A French businessman decapitated and inscribed with Islamic phrases, Sunnis blowing up Shiites in Kuwait and Western tourists shot dead on holiday in Tunisia all in the same day; and yet this morning, I still see Liberals defending the doctrine of Islam to the point of absolving it completely. They put these actions simply down to ‘a few bad apples’ within the faith…
…Well if we have bad apples ladies and gentlemen, we have a whole orchard of them, festering, falling to the ground as ‘Martyrs’ and further seeding their odorous filth.
Again, I have already written an article explaining how you can quite comfortably dismantle the doctrine of Islam, without attacking Muslims as people, so I will not repeat that defence here. That said, when trying to tackle the sadly naive belief that ‘Islamism’ is only a preserve or by-product of the tiny group of radicalised outsiders, you are going to have to delve into what Muslims actually believe; which I shall do in a moment with reference to the academically assembled Pew Polls.
Before I start this comprehensive effort, let me state my objectives:
Firstly, I want to present to reasonable people reading this article the best statistical evidence available; then convince Liberals that what they see to be ‘radical’ beliefs held only by an infinitesimally small group of Islamists, are anything but fringe views in the Muslim world. For those that value evidence, this should not be the difficult bit to achieve.
Secondly, my sincere hope is I will stop you from using the defence in the future that “it’s not Muslims who do these things, they are just bad people”. They are Muslims and the fact that they are matters. Or at least it matters to them.
This argument may be much harder, perhaps because of an unwillingness to believe it, perhaps because ideas such as martyrdom are such alien concepts to us in the West. More likely, you will simply be so outraged by my academic approach to this, that you will be tempted to think I’m being racist or xenophobic, and close the tab.
However, we cannot continually refuse to believe that people genuinely subscribe to ‘Global Jihad’ and Martyrdom as principles. Emphatically, they in fact do commit these acts based an Islamist interpretation of Islamic doctrine that is not as ‘fringe’ as it appears.
To begin, I am going to take the example of Sharia Law as an appropriate signpost of Islamic belief. One of the most irreconcilable parts of Sharia in comparison with Liberal principles is the belief that the punishment for ‘Apostasy’ a.k.a leaving the faith, or under some interpretations denying God, being of the wrong faith or none, is execution.
Is Sharia Law actually a problem for Liberalism?
Now, the first step is convincing you that this is actually what Sharia Law says about apostasy. Sharia Law is essentially the basis of what Muslim Scholars beleive to be societal law. These come mainly but not exclusively from the Hadith; themselves a collection of quotes reportedly from the Prophet Muhammad himself. To narrow this argument down I will take the Sunni interpretation of the Hadith, the Sunnis being the sect of Islam that ISIS and indeed Saudi Arabia subscribe to; in their worst iteration the Saudi Wahhabi are ultra-conservative and as we shall see, ultra-literalistic about Sharia.
Sunnis believe that ‘Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim generally have the highest status’ among the Hadith texts, and therefore Sunnis would be fully paid up members to their moral teachings on Apostasy if at all serious about their faith.
“the Prophet said, ‘Don’t punish (anybody) with Allah’s Punishment.’ No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.'” – Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:52:260
“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.” – Sahih al-Bukhari, 9:89:271
These are fairly incontrovertible, the Sahih al-Bukhari clearly requires death of apostasy. However, I wouldn’t want to be accused of selective quoting, so lets unpick some others that need more explaining.
Many use the notion from the Qur’an that there is “no compulsion in religion” to wave away the idea that people outside the faith would face death or a ‘convert or die’ ultimatum as a result of living under Islamic law.
Indeed, historically this was used to allow ‘People of the Book’ i.e other Monotheistic religions such as Christians and Jews to live as a ‘Dhimmi’, people protected, albeit not quite accepted by Islamic Law as long as they paid their taxes. However, reading on:
“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day…(even if they are) of the People of the Book” – Qur’an 9:29
Clearly given the wrong, or perhaps correct interpretation, even ‘People of the Book’ are subject to death. Not to mention that this whole notion is cold comfort to over a billion Hindus, who’s polytheistic paganism would be seen as heretical and put to the sword.
“It is not permissible to take the life of a Muslim who bears testimony (to the fact) that there is no god but Allah, and I am the Messenger of Allah, but in one of the three cases: the married adulterer, a life for a life, and the deserter of his Din (Islam), abandoning the community.” – Sahih Muslim, 16:4152
This, the polar opposite of ‘love thy neighbour’, the meek and mild vision of Abrahamic faiths. This is evil based purely on its selectiveness. “It is not permissible to take the life of a Muslim who bears testimony to the fact that there is no God but Allah”; yet this says nothing about non-believers.
Presumably they can be killed without justification or recourse to the ‘justice’ that is then outlined; and indeed, protection against death is removed for those deemed as “deserters of the din”, those who in fact could be otherwise described as ‘apostates’.
You might argue that what I did there was disingenuous. I interpreted the scripture, how dare I!… Well, I interpreted it the way many in the Wahhabi/ISIS Islamic Death cults interpreted it. That is really the salient point here.
Of course there are contrasting and contradictory statements within scripture that suggest quite the opposite to the picture I have painted above. However it is not I that ignores them, it is the jihadists. It is only that violence can be logically justified from the above passages that is relevant; and that the more benevolent passages do nothing to mitigate this.
Islam as an idea is in many ways fundamentally different to other religions; all of which in fairness I regard as dangerous. Even at its most violent and destructive, the wars of Christianity were wars between two cannons of the faith, between Kings and the Pope both claiming divinity, or at least divine inspiration in both cases.
Islam in contrast is a non-monolithic religion. There is no central voice, there is no Imam or religious leader, perhaps with the exception of Ayatollah Khomeini within the bubble of Iran, that can hold-in fundamentalist fringes and interpretations of religious text. It makes Islam as a doctrine doubly dangerous, and it is why so many radical factions spawn from its scripture.
Even though the Christian Bible and Torah themselves contain elements of questionable moral character, there are very very few straight lines from scriptural doctrine to religiously motivated murder. The Charleston shootings of last week were not scripturally motivated, they were racially motivated. Even going back to the 80s to find good examples of Christians killing abortion doctors based on scripture doesn’t exactly stand up to the regular Islamic violence we are seeing today.
In summary, Islamic doctrine matters a great deal and it really is dangerous. It really does justify murder without any great logical or intellectual leap. It really is different to other religious doctrines because of its non-monolithic nature. An ideology without control, is like a leaving a child with a gun.
Now, to convince you people actually believe this outside of a small fringe of disaffected outsiders.
“But surely people don’t actually believe this stuff?”
It is very probable that while living in a Liberal Britain, you have met many reasonable, ‘normal’, Western Muslims who, after looking at the above representation of Islam, do not see any correlation with how they live their life and how Sharia and the Hadith tell them to do so. This is probably making you very sceptical over my account of Sharia, but I invite you to prove me wrong on that count.
The reason you have not seen these beliefs among them may be down to a number of things. Sceptically, you have to consider that perhaps deep down they do harbour ill thoughts against apostates but don’t do anything about it in reality. There is precedent for this of course, many people are openly vituperative about banks and bankers, yet still have bank accounts and credit cards in order to function in daily life. This leads to the other plausible explanation that in order to assimilate into Western democracies where they see protected freedoms, better quality of life, more opportunities and greater security, they have ‘moderated’ or otherwise sacrificed principles like those in the Hadith which are frankly incompatible with Western Civilisation. This way, like anti-capitalists with bank accounts, they too can function in daily life.
Fine! Lovely! This is the kind of reform that great men like Maajid Nawaz want to herald forth in Islam; it needs its ‘Martin Luther’, Diet of Worms moment, and soon may it come!
BUT, and it is a huge deafening BUT, do not let that convince you that this moderate Islam is in any way reflective of the ‘Muslim World’, it is not. Unfortunately they do believe in these ideas, all too seriously. The naivety view of ‘these views exist, but nobody really believes them’ is a dangerous fiction that needs to be rebutted.
A foreword. Even though the 2015 election polls have been looked upon sceptically, the majorities in these polls are way beyond margins of error, keep that in mind.
As you can see above, while significant minorities in the Muslim world do not believe that Sharia is the word of God, in every case, more do than do not.
“So what?” you say? Well as I said earlier Sharia Law contains some disturbing lay illiberal beliefs and significant majorities believe it is the divinely inspired word of God, ‘as law’, in the Muslim world. They believe this with genuine conviction.
Again this poll shows that with some notable exceptions like the Lebanon, most of the Muslim world is in favour of making Sharia the established law of the land, by huge majorities in many cases. Even in Malaysia, often held up as the beacon of Muslim moderation outside of the West, has an alarmingly high support for Sharia.
This poll shows how many of those who did say Sharia should be the law of the land thought it should apply to everyone and not just Muslims. It has to be said here that many of the countries believe that Sharia is applied only to those of the faith, although again there are notable exceptions and again majorities in Indonesia. This is likely down to the “no compulsion in religion” clause of the Qur’an that I mentioned earlier; but again, evidence shows here that there is scope to interpret that very differently.
Lastly, if you still doubt that the people polled here are making the connections between Sharia and death for apostasy, along with another abhorrent medieval practices such as stoning for adultery, look at these following polls. Again these show massive majorities in the Muslim world for these practices in many cases, particularly Pakistan and Egypt. Do not ignore the worryingly large minorities in most other places.
It holds fast then, that large swathes of the Muslim World both genuinely believe in these practices and the scriptural justification for them. No, it is not just a cultural inheritance from the past that can be lost through assimilation into the West,
Even if it was, take Female Genital Mutilation, which admittedly is as much an African cultural problem as it is an Islamic one. Yet it is a religious practice that endures despite Western influence precisely because there is a straight line from scripture, to holding these beliefs. Western tolerance has not eradicated the practice in Tower Hamlets or Bradford. It will do even less to stamp out Wahhabism in our Mosques unless we admit the problem.
Scripture matters, doctrine matters. If Muslims point to one thing that they derive from scripture, as of course they would, then scripture matters, Islam as an idea matters and it must be criticized accordingly.
When you see a ‘just few bad apples’ what I see are the few people with the conviction in their beliefs to actually do something about it in reality; after-all, you cant get much more conviction than a suicide vest. However many more are sympathetic to their ideas and justificationsz
To refer to my previous analogy they are the banker-haters that cut up their credit cards and hide cash under the mattress instead of join Occupy Wall Street. They are the anarchists who riot and attack police rather than just write Facebook posts. They are the pacifists who conscientiously object. They are minority at the head of a larger group, bubbling to the surface; the only difference is that their convictions are relatively benign, compared to what happens when that passion and belief is turned towards the wrong bit of scripture.
Sam Harris, an authority on this matter who you should seek out, sums up this argument perfectly:
JUST IMAGINE SOME CONCENTRIC CIRCLES HERE. AT THE CENTRE YOU HAVE JIHADISTS. THESE ARE THE PEOPLE WHO WAKE UP IN THE MORNING, WANTING TO KILL APOSTATES, WANTING TO DIE TRYING, THEY BELIEVE IN PARADISE THEY BELIEVE IN MARTYRDOM.
OUTSIDE OF THEM YOU HAVE THE ISLAMISTS. THESE ARE PEOPLE THAT ARE JUST AS CONVINCED OF MARTYRDOM AND PARADISE AND ARE WANTING TO FORCE THEIR RELIGION ON HUMANITY, BUT THEY WANT TO WORK WITHIN THE SYSTEM, THEY ARE NOT GOING TO BLOW THEMSELVES UP ON A BUS. THEY WANT TO CHANGE GOVERNMENTS THEY WANT TO USE DEMOCRACY AGAINST ITSELF.
THOSE TWO CIRCLES ARE ARGUABLY 20% OF THE MUSLIM WORLD. Just to give you one point of contact, 78% of British Muslims believe cartoonists of the Prophet Muhammad should be prosecuted. So 20% is a conservative figure.
Outside of that, you have the conservative Muslims who can honestly look at ISIS and say “that does not represent me or my views” but hold some views about human rights that are deeply troubling nonetheless.
I hope if anything, this article has gone some way to proving this model correct. We are very lucky in this country to have a significant minority of Muslims who are genuinely moderate and reasonable.
It is a triumph of our way of life that it has penetrated such draconian beliefs so deeply. Yet, while I know Liberals love to protect minorities, be careful who you are protecting. The moderates are a very small group indeed, protect them rightly, but do not extend that protection to the many millions of Muslims who subscribe to Islamic doctrine antithetical to your own Liberal beliefs, they are not a minority and they do not deserve it. Don’t listen to me, listen to ex-member of Hizb ut-Tahrir and reformed Islamist Maajid Nawaz.