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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Criticizing Islam

Ahmadi Muslims are at the forefront of the fight against radicalization.
Image Courtesy The Guardian Website

In his article in the Times entitled ‘Stand up for the right to criticize Islam’ Matt Ridley writes that there is a spectrum of religious beliefs, from spiritual to the violent extreme.  Ridley, himself a humanist, is skeptical even of the power of a moderate form of religion to bring about social justice and peace.
Ridley takes issue with PM May’s statement that terrorist acts are a ‘perversion of the great faith of Islam’. He thinks that Khalid Masood was follower of a version of Islam (not a perversion) and we must accept that as a fact. The religion of Islam must be criticized for its faults.
He then cites the oppression of women, homosexuals and suppression of science by religions (primarily Islam) to prove that religion has nothing good to offer to the society, and such practises do not deserve any respect.
I agree wholeheartedly. Well said Mr. Ridley!  If this is Islam, then I, a practicing Muslim myself will stand with you and criticize it.
But the question is; to whom should we address this criticism? God?  Prophet Muhammad? Saudi Royals? Irani Ayatollahs? Your neighbour who happens to be a Muslim?
I personally would address it to the clerics who have for generations misrepresented the scriptures, providing various violent political movements with religious sanctions to commit atrocities. As I am a Muslim who reads and understands the Quran, I will also take a position based on knowledge, not prejudice.  I know for a fact that this violent interpretation represents a fictitious faith born out of malice, human misery and selfish desires of the clergy. It is not Islam.
Mr. Ridley himself agrees.  He says, ‘The one thing they (terrorists) have in common is that they had been radicalized by religious preachers claiming to interpret the Koran.’
As my criticism has a clear target, Ridley like many others has erred in finding the right language, tone or even logic to address the issue of Islamist violent extremism.  In many cases, there is a deliberate attempt to obfuscate the facts in favour of a deeply cynical and malevolent narrative against Islam.
This is largely due to their lack of knowledge about Islam and partly due to the traditional European indoctrination against Islam. Islam has always been a ‘pretend’ religion which had nothing new to offer to the world as Pope Benedict let slip a few years ago. All the classical European historic texts take the standard stance that Prophet Muhammad was an impostor, and Muslims were a conquering force which threatened Europe for centuries. That reptilian fear reflex has been embedded so deep in the European psyche that even the atheist scholars of today can’t help this knee jerk reaction.
Take for example Mr. Ridley mentioning over 400 acid attacks in Britain. He thinks that it has something to do with sharia-enabled men disfiguring women all across the country.  The fact is that this heinous practice was a British invention, exported to other parts of the world, including the Indian subcontinent.  Most victims come from Colombia and India. But unfortunately, people have associated it with Islam. Was this an easy mistake to make? Perhaps you will think twice before calling FGM an Islamic practice. Or perhaps not!
 It is more convenient to support bigotry with fake facts these days. What about those 400 or so acid attack victims you may ask? These were mostly gang related incidents and majority of them were men. Acid attacks and FGM, just like terrorism, have nothing to do with Islam. It is all about politics, sexual and territorial, as well as that of identity. 
When it comes to people seeking the license to mock religions and their founders, Islam becomes the obvious focus of attention.  People are being killed around the Islamic world for criticizing Islam. This is also another gross perversion of Islamic teachings. It is the clerics who perpetuate these ideas, and there is no evidence, none whatsoever in the Quran to support such barbaric acts. I, like millions of my Ahmadiyya Muslim brothers and sisters around the world, criticize these clerics and their followers with proofs, arguments and with grace.  For us, Islam is free from all blame just as the God that we worship and the Prophet (Peace be upon Him) that we love and follow.
My sincere advice to Mr. Ridley and his fellow commentators is to join us in our 125 year old campaign to reform Muslims by understanding Islam and initiating a dialogue with those we disagree. Ridicule, fake facts and divisive Islamophobic propaganda is not the solution.

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