On The Arrogance And Backwardness of Islam!
Pardon me, but…
I have no antipathy towards anyone or group of people. I think myself too grand a man for malice or hatred. This write-up is a critique of a set of ideas – the Islamic faith. I criticize ideas that I feel deserve criticism and I do that unabashedly and unreservedly. I would not have had to explain myself if I was criticizing ideas in politics or sports or any other field of human endeavor. However, the moment critique is brought within the hallowed environs of religion (especially Islam) quills are raised and otherwise domesticated felines bare their fangs. People shudder and then coil back into their shells. This will not be one of those. And so if you’re the sort to think religion, and Islam for that matter, is beyond criticism, this is not for you. You can proceed to the next important thing in your life.
We are so unaccustomed to cringing from criticizing Islam that we suddenly develop tender sensitivities with the least critique. So, if you feel taken aback by my arguments, it is a reflection upon you and not me.
By all means reject my contentions if you find them inadequate or unpersuasive. But if the only response you can summon is distress at Islam being subject to accountability, then please take your grievance to someone who cares.
I am sure this write-up will generate some dogmatically jingoistic comments about the glory of Islam and others will be impassioned pleas to exempt Islam from the rigors of robust inquiry – rather like a decrepit despot whose lawyers claim that he is too old to stand trial. Islam may be old but it is still vicious and virulent and hence poses a grave danger to civilization in general. This brings me to the next point about why I have elected to focus on Islam when other religions also carry their share of stinking piles of rotten dogma.
It’s the 21st Century, Sod off with the Old Bull!
Islamic fundamentalism is particularly toxic because it arrives in our midst riding two torpedoes at once. On the one hand it is fueled by a dark-ages doctrine that sanctifies indiscriminate and self-righteous violence. On the other hand, it is equipped with a dazzling array of modern technology (including weaponry) with which to conduct its Jihad. This combination constitutes a lethal mix of ends and means.
The Qur’an provides the theological and ideological framework within which bigotry, brutality and bloodshed is not just sanctified but demanded from the faithful. Millions upon millions of Muslims operate on the assumption that the Qur’an is the immutable commandment of Allah and the fulfillment of those dictates are incumbent upon the devout – failing which, an eternal torment awaits – (courtesy of a kind and benevolent Allah). This faith in celestial duty is what enables an otherwise sane person to become a suicide bomber :
“Promise a young man that death is not the end, and he’ll willingly cause disaster!” “Offer them a fast track to a Great Oasis in the Sky, cooled by everlasting fountains. Harps and wings wouldn’t appeal to the sort of young men we need, so tell them there’s a special martyr’s reward of 72 virgin brides, guaranteed eager and exclusive. Would they fall for it? Yes, testosterone-sodden young men, too unattractive to get a woman in this world might be desperate enough to go for 72 private virgins in the next”
– Richard Dawkins, Religions Misguided Missile.
In the Qur’an are to be fund edicts which pertain to politics, society, commerce, law and justice. In other words Islam demands pre-eminence in all spheres of human endeavor. But what it brings to the table are the noxious prejudices of a bygone age. Islam seeks dominance and not merely accommodation of its toxic doctrine. The word ‘Islam’ means “submission”. Peace comes after submission, surrender and subservience, maybe!
While Islamists remain faithfully tethered to a dark-age dogma, they are tactically smart enough to employ modern technology in their service. Technologies like the internet, satellite-based communication, GPS and rocketry are employed in the service of Jihad – (flash : Boko Haram). Recent attacks by Pakistani Islamists in Mumbai, Islamabad, Usta Mohammad, Nigeria’s Boko Haram reveals the bedazzling spread of techno-services that were strung together for the sport of spilling the blood of kafirs/mushriks /infidels.
It is this marriage between an uncompromisingly venomous ideology and techno-sophistication that portends an ominous picture. The world of Islam is uniquely toxic in this context and hence why I have opted to focus on it.
Most commentators conveniently ignore the strong doctrinal underpinnings of Islamic intolerance. Commentary about Islamic excesses are framed in secular constructs like “territorial disputes” or “social alienation” or “economic hardship”. The truth is far too stark for our sensibilities. Islamic militancy is the manifestation of a belief in divinely mandated blood-lust! This truth needs to find expression and hence I dare to!
Archaic & Retrogressive
Religious texts are, by their very nature, old, outdated and outmoded. Yet modern society keeps such parochial content safely sequestered and privileged. Modernity has introduced and established principles such as secularism which relegates religion to its rightful place (i.e. private spiritual pursuit). Of course, all religions would love to command a greater sphere of influence but they are, generally speaking, confined to their corner in most modern societies – (only partly true for Africa though).
But NOT Islam! No sir!! How dare you even suggest that?!
Where Islam operates, it is not only supreme in the religious sphere; it also demands dominion over society, politics, commerce, justice – indeed the whole spectrum of human experience. Look at the leading Islamic theocracies (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran) to see examples of what an Islamic society looks like. These are NOT poor and impoverished countries. They command inordinate wealth and yet their societies are almost completely bereft of the spirit of modernity. This happens because Islam is not just behind times – it is opposed to being up with the times.
Consider the issue of Sharia law: While it is true that ultra-Islamists are the most rabid proponents of Sharia, it is equally true that the wider Muslim populace considers it positive because it is purported to be divinely inspired. A significant percentage of Islamic countries already have some version of Sharia law in operation. Can you name the countries where the populace is striving to overthrow/repeal Sharia? I didn’t think so. Now, can you think of countries where ultra-Islamists have/are pushing for a greater imposition of Sharia? Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq come to mind. And oh, my dearly beloved Nigeria! – Boko Haram – a ragtag guerilla unit of lunatics, mad dogs, idiots, psychopaths and human waste. This tells us that Islam’s retrograde outlook is viewed as a badge of honor. In other words, Backward and Proud of it! I do not think that I go far enough when I say so. Consider for example, Boko Haram. In its history brutality, no known Muslim ‘scholar’, cleric or such ever came out to condemn the savagery as unIslamic. It’s only in the past week, after the kidnapping of over 230 girls and following international condemnation and social media outbursts that al-Qaida did! And how laughable? But we shall not dwell on that. Subsequently, we are told that the Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperations (OIC), Iyad Madani, has called the kidnappings “inhuman and barbaric”. In large part, the initial failure to condemn Boko Haram, implies a tacit condoning of their brutalities.
It would be one thing to be backward because one was left behind in the great race toward development. But is quite another to oppose modernity even when it has arrived at the main-gates. The Islamic world is still dominated by Kings, Sultans and Emirs. Clearly, modernity has revealed better (though not perfect) governmental structures than hereditary monarchy. And yet here we are, most Muslim-majority countries have not even adopted a 20th century governmental structure – much less a 21st century one. In contrast, the king of Bhutan (a predominantly Buddhist nation) has recently transformed his country from a monarchy to a democracy – without any popular unrest forcing his hand. Can you name a comparable devolution of power in an Islamic state? Me neither. This tells you that cult of the “tribal chieftan” is alive, well and thriving in the Islamic world.
One could be misled by the glitter, the splendor and razzmatazz of some Islamic societies and mistake their opulence for progress. (If not “westernization”). Barring some exceptions, this would be a folly. While Islamic societies have been quick to acquire amenities and conveniences of a Western life (Cars, TVs, Malls, cell-phones…) they are far from having adopted the underlying secular temperament that has fueled progress which ultimately yielded the amenities and conveniences.
Take the example of Saudi Arabia: One can come across fleets of the most opulent cars and limousines cruising the highways. But one does not have to try hard before one notices that women are forbidden to drive in the Islamic Kingdom. (Until recently, they could not even sit in the front-passenger seat.) They are sequestered in black-robes and relegated to a lifetime of second-class citizenship ( as the Qur’an prescribes : “Men are superior to women on account of the qualities which God hath gifted the one above the other, and on account of the outlay they make from their substance for them. … !” S. 4:34, Rodwell ). Lest we forget Dr Abd Al-‘Aziz Al-Fawzan in 2005 explaining how permitting women to drive cars leads to widespread sexual permissiveness and therefore societal decay! It is against this backdrop that the opulence of Saudi society seems pathetically vacuous.
As the leading Islamic voice and as the custodian of the holiest Islamic shrines, Saudi Arabia could be leading the way for the Islamic world. With the purse, power and prestige that Saudi Arabia commands, they could be a tremendous force for modernization and upliftment of Muslims around the world. But they stubbornly and sanctimoniously adhere to a primitive mindset. It is not as though they don’t know the way forward. Its just that they oppose modernity and prefer obscurantism. And they derive the impetus for this directly from the Qur’an. Barring slight differences, you will see the same obscurantist outlook pervade across most of the Muslim world.
One would have to regrettably conclude that although the Islamic world is capable of rising from its squalor, it prefers to languish in it because of the belief that salvation lies in being true to a 7th century doctrine. In doing so it rejects every meaningful thing that modernity offers.
The Arrogance of Islam…
At this point, I would like to dwell on the theme that Islam is arrogant and simply cannot countenance the idea of keeping to itself. Not only does it seek accommodation it, demands respect (which, I hasten to clarify, is far from “commanding respect”).
While all religions would love to hold sway over the multitudes, Islam is probably the worst offender on this score. Islam’s voracious appetite for dominance makes it overbearing, arrogant and intrusive.
Remember the spasm of frenzied violence that erupted in the wake of some cartoons in an obscure newspaper in Denmark? Not only do the Muslims want the right to practise their faith, they want the rest of us to also practise it as well. It never crossed their pious minds that injunctions against graven images are for practicing Muslims and not for the rest of us infidels. And that we owe them no such respect.
In more recent times, the most glaring example of this arrogance is the attempt made by some luminaries of the Islamic world who joined forces to pass a binding resolution in the UN that would outlaw any denigration of Islam. Not satisfied with archaic and draconian ‘blasphemy laws’ in their own lands, they want other countries to enact and be bound by them too. Such arrogance! The gall! (Thankfully, such a resolution did not pass and instead of a binding resolution it was a non-binding one that made it.) My point is to highlight the self-righteous impunity with which Islam insists on imposing itself on the rest of humankind.
It is astounding that the regimes with the most abysmal record on human-rights could be lecturing us that disparaging Islam is akin to a human-rights violation. These are the same countries that have not seen it fit to declare Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) a human-rights violation. These are the same nations whose jurisprudence holds a rape victim guilty of fornication. These are the same nations who treat apostasy as a capital crime at par with treason. These are the same regimes that sentence a 15 year old girl whose step father rapes her multiple times, sires a child with her and then kills the baby to hundred lashes for the crime of having sex with another man! (Flash: March 2013, The Maldives). Somehow the rest of the world is expected to shut the heck up! Because? Well, Islam!
These are just some examples of how audacious and arrogant Islam can be. Since Islam presumes supremacy in all human affairs, it feels entitled to tell you and me that we must accept its suzerainty. To enforce this primacy is an army of Mullahs, Imams, Emirs, Qazis and a battery of morality-police who thrash, mutilate and execute transgressors. The web is replete with news reports of floggings, amputations, stonings and beheadings in the Islamic world for the misdemeanor (heck!, it’s felony) of not being Muslim enough!
Even in non-Islamic societies we see an uneasy Muslim population yearning for Shariah law. Can you think of any other religious sect/group which menacingly demands the establishment of its antiquated doctrine in a foreign land and a foreign society? Which other religious group has the gall to be so overt in its arrogance? Several (especially, European) countries are nonplussed at the fact that Muslim immigrants choose to relocate in secular societies and yet nurse unremittingly hostile attitudes towards the secular norms of those societies. Imagine that!
In conclusion, I would say that although Islam is backward and retrograde, it would be tolerable – if it were not overbearing and arrogant. It is the nauseating arrogance and impudence with which it exerts its influence that makes it repugnant. It also makes it perilous – which is why I have decided to focus on Islam and its excesses.
By Paa Nii (a member of the Humanist Association of Ghana)