Muslims individually should, without qualification, be treated as respectfully and kindly as everyone else. However, at another level, it is surely reasonable to ask whether Muslims collectively should be absolved of accountability for the bitter fruits of Islam?
I’ll begin with a provocative question. Steel yourselves. Can those expressing affinity with Mein Kampf and National Socialism be, nevertheless, moderate and peaceful Nazis? I’ll leave the question hanging. And won’t directly come back to it.
Donald Trump got himself into one of those messes of his own making back in August. Having had his scripted response to the events in Charlottesville well received, he couldn’t later resist extemporising by blaming the violence on both sides. Moreover, he made the claim that among the thugs there were fine people on both sides, who had simply come to express their views peacefully on whether a statue of Robert E. Lee should be removed or left in place (see The Struggle with Confederate Statues, Quadrant, Dec 2017)
Commentators piled on. They need little opportunity where Trump is concerned. Fine people, it was pointed out, do not associate themselves with the Ku Klux Klan, with white supremacists, and with Nazis marching under torches, some chanting “blood and soil”. Fine people, it was said, would have left when they saw the character of many of those marching. They would not have wanted to associate themselves with Nazis and their evil creed.
As relentlessly nit-picking as they are, this time Trump’s critics had a point. Would people of moderate and peaceful disposition march with Nazis? I think not. While freedom of association is important, the company you keep matters; and, most particularly, if you share similar aims. Suppose that those “fine” marchers that Trump referred to, based on his own observations, were, in fact, sympathetic to the KKK. Their apparent peacefulness wouldn’t be enough to let them off the hook.
This brings me to Islam and more pointedly to its followers.
At one level it is essential to distinguish Islam from its followers. In the normal course of everyday life, Muslims individually should, without qualification, be treated as respectfully and kindly as everyone else. However, at another level, it is surely reasonable to ask whether Muslims collectively should be absolved of accountability for the bitter fruits of Islam that are everywhere evident. For it is clear that they have been absolved by the mainstream media, by Christian church leaders, by most of the political class, and even by conservative commentators who are otherwise indelicate enough to use the word Islamic when describing terrorist attacks. You simply don’t get such attacks without the assertion, at some early point, that the vast majority of Muslims are moderate and peaceful and reject violence. Sometimes a figure of 99 per cent plus is used to hammer home the storyline.
Where does this habitual response come from? I suggest it starts with the tendency of human beings to put things having different characteristics into separate boxes or categories. In this case, Islam and Muslims have been put into two non-intersecting categories.
Take Islam first.
An evil alter ego has emerged as a category separate from Islam proper. It’s called Islamism. Islamism is sometimes referred to as “political Islam”. This is the favoured description of Dr Zuhdi Jasser. Dr Jasser is a leading light among those who want to see Islam “reformed”. He’s a medical doctor and former officer in the US Navy.
Near the end of 2015, Jasser, along with another twelve “renegade” Muslims—six of the thirteen are based in America, five in Canada, one in the UK and one in Denmark—signed and publicised a two-page Muslim Reform Movement Declaration. With Martin Luther and Wittenberg in mind, they pinned a copy on the doors of the Islamic Center in Washington DC. I can only guess at the fate of these two pieces of paper, but I can say that unlike Martin Luther’s ninety-five theses Jasser’s Declaration has not spread like wildfire.
This is unsurprising. From an Islamic standpoint it is nothing less than heretical. It has no comparability with Luther’s modest aim of ridding the Catholic Church of indulgences as payment for sins. Luther had no objective of rewriting scripture. His objective was for the Church to act more in keeping with scripture and with Saint Paul’s injunction that we could not gain redemption through our own works but through the grace of God alone. The Reformation didn’t change, nor did it seek to change, the essential elements of the Christian faith and it hasn’t done so.
Now, in stark contrast with Luther’s limited objective, take just four propositions from the Declaration that Jasser and his reform movement would like to see become enshrined in Islam. I’ll follow each with an extract or two from the Koran (Pickthall version).
One: “We support the UN Declaration of Human Rights.”
So, choose not friends from among them [disbelievers] … if they turn back to enmity [apostates] then take them and kill them wherever ye find them, and choose no friend or helper from among them. (Verse 4:89) Slay the idolaters wherever ye find them. (9.5) Mohammed is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves. (48:29)
Two: “We reject violent jihad.”
I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then smite their necks and smite of them each finger. (8:12)
Three: “We consider all people equal. Every individual has the right to publicly express criticism of Islam.”
Those who disbelieve … are a folk without intelligence. (8:65) Fight against those who have been given the scripture as believe not … until they pay the tribute [jizya] readily, being brought low [read dhimmitude]. (9:29)
Four: “We support equal rights for women, including equal rights to inheritance.”
Men are in charge of women … scourge [rebellious wives]. (4:34) And call to witness, from among men, two witnesses. And if two men be not at hand then a man and two women. (2:282) Allah chargeth you concerning the provision for your children: to the male the equivalent of the portion of two females. (4:11)
It would be possible to go on and on. The discordance between the Declaration and Islamic scripture is vast. Jasser was interviewed for an article in the Federalist in January this year. He explained that his Reform Movement had reached out to 3000 mosques in the United States and to over 500 prominent Muslims. “We received only 40-plus rather dismissive responses from our outreach, and sadly less than ten of them were positive,” said Jasser. “In fact, one mosque in South Carolina left us a vicious voice mail threatening our staff if we contacted them again.”
The positive response rate was a miserly 0.3 per cent. It is safe to say that the Declaration has not been embraced by the faithful. Only those completely divorced from reality would have expected otherwise. The reason is clear. Once Islam is rid of Islamism nothing much remains. Islamism is integral to Islam. They do not constitute two separate categories. To add weight to this contention, it’s instructive to compare Jasser’s prescription with Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s.
No longer a Muslim, Hirsi Ali nevertheless, in her last book, Heretic, proposed a number of “reforms” to make Islam palatable. She summarises them as follows:
Ensure that Muhammad and the Qur’an are open to interpretation and criticism.
Give priority to this life, not the afterlife.
Shackle sharia and end its supremacy over secular law.
End the practice of “commanding right, forbidding wrong” [by which she means ending rules of social conduct which inhibit freedom; dictating, for example, what women wear, do and say].
Abandon the call to jihad.
As masterly as she is in explaining what’s wrong with Islam and how it might be righted, tellingly, she stops short of describing what would be left to worship. Hirsi Ali’s reform agenda, like Jasser’s, would mean deleting or altering large swathes of Allah’s very words and (the model man) Mohammed’s life, words and actions as set out in the Sunna. This is untenable.
It is delusional to think that you can have a potted version of Islam with all of the bad bits extracted. So, when Jasser signs on to his secular Declaration and, at the same time, says he loves his religion (as he does) I wonder what religion he’s talking about. It’s certainly not Islam. Whatever it is, it’s a pure distraction from a fourteen-century-long problem which shows no signs of abating. In fact, it’s on track to get much worse.
Give me a child for the first seven years and I’ll give you the man, so the Jesuits claimed. Pew Research recently projected that the world’s Muslim population will rise to 2.8 billion by 2050, from its current level of around 1.7 billion. Do the arithmetic. That is a lot of Muslim children to be born, including in Europe, America and Australia; and to live out their formative years under the influence of teachers and Imams in schools and mosques wielding immutable Islamic scripture.
This brings me to the way Muslims are categorised in the West.
As with Islam, they’re also routinely put into two broad categories. In one there are extremists; including, on the fringe, terrorists. In the other, there are moderates who, according to our political and media elites, comprise the vast majority.
Mark Durie, in his book Islam, Human Rights and Public Policy, refers to a poll taken in Indonesia in 2006 which found that 58 per cent of respondents in this apparently moderate Muslim nation believed that adulterers should be stoned to death. In 2010, Pew Research found that 84 per cent of Egyptians, 86 per cent of Jordanians and 76 per cent of Pakistanis favoured death for apostasy. In 2011, the governor of the Punjab province in Pakistan, Salmaan Taseer, was assassinated by one of his police bodyguards. His “sin” was opposing blasphemy laws which had resulted in a Christian woman facing execution. Reportedly, as I write, Asia Bibi is still on death row, despite the intercession some years ago of Pope Benedict XVI—who, for his trouble, was sharply rebuffed by Pakistan’s prime minister at the time, Yousuf Raza Gilani.
In 2016, a face-to-face random survey of one thousand British Muslims was commissioned by the publicly-owned television broadcaster Channel 4. The survey found, among other things, that only 34 per cent of those surveyed would inform the police if they knew people who were becoming involved in supporting terrorism in Syria; 52 per cent did not believe that homosexuality should be legal in Britain; 32 per cent refused to condemn violence against those who mock the Prophet; 39 per cent agreed that wives should always obey their husbands; 34 per cent refused to completely condemn those taking part in stoning adulterers. Close to 3 million Muslims live in Britain. Thus, a million Muslims are walking around with some sympathy for those who would stone adulterers.
Measured against modern Western values, it is not at all clear that Muslims are “predominantly” moderate when it comes to their views on gender equality, or on homosexuality, on free speech, on religious freedom, or on the application of sharia law. But put that aside. Do those Muslims who specifically reject fundamentalism and embrace secularism offer hope? I am afraid the answer is no.
Take Dr Jasser and his reformist colleagues. They warmly embrace secularism and, accordingly, and necessarily, want a separation of mosque from state. Unfortunately, they will never have influence inside their religion. No separation of mosque from state is remotely feasible. It would be akin to unscrambling an egg. It is a pipedream. The conflation of religion and politics is precisely the reason Muslims have supranational affinity with other each other. Islam is effectively their common statehood.
Mind you, there is one place where the pipedream of separating mosque from state takes on the mantle of reality. This is in the deluded minds of those in the West who picture Islam as the “religion of peace”. Reportedly, Osama bin Laden found it ironic that President Bush and other Western leaders characterised Islam as peaceful only after the Twin Towers were brought down. Since then each major Islamic terrorist attack provokes some political notable to refer to the “religion of peace”.
Getting to grips with Islam has proved elusive for most modern Western politicians and commentators. They can’t quite believe that a religion can be anything other than peaceful. Religion and peace are synonymous in their minds. This blind and wilful ignorance has turned them into useful idiots.
Korans can be bought by anybody for a small price. Equally, books on Islam by Mark Steyn, Mark Durie, Robert Spencer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Bill Warner, Ariana Fallaci if you want uncut slating, and by many others, including most recently by Douglas Murray, are readily obtainable. Many people in the past had no trouble in recognising the problem—from Churchill on one side of the Atlantic to John Quincy Adams on the other; and you can throw in John Wesley and Alexis de Tocqueville for good measure. And, bravely, even Egypt’s President Sisi effectively called out the religion of peace at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo at the beginning of 2015.
Certainly, there are many thousands of imams who can’t be blamed for the mischaracterisation of Islam. They pray openly for Muslim domination and for the universal application of sharia law. They quote their scripture. Some encourage jihad. They don’t hide away.
For example, the extremist preacher Adjem Choudary, now in a UK jail for supporting ISIS, used to pop up everywhere and not in a shy way. Extremists like him claim with conviction that they are true Muslims and that those who don’t believe in the universal implementation of sharia law are not Muslims at all. They have a point.
To be fair, it is possible that some naive Muslims, particularly those listening to Western elites, might actually think of their religion as peaceful. But surely, for the most part, Muslims would have to live in isolating bubbles to be oblivious to thousands of imams preaching their unvarnished message straight from the mouths of Allah and Mohammed.
Did they all miss Islamic scholar Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar openly denouncing homosexuality when speaking at a mosque in Orlando? “Death is the sentence,” he said. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” he said. “Out of compassion, let’s get rid of them now.” Only weeks later Islamic terrorism took many lives at a gay nightclub in the same city.
Do Muslims think that the violence in the name of Islam is coincidental? Up to end of August this year, The Religion of Peace website reports well over 30,000 deadly Islamic terrorist attacks since 9/11. These attacks are committed in the name of Allah, for which supportive Islamic scripture is readily available. Most Muslims know all of this. Or they should.
Go back to Donald Trump being pilloried for not calling out all of those marching with Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacists. In the ordinary course, people are rightly held accountable for the company they keep and their affiliations. Why should “moderate” Muslims, even the Jassers of this world, be given a pass? That they are is because of a fanciful schematic in the minds of useful idiots in the West.
In this schematic, moderate Muslims, as a category, are linked to a non-existent category of Islam called “the religion of peace”. At the same time, extremists, as a category, are separately linked to a category of Islam called “Islamism”; which, in fact, is part and parcel of irreducible Islam. Islam without Islamism is an unwritten book. If it were ever written—which it won’t be—it would be very short and extremely nondescript.
No one with Islamic credentials will point to one Koranic verse (the very immutable words of Allah) that should be deleted or substantially altered. No one, anyway, who is alive and kicking or else surrounded by bodyguards. The distinction between Islamism and Islam is a ruse.
There is just one Islam, and moderate Muslims together with extremists are effectively signed-up members. Accordingly, why shouldn’t they all be held accountable for the intolerance, oppression and violence inspired by the body of scripture to which they are allegiant? Surely, it is a question worth asking, however uncomfortable it might make many people feel.
Most Muslims do not live out their scripture in their daily lives. True enough, but this can be dangerously misleading. The intolerance built into Islamic scripture is a ticking time bomb. Potential religious rabble-rousers can stoke Muslim passions at the drop of a hat. And this doesn’t just happen in predominantly Muslim countries. Recall Muslims rioting in central Sydney in September 2012, using the preposterous and puerile pretext of an obscure US-made YouTube movie on Mohammed (the same movie, by the way, that Hillary Clinton deceptively blamed for the fatal attack on the US embassy in Benghazi).
Muslims have the option of sticking with an irredeemable religious affront to enlightened thinking, or of changing religions, or of renouncing religion, as did Hirsi Ali. This latter option might be the way to go. After all, it is increasingly the option of choice in the “Christian West”. The proof of that not only lies in emptying churches but in the evident lack of spiritual firepower combating Islam.
In any event, I suggest that it’s contradictory for any moderate and peaceful person to remain a Muslim and perforce owe allegiance to an immoderate and violent creed. To my mind, it doesn’t add up, wherever you live. It certainly doesn’t add up in tolerant and prosperous Western countries, beneficially moulded by Judeo-Christian values.
It is about time we put political correctness aside and started asking hard questions of moderate Muslims, not just of extremists. We have a vested interest in persuading them to take a hard look at the acceptability of their religion. The survival of our civilisation is stake. It is too late to take Muslims out of the West. The remaining option is to try to take Islam out of Muslims.
Finally, I have one caveat about renouncing Islam. If it is done, it might be best done very quietly to preserve life and limb. Which, when you think about it, is precisely the reason that those of moderate and peaceful disposition should, if at all possible, seek religious solace elsewhere or, alternatively, opt for the irreligious path taken by Hirsi Ali.
Peter Smith is a frequent contributor. This essay is adapted from a talk to the Turks Head group in Melbourne on October 11, 2017.
(Online editor’s note: the thumbnail picture at the start of this essay is the embroidered collar tab of the Islamic Gebirgs Division of the SS, whose members heeded the call by Amin al-Husseini, grand mufti of Jerusalem, “to slaughter Jews where ever you find them. Their spilled blood pleases Allah, our history and religion.”)