiths, including polytheism, Christianity, and Judaism. In addition, any religion with a prophet after Mohammed is widely regarded by Muslims as blasphemous, based on mainstream interpretations of Quran 33:40. How can it be wrong for Islam to be criticized, when Islam’s holy book defames non-Islamic religions? So long as Islam keeps the Quran (and traditional interpretations thereof), fairness dictates that criticism of Islam must be allowed.

Religious Pluralism Ground Rule #4: Religions May Not Impose Their Rules by Force of Theocracy

In the past, Christianity was a misbehaver on this one, but this is the twenty first century. No major religion today other than Islam has a political agenda to rule the world. The rules of Sharia are incompatible with the US Constitution and basic norms of individual rights and freedoms in the West. Sharia includes laws which explicitly discriminate against other religions, such as valuing the legal testimony of a non-Muslims as half that of a Muslim. The barbaric punishments prescribed for certain crimes also comes off as unfriendly. Is it any wonder, then, that representatives of Islam have trouble gaining respect from non-Muslims?

Religious Pluralism Ground Rule #5: Religions May Not Support Holy War

Yes, it seems people get really annoyed when they or their loved ones are killed for being infidels. That’s just not a good way to get along with others–it makes people testy. Of course, the majority of Muslims have no interest in participating in Jihad warfare. However, Jihad warfare remains, to this day, very much a part of Islamic theology. Where are the mainstream Muslim organizations who denounce Jihad warfare under any circumstances and refute the theological justification for Jihad warfare on Islamic grounds? There do not appear to be any at all. Support for Jihad warfare amongst everyday Muslims remains uncomfortably high, as well.

Conclusions

Only Islam violates all five of these rules for respectful relations with others. Although there are individual Muslims who do want to follow these ground rules, they are not the ones who are “driving the bus” of Islam. Those who call for religious dialog can start by challenging the Muslim world to follow the same general ground rules that other religions today generally follow.


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