Sunday, 30 August 2015

Jews as Christ-Killers in Islam and Christianity

 Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" was criticised for its depiction of the Jews and their role in the crucifiction of Jesus

 Most people are aware that Christianity has a long and shameful history of antisemitism. The primary motif of traditional anti-Jewish attitudes has been that the Jews were responsible for the death of Christ. In the Bible, St. Paul says that the Jews “killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all men by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved.” He adds that “God's wrath has come upon them at last!” (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16). Elsewhere, Jesus says to the Jews, “You are of your father the devil” (John 8:44).

In 2004, this theme was revived by Mel Gibson in his film The Passion of the Christ, which reignited the debate about Christian antisemitism in the West. However, most people remain unaware of the orthodox Islamic view on this subject, which states that the Jews themselves openly boasted that they had killed Christ. The Qur’an says:

That they [i.e. the Jews] said in boast, ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. (4:157)

Traditional Muslim commentators emphasise that the Jews gloated over the crucifixion of Jesus – who is revered by Muslims as a prophet – unaware that they had in fact been deceived by Allah. For example, the revered Muslim scholar Ibn Kathir (d.1373) provided the following explanation of this verse:

When Allah sent Isa (Jesus) with proofs and guidance, the Jews – may Allah’s curses, anger, torment, and punishment be upon them – envied him because of his prophethood and obvious miracles…the Jews defied him…and tried their best to harm him…they went to the King of Damascus…They told him there was a man…misguiding and dividing the people in Jerusalem and stirring unrest among the king’s subjects. The king became angry and wrote to his deputy in Jerusalem to arrest the rebel leader, stop him from causing unrest, crucify him and make him wear a crown of thorns. When the king’s deputy in Jerusalem received these orders, he went with some Jews to the house that Isa was residing in, and he was with twelve, thirteen, or seventeen of his companions. That day was a Friday, in the evening. They surrounded Isa in the house, and when he felt that they would soon enter the house or that he would sooner or later have to leave it, he said to his companions, ‘Who volunteers to be made to look like me, for which he will be my companion in Paradise?’ A young man volunteered…Allah made the young man look exactly like Isa, while a hole opened in the roof of the house, and Isa was made to sleep and ascended to heaven while asleep…When Isa ascended, those who were in the house came out. When those surrounding the house saw the man who looked like Isa, they thought that he was Isa. So they took him at night, crucified him and placed a crown of thorns on his head. The Jews boasted that they killed Isa and some Christians accepted their false claim due to their ignorance and lack of reason.

A related Qur’anic verse says: “And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment he will be a witness against them.” (4:159) Ibn Kathir’s commentary elaborates on the classical Muslim view of the End Times, in which Jesus, who is merely a Muslim prophet who preached Islam, returns to “break the cross, kill the pig, and banish the jizya [Qur’anic poll-tax signifying a non-Muslim's subjugation under Islamic rule] and call all the people to Islam.”

This view of Jesus as the destroyer of Christianity is based on a number of hadith. For example: “Allah's Apostle [Muhammad] said, 'By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, son of Mary (Jesus) will shortly descend amongst you people (Muslims) as a just ruler and will break the Cross and kill the pig and abolish the Jizya'...” (Sahih Bukhari v.3, b.34, no.425). Another tradition puts it even more bluntly: “He [Jesus] will descend to the earth...He will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill swine, and abolish jizya. Allah will perish all religions except Islam.” (Sunan Abu Dawud b.37, no.4310)
Ibn Kathir's commentary also discusses the Muslim Jesus' role in defeating the Dajjal (the Muslim equivalent of the Antichrist), and quotes the following hadith describing Muslims waging a genocide of the Jews at the end of the world:

The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him. (Sahih Muslim b.41, no.6985, and others)

The apocalyptic narrative regarding Jesus' return is reiterated in the important manual of Islamic law, Reliance of the Traveller: “[T]he time and place for [the poll tax is] before the final descent of Jesus…After his final coming, nothing but Islam will be accepted from them, for taking the poll tax is only effective until Jesus’ descent…The coming of Jesus does not entail a separate divinely revealed law, for he will rule by the law of Muhammad.”

The modern teachings and pronouncements of the Catholic Church stand in stark relief. For example, the Second Vatican Council of 1965 definitively rejected the idea that the Jews were responsible for the killing of Christ, and that they are all accursed as a result:

True, the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ; still, what happened in His passion cannot be charged against all the Jews, without distinction, then alive, nor against the Jews of today. Although the Church is the new people of God, the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God, as if this followed from the Holy Scriptures.

This was a much-needed decree of reform, repudiating long-standing prejudices in favour of progressive thought and tolerance, and was later adopted by other sects, as well. While antisemitism still exists among Christians, a slow process of Christian-Jewish rapprochement has begun. A document entitled The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible, published by the Pontifical Biblical Commission in 2001, includes a foreword by the former Pope Benedict XVI (then Cardinal Ratzinger) in which he candidly writes: “Did not the presentation of the Jews and of the Jewish people, in the New Testament itself, contribute to creating a hostility to this people which the ideology of those who wanted to suppress it has encouraged?” The document honestly admits that many passages in the New Testament that are critical of the Jews “served as a pretext for anti-Jewish sentiment and, effectively, have been used for this purpose”.  The current pope, Francis I, has also issued a proclamation urging rejection of antisemitism and exhorting followers of the Church to hold the Jewish people “in special regard”.

But there have been no such formal attempts at honest reformation of antisemitic doctrines in the Islamic world. Muslim leaders, particularly in the Near East, continue to oppose the Vatican’s pronouncements. For example, the famous Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi berated the Church for exonerating the Jews of this “crime”, saying in 2006: “As we can see, the Qur'an held the Jews of the Prophet Muhammad's time responsible for what their forefathers did...Therefore, I say that the Jews of the twenty-first century adopt what the Jews of the first century did...and so they bear responsibility for it, unless they renounce it, saying: This was a crime, and we ask Allah to absolve us of it. But they have not said this, and therefore, the Jews of today bear responsibility for the deeds of the Jews of yesterday.”

It is unfortunate that basic Islamic theology regarding the “deicide” allegation is little-known in the West. This is due to a combination of simple ignorance and cynical, manipulative obfuscation. The difference between modern Christian and Muslim attitudes towards the Christ-killing motif, and conceptions of the Jews and Jesus in general, couldn’t be more marked. Religious leaders, as well as policy-makers, academics and the media, must begin to discuss these differences honestly, if we are to have any real success with serious, meaningful “interfaith dialogue” between Muslims, Jews and Christians.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Chicken Or Egg?

Contrary to the assertions of “learned analysts”, the internecine conflict that has raged in the Middle East since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 is not the cause of Islamic antisemitism; rather, it is the consequence of centuries of pre-existing Islamic antisemitic tradition.

The primary Arab objection to the existence of Israel stems from classical Islamic law. All of the historical region known as “Palestine” was conquered by Islamic armies in the seventh century. According to Islamic law, whenever a Muslim land is usurped by unbelievers, all Muslims must fight to reclaim it. Israel, as a Jewish state on such “Muslim land”, must be eradicated by jihad and reclaimed for Islam.  

Reliance of the Traveller, a classic manual of Islamic law which has been endorsed by the highest spiritual authority in Sunni Islam, Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, says that jihad becomes obligatory for every Muslim “when the enemy has surrounded the Muslims...having entered our territory, even if the land consists of ruins, wilderness, or mountains, for non-Muslim forces entering Muslim lands is a weighty matter that cannot be ignored, but must be met with effort and struggle to repel them by every possible means.”

The Hamas charter makes clear that this is the primary reason for waging jihad against Israel:

The Islamic Resistance Movement maintains that the land of Palestine is Waqf land given as endowment for all generations of Muslims until the Day of Resurrection...This is the legal status of the land of Palestine according to Islamic law. In this respect, it is like any other land that the Muslims have conquered by force, because the Muslims consecrated it at the time of the conquest as religious endowment for all generations of Muslims until the Day of Resurrection...There is nothing that speaks more eloquently and more profoundly of nationalism than the following: when the enemy tramples Muslim territory, waging jihad and confronting the enemy become a personal duty of every Muslim man and Muslim woman. (Articles 11 and 12)

Aside from this, Palestinian clerics have also made it clear for decades that the Jewish character of Israel is a major and specific reason for despising it. Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem prior to the Second World War, who vehemently opposed the creation of Israel, described the Jews as “notorious for perfidy and falsification and distortion and cruelty of which the noble Qur'an provides the strongest testimony against them.”  He also encouraged Muslims to “[k]ill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion.”

Similar statements continued to be made decades later, and are currently echoed by Hamas and other groups. The Hamas Charter asserts: “The Nazism of the Jews targeted both women and children. The terror they spread is directed at everyone. They fight people by destroying their livelihood, stealing their money and trampling their dignity.” (Article 20) Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of the Lebanese jihad group Hizballah, has said: “If we searched the entire world for a person more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice I do not say the Israeli.”

An autonomous Jewish state in the middle of the Dar al-Islam (House of Islam) is deemed even more insulting because it is so far away from the status of wretchedness and humiliation designated for the Jews in the Qur'an. At the Fourth Conference of the Academy of Islamic Research at Al-Azhar University in 1968, Sheikh Hassan Ma'moun, who was at the time the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, acknowledged that the “bitterness” of the 1967 Arab defeat by Israel “was further intensified by the fact that the unexpected event occurred before a roguish Zionism whose adherents had been destined to dispersion by the Deity.” He then quoted from the Qur'an: “And humiliation and wretchedness were stamped upon them and they were visited with wrath from Allah. That was because they disbelieved in Allah's revelations and slew the prophets wrongfully. That was for their disobedience and transgression.” (2:61)

Throughout history, this verse has been understood by mainstream Muslim scholars as pronouncing an eternal curse upon all Jews of all times, condemning them to an existence of subservience to Muslims, with no political power anywhere on earth. For example, the prominent medieval Muslims scholar Ibn Kathir (d.1373) wrote:

This Ayah [verse] indicates that the Children of Israel were plagued with humiliation, and that this will continue, meaning that it will never cease. They will continue to suffer humiliation at the hands of all who interact with them, along with the disgrace that they feel inwardly...

Allah’s statement, 'That was because they used to disbelieve in the Ayat (proofs, evidence, etc.) of Allah and killed the Prophets wrongfully', means ‘This is what We rewarded the Children of Israel with: humiliation and misery’.

A more recent commentator, Muhammad Shafi (d.1979), who served as the Mufti of Pakistan and whose Qur'an commentary Maa'riful Qur'an is the most widely read in the Urdu language, agrees:

[The Jews] drew upon themselves the wrath of Allah. Disgrace and degradation settled upon them for ever...One form of this disgrace is that temporal power has been taken away from them for ever. For only forty days, however – and that too when the day of judgment will have come close – the Dajjal (Antichrist) belonging to the Jewish race will have an irregular dominion like that of a robber. This cannot be described as having temporal power, in the proper sense of the term...

As to how the Companions, their successors and the great commentators have interpreted the disgrace and degradation which has settled on the Jews...[they] will always remain under the domination of others, will be paying taxes and tributes to them – that is to say, they will themselves never have any power and authority in the real sense of the term.

Consequently, clerics from both the “extremist” and “moderate” factions of the Palestinian jihad have made no secret of the fact that they ultimately plan to see the Jews of the region returned to their subservient status, paying the jizya as subjugated dhimmis, as per Qur'an 9:29: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the Jizya [non-Muslim poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”

For example, Sheikh Muhammad Ibrahim al-Madhi stated during a Friday sermon broadcast live on Palestinian Authority Television in 2001: “We welcome, as we did in the past, any Jew who wants to live in this land as a Dhimmi, just as the Jews have lived in our countries, as Dhimmis...but the rule in this land and in all the Muslim countries must be the rule of Allah.”  More recently, in March 2014, Hamas MP Yusuf al-Astal delivered a televised address, peppered with Qur’anic citations, in which he declared of the Jews: “We must restore them to the state of humiliation imposed upon them. They should be dhimmi citizens. This status must be imposed upon them by war. They must pay the jizya security tax while they live in our midst.”

This hatred and contempt for Jews, and the desire to see them forced to submit to Muslim rule, is the true ideological driving force - the chicken as progenitor to the egg - behind the Arab Muslim jihad against Israel.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Islamic Sexual Slavery and the Persistence of History

Well, it really does seem that, at last, a significant portion of the world's media is sitting up and taking notice of Islamic sexual slavery, and breaking form by giving it the kind of scrutiny it deserves.

On this occasion, it's the Economist running a lengthy feature on it, and coming to some pretty surprising conclusions - for the mainstream media, at least.

The piece does, of course contain some gross apologetics, in the form of American Muslim "theologian" Yasir Qadhi:

Scholars are sharply divided over how much cultural mores are to blame. Apologists say that, in a concession to the age, the Prophet Muhammad tolerated slavery, but—according to a prominent American theologian trained in Salifi seminaries, Yasir Qadhi—he did so grudgingly and advocated abolition. Repeatedly in the Koran the Prophet calls for the manumission of slaves and release of captives, seeking to alleviate the slave systems run by the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines and Jewish Himyarite kings of Yemen. He freed one slave, a chief’s daughter, by marrying her, and chose Bilal, another slave he had freed, to recite the first call to prayer after his conquest of Mecca. His message was liberation from worldly oppression, says Mr Qadhi—enslavement to God, not man.

It is noteworthy that the Economist takes all of this at face value, and also does not question Qadhi's status as a moderate, despite the fact that he has been recorded on tape saying that Jews and Christians are "filthy", and that their lives and property can be taken by the Muslims in jihad.

But like the New York Times piece that apparently started all of this off - and unlike the majority of mainstream media articles on these kinds of subjects - the article does provide an opposing point of view, from professor Ehud Toledano, who comments: “They are in full compliance with Koranic understanding in its early stages...what the Prophet has permitted, Muslims cannot forbid.”

He is right - Yasir Qadhi's arguments are without merit. The Qur'an takes the practice of slavery for granted as a product of its day, and never condemns it. It even goes so far as to give Muslim men permission to have sex with slave girls: “And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess.” (4:24; see also 4:3 and 33:50, among others). There are passages which mention, recommend, or praise the freeing of slaves, but three of these (4:92, 5:89 and 58:3) come in the less-than-savoury context of emancipation as a punishment for the slave's owner, while others still amount to something less than a blanket condemnation.

As for Muhammad himself, he is recorded to have owned around sixty slaves in his lifetime, and although Muslims are keen to point to a couple of examples in which he freed individual slaves, there is no evidence to suggest that he disapproved of slavery in principle. He traded in slaves - for example, an Arab who he bought in exchange for two black slaves (Sahih Muslim b.10, no.3901). The pulpit from which he preached Islam was built by slave labour at his own command (Sahih Bukhari v.3, b.47, no.743). When a Muslim woman freed her slave girl without Muhammad's permission, the Prophet told her that it would have been better to give her to a relative as a slave instead (Bukhari v.3, b.47, no.765). And when another follower emancipated six of his slaves on his deathbed, we are told that Muhammad "called for them and divided them into three sections, cast lots amongst them, and set two free and kept four in slavery; and he (the Holy Prophet) spoke severely of him." (Muslim b.15, no.4112)

The Prophet of Islam also took his own female war captives as sex slaves (for example, Safiyya bint Huyayy after the battle of Khaybar), and when confronted with his own men raping infidel women after a battle, not only failed to condemn them for it, but apparently encouraged them to continue:

We went out with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the expedition to the Banu al-Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing 'azl (Withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid conception). But we said: We are doing an act whereas Allah's Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him? So we asked Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him), and he said: It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born. (Muslim b.8, no.3371)

Does this really sound like an abolitionist to you?

After this wobble, though, the Economist article goes on to get pretty good, providing a brief summary of slavery in the Ottoman Empire, as well as the numerous ways in which slavery in one form or another remains a major problem throughout the Muslim world today, concluding bluntly that Islamic State's "extreme revival of slavery owes at least something to the region’s persistent and pervasive tolerance of servitude."

The piece also makes the important point that to the limited extent that slavery was abolished in the Islamic world, it was the West that did so, not Muslims:

All this ended because of abolition in the West. After severing the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 19th century, Western abolitionists turned on the Islamic world’s, and within decades had brought down a system that had administered not just the Ottoman empire but the Sherifian empire of Morocco, the Sultanate of Oman with its colonies on the Swahili-speaking coast and West Africa’s Sokoto Caliphate.

With Western encouragement, Serb and Greek rebels sloughed off devshirme [the taking of Jewish and Christian children as slave soldiers for the Muslim armies]. Fearful of French ambitions, the mufti of Tunis wooed the British by closing his slave-markets in 1846. A few years later, the sultan in Istanbul followed suit. Some tried to resist, including Morocco’s sultan and the cotton merchants of Egypt, who had imported African slaves to make up the shortages left by the ravages of America’s civil war. But colonial pressure proved unstoppable. Under Britain’s consul-general, Evelyn Baring, Earl of Cromer, Egypt’s legislative assembly dutifully abolished slavery at the end of the 19th century. The Ottoman register for 1906 still lists 194 eunuchs and 500 women in the imperial harem, but two years later they were gone.

Going further, I would add that anti-slavery views simply did not resonate anywhere in the Islamic world until Western powers began to intervene. While slaves were freed in England via court order during 1772, in the British colonies starting in 1834, colonial France in 1848, and the United States in 1865, the practise did not become illegal within the Islamic world until large swathes of its territory came under European colonial rule, or until Muslim countries sought admission to the League of Nations after 1920. Slavery was not abolished in Saudi Arabia until 1962, and Oman in 1970.

This raises an important question: If Islam is so obviously anti-slavery, the Qur'an repeatedly calls for manumission, and Muhammad was a budding abolitionist, why is it that there was never an abolitionist movement at any time within the Islamic world? How could it be that Islam as Muslims practised it for fourteen centuries actually turns out to be completely wrong?

The mainstream media are not yet asking these questions, but recent weeks have shown us some encouraging signs that the blinkers are coming off in some quarters, and that at least some questions are beginning to be asked.

Even if learning comes slowly, the resultant understanding is just as important.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Kecia Ali: Complexity or Confusion?

In an utterly incoherent article in the Huffington Post yesterday, Kecia Ali discussed the New York Times' recent piece on Islamic State's religious justification for sexual slavery, which I posted about here.

It's incoherent because it tries to claim that the question of whether or not such practices are sanctioned in Islam is nebulously complex and not reducable to a simple explanation one way or the other, while at the same time affirming over and over again that slavery has indeed been a part of mainstream Islamic doctrine and law throughout the history of Islam and since the time of Muhammad.

Ali never, at any point in the piece, actually makes a case that slavery is not Islamic, or cites any examples of a meaningful, mainstream tradition within Islam that rejects slavery. The closest she comes is in this vague allusion to "scholars" somewhere:

Others [sic] scholars point out that just because the Quran acknowledges slavery and early Muslims, including the Prophet, practiced it doesn't mean Muslims must always do so; indeed, the fact that slavery is illegal and no longer practiced in nearly all majority-Muslim societies would seem to settle the point. It is one thing for committed religious thinkers to insist that scripture must always and everywhere apply literally, but it is ludicrous for purportedly objective scholars to do so. Anyone making that argument about biblical slavery would be ridiculed.

That link redirects us to a disingenuous article published at CNN last year, which is authored by a single professor who may not even be a Muslim.

That doesn't exactly push my "Everything's OK then" button.

In any case, this is the only reasonable argument that moderate Muslims can make that slavery SHOULDN'T be practised by contemporary Muslims: that it is part of an ancient tradition and not applicable to the modern world.

And yet such an argument will face massive opposition from committed Muslims, due to its insinuation that the Qur'an itself is not an eternal book, as has been generally believed by all generations of orthodox Muslims, but rather one that goes out of date as time rolls on, and that the word of Allah can be susperseded by the whims of man as the political and cultural winds change. It also risks the wrath of devout Muslims the world over in challenging the contention, held to since the beginning of Islam, that Muhammad is the "Perfect Man" (al-insan al-kamil), and that he presents a “beautiful pattern of conduct” for Muslims to follow (33:21), and displays an “exalted standard of character” (68:4). To say that a behaviour that he accepted and endorsed is somehow immoral would place Ali firmly into the camp of "blasphemer" for many Muslims (and we know what they do with blasphemers...)

Simply put, Kecia Ali doesn't really make a case in this article that sexual slavery is un-Islamic, or even any coherent case that it should be reformed, even as she sets the entire piece up as doing exactly that. She also makes a needless dig at America right at the end of the piece which essentially blames the US for causing Islamic sex slavery.

It's just another example of a dishonest Muslim apologist using a willing mainstream media to lull concerned Westerners back to sleep.

One has to wonder just why Kecia Ali might want to do that.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Paulo Coelho and the Power of Words

Apologists for Islam normally recycle the same basic talking points over and over, never allowing the intrusion of facts, reason or logic to interfere with what just sounds right to them.

One of these common talking points was recently deployed by the Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho, author of the acclaimed novel The Alchemist.

Coelho posted an image of the Qur'an on his Facebook page with the caption ‘Exhibition “Books that changed the world,” which received major attention on the social network, gaining over 36,000 likes and more than 3000 shares.

However, one Facebook user, under the name Hiba B Dakkak, commented: “Really!!! This book is the source of violence and murder.”

Coelho replied, saying: “Not true. I am Christian, and for centuries we tried to imposed [sic] our religion by the force of the sword - check ‘cruzades’ [sic] in the dictionary. We murdered women - calling them witches, and we tried to stop science - like in the case of Galileu Galilei [sic]. So, it is not to blame a religion, but how people manipulate it.”

His reply to the comment received more than 5,000 likes on Facebook.

This idea, that "all religions have their extremists", and that it's not the texts' fault, only that of the people who "manipulate" them, is an extremely common one in the public discourse, but it's pure logical fallacy. Coelho says that he is a Christian, and that witch hunts and the "cruzades" were not Christian, just people "manipulating" Christianity. That's not a claim I intend to assess here (if you're interested, you can go here and here). But the important point is that from this, Coelho concludes that therefore, any violent acts committed in the name of Islam must also be un-Islamic, and not sanctioned by its holy texts.

This is not logical. Islam and Christianity are different religions, and the Bible and the Qur'an are different books. There is no rational reason to believe that if one holy book has been misused to justify violence, then the other must be as well. What if one book sanctions violence and the other does not? Is that not within the realm of possibility?

Coelho's post also reflects the common assumption that no one can really be incited to violence by the words in an old book. To the person making such an assumption, the idea is self-evidently absurd. They do not seem to contemplate the idea that not everyone thinks like them, and that to some, the idea is not absurd at all.

Why should people not be incited by words? If you have ever done something that you were instructed to in writing, you have been incited. Have you ever cooked a meal from a cookbook? The book incited you to do that. Have you ever built a piece of furniture based on God-awful Swedish instructions? That's incitement.

People are incited to do "nice" things by words all the time. Why can't they also be incited to do bad things? The only variable in these situations is the choice of the individual to be incited, and to take action, or not. But even if they choose not to be, those words still contain a certain power, and could incite someone else. They are far from meaningless, whether they have a willing reader or not.

Coming from an acclaimed novelist, this denial of the power of words is truly distressing.

Incitement by words is real. If it were not, Mein Kampf would not be banned in many parts of the world (not the Islamic world, but that's another story), and there would be no laws anywhere against it, since anyone charged under such a law could just say, "I didn't incite him to kill that person, Your Honour; he merely manipulated my words to justify behaviour that had nothing to do with me otherwise." If they were of a like mind with Paolo Coelho, they might also add: "And besides, what about that Adolf Hitler fellow? He incited some people once, too."

We live in an age where people no longer seem to feel that facts matter, or that they need to have any to hand when they form an opinion on something. Instead, it is deemed sufficient to just make statements that sound correct, and which you know other people will accept without question. Truth does not seem to matter so much anymore; rather all that matters is sounding good, even if you are wrong.

I would argue that this is both important and deeply disheartening, not just on the philosophical level of the devaluation of objective truth, but also because - as I have written before - such irrationality ultimately costs lives.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Muslims Under Threat in Britain...From Other Muslims

What do Muslims do when they get bored of committing violence against infidels?

Why, they start fighting each other, of course.

The Times reports:

Religious sectarianism is on the rise in Britain’s Muslim community and threatens to spill over into violent crime and terrorism, leading clerics warned yesterday.

An investigation by The Times has found a sharp but largely hidden rise in sectarian tensions between the minority Shia community and the dominant Sunni groups, driven by the long, bitter war in Syria.

Ill-feeling is being stoked by vitriolic preachers on both sides of the divide — including some who lecture at British universities — and incidents such as assaults, attacks on buildings and intimidation online.

Good thing Islam is a religion of peace, eh, Dave? Imagine what it would be like if it wasn't.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

NYT Confirms: Islamic State is Islamic

A victim of ISIS' Islamic sex slavery

I've debated Leftists and Islamic apologists online many times in recent years, and one of the most common arguments I see from them is something along the lines of the following, made based purely on assumption and with no evidence: Islamic State and similar Muslim "extremist" groups are nothing to do with Islam. They are merely people with a "twisted ideology" who do the evil things they do because of lust for power, or money, or pleasure, and they place a thin veil of religious justification over the top of it. But really, religion is the last thing they are motivated by.

It takes a sturdy concrete wall of a mind to continue to believe this, despite mountains of evidence to the contrary, and it seems that even among the left-wing media, cracks are starting to appear, allowing thin rays of light to come through. Witness this remarkably thorough and generally honest piece of journalism from the New York Times, which outlines - in exquisitely revolting detail - the extent to which the Islamic State bases all of its actions and beliefs around Islamic teachings.

The article primarily concerns the rape and sexual enslavement of Yazidi women by IS in Iraq, but even before we get to that, the Islamic character of Islamic State is laid bare.

In a passage describing the IS invasion of Yazidi villages around Mount Sinjar last year, we read this:

Survivors say that men and women were separated within the first hour of their capture. Adolescent boys were told to lift up their shirts, and if they had armpit hair, they were directed to join their older brothers and fathers. In village after village, the men and older boys were driven or marched to nearby fields, where they were forced to lie down in the dirt and sprayed with automatic fire.

The women, girls and children, however, were hauled off in open-bed trucks [and subsequently enslaved].

Now read the following passages from Ibn Ishaq's biography of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and from the hadith traditions, regarding the fate of the Jewish Banu Qurayza tribe, and try not to feel the gooseflesh prickle up your arms as you note the chilling similarities:

Sa'd [bin Muadh, one of Muhammad's followers]  said, 'Then I give judgment that the men should be killed, the property divided, and the women and children taken as captives.'...

[T]he apostle said to Sa'd, 'You have given the judgment of Allah above the seven heavens.'

Then they [the Qurayza] surrendered, and the apostle confined them in Medina...Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still its market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for [the men of Banu Qurayza] and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches...There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900...This went on until the apostle made an end of them... (Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, p.464)

I was among the captives of Banu Qurayzah. They (the Companions) examined us, and those who had begun to grow hair (pubes) were killed, and those who had not were not killed. I was among those who had not grown hair.  (Sunan Abu Dawud, b.38, no.4390)

In this case, we can see clearly that IS were simply emulating the example of their Prophet down to the minutest detail.

Later in the NYT piece, Matthew Barber, a professor from the University of Chicago, explains that "the focus on Yazidis was likely because they are seen as polytheists, with an oral tradition rather than a written scripture. In the Islamic State’s eyes that puts them on the fringe of despised unbelievers, even more than Christians and Jews, who are considered to have some limited protections under the Quran as 'People of the Book.'" We also learn that according to Islamic State, Yazidis do not have the option to pay the jizya poll tax mandated in Qur'an 9:29, in exchange for security, because "unlike the Jews and Christians", they are not a protected people (although if you think "protected people" sounds good, think again).

All of this is based solely on religion. No other explanation makes the remotest sense, given that the Yazidis make up less than 1.5% of the Iraqi population and are a political threat to nobody.

There is also this, from the October 2014 issue of ISIS' propaganda magazine Dabiq:

“After capture, the Yazidi women and children were then divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations, after one fifth of the slaves were transferred to the Islamic State’s authority to be divided [as spoils]..."

Why did they choose one fifth, specifically? Why not half, or one third? Because of the Qur'an: "You should know that if you gain any spoils in war, one-fifth shall go to Allah and the messenger, to be given to the relatives, the orphans, the poor, and the traveling alien." (8:41) [note: the chapter of the Qur'an this verse comes from is named Al-Anfal, or "Spoils of War"]

Again, unless it is a massive coincidence, the taking of one fifth of the spoils is clearly a decision made on the basis of obedience to religious texts.

The NYT notes that "Islamic State cites specific verses or stories in the Quran or else in the Sunna, the traditions based on the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad, to justify their human trafficking". Cole Bunzel, a scholar of Islamic theology at Princeton University, points to the numerous references to the phrase “Those your right hand possesses” in the Qur'an (e.g. in verses 4:3 and 4:24), which for centuries has been interpreted to mean female slaves. He also points to the corpus of Islamic jurisprudence, which continues into the modern era and which he says includes detailed rules for the treatment of slaves.

“There is a great deal of scripture that sanctions slavery,” said Mr. Bunzel, the author of a research paper published by the Brookings Institution on the ideology of the Islamic State. “You can argue that it is no longer relevant and has fallen into abeyance. ISIS would argue that these institutions need to be revived, because that is what the Prophet and his companions did.”

And on and on it goes. One victim told how her torturer would pray between rape sessions, "bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion."

“He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever," she said. "He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God.”

Child rape is also explicitly condoned: “It is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty, if she is fit for intercourse,” according to a translation by the Middle East Media Research Institute of a pamphlet published on Twitter last December. This is undoubtedly because Muhammad himself is reported to have married and had sex with a nine year old girl when he was in his fifties: "A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old." (Sahih Muslim b.8, no.3311, and others)

And so "This has nothing to do with Islam" is confirmed to be not just a hollow platitude, but a thoroughly insidious one. With every denial, the rape and murder of innocent people is facilitated and enabled, as an honest examination of the roots of this savagery is ruled out of bounds, thus perpetuating behaviours that no one can stop if they refuse to understand them.

Denial of the truth of Islamic teachings, and their role in inspiring the most horrific acts mankind has witnessed in the 21st century, costs lives. It is time those who engage in such casuistry are held to account.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Newsflash: Britain Soft On Islamic Jihad

A jihadist preacher with links to Osama bin Laden will be allowed to stay in the UK despite being denied citizenship because of his "extremist" views.

The unnamed Yemeni-born imam has spent more than a decade fighting for UK citizenship in a case that has cost the British taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds in court bills. He has been detained up to five times at British airports under terror laws and his home searched by Special Branch officers and "items" seized. He frequently travels to Yemen, a known hotspot for al-Qaeda linked terrorist groups.

And yet, the Home Office cannot deport the imam, who preaches at a large mosque in the north of England, because it would be a breach of his "human rights" to do so.

A study conducted by the Henry Jackson Society has shown that 28 foreign-born convicted terrorists and suspects have used the Human Rights Act to prevent their expulsion from the UK.

So how's that tough new anti-terror policy going, Mr. Cameron? And what about your "tough" negotiations with the EU over its ridiculous human rights laws?

Why, it's almost as if you're not doing the things you promised.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Islam and Human Rights

In a landmark 2001 ruling, the European Court of Human Rights banned a Turkish Islamic party from sitting in Parliament for at least five years, due to the fact that it wanted to apply sharia law. The Court explained that “the institution of sharia law and a theocratic regime were incompatible with the requirements of a democratic society.”  The ban was upheld in 2003, with the Court noting that “a sharia-based regime was incompatible with the Convention, in particular, as regards the rules of criminal law and procedure, the place given to women in the legal order and its interference in all spheres of private and public life in accordance with religious precepts.”

There are at least fifteen Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which are fundamentally violated by established tenets of the sharia.  Significantly, the violation of just one of these Articles can result in institutionalised discrimination against over half of the world’s population.

Article 2 of the UDHR states: “Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

And yet women are described in the Qur'an as a field – “tilth” – that a man can use however he wants: “Your women are a tilth for you to cultivate so go to your tilth as ye will.” (2:223)

In an Islamic court, the legal testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man: “And call to witness, from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not (at hand) then a man and two women, of such as ye approve as witnesses, so that if the one erreth (through forgetfulness) the other will remember.” (2:282) When Muhammad was asked about this, he explained: “This is because of the deficiency of a woman's mind.” (Sahih Bukhari v.3, b.48, no.826)

A son's inheritance is twice the size of a daughter's: “Allah thus directs you as regards your children's inheritance: to the male, a portion equal to that of two females.” (4:11)

Muhammad is recorded to have said that the majority of those in Hell will be women who are “ungrateful” to their husbands. (Bukhari v.1, b.2, no.28)

Muhammad also insulted women by equating them with slaves and camels: “The Prophet said: If one of you marries a woman or buys a slave, he should say: 'O Allah, I ask Thee for the good in her, and in the disposition Thou hast given her; I take refuge in Thee from the evil in her, and in the disposition Thou hast given her.' When he buys a camel, he should take hold of the top of its hump and say the same kind of thing.” (Sunan Abu Dawud b.11, no.2155)

These fundamental tenets of Islamic law and theology deny women basic equality of rights with men, and also violate the statement in Article 1 of the UDHR that “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Regarding the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims, the Qur’an sanctions discrimination and Islamic supremacism: “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves.” (48:29)

This “hardness” ultimately manifests itself by Muslims waging offensive jihad against the infidels: “Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the Jizya [non-Muslim poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (9:29)

As I have explained here many times, the purpose of this jihad is to force non-Muslims to submit to Islamic rule and pay the jizya tax “with willing submission”. Payment of the tax is part of a broader system of humiliation and discrimination known as the dhimma, which infringes upon the religious freedom of non-Muslims and forces them to live as an inferior underclass in the Islamic state.

Finally, Islamic law prescribes different levels of treatment when it comes to state penalties for murder, based upon the religions of the perpetrator and victim. According to the mainstream Islamic legal manual Reliance of the Traveller, “retaliation is obligatory...against anyone who kills a human being purely intentionally and without right.”  However, there are a number of situations in which those who commit a murder do not have to be punished, including the case of “a Muslim for killing a non-Muslim”.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Curious Case of Maajid Nawaz

Most people who follow Islam in Britain are aware of Maajid Nawaz. A former member of the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, he renounced "extremism" after a stint in jail in Egypt and has since devoted his time to combatting said "extremism", founding an organisation called the Quilliam Foundation, and gallivanting about calling himself an Islamic "reformer".

Normally, I'm right behind Islamic reformers, but I have never been Nawaz's biggest fan, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, of course, there is the name of his organisation: The Quilliam Foundation, so named after a nineteenth-century Englishman with the stellar name of William Quilliam, who famously converted to Islam and started calling himself Abdullah. Quilliam is known, among other things, as the man responsible for having the first ever mosque built in this country.

He is also on record as denouncing British government efforts to quell the jihadist insurgency in Sudan, on the basis that it was "contrary to the sharia", and advocating the reimplementation of the Caliphate - the same totalitarian system of governance championed today by ISIS.

Why would Nawaz name his "peaceful" organisation after a man like this? It makes no sense. It would be like a German Nazi renouncing Nazism, coming to Britain, forming an organisation to combat Nazism, and calling it the Eichmann Foundation.

So I have remained dubious about Nawaz, even as plenty of outspoken Islamo-realists who I respect, such as Pat Condell and Douglas Murray, sing his praises.

But one of the key problems I have with him is that, no matter how often he says the things we want to hear, the fact remains that most Muslims in Britain just don't like him. He is seen as a tool of the "neocons" and "Islamophobes" that run our media and government agencies, and considered a hypocrite and "fake" Muslim by the majority of his own community.

This was brought home in a recent interview with him at the Guardian. Yes, as Douglas Murray has pointed out today, the article is unremittingly hostile to this self-professed "moderate Muslim", even as the newspaper lavishes praise on extremist groups, but the piece does, I believe, capture the predominant mindset among Nawaz's fellow Muslims.

This lack of trust among ordinary Muslims comes up again and again. Sadakat Kadri, a barrister and expert on sharia law, thinks Nawaz is “a very personable character”, but says “the problem with Quilliam is that it just doesn’t have any credibility. Cameron and Gove want to deal with Quilliam because they’re people they can do business with. But it isn’t an intermediary to anyone within the Muslim community.” And a former acquaintance of Nawaz, who asked for anonymity, points to something more personal: “If you talk to people who went to school with him, they all say the same thing: they say it’s not about the mission or the cause, it’s about the man. I don’t think Maajid believes anything. I think he’s basically a man who says: what is my cause and what is going to get me the most attention, the most publicity?”

Nawaz describes himself as a "non-devout Muslim", which leads me to wonder how anyone expects that he will convince devout Muslims - i.e. the ones who really need convincing - that Islam needs reform. Being on the telly a lot and posting Muhammad cartoons on Twitter really isn't going to cut it. In short, there is nothing to suggest that we should pin our hopes on this man to bring about change for the better within Islam.

But there is another aspect of the Guardian piece that fills me with concern: the revelation that Nawaz and his organisation were directly involved in the construction of David Cameron's recent counter-terrorism speech in Birmingham, which I discussed here. As I noted at the time, the Prime Minister's speech shows absolutely no signs of being written in consultation with someone who understands the need for a grass-roots, mea culpa based reform of Islam. To the contrary, he goes out of his way to distance Islam from jihad terrorism, and make up silly nonsensical causes for it.

If this is Nawaz's influence, then it is not the kind we need from an Islamic "reformer".

Saturday, 1 August 2015

Islamic Apostasy Law: Theological & Legal Basis

Whether the Qur’an itself sanctions the death penalty for apostasy in this life is debatable, but the Muslim holy book certainly does treat it as a major sin deserving of eternal punishment in the next life:

And they [unbelievers] will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can. And whoso becometh a renegade and dieth in his disbelief: such are they whose works have fallen both in the world and the Hereafter. Such are rightful owners of the Fire: they will abide therein. (2:217)

Although this says nothing about killing apostates, many prominent Qur’an commentators make mention of the punishment in their discussions of this verse.

Abu Abdullah al-Qurtubi (d.1273) writes:

Scholars disagree about whether or not apostates are asked to repent. One group say that they are asked to repent and, if they do not, they are killed. Some say they are given an hour and others a month. Others say that they are asked to repent three times, and that is the view of Malik. Al-Hasan said they are asked a hundred times. It is also said that they are killed without being asked to repent.

Note that despite the scholarly disagreement Qurtubi refers to here, he does not cite any authorities who believe that apostates should not be executed.

A more modern scholar, Muhammad Shafi, who was the former Mufti of Pakistan and taught interpretation of the Qur’an for many years until his death in 1979, wrote the following in his extremely popular Urdu-language commentary on the Qur’an:

In short, the fate of an apostate is worse than that of an original disbeliever. This is why Jizya [discriminatory poll tax levied on non-Muslims in an Islamic state] can be accepted from an original disbeliever while a male apostate who does not return to Islam is killed. If the apostate is a woman, she is imprisoned for life. The reason is that their conduct insults Islam and the insult of such a binding authority deserves no less a punishment.

This draconian punishment is taken for granted by Islamic scholars because of the justification that can be found for it in the hadith. In a number of traditions, the Prophet of Islam is reported to have unambiguously commanded: “Whoever changes his Islamic religion, then kill him.” (Sahih Bukhari v.9, b.88, no.6922, and others)

Other hadith contain confirmations of this teaching, and even an example of Muhammad putting it into practice:

Allah's Apostle said, “The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas [recompense] for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse [i.e. an adulterer] and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims.” (Bukhari v.9, b.83, no.17)

Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to 'Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event reached Ibn 'Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Apostle forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'” (Bukhari v.9, b.84, no.57)

A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu'adh bin Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Mu'adh asked, “What is wrong with this (man)?” Abu Musa replied, “He embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism.” Mu'adh said, “I will not sit down unless you kill him (as it is) the verdict of Allah and His Apostle.” (Bukhari v.9, b.89, no.271, and others)

Some people from the tribe of 'Ukl came to the Prophet and embraced Islam. The climate of Medina did not suit them, so the Prophet ordered them to go to the (herd of milch) camels of charity and to drink, their milk and urine (as a medicine). They did so, and after they had recovered from their ailment (became healthy) they turned renegades (reverted from Islam) and killed the shepherd of the camels and took the camels away. The Prophet sent (some people) in their pursuit and so they were (caught and) brought, and the Prophet ordered that their hands and legs should be cut off and that their eyes should be branded with heated pieces of iron, and that their cut hands and legs should not be cauterized, till they die. (Bukhari v.8, b.82, no.794, and others)

     In another incident, recounted by the Prophet’s earliest biographer Ibn Ishaq (d.773), Muhammad pronounced a death sentence on a man named Abdullah ibn Sa’d, who “had been a Muslim and used to write down revelation; then he apostatized and returned to Quraysh [Muhammad’s former tribe]” in Mecca. In the end, the punishment was never actually carried out, but this was only because of a bizarre mix-up between Muhammad and his followers:

They allege that the apostle remained silent for a long time till finally he said yes [granting Abdullah immunity from the execution order]. When [Abdullah] had left he said to his companions who were sitting around him, ‘I kept silent so that one of you might get up and strike off his head!’ One of the Ansar [followers] said, ‘Then why didn't you give me a sign, O apostle of God?’ He answered that a prophet does not kill by pointing.

Based on these texts and others like them, there is a scholarly consensus among all the major schools of Islamic law, both Sunni and Shi’ite, that apostates should be killed. The medieval jurist Ibn Rushd (d.1198), better known in the West as the great Muslim philosopher Averroes, summarised this consensus thusly:

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.

Even the lionised Muslim mystic Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d.1111), who is often hailed as one of the all-time great Muslim thinkers, supported the death penalty for apostasy. For example, here is a statement from al-Ghazali’s discussion of what to do with a “secret apostate”, or one who tries to conceal his newfound unbelief:

The meaning of ‘repentance’ of an apostate is his abandoning of his inner religion. The secret apostate (zindiq) does not give up his inner confessions when he professes the words of the shahada [the Islamic profession of faith, “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his Messenger”]. He may be killed for his unbelief because we are convinced that he stays an unbeliever who sticks to his unbelief.

     Finally, the classic Islamic legal manual Reliance of the Traveller, which has been endorsed as a reliable guide to sharia law by Cairo’s al-Azhar University, has this to say on the subject of apostasy:

Leaving Islam is the ugliest form of unbelief (kufr) and the worst...When a person who has reached puberty and is sane voluntarily apostatizes from Islam, he deserves to be killed.
In such a case, it is obligatory for the caliph (or his representative) 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...There is no indemnity for killing an apostate (or any expiation, since it is killing someone who deserves to die).

What all of the above demonstrates is that despite the claims of some apologists that there is some sort of “controversy” or “debate” within Islam about this particular point, Islamic law and tradition are actually extremely clear: If you are a Muslim and then you decide that you no longer believe in Muhammad and the Qur’an, you must be killed.