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?


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.


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