I received a comment on a previous piece, in which I outlined why I am not a Muslim. You can read the piece for the whole reason, but mainly I find Islam narrow-minded in its view on humanity finding fulfillment. The commentator took it upon him- or herself to machine-gun me with bullets of quotations from the Quran that speaks of human rights and equality and other nice stuff.
Many “liberal” Muslim scholars, like Tariq Ramadan and Reza Aslan, speak similarly and beautifully about Islam and its past. Indeed, Aslan’s debut, No god but God, was a lovely book on the history of his particular form of a particular faith. I found a lot of his arguments unconvincing, since in order to repudiate his claims for peace, love and equality in Islam we can look to the same source as Aslan – namely, the Quran.
Anyway, the point being that in order to discuss Islam there is a paradox: the Quran is literally the Word of Allah and must be obeyed to the letter. It is eternal, perfect and must never be altered or changed. It also supposedly loses many meanings through translation, thus in order to understand it one must read it in original Arabic – or so that poor argument goes. This is nonsense, however, since the majority of Muslims are not Arab-speakers and thus this claim is hollow. Nevertheless, a point I want to make clear, especially concerning aforementioned comment, is this: It does not matter what you think the Quran says, or what Islam means, what matters is what the Quran says and what Islamic leaders say. These are the men – no women of course – who decide for a whole nation or Islamic society, how to deal with a current “crisis”.
The Ayatollah Khomeini was an instance of this – he took it upon himself to decide that Rushdie must die. He was of course justified, according to his magic book. To carry this point further, look at this reply to the Jyllends-Posten cartoons, issued by Al Ghurabaa:
The recent cartoons that appeared in a Danish newspaper (Jyllands-Posten) and that were then re-printed in a Norwegian magazine, The Paris daily France Soir, The German Welt daily, Spanish and also Italian newspapers and which insult the Messenger Muhammad (saw) carry the death penalty in Islam for the perpetrators, since the Prophet said ‘Whoever insults a Prophet kill him’ [For example in the narration collected by Al-Haakim, upon the authority of Hussain Bin Ali (ra)] In this respect Muslims do not make any distinctions between any of the Prophets of Allah (SWT) and so this would also apply to any insults levelled against Essa (as) (Jesus) or Musa (as) (Moses) or Ibraheem (as) (Abraham) etc…Allah (SWT) sent his Messengers and Prophets to mankind to guide them from the darkness of following their own whims and desires into the light and beauty of obedience and subservience to him.
For example, the Quran informs us to kill unbelievers (2:191-2), that unbelievers will suffer doom and death and fire (3:131, 3:151, 3:177, passim.) and so on. Fine. Sure. See, we can quote and belabour this point till Judgement Day – which to many can’t occur soon enough – but the point remains that quoting does not help apologists. And religious groups and leaders issue statements like the above all to often to somehow render Islam peaceful and lovely.
So, my previous commentator can tell me all sorts of lovely things in the Quran; (s)he can talk to me all about the sophistry, sorry, “theology” of Islam that has the doctrine of abrogation (where the violent parts are not really true only in that context even though it is an eternal book but no wait we are peaceful, they are not true Muslims). Frankly, I don’t care whether the Sunni’s got it right but for some reason you think you have it spot-on. It doesn’t matter. It is the same problem I have with Karen Armstrong (who I genuinely am in awe of): she has a beautiful view of faith, backed up by years of scholarship into the history and plethora of religions and cultures. But the problem is, the dangerous, horrible, terrible people – who get into mobs to kill people they barely know about an unproven “crime” of blasphemy – do not render their faith in such beautiful language or focus on those nice lines.
The point is, they have told us explicitly what they think of the Western world and its ideals especially when we insult their religion; the West and its ideals of equality and justice; its progress toward the betterment of everyone regardless of religion or lack thereof; the emancipation of women and the placing them on the plateau of treatment. Sure, many Muslims can say: “See? The Quran also speaks about equality, justice, liberty. It justifies my religion and makes me feel good to be part of such a progressive, universal religion.” But many Muslims, who have more of an impact in our society by diminishing lives as opposed to benefitting them, do not and can justify their anti-rights, anti-women, anti-liberal, anti-freedom views by pointing to the Quran with one hand and pointing to the promise of paradise with the other.
So, I don’t really care if you think that Islam is beautiful and lovely and so on. This really is not the point. I am not going to try reform those who think that it should serve as a tool for the destruction of lives, happiness and the denigration of women. Instead, we can pull the carpet out completely instead of trying to clean it with a soap even dirtier than the filth it targets. I have no problem with those who love their religion and believe in equality and liberty and other things. But they must remember that people – who possibly believe even stronger than themselves – threaten death, violence and bloodshed to those they do not know, for “crimes” that have harmed no one physically. Call yourself a Muslim but remember how many kill in that same name, die because they believe so strongly, and rape and torture and belittle their wives and daughter because, well, the Quran says so, as does the hadith… basically, god said so.
PS: Please note, the article sounds more harsh than I actually intend it, mainly for brevity’s sake.