Is Islam Compatible with Democracy? part 3
"I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them." The Koran, 8.12 "Allah's Apostle said, 'I have been made victorious with terror (cast in the hearts of the enemy)'" Hadith of Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 220
He who strikes terror into others is himself in continual fear. Claudian (Roman poet)
In his Islamic Declaration from 1970, where he demanded a fully-fundamentalist Muslim state, future Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic wrote that "A Muslim generally does not exist as an individual. If he wishes to live and survive as a Muslim, he must create an environment, a community, an order. He must change the world or be changed himself. History knows of no true Islamic movement which was not at the same time a political movement as well."
The late American scholar of Islam, Franz Rosenthal, said that an individual Muslim "was expected to consider subordination of his own freedom to the beliefs, morality and customs of the group as the only proper course of behavior. (…) The individual was not expected to exercise any free choice as to how he wished to be governed. In general, governmental authority admitted of no participation of the individual as such, who therefore did not possess any real freedom vis-à-vis it."
Iranian ex-Muslim Ali Sina states that "Deindividuation is characterized by diminished awareness of self and individuality. In Islam individuality is denied and the individual's life is fused with that of Umma. Deindividuation reduces an individual's self-restraint and normative regulation of behavior. It contributes to the collective behavior of violent crowds, mindless hooligans, and the lynch mobs." According to him, "Ironically it is the brutality and the repressive nature of Islam, in conjunction with its absolute irrationality that has made this doctrine successful and has allowed it to survive this long."
But as the esteemed writer F.A. Hayek wrote in his classic The Road to Serfdom:
"What our generation is in danger of forgetting is not only that morals are of necessity a phenomenon of individual conduct, but also that they can exist only in the sphere in which the individual is free to decide for himself and called upon voluntarily to sacrifice personal advantage to the observance of a moral rule. Outside the sphere of individual responsibility there is neither goodness nor badness, neither opportunity for moral merit nor the chance of proving one's conviction by sacrificing one's desires to what one thinks right. Only where we ourselves are responsible for our own interests and are free to sacrifice them, has our decision moral value. Neither good intentions nor efficiency of organisation can preserve decency in a system in which personal freedom and individual responsibility are destroyed."
A British police report concluded that complaints of misconduct and corruption against Muslim officers occur ten times more frequently than against their non-Muslim colleagues. The report argued that since British Pakistanis live in a cash culture in which "assisting your extended family is considered a duty" and in an environment in which large amounts of money are loaned between relatives and friends, police officers of Pakistani origin needed special anti-corruption training.
Only a small percentage of Pakistani citizens, and those of many other Muslim countries, actually pay taxes. There is a philosophy that ascribes no value to the individual; the clan is everything; the state is the enemy. This mentality underlies the behavior of the immigrants from these countries as they migrate, bringing with them to non-Muslim countries the corruption and tribal violence associated with this world view.
As Ali Sina says:
"Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, (1058 - 1111 CE) is arguably the greatest Islamic scholar ever. In his book 'Incoherence of the Philosophers' he bitterly denounced Aristotle, Plato, Socrates and other Greek thinkers as non-believers and labeled those who employed their methods and ideas as corrupters of the Islamic faith. He took aim at Avicenna [Ibn Sina, highly influential 11th century Persian physician and philosopher] for being a rationalist who drew intellectually upon the Ancient Greeks. By emphasizing on the incompatibility of faith and reason, and by asserting the futility of making faith subordinate to reason, Ghazali gave validity to unreasoned faith and thus glorified stupidity.
The Islamic rationalists such as Mutazilis placed reason above revelation. But their school was vehemently opposed by more fervent Islamists and became extinct. They were attacked by a group called Ashariyya to which al-Ghazali and the celebrated poet [Jalal ad-Din or Mawlana] Rumi belonged. Rumi mocked the rationalists and in a catchy verse that left its mark on the psyche of the gullible masses said the rationalists stand on 'wooden legs.'"
Sina believes that "Freedom of speech, freedom of beliefs, respect for the rights of the minority and separation of religion from government are the foundations of democracy." The West should insist on freedom of religion and freedom of speech both at home and abroad. "People must be allowed to criticize the views of the majority without fearing for their lives. There can't be democracy without freedom of expression and without opposition. Before taking democracy to Islamic countries, let us save our own democracy at home."
According to another ex-Muslim, Ibn Warraq, "Islam is a totalitarian ideology that aims to control the religious, social and political life of mankind in all its aspects -- the life of its followers without qualification, and the life of those who follow the so-called tolerated religions to a degree that prevents their activities from getting in the way of Islam in any manner. And I mean Islam. I do not accept some spurious distinction between Islam and 'Islamic fundamentalism' or 'Islamic terrorism.' Given the totalitarian nature of Islamic law, Islam does not value the individual, who has to be sacrificed for the sake of the Islamic community. Collectivism has a special sanctity under Islam."
The reason why many former Muslims such as Ali Sina and Ibn Warraq write under pseudonyms is that in a religion that is so hostile to both individuality and freedom of speech, there is no worse crime for a Muslim than to exercise both by criticizing and leaving Islam. Apostasy bears the penalty of death. In the book Leaving Islam – Apostates Speak Out, a unique anthology by former Muslims, Ibn Warraq writes that (p. 31):
"However, apostasy is a matter of treason and ideological treachery, which originates from hostility and hypocrisy. The destiny of a person who has an inborn handicap is different from the destiny of one whose hand should be cut off due to the development of a dangerous and infectious disease. The apostasy of a Muslim individual whose parents have also been Muslim is a very infectious, dangerous and incurable disease that appears in the body of an ummah (people) and threatens people's lives, and that is why this rotten limb should be severed."
The death penalty for apostasy from Islam is firmly rooted in Islamic texts – certainly in the hadith, but arguably also in the Koran. The Koran 4:89 states:
"They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah's way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper."
Ibn Kathir's (d. 1373) venerated tafsir (Koran commentary) on this verse concurs with the view that 4:89 sanctions killing apostates, maintaining that as the unbelievers have manifested their unbelief, they should be punished by death. The death penalty is virtually beyond debate in the hadith. For example, in the most respected hadith collections of Bukhari, Muhammad is reported to have said "Kill him who changes his religion."
According to Dr. Andrew G. Bostom, there is also a consensus by all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (i.e., Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi, and Shafi'i), as well as Shi'ite jurists, that apostates from Islam must be put to death. Averroes, or Ibn Rushd (d. 1198), the renowned Aristotelian philosopher and scholar of the natural sciences, who was also an important Maliki jurist in medieval Spain, provided this typical Muslim legal opinion on the punishment for apostasy (vol. 2, p. 552):
"An apostate…is to be executed by agreement in the case of a man, because of the words of the Prophet, 'Slay those who change their din [religion]'…Asking the apostate to repent was stipulated as a condition…prior to his execution."
This is not just a matter of medieval jurisprudence. The 1991 Shafi'i manual of Islamic Law 'Umdat al-Salik, endorsed by the Islamic Research Academy at Al-Azhar, the most prestigious centre of learning in Sunni Islam, states:
"Leaving Islam is the ugliest form of unbelief (kufr) and the worst…When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostasizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed. In such a case, it is obligatory…to ask him to repent and return to Islam. If he does it is accepted from him, but if he refuses, he is immediately killed."
In 2003, the Egyptian author Dr. Nawal Al-Sa'dawi, known for her fervent Arab nationalism and feminism, called for amending the Egyptian constitution and eliminating the article that declares Islam to be the official state religion, 'because we have among us Copts [Egyptian Christians], and because religion is a matter between man and God and no one has the right to impose his faith, his God and his rituals on others." She also said that she believes in a political and military struggle against the U.S. and Israel.
The reactions to Sa'dawi's statements were mixed, but Dr. Abd Al-Mun'im Al-Berri, former head of The Front of Al-Azhar Clerics, explained that "we should ask her to repent within three days, but if she persists with these ideas, she should be punished according to what the Islamic Shari'a [religious law] determined for those who abandon Islam. The ruler, meaning the head of state or government, should carry out the punishment." Sheikh Mustafa Al-Azhari explained that "the punishment for anyone who fights Allah and His Prophet is execution, crucifixion, the amputation of opposite limbs or banishment from earth."
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross states that "Though official proceedings against those who reject Islam are fairly rare—in part, no doubt, because most keep their conversion a closely held secret—apostasy is punishable by death in Afghanistan, Comoros, Iran, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen. It is also illegal in Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, the Maldives, Oman, and Qatar. (…) The greatest threat to apostates in the Muslim world derives not from the state, however, but from private individuals who take punishment into their own hands. In Bangladesh, for example, a native-born Muslim-turned-Christian evangelist was stabbed to death in the spring of 2003 while returning home from a film version of the Gospel of Luke. As another Bangladeshi apostate told the U.S. Newswire, 'If a Muslim converts to Christianity, now he cannot live in this country. It is not safe. The fundamentalism is increasing more and more.'"
In Britain in 2004, Prince Charles brokered efforts to end the Muslim death penalty on converts to other faiths by holding a private summit of Christian and Muslim leaders. The Muslim group cautioned the prince and other non-Muslims against speaking publicly on the issue. A member of the Christian group said that he was "very, very unhappy" about the outcome. Patrick Sookhdeo, the international director of the Barnabas Fund which campaigns on behalf of persecuted Christians abroad, urged the prince and Muslim leaders in Britain to criticise openly the traditional Islamic law on apostasy, calling for it to be abolished throughout the world. According to Sookhdeo, "one of the fundamental notions of a secular society is the moral importance of freedom, of individual choice. But in Islam, choice is not allowable: there cannot be free choice about whether to choose or reject any of the fundamental aspects of the religion, because they are all divinely ordained. God has laid down the law, and man must obey."
In the London Times, Anthony Browne wrote about Mr Hussein, a 39-year-old hospital nurse in Bradford, one of a growing number of former Muslims in the West who face not just being shunned by family and community, but attacked, kidnapped, and in some cases killed. One estimate suggests that as many as 15 per cent of Muslims in Western societies have lost their faith. Mr Hussein told "It's been absolutely appalling. This is England — where I was born and raised. You would never imagine Christians would suffer in such a way." The police have not charged anyone, but told him to leave the area.
Anwar Sheikh, a former mosque teacher from Pakistan, became an atheist after coming to Britain, and lived with a special alarm in his house in Cardiff after criticizing Islam in a series of hardline books. "I've had 18 fatwas against me. They telephone me — they aren't foolhardy enough to put it in writing. I had a call a couple of weeks ago. They mean repent or be hanged," he said. "What I have written, I believe and I will not take it back. I will suffer the consequences. If that is the price, I will pay it." Anwar Sheikh died peacefully in his home in Wales in November 2006.
Aluma Dankowitz, director of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) Reform Project, writes about how the accusation against Muslims - particularly intellectuals, artists, and writers - of "unbelief" (an accusation known as "takfir") recurs in the Muslim world. The traditional punishment for an apostate (murtadd) is capital punishment, which was implemented on a large scale in the period following the death of the Prophet Muhammad, when Muhammad's successor Abu Bakr fought the ridda wars against the tribes that abandoned Islam.
Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, one of the most prominent clerics in Sunni Islam today, draws a distinction between two types of apostasy (ridda): "Limited ridda is the ridda of the individual who switches religion and is not interested in others. According to Islam, the punishment for this individual is [Hell] in the world to come. But [the other] ridda, which expands [from the individual to the group], is a ridda in which the individual who abandons Islam calls [upon others] to do likewise, [thus creating] a group whose path is not the path of society and whose goal is not the goal of the [Muslim] nation, and whose allegiance is not to the Islamic nation. Such [individuals] endanger the social fabric, and they are like the murtaddoon [apostates], who were fought by [the first Caliph] Abu Bakr together with the Companions of the Prophet."
In other words, those who publicly leave Islam constitute a threat to the morale of the Islamic community, just like soldiers defecting from an army, and must thus be punished before a mass-defection sets in. Al-Qaradhawi agrees with the traditional treatment of Muslims who leave their religion: "For Muslim society to preserve its existence, it must struggle against ridda from every source and in all forms, and it must not let it spread like wildfire in a field of thorns. Thus, the Muslim sages agreed that the punishment for the murtadd [who commits ridda] is execution."
There is enormous social pressure in Muslim countries against expressing any kind of doubts about the Islamic religion. Razi Azmi, one of the more sensible columnists of Pakistan's Daily Times Online newspaper, has mentioned the issue in an op-ed:
"For a moment, let us imagine a reverse scenario, a Muslim converting, say, to Christianity or, Heaven forbid, Hinduism or Buddhism, in a Muslim country. It defies imagination. There is unanimity among clerics from the various Islamic schools of thought that the penalty for an apostate (murtid) is death, the only disagreement being whether the execution should occur instantly or after the murtid has been given an opportunity to recant and return to the fold of Islam. So sure is the punishment and so strong the attendant social and family pressures that it is unthinkable for Muslims ever to openly question any aspect of their religion, let alone convert to another or to practice agnosticism or atheism."
Islam's hostility towards freedom of speech does not apply only to Muslims, but to anybody saying anything remotely critical of Islam, including non-Muslims. Muslims are already busy trying to shut down freedom of speech in Western nations through legal harassment and, increasingly, physical intimidation.
Mohammed Bouyeri, born in Amsterdam of Moroccan Berber parents, murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, who had recently made a film critical of Islam together with the Dutch-Somali former Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali, on the morning of Nov. 2, 2004. As Mr. van Gogh cycled to work in Amsterdam, the bearded young man in a long Middle-Eastern-style shirt fired at him with a handgun, chased him, shot him once more, slit his throat from ear to ear and plunged two knives, one with a five-page letter attached, into the body. "I did what I did purely out my beliefs," Bouyeri told judges while clutching a Koran, because he believed van Gogh insulted Islam.
Orientalist Hans Jansen of Leiden University in The Netherlands has written an analysis of the letter which Mohammed B. left on the body of Theo van Gogh. As he points out, "MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali (or any other MP) is not eager to die for her membership of Parliament. Muslims such as Mohammed B. on the other hand are eager to shed their life for what they view as the good cause, which possibly gives Islam a tactical – strategic advantage in conflicts with others. That those who do not believe in heavenly compensation of martyrdom rather not become martyrs is a true statement and certainly relevant in Islam's fight against the non-Muslims."
A study from 2006 found that forty percent of the Moroccan youth in the Netherlands rejected Western values and democracy. Six to seven percent were prepared to use force to defend Islam. The majority were opposed to freedom of speech for offensive statements, particularly criticism of Islam. Similar numbers could no doubt be found among Muslims in other Western countries.
This kind of intimidation has taken its toll. In November 2006, publisher Scholastic Australia pulled the plug on the book the Army of the Pure after booksellers said they would not stock the adventure thriller for youngsters because the "baddie" was a Muslim terrorist. Because two characters were Arabic-speaking and the plot involves a mujaheddin extremist group, Scholastic's decision was based "100 per cent (on) the Muslim issue."
This decision was at odds with the publication of Richard Flanagan's bestselling The Unknown Terrorist and Andrew McGahan's Underground in which terrorists are portrayed as victims driven to extreme acts by the failings of the West. The Unknown Terrorist describes Jesus Christ as "history's first ... suicide bomber." In McGahan's Underground, Muslims are executed or herded into ghettos in an Australia rendered unrecognisable by the war on terror.
The Syrian-born poet Ali Ahmad Sa'id, known by his pseudonym Adonis, says that "If the Arabs are so inept that they cannot be democratic by themselves, they can never be democratic through the intervention of others. If we want to be democratic, we must be so by ourselves."
According to Adonis, the underlying structure of Arab societies is a structure of slavery, not of liberty: "Some human beings are afraid of freedom. When you are free, you have to face reality, the world in its entirety. You have to deal with the world's problems, with everything. On the other hand, if we are slaves, we can be content and not have to deal with anything. Just as Allah solves all our problems, the dictator will solve all our problems."
This is undoubtedly true, and this fear of freedom is not exclusive to Muslims. As philosopher Eric Hoffer writes in The True Believer:
"Freedom aggravates at least as much as it alleviates frustration. Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual. And as freedom encourages a multiplicity of attempts, it unavoidably multiplies failure and frustration. (…) We join a mass movement to escape individual responsibility, or, in the words of the ardent young Nazi, 'to be free from freedom.' It was not sheer hypocrisy when the rank-and-file Nazis declared themselves not guilty of all the enormities they had committed. They considered themselves cheated and maligned when made to shoulder responsibility for obeying orders. Had they not joined the Nazi movement in order to be free from responsibility?"
According to Adonis, "The Muslims today – forgive me for saying this – with their accepted interpretation [of the religious text], are the first to destroy Islam, whereas those who criticize the Muslims – the non-believers, the infidels, as they call them – are the ones who perceive in Islam the vitality that could adapt it to life. These infidels serve Islam better than the believers."
I'm not sure I agree with that. Although fear of freedom may be a universal human trait, it does seem to be more prevalent in Islamic societies than in others. Does this "slave mentality" that Mr. Adonis complains about partly originate from Islam itself?
Ibn Arabi (d. 1240), the "Greatest Sufi Master," defined hurriyya, freedom, as "perfect slavery" to Allah. The mainstream Islamic website Islam Q & A defines the meaning of enslavement in Islam:
"If by 'slave' I mean al-'aabid, one who worships Allaah and obeys His commands, this meaning applies specifically to the believers to the exclusion of the kaafireen [infidels], because the believers are the true slaves of Allaah who attribute Lordship and Divinity to Him Alone and recognize Him by His Names and Attributes, and do not associate anything with Him. Enslavement to Allaah is an honour, not a cause of humiliation. We ask Allaah to make us among His righteous slaves."
If Muslims are "slaves of Allah," it is tempting to view ex-Muslims as runaway slaves, who are to be hunted down and punished for their desire for freedom, just as real slaves were in the old days.
Dr. Younus Shaikh, Pakistani Rationalist and the founder President of the Rationalist organization of Pakistan, was once sentenced for blasphemy, a crime that leads to a mandatory death sentence in Pakistan, for claiming that Muhammad did not become a Muslim until the age of 40 and received his first revelations in 610, and that his parents were non-Muslims because they died before Islam existed. He was later acquitted following international pressure, and now lives in exile in Switzerland.
According to Dr. Shaikh, "Islam is an organized crime against humanity!" Those may be harsh words, but it should be his right to say it. As Mr. Adonis states, "There can be no living culture in the world if you cannot criticize its foundations – the religion." This means that Muslims must first accept criticism of their religion before they can have any hope of establishing free societies.
Freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental of all freedoms; it is necessary for a functioning democratic society. The Islamic world will never know true liberty until Muslim individuals may openly criticize their religion and even leave it without having to fear for their lives. This freedom must be established not just in Switzerland or the United States, but in Pakistan, Iran and Saudi Arabia. That vision of liberty so far remains a mirage in the distance.
Cat Stevens Awarded EU Peace Prize (For Support of Rushdie Fatwah?)
Islamopop star Cat Stevens, aka Yusuf Islam, gets awarded a major Eurabian prize. This gives you some idea of just how vast and established the Eurabian networks are. They are unfortunately very real, not a conspiracy theory. Yusuf Islam is notorious for having supported the Islamic death penalty for Salman Rushdie. He also refuses to denounce Hamas.
He now gets a peace prize by the EU:
Yusuf Islam is to be awarded the Mediterranean Prize for Peace today January 4, 2007 in Naples, Italy. Yusuf is being awarded the prestigious award as a result of the work he has done to increase peace in the world. […] The prize is assigned each year to personalities of political, cultural, and artistic worlds that contributed with their actions to reduce tensions and begin an upgrading process of cultural differences and shared values in the area of the Greater Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean Award:
In 1997 the Fondazione Mediterraneo funded the Mediterranean Prize (with its sections: Peace, Culture, Art, Diplomacy, Institutions, Social Promotion, Information, Literature, Cinema, Creativity, Architecture and Silver Dolphin). It is yearly assigned to personalities of political, cultural, and artistic world that contributed with their action to reduce the tensions and begin an upgrading process of cultural differences and shared values in the area of the Greater Mediterranean. In 2005 the Fondazione Mediterraneo in partnership with the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation for Dialogue between Cultures decided to launch a special category of the ‘Mediterranean Award’ entitled The Euro Mediterranean Award for the Dialogue Between Cultures.
Our so-called leaders through the European Union are busy selling our continent and the freedom of our children down the river, and smile while they are doing it. The only way to stop this is to dismantle the European Union. All of it. If we don't do so, and soon, Europe simply won’t survive.
Why I Criticize Irshad Manji
I received some criticism for a negative review I wrote at the Gates of Vienna blog of Irshad Manji's book The Trouble With Islam, which I had finally decided to read because so many people are referring to her as the great hope of a liberal Islam.
Since I write under the pseudonym Fjordman myself, I try for the most part to refrain from criticizing too much those who make significant contributions to the debate regarding Multiculturalism and Muslim immigration using their own names. Hans Rustad is the editor of Document.no, which is Norway's largest independent blog and in my eyes rightfully so as it is a counterweight to the ridiculous anti-Israeli and anti-American bias among the mainstream media. I like his website and read it regularly.
While disagreeing with him on certain topics, my goal is thus not to "get." Mr. Rustad in any ways, simply to address an issue I believe to be of general interest.
According to Mr. Rustad, "I don't think your description of Manji fits at all. She is not vague and incoherent, she is among the most intelligent and sharp-sighted observers I have seen. If she doesn't suffice [as a reformist], then I believe there may be something wrong with your requirements. I do not understand why you are out to 'get' Irshad Manji. She has delivered razor sharp analyses of what's wrong with Islam of our age. She sees the infantilization and the cult of victimhood. Her openness towards Israel and Israelis shows an open-minded, unprejudiced and politically intelligent individual. You give her little credit for this."
Jens Tomas Anfindsen, who holds a PhD in philosophy and is specialized
in the philosophy of religion and is one of one of two editors of the
interesting bilingual website HonestThinking, agrees with some of my
criticism of Manji. According to Mr. Anfindsen, "Manji is a positive
voice. My point is limited to demonstrating that her attempts at
reviving ijtihad are flawed from a purely theological point of view.
What she does may be great, but it cannot be viewed as a revival of
something that is already present within the Islamic tradition."
Anfindsen believes that what she says about ijtihad, is, from a theological point of view, pure nonsense:
"Manji is correct that ijtihad is an established principle in traditional Islamic theology, and it is also correct that the emphasis on and freedom to exercise ijtihad among Islamic jurists has varied throughout the ages. Especially during phases when Islam expanded and conquered other highly developed societies, the need for ijtihad, re-thinking of traditional views, to solve legal problems that the Koran and the hadith didn't prescribe unambiguous solutions to, increased. However, there are strict rules for the use of ijtihad, and even a superficial knowledge of what it is about will reveal that ijtihad cannot possibly be what Manji claims it to be. If Manji were right, any Muslim could rationalize almost anything and then present the result as Islamic jurisprudence. Simple logic indicates that this cannot be true."
Some of the limitations is that ijtihad can only be exercised by someone versed in Islamic law, which has traditionally only meant men. More importantly, ijtihad cannot under any circumstances set aside legal principles that are clear and explicit. For instance, no Islamic mufti can claim that it is allowed to drink alcohol or eat pork, as these things are clearly and unambiguously prohibited in the holy texts, and ijtihad can of course not alter this.
Ijtihad is thus similar to the personal judgment of judges or those versed in law in our secular justice system. This does indeed leave some room for interpretation, but it cannot set aside what has been put down clearly in text of a statute, legislative history and legal precedent.
According to Mr. Anfindsen, "Although it would be amusing if Manji could persuade young Muslims that ijtihad entails that they can decide for themselves anything they want to, and then claim that the conclusions they reached were Islamic, this understanding of ijtihad has absolutely nothing to do with the traditional Islamic legal principle of ijtihad."
In my view, Manji is NICE, which is good, but not enough. There are about one billion nominal Muslims in the world. The more intelligent Islam critics already knew that not all of them are monsters. That's not the point. The point is that her arguments are weak. Manji gets away with this because the average Western reader knows even less about the subject than she does. We must never get so emotional over discovering a person calling herself a Muslim yet renouncing anti-Semitism and Islamic intolerance that we abstain from looking critically at whether her analyses hold true.
There are two kinds of Muslim reformists: Those who lie deliberately, either to enhance their own personal wealth and prestige or as a strategy to confuse and divide non-Muslims. And then we have the others, which I unfortunately fear constitute a minority of the reformists, who genuinely believe what they are saying. My gut feeling after reading Manji, based partly on the fact that she includes critical words about the Koran itself, something which self-appointed "reformists" slash Islamic moles such as Tariq Ramadan never do, is that Manji is genuine. However, I have read the work of other reformists. Not one of them has so far, in my view, presented a credible case of how to reform Islam, but at least some of them have argued in a more logically consistent manner and based their views more thoroughly on Islamic texts than Manji does.
What worries me about Manji and finally caused me to write about her is that presumably well intentioned individuals such as her can contribute to keeping the illusion of a reformed and modern Islam alive during the time frame when non-Muslims might have a chance of separating ourselves from the Islamic world without massive bloodshed. Manji's contribution, well meaning as it might be, may thus end up being negative because she will make others share her unfounded illusions about a liberal Islam at a time when we need to deal with and shed dangerous, Multicultural illusions.
Although she never says so explicitly in her book, I get the impression that Manji largely agrees with the mantra that "Islam is whatever Muslims make of it." I don't share this view. Why do those who behead Buddhist teachers in Thailand, burn churches in Nigeria, persecute Hindus in Pakistan or blow bombs in the London subway always "misunderstand" Islamic texts? Why don't they feel this urge to kill people after reading about, say, Winnie the Pooh?
No text is infinitely elastic, just as no rubber band can be stretched to any length. If any text was infinitely elastic by personal interpretation, we could replace the Koran with any other book and get the same result. That's obviously not the case. If you have a text that repeatedly calls for killing, death and mayhem, more people are going to "interpret" this text in aggressive ways. Islam is the most aggressive and violent religion on earth in practice because its texts are more aggressive than those of any other major religion, and because the example of Muhammad is vastly more violent than that of any other religious founder. If you return to the original Islam, which Manji claims to seek, you get Jihad, since that's what the original Islam was all about.
Ijtihad isn't magic. The dozens of explicit Jihad verses in the Koran won't all magically disappear. As long as they exist, somebody is bound to take them seriously. And since any "reformed" Islam must ultimately be rooted in Islamic teachings and texts, this probably means that Islam cannot be reformed.
I will give Manji credit for asking some sensitive questions. According to her, "Far from being perfect, the Koran is so profoundly at war with itself that Muslims who 'live by the book' have no choice but to choose what to emphasize and what to downplay. (…) What if it's not a completely God-authored book? What if it's riddled with human biases?
Yet her philosophies are not always consistent, and one sometimes gets the impression that she treats Islamic texts as merely a fashion accessory.
Manji praises the tolerance of the so-called Islamic Golden Age. If she is familiar with Bat Ye'or's work on dhimmitude, which she quotes, how can she still go on with talking about the tolerance of Islam? In the essay Andalusian Myth, Eurabian Reality, co-authored with Andrew G. Bostom, editor of the book The Legacy of Jihad, Bat Ye'or dispels the myth of the alleged "tolerance" of medieval Spain under Islamic rule during the so-called Golden Age. Moreover, not only does Manji paint a too rosy portrait of the treatment of Christians and Jews, she is suspiciously quiet about the treatment of other non-Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists etc. who hardly have any rights at all in Islam. Why? Are they not human? Has she read K.S. Lal's The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India?
I don't doubt for a second that if Muslims succeed in subjugating much of Europe, this will in the future be hailed as a Golden Age of Islam. But it wouldn't be a Golden Age of Islam, it would be the twilight of Western civilization in Europe, just as the previous Golden Age was the twilight of the pre-Islamic civilizations in the Middle East.
In the eyes of Irshad Manji, the problem with Islam today is literalism: "Christians have their Evangelicals. Jews have the ultra-Orthodox. For God's sake, even Buddhists have fundamentalists. But what this book hammers home is that only in Islam the literalism is mainstream." Her solution to this is to re-discover ijtihad, the Islamic tradition of critical thinking and independent reasoning.
Manji presents ijtihad re-interpretation as something bold and new for the 21st century, but it is in fact neither bold nor new. The first modern Islamic reformers in the 19th century, such as Jamal ad-Din al-Afghani and Muhammad 'Abduh, stressed the importance of ijtihad, argued that "the door to ijtihad" had not been closed by medieval jurisprudence and that it was a right as well as a duty to apply the principles of the Koran and the Sunna to the problems of their age. 'Abduh meant that individual ijtihad was permitted, but that it should operate within the framework of what was not laid down clearly in the Koran or sound hadith, and should thus be applied where these sources were silent or only stated a general principle.
Scholar Rashid Rida became 'Abduh's biographer. According to him, the Islamic umma was at the heart of the world's civilization as long as it was truly Islamic and can be recreated if Muslims return to the Koran. The ijtihad of the early reformers indirectly contributed to the establishment of the "fundamentalist" movement per excellence, the Muslim Brotherhood. Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the MB from 1928, became familiar with the thoughts of Muhammad 'Abduh while studying in Cairo, but 'Abduh's disciple Rida influenced him even more. Banna, too, believed that the Islamic decline could be reversed only by returning to the original teachings of Islam.
Why doesn't Irshad Manji discuss the impact of Afghani, 'Abduh, Rida and the other reformers who advocated ijtihad already in the 19th century?
Manji writes that: "'Operation Ijtihad' centrals around liberating the entrepreneurial challenges of Muslim-women through micro-business loans. These are a sort of micro-investments. The whole idea here is to give women the resources to start businesses, so that they will earn their own assets, and with those assets they can teach their own children. They can start their own schools, what's happening now in some parts of Kabul. The bottom-line to all of this is that when women have their own assets, they can read the Koran by themselves. Then they will discover verses in the Koran that imams will never tell them about. (…) Imagine if the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, Japan, and other rich allies launched Operation Ijtihad by recasting part of their national security budgets as micro-enterprise loans to creative women throughout the Muslim world."
I'm not against micro-credit per see. I know Bangladeshi economist Muhammad Yunus and others have had some success with this. But I am deeply skeptical of having non-Muslims paying for this, if the objective is supposed to be an Islamic Reformation.
I'm not a feminist, and I'm not buying the assertion that Islamic aggression will disappear once women re-interpret the Koran. The problem with Islam isn't the patriarchy, it is the violence in its core texts. Exactly how are the more than 100 Jihad verses of the Koran, the dozens of aggressive military raids by Muhammad and his companions as contained in the Sunna, the hadith and the Sira going to go away because they are read by women? If women will make a difference, it will be in bringing Islam down, not in reforming it.
On pages 160 – 162 of her book, Manji writes that: "September 11 is a searing reminder of what can happen when we hive ourselves off from the problems of 'others,' the lesson being that good global citizenship has colossal benefits for domestic security. Regardless of whether Westerners want to accept this fact, Westerners have to accept it. And we have to accept it now because Arab Muslims are experiencing a baby boom. (…) Whoever denies these kids economic and civic participation will incite a degree of chaos capable of convulsing much of the planet. The Arab baby boom is as much the West's problem as it is the Middle East's. (…) Why wait until millions more Muslims show up at Australian, German, and North American checkpoints? Isn't it a basic matter of security that Muslims heading to these places arrive already knowing that Islam can be observed in ways that complement pluralism rather than suffocate it? (…) the West can't advance without immigrants. (…) In short, the West needs Muslims."
Do we? Muslim immigration costs vast sums and has seriously destabilized our nations. Manji wants us to continue Muslim immigration while France is already close to a civil war because of Muslim immigration. Frankly, I don't see any reason why we should allow a single believing, practicing Muslim to get permanent residency in our countries. And we invest in India, China and other countries because we believe they have a future. It's the duty of Muslims to fix their problems, not ours. We've done enough, and what we have donehasn't helped. If anything, Muslims have become more demanding and aggressive.
Muhammad 'Abduh, Rashid Rida and other early reformers, even Wahhabists, hailed the Golden Age of Islam and wanted to return to the "true Islam" of the earliest generations, just as Manji is doing. Jihadists want the West to give money to Muslims and keep the doors open for continued Muslim immigration. Muslim reformists such as Irshad Manji want the West to give money to Muslims and keep the doors open for continued Muslim immigration. So, what's the big difference here?
I stand by my initial assessment of her work: The best thing I can say about her book is that Manji is incoherent and vague. Her historical knowledge is poor and she ignores too many tricky issues. In my view, she brings absolutely no new insight into the question of whether or not Islam can be reformed. Irshad Manji wants to recycle an idea that has been preached since the 19th century, which Westerners should pay for when we are bleeding from the cost of Muslim immigration and while rich Arabs are sponsoring terrorism in our countries. Thanks, but no thanks. The most annoying aspect of this is that her writings have got much more attention than more deserving candidates. Buy a book by somebody who actually understands Islam, such as Understanding Islam and the Muslim Mind by Ali Sina, books by Ibn Warraq, or Wafa Sultan's upcoming book.
Sweden: Politicians Call for Foreign Language Ban in Schools
Two local Liberal Party politicians in Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, want to ban the use of languages other than Swedish in school classrooms. Allan Widman, one of the politicians, said “In Malmö we have a very unique situation: we are close to the point where a majority of pupils have a foreign background, which is to say that either they or their parents come from a country outside Sweden,” Some schools in Malmö have as few as 5 percent ethnic Swedes in their classrooms.
The proposal to ban foreign languages in schools first emerged in the run up to the election campaign. According to Widman, there was little debate at the time. But now that the proposal is on the table opinion is divided. “When I first came up with it, I thought it was a rather obvious rule to have. But over the last 24 hours I have been surprised by how controversial it seems,” he said.
In 2005, all-Arabic preschool classes were introduced in Malmö. According to the school authorities it is easier for children to learn Swedish once they have learned the language of their parents.
Within a decade or two Malmö is likely to become the first Scandinavian city with a Muslim majority. The city is also the crime capital of Sweden. It has nine times as many reported robberies per capita as Copenhagen, Denmark. The victims are almost always indigenous Swedes. The wave of robberies the city of Malmö has witnessed during this past year is part of a “war against Swedes.” This is the explanation given by young robbers with immigrant background on why they are only robbing native Swedes. “When we are in the city and robbing, we are waging a war against the Swedes.”
PS Though I occasionally write about Sweden, I am Norwegian, not Swedish as The Washington Times writes.