Geert Wilders Wants to Tax Women who Wear Hijab

From Left to Right: Andrew Bostom, Geert Wilders, Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller

From Left to Right: Andrew Bostom, Geert Wilders, Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller

Fascism’s new face in Europe, parliamentarian in the Netherlands Geert Wilders, proposes taxing Muslim women who wear hijab (head covering) 1000 Euros. He is a close friend of Robert Spencer who has proclaimed that “everyone should support Geert Wilders.” Wilders has also called for the banning of the Quran which he equates to Hitler’s Mein Kampf , has stated that Muslims are colonizing the Netherlands and has advocated the denial of religious freedom to Muslims.

Wilders Wants Headscarf Tax

Geert Wilders has done it again. The leader of the far-right Freedom Party managed to make the Dutch headlines during the annual general political debate.

Wilders’s newest proposal is to tax the Muslim headscarf. Any Muslim woman who wants to wear a headscarf – which he described as a ‘head-rag’ – would have to apply for a licence, and pay one thousand euros for the privilege. Wilders says the money raised would go toward women’s emancipation programmes.

Alexander Pechtold from the liberal D66 Party gives his reaction:

The rest of the Dutch parliament reacted to the proposal with disbelief. One after another, they asked Mr Wilders if this was a serious proposal. For instance, would he include other types of head covering in the tax? And how about orthodox Christian women who wear a headscarf quite similar to the Muslim version?

In reaction, Mr Wilders said he would actually prefer to ban the headscarf altogether, but that appeared to be legally impossible. He would not tax the Christian form of the headscarf, but he did not say how policy would make that distinction.

Mr Wilders has acquired a reputation for making shocking statements during general debates. Two years ago, he called for the banning the Muslim holy book, the Quran. Last year, he warned that Muslims were colonising the Netherlands. Last spring, he and his entire fraction walked out at the beginning of a debate.

The government still has to defend its new budget as part of the general debates. But in an unusual move, Mr Wilders has already announced that he plans to submit another motion of no-confidence in the entire cabinet. That will be the Freedom Party’s eighth motion of no-confidence.

Fathima Bary Needs to Read Her Bible; Final Word on Islam and Apostasy

apostasy

An emotional Fathima Rifqa Barywhose personal writings reaveal that she wants to be a modern day prophet–said of her parents:

“My parents are Muslim…I don’t know if you know about honor killing…They have to kill me…Because if they love Allah more than me, they have to do it. It’s in the Quran. And you can, like, give them knowledge about it [gestures to someone off camera, who says something unintelligible].”

It seems that Fathima’s understanding of the Quran comes from whomever she pointed to, whom I can only assume is her pastor (or pastor’s underling more likely). A few more dry runs could have perfected the performance. She just had to memorize a few verses to prove her claim:

13:6 If–your brother, the son of your mother, or your son, or your daughter, or the wife of your bosom, or your friend, which is as your own soul–entice you secretly, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods,” which you have not known–not you, nor your fathers;

13:7 Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, near to you, or far off from you, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth;

13:8 You shall not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall your eye pity him, neither shall you spare, neither shall you conceal him:

13:9 But you must surely kill him; your hand must be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people.

13:10 And you must stone him with stones, that he die; because he has sought to thrust you away from the LORD your God.

Well, that’s pretty damning evidence right there. That sounds a lot like “honor” killing: “If your brother…or your son or your daughter….entice you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and worship other gods’…You must kill him…you must stone him with stones, that he die.” Well, if that’s in the Quran, then we better ban all Muslim immigration to America!

But before we call Homeland Security, I hope you don’t mind if I check the Quran to verify if those verses exist.

[Flipping through pages of Quran]

Hmmm, can’t seem to find it.

Oh wait, *smacks forehead*, I remember now where those verses are from. Ahh yes, they are from the Bible (Deuteronomy, 13:6-10). There are of course many other Biblical verses in the same vein, such as 2 Chronicles 15:13 which reads:  “All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.”

Oopsie doopsie!

Maybe it’s not such a good idea to randomly quote someone else’s scripture or medieval texts without any context as a proof to demonize a people or to fear monger.

Introduction

Islamophobes insist that Islam says that apostates must be killed. These ardent critics of the faith are of the view that Islam is for this reason simply incompatible with the Western Judeo-Christian tradition.  Their view–which they try to propagate–is that Islam is somehow so inherently different from all other religions that it should be singled out as the one faith that we just absolutely cannot tolerate.

The issue of course is that “Islam” doesn’t “say” anything, since it is not a person.  Islam is in fact polyvalent: it has within it different understandings and interpretations of the religion.  On this particular issue, Islam itself doesn’t “say” anything.  Valerie Hoffman, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Illinois, commented on the issue of apostasy in Islam: “You can’t say Islam says this or Islam says that.” The question of course is “whose Islam” and “which Islam?”

Yes, the majority “classical” and “traditional” opinion codified hundreds of years ago was indeed that apostates from Islam should be killed. However, such views are abundantly present in the Judeo-Christian tradition as well, yet Jews and Christians have over the course of time reanalyzed their canonical texts and come to different understandings today.

Before the Great War, the Ottoman Empire united Muslim lands under one symbolic leadership. (Perhaps an oversimplification but it suffices for our discussion here.)  It is interesting to note that the Ottoman government eventually stopped enforcing the punishment for apostasy and finally abolished it altogether in 1844, more than one hundred and sixty years ago:

Punishment for apostasy (in any case, extremely rare) was not in practice enforced in later times and was completely abolished by the [Ottoman] Turks by a decree of the Ottoman government in 1260/1844.

(The New Encyclopedia of Islam, by Cyril Glasse, p.54)

And we read:

The Ottoman Caliphate, the supreme representative of Sunni Islam, formally abolished this penalty…The Shaykh al-Islam, the supreme head of the religious courts and colleges, ratified this major shift in traditional legal doctrine. It was pointed out that there is no verse in the Qur’an that lays down a punishment for apostasy (although chapter 5 verse 54 and chapter 2 verse 217 predict a punishment in the next world). It was also pointed out that the ambiguities in the hadith (the sayings of the Prophet) suggest that apostasy is only an offense when combined with the crime of treason…

The debate triggered by the Ottoman reform was continued when al-Azhar University in Cairo, the supreme religious authority in the Arab world, delivered a formal fatwa (religious edict) in 1958, which confirmed the abolition of the classical law in this area.

(T.J. Winters writing for Newsweek)

It should be kept in mind that the Ottomans had embraced change, pushing what came to be known as the Tanzimat reforms, a drive to modernize the Islamic state to be compatible with the contemporary age.  They abolished the jizya and dhimmi system; the Hatt-i Humayun of 1856 promised full legal equality for citizens of all religions, and the Nationality Law of 1869 created a common Ottoman citizenship irrespective of religious or ethnic divisions.

The point is that the Islamic state had embraced change and reform of their religious understanding.  The debate had begun, but after World War I, the Allies occupied Turkey and Arab lands.  They broke up the Ottoman Empire, and carved out mandate states, installing despots into power, something which of course retarded further Muslim intellectual growth.

The modern Muslim world is living with the consequences of these events.  Unfortunately, feelings of anti-Westernism have emerged as a backlash to colonialism and subsequent events.  Extremists and religious fundamentalists began to define themselves in opposition to the West; the more the West condemned their extreme understandings of Islam, the more “street cred” these fundamentalists garnered.  Hey, if the West hates you, and the West is the colonialist, then you must be right!  Such was the thought process.

So harsher understandings replaced more tolerant ones, and the punishment for apostates–which had been long abandoned by the Ottoman Empire–was re-instituted in a few Muslim majority countries.  As Dr. Tariq Ramadan put it:

The opposition and condemnations by the West supplies, paradoxically, the popular feeling of fidelity to the Islamic teachings; a reasoning that is antithetical, simple and simplistic.  The intense opposition of the West is sufficient proof [for them] of the [supposed] authentic Islamic character of the literal application of hudûd (Islamic penal code).

In the context of relationships between countries, we often tend to remember only the conflicts and the wars.  We focus on the battles and wars between the Muslim world and the Judeo-Christian West,  but on  a deeper level, there is another more significant aspect, which is an ideological cultural exchange.  Muslims now live in the West; when Western Muslims approach the Islamic texts, they come with a certain background and upbringing which necessarily affects their understanding.

What we have witnessed in the last couple decades is a growing trend of a return back to early reformist understanding of freedom of religion. These reform-minded Muslims have realized that not only is the modern concept of freedom of religion permissible in their religion–and not only is it wholly compatible with the Quran–but rather it is mandated and obligatory in Islam.

A “soft reformation” is taking place in Islam, as mentioned by Dr. Tariq Ramadan and others.  The reformists are challenging traditional interpretations and understandings of the religion, and pushing for a repeal of apostasy laws in specific where they exist.  The struggle is on, and change cannot and will not happen overnight; the post-colonial mess that the Muslim world finds itself in only retards intellectual growth but the process has begun.

Enter the Islamophobes

Instead of seeking to help the reform-minded Muslims, the Islamophobes have demonized virtually all Muslims, except of course a few self-hating Muslims who simply repeat whatever the Islamophobes want to hear (for which they are rewarded handsomely).

The main argument used by Islamophobes is that Islam as a religion itself advocates the death penalty for apostates, and therefore it is the religion itself–not the interpretation of it–that is the problem, an unusually obtuse and altogether unhelpful assertion. Furthermore, some of them argue, Muslims must abandon their belief in the inerrant nature of the Quran.  In other words, the Islamophobes posit that the only possible way for Muslims to become “civilized” is to view the Quran as any other text, deleting what they dislike from it and adding whatever they wish to it–or as Daniel Pipes puts it: to make it “defunct.”

While, certainly, that may seem like a plausible solution to an outsider, the problem is that for the vast majority of Muslims it is quite simply not a possibility; it is anathema to question the Quran’s veracity.  Regardless of the arguments back and forth on the issue, the practical reality is that the Muslim masses cannot countenance such a thing; the Islamophobes know this, and that’s why they set up this formula.  In other words, they know that the Muslims cannot do this and therefore it has become for the Islamophobes the “only possible solution” to the problem.

Yet, it is hardly the case that the Muslims can only take one possible route to modernization.  Reform-minded Muslims believe that a change in the texts is not required, but only a change in the understanding and interpretation of said texts.

Open Texts

The Quran is an open text, because it generally refrains from specifics.  In fact, names are almost never used in it, in order that its verses have not only a specific meaning but also a more general import.  For example, a verse may have been revealed to placate the Islamic prophet Muhammad during a particularly difficult time in his struggle; so even though the verse will have a specific reason for revelation (to one particular man in one specific situation), it can also be used in a general context: Muslims will use that same verse when they themselves are going through tough times.

Because of this unique structure of the Quranic text, what one gets out of it depends a lot on the reader, who tends to inject into verses his own background and biases, for better or for worse.   Having said that, it seems to the author that an unbiased and neutral reading validates the argument of the reform-minded Muslims: nowhere in the Quran does it clearly and definitively say one must kill apostates.  In fact, it seems to say the exact opposite.

If Muslims can understand it in that way, why this continual insistence by the Islamophobes that the Muslims “must” abandon their belief in the inerrant nature of the Quran?  (Again, it is in order to set up a situation whereby Muslims simply cannot fulfill the requirements to be accepted into society, which is exactly what the Islamophobes desire.)

But enough jibber jabber; the proof is in the pudding.

The Quran

Ms. Fathima Rifqa Bary was incorrect: unlike the Bible, the Quran does not at all say to kill apostates if they choose to leave Islam. Rather, it says the exact opposite. The Quran declares emphatically:

“Let there be no compulsion in religion: Truth is distinct from error!” (Quran, 2:256)

Almost every Muslim knows this verse by heart. It categorically closes the door to religious compulsion, and is used by reform-minded Muslims to promote freedom of religion and the idea that the people have a right to follow whatever religion they so choose. Because “truth is distinct from error,” people should be able to discern it for themselves without having to be forced.

Tafsir al-Jalalayn, a classical Islamic text, says of this verse: “This was revealed concerning the Ansar who tried to compel their sons to enter into Islam.” Some of their children were Jewish, and the parents wished to force them to become Muslims. In Al-Suyuti’s classical text Asbab al-Nuzul (Reasons for Revelation), it also says that there was a Muslim father by the name of Husayn bin Salim bin Awf who had two daughters both of whom were Christians. After failing to convince them to convert to Islam of their own free will, he went to the Islamic prophet Muhammad and requested permission to compel them into Islam. It was for this that the verse “Let there be no compulsion in religion” was revealed, to forbid parents from forcibly converting their children to Islam.

The relevance to the Fathima Rifqa Bary case cannot be understated: contrary to Fathima’s claim, the Quran forbids religious compulsion in general.  The verse in question was specifically revealed for parents in regard to their children of different faiths. Amazingly, the Quranic verse was revealed to forbid a Muslim father from forcing his Christian daughters into Islam. Sound familiar? Sounds a lot like Mr. Bary and his daughter! So how accurate was Fathima’s claim that the Quran commands parents to force their children into Islam or kill them if they refuse?

Ironically, it is the Bible–the same one that Fathima holds–that has verses in it commanding parents to stone their daughters should they worship gods other than the Christian one. Considering that Fathima espouses a hardliner literalistic Christian fundamentalist mentality, we wonder if she would even contextualize the verse like the Christian mainstream does? (This is not about Christianity vs Islam; this is about extremists vs moderates; Fathima and the Global Revolution Church are not representative of mainstream Christianity, at least not any more than Al-Muhajiroon is of the Islamic mainstream!)

Alas, I digress. Back to the Quran, which says:

“And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers?” (Quran, 10:99)

Reform-minded Muslims use the above verse to argue that forcing people into Islam is wrong because God Himself did not do that.  They believe that the power to guide and misguide people rests only with God, and nobody can share in that.  The next verse is used by reformists to show that Muslims should just worry about what they themselves do, instead of trying to force people into guidance:

“And had God willed, He could have made you all one [religious] community, but He sends astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills.  But you shall certainly be called to account for what you (yourself) used to do [i.e. not what others used to do].” (Quran, 16:93)

The phrase–“God guides Whom He wills” and that He “misguides Whom He wills”–appears in dozens of Quranic verses.  All of these references are commanding believers that they cannot force or will people into the religion, but that only God can do that.

The Quran commands:

“The Truth is from your Lord; so let him who please believe and let him who please disbelieve.” (Quran, 18:29)

And the Quran says:

“Exhort them to believe; your task is only to exhort. You cannot compel them to believe.”  (Quran, 88:21-22)

Another verse in the Quran indicates that during the life of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, there were people who believed and disbelieved–and then believed only to disbelieve once again; in other words, people entered into and out of the religion freely. The Quran says that such people are weak in faith and God will never guide them in this worldly life. The verse reads:

“Those who believe then disbelieve, again believe and again disbelieve, then increase in disbelief, Allah will never forgive them nor guide them to the Way.” (Quran, 4:137)

Reform-minded Muslims use this verse as a proof that there can be no punishment for apostasy. If that had been the case, then those who believe and then disbelieved (i.e. apostates) would have been put to death and therefore no chance would have been given to them to once again believe and disbelieve. Furthermore, the verse says that God will never guide them back to Islam, indicating that the Muslims are to ignore such a person: if God did not guide them to the Way, then why should Muslims?

So there are clear and explicit verses of the Quran that reform-minded Muslims naturally understand to mean that freedom of religion must be extended to all, and that compulsion into Islam is not to be tolerated.

The Hadiths

Enter the Hadiths. For those who don’t know, the Hadiths are a body of collection of the prophet Muhammad’s sayings or traditions. In other words, the Quran is considered by Muslims to be the word of God, and the Hadiths are the words of their prophet. Unlike the Quran however, Muslims do not believe that all of the Hadiths are authentic. Rather, many of them are apocryphal and therefore rejected. In other words, if some Islamophobe claims that such-and-such Hadith exists, be aware of the fact that many of them are rejected by Muslims. The Hadiths do not occupy the same rank as the Quran, but are rather a secondary source open to criticism.

In this huge body of collection, we find the Hadith that Islamophobes rely on as their trump card in this debate, which reads as follows: “Whoever changes his religion, kill him.” At first glance, that seems pretty clear and unambiguous but has the Islamophobe proven his case? Well, let’s take into consideration that the Bible has many seemingly clear and unambiguous verses which call to kill apostates, yet we never assume that Christians today believe this, nor do we insist that Christianity itself demands it.

A Christian–when confronted with those verses in the Bible–would respond by saying something like the following:

“Well, that’s the Old Testament, and Jesus abrogated that part of the law. Back then during Biblical times, the believers were few and there was a real fear that they would be eliminated so punishing apostates was a deterrent. Furthermore, at that time apostasy was akin to high treason.”

And this answer would completely placate the Islamophobes. In other words, verses that seemed unambiguous and clear from a religious book seemed to indicate one thing at face value, but the people who follow that book have a different way of understanding it: they give an explanation that contextualizes the verses.

Let’s be clear here: we’re not trying to bash Christianity at all. What we are saying however is that if we extend the common courtesy to Christians that they can contextualize such verses in the Bible, then why do we not extend the same courtesy to the Muslims when it comes to the Hadiths? Keep in mind also that Muslims believe that their Bible–so to speak–is the Quran and not the Hadiths. In other words, if Christianity’s primary source seems to say that apostates are to be killed, then why do we not accept any explanation from Muslims about their secondary source? (Hint: Islamophobia is the answer!) It is this terrible double standard that bothers Muslims and those who believe in religious tolerance.

So how do reform-minded Muslims contextualize the Hadith in question (i.e. “whoever changes his religion, kill him.”)? First of all, they point out that these are not the words of the Islamic prophet Muhammad to begin with; rather, these are the the words of a man named Ibn Abbas who was paraphrasing the words of the Islamic prophet. The full text of that particular Hadith is as follows:

Some Zanadiqa were brought to Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying: Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire). I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle: Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 84, Number 57)

If this was a paraphrase, what were the actual words of the Islamic prophet Muhammad? We find one such Hadith which says:

“The blood of a Muslim, who confesses that there is no God but God and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: (1) In penalty for murder, (2) a married person who commits adultery and (3) the one who reverts from Islam (apostates) and leaves the community.” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 12, Book ad-Diyat, Number 6878, p.209)

Based on this, reformists say that a person cannot be given capital punishment except for three offenses: (1) murder, (2) adultery, and (3) apostasy combined with “leav[ing] the community.” Such Muslims say that apostasy is not punished except for when it is combined with “leav[ing] the community,” which they say refers to high treason against the Islamic state. What is meant specifically by “leaving the community” is of leaving the community to join the enemy forces. To bolster this claim, reformists point to another similarly narrated Hadith, which reads:

“The blood of a Muslim, who confesses that none has the right to be worshiped but God and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: (1) a married person who commits adultery; he is to be stoned and (2) a man who went out fighting against God and His Messenger; he is to be killed or crucified or exiled from the land and (3) a man who murders another person; he is to be killed on account of it.” (Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol. 4, Number 4353, p. 126)

In other words, we have the exact same three instances in which a person may be put to death: (1) murder, (2) adultery, and (3) “a man who went out fighting against God and His Messenger.” Reform-minded Muslims reason that since the Islamic prophet restricted capital punishment to three classes of people, the third instance must be referring to the same group. In other words “leav[ing] the community” refers to “a man who went out fighting against God and His Messenger.” Reform-minded Muslims tie these Hadiths to the following Quranic verse:

“The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: this is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.” (Quran, 5:33)

Notice how similar the above verse is to the Hadith mentioned in Sunan Abu Dawud (above). The Hadith mentions the one “who went out fighting against God and His Messenger” whilst the Quran says “those who wage war against God and His Apostle,” and the punishment for such is also the same in both: “killed or crucified or exiled from the land.” Reformists point out that the opinion of the ultraconservative Muslims–that peaceful apostates are to be killed–does not jive with the above, since that would mean that a person is to be killed for other than the three reasons, even though the Islamic prophet limited it to only three reasons, not four.

And even if we say that the Hadiths do not limit capital punishment to only three reasons, argue reformists, the issue is that the two Hadiths (as found in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sunan Abu Dawood) both mention three sins–murder, adultery, and apostasy/waging war. It is abundantly clear then that the third sin (other than murder and adultery) is in reference to the same thing in both narrations, due to the congruency of the two Hadiths–which firmly establishes the linkage so the linking of apostasy to treason is firmly established by the congruency of the two Hadiths. This argument stands alone in itself and is not dependent on limiting capital punishment to three sins.

Reasons for Revelation

At the time that this Hadith was said (i.e. to kill apostates that left the community), the Muslims of the city of Medina were under attack by the Quraish “idolaters” of Mecca (which at that time was predominantly non-Muslim). Many of the Muslims in Medina were emigrants from Mecca, who had converted to Islam. Do you see now why religion and national identity was fused at the hip back then? If you were a Meccan who converted from paganism to Islam, you’d be persecuted or even killed by your former co-religionists. So those who converted to Islam would “leave the community” of Mecca to join Medina.

The Meccans reacted harshly to this new religion of Islam and desired to wipe it off the map. They gathered armies and marched towards the fledgling Islamic city-state. Naturally, since the converts to Islam came from pagan families, such battles between Mecca and Medina would result in brother being pitted against brother, and father against son. Some of the newly converted Muslims naturally felt uncomfortable having to fight their families, and therefore would apostatize to the side of the idolatrous Meccans. Others were simply weak in faith and felt overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of the invaders, so they defected to the pagan army.

More insidiously, there were some in Medina who conspired with the people of Mecca to betray the Muslims in battle. They hatched a plan that they would “convert” to Islam to join the forces of Medina, only to apostatize and abandon the Muslims in the thick of things, in order to destroy the morale of the Muslim army. The Quran says of this:

“A section of the People of the Book say: ‘Believe in the morning what is revealed to those who believe, and reject it at the end of the day, perchance they may themselves turn back.” (Quran, 3:72)

In the classical Tafsir (commentary) entitled Asbab al-Nuzul (Reasons for Revelation) it says of this verse:

…The town of Uraynah conspired with each other, saying: “Pretend to join the religion of Muhammad at the beginning of the day and declare your disbelief in it at the end of the day. Say: ‘We have looked in our Scriptures and consulted our scholars and found that Muhammad is not genuine; it is clear to us now that he is lying and that his religion is false.’ If you do this, his Companions will doubt their religion. They will say: ‘these are people of the Book and they are more knowledgeable than us. They will then abandon their religion and embrace yours.’”

Reformists believe it was in this particular situation that the Hadiths about killing “apostates” who “leave the community” and “wage war against God and His Messenger” were said. “Leaving the community” is a reference to leaving the community of Medina to join the invaders. Therefore, they reason, it was not merely “peaceful apostasy” which is to be punished, but rather high treason, i.e. trying to destroy the Islamic state’s army. It was a specific plot of the unbelievers to convert to Islam in order to mass apostatize and defect to the pagan side to destroy the Muslims.

One can see then how apostasy and defection are linked; back then, there was a pagan army and a Muslim army. If you were pagan, you fought for the pagan army. If you were Muslim, you fought for the Muslim army. If you converted from one to the other, then you’d likely abandon one army and defect to the other. Hence the phrase “the one who reverts from Islam (apostates) and leaves the community.”

Furthermore, the act of assisting in battle the unbelievers against the believers was in itself considered an act of apostasy. This is why reformists believe that back then religious identity was fused with national identity and state loyalty. This is what professor M. Cherif Bassiouni meant when he wrote,

My position on apostasy…[is] that at the time of the Prophet it was not considered as only changing one’s mind but that it was the equivalent of joining the enemy and thus constituting high treason.

Going back to the now famous Hadith (“Whoever changes his religion, kill him”) this was–revealed about the Zanadiqa:

Some Zanadiqa were brought to Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn Abbas who said, “If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah’s Apostle forbade it, saying: Do not punish anybody with Allah’s punishment (fire). I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah’s Apostle: Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 9, Book 84, Number 57)

The word “Zanadiqa” translates to heretics, and here is referring to a group known as the Saba’iyya. The founder of this group, Ibn Saba, was believed by Muslims to be an enemy of the Islamic state who pretended to convert to Islam in order to instigate civil war and strife. Although his existence is a matter of dispute amongst scholars, his group–the Saba’iyya (Zanadiqa)–did exist. They claimed that the prophet Muhammad’s cousin–a man by the name of Ali ibn Abi Talib–was god incarnate. They instigated revolts against the government and eventually orchestrated the murder of the Caliph (Muslim leader) of the time, a man named Uthman ibn Affan. We read:

Ibn Saba…[whose] activity began during the caliphate of Uthman when he travelled from Hijaz to Syria, stirr[ed] up unrest and rebellion in Egypt, Basrah, and Kufah and incit[ed] to the murder of the caliph by the Egyptian rebels…Ibn Saba was also responsible for the outbreak of fighting between the armies of Ali and Aisha at Basrah. (Shi’ite Heritage: Essays on Classical and Modern Traditions, by Lynda Clarke, pp.9-10)

And:

The Khalif Ali caused the adherents of Abd Allah ibn Saba to be burnt to death…But when Ibn Abbas learned of the occurrence, he said: “I should indeed have put them to death, but certainly not burned them, for the Prophet has forbidden that any one shall be punished by fire, because this is the mode of punishment exclusively to Allah.”

(Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Edited by James Hastings, p.625)

In other words, the Zanadiqa being referred to here were not “peaceful apostates” who simply changed their mind, but rather they were guilty of high treason, causing a civil war, instigating a rebellion in Egypt, and ultimately killing the Caliph. Indeed, they were similar to the group of people who had pretended to convert to Islam in order to apostatize during the thick of things (i.e. in the battle between Medina and Mecca). The bottom line then is that even the Hadith that the Islamophobes rely upon can be used as a proof that only those apostates who wage war against the state are to be killed.

The Traditional Opinion

Yes, it is true that the majority “classical” and traditional opinion of Islamic jurists was that apostasy–even “peaceful apostasy”–should be punished by death. This belief was enshrined into Islamic jurisprudence in the medieval era, and therefore many “classical” Islamic texts do indeed say this. It is for this reason that Alan Kornman of ACT for America–a fervently Islamophobic group–was waving around a copy of Reliance of the Traveler, a fourteenth century manual of Islamic jurisprudence, which does say that apostates should be killed. Is it possible to point out the obvious? The text was written hundreds of years ago in the medieval era. The absurdity of using it as some sort of proof against contemporary Muslims is absurd. Muslims do not consider this book to be religiously binding upon them. The words of the classical scholars are not considered a part of the Islamic canon. Only the Quran and some of the Hadiths are said to have any divine origin.

Contemporary Muslims believe that they are free to agree or disagree with the words of classical scholars. There is no equivalent to the pope in Islam. Yes, they do respect the classical scholars, and do view them as some of the greatest scholars of all time, but that does not mean that they agree with them on all issues. As for “classical texts” like the Reliance of the Traveler, yes many moderate Muslims consider such treatises to be a good source of attaining their Islamic knowledge, but they don’t believe that they must accept every single sentence or dot therein! As the famous Islamic saying goes: they take the good in it, and leave the rest!

Even within the classical Islamic texts, one can find great disagreement therein. For example, there are classical texts which refute some of the views expressed in the Reliance of the Traveler. If that is the case–that Islamic scholars of that time disagreed with some views within that text and others–why shouldn’t contemporary Islamic scholars–and Muslims in general–disagree with some of its views? Is this really so hard to comprehend? I don’t think so.

We understand it perfectly well with classical Christian texts. Let’s look at the work of Saint Thomas Aquinas, one of the most influential Christian scholars in history. The Vatican considers him as “the model teacher” for those pursuing priesthood.

The Summa Theologica, a book written by St. Thomas Aquinas, is considered one of the best summaries of Catholic doctrine to this day, and continues to be relied upon. In other words, here we have a text that is certainly more central to the Catholic faith than the Reliance of the Traveler is to Muslims. Well, let’s take a look-see into what the Summa Theologica says about apostasy; the first part talks about how Jews are apostates and thus worse than regular disbelievers, and the second part talks about how apostates ought to be compelled by the sword to Christianity:

Question 10: Unbelief in General

… It is written (2 Peter 2:21): “It had been better for them not to have known the way of justice, than after they have known it, to turn back.” Now the heathens have not known the way of justice, whereas heretics and Jews have abandoned it after knowing it in some way. Therefore theirs is the graver sin…He who resists the faith after accepting it, sins more grievously against faith, than he who resists it without having accepted it…[The Jews] accepted the figure of that faith in the Old Law, which they corrupt by their false interpretations, [so] their unbelief is a more grievous sin than that of the heathens, because the latter have not accepted the Gospel faith in any way at all…

Article 8. Whether unbelievers ought to be compelled to the faith?

…I answer that, Among unbelievers there are some who have never received the faith, such as the heathens and the Jews: and these are by no means to be compelled to the faith…On the other hand, there are unbelievers who at some time have accepted the faith, and professed it, such as heretics and all apostates: such should be submitted even to bodily compulsion, that they may fulfil what they have promised, and hold what they, at one time, received…

For, Augustine says “…When a man’s crime [apostasy] is so publicly known, and so hateful to all, that he has no defenders, or none such as might cause a schism, the severity of discipline should not slacken”…Those Jews who have in no way received the faith, ought not by no means to be compelled to the faith: if, however, they have received it, they ought to be compelled to keep itChrist at first compelled Paul and afterwards taught Him…the rites of other unbelievers, which are neither truthful nor profitable are by no means to be tolerated…

Do we then think it is justified to wave around this seven hundred year old text in the air as a proof that Christians believe that apostates should be killed? Or that “since the Jews are the slaves of the Church, she can dispose of their possessions” and the “the rites of other unbelievers, which are neither truthful nor profitable are by no means to be tolerated?” No sensible person can say so. Rather, Catholics are free to read the book, taking what they like and disagreeing with whatever they dislike.

So why then can’t these people understand the same thing for the Reliance of the Traveler, which says the exact same thing about apostasy as does the Summa Theologica?  Muslims use it in a similar manner to learn about traditional Islamic jurisprudence just as Catholics use the Summa Theologica to learn traditional Catholic doctrine, taking the good and leaving the rest. In fact, the Muslim translator of the book, Nuh Keller, did not even translate parts of the book into English which he deemed totally irrelevant to the modern day and age, which shows that Muslims do not consider whatever is in the text as religiously binding. It doesn’t mean that Muslims must abandon the book in its entirety, just as Catholics don’t need to abandon the Summa Theologica altogether.

The Four Schools of Islamic Jurisprudence

A critic of Islam argued back:

Yes there may be moderate Muslims but at this moment in time there is no moderate Islam, as defined by the [four] main schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

First, it is absurd to say that there is no moderate Islam; moderate Islam is what the vast majority of Muslims follow, and how they define it. As for the argument that “all four schools of Islamic jurisprudence demand the death penalty for apostasy,” isn’t this simply restating the obvious? Contemporary Muslims already admit that the traditional and classical opinion of Islamic jurists was that apostates were to be killed (which by the way was also amongst the “traditional and classical opinions” in Judaism and Christianity as well).

Since the four schools of thought were defined and codified hundreds of years ago, doesn’t it already go without saying that the four schools of jurisprudence would take the traditional and classical opinion on the matter? Stated another way: as the four schools were codified hundreds of years ago, is it any surprise that they should follow the old way of looking at the matter as opposed to the new?  So what exactly is the critic trying to say? It is simply restating and repackaging the obvious attack in attempt to give an air of authority to it.

His statement also betrays a superficial understanding of the four schools of Islamic jurisprudence. The four schools are not defined by their final rulings or verdicts, but rather based on their methodology (Usul). Within a school itself, all sorts of conflicting opinions can be found, since a school is defined not by a ruling but by the methodology one uses to arrive at such a ruling. In other words, contemporary Muslims can still follow the same methodology and arrive at different conclusions, without betraying the school of thought itself. Many followers of the four schools have done so with regard to the issue of apostasy.

So the fact that a person follows a school of jurisprudence does not at all mean that he must commit himself to one particular ruling. Furthermore, many Muslims do not follow a school of jurisprudence at all, with still others claiming that it is wrong to follow the four schools whatsoever. Bottom line: there are diverse opinions on this matter, and to pigeonhole Muslims into a particular belief is wrong.  It is just wrong to speak on behalf of Muslims; let them speak for themselves!

Contemporary Muslims argue that their rejection of an opinion held by the classical scholars does not amount to rejection of the scholars themselves, nor of the schools of thought they founded.  Rather, they insist that respectful disagreement is not only permitted but mandated in Islam. Furthermore, the new opinion of contemporary Muslims is simply a reflection of changed circumstances which have allowed Muslims to properly understand the issue. Dr. Mohammad Omar Farooq says:

Undeniably, the traditional position of Muslim scholars and jurists has been that apostasy [riddah] is punishable by death. The longstanding problem of the traditional position, as held by Classical jurists or scholars, can be explained and excused as not being able to see apostasy, an issue of pure freedom of faith and conscience, separate from treason against the community or the state. However, the accumulated experience over the history in terms of abuse of this position about apostasy even against Muslims as well as the changed context of a globally-connected, pluralistic society should help us appreciate the contemporary challenges in light of the Qur’anic norms and the Prophetic legacy. In this context, while the classical misunderstanding about this issue of apostasy is excusable, the position of some of the well-known contemporary scholars is not.

Contemporary Scholars

Whilst ultraconservative scholars tenaciously cling to medieval opinions, moderate Muslim scholars are increasingly adopting the opinion that absolute freedom of religion is mandated in Islam. Hundreds of Islamic clerics have accepted this view as correct. Representatives from all the major Western Muslim organizations have spoken out against the death penalty for apostates.

Indeed, Islam is witnessing a “soft revolution” nowadays, and a reformation is taking place. It seems almost every other day another major Islamic scholar announces that he has studied the issue and come to the conclusion that there should be no punishment for apostasy.

Ijma

The conservative Muslims (and in turn the Islamophobes) insist that there is an Ijma (consensus) on the view that apostates are to be killed. This is an Islamic legal term which connotes a sort of authoritativeness to a ruling, almost like a papal decree. However, this is a hotly contested topic, and this article here explains why it is inappropriate to use Ijma as a proof.

Imam al-Shawkani argued:

“The one who claims that ijma constitutes proof is not correct, for such [a claim] constitutes mere conjecture (zann) on the part of an individual from the community of Muslims. No believer can worship God on the basis of this.”

Refuting Robert Spencer’s Drivel

Robert Spencer of JihadWatch argues that Fathima Rifqa Bary was correct for claiming that the Quran mandates death for apostasy. We have already outlined the numerous verses in the Quran that state the contrary. But let us now deal with Spencer’s “proof.” He claims that the following verse is “direct proof” that apostates are to be killed:

“And if any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein.” (Quran, 2:217)

Sorry, Spencer, but I don’t see how that’s “direct proof,” especially in light of the explicit verses in the Quran that I have cited above which clearly and unambiguously forbid compulsion in religion. In fact, contemporary Islamic scholars use this verse (the one Spencer just used) as a proof that there is no worldly punishment for apostasy, only a heavenly one. For example, Dr. Jamal Badawi says:

There is no single verse in the Qur’an that prescribes an earthly punishment for apostasy. Verses about apostasy in the Qur’an speak only about God’s punishment of the apostate in the Hereafter [such as] “…But if any of you should turn away from his/her faith and die as a denier [of the truth] – these it is whose works will bear no fruit in this world and in the life to come; and these it is who are destined for the fire, therein to abide.” ([Quran] Al-Baqarah 2:217)

…The silence of the Qur’an on any prescribed mandatory capital for apostasy is quite revealing. More revealing is the fact that there is overwhelming evidence in the Qur’an of freedom of conscious, belief, and worship.

Of course, Spencer quotes an Islamic scholar who lived hundreds of years ago as a proof. Sorry, but that’s not a proof to Muslims, nor is it binding. Whilst moderate Muslims respect Imam al-Qurtubi like Catholics respect St. Thomas Aquinas, they don’t believe his words are divine and simply disagree with them. That is in actuality the bulk of Spencer’s argument, since the verse itself is not at all “direct proof” of anything!

Then Spencer uses verse 4:89 as a “proof:”

“If they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever you find them.” (Quran, 4:89)

But he does not quote what comes right before and after it, thereby removing the context of the verse. The Quran says:

“Why should you be divided into two parties about the Hypocrites? …If they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever you find them; Except those who join a group between whom and you there is a treaty of peace, or those who approach you with hearts restraining them from fighting you as well as fighting their own people. If God had pleased, He could have given them power over you, and they would have fought you: Therefore if they withdraw from you and fight you not, and instead send you guarantees of peace, then God Has opened no way for you to war against them…Therefore if they do not withdraw from you, and do not offer you peace and restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them; and against these We have given you a clear authority (to war against).” (Quran, 4:89-91)

This verse is talking about a group of apostates who are pretending to be Muslims (and are thus Hypocrites), so that they can turn renegade during war and destroy the Muslim army from the inside. In actuality, this verse shows the mercy of Islam, in the sense that the Islamic prophet was forbidden to make war against these people until they picked up arms against the Muslims; if, however, they did not pick up arms and instead sent guarantees of peace, then Muslims were forbidden from fighting them. This verse can be used as a proof for the reformist position, namely that peaceful apostates cannot be killed, but those who wage war against the Islamic state (i.e. high treason) should be.

Spencer quotes Tafsir al-Jalalayn as a proof, yet doesn’t realize that the text itself negates his view. Tafsir al-Jalalayn says of the very next verse (4:90):

[Those who come to you] refraining from fighting either you or them, then do not interfere with them, neither taking them as captives nor slaying them…If they stay away from you and do not fight you, and offer you peace, reconciliation, that is, [if] they submit, then God does not allow you any way against them, [He does not allow you] a means to take them captive or to slay them.

Abrogation

Christianity was militarized after Jesus died, by latter day thinkers.  A similar thing happened with Islam.  The Quranic text prohibits military aggression, allowing war only in self-defense; it also gives absolute freedom of religion.  Latter day thinkers within Islam had such a hard time dealing with these issues that they simply decided to “abrogate” the peaceful and tolerant verses in order to make Islam “more compatible” with the warlike times.  For example, the author of Tafsir al-Jalalayn had such a hard time reconciling verse 4:90 with the view–that apostates are to be killed–that he rationalized that: “this statement and what follows was abrogated.”

This has importance here: Spencer uses the verse (4:90) as a proof that apostasy is mandated in the Quran, yet the classical scholar he quoted as a proof was so “frustrated” by this same verse–since it seemed to imply freedom of religion–that he was forced to abrogate it.  In other words, even those Muslim scholars who believe that apostates are to be killed had to get rid of this Quranic verse in order to make their claim, so how can Spencer now use the verse as a proof?

For those of you who don’t know what abrogation means, it means that a verse was rescinded and basically no longer counts. Translation: the verse still appears in the Quran but it has no legal import to it.  Contemporary moderate Muslim scholars reject such a haphazard abrogation of Quranic verses. For example, a Muslim cleric by the name of Shabir Ally says:

[Question:] Now this idea of abrogation altogether seems odd. You have a book–you say it’s from God–and you say ‘well, He didn’t really mean this.’ How does one justify this?

[Answer:] Well, Imam al-Tabari is in a way the father of tafsirs. And his tafsir is the monumental one that came to be used widely in later tafsirs…and he said very clearly that if a verse is to be agrogated, you have to have some definitive information from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself which says that this verse is abrogated, otherwise how would you know if a certain verse is abrogated? You shouldn’t claim that a verse is abrogated without this type of definitive information.

Dr. Jamal Badawi says:

While some scholars have claimed that hundreds of verses of the Qur’an were abrogated, the majority of scholars reject that claim.

Interestingly, the ultraconservative Muslim scholars are inconsistent in their own understanding of the Quran.  For example, the ultraconservative Saudi scholar Ibn Baz affirmed the idea that abrogation is to be used only as a last resort when understanding two seemingly “contradictory” verses of the Quran; Ibn Baz stated:

Whenever it is possible to show agreement or reconciliation between various narrations, in a manner which is suitable, without stretching their meanings, it becomes obligatory to do so.  Making Reconciliation (al-Jam) between the texts takes precedence over the other two methods of resolving apparent contradiction between proofs–the two other methods being Outweighing (al-Tarjih) and Abrogation (al-Naskh).  This is what has been agreed upon in the Science of Usul al-Fiqh.

The above might be very confusing to the layperson, so to summarize: he is basically saying that when two texts seem to contradict each other, then one should first try to reconcile them (al-Jam) before one claims that one is abrogated by the other (al-Naskh). In other words, when we have one text saying “Let there be no compulsion in religion” and another saying “Whoever changes his religion, kill him,” there seems to be an apparent contradiction between the two.  One way to resolve these two texts would be to say that the latter abrogated the former (and this is the argument of Bin Baz and other ultraconservative scholars).  Ibn Baz is quoted by an ultraconservative Saudi website as saying:

[Question:] Some friends say that whoever does not enter Islam, that is his choice and he should not be forced to become Muslim, quoting as evidence the verses in which Allaah says (interpretation of the meaning)…“There is no compulsion in religion” [al-Baqarah 2:256] What is your opinion concerning that?

[Answer:] …Ayat al-Sayf (the verse of the sword)…and similar verses abrogate the verses which say that there is no compulsion to become Muslim.

Oddly however Bin Baz does not follow his own rule that Reconciliation of texts takes precedence over Abrogation!  Reform-minded Muslims reconcile the texts by simply contextualizing the second narration, which indicates that peaceful apostates are not to be killed but those apostates who “wage war” (i.e. high treason) are.

The way in which Ibn Baz, other ultraconservatives, and some classical scholars abrogated the peaceful verses without direct proof of that must be rejected, argue reform-minded Muslims.  As Ibn Al-Hassar, a classical Islamic scholar himself, stated:

It is not acceptable, in the matter of Abrogation, to accept statements of the interpreters of the Quran, not even the ijtihad (reasoning) of those engaging in ijtihad without authentic reports or clear evidence…What is acceptable in that matter is the [explicit] narration [of the Prophet] and history [Sunna/Sira] not opinion or ijtihad.

Therefore, reform-minded Muslims reject any classical or contemporary scholar’s opinion that such-and-such verse was abrogated, unless the claimant brings unequivocal proof of that, such as a direct statement from the Islamic prophet to that effect.  But in the absence of that, such arguments are rejected; otherwise, every single verse in the Quran could be abrogated by mere desire!  Therefore, when Islamophobes try to build their whole case on Tafsirs (commentaries) written hundreds of years ago, be extremely wary!  A Tafsir is not a proof in and of itself; it is simply one man’s interpretation of the Quran open to criticism.

Reform-minded Muslim scholars argue that their understanding of the Quran’s view on this matter is more accurate and truer to the text, since they take into consideration all of the verses instead of simply doing away with whatever verses they cannot reconcile to their preconceived view. Meanwhile, the ultraconservatives are forced to abrogate verses of the Quran without any proof for that, such as the verse that forbids compulsion in religion. Certainly, it is unacceptable to just abrogate verses that one does not agree with!

In other words, neither the ultraconservative Muslims nor the Islamophobes can make their case, i.e. that the Quran says to kill apostates, without having to get rid of certain Quranic verses, those that are abundantly clear that religious compulsion is forbidden.  This in actuality shows the strength of the reformist view, namely that if one looks at the Quran as a whole, it mandates religious freedom.

Hypocrites Worse than Disbelievers

In the Quran, it is clear that the worst of mankind are the Hypocrites, a group of people who pretended to be Muslims but were really disbelievers in their hearts.  They were a group that sought to destroy Islam from the inside.  Reformists point out that forcing people into Islam–be they disbelievers or apostates–would create a legion of Hypocrites within the ranks of the Muslims, something far more dangerous than people simply peacefully following whatever religion they want.  Dr. Jamal Badawi argues:

The fear of such assumed [capital] punishment [for apostasy] may lead many to hypocrisy; by pretending to remain Muslims just to save their lives. In the final analysis, hypocrisy is a greater danger to the community than apostasy in itself. Hypocrites may implode the Muslim community from within.

Reform-minded Muslims also point out the fact that there was a Bedouin who apostatized in the lifetime of the prophet Muhammad, leaving the Islamic city-state of Medina; he abandoned both his religious and national identity (as the two were fused back then).  Instead of punishing the man, the prophet Muhammad simply replied by saying: “Medina is like a pair of bellows (i.e. a furnace): it expels its impurities and brightens and clears its good.” (Sahih al-Bukhari,Vol.9, No.316, pp.241)  Reformists use this narration as a proof that someone leaving the religion is–in a way–a  good thing: it purifies the religion from those weak in faith who could become Hypocrites.  Is it not better to have a few strong believers rather than many weak Hypocrites?

Dr. Jamal Badawi notes that this incident involving the Bedouin took place after the Islamic city-state of Medina was up and running, so the Islamophobes cannot claim that this was before some mass abrogation of verses:

This incident took place in Madinah when Muslims were living in an independent Islamic “state,” where the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) had full authority to implement Shari`ah law.

If indeed the “revealed” prescribed punishment for apostasy is death, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) would have been the first to carry out the punishment. In fact, he did not even prescribe any punishment at all against that Bedouin, nor did he send any one to arrest him as an “apostate,” imprison, or ask him to recant or even reconsider his decision as later jurists prescribed. Nor is there any solid ground to claim that this and other similar hadiths were “abrogated.” In fact, these Hadiths are in conformity with the Qur’an and consistent with its central value of freedom of conscious and rejection of any compulsion in matters of faith (Al-Baqarah 2:256).

Nonsensical Defense

Some conservative Muslims argue that the death penalty for apostasy makes “perfect sense,” since “people choose to enter Islam knowing that it is a lifetime decision punishable by death” and therefore “it serves to ensure that their intention is strong” and “dissuades those weak in faith from entering it.”

Reform-minded Muslims argue that this argument is weak from many angles.  It is negated by the fact that the conservative Muslims do not differentiate in this matter between converts to Islam and those born into the religion: in fact, some of the classical scholars opined that born Muslims who apostatize (murtad fitri)  are more liable to punishment than those who had converted to Islam (murtad milli).  The question reform-minded Muslims ask is: does a born Muslim get the chance to enter the religion knowing that he will be killed if he ever leaves it?  The answer is of course no; one simply grows up following the religion of one’s parents; therefore, the justification that “apostates knew what they were getting into” falls flat on its face.

Reform-minded Muslims also say that it is quite simply common sense that people change their minds.  This is quite obvious: one day a person thinks Islam is the religion for him, but maybe ten years down the line he doesn’t.

Additionally, reform-minded Muslims argue that killing an apostate robs him of the chance to repent later in life.  There are for example many youth who leave religion only to come back to it in their elderly years when they become fearful of death and what follows that.  A person who apostates today could become Islam’s best follower some day in the future.

Lastly, reform-minded Muslims point out that the Quranic principle is that God has granted humans free will: they have the right to accept Islam or reject it. Nobody can force them to do so.  Why would God command Muslims to force people into Islam when it is He Himself Who gave people the ability to leave the religion?

An Important Clarification

Even if Fathima’s parents held the “traditional view,” this does not mean that they were going to kill her.  In fact, the traditional view–as espoused by the classical scholars and now championed by the ultraconservatives–has always been that corporal punishments–such as killing of apostates–must be done by the government and not individuals.

Vigilante justice has always been strictly forbidden, and in fact severely punished.  The second Caliph of Islam was in fact killed, and his son ended up killing the murderer, vigilante style.  Even though his case seemed just, the Muslim authorities punished him for murder, due to it being vigilante justice outside the court system.

We can read this from ultraconservative Islamic websites themselves, which quote classical scholars; for example, the Saudi based Islam-QA strictly forbids “honor killing” on the grounds that it is vigilante justice:

Al-Qurtubi said:

There is no dispute among the scholars that qisaas (retaliatory punishments) such as execution cannot be carried out except by those in authority who are obliged to carry out the qisaas and carry out hadd punishments etc, because Allaah has addressed the command regarding qisaas to all the Muslims, and it is not possible for all the Muslims to get together to carry out the qisaas, which is why they appointed a leader who may represent them in carrying out the qisaas and hadd punishments.

Tafseer al-Qurtubi, 2/245, 246.

No one should carry out the hadd punishments without the permission of the ruler. If there is no ruler who rules according to sharee’ah then it is not permissible for the ordinary people to carry out the hadd [corporal] punishments. Whoever does that is sinning, because carrying out the hadd punishments requires examining the matter and requires shar’i knowledge in order to know the conditions of proof.

The ordinary people have no knowledge of such things, and the carrying out of one of the hadd punishments by the ordinary people leads to many evils and the loss of security, whereby people will attack one another and kill one another or chop off one another’s hands on the grounds that they are carrying out hadd punishments.

Islam-QA: Honor Killings Forbidden in Islam

And that’s the opposite of a reformist site.  So even they don’t advocate honor killings or vigilante justice.  The point here is not to justify the ultraconservative view.  Rather, it is simply to show that this entire thing has been a hyped up situation used to demonize Islam and Muslims in general.  Most Western Muslims don’t believe in killing apostates, and even the small fraction that do don’t believe it can be done in the West.

Conclusion

The Quran does not at all say to kill apostates. As for the Hadiths, yes there are some texts which could be interpreted as such, but reform-minded Muslims believe that if you properly contextualize them, this is not the case.  Furthermore, they believe that if a Hadith contradicts a basic tenet of the Quran, it is to be rejected; in other words, the Quran takes precedence over all other texts.

As for a parent forcing a child to convert to Islam, an explicit verse in the Quran rejects this practice, which was specifically revealed for a Muslim father who was trying to force his Christian daughters to accept Islam, a remarkably similar situation to what we see in the Fathima Rifqa Bary case today.

What seems apparent is that Fathima’s parents never threatened to kill her; rather, she was brainwashed by some Christian extremists (who by the way look down on the Christian mainstream) into thinking that Islam itself–and the Quran in particular–mandates death for apostates.  Notice in her emotional interview that she clearly was of the view that: the Quran mandates it, ergo religious Muslims believe in it.  This logic is faulty and problematic.

The Islamophobes have jumped on this opportunity to spread fear and hate, insisting that Islam is intrinsically culpable, a pagan and heathen religion incompatible with those who love Christ.

Yes, a legitimate criticism is that it is unfortunate that there are Muslims–even some big time scholars who are not ultraconservatives–hold onto this view.  This is in fact a self-criticism that the reform-minded Muslims themselves engage in, and if the critics limited their input to this, there would have been no problem.  But the Islamophobes wanted to impugn Islam as a whole, and the Muslims in generality.

The issue of apostasy is at  “the heart of a burning debate among modern Muslims,” explained Sherman Jackson, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Michigan.  It is a time of reassessment, flux, and hopefully change.  But to reduce that all down to “Muslims (or Islam) say that apostates are to be killed” is preposterous.  Muslims are undergoing a soft reformation, led by the Western Muslims and the likes of Dr. Tariq Ramadan.  But it will take time, just like Europe did not reform overnight.

Even if there happens to be a case of Muslim parents killing their children for changing religions, this shouldn’t be used as an example of what Islam advocates, or what Muslims in general think.  Such demonization is altogether unhelpful and only helps to strengthen a binary worldview.  If indeed such a case takes place (and they do from time to time), then the fault lies with the murderers, not Islam and not the Muslims in generality.  Certainly we shouldn’t encourage extremists and xenophobes who seek to co-opt such tragedies for their own nefarious agendas of fear mongering and singling out of Muslims, who are already one of the most maligned minority groups in the West.

Michael Kruse: How Real are Runaway’s Fears of Being Killed

kruse_michael_wp_10347a

Michael Kruse

This is another excellent article by Michael Kruse on the Fathima Rifqa Bary case. It explores the charges made by anti-Islam bloggers as well as Rifqa herself. He also gets the opinions of various Islamic scholars on the issues that have been raised by the case, separating truth from fiction.

How Real Are Runaway’s Fears of Being Killed for Becoming Christian?

Will religious runaway Rifqa Bary be killed if she’s sent home to Ohio?

Bary is the 17-year-old girl who fled to Florida in July because she’s terrified that her Muslim family has to murder her due to her conversion to Christianity.

Authorities in both states say there’s no “credible” threat against her. Investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement say her fear is “subjective and speculative.” Her parents say they don’t want to hurt her and just want her back.

She’s living with a foster family as a court in Orlando tries to decide what to do with her. The next hearing is Monday afternoon. Attorneys for her parents are expected to argue that the case should be shifted to Ohio.

This is a good time to pause for a bit and take another look at her Aug. 10 interview with local TV. It remains this ongoing story’s primary source.

“I’m fighting for my life!” she said in her nearly seven-minute interview with Orlando’s WFTV. “You guys don’t understand!”

Let’s understand then.

• • •

“Imagine the honor in killing me,” she said. “It’s in the Koran.”

It’s not. Here’s what is.

One verse: “If any of you turn back from their faith and die in unbelief, their works will bear no fruit in this life and in the Hereafter; they will be companions of the Fire and will abide therein.”

Another verse: “If they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them.”

Those are parts of the two verses Robert Spencer cites to support his belief that Bary will be killed because Islam says she must be killed.

Spencer blogs at JihadWatch.org. He’s written nine books, with titles like Stealth Jihad, The Truth About Muhammad and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades). Two of them have been New York Times bestsellers. In Stealth Jihad, published last year, he writes of the coming “Islamic conquest of North America” and urges this country’s schools to stop “the empty rhetoric of inclusion and multiculturalism.”

Here are some other things the Koran says.

One verse: “Let there be no compulsion in religion.”

Another verse: “Show kindness to parents, and to family.”

The Koran, like many other holy texts, is long, complicated and at times contradictory, and over centuries different people have had and continue to have different interpretations.

Bary has committed apostasy. That means she was a Muslim and now she’s not.

“The Koran condemns apostasy,” said Jonathan Berkey, a professor of Islamic studies at Davidson College in North Carolina, “but the verses about seizing and slaying ‘renegades’ concerned enemies of the prophet Muhammad’s state, people who posed a political or even military threat.

“For others,” he said, “the Koran implies that apostasy is something that God will punish.”

Not people. Not in this life.

• • •

“They have to kill me,” she said.

Let’s acknowledge this right here: There’s no way to know for sure if her parents, or anyone else for that matter, will kill her.

But this can be said with certainty: They don’t have to.

This idea, though, comes from sharia, or Islamic law. There is one Koran but there is no single sharia. It comes from many sources, including the Koran, and is “more like a discussion by Muslim scholars concerning the duties a Muslim should perform,” said Valerie Hoffman, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Illinois.

Most Muslim jurists say apostasy is punishable by death — but not all of them. It is “the heart of a burning debate among modern Muslims,” said Sherman Jackson, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of Michigan.

“There are lots of liberal Muslims today who feel that there should never be any execution of people who convert from Islam to another religion,” Hoffman said. “You can’t say Islam says this or Islam says that.”

Also important is the fact that sharia is law only to the extent that specific governments choose to enforce it as such. Some governments in the Muslim world do. Most don’t. Indonesia is the largest Muslim-majority country in the world. Its government does not.

“Sharia is just not applied very often, particularly in the modern world,” Berkey said. “There are few places in the Muslim world where much at all of sharia is applied with the force of law.”

Apostasy executions are rare.

An official at the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom told the New York Times in 2006 that he knew of four: one in Sudan, in 1985; two in Iran, in 1989 and 1998; and one in Saudi Arabia, in 1992.

In the case of Bary, which government would order her execution for apostasy — Ohio, Florida, the United States?

“The allegation that Muslim parents would be required to kill an apostate daughter is absurd,” said Carl Ernst, a professor of Islamic studies at the University of North Carolina, “particularly if there is no evidence to back this up besides the daughter’s statement.”

• • •

“I don’t know if you know about honor killings,” she said.

Honor killings are real. The United Nations Population Fund says there could be as many as 5,000 a year worldwide.

Honor killings are usually when a man in a family kills a woman in that family because of some shame the man believes she brought on the family. It typically involves some sort of perceived sexual impropriety, anything from promiscuity to adultery to dating the wrong guy or dressing too “Western.” Sometimes, women are killed after they’re raped.

Honor killings happen mostly in the Muslim world. In the last couple of years, though, there was a double murder some called an honor killing in Texas, there was one in Georgia, there was another in upstate New York.

But honor killings and apostasy executions are not the same thing.

“This is a basic mistake of conflating two things,” said Brett Wilson, a professor of Islamic studies at Macalester College in Minnesota.

Ernst, the professor from UNC, called honor killings “a local or tribal custom,” having far more to do with culture than religion — “more or less equivalent,” he wrote in an e-mail, “to the so-called ‘unwritten law,’ honored by judges in Texas at least through the 1950s, which considered it legitimate for a husband to kill his wife and her lover if he discovered them in a compromising situation.”

• • •

To believe absolutely that the girl from Ohio will be killed if she’s sent home, you have to believe that there’s no variation in the interpretation of Islam — no Sunni, no Shia, no Sufism — among the approximately billion and a half Muslims worldwide, stretching from Southeast Asia to Africa to the Middle East to Europe to Florida and Ohio. Saying all Muslims have exactly the same rigid and literal beliefs and act on those beliefs in exactly the same ways is like saying the same thing about Christians.

Times news researchers Shirl Kennedy and Will Short Gorham contributed to this report. Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8751.

Andrew Bostom Takes on Michael Kruse–Loses

Andrew Bostom and Robert Spencer

Andrew Bostom and Robert Spencer

Andrew Bostom (well over due for a LoonWatch piece), a close friend of Robert Spencer’s, and another self-proclaimed “Islamic scholar” is lauded on JihadWatch as having “taken on and crushed” Mchael Kruse, the St.Petersburg Times reporter who has been covering the Fathima Rifqa Bary case.

It’s a popular tactic amongst Islamophobes, especially Robert Spencer to try and twist what is clearly a negative outcome for themselves into a self-declared victory with a peppering of congratulatory self-adulation. This was the case with Spencer in his confrontation with Professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, when his alter-ego Hugh Fitzgerald proclaimed “victory” for Spencer and “defeat” for Bassiouni.

The truth is Spencer and company are ever more becoming isolated on the fringes of an increasingly radicalized segment of the Right-Wing, the company he keeps consists of neo-fascists, birthers, conspiracy theorists, Glenn Beck types, etc.

kruse_michael_wp_10347a

Michael Kruse

In this recent episode Bostom says that Kruse was wrong for stating that Spencer believes that “Muslims are in America to take over,” which from the body of Spencer’s work and the company he keeps is more than likely an accurate presumption, in context it is also the impression that he was trying to give at the press conference outside the courtroom of the Fathima Rifqa Bary case.

A case which is proving to be very embarrassing for Spencer, as evidence after evidence keeps coming out that the charges made by bloggers such as him and Pamela Geller that Rifqa’s life was/had to be in danger and that she was abused by her parents turn out to be bogus. Spencer’s reputation has taken a big hit and he is doing everything in his power to try to salvage some face.

Let’s look at an interesting part of the exchange between Bostom and Kruse:

Kruse to Bostom:

It’s my job to listen to everybody. It’s not my job to assign everybody equal credibility. When it comes to Robert Spencer scholars of Islamic studies outright dismiss him and his body of work. They call him an unreliable ideologue at best and a divisive bigot at worst. I can’t do that, though, can’t just ignore him like that, because he, and Pam Geller, too, are so much a part of this story, and certainly reasons it’s turned into what it’s turned into. Judging from his e-mails and how he talks in person, Rob strikes me as a pretty smart guy, but he’s a pretty smart guy with a very specific worldview. Everything he writes or says gets filtered through that static narrowness. Here is a relatively new dynamic: The other day in Orlando, Rob and Pam were speakers at a news conference, advocates for one “side” of this whole thing, and THEN they covered it as members of the press. They’re covering a story they’ve helped create, or at the very least stoke. The front row of the courtroom was for media, and there was the AP, some newspaper reporters, some TV reporters, some radio reporters, and there was Pam, a woman who last fall wrote a story on her blog saying Barack Obama was the illegitimate son of Malcom X. All of it is an interesting piece of the sprawling Rifqa Bary story, worth watching and considering now, and during the next story like it, and the next one after that.

Here Kruse devastates Bostom and Spencer by pretty much objectively telling it like it is, or as Dave Chapelle used to say Keepin’ it real. This is incomprehensible to polemicists and subjective ideologues such as Bostom and Spencer. It is incontrovertibly true that Spencer (and Bostom for that matter) is completely and thoroughly rejected by academics, we have noted that before here.

Yet, Kruse makes the point that he as a reporter cannot reject Spencer and Pamela Geller out of hand because THEY ARE PART OF THIS STORY. In fact, he points out they have in many ways CREATED this story or at the very least stoked it.

That is absolutely true, ever since the story broke Spencer and Pam have been on a crusade, whipping up their supporters in the blog world to “save Fathima Bary” from a sure “honor killing.” They knew nothing about the family or the context, they cared nothing for this little girl or her future, but eager to make Muslims and Islam look barbarous they attempted to castigate this family in front of the public thereby destroying any chance in those early days of reconciliation.

When fact after fact came out confirming the family’s story, supported by the Ohio police and Children Services, Pamela Geller resorted to making accusations which she claimed she heard from “anonymous sources” that Rifqa Bary was abused throughout her whole life, and that she was even sexually abused by her uncle.

Spencer applauded her in all this, extolling that the mainstream media was ignoring this “mountain of evidence” secured by Pamela Geller that showed that Rifqa Bary’s family was fundamentalist crazy and had abused her. For some reason the police were unable to unearth any evidence of these libelous accusations? Probably because they are made up whole-cloth.

Kruse, highlights how incongruous it is for a woman such as Pamela Geller,  who claims Obama is a Mooslim, anti-Semite, Socialist son of Malcolm X to be in the press area covering a story that she is actively creating. Bostom responds with more polemic,

Bostom to Kruse:

I deal with your non-sequiturs about Robert and Pamela, below. But first, you deliberately and grossly misrepresented what Robert said and the very specific context in which he made his statement–despite standing right next to him, as one can see in the videotape. That reflects very poorly on your own credibility and your ability to judge anyone else’s for that matter.

Do you not see that? Do you not see your own transparent–certainly to me– “static narrowness?”

As for scholarship, who are you to judge? What do you know about Islamic doctrine and history??

I asked you to contact Ibn Warraq via e-mail–He says he never heard from you, and judging from your responses to my repeated questioning you never obtained his definitive scholarly assessment of apostasy, “Leaving Islam”–so clearly real scholarship on the subject matter at hand—apostasy from Islam–does not even appeal to you.

Have you attempted to contact another high profile apostate from Islam, Nonie Darwish, who recently published “Cruel and Usual Punishment,” and wrote about a high profile apostasy case ongoing NOW in her native Egypt, in early August??

I have compiled, edited, and introduced two critically acclaimed scholarly compendia–one on the jihad, the other on Islamic Antisemitism. I have also read and on several occasions reviewed Robert’s books, and they easily exceed most of what passes for “scholarship” on Islam in today’s academy–despite targeting, deliberately, the larger lay audience. Regardless, they are solid works in their own right that are meticulously documented. Have you read them and found identifiable flaws in any of them??

As for Pamela, excuse me, but from my where I sit, she is doing the basic shoe leather investigative reporting those like yourself have thus far refused to do.

How many of Rifqa’s friends have you interviewed, starting for example with the now publicly identified Jamal Jivangee? What sort of of financial investigation of Mr. and Mrs. Bary’s businesses have you conducted??

I think you are being very disingenuous, and your pretense of “objectivity” is simply ludicrous.

As we mentioned Kruse did not misrepresent Spencer, Spencer just spoke very badly and it is not a stretch for Kruse to say that Spencer believes “Muslims are in America to take over” because that is exactly what he was insinuating at that right-wing blogger “press conference.” Then Bostom attempts to accuse Kruse of being ill-informed and not knowing anything about Islam (ironic) and then lists himself (in a bit of shameless self-promotion) and another Islamophobic writer, Ibn Warraq as “experts” that Kruse should have contacted.

This is a highly rich and whiny statement at the same time, what part of discredited do Bostom and Spencer not get? People don’t choose you guys as experts in the field of Islam because you are a pair of polemicists with deep hatred for Islam and Muslims. You can’t blame people for not considering you suitable candidates. He also trots out Nonie Darwish who believes there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim, she dumps all Muslims in the radical camp, she also compares Islam to Nazism amongst other interesting Islamophobic anecdotes.

By this time Kruse is almost done, knowing by now where Andrew Bostom comes from, i.e. the far right lunatic camp and says,

Kruse to Bostom:

I should stop, I know this, but I just have to ask: We’ve talked on the phone, we’ve e-mailed, and you seem like an intelligent person, so how can you possibly take Pam Geller seriously?

Bostom to Kruse:

Excuse me, but just as you have calumniated Spencer–with a live video record to debunk you and prove your deliberate misrepresentation—you’ve now done the same with Geller.

From here:

http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/atlas_shrugs/2008/10/how-could-stanl.html

“The ‘Atlas says that Barack Obama is Malcolm X’s love child’ charge has gone viral among leftards and lizards. The only problem with it is that it is false. I am not the author of this post, and I posted it because the writer did a spectacular job documenting Obama’s many connections with the Far Left. The Malcolm X claim is one minor part of this story, and was of interest to me principally as part of the writer’s documentation that Stanley Ann Dunham could not have been where the Obama camp says she was at various times. I do not believe that Barack Obama is Malcolm X’s love child, and never did — but there remain many, many unanswered questions about his early life and upbringing.”

As a scrupulously honest, painstakingly objective journalist you must know that Pamela has written “I do not believe that Barack Obama is Malcolm X’s love child, and never did”? Would you even care if you did know?

We know the answer to that, as your calumny against Spencer makes plain.

As we demonstrated Kruse didn’t calumny against Spencer or Geller but Bostom does by trying to defend Pamela. Pamela is thoroughly discredited for more then her posting of the Malcolm-X-is-the-father-of-Barack-Obama-conspiracy, which she attempts to half-heartedly disavow now, but also for her other conspiracies that Barack Obama is a Muslim, that he was indoctrinated into Jihad in Pakistan, that he hates Jews and is an anti-Semite, that he is not an American citizen and was not born in America; all that doesn’t even touch a bit of what she says about Palestinians, Arabs, and real Muslims.

On her post about Barack Obama being the illegitimate son of Malcolm X, which she now claims she doesn’t support, there are some troubling questions that it seems Bostom doesn’t want to raise or answer. Like the obvious as day and night, why did she post that crazy article in the first place? Is that any way to prove that there was “no way that Obama’s mother could have been in America when Obama was born?” The fact is that Pam posted the piece with out any qualifiers, she posted it in her name without attributing it to anyone else. That brings her story of never having supported it into high doubt, the attempt to cover it up now and sweep it under the rug is not going to work especially when her track record has been loonier than the loons.

Bat Ye’or: Anti-Muslim Loon with a Crazy Conspiracy Theory Named “Eurabia”

"The Islamic State of Eurabia"

"The Islamic State of Eurabia"

We all have them: crazy uncles or senile grandparents raving about one conspiracy theory or the other on the dinner table. “Man landing on the moon was a big hoax,” or something about Kennedy’s assassination.  We’d smile and continue eating our leftover mashed potatoes smothered in gravy, then politely ask to be excused on account of work early the next morning, the car ride back home full of mirthful post-dinner analysis of the crazy dinner table conspiracy talk.

So when we first read about Bat Ye’or, a lady with no educational qualifications to speak of, who came up with the crazy conspiracy theory entitled “Eurabia,” we here at LoonWatch barely reacted. If a zany lady comes up with some insane theory, we’re certainly not going to take her seriously, at least not any more than the crazy old McCain lady.

The sad reality, however, is that Bat Ye’or is now being used by leading Islamophobes as a primary source for their research and subsequent analysis.  So who is Bat Ye’or?  Well, first of all, her name is not Bat Ye’or.  That’s just her “screen-name.”  For many years, she kept her real identity a secret, and only wrote under this moniker, which is Hebrew for “daughter of the Nile.”  She also had another screen-name, which was Yahudiya Masriya, Arabic for “Egyptian Jewess.”  Her real name is Gisele Littman, and she’s vitriolically anti-Muslim and anti-Islam.

She has written a handful of articles and books–with the basic theme that Muslims have savagely oppressed Non-Muslims (“dhimmis”) throughout history.  These resources written by her are used as reference sources by famous Islamophobes like Robert Spencer (the face behind the xenophobic websites Jihad Watch and Dhimmi Watch). Spencer hailed Bat Ye’or as “the pioneering scholar of dhimmitude, of the institutionalized discrimination and harassment of non-Muslims under Islamic law.”  Daniel Pipes, an Islamophobic professor, cites her work numerous times. She has emerged from relative obscurity to fame, her work being the backbone of Islamophobic (mis)characterization of Islamic history.

Pamela Geller, admin of the anti-Muslim site Atlas Shrugs, declares: “Bat Ye’or is the world’s foremost leading scholar on Islam.” Amazing how the “world’s foremost leading scholar on Islam” has no educational background and absolutely no credentials at all from a recognized university; truly amazing that anyone can become the world’s leading scholar on Islam with just a library card, a keyboard and internet connection, and of course the key ingredient of all–an all encompassing hatred of Islam.  Can one imagine the world’s leading scholar on Judaism being an Anti-Semite?  This just in: the world’s foremost leading scholar on Judaism is an Anti-Semitic Hamas member. Absurd!

Bat Ye’or is Not a Scholar

Bat Ye’or is not a scholar; she does not have the credentials of a historian from any recognized university.  She is referred to as an “independent researcher,” a euphemism for a random person who goes to the library, opens up some books, and starts writing. Adi Shwartz, a journalist for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, rightfully points out Bat Ye’or’s lack of credentials:

Europe allowed the immigration of millions of Muslims to its territories…and will ultimately…transform Europe into a continent under the thumb of the Arab and Muslim world. Europe is dead, and in its stead “Eurabia” has arisen.

This controversial thesis belongs to Bat Ye’or, the pen name of a self-taught Jewish intellectual who was born in Egypt and who currently lives in Switzerland. She refuses to reveal her real name for security reasons, she says, but her thesis is just the prologue to far-reaching conclusions and extreme statements…While her ideas were once almost completely ignored, nowadays, because of the prevailing consternation in Europe regarding its complex relations with the Muslim world, she is receiving more attention, though she is still quite far from entering the European mainstream…

Bat Ye’or’s opinions have made her a controversial figure, as has the fact that she is not an academic and has never taught at any university. She conducts her research independently.

Professor Robert Wistrich, head of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, says of her:

Up until the 1980s, she was not accepted at all. In academic circles they scorned her publications…A real change toward her emerged in the 1990s, and especially in recent years.

In other words, Bat Ye’or was never taken seriously by academics; it was only recently due to the political climate of Islamophobia that her works have become oft-cited by certain elements of society.  Interestingly enough, Bat Ye’or herself admits this:

They didn’t even mention my name in publications. In the United States, I am certain that the September 11 attacks woke people up, including the Jewish community that had previously ignored me…

It truly calls to question the legitimacy of the Islamophobes that they use as their main source a woman who has no credentials and whose work was scorned and ignored by academics and only became popular due to a wave of xenophobia:

[Professor Wistrich said:] “In a survey conducted in Germany recently 83 percent gave the answer ‘fanaticism’ to the question ‘What is Islam?’ Sixty percent said there was a clash of civilizations. This is why Bat Ye’or is getting more attention these days.”

Her opinions on the integration of the Muslims and Europe’s bleak future are acquiring many supporters for her in Europe’s extreme right-wing circles.

Those numbers are staggering, and frightening.  An overwhelming majority (83%) of Germans believe that Islam is fanaticism. (One can imagine what a similar poll conducted in the early 1930’s or 40’s-during the reign of the Nazis-would have shown had it asked what their view of Judaism was.)  It is such a climate that leads to pogroms, and it seems that Bat Ye’or wishes to tap into this potential.  She admits that her works are embraced by “the extreme right and in racist movements.” She gives them the wink and nod, with the usual half-hearted disclaimer that “attacking Muslims, sometimes even physically, is stupid.” Any bigotry short of that, of course, is fine and dandy.  Wistrich, who invited her to speak at a conference in Jerusalem, cracked a crass joke:

At the conference I said half-joking that it was possible to call this [her book] ‘the protocols of the elders of Brussels.’

It is interesting that Wistrich could be so mirthful about such a serious topic, as if it is somehow comical for a person to write a document that would result in ethnic strife.  Again, a frightening idea.  Adi Schwartz, the Israeli journalist who questioned her credentials, aptly titled his article on her “The Protocols of the Elders of Brussels.”

Bat Ye’or: Neutral Academic or Biased Ideologue?

Bat Yeor: a crazy old lady

Bat Ye'or: a crazy old lady

Bat Ye’or has an axe to grind; there could be no one more biased than her.  Her antipathy towards Islam stems from her stormy past: in 1957, she was expelled from Egypt during the Israeli invasion of Sinai.  Although one can and should most definitely sympathize with her plight, it seems that she has–like so many racists before her–reacted to bigotry by becoming a bigot.  She was wronged by Muslims, and now she wants to take vengeance, which has blinded her.  Bat Ye’or said in an interview:

I wrote these books because I had witnessed the destruction, in a few short years, of a vibrant Jewish community living in Egypt for over 2,600 years and which had existed from the time of Jeremiah the Prophet. I saw the disintegration and flight of families, dispossessed and humiliated, the destruction of their synagogues, the bombing of the Jewish quarters and the terrorizing of a peaceful population. I have personally experienced the hardships of exile, the misery of statelessness-and I wanted to get to the root cause of all this. I wanted to understand why the Jews from Arab countries, nearly a million, had shared my experience.

This is not unbiased and dispassionate academic study; for Bat Ye’or, this is personal.  From the above quote alone, one can see the inconsistency in Bat Ye’or’s views.  During the Israeli occupation of Sinai, anti-Semitism surged in Egypt and within “a few short years” an end was brought to “a vibrant Jewish community living in Egypt for over 2,600 years.”  Does she not see the inconsistency here?  Over one thousand of those 2,600 years were during Muslim rule of Egypt, which began in 639 AD.  During that time period, there was a Jewish community which thrived, or as Bat Ye’or words it, was “vibrant.”  Surely then it makes no sense to generalize the “few short years” to all of Islamic history.

Conspiracy Theory: Palestinians Don’t Exist; Europeans Created Them

It is an irony that Bat Ye’or laments about “the hardships of exile, [and the] misery of statelessness,” which is exactly what the Palestinian people have suffered from.  Yet, Bat Ye’or, a fervent supporter of Israel goes even further than some of the most extreme Right-Wing Israelis and even denies the existence of a Palestinian people, arguing that “the Palestinian cause was created mainly in Europe.”   To put her quote into context, she says:

The Kurds, the Berbers, the Basques (Spain) and the Corsicans (France) have nationalist characteristics, but not the Palestinians.  The Palestinian cause was created mainly in Europe…

So Kurds, Berbers, Basques, and Corsicans are all peoples, but not the Palestinians, who are an imaginary peoples invented by Europe.  So why exactly did Europe create the Palestinian people?  She explains:

The Palestinian cause was created mainly in Europe, with the purpose to transfer onto the Palestinians the Jewish history in order to delegitimize Israel and to absolve Europe from the Holocaust by throwing onto Israel its own European history of Nazism, apartheid and colonialism.

Let us allow the reader to properly understand her conspiracy theory: she is arguing that the Palestinian people were created by Europe in order to paint Israel as being guilty of Nazism, apartheid, and colonialism–in order to absolve themselves of blame for the Holocaust which created the state of Israel.  One can imagine the European leaders convening in some secret lair–shoddy lighting and a room full of cigar smoke–contemplating how to absolve themselves of blame for the Holocaust.  “I got it!” exclaims one especially wily European intellectual.  “We’ll invent a people–let’s call them ‘Palestinians’–and say that they existed in the land of Israel!”  They passed it to a vote, and voila!  The Europeans then made a few calls and engineered the Palestinian race.  As Jon Stewart said mockingly about the Obama-being-a-stealth-Jihadist-from-Yemen theory: “It was just too easy.”

Bat Ye’or’s conspiracy theory is creative no doubt, but ludicrous.  This is the woman whom Islamophobes like Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, and Pamela Geller cite as a primary source for their views on Islam, thus highlighting that they have absolutely no academic integrity or credibility.

Conspiracy Theory: Europe Will Become a Vassal State to the Arab World

Bat Ye’or is a fringe conspiracy theorist who argues that “Europe will become a vassal [state], a satellite of the Arab world.” Such alarmist drivel that no sane person could take her seriously.  The irony is that the reality is the exact opposite: it is the Arab world that plays second fiddle compared to the West.  Tell us, Bat Ye’or, how will the Arabs make a vassal state out of Europe?  Them and which army?  The combined Arab might pales in front of Israel; how can the Arab world then vanquish all of Europe?  Such senseless fear mongering.

Conspiracy Theory: European Universities are Controlled by Palestinians

As part of her global conspiracy theory, Bat Ye’or argues that “[European] universities, for example, are controlled by the Palestinians.” Oh why of course!  In fact, the deans of the European universities are all “stealth Palestinians;” every year they travel to the Gaza Strip for an annual ceremony, where Hamas leaders dictate what the curriculum will be for the year, and indoctrinate them in all things jihad.  It is in fact funding from Palestine that is keeping the European universities afloat.  (deadpan face)

Can one imagine the reaction of Islamophobes if some Moozlim-looking person said that the Western universities were controlled by “the Jews?”  They would call such a person not only a crazy conspiracy theorist but a racist, and rightfully so, but the issue here is the profound double standard.  You want to say something outlandish about Jews or any other minority?  Not acceptable  (Rightfully so).  But say the same thing about Muslims?  Then you get your own show on Fox News, and your books will become best-sellers (of the “What’s Wrong with Islam” or “Why I’m Not a Muslim” variety).

Conspiracy Theory: The Rise of Eurabia

The culmination of Bat Ye’or’s theories is what she coins as “Eurabia,” a (not so) clever combination of the words “Europe” and “Arabia.”  Basically, the theory is that Arab and Muslim immigration (of “stealth jihadists”) will soon overwhelm Europe, destroy Western culture and civilization forever, and replace the democratic governments with Taliban style theocracies.   While that does sound like an interesting plot for a fictional movie, it is pure insanity to take this seriously.  Bat Ye’or is simply delusional.  David Aaronovitch, a journalist for The Times, labels Bat Ye’or as a conspiracy theorist:

Pinch me a third time while we get to grips with “Eurabia”. This is a concept created by a writer called Bat Ye’or who, according to the publicity for her most recent book, “chronicles Arab determination to subdue Europe as a cultural appendage to the Muslim world-and Europe’s willingness to be so subjugated”. This, as students of conspiracy theories will recognise, is the addition of the Sad Dupes thesis to the Enemy Within idea.

Aaronovitch would know; he wrote the book entitled Voodoo Histories: the role of Conspiracy Theory in Modern History.  (Aaronovitch is no “dhimmi” as the Islamophobes would say; he produced a pro-Israeli documentary titled Blaming the Jews.)

Conspiracy Theory: The Churches of Europe are Colluding with Muslims

Bat Ye’or’s lunacy can be ascertained by some of her even more outlandish claims.  For example, she accuses the churches in Europe of being in a state of “collusion with the Muslims,” which she says have of their own volition become “Christian slave militias” that will “spearhead…the Islamic war against Christianity.”  According to her, the churches of Europe “reject…the Bible, which they read with a Koranic understanding.”  She goes on to say that European Christians “are more inclined to follow the Koranic Muslim Jesus, called Isa, than the Jewish Jesus.” Can any sober academic–or even sensible layman–take such drivel seriously?  But perhaps the reader thinks that we have taken her words out of context (after all, who could say something so crazy!), so let us reproduce her entire nonsensical answer verbatim so that her madness can be firmly established in the eyes of the reader:

JW: You’re accusing churches of collusion with the Muslims?

BY [Bat Ye'or]: Yes. Those churches know perfectly well the dire condition of Christians in Muslim lands. But instead of denouncing it, they adopt the militancy of the Janissaries, those Christian slave militias that were the spearhead of the Islamic war against Christianity. They forbid Christians to reveal the iniquities of modern dhimmitude in Arab countries, the enslavement of Christians in Sudan, the abductions and jihadic terror against innocent population. Those churches follow an arcionist theological line which separates the Gospels from the Hebrew Bible. They reject the historical legitimacy of Israel in its own land and, therefore, reject also the Bible, which they read with a Koranic understanding. They are more inclined to follow the Koranic Muslim Jesus, called Isa, than the Jewish Jesus. In my book, I call them the Islamized churches because their rejection of Israel’s history implies their refusal of the Bible and their acceptance of the Koranic version of the Bible that considers Christianity as a deformation of Islam.

This lunacy has been affirmed by another well-known loon–Daniel Pipes–who writes:

The historian Bat Ye’or, the first person to comprehend the gradual process of Europe accepting the dhimmi status, observes that this fundamental shift began with the Arab-Israeli war of 1973, when the continent began moving “into the Arab-Islamic sphere of influence, thus breaking the traditional trans-Atlantic solidarity.”

Translation: not only has Europe fallen under the Arab-Islamic sphere of influence–and not only has it become a subservient “dhimmi” to the Arab world–it is doing so willingly and of its own volition.  Riiiight, riiiight.  So Pipes is not far behind Bat Ye’or in looniness, which explains his reliance on her work.

Voice of Reason

Adam Keller, a well-known Israeli peace activist and cofounder of Gush Shalom, wrote a letter of protest to the Israeli publisher of Bat Ye’or’s book:

In 1886 the French antisemite Edouard Drumont published ‘La France Juive’ (Jewish France), creating the false nightmarish image of a France dominated by Jews, and sowing the poisonous seeds which came to fruit when Vichi French officials collaborated in the mass murder of French Jewry…

Bat Yeor’, [is] a British inflammatory writer who presumes to be a historian and who, I regret to note, is Jewish.  In this book – which, like the other works of this writer, is little more than a rabid anti-Muslim tract – ‘Bat Yeor’ follows in notorious footsteps indeed by creating the false nightmarish image of a Europe dominated by Arabs and Muslims. As Edouard Drumont sought to arouse the French people to persecute and kill their Jewish neighbours, so does Ms. Littman intend to drive Europeans into a continent-wide orgy of hatred and violence against the Muslim immigrants who are now a significant ethnic minority throughout the continent, and the great majority of whom seek nothing but to live useful and fruitful lives in their new homelands.

Ms. Littman’s reasons for writing her racist and inflammatory book are all too obvious. The reasons why you, a respectable publishing house, have chosen to present it to the Israeli public are far more obscure. Whatever these reasons might be, surely – now that you already taken this step – it would be appropriate to complete your task and produce also a companion volume, i.e. a Hebrew translation of ‘La France Juive’? After all, the informed Israeli reading public deserves to be given the chance of comparing the classical work of a master racist demagogue with that of his loyal present-day disciple and successor.

Craigh Smith of The New York Times refers to Bat Ye’or as one “of the most extreme voices” of the right:

A curious thing is happening in Belgium these days: a small but vocal number of Jews are supporting a far-right party whose founders were Nazi collaborators. The xenophobic party, Vlaams Belang, plays on fears of Arab immigrants and, unlike the prewar parties from which it is descended, courts Jewish votes…

Those fears shape some of the most extreme voices on the new Jewish right. Giselle Littman, who was expelled from Egypt in 1957 and now publishes under the pseudonym Bat Yeor, argues in her latest book, ”Eurabia: the Euro-Arab Axis,” that Europe has consciously allied itself with the Arab world at the expense of Jews and the trans-Atlantic alliance.

Johann Hari of The Independent writes of Bat Ye’or:

There are intellectuals on the British right who are propagating a conspiracy theory about Muslims that teeters very close to being a 21st century Protocols of the Elders of Mecca. Meet Bat Ye’or, a “scholar” who argues that Europe is on the brink of being transformed into a conquered continent called “Eurabia”.

In this new land, Christians and Jews will be reduced by the new Muslim majority to the status of “dhimmis” – second-class citizens forced to “walk in the gutter”. This will not happen by accident. It is part of a deliberate and “occult” plan, concocted between the Arab League and leading European politicians like Jacques Chirac and Mary Robinson, who secretly love Islam and are deliberately flooding the continent with Muslim immigrants. As Orianna Fallacci – one of the best-selling writers in Italy – has summarised the thesis in her hymns of praise to Ye’or, “Muslims have been told to come here and breed like rats.”

Rather than dismissing her preposterous assertions, high-profile writers like Melanie Phillips, Daniel Pipes and Niall Ferguson laud Ye’or as a suppressed hero, silenced by (you guessed it) “political correctness”. Her name is brandished as a gold standard in right-wing Tory circles. It’s interesting that writers so alert to anti-Semitism have lent their names to an ideology that is so startlingly similar. In this theory, the Star of David has simply been replaced by the Islamic crescent. If the term has any meaning, this is authentic Islamophobia, treating virtually all Muslims as verminous sharia-carriers. So why are these people still treated as serious and sane by the BBC and its editors?

Selective and Shoddy “Scholarship”

Bat Ye’or’s idea of history is nothing short of propaganda.  She said in one interview:

The Arab invaders arrived in [Jerusalem in] the 7th century, devastated the country, massacred and enslaved the population and expropriated the Jewish and Christian indigenous populations, as is related by contemporaneous sources.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

As for her actual work on dhimmis (Non-Muslims under Muslim rule) is concerned, it is selective and shoddy “scholarship.”  Professor Robert Brenton Betts, a well-renowned American historian who worked for the Library of Congress and the Department of State, criticizes Bet Ye’or’s book:

The general tone of the book is strident and anti-Muslim. This is coupled with selective scholarship designed to pick out the worst examples of anti-Christian behavior by Muslim governments, usually in time of war and threats to their own destruction (as in the case of the deplorable Armenian genocide of 1915). Add to this the attempt to demonize the so-called Islamic threat to Western civilization and the end-product is generally unedifying and frequently irritating.

(source: Robert Brenton Betts, “The Decline of Eastern Christianity Under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude” Middle East Policy 5-3 ; September 1997, pp. 200-2003)

Professor Michael Sells of the University of Chicago writes:

By obscuring the existence of pre-Christian and other old, non-Christian communities in Europe as well as the reason for their disappearance in other areas of Europe [due to Christian persecution], Bat Ye’or constructs an invidious comparison between the allegedly humane Europe of Christian and Enlightenment values and the ever present persecution within Islam. Whenever the possibility is raised of actually comparing circumstances of non-Christians in Europe to non-Muslims under Islamic governance in a careful, thoughtful manner, Bat Ye’or forecloses such comparison.

(source: The New Crusades: Construction the Muslim Enemy, by Professor Michael Sells, p.364)

In other words, the comparison that Bat Ye’or–and Islamophobes in general–flee from is the one between the Muslim lands in the pre-modern era with the contemporaneous Christian Europe.  Instead, they choose to compare medieval Islamdom with post-enlightenment and postmodern standards, a most unequal and unusually obtuse comparison.  Jan Platvoet sums it up best with a very nuanced answer (emphasis is mine):

Arab scholars praise the tolerance of Islam towards the ‘protected population’.  The Egyptian Qasim ‘Abduh Qasim, for instance, who has published several works on the dhimmis in Muslim lands in general, and Egypt in particular, emphasizes the positive attitude of Muslims towards non-Muslims, even under the regime of the eleventh-century Fatimid caliph al-Hakim, known for his persecution of minorities, especially the Christians.

The opposite point of view is represented by a number of researchers, notably a writer who [uses] the pseudonym Bat Ye’or, i.e. Daughter of the Nile.  She has managed to select from the body of historiographical evidence, chronicles and documents, only that material which portrays the negative aspects.  Some such materials can occasionally be found, relating to various episodes, periods, and areas; it is therefore no wonder that she has succeeded in filling a complete volume, now published in several languages, on the maltreatment of the dhimmis by Muslims.  Bat Ye’or has recently published a new book dedicated exclusively to the long history of Christians under Muslim rule; this book is characterized by the same spirit as her previous book on the dhimmis.

…It seems that the truth lies somewhere in between [Qasim and Bat Ye'or's version]…The life of the dhimmis in the shade of Islam was certainly not easy, but at least their physical security (aman) and the safety of their property was assured, almost without exception.

(Pluralism and Identity, by Jan Platvoet, p.169)

Nazi propaganda showing Jewish octopus taking over the world, not unlike image up top of Islamic crescent taking over Europe

Nazi propaganda showing Jewish octopus taking over the world, not unlike image up top of Islamic crescent taking over Europe

In other words, Bat Ye’or scours historical texts to find all the negative points she possibly can, and then she compiles them into a book.  Naturally, the span of Islamic history was over a thousand years, so she can easily fill up hundreds of pages, giving the credulous reader the false impression that Islamic history was incredibly dastardly.  To give a suitable analogy, let’s say Rodney King were to scour all the reports throughout the country for the last fifty years for all acts of police brutality–and then compiled them into a book–he could easily fill hundreds of pages.  A person who relied on his book would get the false impression that the police were–and are–always brutal, or at least more so than not.  One gets a skewed picture from such a selective analysis.

The Islamophobe Robert Spencer argues that Bat Ye’or’s book is convincing because it is “full…[of] almost half primary source documents so that one can see the voracity of what she is saying from very ancient texts.” Yet it is convincing only because it is selective and biased; Bat Ye’or simply sifted throughout Islamic history to selectively find all the instances of anti-Jewish and anti-Christian persecution, ignoring the overwhelming majority of Islamic history which was characterized according to the overwhelming number of scholars by relative tolerance (for the times, and certainly compared to Christendom); if Bat Ye’or could fill a book with her quotes, it would only be a slight exaggeration to say that we could fill an entire anthology with quotes highlighting the relative tolerance of Muslims.  Taken selectively, Bat Ye’or’s choice of quotes seem damning, but diluted within the proper context, they would be less convincing of an argument.  One can easily carry out such a hatchet job on Christian (and even Jewish) history in a similar fashion.

World renowned Jewish-Israeli historian Nissim Rejwan warns:

By way of conclusion, a word of caution is in order…It must be pointed out that the picture has not been uniformly so rosy and that instances of religious intolerance toward and discriminatory treatment of Jews under Islam are by no means difficult to find. This point is of special relevance at a time in which, following a reawakening of interest in the history of Arab-Jewish relations among Jewish writers and intellectuals, certain interested circles have been trying to…[question the] Judeo-Arabic tradition or symbiosis by digging up scattered pieces of evidence to show that Islam is essentially intolerant…and that Muslims’ contempt for Jews was even greater and more deep-seated than that manifested by Christians…

Such caricatures of the history of Jews under Islam continue to be disseminated by scholars as well as by interested publicists and ideologues. Indeed, all discussion of relations between Jews and Muslims…is beset by the most burning emotions and by highly charged sensitivities. In their eagerness to repudiate the generally accepted version of these relations (a version which, it is worthwhile pointing out, originates not in Muslim books of history but with Jewish historians and Orientalists in nineteenth-century Europe), certain partisan students of the Middle East conflict today seem to go out of their way to show that, far from being the record of harmonious coexistence it is often claimed to be, the story of Jewish-Muslim relations since the time of Muhammad was “a sorry array of conquest, massacre, subjection, spoilation in goods and women and children, contempt, expulsion-[and] even the yellow badge…”

Informed by a fervor seldom encountered in scholarly discourse, some of these latter-day historians have gone so far as to question even the motives of those European-Jewish scholars of the past century who virtually founded modern Oriental and Arabic studies and managed to unearth the impressive legacy of Judeo-Arabic culture, a culture that was undeniably an outcome of a long and symbiotic encounter between Muslims and Jews.

…[But] by the standards then prevailing-and they are plainly the only ones by which a historian is entitled to pass judgment-Spanish Islamic tolerance was no myth but a reality of which present-day Muslim Arabs are fully justified in reminding their contemporaries…Tolerance, then, is a highly relative concept, and the only sensible way of gauging the extent of tolerance in a given society or culture in a given age is to compare it with that prevailing in other societies and cultures in the same period…

The only plausible conclusion one could draw from the whole debate is that, while Jewish life in Muslim Spain-and under Islam generally-was not exactly the idyllic paradise some would want us to believe, it was far from the veritable hell that was the Jews’ consistent lot under Christendom.

Bat Ye’or: The Pioneer of “Dhimmitude”

The Usual Suspects: Bat Yeor and Robert Spencer

The Usual Suspects: Bat Ye'or and Robert Spencer

It should be noted that the Islamophobe Robert Spencer refers to Bat Ye’or as “the pioneering scholar of dhimmitude” (emphasis is ours).  The word “pioneer” indicates that she is the first to voice such views.  In other words, the traditional and long-established understanding of academics and historians is at variance with Bat Ye’or’s assessment: Muslim history was characterized by relative lenience and tolerance towards dhimmis.  (Again, all things are relative; while certainly it wouldn’t be considered tolerant to today’s standards and norms, back then it certainly was, evidenced by historical statements from the “dhimmis” themselves.)

The fact that Bat Ye’or is the first to challenge traditional and established opinion is evidenced by what J.G. Jansen, an outspoken Dutch critic of militant Islam, says:

In 1985, Bat Ye’or offered Islamic studies a surprise with her book, The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians under Islam, a convincing demonstration that the notion of a traditional, lenient, liberal, and tolerant Muslim treatment of the Jewish and Christian minorities is more myth than reality.

While Jansen’s view that Bat Ye’or’s book is “convincing” is certainly questionable coming from him, his quote is significant in that it shows that up until Bat Ye’or’s book the traditional and predominant scholarly opinion was that Islamic history was characterized by relative tolerance, certainly in comparison to contemporaneous Christendom. Bat Ye’or is after all the one who coined the term “dhimmitude,” which Islamophobes–including Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes–make recurrent use of.

The Usual Suspects: Bat Yeor and Pamela Geller

The Usual Suspects: Bat Ye'or and Pamela Geller

The fact that Bat Ye’or is the first to counter traditional opinion does not mean that the predominant view of scholars has changed, as Bat Ye’or “is still quite far from entering the European mainstream,” according to Shwartz.  But–according to Wistrich–”a real change toward her emerged in the 1990s, and especially in recent years,” as she became accepted in “extreme right-wing circles.”  It is this motley group which is trying through sheer force and fear to influence academia, and push pseudo-intellectuals like Bat Ye’or into the arena of historical discourse.  The fact that the leading Islamophobes reference her (including Robert Spencer, Daniel Pipes, and Pamela Geller) indicates the weakness of their sources, and calls to question their own credibility.

Spencer argues that it is only “political correctness” that prevents people from taking Bat Ye’or seriously; no, my Islamophobic friend, it is not political correctness, but academic integrity.  When you consider an Islamophobe to be the leading scholar of Islam in the world, then something is profoundly wrong.  Simply substitute the word “Jews” for “Muslims” in the following sentence and the matter becomes clear: “Muslims will take over Europe.”  Anyone who said that about Jews would be branded an Anti-Semite and academically ostracized, yet hey, it’s open season for Muslim-bashing!

The Bottom Line

Even if we were to accept the fallacious argument that Muslim history was characterized by profound and incessant intolerance, then what does that mean for us today?  The Mongols were historically known to be intolerant, at least the Genghis Khan variety; how should that affect our opinion of Mongolians today?  Do we discriminate against them based on their historical record?  What do the present day Mongolians have to do with those of the past?  Do people inherit sins?

The relevance of Islamic history to today’s popular discourse is questionable.  It is in fact designed to demonize Muslims, but the reality is that the question shouldn’t even arise.  Why is it that Muslims of today are on trial for what their ancestors supposedly did?  Should all nations now demand their pound of flesh from all who wronged their people in ancient times?  Maybe we should create a system of reparations…?

Then what is the end goal for Islamophobes like Bat Ye’or?  Why does she spend so much time pontificating about the historical record?  It all boils down to one thing: immigration. She has highlighted the negative aspects of Islamic history in order to push the argument for a tight control (or rather, full cessation) of Arab and Muslim immigration to Europe.  Indeed, Islamophobia is simply another flavor of xenophobia.

In every generation, there have been xenophobes, who have this irrational fear of the other.  In American history, it started with the Irish and Italian immigrants who were both heavily discriminated against due to their religion and skin color.  Then it was against the Chinese who were brought to build railroads, the Japanese in World War II, and so on.  What history has born out consistently however is that the xenophobes always end up with egg on their faces.  They are on the wrong side; tolerance and multiculturalism always win out over intolerance and bigotry.  The question is: which side are you on?

UPDATE: A related article on dhimmitude can be found here.

The Blog Wars: Charles Johnson Takes on Robert Spencer for Associating with Extremists

English Defense League Protestor

English Defense League Protester

The blog wars have heated up again. Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs, former ally and friend of Robert Spencer, exposes another instance of Spencer teaming up and hobnobbing with extremists; this time it’s the English Defense League and the Christian Action Network.

The English Defense League is an organization that claims to speak out against Islamic Extremists but many have linked them to far right organizations, football hooligans, and neo-fascists such as the BNP. The organization was founded by Jeff Marsh, a Welsh hooligan. Barth notes, “Separate from the MFE and UBA are the English and Welsh Defence League (EWDL) and Casuals United, run by the Welsh hooligan Jeff Marsh.” Read more on Jeff Marsh’s sordid past here.

In a post titled ‘English Defense League’ Riot in Birmingham, Charles Johnson writes,

And look who’s hanging out with the English Defense League now, on a tour of Britain with wacko fundamentalist nutbag Martin Mawyer and his “Christian Action Network” — none other than Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch: English Defence League Interviewed by Veteran US Anti-Gay Bigot.

It seems that Spencer was in Britain as part of a tour with the Christian Action Network. The Christian Action Network is the same organization which suggested that Hillary Clinton was a Lesbian,

The Christian Action Network (CAN), a Religious Right group based in Forest, Va., held a press conference in New York City Sept. 7 to announce plans to place ads in the New York media suggesting that Clinton is gay. The organization freely admitted that it had no hard evidence for the allegation but cited ongoing “rumors.”

Bartholomew notes,

The Christian Action Network was apparently in the UK as part of a tour with none other than Robert Spencer. In an August posting on Jihad Watch, Spencer tells us that:

I had a most illuminating dinner with a group including Douglas Murray that offered a bracing introduction to British dhimmitude: we had to move our dinner at the last minute since the proprietors of the George Restaurant didn’t like us discussing jihad and Islamization on the premises…When not getting bounced out of pubs, the intrepid Jason Campbell of the Christian Action Network and I took strolls into a few mosques

This is the same dinner which the English Defense League were invited to, as Adrian Morgan of Family Security Matters (another extreme right wing group) admits in an attempted defense of Robert Spencer, “The EDL had been invited to the George pub.” Robert Spencer wants us to believe that all this is a coincidence and is crying that he is a victim of guilt by association, which is quite rich considering how, as we have demonstrated, Spencer traffics in nothing but guilt by association. I guess this time it’s a case of Spencer not being able to take his own medicine?

Spencer responds to the accusation by Charles Johnson with a searing salvo of cheap shots and name calling. Is that any way to act for an “objective scholar?” He calls him “libelblogger,” “lying scoundrel” and calls those who are member’s of LGF “cult members.”

Robert Spencer seems to still be fuming at being outed by Charles Johnson, who many in the anti-Muslim blogsphere think of as a “traitor” for exposing Spencer’s proclivity to be an apologist for fascists as well as his joining a genocidal Faceebook club.

Robert Spencer Misrepresents Facts — Again

Uighur Boy Cries at a Protest Against Repressive Communist Policies

Uighur Boy Cries at a Protest Against Repressive Communist Policies

The indefatigable “anti-Islam blogger” Robert Spencer is at it again, if you thought he couldn’t get any lower or slimier think again! In another example of his “objective” and “unbiased” reporting and commentary on  Muslims, Spencer posts a blog titled Uighur Muslims in China Stabbing Opponents with Tainted Needles.

Uighurs are a Central Asian Turkic people (Turks you may recall are not really Robert Spencer’s favorite people).  The Uighurs are one of the minorities like the Tibetans that have suffered the most under the repressive policies of the Communist Chinese government. It is quite strange to see Spencer, a self-proclaimed “defender of Western values” find himself on the side of Communist China, but for Spencer every alliance is okay as long as it is against Muslims and “the Jihad” as defined by him.

This time Spencer reverts back to his favorite tactic of projection in which he takes an event and superimposes his own feelings and attitudes towards Islam and Muslims onto it, though it might be totally unrelated.

He writes of a “new never-before-seen” form of Jihad he has termed “syringe Jihad,”

Syringe Jihad in China. “China: Demonstrators demand security after needle attacks,” from CNN, September 3 (thanks to all who sent this in):

BEIJING, China (CNN) — Thousands of Chinese demonstrators crowded the streets of Urumqi in western China on Thursday to protest what they say is a lack of police protection, witnesses said.Over the past month, more than 400 ethnic majority Han Chinese have been stabbed with tainted syringes by Uyghurs, the Muslim minority, according to local news reports. The stabbings fueled Thursday’s protests by Han Chinese in the capital of China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.

Many of those attacked with the hypodermic needles were hospitalized, but there have been no reports of deaths, the reports said.

Fifteen suspects have been detained for allegedly carrying out the stabbings, a senior official said Wednesday, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency. Of the 15, four have been formally charged, Xinhua reported.

A source told CNN that “countless” police and soldiers have deployed to Urumqi and so far, the demonstrations have been peaceful.

A local woman told CNN that the stabbings were ethnically motivated and that government text messages to citizens have warned that the syringes contained an unknown disease….

Not “ethnically.”

Robert Spencer

Robert Spencer

Robert Spencer sees these deplorable stabbings, presumably done by Uighurs, not as an instance of ethnic unrest but as something more insidious (i.e Jihad) . He does not attribute it to the tensions that exist in Xinjiang between Han Chinese and Uighurs, a tension that has increased over the years because “Beijing offered financial incentives for ethnic Chinese migrants to come to the province and set up businesses. Now, ethnic Han Chinese dominate nearly all big businesses in the region.”

All analysts are unanimous that the unrest and animosity between the two ethnicity’s is unrelated to religion, but in contradiction to all the analysis and reports available Spencer makes the claim that the violence has “nothing to do with the tensions between the two ethnicity’s.” Instead, he implies this is an offensive by Uighur Muslims propelled by their religion to randomly and non-sensically stab non-Muslims, i.e. what he terms “syringe Jihad.”

That is the type of “scholarship,” “objective” reporting and lack of context you can expect on JihadWatch. Everything under the sun that Muslims do, or may do wrong is because they are Muslims and all of it can be linked back to Islam and Jihad.

In other news, I wonder if Robert Spencer that “defender of Western values” such as freedom of religion will report on another piece of news relating to the Uighur Muslims that came across the wire today – China’s Muslim Uyghurs Forbidden to Fast During Ramadan – for some reason I highly doubt it,

Chinese authorities in Xinjiang Province have issued a notice that any Uyghur cadres or workers found not eating lunch during Ramadan could lose their jobs.

It is part of the campaign of local authorities in Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uyghur ethnic group, to force the Uyghur people to give up their religious rituals during the fasting month of Ramadan.

Ramadan is a holy month in the Islamic calendar, which begun this year on Aug. 22. It requires not eating during the daytime.

“Free lunches, tea, and coffee—that authorities are calling ‘Care from the government’ or ‘Living allowance’—are being offered in government departments and companies. But it is actually a ploy used to find out who is fasting,” said Dilxat Raxit, World Uyghur Congress spokesman, speaking to The Epoch Times.

According to Dilxat, Uyghur Communist Party cadres throughout Xinjiang had been forced to sign “letters of responsibility” promising to avoid fasting and other religious activities. They are also responsible for enforcing the policy in their assigned areas, and face punishment if anyone in these areas fasts.

For the first time, Dilxat said, the crackdown has extended to retired Communist Party members. Current cadres are required to visit them to prevent them from participating in the fast. If anyone violates the ban, local leaders will be held responsible and severely punished, he said.

Muslim restaurant owners are forced to sign a document to remain open and continue selling alcohol during Ramadan or have their licenses revoked, he said.

Uyghurs arrested during the July riots in Urumqi are also prohibited from fasting; those who insist on fasting will be force fed food and water while enduring insults for their misbehavior, he said in the interview.

Monks in mosques are forced to preach to others that fasting is a “feudal activity” and harmful to health, said Dilxat. Otherwise, their religious certification will be cancelled.

When asked about Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Hu Jintao’s recent visit to Xinjiang, Dilxat said: “Xinjiang’s situation has not yet returned to normal. Rather than asking the local Han people to respect the religion and culture of Uyghur people, Hu encouraged the use of military troops to suppress and further restrict our religious freedom. The communist regime often talks about ‘maintaining stability,’ but what they do is always different from what they say. They are actually the ones who are destroying stability.”

An Epoch Times reporter contacted the CCP’s State Ethnic Affairs Commission to see whether the restrictions claimed by Dilxat were official, or what the official stance on Ramadan was. The media contact wouldn’t speak on the subject, instead giving two numbers in Xinjiang that he said the reporter would be able to call to find out more. Both numbers were continually busy, and when the reporter called the State Ethnic Affairs Commission back, the man hung up.

The directives are communicated on official Web sites in the region, however.

Additional reporting by Matthew Robertson

Read original article in Chinese.