Nathan Bauman at Port Coquitlam Odysseus has linked to a fascinating interview with Mosab Hassan Yousef—son of a founding member of Hamas. Mr. Yousef has written a book about his journey from terrorist to counterterrorist, concomitant with a parallel spiritual journey from Islam to Christianity. He also has some potent words to say about his former religion:
Do you consider your father a fanatic? “He’s not a fanatic,” says Mr. Yousef. “He’s a very moderate, logical person. What matters is not whether my father is a fanatic or not, he’s doing the will of a fanatic God. It doesn’t matter if he’s a terrorist or a traditional Muslim. At the end of the day a traditional Muslim is doing the will of a fanatic, fundamentalist, terrorist God. I know this is harsh to say. Most governments avoid this subject. They don’t want to admit this is an ideological war.
“The problem is not in Muslims,” he continues. “The problem is with their God. They need to be liberated from their God. He is their biggest enemy. It has been 1,400 years they have been lied to.”
— Kaminski, Matthew. “‘They Need to Be Liberated From Their God’.” Wall Street Journal, 6 March 2010.
Mr. Yousef has certainly cut to the heart of the matter. And he is correct that governments have shied away from addressing fanatical ideology, even though it is the causal factor that breeds homegrown and international Islamism.
A couple of months ago, a young Muslim woman wrote to me in response to a previous post on Islam and women. She argued that Christianity and Western nations also had a fairly horrible track record with regard to equality of women, and that this really only began to be addressed quite recently, in the late 19th and 20th centuries. And she would be correct insofar as that goes; I readily conceded that point.
But the focus of that post was not that Christianity (nor any other religion) had a perfect, spotless record when it came to women’s dignity and equality—it doesn’t. My point was that unequal and second-class treatment were built into the example of Islam’s founder, Mohammed. I confined myself to reviewing notable misdeeds in Mohammed’s history which have no parallels in Christ; in this I hoped to foster an understanding of why other religions may self-improve and refine their doctrines dealing with women, but Islam cannot.
At its best, religion reconnects us with the Divine and broadens our perspective beyond the parochial self. It civilises us, sanding down our rough edges; a benefit for individual believers, certainly, also one for our families, friends, neighbours and colleagues. But all religions are also—in varying degrees—at odds with certain aspects of human nature, so individually and collectively, humans are constantly falling short of the mark.
Islam is unique, however, in some critical areas. Instead of exhorting us toward better behaviour, it can also be used to give licence—via the example of Mohammed himself—to some of humanity’s worst impulses.
- Sex with children (Mohammed’s third wife Aisha bint Abu Bakr was either nine or ten when her marriage was consummated).
- The rape of captured civilian women (wives Rayhana bint Zayd ibn ‘Amr and Safiyya bint Huyayy) after the torture and killing of their husbands and fathers mere hours beforehand.
- Murder of political/religious opponents (Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf).
- Permission to lie in service of the faith—the precursor to Shia taqqiya doctrine (Muhammad ibn Maslamah, commissioned to lie in order to murder above-mentioned Ka’b ibn al-Ashraf).
Not too many religions have founders who sought and were granted such wide latitude to commit violent acts without repentance. Violence is an integral part of Mohammed’s example, and this is what will make radical strains of Islam so very difficult to eradicate. This aspect of the ideology will have to be acknowledged and combated; to place it off-limits is to prematurely concede defeat.