When I was on The Last Stand Radio Show the other night, I had said one of the things we as non-Muslims needed to do is become more assertive and challenge Muslim propagandists head-on. We just cannot allow their deception to go unchallenged. Today we see another example of this from our mate and guest blogger, The London Humanist. (www. LondonHumanist.com)
Responding to Mehdi Hasan
Whether Islam as an ideology has anything to do with young British Muslims becoming jihadis is, surprisingly, still a hotly debated topic. Despite jihadis telling us in no obscure terms that it is their very religious beliefs that motivate their actions, some public figures, including US President Barack Obama, beg to disagree.
The amount of intellectual dishonesty that goes into the effort to disconnect Islamic terrorism from Islam is insurmountable. Mehdi Hasan, a political editor of Huffington Post UK and a presenter on Al Jazeera, is at the forefront of this movement in the UK. Sadly, he uses a prominent online publication as his pulpit and takes full advantage of Huffington Post’s reputation and reach to spread his views.
A recent article by Mehdi Hasan is titled “What the Jihadists Who Bought ‘Islam For Dummies’ on Amazon Tell Us About Radicalisation”. There, Mr. Hasan tries to argue that “the 1,400-year-old Islamic faith has little to do with the modern jihadist movement”.
Arguments and refutations
Mehdi spends the first half of the article developing an argument that jihadis are, supposedly, not devout Muslims. Jihadis are, it turns out, religious novices; they lack religious literacy and are light on practice. Hence, by extension, their actions cannot be driven by religion.
The core fallacy of this argument is that it is trying to refute an allegation that does not exist. Nobody claims that breadth of Qur’anic knowledge or the number of memorized hadith is in any way associated with extremist behavior. All that’s needed to cause violent religious zealotry is belief in the supernatural and a few “divine dispensations” that provide guidance on how exactly to treat unbelievers.
And this is exactly what we see.
When jihadis hit Twitter to post pictures of beheaded enemies, they don’t tend to quote “Koran for Dummies”. Instead, they quote from the very heart of Islamic sacred texts that are taught around the world in mosques, Islamic schools and universities. They live and, most importantly, die by these texts. Here are some examples.
Forced conversion to Islam
*Dhul-l–Khulasa was a house in Yemen belonging to the tribe of Khatham and Bajaila, and in it there were idols which were worshipped, and it was called Al-Ka’ba.” Jarir went there, burnt it with fire and dismantled it. When Jarir reached Yemen, there was a man who used to foretell and give good omens by casting arrows of divination. Someone said to him. “The messenger of Allah’s Apostle is present here and if he should get hold of you, he would chop off your neck.” One day while he was using them (i.e. arrows of divination), Jarir stopped there and said to him, “Break them (i.e. the arrows) and **testify that None has the right to be worshipped except Allah, or else I will chop off your neck.”** So the man broke those arrows and testified that none has the right to be worshipped except Allah. Then Jarir sent a man called Abu Artata from the tribe of Ahmas to the Prophet to convey the good news (of destroying Dhu-l-Khalasa). So when the messenger reached the Prophet, he said, “O Allah’s Apostle! By Him Who sent you with the Truth, I did not leave it till it was like a scabby camel.” Then the Prophet blessed the horses of Ahmas and their men five times.* **(Bukhari 5:59:643)**
*It is reported on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah, and he who professed it was guaranteed the protection of his property and life on my behalf except for the right affairs rest with Allah.* **(Muslim 1:30)**
*The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom.* **(Qur’an 5:33)**
*Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.* **(Muslim 41:6985, 41:6981, 41:6982, 41:6983, 41:6984)**
Inspiring hatred towards other religions
*Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas: Ikrimah reported on the authority of Ibn Abbas, saying: I think the Apostle of Allah (peace be upon him) said: When one of you prays without a sutrah, a dog, an ass, a pig, a Jew, a Magian, and a woman cut off his prayer, but it will suffice if they pass in front of him at a distance of over a stone’s throw.* **(Abu Dawud 2:704)**
The second part of the article tries to suggest that jihadis got their religion all wrong. Mehdi claims that extremists are fed a “perverted, politicized version of Islam”, and its function is limited to being an “emotional vehicle” to articulate anger. This echoes a similar claim, often heard from Western politicians (usually Left-wing Liberals) that jihadis are not real Muslims and do not represent any religion.
This line of argument is flawed in multiple ways.
First, it is certainly not up to us to tell jihadis what their identities really are. Every single ISIS fighter identifies himself as a Muslim, and I see no credible reason to discount or ignore their statements of faith. Besides, it is the very statement of faith, pronounced publicly in Arabic, that makes someone a new Muslim in the eyes of the religious community.
Second, Islamic texts are politicized by nature. Qur’an and volumes of Hadith meticulously deal with all aspects of character, conduct and governance that human beings are expected to uphold on Earth. Detailed divine dispensations are given on topics ranging from the right ways to have sex with one’s spouse to how to govern, how to enter treaties with other states, and how to run finances of an Islamic State.
Third, history confirms the politicized nature of Islamic doctrines. A massive military expansion of the first Islamic State – the Noble Caliphate – that conquered Persia, Byzantine, Anatolia and the whole of North Africa, was executed under the banner of war against apostasy. Here, Islamic principles served as an ideological fuel for an aggressive economic and political war – full of beheadings and similar atrocities.
Finally, there is no such thing as one real Islam. An ideology is formed on the basis of source material and interpretations. In case of Islam, the source material – the sacred texts of Qur’an and Hadith – is incredibly complex and highly polarizing. Islamic teachings developed in history covering periods of relative peace as well as brutalities and war. The verses that we find in the sacred texts reflect this polarization.
Here are some examples.
No compulsion in religion
This verse was supposedly revealed to Muhammad when Muslims were a heavily prosecuted Meccan minority.
*There shall be no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion. The right course has become clear from the wrong. So whoever disbelieves in Taghut and believes in Allah has grasped the most trustworthy handhold with no break in it. And Allah is Hearing and Knowing.* **(Qur’an 2:256)**
Islam is compulsory
When Muslims became a majority, this verse was “revealed”.
*Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.* **(Qur’an 9:29)**
It is the sheer amount of religious text, which is filled with contradictions like these, that necessitates the existence of Islamic scholarly class. Self-taight or laden with degrees from Islamic universities, they are meant to spend their lives working out the will of God and translating it – in plain Arabic – to the less learned community of believers. But even here contradictions occur. It turns out that neither classic nor contemporary Islamic scholars always agree.
Here are some examples of how different scholars approached religious subjugation in Islam.
A prominent Saudi Cleric on Qur’an 9:29
*The kuffaar should be compelled to enter Islam if they are not people from whom the jizyah may be taken, because that will lead to their happiness and salvation in this world and in the Hereafter. Obliging a person to adhere to the truth in which is guidance and happiness is better for him than falsehood.* **[(source)](http ://islamqa.info/en/34770)**
A prominent North American cleric on Qur’an 9:29
*…all the early Meccan verses of peace and forbearance with respect to non-Muslims remain in effect and are not abrogated with respect to all peoples other than the Arab polytheists. And with respect to all the later verses commanding Muslims to fight the polytheists, they abrogate the early verses of peace only with respect to the Arab polytheists.* **[(source)](http ://seekersguidance.org/ans-blog/2010/11/06/jihad-abrogation-in-the-quran-the-verse-of-the-sword/)**
A classic Islamic Scholar on Qur’an 9:29
*But, this verse is abrogated by the verse of “fighting…Therefore, all people of the world should be called to Islam. If anyone of them refuses to do so, or refuses to pay the Jizya they should be fought till they are killed. This is the meaning of compulsion. **(Tafsir of Ibn Kathir, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 1999: First Edition, Part 3, pp. 37-38)**
The point here is that the “real” Islam is simply impossible to work out from either the religious texts or the opinions of religious scholars. Therefore, each and every believer is free to choose their own ideological dojo, and every version will be as real as the next one.
Western pundits and Islamic clerics naturally gravitate towards the more peaceful interpretations of these texts. However, history once again serves as the ultimate judge in what principle applies. It turns out that the Noble Caliphate used the very verse of Qur’an 9:29 to form what’s known as *Pact of Umar*, a treaty with the inhabitants of Jerusalem, freshly conquered by Caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab.
Here is a short excerpt Qur’anic exegesis by Ibn Kathir, which puts the Pact in context.
Pact of Umar in context
*”Allah said, (until they pay the Jizyah), if they do not choose to embrace Islam, (with willing submission), in defeat and subservience, (and feel themselves subdued.), disgraced, humiliated and belittled. Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimmah or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced and humiliated. Muslim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said, (Do not initiate the Salam to the Jews and Christians, and if you meet any of them in a road, force them to its narrowest alley.) This is why the Leader of the faithful `Umar bin Al-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him, demanded his well-known conditions be met by the Christians, these conditions that ensured their continued humiliation, degradation and disgrace.”* **[(source)](http ://www.qtafsir.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2566&Itemid=64)**
This gives ample backing to the idea that in reality Islam has many faces – some peaceful and some utterly disgusting and violent. All faces constitute real Islam without exception.
Mehdi Hasan’s article falls apart the minute we engage our brains and go under the skin of Islamic theology and history. It lacks intellectual honesty and is utterly misleading to readers. The reality is that although religious literacy and ceremonial intensity do not cause extremism, Islam – the very real Islam – serves as a perfect fuel for it. The ideology facilitates acquisition of supernatural beliefs and can easily direct believers towards religious violence.