First Things Next: Why a Liberal Opposes Islamofascism

February 16, 2008

[This is republished, with permission, from Deafening Silence. Copyright is retained by the author.]

This post first appeared in January, 2007. As Martin Luther King Day approaches once again, I am re-posting the piece and in so doing reasserting my beliefs. For good or ill, here I stand and here I’ll stay.

To restate an old bromide: this blog may be little, but it covers the ground it stands on:

I should apologize. I have not made myself clear.

This blog was a gift from a dear friend and in my eagerness to master basic blogging skills such as editing posts and linking- all very new things to me- I neglected to stop and properly introduce myself.

Out of respect for those readers who have been kind enough to stop by and browse, I will take a moment to clarify my position on some matters.

You have a right to know what you’re in for.

I am a lifelong liberal. I am a registered Independent. I believe in individual rights and personal freedom. I also believe in personal responsibility and the obligation to speak one’s mind when those rights and freedoms are at stake.

I believe those individual rights and personal freedoms are now at stake and I am using this space to speak my mind and to try to persuade fellow liberals to open their eyes and raise their voices as well.

You are sorely needed.

I have never in my life voted for a member of the Bush family. I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I support equal rights for homosexuals. I disagreed with the invasion of Iraq.

And I am unalterably opposed to Islamofascism.

Here is how I define it:

Islamofascism is an aggressive movement determined to impose fundamentalist Islamic theocracy on all the peoples of the world by means of violence and propaganda. Its aims are Imperial and its appetite for conquest obsessive; it will continue to gleefully bomb and murder no matter how unlikely its ultimate success may seem to the rest of us.

I oppose Islamofascism but I do not oppose Islam. I believe there can be a difference between the two, but that difference will remain obscure and indistinct so long as Islamofascism goes unchallenged.

It is up to those of us who believe in personal liberty and freedom to pose that challenge. With the approach of Martin Luther King Day we should all take a moment to remember those who struggled and suffered and died for those freedoms before us- the brave ones who marched in the face of firehoses and attacking dogs; the women who endured beatings and forced feedings in prison to win the right to vote; the miners and factory workers who risked what little they had to stand up to the bosses and demand decent working conditions and fair treatment; the brave investigators of government crime who have helped to push the corrupt out of powerful positions.

We rest comfortably on the rights and expectations they purchased for us with their struggles. Now it is our turn.

I want to be clear, so let me lay this out as plainly as I can:

  • I oppose Islamofascism because I believe in the separation of church and state.

Coerced belief is unbelief; religious ritual without freedom of conscience is as pointless as a beating heart without pair of working lungs.

  • I oppose Islamofascism because I believe in freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech- including to freedom to criticize and even give offense- is the very crucible that hones and tempers personal conviction. Those who criticize and those who are criticized often teach one another without realizing it. That which stings most can also galvanize. This is precious to society.

  • I oppose Islamofascism because I believe in freedom of religion.

This includes freedom from religion. The agnostic, the atheist, the undecided- all have a spiritual contribution to make; they are both a check on and a provocation to the devout. And for the believer, the freedom to question and doubt is a building block of true devotion. You may believe God is infallible, but we humans certainly are not.

  • I oppose Islamofascism because I oppose slavery.

From child labor to female servants treated as virtual prisoners, Islamofascism is rife with de facto slavery. Slavery is by no means unique to Islamofascism- it is a centuries-old scourge- but in Islamofascism it is excused and practised with particular boldness- including in the United States.

  • I oppose Islamofascism because I support Gay Rights.

Islamofascist rhetoric against homosexuals is offensive in this country, but that is nothing compared to actual laws currently applied by theocratic regimes in the Islamic world. Iran regularly hangs teenagers suspected of homosexuality. It is an ‘offense’ punishable by death. I could not look my gay friends in the eye knowing I did nothing to protest this.

  • I oppose Islamofascism because I support freedom of the press.

Many people are not aware of the degree of censorship forced on the press in much of the Islamic world. Government control of newspapers and tv gives otherwise fair-minded people a very distorted and hateful picture of the West. We have only to look at the threats and violence engendered by the Danish Cartoon Controversy to see an example of this.

  • I oppose Islamofascism because I believe in a woman’s right to vote and to hold public office.

This is a breathtaking rarity in many parts of the Islamic world. And it is still new enough in our own country that we must fiercely protect and defend it. Recent years have seen the first women cast into powerful government roles. We must not let them be the last.

  • I oppose Islamofascism because I believe in a woman’s right to own property.

The legal right to an independent income and property is a woman’s best defense against abuse. It is a tool to help free her from an abusive mate; it is a stepping stone to education; it is a piece of security in an often insecure world. It allows a woman to stand upright in her own name. There is no substitute for this.

  • I oppose Islamofascism because I believe rape must remain a crime- no exceptions and no excuses.

When I was young we were taught that rape was always an act of aggression and that victims were not to blame. This core belief is now in danger. Radical Imams in Australia and elsewhere are openly preaching that some women are ‘asking for it,’ and, most horrifying of all, some female government officials are hurrying to agree with them. On this subject, we must hold firm and give no quarter. Rape is always wrong; it is always a crime; this basic reality will not be changed to appease any militant belief system.

  • I oppose Islamofascism because I believe domestic abuse must remain a crime- no exceptions and no excuses.

Abuse does not ‘teach her a lesson’ or show a child ‘the error of his ways. Abuse simply hurts. Sometimes it kills. If the Islamofascists are correct and the Koran really does prescribe beating one’s wife or child, then Islam will simply have to learn to live with a certain a certain amount of frustration and self-restraint. Domestic abuse must never be tolerated for any reason. It is a crime. And we are required to protect and defend the victims.

  • I oppose Islamofascism because I believe in a woman’s right to acquire as much education as her intellectual talents will permit.

From Elizabeth the First to Madame Curie, educated women have been indispensable to civilization. A society that prizes docile illiteracy over informed contribution smothers itself, not just its women. Men and women suffer equally from its failures.

  • I oppose Islamofascism because I wish for all Muslims- Shia, Sunni, Sufi, Druze, and every other sect- to enjoy freedom of conscience and peaceful worship.

Muslims suffer under Islamofascism just as non-Muslims do. Their beliefs are picked apart and they are persecuted for doctrinal differences. They are subjected to threats and intimidation. I recognize that some self-identified Muslims support the aims of Islamofascism- perhaps more, regrettably, than most people are willing to admit. But for those who do not, I wish an end to the feelings of dread and hopelessness- and a new beginning in freedom.

  • In short, I oppose Islamofascism because I am a liberal.

And there you have it- for now. This is the first time I have spoken specifically about my beliefs, but it will not be the last. In the meantime I will try to present examples of threats to these core beliefs and freedoms- threats that have been going unheeded. And I will also present Muslim voices arguing for coexistence and peaceful change.

We are all needed- each of us- in this fight. It’s our turn, now.

Is It Responsible to Anger the Muslim World?

February 14, 2008

Geert Wilder, leader of the Freedom Party in Holland, is planning on releasing a film called “Fitna” which is expected to be met with great outrage from the Muslim world. Given our experience with recent outrages, it is even likely that innocent people may die. So, the question is, is it responsible to release a film which many people believe will set off a violent reaction from Muslims?

Let’s look back in history for a moment. It could be argued that abolitionists’ criticism of slavery in the US was a major factor leading to the Civil War. Does this mean the abolishionists should not have spoken out against slavery?

Without having the opportunity to see the film as yet, my opinion is that so long as the film states facts and/or opinions that are grounded in facts or logic, and the film does not call for violence against innocent people, then it is responsible to release it, regardless of the consequences. In fact, if the Muslim world responds violently to honest criticism, this is evidence that Islam deserves criticism and should be criticized even more. We should then be seriously analyzing the question, “What causes these people to act in such an infantile manner?”

What would really be irresponsible would be for us to allow fear of violence to condition us to submit to fascist Islamic doctrines rather than speak out against them.

If we don’t give the Muslim world enough provocations to outrage them, they will fabricate their own.

[Note: I read this idea in an opinion piece recently, but was unable to find the posting to give credit for the idea. If anyone supplies the “missing link”, I will add it.] The power brokers in the Muslim world evidently want to provoke outrage amongst their people, because otherwise why would they fabricate outrages that did not otherwise exist? Here are three concrete examples in which this actually has or does occur: the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the Al Dura film, and the Mohammed cartoon controversy.

Protocols of the Elders of Zion: This is a thoroughly-exposed forgery of an alleged plot by Jews to take over the world. Originating in Russia in the late 19th century, most of it is plagiarized from an obscure French satire. However, it has been translated into Arabic and is widely disseminated throughout the Middle East today, used to fan the flames of Jew hatred.

Al Dura film: This film supposedly shows a Palestinian boy killed by Israelis, but there is good reason to believe that not only this film, but a great deal of Middle Eastern journalism, is fake. This phony event has been the rallying cry for the “al-Aqsa intifada”. However, it appears this bloody intifada was not a spontaneous uprising, but an orchestrated affair.

Mohammed cartoon controversy: Nearly everyone knows about this controversy, in which more than a hundred were killed in murderous Muslim riots following the printing of cartoons of Mohammed in a small Dutch paper. However, many are unaware that the Middle Eastern press who reprinted these cartoons about six months after the fact included an additional three cartoons, which were much more inflammatory than the ones actually published in Denmark. It appears that the Muslim mobs were deliberately enraged by people who didn’t think the real cartoons would be enough to do the job.

We should be asking ourselves, “What motivates the Muslim elite to intentionally and deceptively provoke their people?” Hint: It could have something to do with an Islamist agenda.

Is there any benefit to the West in provoking the Muslim world?

If the source of the provocation is honest criticism of Islam or Islamic doctrines, then yes, there is a benefit. In fact, this is the difference between the provocations that are fabricated by the Muslim power brokers and the ones that are generated by honest criticism by Westerners: the fabricated provocations have zero potential of benefiting the West. Honest criticism has the potential to defeat Islamo-Fascism, with much less violence than defeating it militarily. Here’s how:

  • It has the potential of influencing more Muslims to seek ways to reform their faith, or reform more effectively, or leave Islam altogether. This reduces the support within the Muslim world for the doctrines of Jihad and Sharia.
  • It has the potential of reducing conversions of non-Muslims to Islam. This is a huge benefit, as Western converts are targeted by terrorist recruiters.
  • It has the potential of increasing support for policies necessary to defeat Islamo-Fascism, such as: a Constitutional amendment explicitly stating that Sharia is not a valid source of law in the country; halting or drastically reducing immigration from Muslim countries; deporting Muslims who advocate Jihad or Sharia; allowing mosques and Islamic centers to be monitored; reversing the infiltration of Islamists into sensitive positions; and having a no-nonsense policy to prevent the spread of Islamism in prisons.

The more the “battlefield” can be shifted to the realm of ideas rather than the realm of military, the less violence there will be in the long run. It would be nice to have zero violence, but we do not have that choice available to us. A murderous rampage in the Muslim world may claim 100 lives; a change in policy to curb Jihad in the West may save 100,000 lives or more in the long run. No one really knows what the numbers would be one way or the other; we don’t get to do things twice to see how they play out. However, it appears certain that the casualties are less if we meet the Islamists and the apologists point for point where they are weakest: their ideology.

Is it important to avoid gratuitous insults?

A “gratuitous insult” is a statement that is more inflammatory than necessary to convey the truth or make a point. It is intentional rudeness.

I believe that, yes, it is important to avoid gratuitous insults. That is why I avoid them on this site. However, I do not shy away from telling the truth as I see it. For example, I have alluded to the fact that the Hadith and Sira include several accounts of Mohammed marrying a child (consummating the marriage at the age of 9 or 10). However, I have not labeled Mohammed a “pedophile”. This may seem like a fine line, but it’s the line I draw. I feel that the term “pedophile” is gratuitously insulting, while a dispassionate statement of facts is necessary for people to understand an uncomfortable truth that is relevant to a discussion of Islam. This is a fact that is embarrassing to Muslims, but that does not make it irrelevant, especially since child brides are all too common in the Muslim world today, including Muslims living within the West.

My reasons for avoiding gratuitous insults is not that I believe they are wrong, it’s that I believe they are ineffective. They turn people off who otherwise might be interested in what I have to say. In addition, they cause emotional hurt with no benefit. And besides that, I simply prefer a less inflammatory style.

However, others disagree with me about rudeness. Like it or not, it is common in ordinary political discourse for people to insult those with whom they disagree, or to use “strong language”. Islam has a political side, so the same rules of political discourse that apply to other political schools of thought should also apply to Islam. Just because Muslims or others dislike a person’s style of communicating does not mean that person should be hushed up, and it does not mean their point of view is invalid. Sometimes people make some good points impolitely. So, while I do think it’s important to avoid gratuitous insults, there are many things that are more important than that, such as learning the truth about Islam and Islamic doctrines.

Which Is the Best Solution to Islamo-Fascism: Reform or Apostasy?

January 29, 2008

As I see it, there are three main options for peace- and freedom-minded Muslims to respond to Islamo-Fascism: to ignore or deny it and hope it goes away; to reform Islam into a personal religion with no political component; or to leave Islam. Since ignoring the problem is so obviously doomed to failure, I’ll focus on reform vs. apostasy. Ultimately, this choice is up to Muslims; non-Muslims have choices of their own for responding to Islamo-Fascism. However, non-Muslims can have an opinion on the subject, especially since Islamo-Fascism infringes upon non-Muslim rights. The ideal would be to eliminate Islamo-Fascism in whatever way is most effective both in the short-term and long-term, while minimizing violence.

On the plus side for reform: if a version of Islam were developed with a compelling, comprehensive rejection of all fascist ideologies, it’s possible it could be easier to get large numbers of Muslims to join such a reform rather than to leave Islam altogether. It may be more comfortable for them to preserve the familiarity of the mosques, prayer rugs, five pillars, etc. However, on the minus side, it is difficult to believe the fascist tendencies of Islam could be altogether removed in such a way that they couldn’t come right back at any time. So, it’s possible that reform would result in Islamic Jihad and Islamic Supremacy going dormant, rather than disappearing forever. This could give the non-Muslim world a false sense of security, and it might even speed up conversions to Islam, which would then come back to haunt us at such time in the future that Islamo-Fascism reawakens.

At first glance, the idea of an apostasy movement may be tougher for large numbers of Muslims to get on board with. However, since any meaningful reform of Islam is tantamount to apostasy, according to orthodox Islam, perhaps a complete apostasy wouldn’t really be that much harder. Apostasy also seems like a more permanent solution, in that changing religious identity to a different religion creates something of a “firewall” between the ex-Muslim and Islamo-Fascism. It also seems like it would be more durable from one generation to the next. Some liberal Muslim parents have been appalled that their children became radicalized Muslims; that scenario would be less likely with ex-Muslim parents. However, if the apostasy movement does not gain some serious momentum, those advantages will not be enough to avert an unpleasant future.

Why not both?

I find that many people who write about Islamo-Fascism choose one solution or the other to support (and some are quite hard-line about it). However, I don’t see reform and apostasy as mutually exclusive. At this point, I think it’s useful for reformers, apostates, and non-Muslims to all work toward solutions, even different solutions, with the common goal of freeing the world from Islamo-Fascism. A reform movement and apostasy movement might even complement each other: if people are leaving Islam in significant numbers, this loss of “market share” could make orthodox Muslims more open to reform. If Muslims are becoming less orthodox, it could make it easier for them to leave the religion altogether. Both solutions are about introducing freedom of conscience to the Muslim world. And, both solutions benefit from well-reasoned criticism of Islamo-Fascist doctrines, which is where non-Muslims could be doing more to help.

Neither apostasy nor reform has much of a track record of working against Islamo-Fascism. However, we are in a new era which may change the rules in favor of peace and freedom, if we take advantage of the opportunity. With the help of the Internet and modern standards of individual rights and freedoms, maybe one or both will be successful this time.

Because both reformers and outspoken apostates are in considerable danger, it seems that either solution is greatly helped by the ability to speak freely and anonymously over the internet, which we have at least for now. This is an opportunity that has never before been available to a reform or apostasy movement of Islam. However, some people are trying very hard to end this opportunity. Whatever we do, let’s not allow this window of opportunity to close.

Can and Should Islam Be Reformed? Part VII: Conclusions

January 25, 2008

This is the final 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.

There may be additional challenges I haven’t listed here. Despite the extreme challenges, there are some individuals and groups out there trying to reform Islam. Every person who tries to advance a meaningful reform of Islam is risking his life to do so, and I consider each one a hero, whether I fully agree with his approach or not. I can only hope that, if I had been born Muslim, I would act as honorably as these people do. I will again give special mention to the monumental endeavor made by Muslims Against Sharia. They are going the farthest of any Muslim reform group I’m aware of to abolish the fascist doctrines. Even so, it is not at all guaranteed that they will succeed, but at least they are making an honest effort. Unexpected things can happen, and sometimes unexpected good things do, especially when the alternative is grim. I wish them well.

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

Can and Should Islam Be Reformed? Part VI: Muslim Culture

January 25, 2008

This is the sixth 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: Muslim Culture. Besides the religious doctrines, Islam also has a culture which has been influenced by those doctrines, but is really a separate item, with several components. For example, Islam is an honor/shame-based culture, meaning that having a good image is of primary importance. This makes it difficult to admit to problems. In addition, honesty is not an absolute virtue in Islam; there are various exceptions to the rule. The combination of an honor/shame orientation and excuses for dishonesty creates a strong tendency to blame others for problems, which we often see in practice today. Blaming others for problems created by self is a sure way NOT to solve the problems.

Also, it is psychologically difficult for Muslims to accept a “demotion” from being superior (according to Islamic law and tradition) to being no better than the low-class dhimmis or the unclean kafirs. And, many Muslims strongly identify with Islam, making it more difficult for individuals to change their beliefs.

In addition to the purely psychological factors, there’s also real danger: Sharia’s draconian punishment for apostasy has also created a culture that is dangerous to reformers, as orthodox Muslims can label any attempt at reform as being an act of apostasy, carrying the penalty of death.

How to overcome this challenge:

This is a tough set of issues, but it must be addressed. As long as Muslims cling to the idea that Islam is the world’s most perfect religion, and that all the world’s problems result from Jewish conspiracies, Western imperialism, and whatnot, nothing will change.

First, honor and shame can be redefined. “Real honor comes from admitting ones own faults.” “People who blame others for their own faults should be ashamed of themselves.” This message would be more effective coming from Muslims, and there are a few who do put out messages along these lines. We need to support them. Let’s not expect immediate results, but a sustained effort could eventually make a difference. When Muslims blame others for problems that are obviously their own responsibility, the rest of the world should not buy into it.

In addition, the Muslims’ extreme aversion to shame can be utilized by criticizing the problems within Islam and expressing outrage at barbaric Islamic practices every chance we get. If they really get the message that others see Islam’s fascist doctrines as shameful, and honor is heaped upon those who are sincerely trying to reform those doctrines, we could start to see some real change.

This isn’t about using a “gimmick”, it’s just telling the truth. The truth really could set us free, if only we were willing to tell it. This is the opposite from what the PC crowd says would be effective, but for the past thousand years the Islamic world has gotten by with little or no challenge, and what has that yielded? Stagnation and misery. If we really care about Muslims, we’ll give them what they most need: a good dose of honesty. It’s painful, but it’s about the only thing that has a chance of helping them. The serious reformers, by and large, know this already, and they’re the ones we should be allying ourselves with.

Shame can also be utilized to make it easier for Muslims to accept the “demotion” from superiority to equality with others. We need to condemn supremacist doctrines, including Islamic supremacy, as shameful.

Shame is one thing that does actually have a track record for bringing about change in the Muslim world. There have been various examples of <a href=””<atrocities averted due to criticism from the West. Since we know shame works, and there’s so little that does, it would be foolish not to use it.

Note to PC crowd: Criticizing fascist doctrines of Islam (Jihad and Sharia) is not hate. If we hated Muslims, we’d allow these doctrines to grow unchallenged until the only possible effective response is a military one. I don’t believe we’re there yet, but the PC mentality is allowing us to drift closer to it. The first victims of Islamo-Fascism are Muslims; if we care about them, we’ll do what it takes to spare them from it.

Of course, we can expect a violent response to truthful messages, because Muslims have found violence very effective for getting their way. Think of a two year old. If they throw a tantrum and get what they want, what will happen next time? A responsible parent has to ride out the tantrum, lovingly yet firmly. Otherwise the two year old will soon be running the household, which is what we are already on a slippery slope toward. Many people believe Western culture will inevitably prevail because it is more sophisticated, forgetting the power of a two year old. We’ll have the fewest tantrums–er, the least violence–in the long run if we don’t reward it.

Making a distinction between Islamic doctrines and Muslim individuals is also useful. Muslims in general identify so strongly with Islam that they may not hear this message for a long time, but eventually it may sink in. Muslims will not be able to conceive of changing Islam until they develop their own identity, separate from Islam.

As for the danger factor, as with so many of these challenges, there’s no easy solution. However, at the very least, we who live in the relative safety of the West should be handing microphones to the brave Muslims and ex-Muslims who are willing to risk their necks to call for an Islamic reformation, rather than lavishing our attention on those who merely defend the status quo. If we even understood the danger factor better, perhaps we’d be more willing to lift a finger to amplify the effect of those few who are undeterred by death threats.

Part VII of this series will offer conclusions.

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

Can and Should Islam Be Reformed? Part II: The Hadith

January 19, 2008

This is the second 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 Hadith. The Hadith (technically, the plural is “Ahadith”) are oral traditions about the sayings and actions of Mohammed. There are thousands of Hadith, organized into collections. Six of these collections (Al-Bukhari, Muslim, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nasai, Ibn Majah, and Abu Dawood) are considered “authentic” in Sunni tradition, and are generally considered synonymous with the “Sunnah”, which means “the way of the Prophet”. About 85% of Muslims are “Sunni”, which word comes from “Sunnah”. The Shia have their Hadith, as well.

The Quran contains no biographical information about Mohammed, although it says the Messenger (Mohammed) is a good example for believers (33:21). Muslims can only find out what Mohammed’s example was through the Hadith and Sira (see Part III). In addition, the Quran gives little or no context for its verses. Again, this context has traditionally been supplied by the Hadith and Sira.

Technically, a Hadith cannot be considered to be authentic if it contradicts the Quran (although many Hadith in the authenticated collections actually do so, such as the ones attributing miracles to Mohammed). However, there are many Hadith that have been used to develop the doctrines of Sharia and Jihad. For example, the Quran has no explicit command to kill apostates, although several verses hint at it. The Hadith, on the other hand, are very explicit on the subject, and have been relied on as source material for that ruling. Here are two examples (there are also others):

Narrated Abu Burda: “….Mu’adh asked, “Who is this (man)?” Abu Muisa said, “He was a Jew and became a Muslim and then reverted back to Judaism.” Then Abu Muisa requested Mu’adh to sit down but Mu’adh said, “I will not sit down till he has been killed. This is the judgment of Allah and His Apostle (for such cases) and repeated it thrice. Then Abu Musa ordered that the man be killed, and he was killed….” (Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 84, Number 58)

Narrated ‘Ikrima: Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to ‘Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn ‘Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying, ‘Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire).’ I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle, ‘Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'” (Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 84, Number 57)

There are many other examples of undesirable behavior sanctioned by the Hadith, including:

Wife beating:
“Narrated Umar ibn al-Khattab: The Prophet…said: A man will not be asked as to why he beat his wife.” (Abu Dawood, Book 11, Number 2142)

Torture: “Anas reported: Eight men…killed the shepherd and drove away the camels. This (news) reached Allah’s Messenger…and he sent them on their track and they were caught and brought to him (the Holy Prophet). He commanded about them, and (thus) their hands and feet were cut off and their eyes were gouged and then they were thrown in the sun, until they died.” (Muslim, Book 016, Number 4131)

Killing Critics: “It has been narrated on the authority of Jabir that the Messenger of Allah…said: Who will kill Ka’b b. Ashraf? He has maligned Allah, the Exalted, and His Messenger. Muhammad b. Maslama said: Messenger of Allah, do you wish that I should kill him? He said: Yes. He said: Permit me to talk (to him in the way I deem fit). He said: Talk (as you like). So, Muhammad b. Maslama came to Ka’b and talked to him, referred to the old friendship between them….So when [Ka’b] came down and he was holding his cloak under his arm, they said to him: We sense from you a very fine smell. He said: Yes, I have with me a mistress who is the most scented of the women of Arabia. He said: Allow me to smell (the scent on your head). He said: Yes, you may smell. So he caught it and smelt. Then he said: Allow me to do so (once again). He then held his head fast and said to his companions: Do your job. And they killed him.” (Muslim, Book 019, Number 4436)

What can overcome this challenge?

The Hadith would be easier to throw out than the Quran, and some reformers advocate following the Quran only. However, to disavow the Hadith would mean that the Quran has no context, and little or nothing is known about Mohammed. It would seem that to throw out the Hadith and Sira would be to essentially throw out Mohammed, which I’m not personally averse to, although Muslims may be. The other alternative would be to create a new fairy tale about Mohammed, either by picking and choosing from the Hadith or pulling it out of thin air. It seems it would be hard to convincingly present this as more authentic than the current version, however.

For those who do want to throw out the Hadith, analysis of their origins gives supportive evidence. Various scholars have called the authenticity of numerous Hadith into question. Goldziher, for example, has demonstrated that a great number of Hadith were complete fabrications. And, so far as I know, none of the Hadith are conclusively confirmed by non-Muslim sources.

Part III of this series will examine the Sira.

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

Can and Should Islam Be Reformed? Part I: The Quran

January 17, 2008

This may seem an arrogant question for a non-Muslim to ask. However, I am basing my query on the fascist doctrines of Islam: namely, Jihad and Sharia. These doctrines clearly infringe upon the rights of non-Muslims, and for this reason, the subject is fair game for comment from a non-Muslim. In addition, non-Muslims can have compassion for the Muslim victims of Islamo-Fascism, who currently are the primary victims. Reform of Islam can only be done by Muslims, but non-Muslims can choose to give or withhold support for a particular reform effort.

I would consider a reform to be meaningful and successful if it resulted in Islam as a personal religion only (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 Islamo-Fascists; and if it became the prevailing view among Muslims. However, there are serious challenges to reforming Islam, which may or may not be possible to overcome. This is only a brief overview; much more could be said, and I welcome a variety of perspectives in the comments. I will examine the challenges, as I see them, and potential solutions, in this seven part series.

Challenge: The Quran. Orthodox Muslims believe the Quran was written by Allah, word-by-word and letter-by-letter. We’ve seen how some Muslims react to even a rumor that a Quran somewhere in the world has been mistreated. Non-Muslims aren’t even supposed to touch a Quran because they are “unclean”, and Muslims are supposed to go through a ritual purification before doing so. The Quran is supposedly eternal, meaning it was never created because it has always existed in its current form. Many non-Arab Muslims around the world believe there is value in learning to read the Quran in Arabic, even with no understanding of what it says. Orthodox Muslims believe they must follow every verse, and are not allowed to pick and choose.

It is important to understand the extreme nature of orthodox Muslims’ view of the Quran, which is probably more or less the prevalent view, and is not comparable to prevalent views of any other religion toward any book or other object or symbol (with the possible exception of explicit idol worship). We do not see murderous riots from other religious groups resulting from offense toward an object or symbol.

I call this “orthodox Quranic extremism”, and it is a problem because the Quran contains loads of material supporting fascist, discriminatory, and violent behavior, in addition to hate, as noted in the examples below, with more here. According to Robert Spencer, there are over a hundred Jihad verses in the Quran. Here’s a sampling of verses I find objectionable:

“Fighting is enjoined on you, and is an object of dislike to you; and it may be that you dislike a thing while it is good for you, and it may be that you love a thing while it is evil for you, and Allah knows, while you do not know.” (2:216)

“Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.” (4:34)

“Say: O followers of the Book! do you find fault with us (for aught) except that we believe in Allah and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed before, and that most of you are transgressors? Say: Shall I inform you of (him who is) worse than this in retribution from Allah? (Worse is he) whom Allah has cursed and brought His wrath upon, and of whom He made apes and swine, and he who served the Shaitan; these are worse in place and more erring from the straight path.” (5:59-60)

“So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” (9:5)

“Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.” (9:29)

“Surely Allah has bought of the believers their persons and their property for this, that they shall have the garden; they fight in Allah’s way, so they slay and are slain; a promise which is binding on Him in the Taurat and the Injeel and the Quran; and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? Rejoice therefore in the pledge which you have made; and that is the mighty achievement.” (9:111)

“Indeed, there is for you a good example in Ibrahim and those with him when they said to their people: Surely we are clear of you and of what you serve besides Allah; we declare ourselves to be clear of you, and enmity and hatred have appeared between us and you forever until you believe in Allah alone– but not [a good example] in what Ibrahim said to his father: I would certainly ask forgiveness for you, and I do not control for you aught from Allah– Our Lord! on Thee do we rely, and to Thee do we turn, and to Thee is the eventual coming.” (60:4)

For those who maintain that the Quran is no worse than the Bible, here’s a rebuttal. In addition, the fact is, there is no global jihad movement which justifies its actions by quoting the Bible, and there never has been. There is no global movement to impose “Christian Sharia” that compares with the real Sharia. Of the many Christian majority countries that exist, not one imposes Christian fascism today which could be considered the equal to Islamo-Fascist regimes abounding throughout the Muslim world. If anyone still believes the Bible or other religious book should be a priority to reform, then that can be their project.

What can overcome this challenge?

Muslims Against Sharia would like to throw out several hundred problematic verses from the Quran. To paraphrase, their arguments for doing so include: it is possible the Quran has been corrupted over the years; these verses “promote divisiveness and religious hatred, bigotry and discrimination”; and it is inconceivable that any merciful, compassionate god would advocate hate, violence, and oppression. They do have some valid points.

Other Muslim reformers want to keep all the verses, but change the interpretation to a non-literal, peaceful, tolerant one. This may be easier for some Muslims to swallow, but it is questionable whether a new interpretation, with little to no real tradition behind it, could be accepted as more authentic than current understandings. Still, it’s possible this could be a useful avenue for some Muslims.

There is some history of a non-literal approach to the Quran which held sway for a time, if we go way, way back. The Mutazilites held that the Quran was not an eternal text, valid for all situations for all of time. They favored a non-literal interpretation. However, they were also ruthlessly violent toward those who disagreed with them. They were significantly overshadowed and even marginalized by more orthodox schools by the end of the tenth century century. Some Muslims today are attempting to revive their way of thinking.

One possible approach that, if embraced by Muslims, could completely eliminate orthodox Quranic extremism is rigorous academic study of the origins of the Quran. This type of analysis has been applied in great depth to Christian and Jewish texts, often by Christian and Jewish scholars themselves. This is one reason Christians and Jews generally do not have the same beliefs about their holy texts that Muslims often do about theirs. With Islam, the study is still in its infancy, and breakthroughs have generally come from the few non-Muslim scholars of Islamic texts. Muslim scholars tend to accept the divine revelation of an eternal Quran to Mohammed as a given, and work from there, although there are a few brave exceptions.

Here are some examples from the introduction to The Origins of the Koran, edited by Ibn Warraq: The Quran was written in an imperfected script, in which various consonants are indistinguishable, and short vowels were missing. According to Charles Adams, around the early tenth century, thousands of variant readings were narrowed down to seven, ten, or fourteen, depending on which Muslim scholar one believed. These were narrowed down to three, then two, which we still have today. Scholars Bell and Watt believe that the unevenness of style points to numerous alterations in the Quran. Wansbrough also provides evidence that the Quran was not in final form before the ninth century. Michael Cook notes that the earliest Quranic quotations, from late seventh century coins and inscriptions, diverged from the Quran as we know it. There is also historical and other evidence that contradicts certain passages in the Quran; I’ll discuss that further in later parts of this series.

I also have to wonder whether the idolatry angle could be useful in loosening orthodox Quranic extremism. Islam is a strict mono-theistic religion. It even criticizes (condemns, actually) Christians for believing Jesus is the son of God. Yet it could be argued that the manner in which Muslims treat the Quran borders on idolatry. Do they worship Allah or a book?

For anyone who believes this is unaceptable criticism of Islam, I would note that it is certainly no worse than criticisms of Christianity and Judaism expressed right in the Quran (9:30). If this type of criticism of Islam were banned, in fairness, such verses would also have to be banned from the Quran, as would similar statements from numerous Islamic websites. Christianity has had a long-standing internal debate about the dangers of allowing Christian symbols or objects, even the Bible, to become idols. It is fair to challenge Muslims to engage in the same degree of introspection that other believers do. To argue otherwise is to insult Muslims, implying that unlike non-Muslims, they are not capable of introspection and handling criticism. As an aside, for this reason, I personally think the recent UN Resolution pushed by the OIC is a big insult to Muslims.

Also, since I know that people often read into things more than was said, I’ll clarify my position that orthodox Quranic extremism is probably more or less the prevalent view. This does not mean that half or more Muslims would personally participate in Jihad. Most Muslims, as most people, have a normal conscience and self-preservation instincts that make them very reluctant to do such things, and many Muslims don’t even know what’s in the Quran. However, it does mean that significant numbers of Muslims would not categorically condemn the theologies of Jihad and Sharia (which is different from condemning “terrorism”), and could be sympathetic to Jihadists, and perhaps less than enthusiastic about helping law enforcement root out Jihadist cells. In addition, Jihadist recruiters, who have a track record of influencing people to overcome their natural conscience and self-preservation instincts, view the orthodox Muslims as a huge pool of potential recruits.

This is why it is essential for all who oppose Islamo-Fascism to support efforts to counter orthodox Quranic extremism. Otherwise, time is not on our side.

Part II of this series will examine the Hadith (oral traditions).

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