Maajid Nawaz is an interesting guy trying to make sense out of his own religion, Islam. Wikipedia notes that he was imprisoned for five years for being a member of Hib ut-Tahrir, a violent Egyptian Muslim group. During that time he had a change of heart, and he renounced his violent and divisive past. As a result, he now works to reform Islam. In that quest, he says that there is a distinction between Islam and “Islamism”, viz:
What is Islamism? Islam is a religion; Islamism is the desire to impose any version of that religion on society.
It’s the politicization of my own religion. What is Jihadism? The use of force to spread Islamism.
The danger of not naming this ideology is twofold. Firstly, within the Muslim context, those liberal Muslims, reformist Muslims, feminist Muslims, gay Muslims, dissenting voices, minority sects, the Ismailis, the Shia — all these different minorities within the minority of the Muslim community — are immediately betrayed.
How are they betrayed? Because you deprive them of the lexicon, the language to employ against those who are attempting to silence their progressive efforts within their own communities. You surrender the debate to the extremists…
The second danger is in the non-Muslim context. What happens if you don’t name the Islamist ideology and distinguish it from Islam?
This is a valuable insight, that at a minimum we need to be able to name the two sides in the fight. He also got together with the British Prime Minister to advance the same ideas:
Now, this all seems very reasonable, enlightened, and modern. I mean, what’s not to like?
Let me start by saying what is to like in this—Maajid Nawaz. Mr. Nawaz is absolutely doing the right thing. He is trying to reform Islam. I give him high praise for first changing his beliefs at considerable personal cost, and then speaking out about the changes regardless of the danger.
However, what’s not to like is that his reasonable enlightened modern construct is built on a couple of hidden problems.
PROBLEM THE FIRST: The Logical Fallacy
Professor Anthony Flew first described a curious logical fallacy as follows:
Imagine Hamish McDonald, a Scotsman, sitting down with his Glasgow Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Brighton Sex Maniac Strikes Again”. Hamish is shocked and declares that “No Scotsman would do such a thing”. The next day he sits down to read his Glasgow Morning Herald again; and, this time, finds an article about an Aberdeen man whose brutal actions make the Brighton sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Hamish was wrong in his opinion, but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says: “No true Scotsman would do such a thing”.
This has become known as the “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy. Let me recast this in more modern terms:
Imagine Maajid Nawaz, a Muslim, sitting down with his Egyptian Morning Herald and seeing an article about how the “Cairo Sex Maniac Strikes Again!”. Maajid is shocked and declares that “No Muslim would do such a thing”. The next day he sits down to read his Egyptian Morning Herald again; and, this time, finds an article about a Muslim man whose brutal actions make the Cairo sex maniac seem almost gentlemanly. This fact shows that Maajid was wrong in his opinion, but is he going to admit this? Not likely. This time he says: “No true Muslim would do such a thing”.
Unfortunately, this is the exact argument that Mr. Nawaz is making—that no true Muslim would try to impose Islam on others. However, this is just the logical “No True Scotsman” fallacy in different clothing.
This leads us directly to the second problem, which is that true Muslims do such horrendous things every day. Sudan buries women up to the neck and stones them to death with specially selected small stones to prolong the agony. Nigeria chops people’s hands off for theft. In a number of countries, a woman’s testimony in legal matters is worth only half that of a man. And ISIS and Boko Haram use captured civilian women as sex slaves.
Because these are all laws that are clearly spelled out in the Koran.
PROBLEM THE SECOND: The Koran
Here is the clearest that I can point out the paradox:
(1) Orthodox Muslims believe the Koran is the inerrant word of Allah, and that the laws of the Koran are as valid now as the day they were given to Mohammed.
(2) If you believe the Koran is the inerrant word of Allah, you absolutely are an Islamist, because violence against others is what the Koran preaches in far too many verses.
For example, if you leave Islam and speak out against the inerrant word of Allah, here is what the Koran says Orthodox Muslims are to do to you. Below is the so-called “Apostasy Verse”, about what you should do to apostates. (Apostates are people who leave a religion and then speak out against that religion.)
Qur’an 5:33—The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;
Nor is this some ignored verse forgotten for decades. That very verse is the reason that both Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salman Rushdie have had to live with bodyguards for decades.
Obviously, terrorizing people to force them to stay in the “religion” is just one of many clear examples of what Mr. Nawaz calls a “desire to impose any version of that religion on society” … but that is exactly what the Koran directs Muslims to do.
And that, of course, means that THE KORAN ITSELF IS ISLAMIST, NOT ISLAMIC.
The root of the problem is not Muslims, whether they are Islamic or Islamist. The problem is that the Koran itself is Islamist.
Now, is the Koran Islamist in all the verses? By no means. In fact, I would argue for the idea that most of it is relatively harmless, but that there are some “Satanic verses”. The concept of “Satanic Verses” is an ancient Islamic story that exists in many forms. The basic idea is that somehow Iblis, his Satanic Majesty himself, managed to insert some verses into the Koran that were designed to cause trouble and strife. And in reading the Koran, I’d say that is absolutely true.
So in order to solve this, Muslims need to get together and decide which of the verses of the Koran should NOT be considered as being eternally valid.
If I had to choose which ones were the Satanic verses, I’d start with three big ones—the “Apostate Verse” discussed above, the verse authorizing men to beat their wives, and the verse authorizing the keeping of female war captives as sexual slaves.
Here’s the verse about beating your wife:
Qu’ran 4:34—Men are the managers of the affairs of women for that God has preferred in bounty one of them over another, and for that they have expended of their property. Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret for God’s guarding. And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them. If they then obey you, look not for any way against them;
And if you consider the matter carefully, here is a translation what that verse of the Koran is actually saying:
Qu’ran 4:34—Don’t beat your wife at random whenever you feel angry or had a bad hair day, you simpleton! That will just make her constantly frightened, unsure, and afraid to act. If you do that she’ll be useless to you. Instead, only beat her when she disobeys you, and stop as soon as she obeys you … that way, she will be your perfect servant—obedient, submissive to your every wish, and permanently terrified of not pleasing you. Go and do likewise.
Finally, here is the Koran verse authorizing keeping captured female civilian prisoners of war as sexual slaves:
Qur’an 33:50—O Prophet! surely We have made lawful to you [for sex] your wives whom you have given their dowries, and those whom your right hand possesses [slaves] out of those whom Allah has given to you as prisoners of war …
Please note that this is not some theoretical religious dispute about long-dead verses. All of these barbaric actions, of wife-beating, death for apostasy, and sexual slavery are practiced today because they are specifically authorized by the Koran.
So I would hope that Mr. Nawaz would take the next step and get specific. Is he willing to say that those three verses should be specifically repudiated and that they should NOT be any part of modern Islam?
Because without a list of which verses are centuries past their use-by date, what is a poor Muslim supposed to do with the Koran except believe the whole thing is eternally true and valid?
However, I would also understand if Mr. Nawaz was not willing to say that these three and many others are Satanic verses which should be condemned as 7th-century barbarity by all right-thinking people. After all, just saying that there might actually be Satanic verses in the Koran is the reason why Salman Rushdie had to have bodyguards for decades …
Let me close by offering my thanks to Maajid Nawaz for having the strength of his convictions. He is a beacon of hope in a dark and threatening Islamist storm. I wish him the very best in his quest to drag Islam kicking and screaming into at least the 20th century, if not the 21st … but to do that, we need to repudiate some of the verses of the Koran. Not an easy task, but we can start by listing the largest offenders.
Regards to all, Muslims, Xtians, Hindudes and all the rest. Me, I’m a shamanist, I avoid all this stuff. I’ve discussed these issues at greater length and complete with cartoons in my post, The Problem With Islam. Here, showers last night, sunshine today. Cold air coming off the ocean, the world is good.