Can Americans be convinced Islam isn’t the black sheep of religions?

crusades.jpgWith a recent article, “The List: The World’s Stupidest Fatwas,” Foreign Policy, of all publications, manifests a lack of political correctness that’s not only surprising, but borders on the giddy. In the process, it provides us with a glimpse into how difficult it is to convince Americans that Islam is not the black sheep of religions.

A fatwa, of course, is a legal ruling issued by an Islamic scholar. An example of one singled out in the byline-less Foreign Policy article is banning the polio vaccine on the grounds that elements in the West had tinkered with it to sterilize Muslims. (Hey, don’t give our intelligence agencies any ideas.)

Others include outlawing Pokemon to banning sex while naked. Of course, Muslims themselves often laugh at what might be called the lighter side of Islam. (Yes, it exists. Nothing can ever take away from the wonders of the Mulla Nasrudin, as made famous by Idries Shah.)

The fatwa first became known in the West when Ayatollah Khomeini, in effect, declared: “Bring me the head of Salman Rushdie.” But his savagery paled in comparison to that of Osama bin Laden and his right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, when they issued their famous “Kill Americans Everywhere” fatwa.

Bear in mind that the number of Muslims who don’t know that a fatwa isn’t binding is matched by the number who think bin Laden is a religious scholar.

But the dynamic duo’s fatwa was trumped in spades in 2003 when, though no doubt at their behest, a radical cleric named Hamid bin al-Fahd issued one that justified killing 10 million Americans. That equaled the number of Muslims he’d calculated were killed by us or by weapons manufactured in the Western world.

Religious leaders calling for, not only executions, but mass slaughter? In America that’s usually left to talk show hosts. What kind of religion, we ask, turns the hands of time back a thousand years to the age of inquisitions and Crusades?

Progressives are quick to remind us that not only are Islamists (those to whom Islam is not just a religion but a political system) in the minority, but that fundamental Christianity has a violent streak too. Millennialists, for instance, look forward to the End Times, which will leave in its wake a trail of death and devastation.

But, rather than instruct their followers to pick up the sword, they’re content to advocate for actions — like attacking Iran — that might result in any outcome remotely resembling the Rapture. Come to think of it, they’re kind of passive-aggressive.

The exception to the rule, of course, is abortion clinic bombers. But their only public support is drawn from the white supremacist Christian Identity group. Besides, the total they’ve killed is seven, of which only three were doctors. To fanatical Islamists, that’s the equivalent of one botched suicide bombing.

Of course, the general public isn’t aware that the National Association of Evangelicals has inundated the military with fundamentalist Christian chaplains it’s commissioned. But it’s too early to suggest that their us-against-them mentality — mirroring that of Islamists — influences policy or fuels the ferocity of our fighting men and women.

The point is, for most Americans, a religion whose leaders issue calls for violence does not compute. Worse, we can’t help thinking that most Muslims, if only out of allegiance to their leaders, support terrorism. Do they?

Of bin Laden, terrorism analyst David Schanzer writes: Most Muslims “support his stance against Western domination in the Middle East, his desire for heightened Islamic identity and his demand for greater respect for Islam and Muslim people.” Despite fear of impending retaliation, many cheered the destruction of the Twin Towers.

Still, according to Daniel Pipes — a known anti-Islamist, no less — only 10 to 15 percent of Muslims are sympathetic to fanatical Muslim fundamentalists. We’re probably safe in assuming that while the Arab “street” may find attacks on Americans exhilarating, it doesn’t actively support terrorism.

In fact, according to a new Pew Research Centre poll, as reported by BBC, Middle-Easterners have soured on suicide bombing. “In Lebanon, Bangladesh, Jordan, Pakistan and Indonesia,” it reads, “the proportion of Muslims who support suicide bombing has declined by half or more since 2002.”

Like the Pakistani pop idols who seek to differentiate themselves from terrorists in a recent song titled “Yeh Hum Naheen“:

“This story that is being spread in our names is a lie
These stamps of death on our forehead are the signs of others. . .
This is not us — this is not us.”

But of those polled in areas of conflict such as Palestine, the majority still agree that attacks against civilians are sometimes warranted. Not only that, but support for suicide bombings may also be on the rise in the US. Drawing from the same poll, Michael Hirsh of Newsweek writes that “26 percent of younger [American] Muslims say suicide bombing can be justified under some circumstances.”

Jihadist terrorism has yet to take root in our soil like in Europe. Credit this, in part, to an economy capable of absorbing immigrants. Despite the risk of being smeared with the charge of profiling, we’ll give in to the temptation to generalize that Middle-Easterners make themselves right at home in the American marketplace.

But, subject to hostility and suspicious vibes since 9/11, many have retreated into their own community. Like as not, when the subject turns to their adopted country’s presence in the Middle-East, calls for violent resistance may arise. Meanwhile, money ostensibly collected for charities, like the recently busted Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, is diverted to arms purchases.

Most Muslims here and abroad just want to raise their families and get on with their lives. But they’re susceptible to experiencing a frisson at news of attacks against the West — it’s only human. Progressives who gloss over this fact of life look like dupes and weaken the case for tolerance in the long run.

Not only can’t Americans comprehend how Muslim religious leaders — if only self-appointed –- can sanction violence, they’re puzzled by another characteristic of fundamental Islam. What kind of religion, they wonder, bases itself on scripture that commands its faithful to kill those of other religions like Christianity and Judaism?

Is the Koran guilty as charged?

The phrase “taken out of context” has been reduced to a rationalization. But sometimes it’s a genuine excuse. For instance, the infamous phrase, “And kill them [non-Muslims] wherever you find them” is ripped from the passage that follows. (The repetition common to the Koran — not to mention, most religious texts –- has been deleted.)

“And fight in the cause of Allah with those who fight with you, and do not exceed the limits. . . And kill them wherever you find them. . . and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them. . . but if they desist, then there should be no hostility except against the oppressors.” (Qur’an, 2:190-192)

There’s no question, though, that it’s a lot to ask of Westerners to be understanding about a text that adjudicates exactly when and where they’re fair game.

Meanwhile, for those Americans with a glancing knowledge of Islam, it’s nearly as difficult to accept that Mohammed was a warrior. His assorted battles, whether, as debated, 10 in number or double that, whether defensive or aggressive, evoke only cognitive dissonance in Americans.

If Jehovah or Allah orders air strikes on mere mortals, fine. But isn’t the founder of a religion, like Christ, Buddha or Confucius, supposed to stay God’s avenging hand by coaxing the best out of us?

Couldn’t Mohammed, if only out of deference to his infant religion’s developing image, have delegated to generals? For their part, though, Christians overlook the Book of Revelations, where, “behold,” Christ is depicted on a white horse, which he “sat thereon. . . [and] in righteousness he doth judge and make war.”

But to conservatives and fundamentalists, the warrior hat (or helmet, as the case may be) that Mohammed sometimes wore is the gift that keeps on giving. The following passage is from a website called, ironically, Blessed Quietness.

“Mohammed was the prophet of war;
Christ is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Mohammed’s disciples killed for the faith;
Christ’s disciples were killed for their faith (Acts 12:2; 2 Timothy 4:7).

Mohammed promoted persecution against the ‘infidels’;
Christ forgave and converted the chief persecutor (1 Timothy 1:13-15).”

Finally, Americans ask, why don’t moderate Muslims speak out? Here’s Pipes again.

“Anti-Islamist Muslims have found their voice since September 11. Their numbers include distinguished academics [whom he lists, along with] Islamic figures like. . . Muhammad Hisham Kabbani [the renowned American Sufi leader].” Furthermore, “Organizations are coming into existence [such as the] Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism.”

In other words, they’re out there, but the media gives them less play because, in part, they’re not sensational enough. Also, they contradict the public’s preconception of what constitutes — never mind a fundamentalist –- but any Muslim.

Sayid Imam al-Sharif is the most recent in a series of Islamists who have come down firmly on the side of life. The jailed founder of the Egyptian jihadist group which assassinated Anwar Sadat and teamed up with Bin Laden to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan is writing a book.

According to Ian Black in the Guardian, it “undermines the Muslim theological basis for violent jihad.” In fact, he recently provided an “electrifying foretaste of his conversion by condemning killings on the basis of nationality and colour of skin and the targeting of women and children.” As you can imagine, Ayman al-Zawahiri is freaking.

Other jihadists rehabilitated in Egyptian jails (ostensibly without the aid of torture) are members of the Gama’a Islamiyya, the organization best known for its 1997 massacre of 62 foreign tourists in Luxor, Egypt.

“Its top ideologues, mostly now freed,” Black continues, “have written 25 volumes of revisions. . . which tackle key doctrinal issues such as. . . declaring a Muslim an apostate and therefore permissible to kill [and] attacks on civilians and foreign tourists.”

Wandering briefly off-topic, check out this money quote Black secured from one Ashraf Mohsin, an Egyptian diplomat who specializes in counter-terrorism. “The way to deprive [jihadists] of their ability to recruit is to attack the message,” said Mohsin. “If you take Islam out of the message all that is left is criminality.” [Emphasis added]

What then is to be done with these preconceptions about Islam? Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, a London-based Saudi journalist, writes: “It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain. . . that almost all terrorists are Muslims. . . . We cannot clear our names unless we own up to the shameful fact that terrorism has become an Islamic enterprise.”

Since an admission of this sort from Muslims en masse is about as likely as Christians owning up to their violent heritage, most Americans will continue to scoff at them. Still, it may be possible for Western men and women of conscience to jury-rig a bridge to Islam. But beggars can’t be choosers. In other words, it requires straying from the politically correct.

Those Westerners sympathetic to Islam can start by acknowledging the viewpoint of the “civilizationists” — as in clash of — who suffer from a need to believe that violence is endemic to Islam. We must concede that, while Islamic violence may not be spearheaded by the religion itself, it’s only recently that Islam’s efforts to dissociate itself from Islamists, as with the Egyptian prisoners, have gained notice.

Let’s also restrain our ecclesiastical impulses and refrain from extolling the glories of Islam (art, science, Sufism). Though undeniable, they fall on deaf ears with Americans who perceive Islam as a threat.

Instead, let’s pander, however shamefaced, to them. In other words, despite the misgivings of moral relativists, it’s time to advance the argument that Muslims are at the same stage in their development as Christians were during the Inquisitions and Crusades.

According to this narrative, they’re just acting out. (Never mind that the US, in a clear case of bad parenting, left shoulder-launched missiles laying around during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Sure enough, those mischievous mujahideen picked them up and raised holy hell with them.)

If it makes Americans happy, give us license to believe that we’re more grown up than Muslims. Under the influence of this kind of patriarchal benevolence, we might be able to locate the tolerance within our national psyche.

Less disposed to write off the violence in Iraq as the work of savages, we’ll think of it instead as the growing pains of an adolescent culture. Maybe then we’ll stop alienating Muslims further by storming into their rooms and trying to shake some sense into them. We’ll still be forced to incapacitate them at frequent intervals. But we might also be more disposed to listen when they air their litany of grievances, both real and imagined, and attempt to address their needs.

61 replies »

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  2. Very long, but worthwile read.

    I agree, people see what they want to see and what they want to see now are US hating Muslims. I agree with Jonolan, the average US Muslim is like everybody else and is probably in the idea of ‘Don’t mess with me and I won’t mess with you’. We all just want our piece of the pie.

  3. Let’s step past a couple assumptions here.

    First, let’s dismiss the delusion that somehow Christianity and Islam are some kind of either/or and accept that both have significant issues – including extremism and violence – that we ought to be concerned with.

    Second, let’s get past the idea that we need to look at ridiculous fatwas to make a case against Islam or Pat Robertson to make a case against Christianity. Frankly, as Sam Harris makes breathtakingly clear in THE END OF FAITH, all you really need, if you’re looking to indict these religions, is the actual words in their sacred texts. Both religions rely on documents that are simply chocked full of terrifying rules, policies and commandments.

    I don’t personally care what people choose to believe. I’m a big fan of the First Amendment, and as such I don’t think anybody really gets a vote on the beliefs of others.

    But what a person believes and what a person does in the (frequently misguided) name of those beliefs, well, those are different questions.

    It avails us nothing to pretend that these radical elements that we all wish would go away are somehow disconnected from the core tenets of those religions – as Harris points out, you can say what you will about fundamentalists, but they KNOW what their sacred texts SAY.

    For a lot of us, the idea that we need to learn that Islam isn’t the Black Sheep of Religions is one that misses the important point completely. The real question is why we should allow ANY religion to dictate policy ANYWHERE except in the home, the church, and the individual conscience.

  4. “The real question is why we should allow ANY religion to dictate policy ANYWHERE except in the home, the church, and the individual conscience.”

    I agree. As for Islamic texts and history versus Christian, to villify one as worse than the other is splitting hairs.

    Personally, I hate all religions equally. It’s just less politically incorrect to say I hate Christianity (because I grew up Catholic) than it is to say I hate Islam or, say, Judaism.

  5. It’s not about hating religions one way or another for me. I have my own views on the subject of religion, but those aren’t any more relevant here than anybody else’s, I don’t think. For purposes of us having a theological debate, we can split all the hairs we like, and trust me, I rarely back away from a theological discussion (I grew up Baptist, am now what one fellow Scrogue describes as a “Jungian pagan” whatever the hell that means, and wrote a dissertation on how Christian theology influenced and drove the development of technology over the last couple millennia).

    But for purposes of governance, all religions are exactly alike and exactly equal: they do not and should not exist. Period.

    And this includes mine.

  6. Quote: What kind of religion, we ask, turns the hands of time back a thousand years to the age of inquisitions and Crusades?

    Ask the American Christian President of the United States. I understand why some may view Quranic texts that on a strictly literal interpretation would seems to promote violence because unlike the bible, the Quraanic texts meaning has been preserved in the hadeeth (traditions) of the Prophet (Peace be upon him). One such example of this is the verse,

    “So, when you meet (in fight Jihaad in Allaah’s Cause), those who disbelieve smite at their necks till when you have killed and wounded many of them, then bind a bond firmly (on them, i.e. take them as captives).” (Muhammad 47:4)

    What is interesting to note, is that people who often quote such verses do not quote the whole passage, which in most cases is speaking about a specific incident, place and/or time. Let us look at the rest of the verse:

    “Thereafter (is the time) either for generosity (i.e. free them without ransom), or ransom (according to what benefits Islaam), until the war lays down its burden. Thus [you are ordered by All

  7. Russ, I’d agree with you regarding the historical state of Islam. If you consider the period of the Reformation. It was a time of fragmentation of Christianity. Each sect called the other apostates and murdered with abandon. It took a hundred years before Christians were willing to accept that different sects were entitled to their interpretation of the scriptures.

    Muslims are still at that state. If you consider who is really dying on a daily basis in Iraq it is Muslims killed by other Muslims. The real war in Islam is between different sects – different interpretations. A fatwa that all Muslim sects are to be treated with respect was only issued recently and has yet to become a mainstream doctrine.

    Canadianmuhaajir’s comments on this would be interesting.

  8. Thanks, Tim, for your enlightening response. I didn’t mean to overlook the white (Christian) man’s latter-day crusade against the Native American.

    The passage you quoted (47.4) seems like a more literal interpretation of the one I did. I understand it was just elucidating principles of warfare.

    True, Gavin, Muslims killing Muslims — or Yazidi — under the cloak of religion is the larger problem.

    The one thing I got from growing up Catholic is the sanctity of life. When you kill for any reason but obvious self-defense, you’ve distanced yourself as far from God’s grace as is possible.

    But killing just doesn’t seem to be much of a problem to a lot of people — whether it’s jihadists, or our administration and military, not to mention much of the American public, which turns a blind eye to it.

    Maybe I’m over-reacting. I held a semi-automatic assault rifle for the first time the other day. Its siren song beckoned. . .

  9. Thanks for the comments Whythawk and Russ,

    First, regarding the tolerance between different sects and the sects killing one another. Fact of the matter is that this has been happening since shortly after the death of Muhammad (peace be upon him) at the end of Caliph Uthmaan’s reign, who was assassinated and raged on during the Caliphate of Ali. The first group who began with revolting against the leaders and declaring sinners to be apostates in an absolute sense, they were aptly named the “Khawaarij” (lit. those who left). This is from where the modern day Jihadist ideology and interpretations emanate. The key to Muslims rectifying this problem is to return to orthodoxy. This may sound like a strange and fundementalist approach and in some respects it is, the reason it must be undertaken is due to the fact that the context of orthodox texts have been preserved.

    If we were to go back and look at who was warning against Usamah Ibn Laden and his ilk long before anyone in the West ever heard of him, you would be surprised to find Islamic Scholars of Saudi Arabia and Yemen at the forefront of that, as Ibn Laden’s goal has never been to engage the United States directly (which is why I am also suspicious of much of the media reports) his goal has always been to overthrow what he viewed as “apostate regimes.” There were attacks in Saudi Arabia long before there were ever attacks in the West.

    I don’t want to get too deep but often, unfortunately the western world, regardless of their intentions, has always seemed to fuel the flames of fanatacism in other countries. I will list a few examples, the Jihadist ideology that was revived in the 1950’s and 60’s by the likes of Syed Qutb (The Muslim Brotherhood) and Abul-‘Alaa Mawdoodee (Jama’atul-Islaamee) were the ones who revived the neo-Khawaarij movements. Their works called the Islamic states apostates and called for the overthrowing of their governments. What gave birth to these two were a number of factors from them being:

    1) The end of the colonization of India and Pakistaan.
    2) The creation of Israel.
    3) Before that, that fall of the Ottaman leaders and the creation of Islamic states.

    The Islaamic states, many of whom were put in place by what was then seen as more secular leaders (with perhaps the exception of Saudi Arabia). Then the western leaders just left and pulled out and there were years of cold war and the Russians and the West began promoting democracy, communism, and socialism in Muslim countries whilst undermining religion. This created a vacuum in many countries such as Egypt, who saw these Kharijites as the only ones who would rise up for the religious people and fight the Jews from their incursion into the lands of the Muslims, as well as overthrow their wicked tyrannical leaders.

    So while Egypt, Pakistaan and other countries were persecuting people in the Muslim brotherhood and its offhsoots, other countries began taking them in as refugees. Look at England and how many Kharijites were and are currently there, from the past to the present like Abu Qatada, Aboo Hamzah al-Misree, Faisal Abdullah, and group heads like Hizbut-Tahrir and so on. These acts were followed by other countries like France housing many from FIS and so on, (sorry for all the names). Nobody ever checked these people and what their beliefs were, and these people used their hosts countries in direct opposition to what Islaam teaches to instigate others to overthrow their Islamic countries and hey, let’s be honest, stability was never something Western countries were interested in until the problem reached their own soil.

    In a nutshell, countries like England and America have not learnt any lessons from history. The numbers are so few to those who are waking up that it is saddening. The Muslims do not need democracy, communism or Christ to save them. They need to understand their religion so that when these pretenders come along, the average Muslim will recognize that what the Jihadists call to and what the Prophet Muhammad taught were two different things. Democracy does not need to be brought to the Middle East because people in the Middle East don’t really understand what democracy really means, and those who wish to bring them democracy don’t understand the role religion plays in most people’s lives here.

    And Russ, I never meant to come off offended by your overlooking the Native Americans, sorry if it seems that way. I have seen your comments on your blog and elsewhere and have seen you to be too educated for me to be so presumptious. However, I do need to point out that due to the major role Religion plays in our lives here dichotomization of church and state is not practical, feasible or even wanted by large segments of the population. To even attempt to do so would further galvinize the moderates to the Jihadist ways and make their call more alluring. What needs to be done now, is Muslims needs to be educated about their religion and those who have the ability in the West to support them should do so, as some forward thinking think-tanks have begun to realize. Muhammad also taught that life is sacred, and wealth and honor, but to fight those who would fight with you. It’s easy to take ambigious texts and misrepresent them when transgressions are commited daily against their people and the masses remain uneducated about the difference between the truth of their religion and what the Jihadists tell them. I read CNN God’s Warriors Daveed’s Story and threw up a little after reading all the misinformation.

    Sorry for the lengthy reply gentlemen, if I haven’t covered the issue, please let me know. I’ll try to be brief next time, promise.


    Tim Dupuis

    P.S. you can call me Tim, no problem. 🙂

  10. I found this commentary this week on the Washington Post to be quite illuminating. In essence, it says to everyone who wants an Islamic Reformation “be careful what you wish for.” This history of the Protestant Reformation wasn’t exactly pretty – the reason so many Christian sects are now tolerant of each other is precisely because they slaughtered each other for a very, very long time.


  11. Tim, at least the installment of the CNN series which I saw last night had some rare footage. I never saw what Qutb looked like before — and I learned how to pronounce his name!

    Thanks for the crash course in jihadism. I’ve read it before a number of time, but it bears repeating with me to sink in. Among western texts, I’ve found Robert Dreyfuss’ “Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam” illuminating. Despite how title may sound, it’s eminently fair to Islam.

    Brian, thanks for WaPo link. Also, the New York Times magazine’s cover story last Sunday was about worldwide religious fundamentalism. But it was too long for me. It’s hard enough for me to even think about organized religion, much less read and write about it.

  12. Democracy is not an option for the Middle East? Says who? That a return to Orthodoxy is required? Why? That American and UK inhabitants are ignorant of Middle Eastern inhabitants

  13. Brian,

    While the author may herself be well intended there do exist an array of matters that Diana Muir is completely confused about. I’ll try to be succinct:

    1. That people like Salman Rushdie and Mansour al-Nogaidan have good intentions towards Muslims.
    2. To refer to Salafis as ‘Wahabists’ is sheer ignorance (one can refer to Haneef James Oliver’s Book: The Wahabi Myth for more).
    3. She thinks that the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis are upon the same doctrine!

    Here are two completely antithetical tracts:

    “Islamic reformers reject the interpretations of generations of scholars in favor of seeking the word of God directly in scripture. Normative Islam follows one or another school of interpretation of scripture, known as a Madhab. Careful study leads students to understand that God’s word is often nuanced. Nuance is not the stuff of reform. Salafi reformers argue that Muslims should ignore generations of sages, read the Koran and Hadith for themselves, and act on the truth they find. A popular Salafi quote from the early Islamic jurist Abu Hanifa reads: When a passage (Hadith) is found to be authentic (saheeh) then that is my path (Madhab).”


    “Hassan al Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood; Sayyid Qutb, a leading Muslim Brotherhood thinker; and Ibn Wahab, the founder of modern Salafi, or Wahhabist, Islam, call upon Muslims to return to the uncorrupted beliefs and practices of early Islam and to become as pure as Salafis, or the first three generations of Muslims. To become, as it were, Puritans.”

    The Muslim Brotherhood is not a puritan movement; it calls for Quraanic exegesis from contemporary works while the Salafis are the ones who are trying to be the “Puritans.” The two groups are mutually exclusive; to compare the Scholar Muhammad ‘Abdul-Wahaab to Syed Qutb is pure ignominy.

    4. The four scholars of the Madhabs were Salafee as her Abu Hanifa quote even proves. None of them called to their own school of thought, and in issues of creed, all four were in agreement (with the exception of one point from Abu Hanifah, where he said that faith doesn’t decrease).
    5. Salafis do not, “argue that Muslims should ignore generations of sages, read the Koran and Hadith for themselves, and act on the truth they find.” Rather Scholars of the past (including those of the madhaabs and others) are used to acquire insight into classical works and not disregarded as the author would have you believe. No Salafi is encouraged to read the Koran and Hadith and act upon it themselves without the understanding of past Scholars because that is what people like Qutb did. Salafis call people away from blind following (called taqleed) of a madhab if there exists an authentic proof which would indicate a scholar might be wrong in a matter. This is closer to the meaning of Abu Hanifa’s words. No scholar from the past or present is given absolute authority and can be correct or incorrect in an affair (much different then when I was taught in Catholic School that the Pope was infallible.)

    Additionally, there is a misunderstanding of how to use Arabic terms but it is not relevant to the conversation.

    I hope I have not burdened you gentlemen, I am not a Scholar; I’m just a regular guy who has been Muslim for a long time now and spent time amidst some of the sects. By the way Russ, did Syed Qutb’s pictures show him with a big beard and long garments? No way.

    Elaine: “Democracy is not an option in the Middle East? Says who?”

    Who said it’s an option? It is being forced on the Middle East in a neo-crusade. As for a return to orthodoxy, it is in teaching, so people understand what their religion teaches from what it doesn’t, that way they don’t get duped by pretenders.

    Elaine: That American and UK inhabitants are ignorant of Middle Eastern inhabitants

  14. Tim,

    Long sentences do not detract from the fact that you are quite clearly painting all the peoples of the West with the same brush.

    …the Middle East is a diverse place filled with many, many different religions but Islam would wish to be top dog.

    Personal knowlege:

    1. British Officer (Major) wife converted to his religion – both children being raised in the faith.
    2. Sister-in-law who is of mixed heritage (to include Arabic).


  15. Tim, there were a couple of images of Qutb, I believe, one clean-shave, perhaps more familiar to you.

    Also the familiar scene of Zawahiri ranting from the Egyptian jail.

    Elaine, I agree with you in theory, but it’s hard to talk in terms of democracy in the Middle East when, even to most Americans, it’s little more than an abstraction and a word to rally around like the flag. (Not that I take what freedoms we still have for granted.)

  16. “Not that I take what freedoms we still have for granted.”

    Nor I. I would wish those freedoms for peoples everywhere.

  17. Elaine,

    I am from the West Elaine, I have lived both in Canada and the US. I assert the Muslims need to figure out their own problems without all the outside influence from people who do not understand them. (Sorry for another long sentence 🙂

    As for personal knowledge Elaine, being married to a Muslim does not make either person knowledgable. This is emphasized by the fact that from an Islamic standpoint, a non-Muslim man cannot be married to a Muslim woman, by evidence and there is a consensus on this point. And now that you have a part Arab in-law this is personal knowledge that is to be considered? Would such credentials work in your field of work? They would not in mine.

    As for your last point, I think you have again misunderstood me. I never spoke about forcing Religion down anyone’s throat. I mentioned educating people about their faith. Do you not see that “Democracy as an idea can take root anywhere…” is an ethnocentric remark? Forcing democracy on anyone is equally repugnant, especially in light of the situation that NOW exists. I don’t wish the clock could be turned back, I know such things are impossible. Furthermore, I hope people take a lesson from it and let people solve their own problems without adding to them. The Quran states, “There is no compulsion in religion.”

    Have a nice day,

    Tim Dupuis

  18. Do you both feel as though everyone who doesn’t reside in the West or live in a democracy is somehow enslaved? I have met tons of Westerners here in Jeddah who are happy to be living here and do not seek “freedom” the way it seems to be portrayed, nor do they desire a democracy, myself and my American wife included.

  19. 🙂 No need to apologise for flowing sentences, you write rather poetically.

    “I mentioned educating people about their faith.”

    …oh dear. The truly wonderful aspect to western living is the democratic right to REJECT a religion that you were raised in without losing your life or identity. We have the right to break from the flock mentality or herd. In essence we are ALLOWED to see ourselves as individuals. The Middle East does not truly offer this to its inhabitants.

    I do not and never have advocated fighting a war to promote democracy but it will take cleverer minds (but not necessarily greater compassion) than my own to solve the horror of Iraq.

    Texts may say much but many people do not act rationally, or in good faith or intelligently when it comes to religion.

    And as I know the person in question to be highly intelligent and he and his family were my neighbours for two years I can vouch for his knowledge of his religion.

  20. This is easily one of the most interesting threads I’ve read in a long while. Keep up the good topics and responses.

  21. Elaine, when I rejected the baisc doctrines of Catholicism at age 16 or so, I recalled being treated very badly by teachers and others, thus having to hide my beliefs and I was forbidden to speak in religion class and it was my best subject in school. Moreoever, I WANTED to believe, I really did. In Saudi Arabia, I have yet to see someone killed for rejecting their beliefs, people are free to leave if they want, like the Americans say, “Love it, or leave it.” Have you ever lived in the Middle East?

    I say Muslims need to be educated about their religion, you say they need democracy so they can be free to reject. If the people in the Middle East had a democratic vote between the two right now, what do you think they’d pick?

    I really cannot be spoken to about freedoms in the West because as someone born and raised in the reservation town of Sault Ste. Marie Ontario Canada, I learned the difference between the illusion of freedom and the reality of freedom long before I ever heard anything about Islaam. To think of ourselves in the west as individuals is almost absurd to me. Our conditioning was pervasive. How we viewed women, how we interact with our parents, most of it came from TV, friends and other sources. So let me ask this in closing to close my point.

    What defines morality in a democratic society? and remember, when the public demanded western expansion even if countless native peoples WITH WHOM THERE WERE TREATIES would have to be killed and the agreements broken, so be it, the public demanded it. I hope you see my point.

  22. Thanks, Idiotkid. The honors go to Elaine and Canadian Muhaajir.

    Elaine, apparently the peace of mind that might obtain from living under sharia trumps whatever freedom democracy brings.

    This whole argument needs to be qualified by the knowledge that most Middle-Eastern countries are fairly homogenized in that most of the inhabitants are Muslims. Obviously sharia couldn’t be imposed in a country of multiple religions like Lebanon.

    I better stop here. I’m in over my head already.

  23. Peace.

    It is established that there is a difference of gigantic proportions between the West and the Middle East. If you wish to dispute that…then you have the freedom to do so.

    People move much more freely in the West (in and out of religious faiths, income groups, jobs, geographical locations etc) and the last time I checked I did not live in a theocracy.

    I have no desire to live in a society with anything resembling religion in the seat of government, no Sharia Law for me. Thanks.

    My husband rejected his Catholic faith but did not lose his mother or brother who practice their faith still.

    …to say I must live in the Middle East to have knowledge is a non starter. Resources respected or otherwise are aplenty on many subjects, including the Middle East.

  24. “What defines morality in a democratic society.”

    Humans do through general consensus, through interraction, through seeing what happens when we cause pain to others, through knowledge handed down through the generations, through meditation, through learning, through making mistakes and through love.

    God’s Law as defined by a religion is a whole can of different beans.

  25. I’ll take door number two Monte, I remember door number one and have seen its horrible results, both in the Middle East and in the history of my peoples.

    I digress.

  26. Democracy is not an option for the Middle East? Says who? That a return to Orthodoxy is required? Why? That American and UK inhabitants are ignorant of Middle Eastern inhabitants

  27. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/11/26/do2602.xml&page=4

    I shall continue to read widely on the Middle East and be thankful for Democracy and the liberation it has brought to females in the West.

    Equally, when certain Muslim Clerics spew their hate in the UK I shall be thankful that Democracy is doing something to protect ME.

    ..and to all those Muslims in the UK who distance themselves from the violence..long may you thrive in a multi-cultural Britain.

  28. I fail to see any connection to the article you are posting and what is being discussed. Yes, continually to read on the Middle East but comments like, “…be thankful for Democracy and the liberation it has brought to females in the West.” is offensive, if you mean by that women in the ME are opressed becuase they are without it. But let’s not jump arround on issues.

    As for Democracy protecting you, again I don’t understand, Democracy is an idea, it’s your government who protects you and laws which may or may not be democratic, and it’s your government who locks people up in jail, not democracy (even though you acknowledge your government is not all that democratic). Democracy does not protect you or the minority, which is a point a made earlier that must have been missed. The correct response to what defines morality in a democracy is the majority; anything other than that is not a democracy and it is not freedom or liberty, it is a majority rule. If the majority agrees to murder a minority, the majority wins. Where is the freedom and justice for the minority?

    Lastly, just because a Muslim doesn’t believe in Democracy doesn’t mean they endorse violence.

  29. And I have what to do with Hizbut-Tahrir? No doubt Tatchell must be one of the Islaamic experts of the UK.

    “I am tired of hearing about this.” Pure logic indeed. It’s not an evidence anymore because one is weary of it? Elaine it is you who have failed to hear, see, or understand what I and some others have pointed out, but at least you acknowledged it is my affair, now if we can get you to acknowledge the same for Muslims.

    According to Tatchell Ahmadis are Muslims. Wow! The Ahmadis (called Qadiyaanees) are not even Muslims, rather they were a movement that sought to infiltrate Islaam and keep the Muslims from expelling the British from India and Pakistan. Their founder Ghulam Ahmad is an admitted Britis agent! This is why Tatchell speaks well to you but when it comes to any credibility with the Muslims they tune out because Muslims at least have some understanding of their history, or at least they seem to know it better than people like Tatchell.

    To call Manji a Muslim reformer is horse pucky! Manji is not even a Muslim! She is an Ismaili and I ought to know because Manji is from my country and I city I lived in for years, furthermore she is a lesbian and like it or not, one cannot say that Islam and homosexuality mix.

    What I mean by “offensive” Elaine is that if your words “be thankful for Democracy and the liberation it has brought to females in the West” means that any woman who does not have democracy is not liberated or free then one would have to be obtuse to not see that as an offensive superiority complex.


    Backwards Muslim

    Perhaps your next article will be more relevant to the topic. Perhaps Forrest Gump on Quantum Theory.

  30. Well Russ what you say about Lebanon is somewhat true. Historically speaking “Sharee’ah” has worked in places that were not considered part of the Middle East. Before the creation of Israel many Jews used to belief it was safer for them to live under Islamic rule than Christian rule.

    Let me say that in many countries, Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in peace. Moreoever, to my understanding, sharee’ah law cannot be forced on any nation that is non-Muslim yet allows the Muslims of their land to practice their religion freely. From what I’ve read, such countries are not allowed to be attacked unless provoked or the Muslims in that land are opressed and not allowed to leave.

  31. Excellent! A plethora of Islamic Scholars Wikipedia and Richard Dawkins. As a Canadian, I always loved the third man in in the hockey fight 🙂 For a good joke, read wiki’s entry on Wahabism, I found it wholesome light entertainment.

    Since being in Saudi Arabia there are people who say they are not Muslim who are not executed or beheaded or anything like that, even though it is a crime akin to treason, the penalty for treason in America is what? Surely no one has apostated in Saudi Arabia since 1992 though! As for ‘Abdur-Rahman he didn’t merely plead insanity but Muslim courts deemed him insane. Now Sam, what did Afghanistan have to do with what I was talking about… a supporting evidence perhaps? You mean to tell me that people aren’t executed in the U.S.? And don’t say it is a matter of beliefs, some Muslims have been imprisoned for life for what they believe. I’d prefer to be executed.

    Also make up your mind as to what you would like to discuss; what countries do or what Islaam teaches? As far as I was concerned, this conversation was all about why Democracy will not work in Muslim countries and that Muslims must be educated about their religion. If you want to talk about my words with me, please first read what I write more carefully. I was not in Saudi Arabia in 1992. If you want to discuss what the Islamic punishment is for apostasy, it is death as it is considered an act of treason. In this day and age however, an apostate merely just has to cry on camera and he can be taken care of for life! Good deal! Abdur-Rahman probably didn’t get to eat a lot of spaghetti in Afghanistan. I hope you see my point.

  32. Excellent! A plethora of Islamic Scholars Wikipedia and Richard Dawkins. As a Canadian, I always loved the third man in in the hockey fight 🙂 For a good joke, read wiki

  33. Tim

    Apology accepted.

    Did you not say you were a convert to Islam and previously Catholic? If that is the case then I understand that you are a religious convert and not ethnically Muslim or Arab?

    For a true progressive understanding of what Islam can be in the United Kingdom I think of my Muslim Army Major…

    1. Born in Pakistan – settled with his family (4 sisters and no brothers) in the UK when he was five.
    2. His father (the Head of the Family) died when my friend was 18. His mother and sisters looked to him as the new head of the family.
    3. After University he joined the British Military.
    4. At Sandhurst he met his future wife, the sister of a fellow Officer.
    5. As the Head of his family he faced no opposition from a father who my friend admitted was very anti western women.
    6. He still explained to his future wife that in order to marry she would have to convert. She did.
    7. They married.
    8. Their children bear the Muslim spelling names of Isaac and Jacob (Isaak and Yacoub).
    9. They follow Islam.
    10. They are 100% democratic and British.

    When his sister fell pregnant outside of wedlock SHE KEPT THE BABY and her family because HE as head of the family said she could. She was accepted by HIS family. Sex outside of marriage and keeping the baby – almost unheard of! No abandoning of the child or keeping the pregnancy secret for HER.

    When I think of progressive muslims I think of him.

    Stay a Happy Convert.


  34. I must work tomorrow, give me a couple of days to reply. I had a reply written and it didn’t submit and I lost all of what I wrote 😦 Before I go, the punishment for apostasy is not in the Quraan Sam, it’s found in the hadeeth. I’ll discuss that more when I get some time, my weekend is over so sorry if I’ll be late with a response.

  35. Buddhism wasn’t founded by buddha . Buddha is a term for one who is enlightened . The buddha most people think of is Gautama who is the most well known . There have been many buddhas . In fact te goal of buddhism is to realize you are the buddha , that you and he are the same . By the way buddhism isn’t really even a religon , no doctrine , no deity

  36. If you were Orthodox you would have a very different perspective on this. Islamic armies attacked the Eastern Roman Empire and eventually destroyed it completely. Constantinople – the holy city of the Orthodox world and its great cathedral of Hagia Sophia was taken by force and converted to Islamic use. Imagine how catholics would feel if Rome was taken by Islamic armies and St. Peter’s was turned into a mosque.

    Some months ago the Roman Pontiff quoted from the writings of the 14th-15th century Byzantine Emperor Manual Paleologus about Islam. His writing came at a time when he was travelling through the devastated lands, destroyed cities and desecrated churches of Anatolia that had been seized by the Muslim Turks. Everyone jumped all over the Pope for what he quoted but it was true. The Koran always said “Happy the prince, happy the conqueror who takes the city of Constantinople for Islam”.

    The crusades started because Islamic armies were pouring into the Byzantine Empire and Christian pilgrims were banned (and killed) from visiting Jerusalem. A Fatimid Caliph at the time closed all of the churches in his domain and destroyed the Church of the Resurrection in Jerusalem. They leveled the great Basilica and Rotonda of Constantine the Great and leveled the Tomb of Christ. Imagine, my Muslim friends, how you would feel if if the Kaaba had been destroyed by Christians.

    Now the crusades were horrible and I despise what they did but Muslims should understand they erupted because of their actions against Christians.

    Islamic armies and Christian armies had different philosophies behind them. In the 10th century the Byzantine Emperor asked the Orthodox Patriarch to issue a pastoral letter saying that any soldier who died in wars against Muslims (for the faith) was assured he would go to heaven – just like the Muslims believed. The Patriarch said absolutely no – that war and killing was a sin.

    I think the Muslims owe the Christian world a huge apology for the millions upon millions of forced conversions, the destruction of our churches, the hundreds of thousands of children taken from Christian families and raised as Muslims.

    It seems to me they have seized half of our world and subjugated it.

  37. until now we can even believe or assume that muslims still care about convincing the killers of their brothers in iraq, afghanistan, palestine and anywhere in the world?

  38. Thank you for the education. I have a copy of the Koran and a book
    on Islam in my bookcase. Knowledge and understanding can bridge
    unfounded hatred and stupidity. I also have a Bible in my car.
    I believe that the Muslim’s worship the God of Abraham the same way that we do.
    This whole damned mess doesn’t have a damned thing to do with
    religion or worship – it is about land! Yes, Holy land. I am talking
    about Israel.
    Until there is peace in the west bank and Gaza and a true Palestine
    state created – Jews and Arabs – there will be no peace.

    But, know this for certain – a car bomber in Tel-Aviv is no different
    from someone here at home that sets fire to an abortion clinic…..

  39. Meanwhile, money ostensibly collected for charities, like the recently busted Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, is diverted to arms purchases.

    This is merely an allegation, one by the government headed by Darth Cheney might I remind you, so you discredit yourself by repeating it.

    Otherwise, a thoughtful article.

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  42. Response,

    Due to my ever-increasing hectic work schedule and the approach of the month of Ramadhaan, I will have to be very concise with my responses. I will cover two main discussions, briefly:

    1) Sam Smith (although it also relates to Elaine in some respects)

    Nice, but this is an ad hominem misdirection. Wikipedia needs watching, but it

  43. Wikiepedia is not a reliable source for anyone wishing to study Islaam from serious sources. Admittedly, it is good for most things Western.

    You’re hanging onto this Wikipedia thing like a drowning man to the last life preserver on Earth, aren’t you?

    The wiki was a shorthand. That reference drew from a number of NON-wiki sources, and if I wanted to spend a half an hour I could get you a reading list a mile long of experts who make the same point.

    So please, deal with the valid argument instead of trying to pretend that since it appears in a wiki entry that the argument itself is automatically false. As I said, this is ad hominem, and it’s pretty transparent here.

    But the BEST news is that we don’t even have to do that, because you admit the key points yourself. “Apostasy” = treason and is a capital offense for which people are executed. You somehow have convinced yourself that refusing to belief in Allah and trying to overthrow a democratically elected government are somehow equivalent, and that is pure silliness. The religion you are defending believes, by the word of its holy canon and by your own admission, in killing people who deny its “truth.”

    I think that was my point, and I’m glad you’ve finally agreed with me.

    One other point that I think it’s important to address. You seem toward the end of your reply to assume that I’m anti-Islam and pro-Christian and you cite some of the horrors of the Bible to rebut me. The only problem is that I, along with people like Harris and Dawkins, am explicitly critical of Christianity and Judaism along the same criteria. Yes, Christianity has in its canon things that are as appalling as what we see in Islam, and if you’ve read what I and others at S&R have written on the subject you’ll find that we have zero time for fundamentalists of any sort.

    So it isn’t that I think Islam is the problem. I think that fundamentalism is the problem, and Islam offers us a particularly virulent example. And as long as you’re on the record defending the execution of people who turn away from Islam, then boy howdy, is the proof of burden on you when it comes to debates with those of us who live in centuries more recent than the 14th.

  44. I acknowledged that the events that Wiki mentioned occurred even though the whole argument was not relevant to the ad hominems you introduced.

    It seems clear that “experts” who agree with you are experts and those who are critical of Islam are “my experts.” I’m comfortable with the evidence on the table, and in particular let’s be very clear about your acknowledgment of the core fact: Apostasy is punishable by death. That apostates are not ALWAYS executed does not impress me, nor should it impress anyone else who lives in the 21st Century. Period. On this I think we can consider the argument closed.

    I maintain that Democracy will not work here and none of these arguments have convinced me otherwise.

    I agree completely and have never suggested otherwise. I do not, nor have I ever, believed that democracy as Westerners use the term is viable in the Muslim world.

    There is no such thing as

  45. Thank you again, Tim, for all your comments. We hope to have future articles that will prove equally engaging. Speaking personally, I find the perspective of a knowledgeable Muslim like yourself invaluable.

  46. No, thank you for allowing me to participate 🙂 Should you ever need me to touch on anything or look into a matter for you do not hesitate to ask. I enjoy reading your articles Russ. I love the motto,

    “Think – it ain’t illegal yet…”


  47. This adolescent religion thesis is tiresome and just plain historically inaccurate. Violence is endemic to Islamic interaction with the non-Muslim world, and if the West hadn’t been so military dominant for the past two to three centuries, we’d still be staving them off. Take a look at what’s happening in Nigeria, for a great example of what happens when the balance of power is more equal. The fact of the matter–which most don’t want to acknowledge, including the author of this article–is that some ideologies are good, some are a mixed bag with much to offer, and some are downright evil. I fear Islam very nearly fits into the last category, and I have absolutely no interest in whitewashing that particular bit of information. It is tantamount to intellectual suicide.