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 there a liberal, secular, tolerant Muslim country?

February 1, 2008

There is disagreement over whether Islam is really compatible with Western values of freedom, tolerance, and secular government. One piece of evidence for this would be if, out of about 50 Muslim majority countries, there were any sizable countries which demonstrated values comparable to those found commonly in the West. Let’s look at several which are frequently put forward as shining examples of secularism, freedom and tolerance: Turkey, Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

Turkey

Christianity Today reports three Christians who were brutally tortured and murdered in April, 2007, by Muslims who had asked to meet with the victims in order to “learn more about the Bible.” According to reports published by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, there have been attacks on priests including one murder in 2006. Genocide Watch cites beatings, death threats, police brutality, and other anti-Christian behaviors. From time to time, missionaries are arrested or deported, even though missionary activity is ostensibly legal. Niyazi Guney, Ministry of Justice director general of laws, has commented that “Missionaries are more dangerous than terror organizations.” Since religious minorities compose less than 1 percent of the Turkish population, and there are many instances of Muslim intolerance even with so few minorities, one wonders what things would be like with more.

Bangladesh

The Human Rights Congress for Bangladesh Minorities” lists many instances of intolerance and persecution toward religious minorities in Bangladesh. For example, Christians are savagely beaten. 10,000 Hindus live in fear of eviction. Rapes of minority Hindu women occurring on a daily basis could arguably be considered genocidal; little girls, pregnant women, and the elderly are not spared. According to Amnesty International, human rights defenders are under attack in Bangladesh. At least 500,000 minorities have been displaced within Bangladesh, in addition to hundreds of thousands who have fled the country, since October 2001. The indigenous Jummas of the Chittagong Hills Tract region of Bangladesh have, over the past 40 years, faced forcible conversion to Islam, religious persecution, arrests, tortures, abductions, and massacres. In 1947, 38 percent of the region that is now Bangladesh were non-Muslim; now it’s down to 8 percent.

Malaysia

Malaysian authorities recently confiscated Christian children’s books. Malaysia is now refusing to issue new visas for prists. They have given foreign priests already there a six month renewal, and told them they must leave after their visas expire. Ethnic Malays in Malaysia are required by law to be Muslim, and those who leave Islam may be jailed. In 2006, Malaysia banned the distribution of the infamous Mohammed cartoons.

Indonesia

In June, 2007, three Sunday school teachers were released after two years in jail. They had allowed some Muslim children to attend a program with the full consent of their parents. According to a report by Bishop Martinus Situmorang, 108 Christian churches have been closed in Indonesia due to Islamic pressure from 2004 through 2007. Asia News reports “Indonesian authorities have prevented the parish priest of Christ’s Peace Church in South Duri (West Jakarta) from celebrating mass.” According to Indonesia Matters, the Ahmadiyya sect of Islam, a peaceful sect which believes there was a prophet named “Mirza Ghulam Ahmad” after Mohammed, has agreed to say they believe that Mohammed was the final prophet after all, in order to avoid being banned. Why would a peaceful sect be banned in a secular country? Also from Indonesia Matters, “Indonesia remains on the ‘Watch List’ in the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom report for 2006.”

Conclusions

The fact is, the four Muslim majority countries that are regularly touted as the most secular, tolerant, and free continue to have major problems with religious persecution. In addition, these four countries are among the least orthodox, but they are on a trajectory of becoming more orthodox, which probably means things will get worse. The rest of the Muslim world, in general, has even less religious freedom. (The possible exceptions are Senegal and Mali, two unorthodox West African nations with populations of around 12 million each, who have thus far mostly escaped the Islamist trend.) This is something for us to think about, as the Islamists have designs for making every Western country Islamic, as well. It that what we want?


Can and Should Islam Be Reformed? Part III: The Sira

January 20, 2008

This is the third installment of a seven part series, examining the challenges, as I see them, and potential solutions, for reforming Islam. I would consider a reform to be meaningful and successful if it resulted in Islam as a personal religion (just a way of relating with God, with no fascist doctrines); if it offered persuasive, comprehensive, and truthful challenges to the version of Islam put forward by the Islamists; and if it became the prevailing view among Muslims.

Challenge: The Sira. “Sira” means “life” or “journey”, and the Sira are biographies of Mohammed. Like the Hadith, these are also based on oral traditions, but the Sira are different in that they are written as a continuous narrative, with events placed in sequence. The first and most important biography, Sirat Rasul Allah, was written by Ibn Ishaq just over a century after Mohammed’s death, well before the first Hadith collection. This makes it arguably the most reliable Muslim version of events, as written traditions are more durable than oral ones. No original manuscript of Ibn Ishaq’s Surat exists today, but Ibn Hisham’s edited version remains. Ibn Hisham said in his introduction, “I have omitted things which are disgraceful to discuss and matters which would distress certain people.” It’s amazing to read the whitewashed version, and wonder what could have been left out (a condensed translation is available here). Another biographer, al-Tabari, quoted extensively from Ishaq’s original manuscript in his 40-volume History, and he included some material that Ibn Hisham omitted.

There are many passages in the Sira which are problematic. Here are just a few:

Genocide: “The apostle of Allah imprisoned the Qurayza [a Jewish tribe] in Medina while trenches were dug in the market-place. Then he sent for the men and had their heads struck off so that they fell in the trenches. They were brought out in groups…. In number, they amounted to six or seven hundred, although some state it to have been eight or nine hundred. All were executed.” (Sirat Rasul Allah, Chapter 18)

Child marriage: “Since the death of Khadija, he had acquired seven wives, foremost among whom was the daughter of Abu Bakr, Aisha. She had been married to the apostle at the age of ten….” (Sirat Rasul Allah, Chapter 15) Note: Some Hadith say she was 9 when her marriage with Mohammed was consummated.

Slavery: “Now the apostle distributed the property of the Banu Qurayza, as well as their women and children, to the Muslims, reserving one-fifth for himself. Every horseman received three shares, one for himself and two for his steed, and every foot soldier one share. There were thirty-six horses present on the day of the Qurayza. The apostle dispatched an emissary to Najd with the prisoners, to barter them as slaves in exchange for horses and camels.” (Sirat Rasul Allah, Chapter 18)

How to overcome this challenge:

The same types of problems exist in the Sira as in the Hadith (see Part II), and the same types of solutions could be attempted. Scholars Caetani, Lammens and others have cast extreme doubt on the reliability of Mohammed’s entire biography.

Part IV of this series will examine Sharia.

Part I: The Quran
Part II: The Hadith
Part III: The Sira
Part IV: Sharia
Part V: Historical Evidence
Part VI: Muslim Culture
Part VII: Conclusions
Overview