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Response to Karen Armstrong

The Council of Ex-Muslims responded to Karen Armstrong’s article (read it here) contending that religions are peaceful, except when secularism causes it not to be peaceful. So in order to have peace, we secularists should shut up and allow religionists to stamp on our faces – forever. I decided to reproduce this brilliant response so that it is not lost in the sea of comments at the Guardian website

CEMB responded as follows (original link to comment is here):

Karen Armstrong says:

“When secularisation has been applied by force, it has provoked a fundamentalist reaction”

The problem is that too often, any kind of critical scrutiny of some religions, and any kind of secular impulse, any kind of refusal to submit to religious authority ‘provokes’ a fundamentalist reaction. And so we are told that it is our own fault for being abused. We ‘provoked’ our beating, because we refused to submit, we refused to obey, we wanted to create a free safe space, to think, to question, to escape Islam, because we asked questions like – ‘why does Islam teach that those who leave and criticise it deserve to be persecuted and even killed?’

It is often little things like this that ‘provoke’ a response, and when non Muslims who dislike secularism empathise with those who wish to silence dissenters, for emotional reasons, because of a kinship of instinct with those who are full of disquiet of the questioning of power and assumption that secularism enables, they collude with, and provide cover for those who wish to mete out divine responses to those who ‘provoke’ them. The ‘moderate’ believer enables the intolerance they claim to not be a part of ‘true’ ‘compassionate’ religion.

(and as an aside, when will believers acknowledge that the compassionate, pluralistic, tolerant religion they claim to be the ‘true’ form of their faith has been imagined because of the processes of secularism and the questions that secularisation asked of religious authority and bigotry?)

The reaction of silencing and coercion in response to questions that we ‘provoke’ from the religious often doesn’t come from the fundamentalists, but from the ‘moderates’ who don’t want these questions asked.

As secular space has allowed us to ask these questions. And its not just violent fundamentalists who hate this space for existing.

To that I say: Amen! (and I mean that in the secular sense!)

A Very Human God

From our friends at the Council of Ex-Muslims

To add to what is in the above video, there are several ayats in the Quran and in many Hadith that give Allah human characteristics, qualities and features such as eyes, a face, feet, hands, fingers, and a shin. In addition they describe him as smiling, walking, laughing, running, having a chair upon which he “puts his two feet” and other such human characteristics.

If that is not enough, then what is the plain meaning of this hadith?:

Al-Bukhari (6227) and Muslim (2841) narrated from Abu Hurayrah that the Muhammad said: “Allah created Adam in His image, and he was sixty cubits (90′) tall. When he created him he said, ‘Go and greet that group of angels who are sitting and listen to how they greet you, for that will be your greeting and the greeting of your descendents.’ So he said, ‘Al-salaamu ‘alaykum (peace be upon you),’ and they said, ‘Al-salaamu ‘alayka wa rahmat-Allaah (Peace be upon you and the mercy of Allaah.’ So they added (the words) ‘wa rahmat-Allaah.’ Everyone who enters Paradise will be in the form of Adam, but mankind continued to grow shorter until now.”

And Muslim (2612) narrated that Abu Hurayrah said: The Messenger of Allah said: “When any one of fights his brother, let him avoid the face, for Allah created Adam in His image.”

- How else would a person from the medieval ages interpret that seeing as how most human beings believed that their mightiest god lived in the sky (Islam is not exempt from that). Muslim Philosophers would become uncomfortable with that and begin to reinterpret and assign allegorical meanings. The proof was in a hadith about a young slave girl, to whom Muhammad asked: “Where is Allah?” She said: “In the sky.” He asked, “Who am I?” She said, “The Messenger of Allah.” So he said to her master: “Set her free, for she is a believer.”

So a (likely illiterate) slave girl understood allegory? Or is it more likely that she believed that Allah was really in the sky and Muhammad approved of this?

Think about it…

 

Does Islamic Literature Contain “Scientific Miracles”? (Short Answer: No)

This article refutes the common claim of Sunni Islamic apologists that the Qur’an contains “scientific miracles”

Read the article here

 

Islam As An ‘Arab Pride’ Movement

Excellent article that dovetails very well with this article

While central authorities in the Muslim world since the caliphate on to the current Saudi monarchy have done their best to obscure the actual origins and history of Islam, astute observation reveals that Islam is an amalgamation of Abrahamic and Arab pagan traditions. Reading the Qur’an in chronological order reveals a politically savvy prophet borrowing the mythologies of the Jews & Christians and combining them with the rituals and practices of the Arab pagans. There are certainly original rituals and mythologies that are unique to Islam, but the melting pot nature of Islam cannot be denied. In contrast, modern Muslims often pride themselves in the uniqueness of Islam, and it’s complete rejection of pre-Islamic paganism, a time referred to as the age of ignorance. And yet, historical study shows that the pilgrimage to the Kaa’ba, the fast and feast of Ramadan, the shahada, and even the crescent star symbol have pre-Islamic origins, to name a few.

Muhammad’s genius was in concocting a melange of acceptable doctrines, stories and rites that the warring tribes of Arabia would find palatable enough to accept. Now, personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with admitting that Islam is an evolution of earlier religious traditions, but Muslims would howl blasphemy at my assertion that they share common spiritual heritage with pagans. But if the Christians can acknowledge their evolution from Judaism, then surely Muslims must come to grips with the origin of their faith, as well.

[...]

Only recently did it strike me that ultimately, the doctrines of Islam are not really about universality. Instead, Islam is essentially an Arab pride movement aimed at codifying and preserving Arabic culture. Particularly as modernity challenges the tenets of Islam, Arabian culture clings to Islam as a signifier of status.

As a Bengali, it wounds me to think of the thousands of years of spiritual development wiped out by the Arab invasion of the Indian subcontinent. Not all Bengalis are Muslims, but those who are take pride in their religion and view their own religious heritage—the rich Bengali/Indian traditions that predate Islam—as disgusting. As a Bengali-American exploring my ancestry, this self-hatred of pre-Islamic Bengali culture strikes me as a curious kind of cultural Stockholm Syndrome. The Arab invasion was so successful that Bengalis are cursing their own ancestors’ spiritual traditions in favor of an essentially Arabian cultural movement. The pre-Islamic days of the Indian subcontinent offered a rich variety of spiritual traditions from non-dualist Buddhism, to pantheist Hinduism, and even some forms of monotheism. These traditions are much, much older than Islam and when studied carefully, they are much more nuanced and spiritually powerful.

Read it all here

Muslim Evangelists Peddle Lies About How Science is contained by Islam

The dialogue between science and religion is a topic of immense interest to many philosophers, theologians and scientists. While academics debated over the boundaries of science  or the validity of religious experience, a much cruder relationship between the two fields began to trend in Muslim communities across the developing and developed countries in recent decades. Many Islamic proselytizers began to widely publicize the belief that the sacred Islamic text, the Qur’an, contains scientific information that had only been discovered recently.

As a proselytizing tool, claims of scientific foreknowledge are found in the evangelical practices of many major religions.  However, this belief has gained much mainstream acceptance in the Muslim world, with adverse effects.

Read it all here

The Day of Judgment

Even as a Muslim, I have to admit having some of the same thoughts:

Why Do You Believe YOUR Particular Religion Is True?

Another excellent video by the CEMB presents a question to believers of all types:

Truth is that those brought up in Christian families (even many atheists) enjoy celebrating Christmas and other joyous occasions with their families. It is the same with Muslims. And it is the same with Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and other religions. Cultural influences are much stronger holds on one’s identity than religion alone. For a Turkish individual, for example, to be Turkish is to be Muslim and to be Muslim is to be Turkish. This is also why we see Christianity wrapped in nationalism and jingoism with many (admittedly not all) Christians in the United States. Even the flavor of Islam in the United States is taking on a more and more evangelical Christian flavor. In effect they are becoming like “Muslim protestants” and run many of their Islamic Centers in much the same way a church is run. Many American mosques have “Sunday schools”, boy/girl scout programs, voting drives and emphasize forgiveness and peace more just as churches do. We are also seeing American mosques soften on the gender segregation issue. (Next thing you know, there will be choirs!) The point here is that the American culture is influencing the shape the version(s) of Islam in the United States is taking. The other point is that it shows that the important thing to the Muslims that have come here is their identity as Muslims and they will change things to make them feel more comfortable rather than changing the religious identity itself. If the culture becomes more liberal, the religion will become more liberal. If the culture becomes more conservative, the religion will become more conservative. Cultures around the world are shaped around the religion of their nation and this informs the way they perceive themselves.

That is why it is ridiculous for Christians and Muslims to expect mass conversion of a culture from one religion to another. Yes, you will get some malcontents at the edges, but you will never convert the masses from their traditional religion – short of war/genocide. Now a Muslim apologist will mention that there are many converts to Islam. But he will not mention that a) many (if not most) of those converts leave the new religion and b) there are Muslims that also leave Islam. So it all pretty much balances out.

In the weeks before I finally left Islam the question that I deliberated over for remaining Muslim was not theology (I was 100% convinced that Islam is man made at this point) but my IDENTITY as a Muslim. I had spend years as a Muslim and people knew me as such. I thought, “Should I just claim Islam as an identity like most Muslims?”…”Iftar is kinda fun. I don’t have to fast, but I can still enjoy the friends I’ve made over the years” etc, etc. Ultimately, as the video suggests, I was honest with myself and saw that these were not good reasons to claim a religion, so I stopped claiming to be Muslim.

Now, obviously many, many others have made different decisions. They have decided that their identity as Muslims must be maintained even if they do not believe. I know many people like that and I don’t blame them for doing what is right for themselves and their families. On the other hand, I have enormous respect for those who take that final step and risk losing everything. These people deserve our love, respect and support in whatever way that we can give it.

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