Why I am not a Muslim by Peter Meyer
As a young man, since I was a seeker after spiritual truth, I read much about religion and the various religions, including Islam, and thus I discovered Sufism (or at least, that there was a spiritual tradition of that name). I read about the Sufi quest for union with the divine, which appealed to me (and which is considered heretical by orthodox Muslims).
I also discovered the beauty of Islamic art. The geometrical designs found in Islamic art and architecture are a wonder, and some grand mosques (especially when illuminated at night) are beautiful to see. However, as noted previously, the beauty of the art (and architecture) of a religion is not evidence of the truth of its doctrines.
When one examines how Muslims live and act there are are good and bad features. The good is that there is a strict code of ethics, according to which good Muslims are honest, reliable, fair, generous and considerate of others; they do not lie, cheat or steal. Fine. I wish everyone was like that.
On the other hand, Muslims act this way (if they do) because they are are following a strict code of conduct (not just a code of ethics) which tells them how to act in all situations. There is not just a Muslim way to pray (which, in the case of the Sunnis, is the same in all mosques from Casablanca to Jakarta) there is also a Muslim way to do anything (including defecating). This code of conduct, which regulates the behavior of a strict Muslim in every way (Islam is thus a totalitarian religion), is modeled on the life of the Prophet Muhammad and subsequent Muslim religious leaders. If Muhammad did something in a certain way then that must be the right way to do it and as a good Muslim one must do it that way. Thus in Muslim societies cats are looked upon with favor but dogs are not (consequently cats far outnumber dogs) because Muhammad supposedly liked cats but disliked dogs.
As another example, in September 2008 a Moroccan mullah approved the marriage of a man to a 9-year-old girl, on the grounds that one of Muhammad's wives was nine years old when he married her. So if Muhammad is to be taken as a role model for all Muslim men, then it is OK for them to marry 9-year-old girls (presumably for reasons other than the welfare of the girl). In fairness it should be mentioned that other Moroccan mullahs condemned this decision. However, this example shows that it is (at best) ridiculous to model your life upon the behavior of someone living in 7th C. Arabia, as if the world had not changed in over a thousand years.
A characteristic of all contemporary Islamic societies is their repression of women (most extreme in Saudi Arabia, less extreme the further one is from Mecca, e.g., in Indonesia). Drawing attention to this can be fatal. In 2008 an Afghan student of journalism, Parwez Kambakhsh, was convicted of blasphemy, and sentenced to death, for asking questions in class about women's rights under Islam and for distributing an article on this subject which he had obtained from the internet. In October 2008 an Afghan appeals court commuted his sentence to 20 years imprisonment.
The repression of women in Islamic societies is most clearly apparent in the attempt (by strict Muslim women as well as men) to force all Muslim women to wear the head scarf (hijab). Supposedly Allah has decreed that women should cover their hair and wear clothing that conceals any indication that they possess breasts (and thus are women). Wearing of this attire is said to be an "obligation to Allah", and women who wear this attire are said to show "gratefulness to Allah" (for what? for living in a society where they are not free to do as they wish and must continually conform to the demands of others?). Thus women who do not wear the head scarf, or who wear clothes revealing, not the form of their breasts, but any sign that they even possess breasts, are considered by strict Muslims to be breaking "an obligation to Allah" and to be "ungrateful to Allah". This would be merely ridiculous (since Allah is a fictitious entity) were it not for the fact that women in Islamic societies are, if not forced, then seriously enjoined, to conform to this custom. It is sad to see a society in which no women are permitted to reveal their hair (they have to keep it covered entirely with the hijab) and are afraid to wear any clothing which reveals that they are women. This prudishness — this enforced prudishness — is one of the qualities of Islam which make it less than admirable.
But you don't have to be a Muslim to view the tendency of some Western women to flaunt their breasts (there's a saying, If you've got 'em, flaunt 'em) as a cheap way of attracting the attention of men as little short of shameless.
No danger of this in Muslim countries. Even in "moderate" Muslim countries such as Malaysia it is not uncommon for a man never to allow his wife to leave the house unless she is covered from head to toe in a black chador, with only a narrow slit revealing her eyes, so she can see to walk. Does the husband look upon his wife at home naked, and gloat that he, only he, can ever view any part of her body apart from her eyes, hands and feet? In Afghanistan, and in some parts of North India, Muslim women are generally not allowed out in public unless they are wearing a burkha which does not even have a slit for the eyes; instead the woman must view the world through a small mesh. This is an inhumane, barbaric, disgraceful and shameful imposition upon women in Muslim countries, and (since there is no distinction in Islam between religion and society) reveals Islam as a religion which degrades women to mere property owned by men, thereby rendering it contemptible in the eyes of Westerners.
Muslims generally are presented in the Western media in a bad light (in contrast to the taboo against any criticism of Israel). This says less about Muslims than it does about the Western media, namely, that is is controlled by Zionists (who wish to demonize Muslims so as to whip up American hysteria for Middle Eastern wars against countries perceived to be a possible threat to Israel). Muslims, as with Jews, Christians, etc., should be free to practice whatever religion they wish (or none, if they can finally overcome their childhood conditioning). My observations concerning Islam presented in this article are not meant to encourage anti-Muslim sentiment; they are presented simply to explain why I am not a Muslim (and would not wish to become one).
Muslims believe that the prescription for an ideal human society has been revealed by Allah in the Koran. Thus there is, and can be, no distinction in Islam between "sacred" and "secular" or between "church" and "state".
The Muslim state, ideally conceived, is a religious polity, established and maintained under divine law. Its sovereignty derives from God; its sovereign, the Caliph, is entrusted with the duties of upholding Islam and of enabling Muslims to live the good Muslim life. In this society the distinction between secular and religious is unknown — in law, in jurisdiction, or in authority. Church and state are one and the same, with the Caliph as head. Where the basis of identity and cohesion in society, the bonds of loyalty and duty in the state, are all conceived and expressed in religious terms, the familiar Western distinction between religion and politics — between religious and political attitudes and activities — becomes irrelevant and unreal. — Bernard Lewis, The Assassins, p.21
The distinction between church and state is fundamental to modern Western society. Thus the political values of the modern West and of Islam are irreconcilable. It is not possible, e.g., to uphold the values of French society and to be a Muslim at the same time. Many Muslims in Europe (and indeed in any country where there is a significant number of Muslims, e.g., Australia) aspire to the creation of enclaves under the rule of sharia law. These would be no-go zones for non-Muslims, and in effect mean the loss of territory to the host state. By allowing millions of Muslims to settle in Western Europe — originally at the request of Western capitalists (no doubt accompanied by financial inducements to legislators) for an ongoing supply of cheap labor — European governments have imported a time bomb which may ultimately destroy European society.
Today, the long clash between Christendom and Islam is still evident in the political and ethnic geography of Europe ... Today, the borders of many European countries, Canada, and the United States are practically wide open, and the old enemy is invited to come in and make himself at home. And many 'Christians' in the West are just too busy enjoying their material prosperity to be bothered with unpleasant history. But the enemy has not forgotten history. He remembers it all too well, and he is still deadly serious about his religion. His goal over the years has not changed in the slightest, and he is very patient. The enemy within is now smiling, just biding his time. ... The final chapter, it seems, has yet to be written... — Robert McMullen, Remember Lepanto!
Muslims often claim that Islam is "a religion of peace". This is not true. There are some passages in the Koran which suggest this (presumably in the suras delivered before Muhammad's new religion ran into significant opposition) but later passages suggest that recalcitrant unbelievers should be dealt with harshly. And it should not be forgotten that Buddhism was finally destroyed in India around 1300 CE largely as a result of wholesale slaughter of Buddhist monks (with destruction of monasteries and burning of libraries) carried out by fanatical Muslim invaders from Afghanistan (with assistance in earlier centuries from fanatical Hindus), though probably some of those monks were just freeloaders, parasites upon the rest of society. Then in the 17th C. the Muslim emperor Aurangzeb carried out a campaign of destruction of Hindu temples in South India. Presumably his aim was "peace" — though only after Hinduism had been wiped out.
"Islam" means "submission", more exactly, submission to the will of God (Allah), and a "Muslim" is "one who submits". One who submits has thus given control of his life over to something else, in this case, to the decrees of the mullahs who interpret the Koran and to the social customs characteristic of Islamic societies. A Muslim is thus not a free person. It is thus hard to see how anyone who values their freedom could remain a Muslim, still less convert to that religion.
Muslims are fatalists, since they believe that everything happens according to the will of God, and nothing happens unless God wills it (Inshallah). This is a prescription for the abrogation of personal responsibility. Strictly speaking, one cannot be held responsible for one's actions if everything happens because Allah wills it to be so. (Of course, this does not prevent thieves being punished under sharia law by having their right hand cut off — actually quite a deterrent to potential thieves.) And if something doesn't go according to plan, well, it's the will of Allah. Maybe tomorrow, Inshallah.
Islam is a grim religion. Of the five religions considered here, Islam is the most intolerant and the most puritanical. (A puritan is someone who worries constantly that someone, somewhere, may be having a good time.) In January 2010 Malaysia's "Islamic morality police" arrested dozens of Muslims for the crime of "khalwat", or "close proximity", under a sharia law that prohibits Muslims from being alone with a member of the opposite sex before marriage.
It is not just the Taliban that seeks to ban singing and dancing. When Muslims gained political power in the Malaysian state of Kelantan in the 1990s they banned several forms of traditional performing arts, including costumed dance/drama and shadow puppetry (mostly based on themes from the Hindu Ramayana), on the grounds that these were non-Islamic, thereby depriving a generation of Kelantanese of their own cultural traditions.
Then there is Ramadan. During the month of Ramadan a Muslim must not eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. This is especially burdensome when Ramadan occurs during the summer in hot countries. This religious requirement forces Muslim families to get up at 4 a.m. in the morning so they can have breakfast before the sun rises. It disrupts whole societies for a whole month. The reason, it is is said, is so Muslims can appreciate the plight of the poor who have little to eat. While fasting for a day or two from time to time may be a good thing, this month-long self-denial of food and drink during the daytime is imposed on everyone (except those excused due to ill-health). Muslims do not have a choice whether to fast during Ramadan; they must do it, or else face censure from other Muslims. This is an example of the totalitarian nature of Islam. There is no place in Islam for individual freedom. A Muslim's every deed, word and thought is determined by his submission to the religion. To someone who values the idea of individual liberty, this is repulsive.
The preceding is sufficient to explain why I am not a Muslim. But basically I am not a Muslim because to be a Muslim it is both necessary and sufficient (regardless of which Muslim tradition a person belongs to) to believe two things: (i) There is a god (who calls himself "Allah"), and just one god, who created mankind and who decreed how people should live their lives. (ii) A 7th C. Arab named "Muhammad" was the messenger who conveyed to all of mankind the decrees of Allah. I believe neither of these.
There is simply no evidence of the existence of Allah beyond the assertions of Muhammad and the claims of all those since him who have believed what he said. It is said that Muhammad received revelations, claimed to be from Allah. These were spoken to Muhammad by an entity named "Gabriel" and subsequently codified in the form of the Koran. (Actually, on his first appearance, Gabriel showed Muhummad a book, and asked him to read. But apparently Gabriel or Allah was not aware, or had forgotten, that the future Prophet was illiterate. So Muhammad had to memorize what Gabriel said to him.) But if all who hear voices were to found religions then we would have more religions than we could count.
And assuming that Muhammad actually did hear a voice speaking to him, one which was totally convincing to him (so that his level of conviction was enough to convince others), what do we know of the origin of this voice? It might have been some malevolent spirit, who actually wished to do harm to mankind by subjecting humans to limiting and stultifying beliefs. It might have been an extraterrestrial intent upon foisting upon mankind an ideology by which to control humans (as has been suggested by William Bramley in his book The Gods of Eden), to make them into little more than manipulable robots whose programmed behavior is entirely predictable. Thus even if Muhammad was a messenger, and even if the source of that message was something outside of Muhammad's own mind, we do not know what the source of that message was. Would you believe just anyone who came up to you and delivered the contents of a "revelation" that they had received?
But, of course, Muhammad was not "just anyone". But then neither was Jesus (if he existed), Zoroaster, Moses, John of Patmos (Revelation), John Dee (Enochian Keys), Emmanuel Swedenborg (Heaven and Hell), Baha'u'llah (Bahai), Joseph Smith Jr. (Mormonism), Aleister Crowley (Thelema), Alice Baily (Ascended Masters), Benjamin Creme (more Ascended Masters), L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology), J. Z. Knight (Ramtha), Ken Carey (Starseed Transmissions), the authors of the Urantia Book and many others who have claimed to have received messages from a supernatural source. They can't all be right.
But even assuming the existence of "Allah" — the entity who authored the messages delivered to Muhammad (which were later written up in the Koran) — there is reason to believe that this entity is not great, supremely intelligent, all-powerful, merciful and compassionate, as Muslims believe. Intellectual incompetence is suggested by the nature of the Islamic Calendar (traced back, as all things Islamic, to the Koran, in this case, surah 9, verses 36-37), whose years (each consisting of twelve lunar cycles) are shorter than seasonal years (by about eleven days). In every 100 years of the Islamic Calendar the summer solstice occurs only 97 times. This calendar is (to put it kindly) seriously flawed.
That "Allah" is either incompetent or malicious is suggested by the fact of the sectarian division between Sunnis and Shias. If everything happens according to the will of Allah, then it was Allah's will that the third Caliph, Uthman, be murdered while at prayer. And it was Allah's will that Uthman's successor Ali (the cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet) be murdered by one of his own soldiers. And it was Allah's will that Ali's sons, Hassan and Hussein, be killed at the Battle of Karbala. And it was Allah's will that these murders (and related events) gave rise to a split within Islam which has resulted in centuries of hatred and conflict, and in recent memory the Sunni vs. Shia Iraq-Iran War of 1980-88 (somewhat inconsistent with the idea of Islam as "a religion of peace"). Every year at Ashoura Shias conduct hate-fests in which they remember the murders of Hassan and Hussein and denounce "the treacherous Sunnis". If all this was Allah's intention (and since he created and ordains everything then it must have been) then it seems he is not the great and compassionate being that Muslims believe.
But lest I should be misunderstood, I wish to make it clear that I do not regard Allah as either incompetent or malicious. Rather Allah is a figment of the Prophet's imagination which has been propagated down through the centuries through the minds of millions of believers — with huge (and unfortunate) effects on the societies in which most of those believers lived and live today.
Of course, something very similar is true of the Judeo-Christian God, the main difference being that this figment of the imagination did not originate with just one man but with many over a period of centuries.
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