What the West Needs to Understand About Islam
by Arslan Shaukat
How unfortunate it is that whenever someone attempts to show the facts of true Muhammadan Islam in unflattering manner in a public forum, he risks being tortured or killed by pious Muslims, even in the West. Alas!
The Muslim Ummah is utterly intolerant to criticisms of the Quran, Prophet Muhammad and Islam. Nonetheless, there are individuals who are brave enough to face the challenge of exercising their freedom of speech, their freedom of expression. Ibn Warraq, Ayan Hisri Ali, Wafa Sultan and Maryam Namazie are some of the courageous individuals who have chosen not to indulge in appeasing Muslims and political correctness. They have chosen to speak the historical, factual truth about Muhammadan Islam. And, unsurprisingly, they have been living under constant danger to their lives.
Another brave individual is the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard. He drew the cartoons of Muhammad that appeared in a Danish newspaper in 2006 that hurled the entire Muslim world into violent frenzy. They started demonstrations and demanded death of the cartoonists and their publishers. On January 2, 2010, a Somali man, armed with an axe and knife, entered Westergaard's house and tried to kill him.
This incident prompted me to write this article.
The reason for the attempted murder of Westergaard is his comical depiction of Muhammad, produced here.
He has drawn other depictions of Muhammad as well. It's interesting to note that although the illustration may appear somewhat derogatory toward Muhammad, but it does make an accurate point in artistic form, i.e. the blood-soaked and war-filled life of Muhammad. That is exactly what the bomb depicts. I personally believe that it's not inflammatory at all; it just makes a true representation of Muhammad in pictorial form.
This incident entails a number of issues within the context of western nations and within the context of a truly democratic set-up, which I will address in this article.
First: Why criticize Islam? And why should non-Muslims/atheists etc. indulge in such criticisms and 'inflammatory actions' when it's already given that Muslim world will react violently.
Second: What is the use of such 'transgressions,' i.e. what good will come out of it?
WHY ISLAM SHOULD BE CRITICIZED:
1. Firstly: Islam is an unproven and unsubstantiated religious dogma. Islam is a truth claim. It's a claim; nothing more. There is no logical reason whatsoever as to why a claim about the basis of existence and morality should not be questioned and analyzed. In fact, reason tells us that such a monumental claim that affects humanity in a big way should be critically analyzed vigorously.
2. Secondly: A great many aspects of Islamic teachings, namely from the Quran and Muhammad's life, are very disturbing and worrying. It's not an opinion but a fact. Although somewhat unnecessary, I will back up the above mentioned statements with a few examples:
This supposedly 'holy' book incites violence, aggression, hatred and bloodshed:
- O Prophet! Urge the believers to war; if there are twenty patient ones of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a hundred of you they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they are a people who do not understand (Quran 8:065).
- Fight those who do not believe in Allah...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 (Quran 9:29).
-Warfare is enjoined on you, and it 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).
The list goes on and on. I believe I have made the point as to why Quran should be criticized and questioned.
b. Muhammad: The person responsible for inventing Islam had less than stellar prophetic career:
- He was involved in many wars and looting of caravans. He ordered the killing of those who showed dissent. He was a polygamist and a rapist. It is also a fact that he married Ayesha when she was very young (Life of Mahomet, William Muir (1861); Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 234, (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muhammad%27s_marriages).
I believe I have made the point as to why the character of Muhammad should be criticized and questioned.
3. Thirdly: The western civilization and nations believe in democratic values. In democracy, freedom of speech and freedom of expression is of paramount importance. Without freedom of speech and expression, a democratic society will become stagnant. It also includes criticism of religious dogma. So it's nonsensical to say that Islam should be or is somehow immune to criticism. Such a stance goes against the very core of liberal humanism and democratic values.
I believe these three reasons are more than enough justification as to why Islam should not be considered protected against criticism by the west.
WHY CRITICIZE ISLAM WHEN ISLAMISTS WILL REACT VIOLENTLY:
Now, why critics in the West, or everywhere for that matter, should criticize Islam despite however violent way the Muslim Ummah would react.
Firstly: Let me give the answer by asking a question:
Why should we criticize anything at all then? Isn't it possible that Buddhists, Jains, Christians, Marxists etc., living in the West will react violently if I criticize their ideology? Why not just ban criticism all together? Why not just 'respect' everything than?
Secondly: It is the responsibility of every conscientious citizen to uphold the ideals of democracy and civil liberty by exercising their sovereign right of freedom of speech and expression. To not criticize an ideology that is manifestly anti-democratic and against human freedom is tantamount to giving into imaginary fears and cowering to political correctness.
Thirdly: One may argue that it is counterproductive to indulge in unnecessary attacks and ad-hominem statements with regards to Islamic ideology. Most western countries have Muslim populations and it will decidedly be counterproductive and unintelligible to drum up misdirected rhetoric against Islam. But, Islamic dogma warrants criticism on many levels as I have striven to show. So, on one hand, we have Muslim populations in the West, and, on the other, we have Islamic dogma. The correct approach should be a justified and well-articulated criticism of Islam without indulging in too much anti-Islamic rhetoric. A balance so to speak (although it is extremely hard to imagine how such a feat is possible!!!)
Of course, disenfranchising Muslim populations in the west is not a good idea, but that does not mean that Islam is off limits. Muslims should be made to realize that they are living in a democratic system, and, in a true democracy, criticism of a truth claim is a very essential and healthy activity.
Therefore, I do not believe that a possibility of backlash is any justification to keep away from criticism of Islam.
WHAT GOOD WILL COME OUT OF CRITICIZING ISLAM?
Now, what good will ever come out of such criticism of Islam? Let me explain.
I will take England as an example. England is witnessing a minor yet subtle surge in fuming Islamic rhetoric, being propagated by different UK-based Islamists.
Although the majority of Muslims in England are well adjusted within its socio-cultural and economic milieu, there is a strong and vocal minority that is trying to win over these 'westernized and liberal' Muslims and convert them into true Muslims.
One such example is that of Anjem Chaudary, formerly the head of Islam for UK (Islam4UK), established by pious Muslims as a platform to "propagate the supreme Islamic ideology in the United Kingdom as a divine alternative to man-made law."
Islam4UK; the caption in itself explains the agenda. The UK government recently banned the organization for its vitriolic rhetoric. This is indeed a 'great set back' for Anjem (pun intended). All he has to do is change the name of Islam 4 UK and come back to the forefront of Islamist propaganda machine to forward its message.
In November 2008, Chaudary convened a meeting for Islam4UK to "convince the British public about the superiority of Islam, thereby changing public opinion in favor of Islam in order to transfer the authority and power, to the Muslims in order to implement the Shariah (in Britain)." In 2004, he said that a terror attack on the British soil was "a matter of time"; following the 7 July 2005 London bombings, he refused to condemn the atrocities. Anjem wants Sharia implemented in UK. He wants to dismantle the democratic system and replace it with Islamic law and Jurisprudence.
England has approximately 1.6 million Muslims. Now, suppose a raving, hate mongering, idiotic lunatic like Anjem Chaudary can sway even 2% of this Muslim population; that will amount to ~ 20,000 radical Muslims. Suppose out of these, just 2% are radicalized enough to engage in terrorist activities, there will be 200 to 400 Islamic terrorists on the streets of Britain. That is a large number, given that the 9/11 atrocity was orchestrated by no more than 20 individuals.
So how can we meet this challenge?
Well, one strategy to confront such people and fanatics is the strategy of Political correctness (PC) , 'opening a constructive dialogue', 'better understanding of their problems', 'addressing underlying socio-economic issues' that fuel such feelings.
But such a strategy of PC and appeasement is utterly flawed, short sighted and doomed to fail. I will say a few things as to why it is so:
WHY POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, APPEASEMENT WILL NOT WORK:
This is perhaps the most important point of this whole article:
1. What the West must realize is that Islamists and Muslim fanatics are actually practicing and pious Muslims who follow the Quran and Sunnah and Muhammad. They have not hijacked Islam. They are simply following it to the letter. The above mentioned Quranic Surahs and a few tidbits of Muhammadan life is just a glimpse as to what Islam actually says about infidels and war. Thus, the strategy of PC, a 'constructive dialogue' etc; which assumes that there is something wrong with such people and their interpretation of Islam; in itself is illogical and fallacious.
The problem is Islam, Quran and Muhammad. People like Anjem Chaudary are but good Muslims. Tackle Islam and through that, tackle such Islamists.
2. These Islamists are utterly convinced of the supremacy and transcendence of Islam. To them, all that matters is forwarding the message of Islam and Quran. Nothing the west may do to appease these Islamists will work. Absolutely and literally nothing.
3. Dialogue is possible only where there is something to discuss. The West doesn't realize that there is absolutely nothing to discuss with Islamists and those who indulge in religious rhetoric. Such people follow Quran and Sunnah and according to those sources it is incumbent on every practicing Muslim to forward the message the Islam in what ever way and manner.
4. Also, what the West must understand is that such Muslims will inevitably increase in number, so will there radical voice. They will make increasing demands; there already are Shariah complaint courts in England. Next, there will be demands like separate schooling for Muslim children, segregation of Muslim women from non-mahram (unrelated) men in work places, and so on and so forth.
Although people like Anjem Chaudary are a fringe minority, to underestimate them will be disastrous. Even one good Islamic preacher and Islamist can sway, arguably, hundreds of moderate and westernized Muslims towards his/her Islamic ideology. It is an ideological war that such people are waging and they need to be taken very very seriously. The concept of tableegh or preaching Islam is central to Islamic dogma and such people have historically been very successful in swaying large number of westernized Muslims.
WHAT SHOULD BE DONE?
The answer is simple; exercise the sovereign right of freedom of expression and speech. Show these radicals that their dogma is flawed, hollow and incompatible with civilized ethos. There is no other alternative. Such Islamists, although a small minority, must be challenged squarely; no more, no less. Their so-called divine religion, which they claim to be the best of all, must be analyzed and duly criticized. That is the only way to confront challenge of the Islamists.
Ad-hominem attacks and empty rhetoric against Islam will accomplish very little, but rational criticism of Islam, namely of the Quran and Muhammad, will accomplish a number of things:
1. It will make the Islamists realize that they are living under a democratic system and in true democracy; criticism of a truth claim is a very natural and healthy activity.
2. Criticism of Islam will make Islamists realize that no matter what they do or say, democratic system (which they are enjoying) will not become subservient to their rhetoric.
3. Such criticism will impact the psyche of Muslim and non-Muslim population and make them, at least, think that there, perhaps, are aspects of Islam that are incompatible with many a things they take for granted in the West.
4. Rational criticism of Islam will, in the long run, lead to greater understanding of issues and problems within Islamic dogma, and how they can be addressed.
Currently, many ex-Muslims, atheists and liberals in the West are raising concern about messages of the Quran and life of Muhammad. Individuals like Geert Wilders and Wafa Sultan are trying to shed light on exactly how dangerous the Islamic Dogma is. But much more needs to be done. Every ex-Muslim, Humanist, liberalist, and atheist must do whatever in his or her power to make sure that sovereignty of basic human rights such as freedom of expression and speech is protected.
If the West is to remain truly democratic, then there is simply no other choice then to assert their core values in effective and efficient manner.
Comments and feedback is welcome at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Arslan Shaukat is an ex-Muslim residing in Britain.