No True Muslim?
Yes, yet another “does ISIS represent Islam” article! So…does it? The members of ISIS would happily kill you if you said they didn’t, but of course, just because a person or group claims to be X doesn’t necessarily mean they are X.
In full disclosure, however, I take the position that “Islam is no worse than any other religion–the problem is that ‘extremists’ simply follow the text more fervently than moderates”. I arrive at that position from the idea of Fundamentalist Christians vs. Mainstream Christians, and how much of the Bible each group actually takes at face value (I’ve engaged in numerous debates, and I can assure you that the gap is large in how much of the Holy Bible each side actually believes). However, I’m still posing this as a Question, not as a Statement and would be very happy for a discussion in the comments section.
Oh, and many of the articles I link to contain several links within them, so follow those as you wish, but of course you’ll gain much more by more linky following.
Jerry Coyne, in his blog Why Evolution is True (who first wrote a book by the same name), shares and discusses a Jesus ‘n’ Mo comic about the topic of “no true Muslim” and the practice of “takfir”, which is basically “excommunication”. The extremists excommunicate the moderates (and thus have license to kill the apostates and infidels), and the moderates excommunicate the extremists, thus eliminating the need to consider reform–according to Hirsi Ali, a Somali ex-Muslim woman, who has called for the reform of Islam and been criticized by moderate Muslims for doing so.
And while not directly related to ISIS, Christopher Hitchens, in writing about Major Nidal Hasan back in 2009 in Slate, mentions the practice of takfir. Did you know that the U.S. is in a war against Islam? That can only be true if the Taliban (and now ISIS) are the only True Muslims, while the Muslim governments we are supposedly fighting with are not.
CJ Werleman writes in AlterNet, in response to an article by Sam Harris, who was writing in response to Werleman…that terrorism is our fault–the result of Oil Imperialism. There is a lot to agree with, as Western foreign policy has caused a lot of problems. He argues that our support of repressive Arab monarchies creates a “criminal underclass” (of desperate, repressed individuals) who make up the ISIS ranks. However, I feel this doesn’t answer a lot of questions, like why Major Nidal Hasan, who had never suffered as a result of Middle East Imperialist Oppression, decided to yell “Allahu Akbar” before shooting up a Texas military base. Why didn’t he yell “Free Tibet” (or, you know, Free Iraq)? Werleman mentions that many of the Muslim youth who are coming out of Britain to join ISIS are coming from poverty-striken areas, and so it is socio-economics, not religion, that is driving them to join a “gang” from which they expect to profit. Aren’t there any gangs in the UK?
I suppose in the end the question is: is there any divine warrant for the actions of the extremists (like ISIS)? Are there any commands in the Qur’an or the Hadith that says “apostates or unbelievers can/should be killed”? According to this article, which seems quite balanced to me, there is. On the other hand, according to Tariq Ramadan, in a debate with Christopher Hitchens in 2010, what you read in the Qur’an says more about you than about the text.
Ramadan’s statement sounds like some hardcore apologetics to me, like Christians saying “you have to consider the times and culture” when it is pointed out that the bible instructs on the proper way to own and beat slaves, but take it as you will. Either the Qur’an says “kill apostates” or it says something different if you interpret it correctly.
The Wider Picture
President Bush said “Islam is a religion of peace”, and President Obama has said “ISIL speaks for no religion… and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents.” (I would be nit-picky on the “massacre innocents” bit, because if ISIS/ISIL is employing takfir, then they are not killing innocents, but apostates and unbelievers.) The problem we are coming up against, I think, is that to say “ISIS is made up of Muslims” is to say “Islam has evil teachings”, and that is not the politic thing to say, and could actually bring a world of hurt from offended members of the Religion of Peace (…awkward), who are either defending their belief from unbelievers, or are fringe lunatics perverting the words of the Blessed Prophet.
I have read “arguments from population” in that there are about two billion Muslims and so if Islam were a violent religion there would be a world war right now. I would counter that truth is not derived democratically, and that Islam is like Christianity. Do Christians keep the 10 Commandments? No. Why? Because almost nobody keeps the Sabbath–everyone keeps Sunday. There are a number of arguments that Christ said, or by example said, the Sabbath wasn’t really that important anymore (and that the Sabbath, quite conveniently, is the only one of the Commandments that is part of the Old Covenant that Jesus did away with); on the other hand, the New Testament church regularly gathered on the Sabbath. And regardless of whether the Sabbath is absolutely required anymore, the keeping of Sunday is nowhere mentioned. Does the bible teach Sunday worship? No. But I think nobody would consider a sabbath-keeping Christian to be a “true” Christian. The bible also preaches “the prayer of faith will save the sick”; people do pray for healing, but they also go to the hospital, and when the doctor has healed them through medicine and/or surgery, they praise God. However, if you rely solely on prayer and faith…you’re a nutter! So who are the “true” Christians?
To borrow some phrasing from the movie Kingdom of Heaven, “There are no true Muslims. All are true Muslims”. I think that until a large, vocal group of Moderate Muslims gets together to vocally oppose the more ardent, fundamentalist, extremist members of their faith, there can be no moving forward. When groups like the Muslim Student Association of Yale start battling extremism instead of trying to silence criticism, then progress will be made. The same process that has happened with Christianity needs to happen with Islam, or else for the foreseeable future, while not all Muslims will be terrorists, almost all terrorists will be Muslims.