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?


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?


Is Islam Dominated by Radicals?

April 20, 2008

The Rosenkranz Foundation recently sponsored a debate of the resolution, “Islam Is Dominated by Radicals”. Six experts debated the resolution, including two Muslim women, one on each side. It was very well done, although in a strictly time-limited format there are always important points left unmade (hence my comments here).

On the side for the resolution were Paul Marshall, with the Hudson Institute; Asra Nomani, a Muslim woman who has been fighting against radicalization of Islam; and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a former Islamic fundamentalist. Against the resolution were Reza Aslan, professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside; Edina Lekovic, from the Muslim Public Affairs Council; and Richard Bulliet, professor of history at Columbia.

It is disconcerting that this panel included Edina Lekovic, who once edited a paper which published a pro-terrorist article, lied about doing so on national television, then personally attacked Steven Emerson, a terrorism expert, who made her dishonesty public. The very fact that a woman who has links to radicalism herself, and has falsely denied those links, gets invited to speak publicly about Islam supports the notion that Islamic radicalism has hegemony in this country. Why is it so hard to find spokespeople for Islam who have no links to radicalism?

The first speaker for the resolution, Paul Marshall, defined “radicals” as “those who are striving for a political order representing a reactionary version of Islam that denies legal and civic equality to men and women and also denies it on the basis of religion. It also denies freedom of speech and freedom of thought….” Those opposed to the resolution neither accepted nor refuted this definition, they simply ignored it and spoke as though violence is the only radical issue to discuss.

For purposes of this debate, this is an OK definition. At least it isn’t limiting the discussion to the Jihadists; it’s time we get past the idea that only the Jihadists are a threat. Islamic Supremacists desire a vision which is wholely unacceptable from the perspective of the West, whether they accomplish it peacefully or not.

The only downside to using the term “Radical Islam” to describe Islamic Supremacists is that it implies these “radicals” are advocating a form of Islam that is contrary to mainstream, traditional, scholarly Islam. This is, unfortunately, not the case. These people’s world view is radical as compared to mainstream Western thought, but not radical as compared to mainstream Islamic scholarship. For simplicity, in this article I will use “radical” as defined by Mr. Marshall, and “moderate” to mean those within Islam who oppose the “radicals”, even though these definitions have their problems in the larger picture.

Although this was not specifically the topic, some causes of radicalism were alleged, but they were not debated with any thoroughness. The Islamic doctrines that support radicalism were barely mentioned.

The basic argument for the resolution was that Islamic radicals, even if not a majority of the Muslim population, control all levels of power through the Muslim world, and thus they dominate Islam. Saudi oil money is one means used for disseminating a radical view, but not the only means. The debaters for the resolution were very persuasive, and the percentage of the audience who agreed with them shifted dramatically in their favor during the debate. There are just a couple points I’d like to expand upon, which I did not feel were adequately addressed during the debate.

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross (for the resolution) mentioned the UK poll which found that 36% of Muslim youth (ages 16-24) believe apostates should be killed. Richard Bulliet from the other side said this shows the radical view does not have hegemony (power), because it is a minority view. However, this ignores an important dynamic: a significant minority which is willing to use violence will have hegemony over an acquiescent majority. As we have discussed, apostates are, indeed, intimidated by “radical” Muslims, even in the West. There is no question but that their freedom of expression is severely curtailed even in the West, and it is virtually squelched in Muslim countries. Even if this were the only facet of Islamic Supremacy regarding which the “radicals” have hegemony (and it is not), it would be alarming by itself.

Reza Aslan (against the resolution) made a bizarre comparison between that 36% figure above and a poll showing that “46 percent… of American Christians believe that the Constitution and American laws should be changed in order to match Christian law and Christian values.” What kind of bizarre comparison is this? Christian “radicals” can be fairly compared with Muslim “radicals” when:

  • Ex-Christians worldwide are afraid to speak out about why they left Christianity in fear for their lives
  • Christians hold big protests calling for the death of anyone who has insulted them
  • Christians form a world-wide movement that’s for stoning for adulterers and gays; for the court testimony of women to count half that of men; for the removal, by force if necessary, of all non-Christians from power; for non-Christians to pay an extra tax in lieu of being killed; etc.
  • These things are not happening, obviously, so we can relax about the Christian radicals.

    Reza Aslan cites a declaration of many leading clerics outlawing “takfir”, which means declaring a Muslim to be a non-Muslim. “Takfir” is often used by Jihadists who want to kill unsupportive Muslims: It is illegal under Islamic law for a Muslim to kill a Muslim, but if a Muslim is pronounced a non-Muslim with a fatwa of takfir, voila! It’s suddenly legal to kill him. Although the ban on takfir was cited as evidence that radicalism has no hegemony, this is a mixed blessing at best: the Jihadists do not consider themselves bound by a bunch of clerics, so they will continue to pronounce takfir as before; however, the moderates now are hamstrung in efforts to distance Islam from the Jihadists. The ban on takfir means that no one can declare Osama bin Laden to be a non-Muslim, which would actually be a good move for the moderates.

    Incidentally, Robert Spencer had been invited to participate in this debate for the resolution, and then was disinvited at the request of one of the speakers against the resolution (he does not know which one, nor does it matter). Mr. Spencer is extremely knowledgable, articulate, and backs up virtually everything with solid data. The fact that someone did not want to debate him is a compliment to him, and not to the someone.