Monday, 8 May 2006

The Three Faces of Islam

I work with, and alongside, some Muslim PhD students. We help each other, and no-one worries too much about who helped who. We're friends. Just people. And if the Holy Koran has an awful lot about smiting the infidel in various barbaric ways, well, the book of Leviticus has much the same (though less of it). The early books of the Torah and Old Testament are drenched in the blood of various enemies of Israel, be they soldiers or infants.

No-one does that any more. The Jews stopped doing it about the time of Judeus Maccabeus, and the Christians ceased sometime in the 17th century. The Sack of Magdeburg is ancient history, and the Holocaust had nothing to do with Christianity in any form.

That is one face.

Another face is presented by the reformist movements inside Islam. For example, the 27 Points listed below.
Declaring Jihad Useless and Obsolete: "Is it possible to replace war with peace?" asks Chebel, and answers: "Jihad should be declared illegitimate since it entails death, which is not a noble thing in the eyes of the Koran, and also because it is used to justify all kinds of aggression." On the other hand, peace initiatives from outside or from within the Muslim world should be promoted. Chebel suggests the establishment of a Muslim NGO, with sufficient resources, to promote peace between people, in Islamic lands and everywhere needed. Chebel writes: "I believe no other region spends as much money for its armament, relatively, as does the Islamic world." In addition, Chebel notes that "there is no redistribution of wealth, and when there is, it only concerns the construction of mosques."

Abolishing All Fatwas Calling for Death: The issuing of a fatwa calling for death is a right that cannot be incumbent upon one single human being. A human being, however enlightened and infallible, cannot be granted more power than a whole court. The best thing is therefore to abolish the use of fatwas or at least the use of fatwas calling for death.

There are two kinds of fatwas: ordinary fatwas aimed at solving personal problems and fatwas deferring human beings to divine justice. This second sort of fatwa should be completely abolished, while the first kind might remain. A fatwa should be considered advice given by a competent authority, as the advice of a physician, and not be thought of as binding.

Promoting the Status of Women: Wife banishment, polygamy, forced marriages (especially at a very young age), honor killings (khalf at-thar), and other evils all result from the inferior status of women. Therefore, civil laws must be reviewed to enhance the status of women. Women should no longer be considered minors.

Chebel believes that women have been so denigrated by Islam that only strong political action will correct the situation.

Abolishing Corporal Punishment: There is nothing more barbarous than amputating the hand of a thief, cutting out the tongue of a liar, or stoning a sinner, Chebel writes. Such punishment, including flogging, existed prior to Islam, and one might wonder how it came to be included in a religion that otherwise advocates tolerance towards the weak. Also, since an adulterous woman is sentenced in the Koran to be flogged 100 times, no court can possibly prescribe the death penalty for adultery, as has sometimes happened.

Banning Genital Mutilation: Chebel demands that all types of genital mutilation be banned, since there is no basis whatsoever for them in the Koran and very little mention of them in the hadiths. Female candidates for genital mutilation, and their families, should be informed of its profane aspect. All sexual mutilation must be cleared of all religious content, he states.

Chebel notes that there has never been religious ruling regarding female genital mutilation.

Punishment for Honor Killings: Chebel wonders why women still have the "privilege" of embodying the purity of a given group. Such a "privilege" makes them the victims of honor crimes. In an effort to eradicate honor crimes, rules should be established to protect the weak, and women should be granted freedom of choice as far as love is concerned.

Modernizing the Civil Law and the Personal Code: Chebel asserts that Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh) prevents Islam from being progressive and from promoting peace and tolerance. Fiqh was originally adapted to reality, but it is no longer relevant to it. Chebel suggests eradicating fiqh - which has become the "armed wing" of the religious oligarchy - and replacing it with a new set of rules adapted to modern times. The best thing for a reformed Islam would be to choose the most efficient laws of other countries and to implement them, provided they can be implemented in an Arab and Muslim context.

However, since complete eradication might be difficult to implement, Chebel suggests reviewing fiqh in order to remove what has become obsolete and keep what still bears life. In this framework, the most barbarous aspects of sharia must be denounced, such as amputating the hand of a thief, cutting out the tongue of a liar, or bequeathing a smaller inheritance to women. Reforming fiqh is necessary to promote justice and the status of women.

Chebel clarifies that as harsh corporal punishment must be softened, sanctions against such issues as corruption must be applied - as corruption should be considered the worst evil afflicting Islamic societies, Chebel says.

An Independent Judiciary: In Arab countries, the judiciary system is often subordinate to political power, which entails arbitrary verdicts. An independent judiciary will bring about greater justice.

Free Access to Sounds and Images: There should be free access to images and to all matters linked to art and music. There is no religious basis whatsoever to the claim that Islam bans images, Chebel asserts. As for music, it is considered a satanic activity when not religious. In the third millennium, Muslim musicians, singers and dancers cannot be prevented from practicing their art - no more than people can be prevented from surfing the Internet. Chebel calls for acknowledging the human aspect of music. The only reason music is banned is that Islamic leaders base their power on the ignorance of believers.

Fighting the Phenomenon of Political Assassination in an Effort to Promote Democracy: Political assassination has often been resorted to in order to overthrow rulers. It has no legitimacy in the Koran. Chebel enumerates no fewer than 150 assassinations of caliphs, presidents, kings and imams in the Islamic world.

No one should be able to claim to be God's representative on Earth in order to gain power, kill people, or issue fatwas. In order to prevent such situations, the religious and political spheres should be separated.

Eliminating the Cult of Personality in the Islamic World: Cebel writes: "The cult of personality [in Islamic countries] is a cancer that blocks political life in most Muslim and Arab countries." Millions of dollars are dedicated to the protection of the groups holding power, usually the president and his family. The people in power enjoy such important privileges that they do anything to remain in power or avoid elections. And in many Arab countries, no TV programming, press campaign, or radio programming is exempt from the obligation to express almost blind worship of the president and his family. The cult of personality serves anti-democratic regimes.

Firm Sanctions against Corruption: Chebel says that the only system that enables the people to control the rulers' actions is democracy. There will always be corruption in the absence of democracy. Laws must be promulgated to regulate states, enable the control of expenses, and establish accountability in the political and social spheres. Such laws will represent the beginning of democracy.

Investing in the Field of World Administration: How can Islam, or countries which speak in the name of Islam, make their voice heard in the international debates related to world administration? "Solidarity" with other countries is the key word to tomorrow's world administration: Muslims should go back to their ethical sources and promote inter-religious dialogue.

Banning of Slavery and All Other Trafficking in Human Beings: Chebel asserts that slavery is still widespread in Mauritania and in most of the Gulf countries, and in Sudan, Morocco, and Asian Islamic countries. The organizations fighting slavery should demand that it be banned in all Islamic countries. These countries should declare, in the first articles of their constitutions, that any trafficking of human beings (including destitute parents who sell their small children, as sometimes happens in Africa and Asia) is contrary to Islam. Significant funds must be invested in a campaign to abolish all forms of slavery, until it is completely eradicated.

The caste system, which still exists in Mauritania, in the Tuareg country, and in the entire Sahel region, should be considered a form of slavery, since higher castes unscrupulously exploit the work of inferior castes. Destitute women should also be helped, to prevent them from resorting to prostitution. Prostitution organized into networks should be fought, all the more as it is banned by sacred texts.

Promoting a Work Ethic: Chebel notes that work is denigrated in the Arab world. School curricula should define a new attitude towards work, promoting it as a positive value. The day work is valued, Chebel asserts, the mentality of leaders will change by itself.

Ending Usury: The Koran clearly condemns riba [usury]. But so far, no sheikh has issued a fatwa condemning the huge gains resulting from exploitation and enjoyed by autocrats. Islam should have a positive impact on economic issues, with a fatwa condemning corruption.

An Active Policy Regarding New Technology: Chebel notes that neither aviation nor railways, electricity, modern armaments, computers, or any other major invention were achieved by Arabs and Muslims. In fields that require technical knowledge, the Arabs depend on the West. He notes that, according to a U.N. study on the development of nations, the Islamic countries invest the least in education. This is not because of a lack of resources, Chebel says, but because of an existing mindset that is reluctant to invest in education. Chebel suggests the establishment of an Arab Fund to finance science, technology and industry.

Defining a Clear Bioethics Policy: Issues relating to life and death, such as abortion, contraception, and euthanasia, among others, should be given special attention, since science alone cannot provide answers to these moral issues.

Protecting the Environment: Chebel asserts that Muslims do not care enough about the environment, possibly because the technological backwardness of Muslim countries somehow ensures a natural way of life. However, education should include respect for environment and of archeological sites. Chebel mentions the destruction of the Buddha statues, wondering if Islamists in Egypt will one day ask for the destruction of the Pyramids.

Promoting Play: Modern psychology has shown that play and games are a factor in stability and personal fulfillment. Therefore, Muslims too should be allowed to enjoy the benefits of play. In its wider meaning, "play" includes poetry, sports, theater, artistic creation, seaside vacations, and more.

Once the implicit ban on games and playing is lifted, the Islamic lands will be able to display their true potential: warm seas and snowy mountains, where sport and tourism can be practiced. Millions of young people will be hired to build roads to access these sites - instead of being recruited by Islamist movements.

In conclusion, Chebel states that youth, civil society, and education are the keys to reform in the Islamic world. He notes that several intellectuals in the Arab world are willing to promote reform - but are barely heard among the "surrounding noise of imams."

Chebel insists that change will begin with reform of the school curricula. All Islamic countries should dedicate important funds to education. The idea that the "other" is not an enemy, or evil, should be taught, and when doing so, common values should be stressed. People must be actively prepared for the advent of democracy, which will happen when the population in Islamic countries is mature enough to adopt it.

Chebel wonders whether Muslims can reform Islam to the extent of rejecting all forms of violence, considering the damage caused by violence in the name of Islam. In such reform, the role of religious authorities, who often advocate jihad and intolerance, should be restricted.

Chebel insists that the main resource of the Islamic world is its youth - and this youth will be the driving force of reform, provided it is properly educated.
Then there's the third face. A face of Undiluted and Bestial Evil in Allah's name. A face so horrible that it physically sickens any normal human being of whatever religion. The Islamic Ritual Slaughter of Atwar Bahjat a Nepalese hostage.

Sorry, these people do so many rutual torture-decapitations, you tend to lose track.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nonsense... Islam doesnt change according to the times. This is contrary to its spirit. Islam is only "pure" when it remains in Parrallel to the model of Medinan Society in the time of The Messenger of God. And Muslims see Medinan Society, regardless of how non muslims percieve it, as the Ultimate civil society built on Truth, Justice and Piety. A Model that was left for mankind as an example (and it was intented to be an example for all times by The One Above The Seven Heavens who revealed it) and more importantly, a model that will return, and will become a global phenominan "again", at least with the arrival of Jesus Son Of Mary again. Islam hence doesnt change, and wont change. The Qur'an is God Word - Period! How can anyone change and tamper with Gods word? The Jews did, and so did the christians, but what did it bring them except the pleasure of Satan and the Wrath of The Most Blessed Almight God? And what will their faces be like on The Day Of Judgement, Also known as The Day of Repayment? Islam doesnt change according to the times! It is Gods Law which will stay intact! Without it mankind has no direction. If God States that Homosexuality is an accursed and degrading act, this cannot be changed to suit a Godless generation of Homosexuals! Regardless of the number, or the positions they may hold in a society! If God states that adultury and fornication are crimes, they will stay crimes always, regardless of the amount of people indulging in it! In the same way, Gods Law cannot be picked and chosen. This is contrary to the Spirit of "We Hear and We Obey" For the countless blessings the God has given us and continues to do so, blessings such that if you were to convert all the trees in the world into pens, and all the seas into ink, and then bring this amount again seven times over, you still wouldnt be able to list the blessings, for those blessings, and for everything good that you have in your life, God isnt asking much! Only that you... "Hear and Obey"

Zoe Brain said...

As sala'amu alaikum, Anonymous.

I have a few problems with "hearing and Obeying". The first is that my Arabic is almost nonexistent, so I must rely not on the Holy Koran as written, but its translations. I have to rely not on Allah's word, but what Men have said Allah said.

The second problem I have is that so much of what is in the Holy Koran seems contradictory. I believe there are whole schools of Islamic thought dedicated to sorting out which parts are superceded by later parts. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Now it's OK for the Compassionate, the Merciful, to change his mind as he goes along, if He wants to. Or perhaps He didn't, it's just our imperfect understanding of His word. But assuming His mind did change, what is to say it hasn't changed since? Surely Allah would be allowed to say "I had intended Mohammed(PBUH) as my Final Messenger, but I decided Ba'ha'ullah was needed too. There may be more after him." Surely He can do that, being the One God. He can do anything.

The third problem I have with Islam as a whole is the Hadiths. Now assuming the every word, in Arabic, of the Holy Koran is God's word, Islam has accreted an awful lot apart from that. Which Hadiths are valid, and which are dubious?

Thye fourth problem is that the Holy Koran may have been fine as a guide to everything you had to need to know 1350 years ago, but it says nothing about homosexuality and people with 47xxy chromosomes rather than 46xx(female) or 46xy(male) ones. It says nothing about which direction to pray when in orbit, nor how many times, considering you may see 14 or more dawns every 24 hours when in low earth orbit. The Koran prohibits the forming of images of living things, and that at the Day of Judgment, the artist will be asked to breathe Life into them, the way Allah did, and if he can't, to the pit with him. But what about robots? What happens when the artist can make the picture or sculpted image move, breathe, live? What about genetic engineering? Haram or Halal?

The fifth problem I have with the Holy Koran as the direct and indisputable word of the One and Only God is the bits about the Earth being Flat (according to some ancient but authoritative texts), or round but definitely not rotating (the modern view).

I actually work with one very devout Muslim from the Saudi Space Research Institute, and the convoluted mathematics and physics required to make a stationary Earth with a rotating Universe around it conform to reality is quite astounding. Rotating frames of reference are non-inertial, so you have to assume that the laws of physics vary with time. It takes hundreds of thousands of lines of calculations for a simple problem assuming a stationary Earth, vs one line assuming a rotating one. And then the stationary Earth result is less accurate.

So alhough they know the Earth doesn't rotate, because Allah said it didn't, it's mathematically convenient to pretend it does.

Then there's the problem of reconciling the science of Biology with the creation of life from clots and dirt. (And since clots are derived from blood, which comes only from living things, where did that come from?) The Age of the Earth vs Geology. The whole of Evolutionary Theory.

I have no wish to make fun of or trivialise the Holy Koran. Not because there are a Billion Believers, some of whom would literally cut my throat for that. Even if there wasn't a single Muslim, I'd feel the same. There is wisdom there, and Justice, and Righteousness in it. But I believe that, despite the label saying "Genuine, Authentic Word of God, Accept No Imitations!", it is, in its current form, the work of Man. And I believe this because of evidence. Was it Divinely inspired? I don't know. I do know that either it, or our imperfect undrestanding of it, is flawed, and so it must be re-examined, and possibly re-interpreted. It's eithe wrong, or has been corrupted.

I crave your pardon if I have offended you, a guest at my site. I hope you will return, and correct any errors I may have made.

Zoe

Hasan said...

Mr. Brain,

You have offended me as muslim out of your ignorance which is manifest through out your text. I will only give a few examples of it. Dont take it personally but these examples should be enough to prove that your article lacks credibility as a whole.
i have scanned through your article and i have found errors in what ever bits that have come accross my view.
first quote:
have a few problems with "hearing and Obeying". The first is that my Arabic is almost nonexistent, so I must rely not on the Holy Koran as written, but its translations. I have to rely not on Allah's word, but what Men have said Allah said.
your not knowing the language of arabic is not a fault of God. the bible was sent down in aramaic..not more than a 20th of the world knew Aramaic at that time. The Bible and Torah has since been translated and retranslated into English and faithful Christians still believe its the word of God.
Thus we muslims believe the quran (the translations of which have no variations in meaning amongst themselves) are the word of God.

Second quote:
The second problem I have is that so much of what is in the Holy Koran seems contradictory. I believe there are whole schools of Islamic thought dedicated to sorting out which parts are superceded by later parts. Please correct me if I'm wrong. Now it's OK for the Compassionate, the Merciful, to change his mind as he goes along, if He wants to. Or perhaps He didn't, it's just our imperfect understanding of His word. But assuming His mind did change, what is to say it hasn't changed since? Surely Allah would be allowed to say "I had intended Mohammed(PBUH) as my Final Messenger, but I decided Ba'ha'ullah was needed too. There may be more after him." Surely He can do that, being the One God. He can do anything.

God said in the quran Muhammad is the last messenger. Since He is all Knowing as He describes himself..He would have said it if there were more messengers to come after Muhammad.

third quote:
Thye fourth problem is that the Holy Koran may have been fine as a guide to everything you had to need to know 1350 years ago, but it says nothing about homosexuality and people with 47xxy chromosomes rather than 46xx(female) or 46xy(male) ones. It says nothing about which direction to pray when in orbit, nor how many times, considering you may see 14 or more dawns every 24 hours when in low earth orbit. The Koran prohibits the forming of images of living things, and that at the Day of Judgment, the artist will be asked to breathe Life into them, the way Allah did, and if he can't, to the pit with him. But what about robots? What happens when the artist can make the picture or sculpted image move, breathe, live? What about genetic engineering? Haram or Halal?

Your ignorance about the quran is clearly manifested here. How could you miss the chapter about Lot and the ending of his homosexual tribe?
You say what about robots? on of the characteristics of a living organism, among others, is growth. Does a robot grow? NO. Will the artist be able to resurrect this creation of his in the Hereafter without the aid of a power source fashion to God giving life to the dead? NO.

You may have voiced your opinions out of ignorance, which i believe, is better than opining out of spite despite knowing the truth. Please check your facts and read the quran before you pass judgement on Islam. Don;t make conjectures. Making conjectures is what gives rise to doubts. Only take the facts. You shouldn't be saying the Quran is not the truth by saying that some things like "47xxy chromosomes" arent mentioned in it. Try proving the Quran wrong.. what Abdel Aziz bin Baz says abt the rotation of the Earth is his view and not God's. There is no evidence in the Quran that the Earth does not rotate.
I say it again. Please read the whole Quran before you pass judgement on Islam

Zoe Brain said...

Mr Brain?

Take that up with the Australian Department of Health. Medically, I'm female.

Before I contiune though, may I ask you one question: is there any possible thing I might say that could possibly change your mind?

Hasan said...

MS Brain,
Sorry for the misunderstanding on your sex. Changing my opinions depends on what it is that you say. IF its credible I'll definately change my ways.
So what is it that you have to say Ms. Brain?

hasan said...

By the way is that you in the photo at the top left hand corner of your blog?

Zoe Brain said...

Yes, that's me. My unusual but not unique story is told in a previous post.

Now onto why I say the Holy Koran in its current form is the work of Man. Look at the History of its compilation. In many ways, it parallels the various Gnostic texts and Apocrypha of Christian writings.

As to why I have difficulty understanding it, just have a look at the simple section which is normally translated as follows:
Men are overseers over women, by reason of that wherewith Allah hath made one of them excel over another, and by reason of that which they expend of their substance. Wherefore righteous women are obedient, and are watchers in husbands absence by the aid and protection of Allah. And those wives whose refractoriness ye fear, exhort them, and avoid them in beds, and beat them; but if they obey you, seek not a way against them; verily Allah is ever Lofty, Grand." (Quran 4:34 A.M. Daryabad Trans.

Now please read the controversy over the meaning of Idriboohunna أضربوهن .

You see, I have read the Holy Qu'ran, in several translations. I'm also aware that the Arabic script it's written in was not formalised until 300 years after the time of the Prophet(PBUH).

I may be incorrect in my conclusions, and my ignorance of Islamic Scholarship is vast, yet I daresay I know more Arab history than many Muslims. One of my hobbies was the study of the Sassanid Empire immediately before the battle of Dawa, you see.