Adil returns with a devastating new article that appears to drive a stake into the vampires’ beating heart…
A common topic of discussion in current Muslim circles is how young Muslims can thrive in Western society and address various obstacles to the practice of faith and even faith itself as they grow up. Numerous difficulties certainly exist, more so, in my view with the decline of Christianity and the rise of secularism. While we might differ doctrinally, we have so many commonalities in our metaphysical world view (like the belief in God!) and values to our Christian brothers and sisters. True, a few of these ‘how should young Muslims live’ discussions do sadly entail the quintessential Daily Mail darling preacher indulging in outrageous stereotypes about ‘Western Immorality’ but many more are actually very meaningful, productive and balanced. It is certainly a necessary discussion, and one which God willing I will have a go at writing about sometime.
A topic which has comparatively insufficient coverage however is the source of an even greater onslaught to faith faced by many Muslims: Other Muslims. In short, Muslims are facilitating atheism. The victims of this are not limited to born Muslims, but also non Muslims who would have otherwise been interested in Islam. Furthermore, they present easy meat to Islamophobes.
There are many ways that this alienation from Islam as a result of Muslims is occurring, from outrageous claims, to simplistic doctrines to other sorts of misbehaviour and apathy towards what is important. Here, in no particular order I discuss ten pretty common ones. I believe that the behaviours, mindsets and concepts described below only serve to alienate non Muslims from Islam, and make born Muslims question the intellectual or spiritual framework of Islam, or its relevance to the present and future. This article is the first in a series of at least four which I am currently working on. I hope that readers find these ideas thought provoking; as always I anticipate good critique, and I hope to see some ideas readers might have of their own.
1) ”Here is my algorithm to getting into heaven. Goodness, rationality and selflessness don’t fit into the equation”
A while back, a relative drove my mother at an outrageous speed and minimal control of the car due to his having a maximum of one hand on the wheel; the other was continually running over prayer beads which seemed to be the real subject of his attention. He felt that surely he was doing nothing wrong because the day of his death was written down anyway, plus he was praying in some capacity?
Here we have a scenario where a ritual is actively and unambiguously opposed to what is safe and rational, and is actually very selfish when you think about it (as he had a passenger). Nothing says that faith is pointless, archaic and arbitrary then someone who thinks ‘these beads are my abacus to arrive at the very simple formula to take me to heaven.’
Now surely I could have picked something worse than moronic driving? I could, but more ‘famous’ examples of misbehaviour like terrorism and female genital mutilation often have very tribal, cultural or nationalistic motivations, and they are hardly exclusive or even disproportionate (yes really) to Muslims. The same case cannot really be made for the foolishness which described, and it only takes a small action, but one which is diametrically opposed to what seems good and selfless to hold the notion of religious rituals in contempt.
I am sure readers can think of many more examples; how many Muslims use gallon upon gallon of water for one Wudu (cleaning oneself before prayer), leaving the tap on full blast whilst not even using it? When the Qur’an exhorts Muslims not to be wasteful, was it excluding behaviour during religious rituals? Of those who constantly share statuses about Israeli human rights abuses like cutting off and diverting water from the Palestinians, how many of them have even contemplated this once? What about Western Muslims who go to Hajj or Umrah one or more times a year? Muslims are supposed to make the pilgrimage, so the more times the better right? Really? How many Muslims around the world can (easily) afford to go even once? Instead of trying to get a reward from God by breaking the record for number of trips taken to Mecca, why not fund such a journey for someone who cannot afford it? Or give the money to charity? Must we have such a low opinion of God that we think he would reward less, or not at all for doing this? Furthermore, we quite literally live on a dying planet which we are killing off with devastating efficiency. Food for thought: to offset the carbon emissions (you know, those things causing the whole globe to heat up, leading to flooding, the spread of tropical diseases and food insecurity) caused by just one journey alone to the Middle East from the UK you would have to completely give up driving for several years. Something which makes me saddest about the mindset of most Muslims today is that when it comes to protecting and maintaining the planet which sustains us, we are easily as apathetic and indifferent as the American far right. Probably worse. Also, without being too cynical, going to Hajj is not really the difficult or arduous journey that it used to be before air travel. Will God reward you more, for making a (relatively) easy journey and staying in a hotel for a few days, because you do it year by year?
This simplistic mindset that is rampant amongst the Muslim community where people have a simple mental algorithm of ‘if I do this, I get precisely X amount of reward regardless of any other consequences’ has certainly bothered me growing up, and I very much doubt I am alone. Any case of ‘religion making you less good,’ is a devastating intellectual obstacle to faith, however small the magnitude of ‘bad’ is.
2) The war against converts
One might imagine that converts be universally beloved by all Muslims, particularly ones of a more puritanical nature, for their ‘overcoming of disbelief.’ The reality is somewhat different however, as evidenced by the relentless hounding and alienation of prominent converts who do not subscribe to all of the ‘correct’ views all (See The Cult of the Convert). Such converts can expect to not only face withering criticism, but the validity of their conversion will invariably be questioned.
Two converts to Islam who fell foul of this (there are many more) are Adam Deen [Correction: Adam Deen is not a convert, but the author is still right that he gets abused like one – Ed] and Myriam Francois Cerah; two excellent spokespeople and wonderful ambassadors for the Muslim community. They have been featured on sky news, participated in debates, have been guests on shows like BBC the big questions (A brave feat given the blatant secular bias and disingenuousness of the host), and given talks at various institutions; I feel privileged to have attended talks by both of them whilst a student. Despite all of this, and despite the fact that they have taken to task various Islamophobes, like Maajid Nawaz (for those unfamiliar with Maajid Nawaz, he is essentially the Muslim version of Stephen from the film Django Unchained), both individuals (and others) have been mocked, hounded and even implicitly excommunicated for allegedly failing to follow ‘normative’ Islam. Why? Because they are deemed to be too liberal and ‘feministic’; something which we are told is not merely against Islam, but incompatible with a person actually being a Muslim. I am not going to defend liberalism and feminism here; in fact I am very critical of many conceptions of both and do not consider myself a liberal or a feminist (I might get called a ‘pro feminist’ now); instead I will make the seemingly radical suggestion that we look beyond labels and judge according to the specific values that people advocate. I discuss this concept more here
The issue here is not that converts are not immune to criticism (nor should they be), but that the sincerity of their conversion itself will be attacked when they dare to voice alternative views. Such converts, we are told might have only converted to Islam to become ‘reformers,’ or ‘must have brought their cultural Western baggage with them,’or ‘are trying to import their liberalism into Islam.’ Veiled takfirs are not uncommon; something which Adam Deen and our own Paul Williams will attest to. One wonders what the goal of such hounding and alienation is? So much for ‘unity.’ For many Muslims, the whole ‘unity’ rhetoric really just means:
‘Back up, defend, and refuse to criticise Muslims if they are narrow minded, bigoted, apologists for violence or have a female genital mutilation fetish but if a Muslim so much uses a term like liberal or feminist in a positive light, bully them until they leave the Deen.’
3) ”Nelson Mandela IS going to hell (Along with all other non Muslims)”
For some Muslims today, the whole ‘In the name of God the most Gracious the most Merciful’ thing is no more than a hollow disclaimer which exists to be ignored, sidelined and constrained as much as conceivably possible (except when talking in an abstract and completely unapplied way). This became most evident following the recent passing of Nelson Mandela and Paul Walker when the internet exploded with fatwas from ‘experts’ telling Muslims that it was ”haram, (forbidden) to say ‘RIP Nelson Mandela” because Mandela had heard of Islam, yet remained a non Muslim and thus would be eternally damned, no ifs or buts.
What was particularly troubling was not merely the opinion that recently deceased non Muslims like Nelson Mandela and Paul Walker had no hope of salvation, but the phenomenally vicious, snarky, underhand and very unIslamic nature of the hundreds of online Muslim commentators, spitting venom which would invoke envy in even the most fanatical Dawkins cultist. Shortly following the death of the aforementioned famous people, Ustadh Majed Mahmoud (hardly a liberal Muslim) explained in a video that we cannot give a destiny to anyone; and that for all we know, we might find Paul Walker driving in Jannah (heaven). The comments section below resembled (I suspect it still does) the diary of a psychopath with a large chunk of comments entailing various forms of:
”Nice try pal but Paul Walker would have heard of Islam, and wasnt Muslim, so he’s going to burn in Jahanam (hell) forever”
Along with various other bitchy (apologies for the vulgarity but the adjective is apt) comments questioning Ustadh Mahmouds integrity and intentions. Sadly, many Muslim users who comment on videos and online blogs do so in a manner so vile, aggressive and repetitive that I do sometimes suspect (or hope; though I admit this may be wishful thinking), that they are just haters pretending to be Muslims. A recent article of mine critiquing several prominent Dawah Carriers, prompted similar responses after I was audacious enough to suggest that some of the great Muslim theologians who had a more balanced and inclusive paradigm then ‘Muslims go to heaven, non Muslims go to hell forever no matter what,’ deserved some credence.
”You can’t take it that all the kuffar are going to hell forever. Sorry mate but its going to happen”
Given the widespread nature of this type of rhetoric online, I would not blame a non Muslim for thinking otherwise; but according to mainstream Islam, a Muslim cannot actually condemn anyone to hell, regardless of how evil or blasphemous they appeared to be, and whether they were a Muslim or not. Aside from leaving Islam out of apathy when brought up in a non practicing household, I believe that the modern, popular damnationist rhetoric is one of the greatest reasons for the rise of the ex Muslim atheist. Intelligent and compassionate people will quite understandably encounter intellectual and spiritual problems with reconciling divine mercy with torturing good, sincere people ad infinitum for genuinely not realising that a particular religion is true. We all know incredible, kind and selfless people; humans who give their all to help others and are far more loving and kind then we are; yet live and die in the ‘wrong’ religion. The responses given by Imams and Sheikhs when posed these problems often tend to be notoriously bad, frequently a drawn out version of
‘Man up and get this out of your head.’
I have even heard outrageous appeals to emotion (from the same people who dismiss Muslims who are concerned about the fate of the deceased as succumbing to emotions no less!) that:
‘Its not fair on the Muslims if any non Muslims get into heaven because they don’t do all the difficult things, prayer, fasting, hijab etc that we do’
Sadly I have heard this ‘argument’ used more than a couple of times. Like most allegations made against Islam, this one is so bad that I don’t even know where to start, but suffice to say it actually attacks Islam for strongly implying that following Islam is inherently burdensome and unfulfilling! Are these people saying they would be unhappy if they found people alongside them in heaven who didn’t fast because ‘it’s not fair that we had to’? The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was said to have told his followers that God will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to others. I ask you; if you cannot see, at the very least on the face of it that there is an intellectual and spiritual problem with the majority of humanity being tortured ad infinitum for merely not realising that Islam is true, what kind of mercy or reason do you actually have?
What enhances the magnitude of these intellectual and spiritual obstacles is that the more the more merciful a person is and the more understanding they are of the human condition, the less likely they are to believe in the simplistic nature of the ultra damnationist beliefs which are widely propagated online, and by some Dawah carriers. The Qur’an tells us that Muhammad (PBUH) has been sent as a mercy to mankind, but what kind of mercy is actually being advertised by many Dawah organisations? I am nowhere near the best or most merciful person I know, but if with my iota of mercy, I can hope that even vile and depraved people can eventually find some sort of peace, what are we actually attributing to God when we readily condemn most of humanity to an eternal hell?
I submit to the reader that either the popular ‘Most people will be damned for eternity’ rhetoric is either mistaken, or that Ibn Hazm, the staunch damnationist was correct in saying that when God says he is merciful, this means whatever he wants, but it does not mean in any sense that human beings understand.
”Whatever. This is what Islam clearly says regardless of what your sense of logic or conscience dictates. God knows better.”
God knows best, but according to the Qur’an he also wants us to use reason, and condemns us for not using it. He has also enjoined justice, mercy and fairness on himself. If the interpretations we draw from scripture, however honestly, appear to blatantly contradict these principles, it might be that Gods justice and mercy is something completely incomprehensible to any humans, or it could just be that we made a mistake and should take another look. Muslims should not feel compelled to believe the prevailing online view that ”OnlyMuslims go to heaven (sometimes after a stint in hell) but non Muslims say in hell forever, no matter what.” There are mainstream and respectable scholars who have far more nuanced and inclusive views which I urge readers to look at. In addition to heeding the content, I ask readers/viewers to observe and compare the level of thought, contemplation and understanding for other human beings which is so much more apparent then when one views the simplistic apologia of many louder, popular voices.
Gai Eaton: When Hell melts away
Hamza Yusuf: Who are the Kafir?
4) ”Here is your litmus test: Believe Aisha was 9 or your Iman (belief) needs to be scrutinised”
For any non Muslim readers; Aisha was one of the wives of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and there is some controversy with regards to her age at the time of marriage; with some traditions suggesting that she cohabited (translations often say ‘consummated’) with the Prophet when she was only 9 years old. There are various evidences and indicators that she was far older (such as her previous engagement, discrepancies with dates, her incredibly high intellect whilst allegedly a child, and her relative age compared to others, and that a 9 year old girl is unlikely to meet the strict Islamic criteria for marriage which includes mental and physical readiness. For a scholarly discussion on her age click Here), but my gripe here is not with people who believe she was 9. My problem is with Muslims who actually anathematise Muslims who believe she was older. Such apologists will attack, alienate and question the Iman (belief) of Muslims who think otherwise.
What is especially disturbing is that such Muslims almost seem proud to have alienated people on the grounds that ‘They can’t take what Islam says, because they’ve been influenced by Western or modernist values’ or something similar even about relatively minor issues which should not be aqeedah (creedal) ones. When it comes to Muslims who are in agreement with female genital mutilation and death for non violent apostasy however:
‘We don’t (intellectually or otherwise) attack our brothers even if we don’t particularly agree. Bad for unity. But OMG if a Muslim thinks Aisha was older than 9….this is clear deviance. Who do these ”Muslims” think they are?’
5)” Islam is VERY clear about this”
Islam is very clear that there is a God, that God has sent messengers, that human beings are ordered to do good deeds, that there is life after death and some form of accountability resulting in reward or punishment. Many things are less clear however, and this is not always problematic; maybe God actually wants people to participate in intelligent discussion and dialogue and even disagreement in order to ascertain what seems like the best idea in a given situation?
The problem is, that many Muslims will prefix their opinions with ‘Islam is *very* clear on this,’ or ‘The scholars say,’ in order to disingenuously suggest that there is no difference of opinion. There is nothing wrong with pointing out that many scholars lean towards a particular stance, but it is dangerous and dishonest when this is accompanied by an implication or statement that any other view is as obviously UnIslamic as knowingly worshipping several Gods. Many things are unclear, and we can use our hearts and heads and look at the interpretations of others to deduce what conclusions seem to be the best; but this doesn’t make the conclusions infallible (some people like to claim that scholars are not infallible when defending Islam as having no divine intermediaries but then regard them as so in practice, or at least ‘their own’ scholars). The problem with this intellectual muscle flexing is that Muslims who hold different views to the views that they are told are ‘normative and the only possible opinion,‘ will be forced to make a decision; either disregard what Islam seemingly says, or follow an opinion which seems to be completely at odds with what their reason and conscience seems to dictate. Tragically some Muslims invariably go down the path of:
‘You know what, if Islam really does say this, I guess I’m not really a Muslim then.’
Worst of all, this ‘Islamic value,’ that caused the person to reject Islam wholesale might not have even been something that Islam ‘clearly’ says (or says at all), but the assertive bullying like behaviour (probably accompanied by meaningless disclaimers of ‘with respect bro’) and the conviction that a given action was ‘against Islam’ made the person believe that this was so clear cut, that they could not continue with their life and remain a consistent Muslim.
6) ”This is what Islam says. Take it or leave it. Believe in this or do this or do us a favour and stop calling yourself a Muslim.”
This might be fair game with principles like ‘Believe in God,’ or ‘Do good deeds,’ but certain Muslims like to give ultimatums like the one about with extremely specific things like political participation, personal habits, relationships with others and dress code. For instance, according Abduraheem Green, the chairman of iERA, if you respect Kemal Mustafa Ataturk you CANNOT (emphasis on Cannot) be a Muslim. Now this is a very specific criteria and while my limited knowledge of Ataturk suggests that he may have been pretty vile, why can’t a Muslim just mistakenly have admiration for him after hearing of a specific policy that appeared to make sense? Does having a high opinion of just one nasty historical figure make the creator of the Universe hate you even if you devote all your heart, soul and deeds to him?
Perhaps the statements from Chairman of iERA are easy targets, but my point remains; making the less then abundantly clear, ‘clear’ and forcing ultimatums onto Muslims is a self defeating escapade which will seldom if ever make a Muslim improve their behaviour, but will likely alienate them. People can follow mistaken doctrines and be Muslim. People can sin, even persistently and still be Muslim. We all do both. Advice should be given like a gift is offered; and offered upwards, not downwards. This does not mean giving out cuddles and saying ‘with respect bro’ or ‘in my humble opinion’ after every sentence whilst retaining the same divisive message. It means acknowledging the other person as someone of equal, or for all your know, greater worth then yourself, and pragmatically explaining to them why from your opinion and knowledge, you believe that Islam says do (or don’t do) X, Y or Z.
7) ”Good deeds are useless. Really really useless”
Much of the popular rhetoric I have been unfortunate enough to encounter on numerous Muslim run websites makes a point of emphasising the uselessness of good deeds carried out by non Muslims, along with (on an implicit level at least) the relatively peripheral importance of doing good deeds for Muslims. Effectively:
”Consistently good and helpful actions an okay idea but they are really just the icing on the cake; pray, fast, don’t congratulate the kuffar…don’t dress like the kuffar…don’t listen to music…no freemixing….thats enough to take you to heaven”
Yes, I know that the Qur’an tell us that the greatest losers are those who thought they were doing good, but their deeds were wasted because they took Gods signs for mockery. The problem with using this to ‘prove’ that non Muslims cannot possibly ever ever ever go to heaven regardless of how much good they do, is the Qu’ran does not appear to be describing a good, sincere person who is accidently following an inaccurate doctrine. Most people we would term ‘evil,’ are in fact people who thought(or convinced themselves) that they were doing good. Yes, a few people (like satanists) might worship malevolence for its own sake, but most people who carry out atrocities actually do, through some twisted logic believe they are doing something good or righteous; Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, Ariel Sharon, Nigel Farage…
Also, is having intellectual questions or uncertainties about who God is or what God wants or even if God is real the same as taking Gods signs for mockery? I am not saying ignorance is an excuse, nor that people should be lazy with regards to searching for truth, but it is hardly fair to indict all non Muslims as having actively mocked Gods signs.
The Muslims who ceaselessly peddle the Kuffar rhetoric would well do to observe the characteristics the Qur’an actually gives to Kaafirs; arrogance, pride, stinginess, violence, ill temperedness, forbidding good, being dogmatic, pushing the orphan aside and actively opposing God and his messengers. These descriptions are simply inapplicable to many non Muslims, yet many are strongly embodied by some Muslims! Some apologists (I recall Zakir Naik saying words to this effect) try to get around the problem of God punishing good and sincere non Muslims by arguing that if such people were sincere, God would have guided them to Islam; ergo the fact that the people died non Muslim means that they couldn’t have possibly been good or sincere! If we are to use the logic to ‘prove’ that no one who dies a non Muslim is good, why not assume that most (or all if, like some apologists we insist on constantly using absolutes) good and sincere people, because of their goodness and sincerity would not have rejected Islam if presented properly; and the fact that they did not accept Islam yet were good sincere people is indicative of the fact that Islam was not presented properly! Ergo no punishment. This is no less logical then the reverse theodicy. So what punishments or rewards will God ultimately bestow onto different people? Funnily enough I don’t know. Neither do you.
The combination of being told that good actions by non Muslims are utterly useless; and that unless you, as a Muslim already do everything that is ‘necessary,’ that good deeds (e.g. charitable actions beyond Zakat, community work, trying to live an ethical lifestyle etc) aren’t too much good either, makes Islam spiritually harder to follow and removes its rightful status as being a driving force to actually make the world slightly less woeful. The less useful and relevant a religion feels, the closer it becomes like a cult, which by definition is a system with no relevance to the bulk of humanity.
Observe how the evil of sins consisting of cruelty, depravity and inconsideration are often played down and considered far more forgivable in popular Muslim discourse compared to the sins of mistaken (however honestly)doctrines within Islam, let alone outside of Islam and you will see exactly what I mean.
8) ”Allah is able to relocate from here to there through rope”
This statement is taken from the oft quoted (usually by Salafis) scholar Ibn Taymiyyah (Majmo’a al-Fatawa, Volume 2 page 76) and the problem is of course anthropomorphic conceptions of God i.e. A God with actual hands, eyes, feet and so forth. Quite simply, an intelligent and educated Muslim brought up on this view will virtually never retain it into adulthood. Sure, he/she might study Islam, look at the works of theologians like Al Ghazali and come to the correct conclusion that Islam does not promote an anthropomorphic view of God, but he/she might also leave Islam on the grounds that an anthropomorphic notion of God makes no sense.
Consider some of the atheist objections to God; many of them assume that God is some sort of a chap; ‘What is the cause of God?,’ ‘How can God be in several places at once?,’ ‘How can God multitask?’ ‘What does God look like?”How do you know Zeus isn’t God?’
These ordinarily incredibly childish and naive objections are actually perfectly valid objections to anthropomorphic conceptions of a deity! You cannot avoid the fact that a being with hands has limits, because there are some areas in space time where the hands are not present; a being which is literally carried on a throne by angels is, in some sense being helped and moved around by other agents! When the Qur’an says there is nothing unto God, most theologians do not merely take this to mean that God is bigger and stronger and grander than anything else, it means that he is nothing like anything in creation. At all. He is not made of matter and thus does not emit or reflect sound or light waves which are detectable by the senses; it is only through our minds that we perceive God.
Many, perhaps most ex Christians and ex Muslims were brought up with anthropomorphic ideas of God and this is abundantly clear by the way they speak of God. Can we rely on young Muslims to conclude themselves that Islam does not teach the childish idea that God is a big chap? Lets not risk it.
9) ”This is a clear statement of disbelief”
A popular trend nowadays is to accuse Muslims with differing views of embodying ‘disbelief.’ This serves to lower the bar for ‘disbelief’ considerably, and render all Muslims disbelievers in the eyes of at least some other group of Muslims and thus undermines Islam.
I have witnessed for example scholars like Hamza Yusuf being accused of ‘disbelief’ for having the audacity to suggest that being in a state of Kufr refers not to not following a doctrine you don’t realise to be true but rather wantonely rejecting a doctrine you do know to be plausible, out of arrogance, dogmatism and unwillingness to better yourself. Other online commentators were ‘generous’ enough to concede that ‘even though Hamza Yusuf clearly uttered statements of disbelief, we can’t be sure if he’s a complete disbeliever.’
Interestingly, the louder voices from certain apologists within organisations like iERA and the Muslim Debate Initiative will never accuse say, violent Muslims or Muslims endorsing female genital mutilation of being disbelievers or even embodying disbelief; even on occasions where they may show disagreement. I am not saying I think they should make such accusations; but the point is, these are the same people who will happily and openly takfir Muslims for the crime of criticising them, failing to be sufficiently practicing, and definitely for appearing too plural or liberal. This really makes you wonder, where do their priorities actually lie?
Essentially, accusations of disbelief are seldom if ever levelled at Muslims for being too harsh; but they are generously given to Muslims deemed too liberal or too lenient. Imagine two scholars.
Scholar A believes that female circumcision is mandatory, that Bin Ladens actions were generally agreeable, that the taliban are following Islam fairly well (such that criticising them makes you a disbeliever), that the niqab is mandatory, that sufis are all hell bound polytheists and that all non Muslims (even unreached ones) will all go to hell no matter what.
Scholar B is a religious pluralist who believes that capital punishment should be phased out of society, that amputation for stealing, while not wrong in all places and times is redundant today and that the hijaab is good but not compulsory.
I do not doubt apologists from the aforementioned organisations would disagree with some of the views from both (which is fine), but which scholar would be accused of disbelief, implicitly or otherwise? Anyone familiar with popular Muslim apologia will know that scholar A will be gently and politely differed with as being well meaning but a little mistaken; someone who shouldn’t be too harshly criticised, certainly not in public as this is ‘bad for unity.’ Scholar B on the other hand will not receive gentle disagreement but titled a deviant, a western stooge, a sellout, a modernist and at best, referred to as a ”Muslim.” Not a Muslim. A ”Muslim.” Playing the inverted commas game is just a cowardly way to excommunicate Muslims without being answerable in the manner that one would be for explicitly declaring a Muslim outside the fold of Islam but some Muslim spokespeople like to do it.
10) ”The Taliban (and other extremists) might be rough around the edges but they aren’t that bad, and criticising them is an act of disbelief”
I have, and will continue to defend the reality that the number of Muslims who are violent, or endorse, or approve of violence is actually pretty small and that extremism in no way disproportionate to Muslims. (See ‘How not to argue with Islamophobes‘). Small however is still too much, and there are several Muslim organisations with a loud voice who are, if not in agreement with violence and aggression, are not wholly in opposition to some of the groups who carry it out, even if they do have some methodological disagreements.
Now, I realise that Islamophobes will always demand that Muslims ‘denounce,’ any sort of misbehaviour carried out by any Muslim, wherever it happened and whatever it was; in order to clear their name; and of course, if they fail to do so, this apparently indicates their complicity. Silence does not indicate complicity; however, defence, praise and arguing against condemning violent and oppressive groups well…kind of does. There are some Muslims who think that the likes of the taliban are not really too bad. Indeed the chairman of the ‘Charity’ iERA (the Islamic Education and Research Academy) says this of people who criticise them:
”….For example, slandering and attacking the Muslims unjustly, such as you find many Muslims have done this about the Taliban. Slandering them and attacking them and reviling them based upon news that has come from the disbelieving media, helping the kuffar against the Muslims. This I have to warn you could be an act of kufr brothers and sisters that could take you out of Islam.”
Criticising the Taliban alone could undo any and everything good that a Muslim does and take them out of Islam?! I cannot help but think that if iERA were actually in charge of a country, it would not be dissimilar to one run by the Taliban. Perhaps there would be less indiscriminate brutality, but given some of the statements from the chairman, it wouldn’t exactly be cuddly. As far as I know, the only extreme and outlandish statement which the chairman has apologised for is the now infamous outburst of:
“Why don’t you take the Yahoudi [Jew] over there, far away, so his stench doesn’t disturb us OK?”
And this is hardly a step back in opinion, only an apology for a crude outburst.
Let us take another example of prominent Muslims being, at best indifference towards violence and extremism. January 2014 saw an event taking place called ‘Is Islam being criminalised?’ This event featured the following speakers: Abdullah Al Andalusi, Haitham al Haddad, Reza Pankhurst, Sulaiman Ghani and Moazzam Begg alone with several others. Consider the views of one of the aforementioned speakers; Haitham al Haddad, who believes that; Muslims should boycott family members who leave Islam, non violent apostasy warrants death, Osama Bin Laden was (probably) a martyr, there is no basis for interfaith dialogue as other religions do not believe in the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), people who condemn suicide bombing are committing a betrayal and serious treason, that Islam can be spread by force once ‘conditions’ are met, that husbands should not be questioned about why they hit their wives, that homosexual activities are worse than murder, that the 2012 Tsunami was a punishment due to lack of submission to God and that female circumcision is a virtue.
In other words, Islam as told by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer. It would be unfair to accuse the other speakers of personally agreeing to these views for merely sharing a platform with Haddad, but where is their active disagreement? This event was no debate and all the speakers were unified in one purpose; one of their goals being to discuss what Muslims must do in the face of ‘normative’ Islamic beliefs being criminalised. Would Abdullah al Andalusi, who makes such excellent critiques of liberalism implicitly excommunicate Haddad, the way that he liberally excommunicates Muslims who call themselves liberals or feminists (in other words, cannot describe them as Muslim unless put in quotation marks)? If the answer is no, then what can we assume except that Haddads views are deemed far more acceptable then the self identification of a Muslim as a feminist?
Extremism can be a misapplied term; given to people of faith who’s beliefs shape their politics, who are very practicing; or specifically with Muslims, believe in wearing the hijab, or a Caliphate or Sharia. That does not make a Muslim an extremist. However, condemning every man and his dog to hell, ranting about how ALL the Kuffar hate ALL the Muslims, calling female circumcision a virtue, going on takfir rampages, showing a disturbing sympathy towards violence and calling Muslims who criticise the taliban potential disbelievers is.
The question of how Muslims should tackle extremism is a difficult one; ‘distancing’ ‘and denouncing’ extremism tends not to cut too much ice with many Muslim haters; Muslims who claim to ‘denounce’ violence are either held up at tiny unrepresentative niches, or Islamophobes assume a case of the lady doth protest too much and claim the Muslims are lying (aka playing ‘Taqiyya’/stealth jihad)
I think the answer is intellectual criticism. Merely announcing ”These extremists don’t represent us” might, at best make people less afraid of Muslims, but it won’t actually cast Islam itself in a better light. Indeed many liberals who disapprove of anti Muslim bigotry and will say that most Muslims are decent, peaceful people still do not actually contest the contention that Islam itself is inherently violent. This implies that Muslims themselves are okay but this is because they don’t follow Islam very rigorously. On the other hand, criticising extremists using Islamic arguments will show young Muslims that they have not been brought up into a belligerent faith, and show non Muslims that not only have they got nothing to fear from Muslims, but nothing to fear from Islam either.
I will finish by saying that whilst Islam condemns slander, it demands justice. Holding people to account for things which they have said is not unjust. When I wrote an article critiquing certain Muslim popularisers, some people came back with fair and objective criticism, but others had emotional meltdowns and were affronted by the fact that I hadn’t arranged man-dates with Abduraheem Green or Hamza Tzortzis and talked things over before writing an article criticising the methodology and views of themselves and others. Yes, people have outbursts, people change their views and people make mistakes. However, when people show vicious bigotry and intolerance to Jews and Christians, go on takfiring tirades (excommunicating Muslims) and claim that criticising the Taliban is an act of ‘disbelief,’ or chuckle at the death of Princess Diana, the burden of is on them to retract their views and make this evident.
I hope this have given readers food for thought. Stay tuned for the next article in the series. God bless and have a wonderful day.