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.


Muslims want respect? Here’s how to get it!

March 3, 2008

According to a Gallup poll, most Muslims want the West to “focus on changing its negative view of Muslims and Islam.” They can make this happen. Here’s how:

  • Acknowledge that the negative view that some in the West have towards Islam has been earned by the behavior of many Muslims, as well as the doctrines and texts of Islam itself.
  • Organize rallies well-attended by Muslims supporting freedom of expression even when the expression offends Muslims (e.g. Mohammed cartoons). Promote an “anti-boycott” of Danish products, so the “majority” of Muslims who want freedom of speech can buy Danish to counteract those who do not.
  • Pronounce takfir on any Muslim who believes in death for apostates, jizya tax (extra tax for non-Muslims, specified in Quran 9:29), or the idea that Jihad holy war is ever justified under any circumstances. (”Takfir” means a declaration that a Muslim is no longer a Muslim.)
  • Reform Islam to be something we can respect, rather than asking us to respect it as it is. Throw out the Quran verses that call for violence and hate toward all unbelievers, especially Jews. Renounce the idea that Mohammed as portrayed in Islamic holy texts was a person that anyone should emulate today.
  • Renounce Islamic Supremacy. Express your outrage every time a Muslim organization demands special privileges for Muslims, whether it’s time off for prayers, taxi cab drivers’ exemption from carrying guide dogs or alcohol, or special facilities for foot washing.

It’s great that Muslims want respect; now they just need to earn it.

[Commented at Culture Matters.]


Memo to Muslims: If You Enjoy Freedom, Take a Stand Against Sharia

February 28, 2008

Don’t be a victim of Sharia. If you are a Muslim in the West who appreciates the individual rights and freedoms you have enjoyed under a secular government, this memo is for you.

As you may be aware, many Muslims are Islamists, pushing for Sharia to be implemented in the West. If they succeed, you will be among their first victims.

Here’s how Sharia victimizes Muslims

  • All Muslims lose freedom of expression. In a Muslim country, Muslims are not free to criticize Islamic doctrines such as Sharia. There are individual cases of people who get by with it, but there are also many who are punished. The path of history is littered with the corpses of executed Muslim reformers, and to this day, certain sects deemed heretical are heavily persecuted.
  • All Muslims lose freedom of conscience. In the West, we take for granted the fact that people can choose to be a member of any religion or non-religion. This is of great value to people of any faith; first, because they can worship as they choose free of persecution; and second, because their faith has more meaning since they personally choose it, rather than faith being forced on them. Under Sharia, non-Muslims (at least, those of the Book) retain the right to follow their conscience as low-class dhimmis, but Muslims have no right to follow their conscience. They must be Muslims, without considering other faiths and making an actual choice in the matter.
  • Muslim women lose basic rights. Under Sharia, Muslim women are treated as minors their whole lives, and worse. They are always under the protection of their fathers, brothers, husbands and/or sons. They may be married off at a very young age, even before puberty, with no say. Their testimony counts as half that of a Muslim man’s in court. Their inheritance is half that of a Muslim man’s. They can only prove rape with four pious male witnesses; otherwise, to allege rape could get them punished for illicit sex, which is the woman’s fault. There’s no such thing as rape in the context of marriage. Wife-beating is clearly sanctioned in the Koran. A man can divorce his wife by saying “I divorce you”, in which case he has custody rights; a woman cannot divorce her husband. Although it is legal, at least in some circumstances, for a Muslim man to marry a non-Muslim woman, the reverse is not legal. Abortion is most likely illegal. Then there’s the headscarf (burqa, hijab, et al), which may seem like the least of their worries, but under Sharia it can be a symbol of Islamic domination of women.
  • Gay Muslims lose basic rights. In the West, reasonable people may disagree on what rights specifically gays should have; gays themselves disagree over this question. However, we can all come together in agreement that they should not be killed. This is not true under Sharia.

In addition to the four ways Muslims are victimized by Sharia I’ve listed above, I believe there’s also another way Muslims are harmed by Sharia. This is a subjective opinion, for which there is no proof, nor can there be. I believe that spiritually, Muslims are harmed if they support a system that harms others. So, all the Sharia provisions that discriminate against non-Muslims are spiritually harmful to Muslims who support Sharia. As I said, this is an opinion for which I have no proof, nor will I make any effort to defend it; it’s up to the reader to agree or disagree as a matter of conscience.

If you don’t want Sharia, take a stand against it!

Organize against Sharia. The Islamists are very well organized and well funded. They like to give the impression that they represent all Muslims, including you. Therefore, the more Muslims there are in a country, the more power Islamist groups claim. The very fact that you are a Muslim gives Islamist groups more power, even if you disagree with everything they say, unless you organize against them.

A good start would be to join an anti-Sharia, pro-freedom organization such as American Islamic Forum for Democracy. The more members they have, the more power they have.

Take a stand against every imposition of Sharia, from hate speech laws banning criticism of Islam to laws requiring special accommodation for Muslim sensibilities. The forces pushing for Sharia want the whole ball of Sharia wax, and will not stop with a few measures. In the beginning stages, Islamists push forward laws which put Islam on a level higher than other religions, to create a consciousness of Islamic superiority; however, don’t be lulled into complacency by measures that seem to benefit Muslims. Once Islam is established as superior and Sharia as a source of law, from there the Islamists are in a position to implement the rest of Sharia, a bit at a time.

Speak out anonymously on the internet. You are in a unique position to damage the Islamists’ talking points by pointing out the fact that Sharia victimizes Muslims, too, not just non-Muslims. If Muslims do not speak out against Sharia, some non-Muslims begin to say, “Well, if they really want Sharia, we could just give them Sharia.” (I suggest doing a little research into internet privacy to protect yourself before launching in.)

One thing you may already be aware of: taking steps to oppose Sharia is not necessarily good for your health. Many who do so receive occasional or constant death threats. However, giving in to fear tactics would not make the problem go away–it would only get worse. It’s up to everyone who values freedom, regardless of our religions, to find ways of opposing Sharia that have risk levels we can live with.


Should It Be Illegal to Tell the Truth?

January 1, 2008

According to Sharia, yes it should–if the truth hurts Islam.

Does it matter whether it’s legal to truthfully criticize a religion?

Let’s say instead of religion we were going to criticize politics. Would it matter if it were illegal to criticize one of the political parties, but not the others? That is analogous to what we would have if criticism of Islam were banned, because Islam is both a religion and a political system. Although many Muslims do not advocate the doctrines of Jihad and Islamic Supremacy (worldwide Sharia), those who do are advocating a fascist political agenda. The vast majority of criticism of Islam is not about minarets and prayer rugs, it is about Jihad and Sharia. That’s the criticism the Islamists want to squelch. If they succeed, it would be a disaster for the future of our civilization. It would be like giving a fascist political party the right to spread their ideology with impunity, and anyone who objects would be punished.

How do representatives of Islam shut down truthful criticism?

Australia: Recently, Pastors Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot were prosecuted for “vilifying Muslims” at a seminar on Jihad. At the trial, Pastor Scot, in his own defense, read verbatim from the Quran. According to an account of the trial, “Pastor Scot was asked by the Islamic Council’s barrister Debbie Mortimer to stop reading passages from the Koran and just give verses because the readings vilified Muslims.” So it did not matter that the pastor was truthfully portraying the words of the Quran. What mattered was that the truth was embarrassing to Muslims, and therefore must be shut down.

(As an aside, how could it be possible that reading a book written letter by letter by the supreme god of the universe could vilify those who believe in that book? Something to think about.)

Canada: Mark Steyn is being sued before the Canadian Human Rights Commission over an excerpt from his book which was reprinted by Maclean’s, a Canadian magazine. Just one problem: Steyn did not make any statements that were not factual. His objectionable statements included: “Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes. Every Western woman in the EU is producing an average of 1.4 children. Every Muslim woman in the same countries is producing 3.5 children.” However, this statement was quoted from a Muslim, Mullah Krekar, currently living in Norway.

Isn’t it OK for Steyn to make factual statements and to quote others’ published statements accurately? Isn’t it a legitimate interest of Western non-Muslims to find out what Islamists are saying about us and about their agenda, and other facts about Islamist expansion in the West? It is, but that may not help Steyn. According to the Canada Free Press, “The legislation bringing [Canada’s Human Rights Commissions] into existence gives them permission to disregard the usual rules of legal procedures meant to protect defendants’ rights such as rules of evidence, presumption of innocence, bias of witnesses or representation. Its officers and adjudicators do not have to have legal training but are political appointees, commonly representatives of special interest groups.”

The U.N.: Recently, the U.N. General Assembly passed a resolution against Defamation of Religion. Although this could in theory apply to all religions, the only religion specifically mentioned was Islam (with five occurrences of the words “Islam or “Islamic” and five occurrences of forms of “Muslim”), and the resolution itself was pushed forward by the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Here’s a quote from the draft resolution:

“The General Assembly…Stresses the need to effectively combat defamation of all religions, Islam and Muslims in particular; …Emphasizes that everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which should be exercised with responsibility and may therefore be subject to limitations as provided by law and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others, protection of national security or of public order, public health or morals and respect for religions and beliefs;….”

Nowhere does this document uphold the right to express factual information which is negative, such as the fact that all four schools of Sharia require Jihad. Such information could certainly be taken as defamatory, but it is also true, relevant, and crucial for the world to know when Jihadists have declared war on the infidels of the world.

In many of the Islamic countries sponsoring this resolution, the vilest invective about non-Islamic faiths is commonly published. If their intention were really to protect all religions from defamation, they would be applying their own defamation rules equally to all religions in their own countries.

What does Sharia say about truthful criticism?

Lest you believe that these incidents of truth-squelching are coincidental, with no relationship to any actual doctrine of Islam, here are some quotes from Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law:

Slander (ghiba) means to mention anything concerning a person that he would dislike….” (pg. 730)

“The Prophet…said: ….’Do you know what slander is?’ They answered, ‘Allah and His messenger know best.’ He said, ‘It is to mention of your brother that which he would dislike.’ Someone asked, ‘What if he is as I say?’ And he replied, ‘If he is as you say, you have slandered him, and if not, you have calumniated him.'” (pg. 732)

These quotes show that in the case of personal slander, it is illegal to say something that the person doesn’t like even if it’s true.

In addition, in the section entitled “Non-Muslim Subjects of the Islamic State”, we can see that a non-Muslim’s “formal agreement of protection” is violated if one of the subject people”mentions something impermissible about Allah, the Prophet…, or Islam,” at which point the subject is treated as a prisoner of war. (pg. 609) This is intended to be applied in the context of a Caliphate, of which there currently is none, so this law cannot practically be applied in the West. I quote it to show there is a relationship between Islamic law and current events, in which Muslims are using the legal systems of the West to curtail an honest and complete discussion of Islam. It is also a warning of things to come if we allow the Islamists to prevail even further.

What to do?

The US Constitution protects our freedom of speech, even if someone doesn’t like what we say, as long as we are being truthful or stating a subjective opinion that cannot be mistaken as fact. It can only be defamation if we knowingly present damaging falsehood as though it were a fact. Not all Western countries have such a strong commitment to freedom of speech; nor, it would seem, does the United Nations. If we are to avoid being subjugated under Islamo-Fascist rule, this must change. A good place to start is to help educate everyone you know about the dangers of Islamo-Fascism and of criminalizing free expression.