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Is Islam Compatible With Democracy?
“I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.” - The Koran, 8.12
“Allah’s Apostle said, ‘I have been made victorious with terror (cast in the hearts of the enemy)’” - Hadith of Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 220
“He who strikes terror into others is himself in continual fear.” - Claudian, Roman poet
What are the strengths and weaknesses of a democratic system? What is “freedom” and “liberty,” and does universal suffrage automatically equal liberty? Democracy could briefly be defined as the ability of the people of a state or political entity to genuinely influence the policies of their government by non-violent means. However, this is abstract; we need a more detailed definition to pin down the reality. In the Athenian city-state of ancient Greece, voting rights included all citizens, perhaps one tenth of the population of the city. Plato’s description of democracy in The Republic is close to anarchy. He rightly points out some inherent weaknesses in the democratic model; no doubt influenced by the fate of his teacher Socrates. Socrates made many enemies by criticising those Athenians who, by means of cheap rhetoric, used democracy to gain power. His courage in speaking out led to his trial, in which his accusers claimed that he was corrupting the young. Found guilty, Socrates was sentenced to drinking poison. This experience led Plato to conclude that Athens’ democracy was an unjust form of government.
Plato envisioned a just government as one which was ruled by educated philosophers or by a philosopher-king. In his famous “Myth of the Cave,” people are chained in a cave with a fire behind them. When others pass in front of the fire, they can see shadows on the cave wall, and falsely believe that these shadows represent reality. According to Plato, the purpose of the ruler should be to enlighten the masses and show them the truth behind these shadowy images.
In Politics , Aristotle, too, was critical of the democratic system. He described the various models of ruling thus:
“Of forms of government in which one rules, we call that which regards the common interests, monarchy; that in which more than one, but not many, rule, aristocracy (and it is so called, either because the rulers are the best men, or because they have at heart the best interests of the state and of the citizens). But when the citizens at large administer the state for the common interest, the government is called a polity. And there is a reason for this use of language.
“Of the above-mentioned forms, the perversions are as follows: of monarchy, tyranny; of aristocracy, oligarchy; of polity, democracy. For tyranny is a kind of monarchy which has in view the interest of the monarch only; oligarchy has in view the interest of the wealthy; democracy, of the needy: none of them the common good of all. Tyranny, as I was saying, is monarchy exercising the rule of a master over the political society; oligarchy is when men of property have the government in their hands; democracy, the opposite, when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.”
Although the potential for abuse of power and tyranny is indeed there in the democratic model, this potential exists in other forms of government, too. What Plato failed to see was that it could be possible to institute constraints on democracy that would limit some of its potential downsides, although not eliminate them completely. The American Founding Fathers, too, were skeptical of “democracy” in the meaning of unconstrained direct democracy, which they, like Plato, perceived could quickly disintegrate into mob rule. They outlined a constitutional Republic with indirect, representative democracy defined by a constitution. Citizens would be governed by the rule of law, thus protecting the minority from abuse and the potential tyranny of the majority. John Adams defined this as “a government of laws, and not of men.”
The Constitution of the United States was inspired by the French Enlightenment thinker Montesquieu, famous for his theory of the separation of powers into branches: The executive, the legislature, and the judiciary, with checks and balances among them. The USA has strong separation of powers, whereas many European countries typically have parliamentary democracies with weaker separation, since the executive branch, the government, is dependent on the legislature. Democracy strengthened by such constraints and individual rights has worked reasonably well, but like all other human inventions it isn’t perfect. The system still has its critics. In How the West Was Lost , author Alexander Boot outlines what he thinks ails the modern West. It is a provocative book. I disagree with some of his criticism of post-Enlightenment civilisation in general, but Boot is articulate and original; some of his points about the nature of the modern state are worth contemplating.
For example, he says, “The word ‘democracy’ in both Greece and Rome had no one man one vote implications and Plato used it in the meaning of ‘mob rule.’ The American founding fathers never used it at all and neither did Lincoln. (…) a freely voting French citizen or British subject of today has every aspect of his life controlled, or at least monitored, by a central government in whose actions he has little say. He meekly hands over half his income knowing the only result of this transfer will be an increase in the state’s power to extort even more. (...) He opens his paper to find yet again that the ‘democratic’ state has dealt him a blow, be that of destroying his children’s education, raising his taxes, devastating the army that protects him, closing his local hospital or letting murderers go free. In short, if one defines liberty as a condition that best enables the individual to exercise his freedom of choice, then democracy of universal suffrage is remiss on that score.”
Boot also warns against the increasing prevalence of Politically Correct censorship through hate speech laws: “Laws against racism are therefore not even meant to punish criminal acts. They are on the books to reassert the power of the state to control not just the citizens’ actions but, more important, their thoughts and the words they use to get these across. (…) A state capable of prosecuting one person for his thoughts is equally capable of prosecuting thousands, and will predictably do so when it has consolidated its power enough to get away with any outrage. (…) It is relatively safe to predict that, over the next ten years, more and more people in Western Europe and North America will be sent to prison not for something they have done, but for something they have said.”
Lee Harris, the author of The Suicide of Reason, wonders what were the necessary conditions for the growth of modern reason. This was the question taken up by Johann Herder:
So how do we treat freethinkers asking sensitive questions in the 21st century West? In my own country, the Ombud for Gender Equality recently became The Equality and Anti-discrimination Ombud. Its duties include combating “discriminatory speech” and negative statements about other cultures and religions. If accused of such discrimination, one has to mount proof of innocence. In effect, this institution is a secular or Multicultural Inquisition: the renunciation of truth in favor of an ideological lie. Galileo Galilei faced the same choice during the Inquisition four hundred years earlier. The Multicultural Inquisition may not threaten to kill you, but it does threaten to kill your career, and that goes a long way in achieving the same result, whether your crime is claiming that the earth moves around the sun or that not all cultures are equal.
Has liberty regressed during the past two hundred years? How was it possible that Immanuel Kant, who lived in a German state without liberal democracy, could criticise basic aspects of religion in the 18th century, while in the West of the 21st century there are social and legal consequences for criticising other religions and cultures? It is a mistake to assume that liberty (in the meaning of freedom of speech and conscience) derives of necessity from a democracy of universal suffrage. Do we need a new Enlightenment to fill the vacuum formed by the fall of Political Correctness?
I have made a list of suggested conditions for a functioning democratic system:
· There must be a demos. That is, there must be a group of people with a shared pre-political loyalty. This common understanding would include mutual identification and trust between leaders who implement policies and the general public. There must be sanctions in place to allow the demos to hold accountable or remove incompetent or corrupt officials. The growth of supranational institutions has weakened the connections between the members of the elite and the nation states they are supposed to serve. The demos has been attenuated by both multiculturalism and mass immigration.
· In the demos, there has to be true freedom of speech. There have to be genuine debates about crucial issues. For a combination of reasons, this process is now severely curtailed in many Western countries. Activists on the Left demand formal and informal censorship of sensitive issues. Meanwhile, the media isn’t functioning as a counterweight to the political elites because it frequently is in lockstep with these elites.
· In the demos, there should be no significant Muslim presence. Islam is toxic to a democratic society for several reasons, which I will explore later. One is the possibility of physical attack against anybody who criticises the Islamic agenda. The fear thus engendered destroys any possibility of a free, civil public discourse. Another is the resentment generated by Muslim demands for separate laws and “special treatment,” demands which are driven by an inherent sense of entitlement. Finally, there is the harassment of non-Muslims, even those who do not criticise Islam. This aggressive behaviour is always part and parcel of Jihad.
· The territorial entity where the demos lives must control its own borders. A nation that fails to discriminate between citizens and non-citizens, between members and non-members of the demos, will cease to function.
The control of borders and the sovereignty of nation states are linked to the list above. Democratic decisions are meaningless if they can be overruled by an external authority. This notion of sovereignty is being challenged all over the Western world both through the United Nations and through the ascendence of international law. Sovereignty is clearly not present in much of Europe, where seventy percent or more of all laws passed are federal EU laws. Democratically elected national parliaments have been reduced to insignificance. It is thus possible to argue that Western European countries are no longer distinct democracies, nor are they part of the “Free World” in any meaningful sense. Europeans thus have universal suffrage, but we don’t have genuine democracy and we certainly don’t have true liberty.
This story of fraudulence was largely ignored by Europe’s media. The powerful European Commission is the EU’s “government,” and thus the government of nearly half a billion people from Hungary to Britain and from Finland to Spain, yet it can release accounts with massive flaws for over a decade straight. Such lack of oversight would have been unthinkable in the USA. The EU Commission gets away with it because it is largely unaccountable to anyone and was intentionally structured to operate this way in the first place. Just like the Politburo of the former Soviet Union, the EU Commission is not subject to any real checks and balances.
It is obviously easier to establish democracy in a small and transparent nation state than in a larger one. However, Sweden - the Western country where people pay the highest tax rates - is also arguably the most politically repressed nation and has the least real freedom of speech. Sweden’s problem is not its geographical size, but the bloated state apparatus. Perhaps limitations on bureaucracy, government influence and intrusion are crucial for a functioning democracy, too. In a traditional pre-modern state, the ruler might not always have ruled with your consent, but he largely left you alone as long as you paid your taxes. Not so in our modern democratic nations. Our schools are increasingly filled with courses disparaging our own indigenous cultural heritage while they praise Islamic “tolerance.” We are barred from bringing up our own children and instilling in them our values. Is this liberty?
Øystein Djupedal, former Minister of Education and Research in Norway’s Socialist Leftist Party, stated in public that: “I think that it’s simply a mistaken view of child-rearing to believe that parents are the best to raise children. Children need a village, said Hillary Clinton. But we don’t have that. The village of our time is the kindergarten.” Following public reactions, he later retracted this statement. Critics would claim that the government treats the entire country as a kindergarten. The Ministry of Education and Research in Norway is responsible for nursery education, primary and lower secondary education, day-care facilities for school children, upper secondary education and institutions of higher education such as universities. In other words, one bureaucracy controls everything Norwegians learn from kindergarten through the doctoral level.
There is a crucial reason why the European Union isn’t democratic: There is no European demos. Most people in Europe identify themselves as Italian, Spanish, Dutch or Polish. The notion of being a European is at best a very distant second. In contrast, United States citizens consider themselves Americans, although multiculturalism encourages dual identities, in which individuals are African-American, Asian-American etc. This tribalisation represents a critical long-term challenge to the continued quality of American democracy. It is conceivable that the backlash could cause the country to fall apart if the white majority, too, decides to view itself as a tribal group of European-Americans. Mr. Carl I. Hagen of the right-wing Progress Party criticised the choice of a foreign citizen to head Norway’s immigration agency. Eva Joly, a Norwegian born French magistrate, known in France for her crusade against corruption, disagreed with Hagen: “To assume that nationality or citizenship have anything to do with being suitable [for a job] is a very old-fashioned way of thinking. We are no longer thinking in national terms, but in European or global terms. It is a duty to employ people from other countries,” said Joly. She has been granted both Norwegian and French citizenship, but considers herself European.
When we elect people to important positions, we want them to take care of our interests, not ephemeral “global interests.” How can we rely on the people entrusted to work for us if they openly state that they don’t feel any loyalty towards our country? According to British philosopher Roger Scruton, members of our liberal elite may be immune to xenophobia, but there is an equal fault which they exhibit in abundance, which is oikophobia, the repudiation and fear of home.
In his book The West and the Rest: Globalization and the Terrorist Threat, Scruton believes that what characterises the West is our idea of the personal state:
Scruton notes, however, that the Western personal state is now under pressure from two directions. Supranational institutions are destroying the sense of membership from above, while massive immigration without assimilation is destroying it from below. The European Union, among others, “is rapidly destroying the territorial jurisdictions and national loyalties that have, since the Enlightenment, formed the basis of European legitimacy, while putting no new form of membership in their place.” And although it makes sense for individuals travelling from Third World countries to settle in the West, they may thus unwittingly contribute to destroying what they came to enjoy the benefits of in the first place:
Thus we have the irony in which “Western civilisation depends on an idea of citizenship that is not global at all, but rooted in territorial jurisdiction and national loyalty.” By contrast, Islam, which has been until recently remote from the Western world, is founded on an ideal “which is entirely global in its significance.” Globalisation, therefore, “offers militant Islam the opportunity that it has lacked since the Ottoman retreat from central Europe.” It has brought into existence “a true Islamic umma, which identifies itself across borders in terms of a global form of legitimacy, and which attaches itself like a parasite to global institutions and techniques that are the by-products of Western democracy.”
Scruton raises some difficult questions: Does globalisation make it easier for Muslims to realise the idea of a global Islamic community, which has always been an ideal but far from a practical reality? Does it also put pressure on the territorial integrity of coherent nation states? If so, does globalisation strengthen Islam while it weakens Western democracy? These questions are difficult to think about, but for the sake of survival we need to ask them and find an honest answer.
Globalisation doesn’t necessarily mean that Islam will win. In the long run, it is quite possible that mass communications and the exposure to criticism will destroy Islam, but it could ironically make it more dangerous in the short term.
Is Islam compatible with democracy? Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner strongly disagrees with a plea for a ban on parties seeking to launch Islamic law in the Netherlands. “For me it is clear: if two-thirds of the Dutch population should want to introduce the sharia tomorrow, then the possibility should exist.”
This dilemma can be solved by stating the following: Our goal is not democracy in itself, meaning elections and one man one vote, but freedom of conscience and speech, respect for property rights and minorities, the right to bear arms and self-defence, equality before the law and the rule of law - and by that I mean secular law - in addition to such principles as formal constraints on the power of the rulers and the consent of the people. Free elections may be a means of achieving this end, but it is not the end in itself. We shouldn’t confuse the tools with the primary goal.
Two central concepts in sharia are the notions of “blasphemy” and “apostasy,” both incurring the death penalty. These laws are incompatible with the ancient Western ideas of freedom of conscience and of speech. Thus, sharia is anathema to the goals of democracy. Sharia is also hostile to equality before the law, since Islamic law is based on the fundamental inequality between Muslims and non-Muslims, men and women, free men and slaves. Moreover, it does not provide any protection for minorities, since non-Muslims are supposed to be unarmed and their lives and property subject to the whims of Muslims at any given moment. Although Islam does contain the vague Koranic notion of shura, consultation, this has never been formalised or concretised, which means that there are no formal constraints on the power of the ruler under sharia. The only thing an Islamic ruler may not do is openly to reject Islam.
According to Salim Mansur, associate professor of political science at the University of Western Ontario, Canada, “Democracy is in a cultural sense an expression of the liberal modern world that situates the individual as the moral center of politics and society. (…) It is the idea of the inalienable rights located in the individual, rights that need to be protected, nurtured, and allowed the fullest unhindered expression that makes democracy so morally distinctive from other cultural systems. From this liberal perspective, the common error about democracy is to view it as a majority system of governance. In a democracy based on individual rights, on the contrary, it is the protection of the rights of minorities and dissidents that reflect the different nature of politics within the larger context of democratic culture.”
This definition is opposed to an illiberal democracy, which is “similar to what Samuel E. Finer, a professor of politics and government, wrote about in Comparative Government as ‘façade democracy,’ a bowing of the head to the idea of democracy by the tiny elite of those in power as a means to enhance their legitimacy and perpetuate their authority.”
One great obstacle to establishing democracy in this cultural sense in Muslim countries is that Muslims have been taught from birth that non-Muslims can’t be expected to enjoy the same kind of rights as Muslims do.
The Wall Street Journal ran a piece entitled “Reviving Mideastern Democracy: We Arabs Need the West’s Help to Usher in a New Liberal Age.” It was written by Saad Eddin Ibrahim, chairman of the board of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies in Cairo, who has been jailed several times for his pro-democracy work in Egypt. Mr. Ibrahim thinks the prospects for democracy in the Middle East are surprisingly good:
As Robert Spencer commented, “Those are not words of openness, tolerance, and democracy. And they are still widely held in the Muslim world.”
Ibn Khaldun wrote about Christians: “We do not think that we should blacken the pages of this book [Muqaddimah] with discussion of their [Christian] dogmas of unbelief. In general, they are well known. All of them are unbelief. This is clearly stated in the noble Koran. To discuss or argue those things with them is not up to us. It is for them to choose between conversion to Islam, payment of the poll tax, or death.”
According to Dr. Andrew Bostom in his book The Legacy of Jihad (page 29), “In The Laws of Islamic Governance al-Mawardi (d. 1058), also examines the regulations pertaining to the lands and infidel (i.e., non-Muslim) populations subjugated by jihad. This is the origin of the system of dhimmitude. The native infidel population had to recognise Islamic ownership of their land, submit to Islamic law, and accept payment of the poll tax (jizya). Al-Mawardi highlights the most significant aspect of this consensus view of the jizya in classical Islamic jurisprudence: the critical connection between jihad and payment of the jizya. He notes that “[t]he enemy makes a payment in return for peace and reconciliation.” Al-Mawardi then distinguishes two cases: (1) Payment is made immediately and is treated like booty, however “it does, however, not prevent a jihad being carried out against them in the future” (2) Payment is made yearly and will “constitute an ongoing tribute by which their security is established.” Reconciliation and security last as long as the payment is made. If the payment ceases, then the jihad resumes.”
There are also other limitations on dhimmis. In 2005 it was announced that the first Christian church in Qatar since the 7th century was to be built on land donated by the reform-minded Emir. The church will not have a spire or freestanding cross, in accordance with traditional dhimmi laws where Christians are forbidden to display crosses. Clive Handford, the Nicosia-based Anglican Bishop in Cyprus and the Gulf, said: “We are there as guests in a Muslim country and we wish to be sensitive to our hosts... but once you’re inside the gates it will be quite obvious that you are in a Christian center.” Christianity was eradicated from most Gulf Arab states within a few centuries of the arrival of Islam.
Even in Malaysia, one Muslim majority country frequently hailed as “moderate and tolerant,” hundreds of Hindu worshippers watched in horror as workers, mostly Muslims, brought down the roof of their temple and smashed the deities that immigrant Indian workers had brought with them. “We are poor and our only comfort is our temples and now we are losing that also,” Kanagamah said in Tamil, the language spoken by ethnic Indians who form eight percent of Malaysia’s 26 million people and mostly follow Hinduism.
“The demolitions are indiscriminate, unlawful and against all constitutional guarantees of freedom of worship,” according to human rights lawyer P. Uthayakumar. He said temples are demolished by the authorities as illegal structures but the same authorities make it impossible for devotees to get a permit. He cited the case of a Catholic church nearby which got a permit to build a church after 30 years of trying. “What does this say about freedom of worship?” he asked. Well, it says that Muslim authorities are still operating according to the classic provision of the dhimmi laws, that non-Muslims must not build new houses of worship or repair old ones.
According to Sita Ram Goel, Imam Hanifa “had recommended that Hindus, though idolaters, could be accepted as a ‘People of the Book’ like the Jews, the Christians and the Zoroastrians, and granted the status of zimmis. The Muslim swordsmen and theologians in India happened to follow his school of Islamic law. That enabled them to ‘upgrade’ the ‘crow-faced infidels’ of this country to the status of zimmis. Hindus could save their lives and some of their properties, though not their honour and places of worship and pilgrimage, by paying jizyah and agreeing to live under highly discriminative disabilities. The only choice which the other great Imams of Islam - Malik, Shafii and Hanbal [the founders of the four Sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence] - gave to the Hindus was between Islam and death.”
From Western apologists we often hear that the “communal strife” on the Indian subcontinent is “mutual.” If this is the case, why is it that in Pakistan non-Muslims have been all but wiped out, and the few remaining Christians and Hindus suffer continuous harassment and abuse? The population of Bangladesh was about thirty percent non-Muslim a few decades ago. Now that number is down to ten percent. Contrast this decline with the fact, due to higher birthrates, the number of Muslims within the Republic of India has actually increased during the same period. Do these statistics indicate “mutual hostility” or simply persecution of infidels?
In Pakistan’s Sindh province there is an alarming trend: Muslims kidnap Pakistani Hindu girls and force them to convert to Islam. The worried resident Hindu community has resorted to marrying off their daughters as soon as they are of age. Alternatively, they migrate to India, Canada or other nations. Recently, at least 19 such abductions have occurred in Karachi alone.
“Have you ever heard of an Indian Muslim girl being forced to embrace Hinduism? It’s Muslims winning by intimidation. It’s Muslims overcoming a culture by threatening it, by abducting young girls so that an entire community moves out or succumbs to the Muslim murderers,” human rights activist Hina Jillani says. Hindus and Christians in Pakistan are looked down upon. “That is why they have to take up inferior jobs; their chances of rising in any field are low.”
The Muslim superiority syndrome runs deep. In Milestones , the Egyptian Sayyid Qutb writes about “a triumphant state which should remain fixed in the Believer’s heart” in the face of everything. “It means to feel superior to others when weak, few and poor, as well as when strong, many and rich.”
“When the Believer scans whatever man, ancient or modern, has known, and compares it with his own law and system, he realises that all this is like the playthings of children or the searchings of blind men in comparison with the perfect system and the complete law of Islam. And when he looks from his height at erring mankind with compassion and sympathy at its helplessness and error, he finds nothing in his heart except a sense of triumph over error and nonsense. (…) Conditions change, the Muslim loses his physical power and is conquered, yet the consciousness does not depart from him that he is the most superior. If he remains a Believer, he looks upon his conqueror from a superior position. He remains certain that this is a temporary condition which will pass away and that faith will turn the tide from which there is no escape.”
Underlying this Muslim supremacist mentality, there is also the idea of Arab supremacy. Again according to Qutb, “What are the Arabs without Islam? What is the ideology that they gave, or they can give to humanity if they abandon Islam? The only ideology the Arabs advanced for mankind was the Islamic faith which raised them to the position of human leadership. If they forsake it they will no longer have any function or role to play in human history.”
Of course, there are those who would dismiss Sayyid Qutb as “an extremist,” since his writings such as Milestones and especially In the Shade of the Qur’an have inspired countless Jihadists since his execution at the hands of Gamal Abdel Nasser’s regime in 1966. But Qutb’s ideas about Muslim supremacy are on firm Islamic grounds.
According to Hugh Fitzgerald, “within Islam, a supposedly universalist religion where all Muslims in the ummah are equal, there is a special place for the Arabs.” The Koran is written in Arabic, and “was delivered to, given to, revealed to, the Arabs, that best of people. That best of men, Muhammad, was an Arab, and so were the Companions. The Qur’an itself should ideally not be read in any language other than Arabic (the Arabic in which it was written, not in any simplified or updated version). Qur’anic recitation is in Arabic. The students in Pakistan or Indonesia or elsewhere who pass their young lives memorising Qur’anic passages are essentially memorising Arabic, a language that they do not know at all, or understand most imperfectly. Yet it is 7th century Arabs, real or imaginary, who must serve as a guide to existence. (…) In Saudi Arabia there is apartheid: the signs ‘Muslim’ and ‘Non-Muslim’ are everywhere. But ‘Muslims’ are further divided into Arab (first class) and non-Arab (second class). This has not escaped the attention of the many Muslim non-Arabs who live in Saudi Arabia - or at least not the attention of all of them.”
This Arab supremacy is underestimated by infidels as a weapon against Islam: “Part of weakening Islam is to show many Muslims that Islam was simply an Arab invention and export, a poisoned chalice that has lain low higher, and superior civilisations. This is likely to resonate especially in Iran among those who have had their fill of the Islamic Republic of Iran - that is, every thinking and morally aware person in Iran.”
In Morocco, activists complain that Berber influence in political and economic life remains limited. “We’re not Arabs, bring out the real history,” chanted hundreds of Moroccan Berbers during Labour Day marches with slogans in their Tamazight language and banners written in Tifinagh, the Berber script. Berbers are the original inhabitants of North Africa, before the Arabs invaded in the seventh century. The Moroccan constitution says the country is Arab and Islam is its religion. The proportion of Berbers is not officially known but independent sources say they represent the majority of the population. The total population of Berbers in the world is estimated at twenty-five million, mainly concentrated in Algeria, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Tunisia.
Islamic ideas about inequality are already being exported to the West. Two men were killed in a row involving a group of second generation immigrants in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2005. According to imam Abu Laban (who was later responsible for whipping up hatred against his country of residence because of the now famous cartoons of Muhammad in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten) the thirst for revenge could be cooled if 200,000 kroner were paid by the family of the man who fired the shots. 200,000 Danish kroner is approximately the value of 100 camels, a number based on the example of Muhammad himself. The idea of blood money originates from the Koran, 2.178: O ye who believe! Retaliation is prescribed for you in the matter of the murdered; the freeman for the freeman, and the slave for the slave, and the female for the female. And for him who is forgiven somewhat by his (injured) brother, prosecution according to usage and payment unto him in kindness.
Politiken, a left-leaning, intellectual newspaper championing multiculturalism in Denmark, argued that the principle of blood money might be worth considering. Luckily, they were met by an outcry from angry citizens. There are at least two major problems with this Islamic “justice.” The first is that it is settled between families, tribes or clans, not in a justice system administered by the authorities where it is a matter concerning the individuals involved, not the entire clan. We had similar tribal vendettas in the West at one time, but we left this practice behind a long time ago, as Muslims should have done. The biggest problem will come if this tribal system were to undermine the Western justice system to the extent that Westerners, too, would revert to tribal law in order to protect themselves.
Many commentators in Denmark failed to understand the worst part of the blood money concept. Not only is it pre-modern and anti-individualistic, but the compensation to be paid is fundamentally inegalitarian. Muslim men are the only full members of the Islamic community. All others have fewer rights due to their religion, their sex or their slave status.
The rates for blood money mirror this apartheid system. A Saudi court has ruled that the value of one woman’s life is equal to that of one man’s leg. The court ordered a Saudi to pay a Syrian expatriate blood money after he killed the man’s wife and severed both his legs in a car accident six months earlier. The court ordered $13,300 compensation for the man’s wife, and the same amount for each of his legs. Under Islamic law, the life of an ex-Muslim is worth nothing at all. He is a traitor, an apostate, and can be killed with impunity.
In the April 9, 2002 issue, The Wall Street Journal published the concept of blood money in Saudi Arabia. If a person has been killed or caused to die by another, the latter has to pay blood money or compensation as follows:
· 100,000 riyals if the victim is a Muslim man
· 50,000 riyals if a Muslim woman
· 50,000 riyals if a Christian man
· 25,000 riyals if a Christian woman
· 6,666 riyals if a Hindu man
· 3,333 riyals if a Hindu woman
“Blood money for a woman: Half of the blood money for a man, in accordance with his religion. The blood money for a Muslim woman is half of the blood money for a male Muslim, and the blood money for an infidel woman is half of the blood money for a male infidel.”
As Ali Sina says, “According to this hierarchy, a Muslim man’s life is worth 33 times that of a Hindu woman. This hierarchy is based on the Islamic definition of human rights and is rooted in the Quran and Sharia (Islamic law). How can we talk of democracy when the concept of equality in Islam is inexistent?”
He thinks that the Islamic system of government is akin to Fascism:
· It is marked by centralisation of authority under a supreme leader vested with divine clout.
· It has stringent socioeconomic control over all aspects of all its subjects irrespective of their faith.
· It suppresses its opposition through terror and censorship.
· It has a policy of belligerence towards non-believers.
· It practices religious apartheid.
· It disdains reason.
· It is imperialistic.
· It is oppressive.
· It is dictatorial and
· It is controlling.
At Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, Muslims are displaying their superiority syndrome.
The largest student group on campus, the Muslim Students’ Association, has monopolised use of the multifaith room. Eric Da Silva, president of the Catholic Student Association, said the group looked into using the room for mass but was told by RSU front desk staff that the room was “permanently booked” by Muslim students. “No one is trying to take away the space from the Muslims, we just don’t want to be stepping on their toes,” said Da Silva. He stressed that the group found another space to hold mass and the conflict was quickly resolved. The space, which was divided to separate males from females, had rows taped on the floor for prayer and Islamic decorations adorning the walls, was only accommodating to Muslims. A Canadian Federation of Students task force tackling cultural and religious discrimination was brought to campus by members of the MSA, but it only addressed the problem of Islamophobia.
Raymond Ibrahim, a research librarian at the US Library of Congress, warns in the Los Angeles Times against giving in to Muslim supremacists:
This blindness to the threat posed by the ingrained Islamic Superiority Syndrome has huge consequences when trying to export “democracy” to Islamic countries such as Iraq.
In September 2005, the patriarch of Baghdad for the Chaldeans told Iraqi officials about Catholic bishops’ fears that the constitution “opens the door widely” to discrimination against non-Muslims. Article 2.1(a) stated: “No law can be passed that contradicts the undisputed rules of Islam.” The bishops’ statement concluded: “This opens the door widely to passing laws that are unjust towards non-Muslims.” Glyn Ford, British MEP, joined former Tribune editor Mark Seddon and Andy Darmoo, head of Save the Assyrians, to sound the alarm on behalf of Assyrian Christians: “Prevented from voting in the elections, in recent months many have had their land occupied and stolen, their churches firebombed and their families attacked. Isn’t it time that the international community began championing the rights of Assyrians and other minorities before it is too late?”
A group of Muslim men seized a seven year old Mandaean boy, from an ancient Gnostic sect in Iraq, doused him in petrol and set him alight. As the child was being burnt to death the Muslims were running around shouting, “Burn the dirty infidel!” “Many women physicians have been killed, women in the police forces, reporters and journalists,” Rajaa al-Khuzai, president of the Iraqi National Council of Women said. Now “women are very easy targets,” especially high-profile women such as herself, she added. This oppression of women and non-Muslims is in full accordance with Islamic sharia and was depressingly predictable.
Although Christians made up less than four per cent of the population they formed the largest groups of refugees arriving in Jordan’s capital Amman in the first quarter of 2006. In Syria, forty-four percent of Iraqi asylum-seekers were recorded as Christian since December 2003. They were fleeing killings, kidnappings and death threats. “In the schools the children now say that a Christian is a kaffir [infidel].” The Catholic bishop of Baghdad, Andreos Abouna, was quoted as saying that half of all Iraqi Christians have fled the country since the 2003 US-led invasion. Some warned that in twenty years all Christians in Iraq will be gone. “It was easy for the Americans and the British to have supported us when the churches were bombed - it was a historic opportunity - but they did nothing. If they had supported us financially, for example, we could have protected all the Christian families in Mosul.”
U.S. President George W. Bush said he would accept it if Iraqis voted to create an Islamic fundamentalist government in democratic elections. “I will be disappointed, but democracy is democracy.”
Is it really equivalent, Mr. Bush?
This brings us back to Plato’s criticism of democracy as just an advanced form of mob rule. And without any constraints, checks and balances, that definition is correct. Benjamin Franklin said that “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote!” This is why he and the other Founding Fathers wanted the USA to be a constitutional Republic, not a pure democracy.
It is strange that the United States wanted to export to Iraq a naïve concept of democracy, one that provided too few rights and guarantees for individuals and minorities, one that their own Founding Fathers had specifically rejected for precisely that reason. And this did not even include an assessment of Islam, in which harassing and persecuting minorities and suppressing individual liberty is a matter of principle.
Non-Muslims and women in Iraq are now paying with their lives for that naïve mistake.
In his Islamic Declaration from 1970, where he demanded a fully-fundamentalist Muslim state, future Bosnian president Alija Izetbegovic wrote that “A Muslim generally does not exist as an individual. If he wishes to live and survive as a Muslim, he must create an environment, a community, an order. He must change the world or be changed himself. History knows of no true Islamic movement which was not at the same time a political movement as well.”
The late American scholar of Islam, Franz Rosenthal, said that an individual Muslim “was expected to consider subordination of his own freedom to the beliefs, morality and customs of the group as the only proper course of behaviour. (…) The individual was not expected to exercise any free choice as to how he wished to be governed. In general, governmental authority admitted of no participation of the individual as such, who therefore did not possess any real freedom vis-à-vis it.”
Iranian ex-Muslim Ali Sina states that “Deindividuation is characterised by diminished awareness of self and individuality. In Islam individuality is denied and the individual’s life is fused with that of Umma. Deindividuation reduces an individual’s self-restraint and normative regulation of behaviour. It contributes to the collective behaviour of violent crowds, mindless hooligans, and the lynch mobs.” According to him, “Ironically it is the brutality and the repressive nature of Islam, in conjunction with its absolute irrationality that has made this doctrine successful and has allowed it to survive this long.”
But as the esteemed writer F.A. Hayek wrote in his classic The Road to Serfdom:
Only a small percentage of Pakistani citizens, and those of many other Muslim countries, actually pay taxes. There is a philosophy that ascribes no value to the individual; the clan is everything; the state is the enemy. This mentality underlies the behaviour of the immigrants from these countries as they migrate, bringing with them to non-Muslim countries the corruption and tribal violence associated with this world view.
As Ali Sina says:
“Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali, (1058 - 1111 CE) is arguably the greatest Islamic scholar ever. In his book ‘Incoherence of the Philosophers’ he bitterly denounced Aristotle, Plato, Socrates and other Greek thinkers as non-believers and labeled those who employed their methods and ideas as corrupters of the Islamic faith. He took aim at Avicenna [Ibn Sina, highly influential 11th century Persian physician and philosopher] for being a rationalist who drew intellectually upon the Ancient Greeks. By emphasising on the incompatibility of faith and reason, and by asserting the futility of making faith subordinate to reason, Ghazali gave validity to unreasoned faith and thus glorified stupidity.
“The Islamic rationalists such as Mutazilis placed reason above revelation. But their school was vehemently opposed by more fervent Islamists and became extinct. They were attacked by a group called Ashariyya to which al-Ghazali and the celebrated poet [Jalal ad-Din or Mawlana] Rumi belonged. Rumi mocked the rationalists and in a catchy verse that left its mark on the psyche of the gullible masses said the rationalists stand on ‘wooden legs.’”
Sina believes that “Freedom of speech, freedom of beliefs, respect for the rights of the minority and separation of religion from government are the foundations of democracy.” The West should insist on freedom of religion and freedom of speech both at home and abroad. “People must be allowed to criticise the views of the majority without fearing for their lives. There can’t be democracy without freedom of expression and without opposition. Before taking democracy to Islamic countries, let us save our own democracy at home.”
According to another ex-Muslim, Ibn Warraq, “Islam is a totalitarian ideology that aims to control the religious, social and political life of mankind in all its aspects - the life of its followers without qualification, and the life of those who follow the so-called tolerated religions to a degree that prevents their activities from getting in the way of Islam in any manner. And I mean Islam. I do not accept some spurious distinction between Islam and ‘Islamic fundamentalism’ or ‘Islamic terrorism.’ Given the totalitarian nature of Islamic law, Islam does not value the individual, who has to be sacrificed for the sake of the Islamic community. Collectivism has a special sanctity under Islam.”
The reason why many former Muslims such as Ali Sina and Ibn Warraq write under pseudonyms is that in a religion that is so hostile to both individuality and freedom of speech, there is no worse crime for a Muslim than to exercise both by criticising and leaving Islam. Apostasy bears the penalty of death. In the book Leaving Islam - Apostates Speak Out , a unique anthology by former Muslims, Ibn Warraq writes that (p. 31):
According to Dr. Andrew G. Bostom, there is also a consensus by all four schools of Sunni Islamic jurisprudence (i.e., Maliki, Hanbali, Hanafi, and Shafi’i), as well as Shi’ite jurists, that apostates from Islam must be put to death. Averroes, or Ibn Rushd (d. 1198), the renowned Aristotelian philosopher and scholar of the natural sciences, who was also an important Maliki jurist in medieval Spain, provided this typical Muslim legal opinion on the punishment for apostasy (vol. 2, p. 552):
The reactions to Sa’dawi’s statements were mixed, but Dr. Abd Al-Mun’im Al-Berri, former head of The Front of Al-Azhar Clerics, explained that “we should ask her to repent within three days, but if she persists with these ideas, she should be punished according to what the Islamic Shari’a [religious law] determined for those who abandon Islam. The ruler, meaning the head of state or government, should carry out the punishment.” Sheikh Mustafa Al-Azhari explained that “the punishment for anyone who fights Allah and His Prophet is execution, crucifixion, the amputation of opposite limbs or banishment from earth.”
Daveed Gartenstein-Ross states that “Though official proceedings against those who reject Islam are fairly rare - in part, no doubt, because most keep their conversion a closely held secret - apostasy is punishable by death in Afghanistan, Comoros, Iran, Mauritania, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Yemen. It is also illegal in Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, the Maldives, Oman, and Qatar. (…) The greatest threat to apostates in the Muslim world derives not from the state, however, but from private individuals who take punishment into their own hands. In Bangladesh, for example, a native-born Muslim-turned-Christian evangelist was stabbed to death in the spring of 2003 while returning home from a film version of the Gospel of Luke. As another Bangladeshi apostate told the U.S. Newswire, ‘If a Muslim converts to Christianity, now he cannot live in this country. It is not safe. The fundamentalism is increasing more and more.’”
In Britain in 2004, Prince Charles brokered efforts to end the Muslim death penalty on converts to other faiths by holding a private summit of Christian and Muslim leaders. The Muslim group cautioned the prince and other non-Muslims against speaking publicly on the issue. A member of the Christian group said that he was “very, very unhappy” about the outcome. Patrick Sookhdeo, the international director of the Barnabas Fund which campaigns on behalf of persecuted Christians abroad, urged the prince and Muslim leaders in Britain to criticise openly the traditional Islamic law on apostasy, calling for it to be abolished throughout the world. According to Sookhdeo, “one of the fundamental notions of a secular society is the moral importance of freedom, of individual choice. But in Islam, choice is not allowable: there cannot be free choice about whether to choose or reject any of the fundamental aspects of the religion, because they are all divinely ordained. God has laid down the law, and man must obey.”
In the London Times, Anthony Browne wrote about Mr Hussein, a 39-year-old hospital nurse in Bradford, one of a growing number of former Muslims in the West who face not just being shunned by family and community, but attacked, kidnapped, and in some cases killed. One estimate suggests that as many as 15 per cent of Muslims in Western societies have lost their faith. Mr Hussein told “It’s been absolutely appalling. This is England - where I was born and raised. You would never imagine Christians would suffer in such a way.” The police have not charged anyone, but told him to leave the area.
Anwar Sheikh, a former mosque teacher from Pakistan, became an atheist after coming to Britain, and lived with a special alarm in his house in Cardiff after criticising Islam in a series of hardline books. “I’ve had 18 fatwas against me. They telephone me - they aren’t foolhardy enough to put it in writing. I had a call a couple of weeks ago. They mean repent or be hanged,” he said. “What I have written, I believe and I will not take it back. I will suffer the consequences. If that is the price, I will pay it.” Anwar Sheikh died peacefully in his home in Wales in November 2006.
Aluma Dankowitz, director of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) Reform Project, writes about how the accusation against Muslims - particularly intellectuals, artists, and writers - of “unbelief” (an accusation known as “takfir”) recurs in the Muslim world. The traditional punishment for an apostate (murtadd) is capital punishment, which was implemented on a large scale in the period following the death of the Prophet Muhammad, when Muhammad’s successor Abu Bakr fought the ridda wars against the tribes that abandoned Islam.
Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, one of the most prominent clerics in Sunni Islam today, draws a distinction between two types of aposta
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