I'd like to keep on public record my deep frustration and anger at Islam – a religion that seems to have NO HUMANITY AT ALL.
My comment on Facebook:
I'm sick beyond imagination with these alleged Muslims. If this is what adherents of Islam constantly do, I'm afraid I'm going to have to consider a crusade against Islam itself. I have so far believed that Islam can co-exist with civilisation, and even be a force for good. But I'm getting nauseated, frustrated and sick to the core of my soul with Islam [with the shooting of 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai by Taliban].
I ask all followers of the alleged good Islam to go into Afghanistan/Pakistan and take it over. Arrest these Taliban and related scoundrels. Else I think there is simply no way the world will forgive Islam.
Extracts – my further comments on FB:
There is something in Islam that creates pure evil. Most religions have such an impact, but have outgrown these tendencies. Islam is becoming a really evil ideology, and I don't know what to say but to condemn whatever it is in Islam that motivates such vicious, lowly, cowardly, dastardly violence.
All religions have their "bad" parts. All have been hateful. But most have outgrown these things. The problem with Islam seems to be that it is not modernising fast enough. It will be futile and impossible to fight against Islam. It will be far better if Muslim reformers shift the debate. Either way, this whole thing is getting horrendous. Violence and Islam seem to go hand in hand. That's not good.
I am ENTIRELY with Imran when he opposes drones. It is a DEADLY CRIME against humanity to kill thousands of people with drones. And I'm not into politics here, so I don't care what Imran says or doesn't say about the Taliban's shooting little girls.
It is INCORRECT to justify one crime by citing other crimes. I thoroughly oppose ANY attempts of Muslims (or anyone) to justify Taliban's cowardly crimes by citing rapes in Haryana or anywhere else. These are contemptible facts that must be separately analysed and stopped. We are exercised with this issue on FTI and are really angry that Indian governance is so pathetic. We are DOING something to try to fix it. We may be slow but we are sure.
Finally let's not enter into debates re: anything unrelated to this issue here. I want us to demand that these rotten cowards be hanged. I want Islam to redeem itself. It has become increasingly clear to me that Islam has to reinvent itself. In DOF I've outlined many efforts to do so, but mainstream Islam is opposing such efforts. That's the problem: that Islam is unwilling to reform. There is NO reason why it can't be reformed. I totally disagree with Sharad Bailur on this. Turkey is right before our eyes, and the MILLIONS of Muslims in India, who are not engaged in any such thing.
But Pakistan is giving shelter to such criminals. Muslims must speak up with one voice and ask Pakistan to stop supporting Taliban.
I know a little bit about Islam; not as much as I should. Reza Aslan’s 2005 summary of Islam’s history (No God but God: The Origins, Evolution and Future of Islam), which I bought from the clearance section in a bookshop a few days ago, is magnificently educative.
Not only is this book a fine piece of literature (I wish I could write as well as Reza – which would make my message so much easier for the people of India to understand), it deals effectively with a number of controversies that beset Islam. In doing so it gives the impression of genuine, scholarly objectivity (to the extent that a practicising Muslim can be totally objective).
When I read such books by Muslim authors (other good books of this genre which I've read include: The Shade of Swords by MJ Akbar and Reconciliation by Benazir Bhutto), I get the sense that things will turn out well in the end, despite the total mess in the Islamic world today. It is not going to be easy, though. A hard journey lies ahead for Muslims, to overcome many obstacles, including the hatred they have formed of the West. But as education expands, the capacity of educated Muslims like Raza Aslan to educate the world (and their fellow believers, as well) will expand.
My respect for Mohammed – the prophet of Islam – has increased considerably after reading this book, and I'm able to better see why many of the criticisms often made against him are basically invalid. The founders of religions are often good people (not perfect!) but their followers, through rigidity of opinion, politics, and confusion, often create numerous problems for mankind. If Mohammed was alive, Osama bin Laden would have been long booted out of Islam.
If you haven't yet read the book, I strongly commend it. Three excerpts from this book are available on his website:
- Chapter One: The Sanctuary in the Desert
- Chapter Three: On The Origins of Hijab
- Chapter 10: The Islamic Reformation
I'm particularly interested in having everyone read this little section (from Chapter 4: Fight in the Way of God). Fortunately, someone has already scanned and OCRd it for wider dissemination (here), so I'm just reproducing this bit.
The meaning of Jihad as it was intended by Mohammed
The doctrine of jihad, as it slowly developed in the Qur'an, was specifically meant to differentiate between pre-Islamic and Islamic notions of warfare, and to infuse the latter with what Mustansir Mir calls an "ideological-cum-ethical dimension" that, until that point, did not exist in the Arabian Peninsula. At the heart of the doctrine of jihad was the heretofore unrecognized distinction between combatant and noncombatant. Thus, the killing of women, children, monks, rabbis, the elderly, or any other noncombatant was absolutely forbidden under any circumstances. Muslim law eventually expanded on these prohibitions to outlaw the torture of prisoners of war, the mutilation of the dead; rape, molestation, or any kind of sexual violence during combat; the killing of diplomats, the wanton destruction of property, and the demolition of religious or medical institutions – regulations that, as Hilmi Zawati has observed, were all eventually incorporated into the modern international laws of war.But perhaps the most important innovation in the doctrine of jihad was its outright prohibition of all but strictly defensive wars. "Fight in the way of God those who fight you," the Qur'an says, "but do not begin hostilities; God does not like the aggressor" (2:190). Elsewhere the Qur'an is more explicit: "permission to fight is given only to those who have been oppressed… who have been driven from their homes for saying, 'God is our Lord'" (22:39; emphasis added).
It is true that some verses in the Qur'an instruct Muhammad and his followers to "slay the polytheists wherever you confront them" (9:5); to carry the struggle to the hypocrites who deny the faith" (9:73); and, especially, to "fight those who do not believe in God and the Last Day" (9:29). However, it must be understood that these verses were directed specifically at the Quraysh and their clandestine partisans in Yathrib – specifically named in the Qur'an as the "polytheists" and "the hypocrites," respectively – with whom the Ummah was locked in a terrible war.
Nevertheless, these verses have long been used by Muslims and non-Muslims alike to suggest that Islam advocates fighting unbelievers until they convert. But this is not a view that either the Qur'an or Muhammad endorsed. This view was put forth during the height of the Crusades, and partly in response to them, by later generations of Islamic legal scholars who developed what is now referred to as "the classical doctrine of jihad": a doctrine that, among other things, partitioned the world into two spheres, the House of Islam (dar al-Islam) and the House of War (dar al-Harb), with the former in constant pursuit of the later.
As the Crusades drew to a close and Rome's attention turned away from the Muslim menace and toward the Christian reform movements cropping up throughout Europe, the classical doctrine of jihad a vigorously challenged by a new generation of Muslim scholars. The most important of these scholars was Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328), whose influence in shaping Muslim ideology is matched only by St. Augustine's influence in shaping Christianity. Ibn Taymiyya argued that the idea of killing nonbelievers who refused to convert to Islam – the foundation of the classical doctrine of jihad – not only defied the example of Muhammad but also violated one of the most important principles in the Qur'an: that "there can be no compulsion in religion" (2:256). Indeed, on this point the Qur'an in adamant. "The truth is from your Lord," it says; "believe it if you like, or do not" (18:29). The Qur'an also asks rhetorically, "Can you compel people to believe against their will?" (10:100). Obviously not; the Qur'an therefore commands believers to say to those who do not believe, "To you your religion, to me mine" (109:6)…
Over the last century, however, and especially after the colonial experience gave birth to a new kind of Islamic radicalism in the Middle East, the classical doctrine of jihad had undergone a massive resurgence in the pulpits and classrooms of a few prominent Muslim intellectuals. In Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini (1902-89) relied on a militant interpretation of jihad, first to energize the anti-imperialist revolution of 1979 and then to fuel his destructive eight-year war with Iraq. It was Khomeini's vision of jihad as a weapon of war that helped found the Islamic militant group Hizbullah, whose invention of the suicide bomber launched an appalling new era of international terrorism.In Saudi Arabia, Abdullah Yusuf Azzam (1941-89), professor of Islamic philosophy at King Abdulaziz University, used his influence among the country's disaffected youth to promote an uncompromisingly belligerent interpretation of jihad that, he argued, was incumbent on all Muslims. "Jihad and the rifle alone," Dr. Azzam proclaimed to his students. "No negotiations, no conferences, and no dialogues." Azzam's views laid the foundations for the Palestinians militant group Hamas, which has since adopted Hizbullah's tactics in their resistance against the Israeli occupation. His teachings had an exceptional impact on one student in particular: Osama bin Laden, who eventually put into practice his mentor's ideology by calling for a worldwide Muslim campaign of jihad against the West, thus launching a horrifying wave of terrorism that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people.
Of course, these attacks are not defensive strikes against specific acts of aggression. They are not sanctioned by a qualified mujtahid. They make no differentiation between combatant and noncombatant. And they indiscriminately kill men, women, children, Muslim and non-Muslim. In other words, they fall far short of the regulations imposed by Muhammad for a legitimate jihadi response, which is why, despite common perception in the West, they are so roundly condemned by the vast majority of the world's Muslims, including some of Islam's most militant and anti-American clerics such as Shaykh Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Lebanon's Hizbullah, and the radical Muslim televangelist Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
The fact is that nearly one out of five people in the world are Muslims. And while some of them may share bin Laden's grievances against the Western powers, very few share his interpretation of jihad. Indeed, despite the ways in which this doctrine has been manipulated t justify either personal prejudices or political ideologies, jihad is neither a universally recognized nor a unanimously defined concept in the Muslim world. It is true that the struggle against injustice and tyranny is incumbent on all Muslims. After all, if there were no one to stand up to despots and tyrants, then, as the Qur'an states, our "monasteries, churches, synagogues, and mosques – places where the name of God is honored – would all be razed to the ground" (22:40). But it is nevertheless solely as a defensive response to oppression and injustice, and only within the clearly outlined rules of ethical conduct in battle, that the Qur'anic vision of jihad is to be understood. For if, as political theorist Michael Walzer claims, the determining factor of a "just war" is the establishment of specific regulations covering both jus in bello(justice in war) and jus ad bellum (justice of war), then there can be no better way to describe Muhammad's doctrine of jihad than as an ancient Arabian "just war" theory.
BJP/RSS is fond of fiddling with textbooks (particularly history books), largely with the implicit aim of increasing communal hatred among Hindus towards Muslims. Pakistan, too, has been altering textbooks to inflame Muslims sentiments against Hindus. Indeed, Pakistan text books blatantly write about Hindus "as enemies of Islam".
"Although an unbiased review of history would show that Hindus and Muslims enjoyed centuries of harmonious co-existence, Hindus are repeatedly described as extremists and eternal enemies of Islam.
Hindu culture and society are portrayed as unjust and cruel, while Islam is portrayed as just and peaceful," USCIRF said in its report.
Pakistan's public schools and privately-run madrassas are not teaching tolerance but are exacerbating religious differences.
I must add that while I was in Los Angeles, my father was invited by a Muslim scholar who teaches comparative religion in one of the minor universities there, to talk about Hinduism. I attended the talk in which the students were first introduced to Hinduism through a totally biased and distorted video. Thereafter my father spoke and largely clarified the meaning of Hinduism and its philosophy. There is a tendency among many people to look very critically at superficial aspects of Hinduism. I'm afraid that approach doesn't do its philosophy justice.
Fortunately, there are people like the former Acting Chief Justice of Pakistan Supreme Court Mr. Mohd Ramde Khalilee who met my father some years ago and expressed considerable interest in the Vedas, particularly since these had originated largely in the area that is now in Pakistan. [Source]
Mixing politics with the teaching of history – to distort the rich history of the sub-continent – is deplorable.
There are both good and bad points in each religion, and in each nation's history. And no doubt there will be different opinions about what happened in the past. The famous story of Shivaji and Afzal Khan is a classic example. Some think that Shivaji was a "hero". Others perhaps think he was a terrorist.
But history books should not make VALUE JUDGEMENTS about such events, merely record them.
Teachers must explain that what Shivaji (or Afzal Khan) did does not matter today, in our life. They must emphasise that this incident occurred a LONG time ago, well before India (or Pakistan) became independent. What matters is what we choose to do with our life. Students need to be taught that they as INDIVIDUALS are responsible for their own actions. And merely because something happened in the past doesn't mean it should prompt any "response" from us today.
Without such wisdom being imparted, the cycle of hatred and vengeance in the sub-continent will continue.
The way out is for both the Islamic and Hindu fanatics to revert to the PHILOSOPHY of their religion, and aim for the good of all mankind.
Islam has been on the nose for the past 800 years or so, ever since its days of freedom were brought to an end by fanatic orthodoxy.
Since then it has become more of a problem than a solution, more of a challenge than support for an already suffering humanity.
People are AFRAID to deal with Islam. They pretend it is not a problem. They engage in self-censorship when it comes to asking harsh questions from this religion which is often seen (by many across the world) as a byword for brutal inhumanity.
And yet, this need not be the case. I've discussed this issue extensively earlier (both on this blog and at length in the draft DOF). At one time Islam was a far more tolerant religion than Christianity was. More importantly, it was the hub-centre of critical thinking in the world for nearly six hundred years.
Harsh Vora sent me a link to http://faithwithoutfear.moralcourage.com/ a few days ago, saying that he is "quite convinced that she [Irshad Manji] is the light that today's Islamic world desperately needs!"
I'd never heard about her. So, what's so special about Irshad?
Well, I finally found time to go through the link he sent (took me 20 minutes), and yes, it was a very positive experience. Irshad speaks like the OLD-TIME Muslims of the medieval era – Muslims who were open to critical thinking and ijtihad (something Benazir Bhutto had elaborated at length in her book, Reconciliation, as well).
Ijtihad is about critical thinking. It is the foundation of ALL CIVILISED DISCOURSE. I particularly liked Irshad's view that we need liberty because each of us knows so little. Our ignorance means we are constantly learning. That is the view that J.S. Mill so elegantly expressed in On Liberty, as the basic reason why we must have freedom of expression. That is also the reason why, as elaborated by Hayek, a centrally planned economy (socialism) is FATAL.
All those who think the KNOW all the answers are suffering from what Hayek would call The Fatal Conceit.
Humility is liberty. It begins by saying we don't know, so here's what we think – and what do you think about what I think? Let's discuss, respectfully.
That's IJTIHAD. That's what the world needs.
I also came across her new book, released just a few months ago (June 2011), entitled, Allah, Liberty and Love. I'm not going to have time to read it, but I did go through the three short Youtube clips Irshad has put out about this book (which I'm linking below). 7-8 minutes in all.
Do listen to her. You'll be VERY impressed. Surely Muslims are not a bunch of children who will "melt" when challenged.
Let there be Ijtihad.
Then Islam will become the world's leading religion – for a good reason.
I am happy to accommodate good aspects of all religions, but Islam scares me a lot. I know it was good in the past, but today there are few Muslims in this world with whom I'd be comfortable having a vigorous debate about anything. These people seem to be so delicate. They take offence at virtually anything.
Let Muslims grow up into adults who can discuss. Manji has issued Islam a wake up call.
Note: I'm so impressed I'm going to provide a link to her website through the Project Ijtihad image.
And now for a section on Islam (see prev. post for context). Comments sought. Especially from Muslims. My final views (whatever that means) will be found when I FINISH writing DOF. These are preliminary thoughts.
Tolerance (and intolerance) in Islam
Growing up in India we never though of Muslims as being different to us (although one of my grandmothers – having memories of being forced to migrate during the chaos of the partition in 1947 – did have a grudge against them). Many of my childhood friends were Muslims.
I have fond memories of Muslim friends in Visakhapatnam: playing in the backyard of an erstwhile Muslim Raja, picking fruits (badaam? – was it almond?) from trees, partaking of the delicious food that is eaten at night during days of Ramazan. They were just like anyone else. No differences of any substance that I can think of.
Later, Abid Hussain, a liberal economist of exceptional brilliance (he later became India's ambassador to USA and is now a trustee of Observer Research Foundation) was the chair of the UPSC interview board that selected me into the IAS. And I had the good fortune to work with many brilliant Muslims, including a batchmate who now holds a very senior position in Kashmir.
And so Muslims are just like anyone else: brilliant (those who put in the effort), competent. Their faith is their business. Doesn't encroach into one's relationships with them.
Unfortunately, such Muslims – who are well-integrated into society – are not always the leaders of Islam. That's the problem with the world. And that's what Shabana Azmi points out in this video (below) which I came across (through Mike Ghouse).
I'm personally against ALL religion – no exceptions. I believe religion is the cause of much avoidable trouble in this world. But I fully accept Shabana's point that India must listen to moderate and wise Muslim voices and not extremist voices. That's the key.
But that's not going to be enough. Just listening to Shabana Azmi or Mike Ghouse won't work. Their message must be more powerful and trenchant. In particular I'd like Shabana Azmi and other Muslim brothers and sisters in India to excommunicate any Muslim who takes the name of Allah in vain and misleads the world about Islam by killing innocents. Let the Muslims have an internet bulletin board that lists all "Muslims" who have been excommunicated and therefore DO NOT represent Islam.
This request also applies to Hindus who should excommunicate any Hindu who preaches violence, intolerance and hatred. And so on. To all religions. How else can a non-religious person (like me) distinguish between the claims of those who say that religion X is peaceful and those who use the name of religion X to kill innocents? It is like a doctor's association not withdrawing the license to practice of a quack doctor. Quality control and signalling is crucial.
Unless fanatics are weeded out – and handed over to the police – Islam (like most other religions) will remain tainted, I'm afraid, and will have only itself to blame.