I Am a Proud Islamophobe
Warning: I, the author of the present, would like to state as categorically as possible that this is not a racist text. Neither Islamophobia nor I — a proud Islamophobe — have anything to do with racism, for the simple reason that Islam is not a race, it’s an ideology. Nor are Muslims a race, anymore than Christians are. So, just as one can be a “fascistophobe”, meaning “fearful of the principles on which fascism rests”, so am I an Islamophobe — and I’ll explain why. In doing so, at some point I’ll have to compare Christianity with Islam. In the discussion, I suspect some attributes of Islam will not appeal favorably to the tastes of Muslims. This is not intentional. I believe it is the result of an objective comparison. After all, I am not a Christian but an atheist, and as such I have no reason to favor one religion over the other.
There is no such thing as
Islamophobia. Bigotry and racism exist, of course—and they are evils
I said I am an Islamophobe, a word that comes from “Islam” + “phobia”. By “Islam” I refer to the ideas, the principles that make up the religion of Islam, and I distinguish sharply between ideas and people (the Muslims). I am against their ideas, but not against people. The word “phobia”, in turn, comes from Greek and can mean the following two things, according to the American Heritage Dictionary:
Obviously, I am using “phobia” in the second sense, because my fear is neither irrational nor abnormal (though it is persistent). I can explain very rationally my fear of the Islamic principles — that’s why I went into the trouble of writing this text.
In our times the word “Islamophobia” has been used abusively to mean whatever anyone wants. Some people (often with extreme-right affiliations) use it to mean “fear of Muslims”, which is not my case. (Some of my best friends are Muslims.) Others use it to scare anyone from expressing any opinion against Islam. They try to unjustifiably stigmatize Islamophobes as “racists”, or to generalize the concept of racism so that it includes Islamophobia. This is total nonsense of course, because a race is something you are born with and you can’t change, whereas a religion is a set of beliefs in your mind; and although you can claim that those religious beliefs were given to you by the society in which you grew up, you can certainly change them if as an adult you examine them — and it is your responsibility to examine them, rather than naïvely believe what others told you — and find out that they are wrong.
Anyone who intimidates others for criticizing a religion is guilty of violation of the basic human right to free expression of ideas. Let me make it abundantly clear that no authority, imposed or elected, is in a position to prohibit me from exercising my right to criticize a religion — any religion. My suggestion to believers of that religion who feel jittery, rattling their teeth with religious fervor because I criticized their oh-so-precious beliefs? Tranquilizing pills.
Essentially, I agree with the quote by Sam Harris (near the top of this page): Islamophobia does not exist; it is a made-up, artificial concept, concocted by those who fear the criticism of their beliefs. And the reason I pose as a supposedly “proud Islamophobe” here is that I want to emphasize my opposition to the use of the term “Islamophobe” as a scarecrow for silencing the criticism of Islam.
Now, as I already stated in the top box, I am an atheist; but I will argue that Christianity serves the future of humanity better than Islam, if we must make a choice among those two religions. Why would I want to make such a statement, since atheists should immediately claim that atheism is better than either of those two options? Because, as I explain in another, general essay on religion, religion is hardwired in the human brain, at least to some extent. And when I say “the human brain”, I mean the average one of course, not mine and other atheists’ brains, which deviate from the normal.
And why shouldn’t I consider other religions besides Islam and Christianity? Why not Judaism, or Hinduism, for example?
Percents of adherents to religions and non-religions in the world (source)
Because Christianity and Islam occupy a combined 53% of world beliefs about religions (including those who claim “No religion”). Judaism has only a tiny-tiny share of the world’s beliefs (0.2%), and if people think Judaism is important this is only due to political and military strife that Israel is involved with in the Middle East. As for Hinduism, it may have a share of 13.2% of the global pie, but it lacks the “good memes” for a religion to spread (which are actually bad, aggressive memes), which Christianity and Islam possess. (Indeed, Islam has even “better” — i.e., more aggressive — memes than Christianity, as I will explain later.) In short, if the future belongs to some religions among the ones known today, those religions cannot be other than Islam and Christianity.
So, I imagine a future in which, because people must be religious (on average) due to their hardwired constraints, they will be believers of one of the currently two largest religions. And why is Islam worse than Christianity for the world’s future? My argument rests on two observations:
This second property of Islamic conduct alone would have a devastating effect on Western culture (or “Western civilization” — whichever way that is understood). I’ll bring forth examples, and explain why Western thought comes to a headlong crash against this property of Islam — if it’s not already too obvious. Finally, a third and most important conclusion (or prediction) that I will state and argue for is the following:
I will now proceed and explain each of my suppositions.
1. Do as I say, or else!
In Turkey, a 99.8% Islamic country, it’s called “neighborhood pressure”; it is the notion that you can’t behave as you wish, even if your behavior comes to no conflict at all with your neighbors’ lives. You better behave as your neighbors expect you to. For example, if your pious Muslim neighbors go to the Mosque to pray, you are looked down upon if you don’t go. It makes no sense to argue that your religious beliefs are a personal matter, or that Islam prescribes that any place is good for worship, not only the mosque. If the neighbors’ daughters wear the Islamic headscarf (the one that doesn’t let facial hair out, so as not to sexually arouse men! ), you better also ask your teenage daughter to wear a headscarf when she goes out, otherwise the neighbors will badmouth your family, and you don’t want to be living in a society where people look at you with strange and hostile looks. Pious Muslims expect you to wear a scarf to cover your facial hair, period. You are not supposed to drink alcoholic drinks,(*) or eat pork, even if you never get drunk and you keep your drinking and eating habits within your home. It’s a waste of time to argue that today’s pork meat is healthier than the lamb meat that they consume, or that moderate amounts of alcohol might even be beneficial to one’s health. Islam prohibits alcohol and pork because Allah said so (Qur’an 2:173, 2:219, 5:3, 5:90–91), and it is meaningless to argue against Allah. If you live in a pious Turkish neighborhood you better comply — for your own sake.
But what in Turkey — admittedly the most tolerant of all Islamic countries — is simply an expectation, in other Islamic countries it’s an order, a law, part of “sharia” (the Islamic law). Sometimes the violation of such law can cost you your life.
A typical case is apostasy, the changing to the “enemy camp” of another religion. In the Western world, hardly anybody notices if someone was a Christian and became a Muslim, or a Buddhist, or an atheist. Beliefs are considered a personal matter. Not so in Islam, in which apostasy is punishable by death. “Liberal” Islamic scholars will tell you that, no, Islam does not punish apostasy with death, basing their convictions on some passages of the Qur’an. Unfortunately, the Qur’an is a hodgepodge of conflicting instructions; if it were a manual for driving a car, the driver would fall into an eternal figure-8 motion, uncertain of which way to go: left or right, back or forth, because all directions are specified in the manual, often in the same breath. So the “liberal” Muslim will tell you one thing, but the more rigid one will tell you the opposite. So, there are passages in the Qur’an that indeed punish apostasy with death, such as this one:
(Note, for anyone not familiar with the Qur’an: the Qur’an is supposed to be Allah’s words, as revealed to Muhammad; which means something incredible for Western thinking: that in the above paragraph, Allah gives orders to kill some human beings! That this idea appears not troublesome at all to Muslims is a very worrisome, ominous sign. But let’s return to the notion of apostasy.)
The reader might think that the above Qur’anic excerpt states that one should be killed only if, having left from Islam, tries to come back to it. But Muhammad himself was of a different opinion. According to the Islamic scholar al-Bukhari, whom the Muslims regard as highly esteemed, Muhammad made it abundantly clear:
Bukhari:V4B52N260 “The Prophet said, ‘If a Muslim discards his religion, kill him.’ ”
Indeed, in March 2006, a poor Afghan man, Abdul Rahman, faced the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity. While working for an international Christian aid organization helping Afghan refugees in Pakistan, he abandoned Islam and became a Christian. But when he returned to Afghanistan and told his relatives about his change of faith, they denounced him to the authorities, who came to his home and arrested him. Fortunately for Rahman, his case drew international attention, and after being ensconced in another, non-Islamic country, he had his life spared. Others, however, who are not lucky enough to draw the limelight on them, do get executed.
As additional evidence for how Muslims feel about apostasy, the reader might want to read the opinion of a young Muslim, university student, who wrote to me. That’s in section 3 of this document, here. (Clicking will open the relevant part on a new page.)
If death can be administered if one becomes a Christian, then perhaps one should feel lucky if one is “only” whipped just because of being and behaving as a Christian. In December of 2009 Silva Kashif, a 16 year old Christian Sudanese girl was whipped, receiving 50 lashes because she was wearing a skirt that was “too short” according to Islamic shariah rules: it was reaching up to her knee. She was walking alone near her home in Khartoum (the Sudanese capital), and was arrested without her family knowing about it. She was brought to the court where she was summarily convicted, and was whipped by a female officer in the presence of the (male) judge.
Is it fair that Muslims force believers of other religions to be and act like Muslims? Why should a Muslim care if another person has a personal set of beliefs that do not agree with the Muslim’s own ones? In most other religions and cultures what a person thinks is a private matter. But in Islam you are not allowed to even think differently. You must think like a Muslim, otherwise you undergo social pressure and hardship. How much pressure you feel depends on your location: in places like Afghanistan and Sudan you may face the death penalty or a flogging; in a place like Turkey (the other extreme of Islam, the “lenient” one) you will feel social pressure, and live an uncomfortable life. Tolerance is not a concept that fits in the average Muslim mentality. Here are some examples of how non-Muslims are treated in Turkey, the “most tolerant” of Islamic nations:
In February, 2006, the Catholic priest Andrea Santoro was shot dead in his church in Trabzon, Turkey, by a fanatic young Muslim, a 16-year-old named Oguz. One might think, “What does a 16-year-old boy know? This incident means nothing!” But 16-year-old boys exist in all other places of the world, and — in the West at least — they don’t shoot and kill those who are of a different religion. In his trial, neither Oguz nor his mother showed any remorse; on the contrary, his mother stated that her son’s deed “was committed in the name of Allah and was a gift to the state and the nation”.
In April, 2007, three Protestant Christians were slaughtered in Malatya, Turkey, when five Muslim extremists entered the publishing office where the Christians were working, and killed them by slitting their throats. Two of the victims were Turkish converts (apostates) who had converted from Islam to Christianity; the third was a German. According to reports in the Turkish press, four out of the five killers admitted that they were motivated by “nationalist and religious feelings”. All five were carrying identical notes in their pockets reading: “We did this for our country. They [Christians] are attacking our religion.” After the event, Niyazi Güney, head of the Turkish Justice Ministry Statutes Directorate, made the following statement: “Missionary work is even more dangerous than terrorism and unfortunately is not considered a crime in Turkey” (source).
But individual murders are not the only way in which Muslims show their intolerance. Throughout history, they have put pressure on non-Muslims, forcing the latter either to convert to Islam or to flee. As a relatively recent case in point, in September 6–7, 1955, Turkish mob attacked the Greek community’s shops and homes in Istanbul, a community that at that time numbered around 135,000 individuals, sparking terror among the Christians. In the years that followed those events, which have been called the Istanbul Riots, or the Istanbul Pogrom of 1955, the Greeks felt compelled to leave Turkey, fearing for their properties and lives. As a result, the Greek community of Istanbul, which was supposedly protected by the Lausanne Treaty (just as the Muslim community of Western Thrace in Greece), now numbers not more than 4,000, mostly old people. That’s called “ethnic cleansing”, by every understanding of the term. Note that the Turks complain that the Muslim community of Greek Thrace does not get a fair treatment — allegations that are not entirely baseless, although the Muslims in Greek Thrace keep multiplying in numbers and percents — but the Turks prefer to ignore the fact that they have eradicated the Greek community of Istanbul, so if there are no incidents against Greeks in Turkey anymore it’s not because Turks are more tolerant than Greeks, but because it is too hard to find a Greek to harass in Turkish lands now.
More generally, most Turks believe in the illusion that the Ottoman Muslims have shown great tolerance against non-Muslim minorities in their once-great Empire. Although this is not entirely wrong, what the Turks mean is that Christians, Jews, and other non-Muslim citizens of the ex-Ottoman Empire should feel lucky that they were not obliterated at the edge of the Turkish scimitar. In reality, entire populations in the Balkan peninsula were forced to convert to Islam, usually indirectly (by being oppressed and assigned a “second class citizen” status) and that’s why today there are Muslim majorities in Albania (70%) and Bosnia–Herzegovina (40%).
One might think that the urge that Muslims feel to force others to comply with Islamic rules is only a superficial, temporary attribute, which will be eliminated once Muslims are “civilized” and attain the same living standards as those enjoyed in the West. But this is wrong. The urge to convert others to Islam is, according to Muslims, a command given by Allah. In their Qur’an, Allah states very clearly that Muslims should convert the entire world to Islam by force, so that in the end Islam is the only religion:
It is not true that the average Muslim is aware of the above exerpts of their holy books. But their scholars are. The average Muslim doesn’t read, they only have a hearsay knowledge of their religion. Only a few selected scholars read their holy texts, and it is they who decide what Islam really is. The scholars can instill an attitude in an entire culture using very indirect ways — for example, by carefully selecting the kind of material that is included in elementary school readings. Young Muslims learn that they must spread their religion, they must force others to obey Islam, without ever having been told explicitly “you have to do such-and-such to help Islam spread.” When the opportunity arises, they take the gun, or knife, and follow the urges of their subconscious. As for the objection that such attitudes will diminish as Muslims become more integrated in Western societies, please read section 4 of this article.
I would like now to explain why this attitude of Muslims is a total calamity for what is generally understood as “Western civilization”.
It is because the Western is largely a technological civilization, and as such, it is based on science. Science requires innovation and creativity, without which scientific research is not fruitful. Finally — and this is a subtle point — innovation and creativity require an environment of freedom, in which the scientist’s mind can roam free and create. To put it in a pithy statement:
I happen to have a first-person experience of this. As long as I felt free when I was a cognitive science researcher, in the U.S.A., I could create the most important ideas that culminated in my thesis and research project, in the years 1995–2004. But my creativity was stifled as soon as worries entered my mind. I was feeling oppression and being monitored, especially after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington D.C., and the ensuing invasion of Iraq in 2003, which caused Americans to look suspiciously at every foreigner, not just the Muslims. I graduated in 2006, largely out of inertia, due to the work that I had already done in the previous years.
Now, mine is only a personal experience that could be easily dismissed as statistically insignificant. True, but there is ample evidence that creativity thrives only where there is freedom of thought, and is stifled in times of authoritarian regimes. Here are a few examples:
Many scholars, in an attempt to explain the unprecedented flourishing of civilization during the so-called “classic times” in ancient Greece, attribute it to the freedom experienced for the first time by the people who inhabited some locations of present-day Greece, such as Attica (the region of Athens), and Ionia, in the west coast of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). The Greeks inhabiting those lands were freed from oligarchies and tyrants, even if intermittently. In Athens, democracy was invented for the first time, and the arts, philosophy, and mathematics flourished to an unprecedented degree. A little earlier, or at around the same time, the first natural philosophers (or “pre-scientists”, as we could call them), appeared in Miletus, Ephesus, Samos, and other cities of Ionia and of Aegean islands. What was created back then largely defined the course of Western thought, science, and hence technology, up to our days. Certainly, other factors contributed as well, such as the accumulation of wealth and the masses of slaves who provided free labor, allowing philosophers to eat, drink, and philosophize. But other cultures have had wealth and slaves, too (e.g., the Egyptians, the Persians, and later the Romans), and never reached the height of intellectual achievements of classic Greek times.
Conversely, in Medieval Times, there occurred a restriction of freedom, and a corresponding stifling of scientific discovery and creativity. Most Westerners do not want to admit this, because Christianity still belongs to their cultural heritage. I have read books by learned and intelligent authors who wonder in all seriousness about what happened to Western civilization during the Medieval Times; why its collective intelligence went through a period of stupor for several centuries. But the truth stares at them in the face: Christianity imposed a total censorship and a block in mental freedom, which killed all creativity. It is not so hard to see the conflict between the inquisitive mind’s need to examine the world and discover the answers, and the religious mind’s conviction that all answers have been given already in a holy book. Nor is it so hard to remember the burning at the stake of Giordano Bruno in 1600 by the Holy Inquisition because he supported heliocentrism (that the Sun, and not the Earth, is at the center of the cosmos), thus opposing the official dogma of the Roman Catholic Church; or the near-escape from a similar fate by Galileo Galilei, 33 years later, for pretty much the same reasons. The connection between Christianity’s early and guilty steps and humanity’s — or at least its Western portion’s — failure at innovation is very important for our subject, because in the last part of this article I will argue that a similar fate awaits the entire world, this time under the iron grip of Islam, an even worse and fiercer enemy of freedom than Christianity, in my opinion. Want some evidence to back up my previous statement? What do they say? “A single picture is worth 1000 words”, right? Watch this:
It is also instructive to note that between the 8th and the 13th century (and according to some scholars until the 15th), there occurred some flourishing of civilization, and science in particular, in the Islamic world, which, by the 8th C., spread from Spain to today’s Pakistan, thus forming one of the largest empires of all times. The reason for this flourishing is to be found, according to scholars, in the fact that many Muslims of that time focused on humanism, and on logic and scientific study, while they remained open to the freedom of mind and to skepticism, putting the emphasis on the individual, and not on societal tradition and authority. Unfortunately, these characteristics of early Muslims later vanished. (Source.)
But the human intellect in the West started getting rid of the iron grip of religion by the late 17th century, with the advent of the Renaissance (which had already appeared in Italy by the 14th century, but it took some time until it gained momentum in the rest of Europe). It all depended also a lot on the location, because not all of Europe started becoming more liberal at the same time. Sir Isaac Newton, for example, who was born at exactly the year of Galileo’s death (1642), had no trouble at all in Britain not only to support the heliocentric system, but also to explain why the Earth orbits the Sun (as well as to place physics and mathematics on a solid foundation). Britain was a much more liberal place than continental Europe at the time, allowing several bright minds — such as David Hume and John Locke — to appear virtually simultaneously. Soon the intellectual gears started taking turns in the rest of Europe, too, and the 18th century saw the advent of the Enlightenment, the philosophical movement that emphasized the use of reason (replacing the reliance on ancient authority), and brought about many humanitarian reforms, as well as free thinkers (e.g., Voltaire, Montesquieu, Diderot, Paine, and in the U.S.: Franklin, Jefferson, Madison). People in Europe and the U.S.A. were now relatively free from the religious grip on their minds. In other places of the world, however, freedom was a quality in need — certainly not in abundance.
The 20th century saw one last but excellent example of the connection between freedom and the intellect. The example unrolled in the United States, and is the event of mass immigration of German and other European scientists before, during, and after WWII. At that time, scientists fled the authoritarian regime of Nazi Germany and ended up mostly in the U.S.A., where they helped create the technological miracle of the 2nd half of the 20th C., one of the many products of which are the Internet, and the computer through which you read this very article. Because I lived in the U.S.A. for more than a decade, I had a first-hand experience of the feeling of intellectual freedom. What this feeling of freedom is, if you ask me, I won’t be able to tell you with precision. It has to be felt to be understood. It’s not just the ability to create new ideas without restriction, but a lot more than that. It includes the freedom to criticize and even ridicule the President if you wish, an act for which you can be imprisoned in other nations. (We’ll see such examples later.) It includes the ability to move anywhere you want freely, because the living conditions in the U.S. somehow make it easy to move around, and when you travel your intellect “breathes” the fresh air of new thoughts. It’s a multitude of things. Those with no personal experience of what I describe might find it difficult to accept it as true.
Come to think of it, the Internet itself is a major tool for the free and world-wide dissemination of ideas and information. But the Internet is a quintessentially Western product. Is the Internet something that Islamic societies can peacefully coexist with? Not quite. In Iran and Saudi Arabia, only certain sites are allowed; one is not free to visit any site because one would then sin. Thus, sinning is not a matter between the individual and Allah, but the State authority must intervene and force a certain behavior on everyone (believer-or-not; even if you are the rare atheist in those countries, you can’t sin). In Turkey, too, many sites are banned (of the order of 6,000, as estimated in the fall of 2009, according to Turkish sources). They include such sites as those about Richard Dawkins’s scientific work (why? because biological evolution causes severe indigestion in Islamic minds), gay-lesbian sites (because being a homosexual is — you guessed it — a sin in Islam), and YouTube. In a meeting of the IMF (the International Monetary Fund) that took place in Istanbul, Turkey, in the first week of October 2009, journalists found out they were the only ones in Turkey who were free to visit every Internet page. Obviously, the authorities thought a bad image would be created for Turkey if Western visitors noticed the restrictions on freedom. So the authorities knew there is something wrong, something in their practices that conflicted with Western standards, but instead of lifting the ban in all of Turkey they tried to sweep the issue under the rug, putting on a façade of supposed freedom. (Read a report about this event in a Turkish newspaper, in English, here.)
2. Speak as I please, or else!
Banning criticism is certainly related to the previous topic of banning freedoms, of which it is a special case; but it deserves special attention, I believe, because it disturbs a very fundamental and sensitive chord in Western thought. Let me try to spell out exactly what this “chord” is:
As I wrote earlier, the Western civilization is largely based on science and technology. Now, Western science is founded upon peer review, which means that if you are a scientist and submit your findings for publication, you should know that a panel of other scientists (your “peers”, but unknown to you) will review your writings, and judge them according to their knowledge of related work. They will offer you their criticism, and if your writings aren’t good enough, they will be rejected by your peers/judges. At least theoretically, the criticism offered by your peers should be objective, so if you’re saying nonsense (that is, things that contradict the known evidence — that’s what most of “scientific nonsense” is), your writings will fail to be published. (Or they will be published in obscure journals, with low standards of acceptance, and will have a correspondingly minimal impact in science in general.) Without objective criticism science cannot exist.
This, again, is not just a superficial attribute that will be improved and perhaps eliminated in time as Muslims become more familiar with Western ways of thinking. It goes very deep into their religion. Unfortunately (for the West), it was none other than the founder of Islam, Muhammad, who showed the way to counter criticism.
I will not repeat here the details of the atrocities by which Muhammad silenced his critics, firstly because I find them too disturbing, and secondly because I have written about them in another page, and I hate repeating myself. I will only mention here, telegraphically, that:
Muhammad didn’t use his own hands to do all those things, of course; he always asked his comrades, e.g.: “Will no one rid me of [such-and-such annoying person]? He [or she] insulted Allah and his Apostle [i.e., me, Muhammad].” Invariably, some “good Muslim” would volunteer his scimitar, and would do as the frame above says. This does not exculpate Muhammad from the atrocities, however, any more than Hitler is exculpated from exterminating the Jews because he never touched a single Jew with his own hands.
Muslims don’t read their historic and holy documents, so they generally don’t know about their “prophet” directly from their primary sources. They only know what others, “wise scholars” ask them to believe. So they love Muhammad with all their heart, believing that he was the most generous and benevolent person who ever lived on Earth. They never learn to look at the facts. That they don’t learn how to learn is a very important issue, and constitutes the “Achilles’ heel” of Islam in my opinion, as I will explain later.
Now, if it is only their wise and learned scholars who know what Muhammad did to silence his critics, how does the average Muslim, as well, acquire the attitude of silencing criticism? As I wrote in the first section, this is achieved through education: the various scholars get to decide the material that’s included in the school curriculum, and this material indirectly sends the appropriate messages to young minds. The whole thing is not even done intentionally; it is done subconsciously, by the scholar selecting some text to read at school, which, inter alia, describes how the good Muslim silenced his critic; and this silencing — achieved in a violent way — can pass as an admirable act of bravery. But let’s see some modern examples of the ancient practice of silencing those who say unfavorable things.
In 1988, Salman Rushdie, a British-Indian novelist and essayist, had his book “The Satanic Verses” published. The novel includes a disputed Muslim tradition, according to which Muhammad added some verses to the Qur’an by which three goddesses that used to be worshipped in Mecca were also accepted as deities in the Qur’an. Later, Muhammad — always according to the disputed Muslim tradition — revoked the verses, saying that they were given to him by the devil. Rushdie did nothing but describe this tradition, in a novelist’s way. In February, 1989, the supreme religious leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued a “fatwa” (a religious order) asking for Rushdie’s death. The incident, termed “the Satanic Verses controversy”, caused the breaking of diplomatic relations between Britain and Iran, riots by Muslims in many countries with a Muslim majority or a sizable minority, including the planting of bombs in bookstores, and the death of several people. Rushdie has been forced to be hiding since then, and the fatwa still remains. In this case (as well as the next), Muslims felt that their “prophet’s” image was tarnished. This is understandable, but the request to have Rushdie killed is not. In the West, when you disagree with someone, you argue against, you don’t kill that person. And Rushdie is a citizen of a Western country, so common sense says that you may disagree all you want, but you must respect the principles and culture of the country where your insulter lives, you can’t interfere with them, sending squads of headhunters in Britain. In any case, killing as a response for being offended is barbaric,(*) something that many Muslims around the world have a hard time to understand. Their own attitude is what really tarnishes their image, more than any insult tarnishes their “prophet’s” own one. But we shouldn’t be surprised with their “death for insult” reaction by now, knowing how Muhammad treated his insulters. (If the reader still wonders, I already mentioned that the gory details are given in this page of mine; read it only if you don’t plan to have dinner anytime soon.)
In the fall of 2005, the world experienced a near déjà vu of the Salman Rushdie case. This time it was a series of 12 cartoons that appeared in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, many of them depicting Muhammad and, — being cartoons — poking fun on Islam and its practices. This was perceived not as merely insulting, but as blasphemous by most Muslims around the world, because — please note this — according to Islamic tradition Muhammad shouldn’t be depicted at all, for fear of his image turning Islam into idolatry. The event, which became known as “the Muhammad cartoons controversy”, sparked violent protests by Muslims around the world, resulting in arsonings of Danish Embassies in Islamic countries, occupation of buildings in Europe, and more than 100 deaths overall. Islamists drew new cartoons which they falsely and slanderously claimed that were published originally in the Danish newspaper. Those new cartoons were depicting a Muslim as a pig, as a pedophile, or mounted by a dog while praying. This false evidence contributed greatly to the violent protests that followed, consequently also to the deaths of people. In other words, Islamists themselves fueled the public Muslim anger with lies and succeeded in making it more lethal. Islamic clerics asked for the death of the cartoonists, much as the Iranian Ayatollah had asked for Rushdie’s death two decades earlier. To this day, the cartoonists live in fear of some Muslim executing the death sentences. Indeed, on January 1st, 2010, a Muslim militant broke into the house of a cartoonist in Denmark and attempted to murder him with an ax and a knife, but failed, and was subsequently arrested by the police.
The Muhammad cartoons controversy is more important than the Rushdie case for the following reason:
Do cultures have this right? Suppose I belong to a new, unknown culture, which happens to feel insulted by thin and tall buildings that “impale the sky”. Does my culture have the right to ask Muslims to immediately pull down the minarets of their mosques in their own countries? (Actually this is one of the examples of the parody that I wrote in this page back in 2008, well before the Swiss people voted for a ban to building new minarets in Switzerland.) If not, then by which logic do Muslims have the right to ask others to behave according to Islamic rules? And if Muslims feel insulted by cartoons printed on a Danish newspaper, there are two answers:
There might be — there actually are — plenty of things in Islam that insult me as a human being (such as its treatment of women as inferiors, the brutal killings of sharia violators by stoning, decapitation, hanging, etc., and other punishments such as flogging and amputations, the mutilation of the sexual organs of baby girls and pre-teen boys — to name just a few barbaric(*) practices), but I don’t go berserk, asking for the death of Muslims who insult my respect for human life with their traditions. Freedom of speech is a Western tradition, and a fundamental one for the very existence of Western civilization — as I argue — and this fundamental pillar is what Muslims ask Westerners to demolish. Well, no: go and demolish your minarets first; then come back and we can have some discussion. But discussion, which requires rationality and logic, is not something that one can expect from minds preoccupied by religion, who use the subconscious, the feelings, not the rational faculty of their brains; especially from minds of a religion that didn’t undergo the smoothening and polishing effects of the Enlightenment, as Christianity did in Europe and the U.S.A. As a result, Islam has remained an uncouth, crass, truly barbaric(*) religion, sharing many attributes with the notion of cult. Christianity, in contrast, has had all the time to essentially make peace with the reasoning trends of the newest age, as will become clear in the 3rd section of this article.
Adding to the insanity of the Muslim reaction in the Muhammad cartoons case is the observation that I made earlier, which is that Islam prohibits the depiction of Muhammad so that Muslims themselves do not become idolaters. It’s not a prohibition for the sake of prohibition, as most Muslims perceive it. That is, suppose I draw a “Muhammad cartoon” on this page, as follows:
Now suppose you are a Muslim. Are you in danger of dropping on all four, worshipping my cartoon? Of course you won’t do that — you’re not mentally ill. Then why in your right mind do you want to prohibit others (non-Muslims) from drawing cartoons or sketches of Muhammad? The hypothetical (actually nonexistent) danger of idolatry is yours, not theirs. So what’s the hysteria all about?
The above, however, is a rational thought. The more religious a person is, the more incapable he or she is of perceiving the irrationality of the Muslim reaction against the Muhammad cartoons.
Turning now to incidents that are more directly related to the idea of silencing criticism, let’s look at the following:
On November 2, 2004, Theo van Gogh, a Dutch film director and producer, author, and actor (a relative of the famous 19th C. painter, Vincent van Gogh) was shot dead in Amsterdam by a Muslim fanatic, who was arrested afterwards. Eight bullets went into van Gogh’s body, which was also stabbed on the chest. He was nearly decapitated, as the murderer slit van Gogh’s throat and left two knives in his body, one with a five-page note attached, which threatened Western governments, Jews, and one of van Gogh’s colleagues. That colleague and van Gogh had earlier directed a film that infuriated Muslims. The film, titled “Submission” (which is the meaning of the word “Islam”), was a 10-minute story showing four women while praying, covered with semi-transparent veils, through which their nude bodies could be outlined, and on top of which Qur’anic verses that are unfavorable to women were projected, in Arabic.
Van Gogh’s murder sparked riots in the Netherlands, where a number of mosques, but also churches in retaliation, were attacked and vandalized. The event happened at a strangely coincidental time, when van Gogh had completed another film, one that was a fictional version of an earlier murder: the assassination of Dutch politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002, by a person who claimed in court that he had murdered Fortuyn to stop him from exploiting Muslims as scapegoats. (Fortuyn was an initially left-wing politician who later campaigned against the Islamization of Dutch society.)
The Muslim murderer’s message was very clear: “Stop criticizing our religion; whoever does it is punished by death.” Too bad for the Muslim killer, the Dutch State — like every other European State — has abolished the death penalty, depriving the killer from the temporary satisfaction of being received by his “prophet” with open arms in heaven, perhaps even awarded with the seventy-plus virgins who are eagerly awaiting to satisfy his sexual deprivaction — and don’t tell me that Muslim assassins in their 20’s do not believe in this fairy tale, because I will think that you are being naïver than the naïvest Muslim.
The reader might have formed the impression that only the mob or young fanatics tend to take action in order to stifle criticism. But this is not true. You can be the Prime Minister of a well-known Muslim country, and resort to the same tactic. On September 8, 2009, the Turkish conglomerate Doğan Holding — which holds such wide-circulation newspapers as dailies Hürriyet and Milliyet, the TV channels CNN Türk and Kanal D, the electronic Hürriyet Daily News (in English), and a lot more — received a record tax fine of around 2.5 billion dollars (let me write that down in full: 2,500,000,000 dollars!) for tax evasion from the Turkish Finance Ministry. Three weeks later, the fine was raised to $3.22 billion, and all this came on top of an earlier (February 2009) tax fine of half a billion. These amounts are estimated to exceed the total assets of Doğan Holding, which, if forced to pay, will be led into bankruptcy. How is a tax fine, however immense, relevant to our topic? Explanation: the Turkish administration is an Islamist one, led by Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a graduate of an Islamic high school, and now a strongly religious “Muslim Prime Minister” (those are his own words); in addition, Doğan’s news media have been criticizing Erdoğan’s policies for quite some time now — a right that all journalists in a healthy democratic system should enjoy. Not so in Turkey. Although Erdoğan has stated that the tax fine was given on “purely technical” grounds, the fact of the matter is that a fine of this magnitude threatens to eliminate Erdoğan’s critic, Aydin Doğan, who is the owner of the conglomerate.
Was that an isolated incident? No, Turkey — the most liberal of all countries with an Islamic majority! — has a dismal record in the freedom of expression frontier:
Let’s end the examples here, and ponder over the consequences. I don’t know if the reader perceives the devastating consequences that the banning of criticism would have on Western civilization. In case this is not too evident, I would like to explain.
As I said earlier, the Western is a largely technological civilization, based on the development of science. Yes, there are arts; yes, there is culture; but the primary element that sets it apart from all other civilizations that also developed arts and culture is its reliance on scientific knowledge, the factual knowledge that comes with scientific investigation. Subtract scientific knowledge, and the Western civilization will collapse like a paper tower, after losing its backbone, i.e., its ability to acquire and consolidate knowledge, using it to develop and progress further. This is the most crucial difference between science and religion: science improves knowledge, applying the new knowledge to people’s lives, thus causing what has been perceived as progress (since the Victorian era of the 19th century). In contrast, religion (any religion, not just Islam) stays at a fixed level of knowledge, relying on the fossilized wisdom of some holy book, and on the equally unproductive wisdom of authority, as expressed through the words of some “old men of wisdom”.
Is Islam against progress? Evidence, of the sort I listed above, gives us a resounding “Yes!” as an answer: one must be self-blindfolded to fail to see the connection between Islam’s restriction of the freedom of thought and silencing of criticism on one hand, and the effect that such attitudes have on scientific research on the other, and hence on the acquisition of new and improved knowledge, technology, and progress.
3. Comparison of Islam with Christianity
Although I am an atheist, and thus would personally prefer that people adhere to no religion at all, I must admit that religion is “set in stone” (hardwired) in the human brain, for biological (evolutionary) reasons. Thus, religion unfortunately won’t go away, it’s here to stay. Given that the two most dominant religions are Christianity and Islam, if people must be religious, it is useful to examine which of those two religions appears less harmful to humanity — which one is the best of two evils, in other words. Here are my observations:
As we see from the above juxtaposition of moral principles and practices of their leaders, the two religions, Christianity and Islam, stand on diametrically opposed foundations. If you are an atheist, and you are told that one of the two religions must prevail in the future, which one would you prefer that to be?
It is mentioned elsewhere in this text that young Muslims learn indirectly some moral principles that sound abhorrent from the point of view of believers of other religions, or atheists. For example, Muslims learn that it is OK to kill someone if this is allowed by Islam. They learn this by following the example of their “prophet”. Here is some evidence: what follows is an excerpt from a discussion that I had with a young (23 year old) male Arab Muslim, a university student. He wrote (I preserve his syntax, spelling, and emphasis):
I spent the better part of a page in my reply explaining to him first the logical contradiction in what he said: on one hand, “No one imposes others to be Muslims”, and on the other hand, “if he [is] born a Muslim” he must remain one or be killed. In other words, they think they don’t impose Islam on anyone, but they do impose it on babies. Just as in all other religions, they don’t give a free choice to children, so that, as adults, they could make an informed choice of a religion. However, unlike all other religions, if you leave Islam you risk being killed — whether this will actually happen depends on the particular Islamic place, some Hadiths, and the mood of some “old men of wisdom” who will judge the seriousness of your apostasy according to their subjective opinions. Then I explained to him that practically all the rest of the world would consider an act of killing for disagreeing with beliefs as a barbarism of the worst kind. Christians, in particular, are disallowed by their religion to kill (it’s one of the 10 commandments), and would find such an act completely at odds with the life of their religious leader, Jesus Christ. Atheists like me, also find the taking of a life to be one of the worst and morally most abominable deeds (without needing any “role model”, such as Jesus, to understand this). But some Muslims, such as my interlocutor, taking Muhammad as their “role model”, believe that killing is not only justified, but even dictated in some instances by their religion.
It is, of course, incorrect to make generalizations about all Muslims given a particular instance, such as the above. But it is not very difficult to conduct a survey and find out whether other Muslims would “strongly agree” / “agree” / “somewhat agree” / “somewhat disagree” / “disagree” / “strongly disagree” / “not have an opinion” on the paragraph quoted above from my exchange with the young Muslim. As a control case, one could also conduct the same survey among Christians (expressing the idea generally and omitting the parts that read “as prophet Muhammad said”, about Hadiths, etc), although the result is painfully obvious in my opinion: I would bet my money on all Christians surveyed ticking the “strongly disagree” box (in a sample of not more than 1000, because I realize there are mentally disturbed people out there).
Parenthetically, I was left with the impression that my young Muslim interlocutor wrote that killing “is a sensitive issue and needs to be discussed carefully” because he was writing to me. He started feeling (from our earlier exchanges) how much at odds such an act is with my personal ethics, and wrote the last qualifying statement. I suspect that if he was talking with fellow Muslims he wouldn’t feel the need to state that killing for a change of beliefs is a “sensitive issue”. But that is only my suspicion.
Now we turn to the most crucial question: Are the previously described negative attributes of Islam temporary? Isn’t it the case that all that we (in Western societies) have to do is simply do nothing, waiting for the Muslims to lift their social standards and make them equal to the Western ones, at which point there will be no conflict anymore?
That’s not just a wrong idea, it’s a disastrous one, and will eventually result in the demise of the West. Here is why I think this is so.
4. World Domination through Segregation
What would you think if there were a cult society near you, the members of which followed this rule:
You would think that this cult aims at absorbing members outside of its own and growing, wouldn’t you? Now replace “our cult” with “Islam”, in the frame above, and what you get is a true statement.
Combine now the above with the attitude against apostasy from this cult, discussed in section 1:
(Replace “our law” by “sharia” in the frame above, to make it a true statement.)
So, not only does Islam attempt to grow by absorption, but also guards against the danger of dissipation by losing members.
Of course, threats of death or social rejection are only one way, a direct way, in which Islam guards against shrinking. There are other, indirect ways. One of the indirect ways involves the fight against modern knowledge. How can the believers remain forever ignorant? There are some unwritten, yet faithfully obeyed rules. For example:
Replace “Holy Book” by “Qur’an”, and “Adversary” by “Satan”, to make the above true for Islam.
In other words, women in Islam are considered either too dangerous or too stupid (or both) to be given a chance for higher education, and men are allowed to get a glimpse of what others say against Islam, but are forbidden from truly believing anything opposed by Islam. If the reader does not believe that this is true, consider a further exchange that I had with the young male Arab Muslim, the one who appeared in section 3 defending the killing of apostates. In one of my replies I told him that Islam doesn’t give to Muslims the freedom to learn anything that opposes the Qur’an, because Muslims believe that such false ideas come from Satan. He disagreed, and wrote the following (his syntax, except where I inserted a verb in square brackets to make his sentence more readable):
So far so good — one would feel like congratulating him for the “we have the right to think” idea. But look now what kind of “right to think” this is. He continues immediately as follows:
And blasphemy is punishable by death, as he already explained to me. That is what Muslims mean by “the right to think”: it is the right to look at, take a glimpse, but not really think critically about the idea opposing their Qur’an. “If this happen,” they are instructed to do the equivalent of blocking their ears and shouting “I don’t hear you!!”, by regurgitating Qur’anic suras. A Damoclean Sword is hanging over their heads for the sin of thinking critically; and by that I mean a very literal sword that can cut their throats.
All the above written and unwritten rules aim at one thing: the segregation of Islam from the rest of the world. It is funny that Muslims complain about the non-Muslims’ “fear of otherness” (i.e., Islamophobia), when they themselves do everything they can to segregate themselves from the rest of the world, who they fear integrating with, and highlight the fact that they are different. For instance:
They dress up in a particular way, which is as if shouting “I am a Muslim!” from afar. Whereas the most that Christians do to assert their faith is that they wear an often inconspicuous cross as a necklace, which one must make an effort (approach the person) to see, the Muslim woman must cover her head — and dress up in general — in such a way so that one must be blind to fail to notice that she is a Muslim. Muslim men, in some particular localities, grow a type of beard-without-moustache that again shouts “I am a Muslim!” from distance. They also wear a light-colored (usually white) cover on the head, a cylindrical one with a convex top. You can’t just be a Muslim, you have to advertise it. Many Muslims try hard to distinguish themselves visually in various ways.
They even have a word for “non-Muslim”: the Arabic word kāfir (plural kuffār); i.e., the “other” is a concept in the Muslim’s mind, worthy of a word to refer to it; in contrast, there is no single word in European languages to say “non-Christian”, except by the trick of taking the word “Christian” and negating it, as I just did; but this is a mere linguistic trick. The “non-Christian” is not a concept that the average Christian regularly thinks of (save for the few radical Christians, who don’t differ much in mentality from the average Muslim).
But for Islam to dominate the world it is necessary not only to grow in segregation and absolute numbers, but also in percent, turning the kuffār into a minority. How on earth can that be achieved?
It can be achieved through a vicious circle, which is already at work. According to this vicious circle:
segregation → poverty → more Muslims → ignorance → segregation
And the cycle keeps going, forever.
Now, the above vicious circle is not a simple linear process as I made it appear. For example: poverty, large numbers, and segregation, in combination ensure that young Muslims do not have the means to access the resources available to their peers in Western societies, thus remaining ignorant on average. (All these are statistical statements; that is, the reader should attach an “on average” to all of them. Of course there are exceptions of Muslims who escape from the vicious circle and become highly educated, but what I am interested in and describe is the average case.) And this holds true even for immigrant Muslims who multiply their numbers within Westerns societies, but retain their Muslim identity because they segregate themselves.
The importance of segregation shouldn’t pass unnoticed. For instance, Indians, too, suffer from the following vicious circle:
poverty → more Indians → ignorance → poverty
(If you are a well-educated Indian reading this page, please remember my “on average” qualification.) But Indians do not insist on segregating themselves, and thus do not display the attitude “us versus the rest of the world” as Muslims do. If it weren’t for their visibly darker skin color, Indians would blend completely in Western societies (physically; because culturally they already blend to a great extent). The same observation applies to most other peoples of the world who are afflicted by poverty.
I come now to the unavoidable conclusion: why the masses of poor members of this “ubiquitous cult” will eventually dominate the world — if we do nothing! — and completely replace the much wealthier Westerners. A few simple observations suffice to draw this conclusion:
The above is the primary reason. There is a secondary one:
Christian religious leaders are also guilty of selfishness. They worry not about Christianity — shouldn’t they, if Christianity will be replaced by Islam? — but about their offices and privileges, which remain intact in their own lifetimes. Their “flock” diminishes, especially in places like Europe, but their offices stay for a lifetime. Thus, we see Christian religious leaders usually preaching tolerance and peace with “other religions”, reasoning that “If I don’t bother them, they won’t bother me.” The point is not, of course, that they should preach intolerance and war, but that they should do something, become active, take some measures to avoid the replacement of their own religion by another one. But as long as they feel personally “safe”, they couldn’t care less.
By the way, if the reader thinks that Islamic world domination exists only in my imagination, and that peaceful Muslims want to simply live their lives, never thinking of such silly notions as of dominating the world, then perhaps a picture can dissolve any doubts:
From a 2011 Muslim demonstration in The Netherlands
4.1 Is Islam a Cult?
I answer this question as part of this article, where I present a list of criteria that need to be satisfied for an organization or group to be called a “cult”, or cult-like. Islam seems to satisfy all of the criteria to a great extent. I include other examples of organizations or belief systems, for comparison. Please visit that page for more information (the link opens in a new window).
5. What Can Be Done
In this article I discuss answers to the question “What can be done?” to some length. In particular, I claim that the following information should be disseminated to Muslims:
It doesn’t matter if Muslims currently suffer from an acute denial syndrome and refuse to face reality. The evidence exists in their own holy texts. If today they resort to the irrational trick of deeming “unreliable” precisely the parts of their holy texts that bother them, tomorrow they could learn to face reality. And once one learns to face reality, one has a very hard time falling back into denial mode.
But do visit the abovementioned article for more on this subject.
In summary, if Muslims have the right to show so much fear integrating with the rest of the world, I think I have the respective right to feel fear of the advancement of their rules and ideas. Our feelings are mutual: their Westophobia is reciprocated by my Islamophobia.
A related newspaper article written by a friend
In April, 2012, my good friend Burak Bekdil, a journalist of the Turkish daily Hürriyet Daily News, wrote an article for his newspaper on the subject of Islamophobia. In it, he touches upon several of the issues discussed above. I give the article below, although the reader can also read it in its original form here, because I find that Burak’s article complements nicely the present one. His scathing criticism of the practices of Islamists is exactly on the same wavelength with my views. Here it is:
Footnotes: (Clicking on (^) brings back to the text)
(^) A 2009 study supported by the Open Society Institute, titled “Being Different in Turkey” found that around 300,000 households stopped consuming alcohol altogether between 2003 and 2008, mainly due to social pressure — reducing the country’s alcohol-consuming households to 6% of the population, from 8%.
(^) When I write words like “barbaric” I anticipate that some Muslim readers might feel offended, because they don’t feel like barbarians, after all. Indeed, chances are that, since they are reading this text, they are well-educated, refined, and civilized, and they might think that the actions of extremist Muslims — such as of the Taliban in Afghanistan — do not represent the religion of Islam. I agree with all that, I understand you if you have this attitude and my purpose is not to offend you. However, I believe that a religion is defined by the practices of its believers. If the holy books say one thing, and the believers do another, then I would think that the holy book remains “empty letter” and “mere theory”, and what matters is what the believers do in practice. What good is it if the book talks about treating women nicely, and the average Muslim whips them, stones them, beheads them, and hangs them? If you think that you reject such practices, fine, but you are not an average Muslim. Islam comprises over 1.5 billion believers, and the vast majority of those believers might have vastly different ideas from you. Evidence shows that the average Muslim approves of such barbaric practices, because there is not any strong will among the 1.5 billion believers to stop them. For example, a survey carried out in August 2009 found that 83% of Pakistanis approve the stoning of adulterers. You belong to a tiny minority. You have higher standards than the average Muslim, and that’s good for you, but you are not a good representative of your religion. In addition, there is another problem: your standards might not even agree with your holy book. For example, the punishment of 100 lashes to women (and men) for adultery or fornication is prescribed in your holy Qur’an (here: Qur’an 24:2). If you don’t think this is a just punishment, then you disagree with Allah, so you are a believer of a different religion. But if you think it is indeed a just punishment, then from my point of view you’re a barbarian. As for an Allah who prescribes 100 lashes on a human (of any time, any place, any tribe), that Allah cannot be anything else other than a figment of your “prophet’s” imagination — a figment which, unfortunately, you swallowed whole and digested since your early childhood, not because you were allowed to think rationally, but because that was the religion of your parents.
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