Aayan Hirsi Ali.
An excellent article by the very vocal ex-Muslim activist Aayan Hirsi Ali entitled Why Islam Needs a Reformation was recently published in the Wall Street Journal.
“Islam is not a religion of peace.” Ali and many other ex-Muslims, make that very clear.
She details ways similar to those of most modern-day Xians that Muslims could learn to ignore the ugly, violent and overtly political parts of the Koran and hadith, as most Xian believers today ignore the vast majority of the Old Testament violence, calls for conquest and even genocide by the ancient Hebrews.
She points out that the majority of Muslims are moderates in their behavior and not given to violence, but nonetheless uphold the Koran and hadith as unquestionable dictates for their behavior, while simultaneously holding these writings as not responsible for the actions of the extremists:
“As I see it, the fundamental problem is that the majority of otherwise peaceful and law-abiding Muslims are unwilling to acknowledge, much less to repudiate, the theological warrant for intolerance and violence embedded in their own religious texts. It simply will not do for Muslims to claim that their religion has been “hijacked” by extremists.”
She makes a distinction between the majority who merely follow the religion and those who intend to impose it on the rest of the world. She calls the hardcore element “Medina” Muslims referring to Muhammed’s conquests and subjugation of others:
“I shall call them Medina Muslims, in that they see the forcible imposition of Shariah as their religious duty. They aim not just to obey Muhammad’s teaching but also to emulate his warlike conduct after his move to Medina. Even if they do not themselves engage in violence, they do not hesitate to condone it. It is Medina Muslims who call Jews and Christians “pigs and monkeys.” It is Medina Muslims who prescribe death for the crime of apostasy, death by stoning for adultery and hanging for homosexuality. It is Medina Muslims who put women in burqas and beat them if they leave their homes alone or if they are improperly veiled.”
The moderate majority she terms “Mecca” Muslims emphasizing Muhammed’s earlier efforts of peaceful spread of Islam. However, the moderates as well as the hardcore are faced with a common dilemma. Islam, the religion itself is stuck in a medieval time warp: being unconcerned with individual rights, in denial of scientific inquiry, inherently misogynistic, dismissive of critical thinking or criticism, and pervasive in its grip on daily life which makes movement into the modern world near impossible without jettisoning it altogether.
“Yet the Mecca Muslims have a problem: Their religious beliefs exist in an uneasy tension with modernity—the complex of economic, cultural and political innovations that not only reshaped the Western world but also dramatically transformed the developing world as the West exported it. The rational, secular and individualistic values of modernity are fundamentally corrosive of traditional societies, especially hierarchies based on gender, age and inherited status. Trapped between two worlds of belief and experience, these Muslims are engaged in a daily struggle to adhere to Islam in the context of a society that challenges their values and beliefs at every turn. Many are able to resolve this tension only by withdrawing into self-enclosed (and increasingly self-governing) enclaves. This is called cocooning, a practice whereby Muslim immigrants attempt to wall off outside influences, permitting only an Islamic education for their children and disengaging from the wider non-Muslim community.”
As Ali says of herself:
“For me, there seemed no way to reconcile my faith with the freedoms I came to the West to embrace.”
The majority of Muslims experience lives more insular and paranoid similar to the extreme Jewish fundamentalists I recently blogged on Hamstrung within the Hasidic Cocoon and Cage than the average non-Muslim of any other or no other religion lives anywhere else in the developed world. Only a few hardcore Xian sects isolate themselves in a faith cocoon anything like that of the few Orthodox Jews, or exist under cultural restrictions resembling anything like the suffocating wet blanket of belief the majority of Muslims experience. I’ve written on the condition of Muslims within predominantly Islamic countries before before HERE and HERE.
Ali concludes her essay with a list of reforms Muslims must adopt in order to moderate Islam’s continued repression and violence and to allow it to integrate into the modern world of human rights and intellectual freedom. It will not be an easy task.
As an outsider to the faith, I can see how so many become ex-Muslims despite the very real threat of ostracization and death. It is nearly impossible to reconcile Islamic claims and ideals with the modern values of secular humanism which so much of the developed world is rapidly embracing in direct opposition to already reformed and less restrictive religions.