Thursday, 13 October 2016

"Religion of Peace"

Comments on Ayaan Hirsi Ali's recent video (she's not completely wrong)

[This article was updated on October 14, 2016]

This is not a bad video, but there are some points that need to be refuted or clarified. Prager University has provided a transcript, so we can break this down point by point: 

 1. Ayaan says:

"I was raised a practicing Muslim and remained one for almost half my life. I attended madrassas, that is, Islamic schools, and memorized large parts of the Quran. As a child, I lived in Mecca for a time and frequently visited the Grand Mosque. As a teenager, I sympathized with the Muslim Brotherhood. At 22 while my family was living in Kenya, my father arranged my marriage to a member of our family clan, a man that I had never met. I ran away, made my way to Holland, studied there and eventually was elected a member of the Dutch parliament. Now I live in the United States. In short, I have seen Islam from the inside and the outside."

Ayaan's life story has been subject to plenty of doubt and suspicion, as this documentary shows. I don't want to start with an ad hominem attack but as so much of her "expertise" is rooted in her life story and she mentions it at the very beginning, the fact that people have found holes in it cannot he ignored. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean that everything she says can be dismissed. Furthermore, if she indeed was a Muslim Brotherhood sympathizer, or member, that would certainly make her apostasy a lot more understandable. Being spiritually pimped and exploited (see point 4 in the linked article) does have a tendency to put people off.

2. Ayaan says:
"I believe that a reform of Islam is necessary and possible. And only Muslims can make that reform a reality. But we in the West cannot remain on the sidelines as though the outcome of this struggle has nothing to do with us. If the jihadists win and the hope for a reformed Islam dies, the rest of the world will pay a terrible price. The terror attacks in New York, London, Madrid, Paris and many other places are only a preview for what is to come." 

An attempt at reform began just over two hundred years ago and its seeds are bearing fruit today in the form of ISIS, al-Qaedah, Boko Haram, al-Shabab and other Kharajite offshoots. The violence that we see (in New York, London, Paris, Orlando, Brussels etc.) was not, is not and will not be committed by Orthodox Muslims, i.e. the overwhelming majority, and they are those who adhere to the Orthodox schools of theology and law. (See the appendix in the linked article).

Therefore, the issue is not reform. The issue is to stop funding such groups and using them as hired guns in order to remove undesired regimes and leaders in the Muslim world. Western governments, and especially that of the United States, need to leave the Muslim world alone. As for refuting these groups in the fields of theology and law, let the Muslims of the Orthodox majority take care of that.

3. Ayaan says:

"For this reason, I believe that it’s foolish to insist, as Western leaders habitually do, that the violent acts committed in the name of Islam can somehow be divorced from the religion itself. For more than a decade, my message has been simple: Islam is not a religion of peace."

This is true. Islam is not a religion of peace, and it's not a religion of war either. Rather, and this is something that is never admitted in the English language, Islam is more than a religion, it is a system of governance. The Revealed Law (Ar. shariah) has laws and institutions that govern all aspects of life, from prayer and fasting to marriage and divorce, buying and selling to waging war and drawing up peace treaties. 

Muslims living outside the Muslim world, and especially in Europe and the Anglosphere, are terrified of admitting this as the obvious question will then be asked of them by their hosts: why are you here? Are you trying planning some sort of political takeover? Furthermore, if Islam is not a system of governance, the verses in the Qur'an that discuss fighting and killing are devoid of context (i.e. war led by the rulers and authorities) and thus left to be understood as endorsing acts of vigilantism, however horrific and grisly. 

So, why are they there? They are there for worldly reasons. They are there for the better salaries and the higher standards of living. A Muslim residing in the US once told me that I could come over there and be an imam and earn $100,000 USD per year with a free house and free car. These people are hustling, plain and simple. A sincere Muslim would be seeking to live in a Muslim country, where it is easy to practice his faith.

And the love of money is always linked to the love of power. These people would love to have power over the society that they inhabit, and hence they try to force Islam from the top down. This was also discussed in my first podcast.

Where does the slogan "Islam is a religion of peace" come from? 

It is actually a slogan that was invented in the West to trick and deceive Muslims, and it has worked spectacularly well.  Orthodox Muslims rely on authorities, and one of our authorities, the late Imam, Muhammad Saeed Ramadan al-Bouti, may Allah have mercy on him, talked about this almost fifty years ago in his book Fiqh as-Seerah. From the Arabic editions that I have, I can see that the second edition was published in 1968, and the book (as demonstrated in the passage I'm about to quote) refers to a work published after 1960, so we can assume that the first edition was published between those two years. On p.224-226 of the English translation (The Jurisprudence of the Prophetic Biography, Damascus: Dar al-Fikr, 2008) Imam al-Bouti states the following:

'As for the fallacies and distortions which have been covertly introduced into the concept of jihad, they have been clothed in the garb of two theories which appear to be in conflict but which, on a deeper level, are in essential harmony. This harmony is based in the fact that, taken together, these two theories make up a single instrument whose purpose is to nullify the legitimacy of jihad. According to the first theory, Islam was spread solely by the sword, as it were, and the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and his Companions employed coercion such that the Islamic conquest which took place at their hands was based on subjugation and tyranny rather than on inward conviction and thought. As for the second theory, it makes the very opposite claim, namely that Islam is a religion of peace and love in which armed struggle would never be given legitimacy except for repulsion of unannounced aggression, and whose followers would never go to war unless they were forced to do so because some other party had initiated hostilities.

'Now, despite the fact that, as we have noted, the contents of these two theories are antithetical, the opponents of Islam have nevertheless sought to use both of them as means of achieving one and the same end. They have done so in the following manner. First, they promote the notion that Islam is a religion of tyranny and hatred towards non-Muslims. Then they wait until this rumor has aroused the desired reactions among Muslims, who duly begin seeking means of refuting this unjust description of Islam. Then, while the Muslims are busy searching for the appropriate response to this misrepresentation, one of these same cynics concocts a defense of Islam - based, no doubt, on painstaking, unbiased research and inquiry! - saying, in effect: "Islam is not, as some have claimed, a religion of the sword; rather, quite to the contrary, it is a religion of peace and love and would never legislate armed struggle unless there were a need to repel unanticipated aggression, and its adherents would never be encouraged to consider war as long as there is a way to maintain peace."

'Disturbed by the initial fabrication of Islam, simple-minded Muslims gave an enthusiastic applause to this "splendid" defense. Given their eagerness to respond to such an unjust claim concerning their religion, they readily accept this "defense" as valid and begin bringing forth one piece of evidence after another to demonstrate that Islam is, indeed, a peaceable, conciliatory religion which has no reason to interfere in others' affairs unless they assault it on its own turf rousing it from its tranquil pose.

'What these simple people fail to realize is that this exactly the result being sought by those who circulated the initial rumor, and those who promoted the falsehood which was later put forward as a "defense" of Islam. The aim which both these groups seek to achieve by means of various carefully studied premises and tactics is to erase the notion of jihad from the minds of all Muslims, thereby putting to death any ambitions which they might cherish in their hearts. Evidence for this may be found in the following passage from our colleague Professor Wahbah al-Zuhayli's book entitled Athaar al-Harb fi al-Fiqh al-Islami ("The Influences of War in Islamic Law"), where he quotes a relevant statement by the well-known British Orientalist Anderson. We include the quote in context as follows:

"Westerners, and especially the British, fear the emergence of the notion of jihad among the Muslims, lest they be united in their thoughts and take a stand against their enemies, and it is for this reason that they seek to promote the belief that jihad has been abrogated. Truly did the Almighty God speak when, concerning those who have no faith, He said, "But when a precise revelation mentioning war has been sent down, you see those in whose hearts is a disease (i.e. hypocrisy) looking at you with a look of one overcome by death." [Qur'an 47:20]

"I met with the British Orientalist Anderson on the evening of Friday, June 3, 1960, and I asked him his opinion on this matter. His response was to advise me to say that based on the principle expressed in the adage, "Rulings change with the times", jihad is no longer required of Muslims. The reason, he said, was that he does not believe jihad to be consistent with the current state of international affairs, in the context of which Muslims have now become associated with international organizations and bound by international treaties. Moreover, he added, jihad is means of forcing people to enter Islam, whereas people have become accustomed to the notion of liberty, and their sophisticated manner of thinking will prevent them accepting an idea which is imposed upon them by force."'

We can learn a lot from this, but a few side notes need to be made first:

a. The Imam refuting the point about Muslims not waging war unless attacked by surprise is based on the fact that a Muslim ruler will rely on intelligence and launch preemptive strikes if it is established that another country is either planning a physical attack or engaged in some form of clandestine aggression, such as ideological subversion. The same applies if another country has a treaty with the Muslims and then violates it. (Also, whether or not to attack will be based on the ruler's judgment, i.e. where does benefit lie?) In other words, a Muslim ruler will not just sit there idly, blissfully unaware of what is going on in the world around him. Rather, like any sensible ruler, he will keep an eye on the interests of his country and defend those interests as and when necessary.

b. Imam Wahbah az-Zuhayli is also an authority and through quoting Anderson, way back in 1960, he warned about something that spokesmen for the Islam in the West ended up falling into in 2010, namely the Mardin Declaration, which explicitly states that times have changed and Muslims are bound by international treaties, and therefore there is no such thing as the Muslim world (Dar al-Islam), Dar al-Kufr, emigration etc..The declaration was deftly refuted, and the official website for that abomination ceased to exist a few years ago.

 "Islam is a religion of peace" is a fabricated slogan that has no basis in fact. This explains why, in the English language at least, discussion on jihad or Islam in general is restricted to this dichotomy: either Islam is ISIS and al-Qaedah etc. or it is a big white, fluffy teddy bear. There is no room for a midway position. Furthermore, anyone speaking about Islam, jihad, terrorism will be pigeonholed into to one of these two extremes depending on what they say or don't say. For example, if someone does not explicitly state that Islam is a religion of peace, he will be accused of equating Islam with ISIS and terrorism, and therefore such a person is "Islamophobic" and "anti-Islam". If someone says that Islam is not ISIS, such a person will be assumed to be saying that Islam is pacifist. Even worse, especially in the political sphere, what one says about Islam will be given more credence and concern than what one actually does towards Islam and Muslims.

We only have to look at the current election cycle in the United States to see this in effect. One candidate, who is very much responsible for the destruction of Iraq, Syria, Libya and the death and displacement of millions of Muslims, says kind words about Muslims, and therefore she is given a free pass and regarded as "pro-Islam". The other candidate, whose policies would clearly be much better for the Muslim world, acknowledges the fact that terrorism in the name of Islam is a problem and needs to be addressed, but he is labelled a bigot and an "Islamophobe". It should also be noted that his so-called "Muslim ban" is now an extreme vetting policy, as he stated in the last debate and is elucidated on his official website. Please see Number Six.

I mentioned the English language above because the divide between Anglosphere Muslims and Muslims in the traditional Islamic heartlands is growing. The former incline towards the candidate with sweet words while the latter are looking at the reality on the ground.

4. Ayaan says:

"When I assert this, I do not mean that Islamic belief makes all Muslims violent. This is manifestly not the case: There are many millions of peaceful Muslims in the world. What I do say is that the call to violence and the justification for it are explicitly stated in the sacred texts of Islam. Moreover, this theologically sanctioned violence is there to be activated by any number of offenses, including but not limited to adultery, blasphemy, homosexuality and apostasy—that is, to leave Islam. Those who tolerate this intolerance do so at their peril."

Thank you. Yes, there are indeed millions of peaceful Muslims in the world, i.e. Muslims who have no interest in committing acts of terrorism or reckless violence.

The verses that command to killing and fighting are to be understood in the context of war, because Islam is also a system of governance. War is declared and conducted by rulers and authorities.

Regarding capital and corporal punishments, these too are implemented by rulers and authorities. This is not the job of shariah hippies and fake, self-appointed caliphates. Furthermore, when authorities are in charge of these matters, they bear in mind the command that such punishments are to be warded off by means of ambiguities, (i.e. the judge must look for ambiguities in the case) because it is better to make a mistake and pardon someone than to make a mistake and punish someone. This explains why the Ottoman Empire, over the hundreds of years of its existence, carried out the punishment of stoning exactly once. For Orthodox Muslims, the overriding principle of the law is supposed to be mercy, not justice. On the Day of Judgment, we want the Lord's mercy, not His justice.

 5. Ayaan says:

 "As someone who has known what it is to live without freedom, I watch in amazement as those who call themselves liberals and progressives—people who claim to believe so fervently in individual liberty and minority rights—make common cause with the forces in the world that manifestly pose the greatest threats to that very freedom and those very minorities. In 2014 I was invited to accept an honorary degree from Brandeis University for the work I have done on behalf of women’s rights in the Muslim world. That invitation was withdrawn after professors and students protested my criticism of Islam. My subsequent “disinvitation,” as it Free Courses for Free Minds .com came to be called, was no favor to Muslims—just the opposite. By labeling critical examination of Islam as inherently “racist,” we make the chances of reformation far less likely. There are no limits on criticism of Christianity at American universities…or anywhere else for that matter. Why should there be of Islam?"

The partnership between the Islamists and the progressive left is complete freakball. It  makes no sense and  Ayaan deserves sympathy on that point. However, she needs to give up this notion of reformation, as explained above, and to give up the notion that Islam or the Muslims need her. This just smacks of narcissism.

 6. Ayaan says:

"Instead of contorting Western intellectual traditions so as not to offend our Muslim fellow citizens, we need to defend both those traditions and the Muslim dissidents who take great risks to promote them. We should support these brave men and women in every way possible. Imagine a platform for Muslim dissidents that communicated their message through YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. These are the Muslims we should be supporting—for our sake as much for the sake of Islam. In the Cold War, the West celebrated dissidents such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sakharov, and Václav Havel, who had the courage to challenge the Soviet system from within. Today, there are many dissidents who challenge Islam, but the West either ignores them or dismisses them as “not representative.” This is a grave mistake. Reformers such as Tawfiq Hamid, Asra Nomani & Zuhdi Jasser and many others must be supported and protected. They should be as well known as Solzhenitsyn, Sakharov, and Havel were in the 1980s. If we do in fact support political, social and religious freedom, then we cannot in good conscience give Islam a free pass on the grounds of multicultural sensitivity."

Ayaan is saying, more or less, that living in the Muslim world is akin to living in the Soviet Union. Yes, it is true that many Muslims, especially women, live under the tyranny of their own families, but this happens inside and outside of the Muslim world. It's not always connected to the rulers and governments. The "dissidents" she mentions were never prevented from leaving the Muslim world, nor were they imprisoned therein or put into labour camps, as was the case with the Soviet dissidents she mentions. Furthermore, the Soviet dissidents were concerned with refuting and abolishing communism, not reforming it. One of them, Solzhentisyn, was also a rather fierce critic of the West, which cannot be said of any of these Muslim "reformers".

Furthermore, Tawfiq Hamid, Asra Nomani and Zuhdi Jasser are dismissed as "not representative" because, just like ISIS and all the terrorists and Islamists, they have no authority to speak about Islam. We have objective standards and we have authorities who uphold and define those standards, and this is what protects Islam against both reformation and self-destruction. Did the Protestant Reformation ultimately strengthen Christianity or leads to its breakdown and fragmentation? If the three people mentioned want to make their own "Islam" that is compatible with Western values, or their own personal desires, then that's their business. Islam and the Muslims have no need of them.

And this leads to my next point: Islam is not compatible with the West, i.e. Europe and the Anglosphere. The historian Norman Davies, in his seminal work Europe: A History, explains that Islam 'created the cultural bulwark against which European identity could be defined.' In other words, Europe is defined, from its very foundation, as being other than Islam. The term "Western values" includes more than Christianity, for not only has Judaism played a major part, we also have to consider the various secular movements, such as communism and fascism. What they all have in common is that they are not Islam.

 7. Ayaan says:
"We need to say to Muslims living in the West: If you want to live in our societies, to share in their material benefits, then you need to accept that our freedoms are not optional. Islam is at a cross roads of reformation or self-destruction. But so is the West. I’m Ayaan Hirsi Ali of Harvard University for Prager University."

Muslims should not be living in the West if they truly care about their faith. (One can also see the sixth point in this article) The clear expectation, especially for those living in the Anglosphere, is that one must learn to compartmentalise one's faith and subjugate one's values. This is perfectly understandable. In Surat an-Nisa (4:97), Allah addresses the believers by saying, "Is not Allah's earth vast enough?" This means that if Muslims are struggling to implement their faith anywhere in the world, they need to move to wherever they can implement their faith. And this works both ways. Muslims in Europe and the Anglosphere shouldn't whinge and complain about the lack of Islam all around them. They should pack up and move. Likewise, people in the traditional Muslim heartlands who don't like Islam or don't want to be Muslim should pack up and move. If they prefer French secularism, they should move to France. If they prefer the American way, they should move to America. Don't stay where you are and try to impose your way of life upon the majority. 

The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was a Makkan, and his lineage in that location goes back thousands of years to Ibrahim and Ismael, peace be upon them, but to protect himself and his community, he migrated to Madinah and died there.

The West is in more danger of self-destruction than Islam. Daniel Hannan's book How We Invented Freedom and Why it Matters explains the need of people in the Anglosphere to pass on the rights and freedoms that they have inherited, but there is something more fundamental. There has to be a set of objective standards that everyone agrees upon. In the absence of objective standards, everything just fades away into meaningless fluff.

As a final point, if Ayaan truly cares about Islam and the Muslims, and is truly concerned about all the violence and terrorism, she should ignore the sneering foolishness of her husband and support the candidacy of Donald Trump. The alternative is more of the same.

And the Lord knows best.


Invite 2 Islam said...

salaamun 'alaykum.

Could you summarize any difficulties you overcame in moving out of the anglosphere into a Muslim heart-land. What a person, considering this move, should do in order to build and maintain stability within a Muslim society. jazakAllah khayr

Mahdi Lock said...

Wa alaykum Assalaam wa Rahmatullah,

Jazakum Allah khayran for the comment.

Let me try to summarise this as best I can:

1) For starters, there are, of course, the practical difficulties of moving, such as shipping belongings, selling furniture, putting other belongings into storage etc. I think that was the hardest thing for me back in 2008.

2) With that said, the best thing to do is a scouting trip, or several. Visit Muslim countries, or at least one Muslim country, and try to a) get a feel of the place and b) get some contacts. Contacts can help you with employment and settling in once you've decided where to go. The longer the trip the better, as you want to feel more like a resident than just a visitor. For example, instead of just going to Morocco or Egypt or Malaysia as a tourist, try to enroll in a course (e.g. Arabic (even if you know Arabic), Fiqh, Creed whatever) and maybe even live with a host family for some time. It could be a summer course, a semester course, or maybe even an entire year abroad.

3) It's definitely beneficial to be somewhere where your madhhab is taught and applied, but if not, you should still be able to find people to study with, even if it's not fiqh.

4) An ironic thing about the Muslim world, and especially the Arab world, in comparison to the UK, for example, is that you don't feel that the government is in your face so much. You would expect the opposite, but these countries generally have one rule: don't insult the king or ruler or his government. Don't mess with him and he won't mess with you. In the UK, there are posters everywhere warning you about terrorism, climate change, five portions of fruit a day etc. or informing you of some branch of government or other that you must contact in the event of such and such event. In the Arab world, you're just going to see pictures of the king or ruler, which reinforces the message: don't mess with me and I won't mess with you.

5) Obviously, you should expect your material standard of living to be slightly lower, but the complete opposite with regards to your overall well-being and quality of life. You won't get next-day delivery from Amazon, or maybe delivery at all, but you will be able to go the masjid five times a day (or at least be able to pray at work) and hear the adhaan. You will be able to attend Jumu'ah, and maybe even have the day off. Eid will always be a holiday. The meat will always be halal. Your letterbox won't be stuffed with bills and taxes.

6) Once you have a job or business and you know how things work, and then you have some private lessons on the sides or classes that you can attend, life is pretty good, because you have your living costs covered, your spiritual nourishment and you are working towards meaningful goals. Life is terrible if you have nothing to look forward to.

7) In terms of "freedom", from my experience, Europe and the Anglosphere grant moral and political "freedom". In others words, you can sin and badmouth politicians. In the Muslim world, it tends to be more about economic freedom. Some Muslim countries are tax free, for example. Others are tax free for businesses for the first five years and thus there are a lot of small businesses. Yes, the leftovers of the post-Tanzimat Ottoman bureaucracy live on in the Middle East (and the leftover of French bureaucracy in North Africa), but it's manageable.

And may Allah grant you ease and success.



Invite 2 Islam said...

Jzkullah khayr,barakullah feekum for your time and effort in writing these beneficial pointers. ma'as-salaamah