The Freedom to Speak about Islam

I’ve been frustrated recently for having become curious about Islam. Specifically, I have questions which I would like for a Muslim person to answer, but I can’t find anybody discussing such questions. What I find are mostly one way monologues from opposing sides. (in the last week or so, thanks to Trump, US media like Fox news have taken up questioning Islam, but in a very biased manner. I’m looking for an honest, agenda-less discussion.)

My questions:

  • The Quran urges Muslim believers to “fight until all religions are only for Allah.” Qur’an (8:39) Can we take this literally?
  • Ideally, which ought to be obeyed? Sharia law, or laws of the land where you live?
  • How Muslim is ISIS?
  • How can I trust that you are not deceiving me in your answers (Taquiyya)?

I’ve searched on YouTube for decent debates or tutorials, but besides an agonizingly tamed debate between Roger Scruton and Imam Zaid Shakir, and a few debates between a Christian, David Wood, and various Imams, there’s simply not much out there.

Which reminds me of Innes Bowen who embarked on writing her book Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam, because she could hardly find any decent studies on Muslims living in Britain. (9/11 didn’t spark any such studies?)

I have a Muslim acquaintance who might be willing to answer these questions without taking offense, we’ll see. I’ll invite her to ask me about Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism and Shintoism if she wishes.

Which brings me to the main topic of this article: How can we discuss sensitive matters openly, without being deemed offensive, politically incorrect (culturally insensitive), or __phobic?

On being offensive

I did a quick Google search of “offensive to” in ‘news’. A few articles came up:

“The everything-is-offensive brand of campus activism has struck a new low: Students at the University of Minnesota killed a proposed moment of silence for 9/11 victims due to concerns—insulting, childish concerns—that Muslim students would be offended.”
Robby Soave, The Daily Beast

Putnam calls Trump proposal ‘offensive to American values’

“Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam on Tuesday denounced a proposal by Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump to prevent Muslims from entering the country (as being offensive to American values).”

It’s offensive to talk about reducing minimum wage:

“Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo state (Nigeria) says it is offensive for his fellow governors to entertain the thought of reducing workers’ minimum wage.”

We discussed this trend of people taking offense at a recent Libertarian Home meeting. A philosopher who was sitting next to me pointed out how it’s become a power word that often attracts a mob of sympathisers. Being ‘offended’ has much more clout than being ‘angry, ‘upset’; or ‘annoyed’.

Often, people who are offended play victim and bark at the offender like a Maoist bulldog. I’ve come across the term “cry bully” which seems befitting. A Yale student’s remark “I don’t want to debate, I just want you to hear my pain” sums it up.

You can’t have an open discussion with people who are likely offended by what you might say.

On being politically incorrect (and culturally insensitive)

A common theme in this thread of thinking is “cultural sensitivity”. Most often, Caucasian (to be precise, white, Christian, heterosexual men) are told to be sensitive to minority cultures (non-white cultures, women and LGBT). It doesn’t seem to matter if white men are at times numerically in the minority. The white man’s colonial ancestors have dominated the scene for so long, goes the cry, that it’s high time the minorities get paid proper attention. One can sense a strong animosity to white Christian male culture by the PC police.

So we get crazy news like Starbucks abandoning Christmas signs, a university banning yoga classes and schools banning Halloween costumes, all because it’s ‘culturally insensitive’, and politically incorrect.

On being __phobic

Islamaphobic, homophobic, racist, sexist, these are all very strong terms that get thrown at people for being ‘offensive’, ‘politically incorrect’ or ‘culturally insensitive’. Phobia is a mental illness. When a PC police tells you that you are __phobic, effectively what he/she is saying is “you are mentally ill, therefore your opinions are not valid.”

In all three cases, the accuser is saying “shut up, your opinion has no place in this peace-loving, fair and equal society.” They might as well be waving around a little red book.

What happens is people start to self-censor, and people like Trump become very popular for speaking out his mind and making space for honest debate, while he takes the blunt by a PC public, for things people want to say but feel they can’t.

Going back to my questions. I’m hoping my Muslim acquaintance won’t take offense to the questions I have of Islam. I really don’t want to offend her, but who knows what offends anybody? I want to come to a clearer understanding of Islam. It’s a big and hot topic. If we want to stop real racism, we have to be able to talk openly.

If we can more openly talk about sensitive issues without fearing judgement by a thought police, I bet we wouldn’t have gone into Syria so haphazardly, and maybe we can come up with a more peaceful solution to the problem of terrorism. We can do this not least by first clarifying what Islam is, and what it’s not.

13 Comments

  1. Note that the Koran is self abrogating so it can contradict itself. If you want to know if a statement was contradicted/abrogated, find out if there are later revelations on the same subject within.

    Forget trying to read beyond that verse, for the chapters are ordered in reducing chapter length, not revealed order (nice) so you would then have to find out which verses were revealed when and then see.

    IIRC it is forbidden to publish a Koran in any other order.

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  2. One problem is that many Muslims say that the Koran (and the Hadiths) can only be understood in the original classical Arabic – so the various translations I have upstairs (although one of them is produced by the religious authorities in Saudi Arabia) are void and Paul Marks (and any other person who can not read classical Arabic) can not comment on the specific text of the Koran and the hadiths.

    Although this also (logically) means that those silly people who try to prove that Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance by quoting (wildly out of context) the Koran in English should stop as well. For example no more “to murder a single person is to murder the whole world” and so on (the Koran is actually quoting from the Talmud in this verse and explicitly says that this is what God is saying to the “children of Israel” – the text verse in the Koran describes how Muslims should behave, i.e. kill-mutilate and so on).

    So if we are not allowed to discuss the text of the Koran (unless we do so speaking classical Arabic) let us just turn to what mainstream Islam teaches.

    Mainstream Islam (I will leave aside Shia Islam here – and I will also leave aside the Sufi tradition in Islam) is Determinist and Positivist.

    What does this mean?

    It means that mainstream Islam holds that everything that happens (including everything we do) is predetermined by God. Everything is the WILL of God.

    A Determinist (religious or atheist) is really someone who is giving themselves the perfect excuse to turn on you at any moment.

    “It is not may fault I stabbed (or raped – or whatever) you – I could not stop myself. It was all predetermined”.

    If a Determinist (religious or atheist) is actually serious (a very big “if”) why is the logical response not to shoot them at once? After all they have basically told you they are going to turn on you (or your family) at some point. They have given themselves the perfect excuse.

    Mainstream Islam is also Positivist in its teaching – what does mean?

    It means that “good” is whatever God commands and “evil” is whatever God forbids – that “whore” (to use the word of the Determinist and Positivist Christian Martin Luther) reason can not judge the commands of God – anything that God commands is “good” BY DEFINITION and anything God forbids is “evil” BY DEFINITION. So, for example, if God says it is good to enslave infidels and rape them then it is good – BY DEFINITION.

    Some Christians teach this Positivism (the idea that the moral law is just the arbitrary WILL of God) and it is sensiblel to hold that these particular Christians are evil. They are (again) giving themselves the perfect excuse to do terrible things – pretending they do not know these things are evil.

    “It can not be evil – because GOD TOLD ME TO DO IT, so it must be GOOD”.

    Some atheists are Positivists also – they just put “the state” in the place of God.

    The ruler or rulers (King, Parliament or whatever) have ordered X – therefore X is the law (by definition) there is no higher moral law by which one can JUDGE THE STATE.

    Just as with Christians who hold that there is no moral law (that can be found be humans) to judge the commands of God. It is sensible to assume that atheists who hold that no moral law exist that can be used to judge the state are evil. What they are saying is……

    “! have to rob (rape, murder…..) you because the state told-me-to-do-it the commands of the state are the only law” that is the Legal Positivist position (of Thomas Hobbes and so on) and it is normally (although NOT always) based on Moral Positivism (that the commands of the State, or of God, are the only definition of moral right and moral wrong – what the state commands is good and what the state forbids is evil). Clearly it is sensible to conlude that such Moral and Legal Positivists (whether they support the arbitrary will of the State or of God) are evil – i.e are pushing evil doctrines (evil principles).

    Now if a Christian or atheist Determinist and Positivist is evil (is pushing evil doctrines – evil Principles) – why would a mainstream Muslim also pushing Determinism and Positivism not be evil?

    It is not “Islamophobic” to point out that Determinism (“nothing is my fault – , I never have a choice,,all the crimes I commit were predetermined at the start o fthe universe”) and Moral–Legal Positivism (“anything the big guy upstairs orders me to do is correct BY DEFINITION”) are evil. A Christian or an atheist who pushed the evil doctrines of Determinsm and Moral-Legal Positivism would be doing evil.

    So IF (and I did say IF) mainstream Islam teaches the evil doctrines (evil principles) of Determinism and Moral-Legal Positivism. then mainstream Islam is e***

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  3. And just in case someone does not know……

    P.C. and so on – Marxist source for all these tactics.

    As for “I am offended” – I take that as a good sign.

    If we are NOT offending such people (Marxists, ISIS Islamists terrorists – and so on) then we are doing something wrong.

    If someone (Muslim or not Muslim) tells me that they are “offended” by me saying that Mohammed was wrong to support the murder to the old blind poet who mocked him, and then supporting the murder of the pregnant poetess who denounced the murder of the old blind poet, then I would answer as follows….

    “Good – my intention is to offend people like you.”

    Somehow I do not think I will be offered a post at Yale.

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  4. UKIP have put a bit of thought into the topic. I hope this gives a brief and interesting contribution.

    IN THE USA:
    “every immigrant makes us more American” (Reagan). The point is, come to America and subscribe to American values.

    IN BRITAIN:
    ‘The English intelligentsia are an odd lot, they’d rather steal from a poor box than stand to God save the King’ – George Orwell.
    The point here us that, in the UK, politics is based upon a psychological self-loathing*:

    The UKIP cultural line, which sometimes pertains to Muslin elements, is:
    (1) Immigrants should applaud, not condemn, British culture and law. For example, women and homosexuals in the UK should be valued as indistinct from anyone else.
    (2) Multiculturalism represents the opposite of this.

    On a personal level, as with anything about peoples, it is a bell curve of good/bad. Stefan Molyneux has a video with lots of data on, for example, how many Muslim’s hold the view that the world should become a Muslim state etc.

    My personal instincts are that it is hard to form a view unless you have seen with your own eyes life parts of Ilford/Rotherham. I’d like to share with you the cold evidence of my eyes and ears, but shall not for fear of our thought-police targeting me for truth-crime.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Derek,
      Personal experience, I want to hear from you. Me, example – my next door neighbour was a police officer, he said that a particular street in London (i forget where,,,) is run by Somali gangs and is a police no go zone. (The police has no power to do anything about it, because for example they are not allowed to chase anybody who is riding a motor cycle with no helmet. – lest they fall off and hurt themselves, whereby the police is forced to take the blame. So gangs just run round with no helmets.)

      Another example, a Muslim man once saved my life in India, putting his own safety at risk. (He feared being seen with a foreign girl). He said he’s only doing this for Allah. I thank him for that.

      It’s hard to have an open debate when one feels threatened. An influx of a foreign population is a threat to the local community. for example, how fiercely do the Indians guard their culture and say No to Macdonalds? We can also see how wrong it is for Western caucasians to migrate en masse to South Africa, and live without assimilating to the local culture. Why then is it suddenly racist to want to protect English culture from immigration?

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  5. Thanks for the comments Paul, and Merry Christmas to all xx.
    Regarding Moral Positivism and Determinism,…
    I completely agree that independent reasoning (questioning, doubting, grappling with what’s given, etc) is most important. Also, though, there are limits to our reasoning.

    Truth (or God, or Love) is infinite. All we’re doing is counting. Like trying to measure the ocean with a ruler. We can count to ten or to ten million, but to get a glimpse of the Infinite, we must stop counting and witness what is without judgement or reason. Determinism and Positivism makes sense ONLY when one has reached the end of his questioning and reasoning. Otherwise, like you say, it’s used as an excuse to do whatever one pleases and that’s wrong. (By the way, the state is not infinite, it’s just a monster. So it’s always wrong to be deterministic or positivistic about it.)

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