Islam is not a respectable religion, and it does not deserve our respect
Yesterday, Jerry Coyne put up a video of 20 Muslim scholars and academics speaking on various aspects of their faith. Taken together they make a strong case for not only not respecting Islam, but for positively disrespecting it. Here is the last clip from the film. Watch this first, and then I will go on with the rest of this post.
As Jerry says so clearly:
What is most frightening—and enlightening—about this, is that it shows how sincerely these people—eloquent and educated people—actually believe in the ludicrous dictates of Islam. That’s often forgotten by those who excuse terrorists by claiming that the terrorists’ motivations are not religious but political.
It is ridiculous to claim that the issues raised by Islam are simply political. They’re not. They are deeply embedded in the fundamental texts of Islam, texts which, not to put too fine a point on it, are of doubtful provenance and authenticity. As Joseph Schacht, whom Wikipedia describes as “a British-German professor of Arabic and Islam at Columbia University in New York,” is quoted by Tom Holland (in his new book In the Shadow of the Sword) to this effect:
We must abandon the gratuitous assumptions that there existed originally an authentic core of information going back to the time of the Prophet. 
In other words, the founding documents of Islam are sometimes centuries older than the supposed prophet of Islam, and their historical provenance is insecure. Nevertheless, Muslim scholars are not yet prepared, at least in any considerable numbers, to face the fact of the critical historical study of their founding texts, and, as the person in this video takes it for granted, not only do the texts bear the authority of God himself as a final revelation; but even their most primitive and brutal prescriptions must be adhered to. He even suggests, in what would be funny if it were not so pathological, that those who sin in the ways described, by committing adultery or engaging in homosexual acts, actually want to be treated in these brutal ways; they want to be killed by stoning. Such people, as one person says, if they exist, which she takes leave to doubt, are suffering from some psychopathology and need psychiatric help.
This would be crystal clear, if people didn’t keep making apologies for Islam. And while the majority of Muslims may oppose the protests over the insult to their prophet — and there seems to be no secure basis upon which to make this judgement, however often repeated — it seems clear that the central core of Islam is reflected by the academics and scholars collected by Jonathan Pararajasingham, and poste on his blog by Jerry Coyne. The bona fides of the man in the video just above are these (I copy from Jerry Coyne, along with his own wry comment in italics):
20. Shaykh Haitham al-Haddad is a London-based Islamic scholar. He sits on the boards of advisors for Islamic organisations in the United Kingdom, including the Islamic Sharia Council, and is the chair and operations advisor for the Muslim Research and Development Foundation. He is also a trustee for the Muslim Research and Development Foundation in the United Kingdom. al-Haddad explains why stoning is an appropriate punishment for certain crimes, including adultery. He maintains that those people who get stoned actually want to be stoned! He says he receives many requests from Western women who have committed adultery, asking how they can find their way to a Muslim country so that they may be stoned to death. Yeah, right!
Yeah, right, indeed! I can just imagine these pleading women lining up a al-Haddad’s door, seeking a place where they can be stoned to death! But notice how this ridiculous – almost certainly lying – man holds positions of great influence in the Muslim community in Great Britain. He is a respected scholar of Islam, we are to suppose, and not only believes that British women (and not only Muslim ones) want to be stoned for adultery, but implicitly suggests that this would be an appropriate change to introduce into British law.
I conclude from this sort of thing, not only that Islam is not a religion to be respected, but it is one that needs to be criticised and opposed to the greatest extent possible, until it is discredited in the eyes of its own adherents, let alone of those who are not Muslim. Of course, we have to be careful that we do not tar with the same brush those who do not buy into the Islamist rhetoric, as Maryam Namazie points out in a recent post. “This is about politics not religion,” she says, but she shows clearly, at the end of her piece, that it isn’t just about politics at all. She quotes from the late Marxist Mansoor Hekmat, who said:
In Islam … the individual has no rights or dignity. In Islam, the woman is a slave. In Islam, the child is on par with animals. In Islam, freethinking is a sin deserving of punishment. Music is corrupt. Sex without permission and religious certification, is the greatest of sins. This is the religion of death. In reality, all religions are such but most religions have been restrained by freethinking and freedom-loving humanity over hundreds of years. This one was never restrained or controlled.”
This is not just a political statement. It is a statement about a religion which suppresses human rights and dignity, enslaves women, considers children as little more than animals, deems music corrupt and corrupting (other videos in the collection make this point with ridiculous emphasis), and sex without permission one of the greatest sins. It is, he says, a religion of death, and though all religions are such — I continue to call Roman Catholicism a death cult, as some of you may recall — some religions have already gone through a period where they have been forced to restrain themselves and accept that freedom-loving people have a right to act freely without religious oversight. This is something that is still not granted by Islam, whatever one might say about the moderation of individual Muslims. Their religion is one that needs criticism, and needs to be put through the fires of purification, so that it can come to recognise that it is only one worldview amongst others, and that it does not and cannot have an unproblematic word from a god. Its whole structure of beliefs and laws is based on sand, and it is time that Muslims were made to be aware that many people think this, and that they have a right, nay, a duty, to say so. Some of this criticism, no doubt, will be crude and insulting. Well, it’s going to take some of this in order to toughen the hides of those who react with violence at the issuance of any challenge from those who don’t share Islam’s kooky beliefs.
This is a religion that deserves to be criticised and condemned for its manifold offences against humanity. Its record of defending and upholding human rights is troublingly poor, and, if we take the so-called academics in the collection of video clips from which I took the clip above as any indication of the mind of Islam, then this is not something that is likely to end soon. Notice, for example, how many people in the audience clapped when the Muslim scholar highlighted above made his stupid remark that he would want to be stoned if he sinned. It simply took my breath away. That in itself was so chillingly disturbing that it demands enquiry. We have to remember that these are people who have come to live amongst us in the West, and that they are making claims for a kind of recognition and freedom from criticism which would imprison all of us.
There is an article in the Telegraph this morning, by one Shashank Josi. In it the author speaks in detail about the $100,000 bounty put on the head of the producer of the short video clip “Innocence of Muslims,” a bounty placed by a government minister on the head of a man who lives in another country, and one to which his own nation is allied. As Josi says:
The minister, like a good number of his venal and incompetent colleagues, is undoubtedly a buffoon of the highest order. He once dismissed Pakistan’s need for railways, suggesting that Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan had done without. Yet these comments are no laughing matter. It is intolerable that a senior official, in a country scarred by violent extremism, should urge the murder of an allied nation’s citizen, for no other reason than their expression of an offensive view. It is an outrageous assault on free speech, deserving of a robust response from every liberal democracy worth the name.
The British government should make it plain that Mr Bilour is not welcome in the UK, where he, like much of the Pakistani elite, owns property. As this newspaper reported yesterday, the minister spends summers in his London apartment. If he thinks he can avail himself of British law and order, while cheering on assassination to score cheap political points, he should be quickly disabused of this notion.
Better still, Parliament should make it possible for the assets of such murder-inciting provocateurs to be confiscated. The European Union and the United States should do likewise, clarifying that anyone who advocates violent responses to free speech will face a travel ban.
The man should be persona non grata anywhere where freedom is valued. We can’t have people on religious grounds putting bounties on people’s heads, whether their own citizens or the citizens of other countries. And recall that Pakistan is one country amongst many where religious freedom is severely restricted, and minority religious groups are always in danger of arbitrary accusations and arrests, and often even murder.
How does one deal with nonsense of this sort? We have to start by making it clear that we will not have our freedoms abridged by people who refuse to accept criticism of their religion, their prophet, their religious practices, or any other religious peculiarity which deserves criticism. We should never apologise – as too many Western leaders have already done — for the free acts of our citizens, nor should we permit homicidal fury to express itself in our midst. People have a right to protest and to criticise in turn, but they do not have a right to recommend violence, so it is simply inappropriate to carry placards advocating the beheading of those who insult the prophet. This should lead to greater insults of the prophet, for if we bow down to terrorism, or the threat of it, we will lose what freedom we have. We do not need to be crude about it, but we do need to put Islam in historical and philosophical perspective, so that its religious claims can be shown to be bogus, as are the claims of all religions. But those who wish to weigh in as crudely as “Innocence of Muslims” did have the right to have their say as well. This is something that Muslims must learn to live with.
Josi ends his article with a particularly penetrating and important insight:
Salman Rushdie wrote earlier this year: “If the creative artist worries if he will still be free tomorrow, then he will not be free today.” But this isn’t really about creative artists. If Holland or Nakoula are worried about their safety today, then none of us are free tomorrow. [my italics]
This is vital to understand. It is about our general freedom of speech. Any restriction on that freedom — for the protection of Islam’s prophet or anything else — is a restriction which affects, not only artists, but all of us, who would be put on notice that anything we say might possibly be considered to be insulting to someone somewhere with beliefs that we wish to criticise or subvert. We need to begin with Islam, I think, and point out as strenuously as we can, that it does not deserve our respect, and will only deserve it when it has given up its tendency to erupt in childish tantrums, at the slightest critcism. Needless to say, this does not apply to all Muslims. Some of them, perhaps even a majority, given the choice, would opt for freedom. And Namazie may just be right when she says that Islamists and Salafists are trying to take possession of the Muslim narrative, and claim it as the only legitimate one. But it is the one that we hear, and moderate Muslims are no doubt as afraid of reprisals should they speak out as are other readily identifiable persons. Perhaps even more so, since they are often members of communities where Islamists live. Since criticism of Islamist rhetoric would be taken as heresy or apostacy, and thus deserving of death, there are probably good reasons for their silence, but it does not excuse it. Until people are free to stand up and speak their minds about these matters without let or hindreance, and until the academic study of Islam is permitted to go forward without intrusion form the true believers, Islam does not deserve our respect, and should not receive it.