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I asked a very peaceful sounding Muslim, Mr T J Bowes, whether he would sign Harry Richardson’s Declaration of Peaceful Intent:

“I,………………………………………… (name)
understand that there are commands in the Quran which compel Muslims to kill, behead, crucify or commit unprovoked violence against non-Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists or apostates from Islam. I fully, completely, unequivocally, 100% reject, and refuse to practice or teach any of these commands. I believe these commands from Allah are not applicable, not relevant and should not be practiced in any form in today’s world by anyone.”

I had written a previous blogpost on the subject HERE and he responded in the form of a blog post of his own HERE.

I will examine the parts of it which seem relevant to my concerns (Australian treatment of Aborigines and British firebombing of Dresden do not, since as far as I am aware no one has ever suggested that they were religiously commanded).

“If I am perfectly honest, I think my adversary will have difficulty finding anyone to sign Mr Richardson’s so-called Declaration of Peaceful Intent in its current form, given the way it is framed: the signatory is asked to agree that there are “commands” which “compel”, and further, to commit “unprovoked” violence.

In my earlier blog post I too balked at the words “commands” and “compel” but Mr Bowes and I part company over the phrase “unprovoked violence”. I suggested dropping the word “unprovoked” because any jihadi would regard rejecting Allah as provocation enough, and therefore it is redundant.

It appears though that it is the word “unprovoked” which Mr Bowes sees as important. In fact his entire reason for rejecting the Declaration turns on it. I hope I’m not putting words into his mouth but he appears to understand the Koran as calling for “provoked violence” in some circumstances ie defensive, but only defensive, violence – with that call still being active today as well as just historically.

“But of course, this is not the position of Muslims everywhere. It is true that some Muslims believe that verses of the Qur’an can be read as isolated commands, hewn of all context, be it the preceding verses or the book as a whole. However, that is certainly not the position of all. For example, Surah al-Tawba [ie sura 9] is held by most to refer to a historical episode between the Muslims of Medina and the hostile Meccan forces who breached the peace treaty of Hudaybiyya. That is the position of many scholars of tafsir such as Razi, Zamakhshari, Baydawi, Nasafi and Biqai, and of many contemporary scholars too.

As it happens I totally agree with the claim that the so-called “jihad verses” to be found in sura 9 and elsewhere in the Koran refer to historical episodes between the Muslims of Medina and Meccan or other enemy forces.

But that has no bearing on whether the battles Mohammed fought were provoked (ie defensive) or unprovoked (ie offensive). There is no way of knowing whether the Meccan forces did actually breach the peace treaty of Hudaybiyya or whether Mohammed invented it as a pretext for war. What the Koran presents is of course “victors’ history”. Mr Bowes believes that version to be true but states it not as a belief but as a fact.

“Contextually these verses are not talking about initiating “unprovoked violence” but about responding to a specific group of people that declared war on them. A Muslim who holds this position, therefore, is not going to find himself able to sign a declaration which states the very opposite.

I must admit I had not anticipated that response although I should have because I have seen the same claim made elsewhere. To take that position he “categorically rejects the doctrine of abrogation, which allows aggressors to ignore verses which clearly call for restraint”.

It seems to me that he must also:

1. Discount the many aggressive hadiths in Bukhari, Muslim etc.

2. Discount the Sira since ibn Ishaq, at least, has Mohammed engaging in a great deal of unprovoked violence.

3. Discount the fact that after Mohammed’s death his companions, who presumably knew his intentions best, immediately engaged in unprovoked violence against local tribes wishing to reconsider their commitment to Islam (after all, there is no compulsion in religion is there?) and then attacked their neighbours to East and West.

4. Discount the various establishment figures in Islam who took it quite for granted that jihad means both defensive and offensive warfare…eg ibn Kathir, ibn Khaldun, al-Ghazali etc.

5. Discount the rulings of the four main Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and the Shia ones too, so I believe.

As an aside, apart from all the violence referred to above, there is also the violence promised by Allah throughout the Koran to unbelievers. Yes, you and I regard it as only imaginary but (presumably) Mr Bowes doesn’t since he (also presumably) believes the Koran is Allah speaking for himself. I would call the violence awaiting us in Jahannam unprovoked, unless simply declining to believe in Allah is sufficient justification to warrant an eternity of fire, boiling water, branding of flanks, beating with hooked rods of iron, garments of pitch and hanging by the breasts….I’m lucky, I miss out on that last one.

prince-charles-1

This of course has no direct bearing on the kind of physical violence in this world with which the Declaration is concerned, but Allah sets the tone with the sadistic violence he likes to inflict on unbelievers in the hereafter.

“For my part, I will gladly declare:

A Muslim (or indeed anyone) should only fight those that fight them, and if they do, they should not transgress limits. A Muslim must not be an aggressor.

In a legitimate war, Muslims (or indeed anyone) must engage specifically with those who fought them, i.e. soldiers in combat. Targeting civilians is absolutely out of the question. I don’t subscribe to the principle of collateral damage; civilians should never be deliberately targeted in any conflict.

If the army they are fighting ceases hostility, then likewise the Muslim (or indeed anyone) should also cease fighting. If they incline to peace, then likewise the Muslim should incline to peace.

I dislike war, but I acknowledge that sometimes it is necessary to prevent aggression, oppression and greater harm, and that in those cases warfare has to be described in uncompromising terms.

It never ceases to amaze me how peacefully inclined Muslims pick and choose the bits they like from the Islamic texts while accusing people like me of “cherry picking” and “taking out of context”. It seems to demand a remarkable level of mental dexterity but there we are, the above is what Mr Bowes and a great many other Muslims appear to believe.

That being so, I assume he wouldn’t even be able to agree to either of the options in my suggested all-purpose, declaration:

“I affirm…
that there are no calls to violence in the scriptures of my faith
OR
that any calls to violence in the scriptures of my faith are purely of historical interest and carry no prescriptive force today”.

Looking at his version of an acceptable declaration, I imagine that he would be willing to agree to this:

“I affirm that there are no calls to aggressive or unprovoked violence in the scriptures of my faith”

Or perhaps I am wrong even there.

But assuming I am right, it seems to me that he provides no effective criterion to distinguish between himself and the jihadis since they can plausibly quote Islamic scriptures to show that violence against non-Muslims is always defensive or justified, just as Osama bin Laden did *.

In that case it appears to me that there is only a different interpretation of the word “unprovoked” between him and those he calls his enemy. I wonder if he can produce a snappy, one sentence distinction between them and himself, something he could agree to and they could not. Wouldn’t it be helpful from both his point of view and mine to do so?

If we cannot agree on a formulation which, at least conceptually, captures the difference then it does not bode well either for Harry Richardson’s project or, more importantly, for long term relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

* Those with a taste for this kind of thing will appreciate the novel version offered just recently by none other than the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman. He said in an interview with the Atlantic magazine:

“God, in Islam, gives us two responsibilities…Our second duty as Muslims is to spread the word of God. For 1,400 years, Muslims have been trying to spread the word of God. In the Middle East, in North Africa, in Europe, they weren’t allowed to spread the word. That’s why they fought to spread the word”.

Indeed. What else could they have done?

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The Declaration of Peaceful Intent

We often hear from Islamic apologists, Muslim and non-Muslim, that the calls to jihad in the Koran are merely “contextual” ie that they relate specifically to the situation Mohammed found himself in during his time in Medina, after which they lapsed.

There is also the “universalist” interpretation to be found throughout the Islamic tradition. The Islamic historian Bernard Lewis puts it like this:

“The basis of the obligation of jihad is the universality of the Muslim revelation. God’s words and God’s message is for all mankind; it is the duty of those who have accepted them to strive (jihada) unceasingly to convert or at least subjugate those who have not. This obligation is without limit of time or space. It must continue until the whole world has either accepted the Islamic faith or submitted to the power of the Islamic state.”

It does not take a genius to work out that Muslims who espouse the latter interpretation are likely to pose a lethal threat to any non-Muslim society, while those who espouse the former are not. The problem is how to distinguish between them. When a Muslim claims to believe the contextual interpretation how can we ever know whether he is genuine or just duping us?

In Australia Harry Richardson has come up with a practical test, asking Muslims to sign a statement to the effect that the verses calling for violence are no longer relevant:

The Declaration of Peaceful Intent

Renunciation of the Quran’s Violent Commands as not applicable for today:

I,………………………………………… (name)

of…………………………………………………………………

…………………………………..(address)

understand that there are commands in the Quran which compel Muslims to kill, behead, crucify or commit unprovoked violence against non-Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists or apostates from Islam. I fully, completely, unequivocally, 100% reject, and refuse to practice or teach any of these commands. I believe these commands from Allah are not applicable, not relevant and should not be practiced in any form in today’s world by anyone.

Signed:

Witnessed:

Date:

Before you ask, yes he has produced a similar statement for Christians and Jews.

I must admit to having reservations about the texts.

Firstly, the phrase “which compel” is in the present tense. A genuinely peaceful Muslim could legitimately object that the Declaration is assuming the universalist interpretation by referring to the present. Also, the words “command” and “compel” are quite strong in themselves. Do they not invite the “My Lord who gave me free will does not command or compel…” sort of quibble? How about a more neutral phrasing such as “…there are verses in the Quran calling on Muslims to kill…etc”.

Secondly, no supporter of jihad ever thinks violence towards non-Muslims is unprovoked. In their thinking merely rejecting Allah is a provocation deserving death. Why not just leave out the word “unprovoked”?

Thirdly, there is the question of balance. While the Declaration for Muslims throws the kitchen sink at the Koran, the Declaration for Jews and Christians goes surprisingly easy on the Bible. It mentions only the commands to kill non-Israelites. Presumably this refers to the genocidal attacks on tribes who happened to be in the Israelites’ way at the time such as the Canaanites and Amalekites. Any suggestion that these commands might be seen as still being operative today can be easily dismissed for the simple reason that the Israelites generally left no survivors to worry about in perpetuity.

On the other hand a cursory look through the Old Testament will reveal commands to kill various other groups of people including sorceresses, adulterers, those who curse their parents, and worshippers of other gods. There are still plenty of them about. Don’t they count?

As a trivial aside, I wonder why Richardson spells “practised” the American rather than the Australian/British way.

Here is an interview he had with a local Muslim community leader, Ali Kadri:


No doubt many people would expect the interviewee to accept the Declaration whether he agreed with it or not (taqiyya and all that), but the surprising thing is that he didn’t. Instead he squirmed this way and that to avoid agreeing to what, details apart, should be an uncontroversial statement. He is after all receiving Australian tax dollars to de-radicalise jihadis in prison. We have to wonder what he is telling them.

Richardson goes further, suggesting that the Declaration could form the basis of a Statutory Declaration, giving it some legal force:


Would it be unreasonable to expect any imam, any Muslim immigrant, any Muslim teacher, any Muslim prison chaplain or any Muslim involved in government de-radicalisation programmes to sign it, or something like it? Why should any peace loving Muslim object?

This approach is not going to be applied any time soon but perhaps, after enough atrocities have forced our leaders to seriously address the problem of how to tell peaceful Muslims from dangerous ones, they will get over their reluctance to discriminate against a religion which discriminates against us.

Here is how the “Stat Dec” might be used as part of a rational response to Global Jihad. If someone is unwilling to sign it then off they would go to somewhere far from our Christmas markets, pop concerts and nuclear power stations until such time that any one of 57 OIC states will accept them.

On the other hand if someone is willing to sign it then any later action clearly showing that they dissembled, for instance praying for “victory over the kuffar” at their local mosque, would qualify them to join the other group.

Here is another example. The Saudi backed Hilali Khan translation of the Koran (aka the Wahhabi Koran) is widely disseminated throughout the western world, courtesy of all those Saudi funded mosques. Any imam or individual using it must surely be under the impression that jihad is “without limit of time or space”, and would therefore also qualify.

Here are two verses from it with the translators’ interpolations showing why:

“And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war (tanks, planes, missiles, artillery, etc.) to threaten the enemy of Allah and your enemy, and others besides whom, you may not know but whom Allah does know. And whatever you shall spend in the Cause of Allah shall be repaid unto you, and you shall not be treated unjustly.” (8:60)

”And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world]. But if they cease (worshipping others besides Allah), then certainly, Allah is All-Seer of what they do.” (8:39)

And, putting the matter beyond doubt, here is a footnote to verse 2:190 to be found in the paper edition (note the present tense throughout):

”Al-Jihad (holy fighting) in Allah’s Cause (with full force of numbers and weaponry) is given the utmost importance in Islam and is one of its pillars (on which it stands). By Jihad Islam is established. Allah’s Word is made superior, (His Word being La ilaha illaliah which means none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and His Religion (Islam) is propagated. By abandoning Jihad (may Allah protect us from that) Islam is destroyed and the Muslims fall into an inferior position; their honour is lost, their lands are stolen, their rule and authority vanish. Jihad is an obligatory duty in Islam on every Muslim, and he who tries to escape from this duty, or does not in his innermost heart wish to fulfil this duty, dies with one of the qualities of a hypocrite.”

Stepping back from discriminatory legal remedies, are there other ways in which the idea of the Declaration could be used to good effect right now? How about creating a cut down version applicable to all religions (with an option to allow for Buddhists and Jains); something as simple as this:

I affirm…
that there are no calls to violence in the scriptures of my faith     
[   ]
OR
that any calls to violence in the scriptures of my faith are purely of historical interest and carry no prescriptive force today     
[   ]

Could any religious leader in the world object to signing that? Perhaps it should be a necessary requirement for engaging in interfaith dialogue groups. If the rabbi and the priest turn up with theirs and only one participant won’t sign, that would be an eye opener for all concerned, including well meaning but possibly naive lay people in the wider world.

If, on the other hand, Muslim leaders readily agree to sign then it would go some way towards creating the atmosphere of real trust which is so sorely missing today.

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The mysterious disappearing Reliance

reliance

This is a follow up to a recent blog post about Nuh Ha Mim Keller’s translation of the Reliance of the Traveller.

In it I gave a link to a copy of the PDF version of the Reliance on Archive.org which has since gone down, leaving an error message about missing metadata files. That sounds like a technical fault but Archiv.org have not responded to queries and some people who are familiar with the Reliance had predicted it would not last long.

Over the last two or three years I can think of at least three copies of the PDF which have disappeared from the internet. One hosting site left the explanation that the copyright holders were threatening legal action. It seems likely then that the Archiv.org copy, which was the last version left, has joined the list and will not be reappearing any time soon.

Moreover, an Islamic book site (also now apparently taken down) left a curious message against the entry for the book:

“Reliance of the Traveller (‘Umdaat Ul Salik)
TEMPORARILY REMOVED BY REQUEST OF NUH KELLER
until we provide a better translation than Nuh Keller’s”

What does he mean by a better translation? There certainly are those who question its accuracy. In his book The Third Choice Mark Durie gives examples of Keller putting a deceptively positive spin on items in the text, eg:

“Keller reports that a ‘non-Muslim may not enter the … Haram’ (the sacred precinct in Mecca). What the Arabic actually says is ‘idolater’ (mushrik) (o11.7), which is a more offensive term.”

Perhaps Keller regretted misleading Western readers by softening the text and wishes to put things right. Perhaps, but more likely he just realised that his book, giving such a clear view of the horrors of Islamic Law, is more useful to the counter jihad side than to the fellow Muslims he wrote it for, and simply wants to remove it from critical eyes. This could be a rare example of an Islamic apologist no-platforming himself.

IMHO the three most crucial books for helping non-Muslims get to the core of Islam are, in order:

1.  The Koran, of course. This presentation graphically shows Mohammed’s progress from disregarded prophet in Mecca to all-conquering warlord in Medina (Allah remains the same sadistic ogre throughout though).

2.  Alfred Guillaume’s The Life Of Muhammad, the translation of ibn Ishaq’s biography detailing Mohammed’s use of robbery, assassination, rape, torture and genocide in his drive toward power. And ibn Ishaq was a fan!

3.  The Reliance of the Traveller. According to the great scholar Joseph Schacht Islamic law is not merely one aspect of Muslim civilization but “the epitome of the Islamic spirit, the most typical manifestation of the Islamic way of life, the kernel of Islam itself.” There are translations of other manuals of Islamic law, such as the Hedaya and the Risala, but neither are as clear and so cannot take non-Arabic speakers into the kernel of Islam like the Reliance.

And now the familiar PDF, basically a scan of the book, has disappeared from the internet. This is a huge loss to the counter jihad community who quote it liberally.

Except….it’s not quite gone. Recently two different transcriptions have appeared:
one in PDF format again
and
one as a WordPress site.

They both have their advantages. The PDF version allows the reader to jump from entries in the tables of contents to the relevant sections. The WordPress version is easier to copy text from.

Hopefully other presentations will appear on other platforms, constantly replacing those which are closed down…as they will be. Probably we can look forward to an indefinite game of whack-a-mole with Keller as the whacker and enterprising counter jihadists as the moles. Good luck to us all. Let us keep the Reliance out there for the benefit of those who have not yet discovered what Sharia Law really means, and remember to keep our heads down.

Converting to Islam

convert

When I look at Islam I see only a sadistic ogre who thinks the world is flat, a cynical or delusional warlord with big ambitions, and a cult which mandates death for anyone leaving or criticising it.

But other people see something entirely different, so different that they convert to it (or as Muslims prefer to say revert since all babies are born Muslim and it is just their Christian or Buddhist or atheist parents who lead them astray). Do they see something which most people are unable to appreciate, or is it more that they manage not to see things which are blindingly obvious to the rest of us?

Here are some conversion accounts displaying different aspects of the phenomenon.

Firstly the Intellectuals.

Arnold Yasin Mol is a Dutch convert, theologian and teacher of Islamic Studies. He says in this interview with historian Andrew Holt:

“It was at Leiden University where I fell in love with classical Islamic theology (ilm al-Kalam) and exegesis (tafsir)…The rational theologians (called the Ahl al-Kalam), philosophers, and legal scholars (especially of the Hanafi school), finally made me feel at home in the 1400 years of Islamic community and tradition.”

Burhan al-Din al-Marghinani was an important Hanafi legal scholar, presumably one of those Mol so admires. He wrote the highly influential Hanafi manual of Islamic law, the Hedaya.

The interview with Holt happens to be about homosexuality which Mol says is considered a crime in the Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali schools of jurisprudence but not the Hanafi one (because zina only includes heterosexual acts). This is true as you can see from Chapter 1 of the Hedaya, “Of Zinna, or Whoredom” (p.1). So the Hanafi school is more compatible with modern Western views on this issue.

But I am primarily concerned with Islamic attitudes towards infidels, specifically with regard to jihad. On p.154 of the Hedaya it says:

“War must be carried on against the infidels, at all times, by some party of the Mussulmans. The sacred injunction concerning war is sufficiently observed when it is carried on by any one party or tribe of the Mussulmans; and it is then no longer of any force with respect to the rest. It is established as a divine ordinance, by the word of God, who has said, in the Koran ‘SLAY THE INFIDELS’; and also by a saying of the prophet, ‘war is permanently established until the day of judgment’.”

This passage is particularly interesting because it answers the question sometimes raised by Islamic apologists “If Islam commands jihad then why aren’t all Muslims doing it”?

But more importantly it shows the Hanafi school aligned with the other schools on this issue, as we see from The Reliance of the Traveller, the Shafi’i equivalent of the Hedaya:

o9.1 “Jihad is a communal obligation. When enough people perform it to successfully accomplish it, it is no longer obligatory upon others.”
o9.8 “The caliph makes war upon Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians until they become Muslim or else pay the non Muslim poll tax [ie jizya].”
o9.9 “The caliph fights all other peoples until they become Muslim.”

I wonder what Mol’s position is on the Hedaya passage. If he accepts it as valid then he is declaring himself my potential enemy. If he does not then I would be keen to know what has changed in the last 800 years to render it no longer of concern to non-Muslims. Perhaps I’ll ask him.

[ Update: I did ask him and he was good enough to send me this link to the Open Letter to Baghdadi, from a group of Islamic scholars, with his commentary.

Unfortunately I could not find anything in the section on jihad which either specifically, or by extrapolation, answered my question about the Hedaya. It appears from Mol’s commentary that some scholars think jihad is only defensive and some think it can be offensive, some think jihad is historically limited and some think it is forever. Therefore you can pick and choose according to taste as Mol does from his Hanafi perspective, as the signatories of the letter do from their perspective and ISIS do from theirs.

If you are really interested in the Open Letter I suggest reading Robert Spencer’s dissection of it here. ]

Nuh Ha Mim Keller is an American convert, and translater of the Shafi’i manual of Islamic Law, The Reliance of the Traveller mentioned above. He recounts his long journey from doubts about Christianity to certainty within Islam here.

In the process he visits Schopenhauer, Nietzsche and Sartre and comes to the conclusions that the twentieth century “could no longer answer a single ethical question”, and that “without revealed religion no valid objection could be raised to the strong eating the weak”.

He found certainty but we might ask whether he found the morality he was looking for. Why? Because of the content of The Reliance of the Traveller which, elsewhere, he says he translated “out of personal need for a shari’a manual, to know and practice Islam in my own life”.

Here are a selection of rulings from it.

Just as examples, on what moral basis does it mandate the mutilation of young girls’ genitals (section e4.3) or the execution of believers who don’t keep up with their prayers (section f1.4)? None at all except that Mohammed reportedly once said something to that effect.

There was a time when Keller struggled with the moral relativism of the West. I suspect, or at least hope, that in those days he would have reacted with horror at such injunctions. But no longer. He has submitted to Allah and the arbitrary moral absolutism of “If Mohammed said it, it’s okay”. I do not call that morality at all but rather a complete abdication of moral responsibility, on a par with “I was only following orders”. What do you think?

Here is another conversion account, by Timothy Winter (aka Abdal Hakim Murad), a British convert and Islamic scholar at Cambridge University.

It consists of the familiar tale of teenage alienation and disenchantment with Christianity intermingled with a love letter to Islam, exemplified by this sort of sentiment “the Koran, that ‘shy bride’, would take years to unveil herself. At the outset, she seemed to dazzle me with her unworldly strangeness, and the purity of her ego-less diction”.

It is evident that all three of these intellectuals have fallen in love with various aspects of Islam; the (alleged) beauty of the language, the (supposed) profundity of the philosophy, the (apparently) beneficent effect on its adherents etc.

But it is also notable what they do not mention; Allah’s frankly disturbing habit of torturing forever anyone who doesn’t believe in him (enter the word “fire” into this Koranic search facility if you think I’m exaggerating), Mohammed’s career as a merciless warlord as shown here in the Sira and the vile rulings of Islamic Law as shown above from The Reliance of the Traveller.

How do they manage to overlook these rather obvious and very ugly things? Beats me, but there is the old saying “There’s no fool like a clever fool”.

Then the Captives:

Al Qaeda insurgents in Mali recently released two captives. Both Johan Gustafsson and Stephen McGown converted to Islam during their six years of captivity. Gustaffson was only pretending, in hopes of improving his situation, but it turned out that McGown meant it.

He told reporters that he entered Islam of his own accord (well there is no compulsion in religion is there?) after which he received better treatment.

He went on to say “I see many good things in Islam. It requires a very good character, a very strict character”. Naturally, it requires a very good character to kidnap and hold to ransom complete strangers, keeping them in constant fear for their lives for six years. Only racists and Islamophobes would quibble with that.

Once McGown has spent time readjusting with his friends and family, perhaps someone will explain Stockholm Syndrome to him, “the condition that causes hostages to develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity”.

Come to think of it, don’t ordinary Muslims, in particular Muslim children, have a lot in common with captives like Mcgown? At home and in the madrassah and the mosque they get the constant message from those they depend on that Allah has his eye on them, weighing them up for an eternity of paradise or hell depending on how sincerely they internalise the message. And in earthly terms they can choose between acceptance from an all encompassing culture or exclusion from it, or even worse, for rejecting Islam. As Dawkins says, this is child abuse.

Yes, we know the same happens in other religions but these days far less starkly. It was at Sunday school that my mother was first shown a picture of Jesus in agony on the cross and told it was on account of her sins. She said “I don’t like this” and her big sister shielded her and said “You don’t have to look”. Perhaps that is what made her a lifelong atheist. But even in those days when, as a teenager, she chose to have nothing more to do with the church, there was no comeback, no social exclusion, no family blackmail or worse.

But we all know that for young Muslims rejecting Islam means risking the loss of their family, their social network and possibly their lives. If they find support it will be from ex-Muslim groups made up of people like themselves, usually needing to maintain anonymity for obvious reasons. It is the sort of thing that our intellectuals above never touch on, and just one of the reasons I tend to regard their musings with less than admiration.

The Criminal:

We can piece together the story of Morten Storm from sources like this and this.

He grew up in Denmark, the product of a broken home with violence and drunkenness involved. As a teenager he joined a criminal gang. In prison he came into contact with a British Muslim who helped him establish himself in Britain after his release. Storm accepted Islam and quickly gravitated to the violently supremacist groups in London.

The ease with which gang members and criminals find a home in Islam, in prison or out of it, has been widely noted. And why wouldn’t they? Mohammed united the meanest tribes in Medina, the Aus and the Khazraj, to form the biggest, baddest gang in the area. When Storm read about the caravan raiding and dividing the booty he must have thought “That’s the prophet for me!”

He spent some years trying his best to “strive in Allah’s way” but he was balked in his desire to create mayhem in Somalia because Mogadishu airport was closed down. Recounting his frustration, he says:

“All my dreams about jihad were ruined. I was like, ‘that can’t happen, why?’ I was so hurt, and really, really upset and angry. I couldn’t comprehend.

“It made me sit up all night. I came back, opened the laptop and typed ‘contradictions in the Koran,’ something I had never dared ask before. If I had some doubts I had suppressed them. Then I picked up the Koran and confirmed it. It took a couple of days, and then I said: ‘F**k it. I spent ten years of my life and I was just about to get killed for this.’

“So I called the PET.” (PET is the Danish security service for which he subsequently worked, along with MI6 and the CIA, against Al Qaeda).

His conversion out of Islam is more interesting, to me at least, than his conversion into it because he did something both intelligent and unusual. He did some factual research! And not just the kind of research which will strengthen existing beliefs but the kind that risks disproving them.

He explains that it says in the Koran if you find contradictions in it then it is not from God (he is referring to verse 4:82 “Do they not then consider the Quran carefully? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much contradictions”).

He found plenty of contradictions, in particular one between free will and pre-destination, and concluded the Koran could not be from God. You may say that is a very simplistic understanding of Islam but Allah is himself a very simplistic deity. No one made him give such a hostage to fortune but like the pub know-it-all he could not resist bragging. Other gods have the sense to keep it vague about easily checkable claims but Allah, in his overconfidence, makes endless howlers, exhibiting all the scientific understanding of your average 7th century Arabian camel trader. There’s a coincidence.

These contradictions and absurdities are clearly and calmly exposed in Peter Townsend’s excellent book Questioning Islam.

The one which sticks in my mind is the inability of the supposed designer of quantum mechanics to master basic fractions, as shown in the Koranic rules of inheritance. They don’t add up, and had to be tidied up by later scholars with the Laws of Awl and Usbah.

Wouldn’t it be nice if more people, on both sides, were prepared to do a bit of factual research? Muslims dare not and infidels can’t be bothered, content to parrot the platitudes issued by the four P’s…Press, Politicians, Professors and Priests (courtesy of Daniel Pipes). If they did examine the texts then an ever increasing body of people would come to realise what nonsense Islam actually consists of, rendering it a worldwide laughing stock.

You would think that Islam itself would wither and die in the 21st century. A civilisation that understands what shooting stars actually are against a god who tells us he made them as missiles to throw at devils? It should be no contest, but it isn’t. In fact, Islam is growing in strength; the strength of ignorance, fanaticism and violence (plus a fair bit of oil money) while Western civilisation is experiencing an absurd loss of confidence, wallowing in self-laceration over past wrongs, real and imagined, encouraged by those who wish to destroy us.

The Jihadi Wife:

This conversion account in ISIS’s in-house magazine Dabiq (p.36) is the story of a Finnish woman who goes by the name Umm Khalid al-Finlandiyyah. She started out noticing that her family and society only paid lip service to Christianity and ended up in Syria with her husband and children.

As usual, when converts get into the theology, it is the Christian trinity that bothers her most:

“The main thing that didn’t make sense to me about Christianity was the Trinity. I would wonder, how could the “son” of God be crucified? How could a “part” of God – according to the Trinity – be crucified? How could a human being be God, and then become humiliated and have a humiliating death?”

She marries a non-practising Muslim, has children with him then divorces:

“At that point, I really wanted to learn about Islam, and because of the blessed events of September 11th, I would always see Islam mocked in the media, but I was still curious and wanted to find out more about this religion.”

David Wood explains here the odd phenomenon of interest in Islam spiking after jihadist atrocities in the West, sometimes leading to conversions.

A Muslim friend lends her a copy of the Koran:

“What struck me most as I was reading the Quran were the verses about Hellfire and the punishment in the Hereafter.”

Most people are too polite to mention Allah’s torture chamber for unbelievers, as though they know grandpa gets up to some weird things in the attic but prefer not to put their head round the door. But an inclination to take hellfire seriously is something Umm Khalid and I share. The difference is that she was frightened by it whereas to me it is proof that Allah was just a figment of Mohammed’s imagination. How ridiculous would it be that the designer of galaxies would be so petty and spiteful, particularly since he tells us that he decided who would believe in him in the first place?

She capitulates to Allah’s threats:

“Not long afterwards, I knew that this religion really was the truth.”

She recites the shahada in her Muslim friends’ home and they teach her how to pray:

“It was a wonderful feeling. After continuously searching for the truth, finding it was just such a relief. I felt so much peace.”

She remarries, this time to a practising Muslim. Then:

“At one point, my husband started telling me about jihad and about having the sound creed.”

Her husband is arrested for terrorism but:

“it was probably the best thing that happened to me because it opened my eyes to the importance of hijrah I can’t even describe the feeling when you finally cross that border and enter the lands of the Caliphate.”

“Every day you’re thankful to Allah for allowing you to perform hijrah and to live under the Shari’ah. Life in the Islamic State is such a blessing”

“After four months of us being here, my son was martyred, and this was yet another blessing….what could be better than him being killed for the cause of Allah?”

“As for those people who cannot perform hijrah, I advise you to attack the Crusaders and their allies wherever you are, as that is something that you are able to do. Don’t be tricked by the apostate “scholars.” The truth is out there and it isn’t hard to find as long as you open your heart to it.”

A sad, sad story, I am sure you will agree. She was clearly a very impressionable young woman, one of nature’s cult members just waiting to be claimed by the right cult.

But in Islamic terms what did she do wrong? Muslims are enjoined to follow the example of Mohammed, and what do ISIS do that Mohammed and his companions did not do? Apart from the obvious differences of modern technology, you can tick off their shared activities: robbery, beheading, ransoming, crucifixion, amputation, sex slavery, forced conversion, jizya, stoning, the use of terror, takfir, immolation and throwing homosexuals off high buildings (further details here).

It seems to me that Mohammed’s religion is like a black hole around which believers orbit, more or less affected by its gravitational pull. There are those who maintain a stable orbit on the periphery, merely observing the five pillars. Some, closer in, support but don’t themselves engage in jihad, and some like this young woman get sucked right in to their doom, unprotected by any solid identity. Poor girl. I expect she’s dead now. Or perhaps back in Finland, free to continue Allah’s work like this hero of Islam who made the news just yesterday.

And finally the Churchmen:

Well, it’s the only explanation isn’t it, considering how assiduously they work to advance Islam at the expense of their own flock. Like the one below who said – can you believe it? – “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

The definitively fake Covenant with the Monks of Mt Sinai

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A couple of years ago I wrote a blog post, Mohammed’s apocryphal Covenants, about John Andrew Morrow’s book The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, finding several reasons to doubt the covenants’ authenticity. Concentrating on the most famous and best documented one, the Covenant with the Monks of Mt Sinai, I found two startling anomalies arising from the timeline.

According to Dr Morrow the Covenant with the Monks of Mount Sinai was written in 623 AD but Sinai did not come under Muslim control until c.640 AD, several years after Mohammed’s death.

So:
Anomaly #1 Why would Mohammed grant a covenant of protection in 623 AD to a group who were not under his control and he was therefore not in a position to protect?

Anomaly #2 Why would he release them from the obligation to pay the Jizya tax which they were therefore not subject to?

But there is an even more glaring anomaly, one which I only just realised was staring me in the face.

According to Dr Morrow’s own translation, the Covenant with the Monks of Mt Sinai was written “on the third of Muharram in the second year of the Prophet’s Hegira”. Since Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar, that means it was written just one year after the Hijra, Mohammed’s migration to Medina. By that time Mohammed had not yet fallen out with the other religious and tribal groups in Medina. In fact the only substantive thing he is reported to have done in his first year was to set up the Constitution of Medina which gave equal rights and responsibilities to Muslims and non-Muslims.

Dr Morrow tells us “The Constitution of Medina decreed that the citizens of the Islamic State were one and indivisible regardless of religion. Be they heathen, People of the Book, or Muslims, all those who were subject to the Constitution belonged to the same ummah. In doing so, he created a tolerant, pluralistic government which protected religious freedom.”

Jizya, the discriminatory poll tax imposed on subjugated non-Muslims, only came later, during Mohammed’s wars with the neighbouring People of the Book and polytheists (the first reference to it in the Koran comes in verse 9:29, revealed c.630 AD). Not only that but on p.94 of Dr Morrow’s book he specifically states, in another context “…the jizyah did not exist in the early days of Islam”.

So:
Anomaly #3 The Jizya tax which the Covenant exempted the monks from paying did not yet exist, even in Medina.

To sum up, Mohammed’s Covenant with the Monks of Mt Sinai, supposedly written in 623 AD, promised protection to a group that Mohammed was in no position to protect, and exemption from paying a tax which they were not subject to, and which did not even yet exist.

I would say all that means that the Covenant could not possibly have been written in 623 AD and must therefore be a later forgery (presumably perpetrated by Christian monks hoping for relief from their Muslim overlords). If anyone can provide another explanation for these 3 anomalies, not involving time travel or precognition, I would be grateful to hear it. Dr Morrow certainly does not address any of them in his book. In the meantime I maintain that the claim of authenticity for the Covenant with the Monks of Mt Sinai is just plain nonsense.

Why does it matter? Because along with the book goes a Covenants Initiative, the aim of which is to spread the acceptance and influence of the Covenants in hopes of improving relations between Muslims and Christians. A laudable aim no doubt, but if its main foundation is a forgery then the Initiative amounts to no more than wishful thinking leading to an unrealistic assessment of the man who confronts us today just as he has for 1400 years.

I encourage readers to compare the picture we get of Mohammed from the Covenants, religiously tolerant and accepting, with the one we get from the Sira, a ruthless warlord by anyone’s standards. Unfortunately it is the Mohammed of the Sira, who is firmly embedded in Islamic tradition.

If the promoters of the Covenants Initiative can refute my objections then I will apologise and wish them well but, going by past experience, they won’t even try. The nearest thing I have been able to elicit has been some fairly inventive abuse from Dr Morrow. Perhaps you might have better luck.

The word “Jihad” in the Koran

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After the appalling Linda Sarsour called for a jihad against Donald Trump there naturally followed the usual bunfight about what the word actually means. Some people thought she meant “smiting his neck and every fingertip” as, of course, she hoped they would so that she could then bring out the hadith about the best jihad being “speaking truth to a tyrant” and claim to be misrepresented by Islamophobes.

We know that ”jihad” literally means “strive” or “struggle” but how is it actually used in the Koran? In context does it mean “holy war” or “spiritual struggle” or both?

The Qur’anic Studies site identifies all the occurrences of the word in the Koran from the triconsonantal root “j-h-d” in the Arabic transliteration. It tells us that derivatives of the word “jihad” occur in 30 verses of the Koran; 6 of them in Meccan suras and 24 in Medinan suras.

In a separate exercise conducted some years ago, 160 or so verses were identified as referring directly to Mohammed’s wars against non-Muslims. I checked the 30 “j-h-d” verses against the 160 war verses (highlighted in mauve in this presentation of the Koran which is in turn based on this list).

Here are the 30 “j-h-d” verses, presented in chronological order, with matching verses marked with “**WAR**”.

Meccan Verses

[25.52] So do not follow the unbelievers, and strive against them a mighty striving with it.

[31:15] If they strive to make you set up any partners besides Me, then do not obey them. But continue to treat them amicably in this world. You shall follow only the path of those who have sought Me. Ultimately, you all return to Me, then I will inform you of everything you have done.

**WAR** [16.110] Yet surely your Lord, with respect to those who fly after they are persecuted, then they struggle hard and are patient, most surely your Lord after that is Forgiving, Merciful.

[29.6] And whoever strives hard, he strives only for his own soul; most surely Allah is Self-sufficient, above (need of) the worlds.
[29:8] And We instructed man to be good to his parents. But if they strive to make you set up partners with Me, then do not obey them. To Me are all your destinies, and I will inform you of what you used to do.
[29.69] And (as for) those who strive hard for Us, We will most certainly guide them in Our ways; and Allah is most surely with the doers of good.

Medinan Verses

**WAR** [2.218] Surely those who believed and those who fled (their home) and strove hard in the way of Allah these hope for the mercy of Allah and Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

**WAR** [8.72]
Surely those who believed and fled (their homes) and struggled hard in Allah’s way with their property and their souls, and those who gave shelter and helped– these are guardians of each other; and (as for) those who believed and did not fly, not yours is their guardianship until they fly; and if they seek aid from you in the matter of religion, aid is incumbent on you except against a people between whom and you there is a treaty, and Allah sees what you do.
**WAR** [8.74] And (as for) those who believed and fled and struggled hard in Allah’s way, and those who gave shelter and helped, these are the believers truly; they shall have forgiveness and honorable provision.
**WAR** [8.75] And (as for) those who believed afterwards and fled and struggled hard along with you, they are of you; and the possessors of relationships are nearer to each other in the ordinance of Allah; surely Allah knows all things.

**WAR** [3.142] Do you think that you will enter the garden while Allah has not yet known those who strive hard from among you, and (He has not) known the patient.

[60.1] O you who believe! do not take My enemy and your enemy for friends: would you offer them love while they deny what has come to you of the truth, driving out the Apostle and yourselves because you believe in Allah, your Lord? If you go forth struggling hard in My path and seeking My pleasure, would you manifest love to them? And I know what you conceal and what you manifest; and whoever of you does this, he indeed has gone astray from the straight path.

**WAR** [4.95] The holders back from among the believers, not having any injury, and those who strive hard in Allah’s way with their property and their persons are not equal; Allah has made the strivers with their property and their persons to excel the holders back a (high) degree, and to each (class) Allah has promised good; and Allah shall grant to the strivers above the holders back a mighty reward:

**WAR** [47:31] And We will test you until We know those who strive among you and those who are patient. And We will bring out your qualities.

**WAR** [22.78] And strive hard in (the way of) Allah, (such) a striving a is due to Him; He has chosen you and has not laid upon you an hardship in religion; the faith of your father Ibrahim; He named you Muslims before and in this, that the Apostle may be a bearer of witness to you, and you may be bearers of witness to the people; therefore keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and hold fast by Allah; He is your Guardian; how excellent the Guardian and how excellent the Helper!

**WAR** [49.15] The believers are only those who believe in Allah and His Apostle then they doubt not and struggle hard with their wealth and their lives in the way of Allah; they are the truthful ones.

**WAR** [66.9] O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and be hard against them; and their abode is hell; and evil is the resort.

**WAR** [61.11] You shall believe in Allah and His Apostle, and struggle hard in Allah’s way with your property and your lives; that is better for you, did you but know!

**WAR** [5.35] O you who believe! be careful of (your duty to) Allah and seek means of nearness to Him and strive hard in His way that you may be successful.
[5.54] O you who believe! whoever from among you turns back from his religion, then Allah will bring a people, He shall love them and they shall love Him, lowly before the believers, mighty against the unbelievers, they shall strive hard in Allah’s way and shall not fear the censure of any censurer; this is Allah’s Face, He gives it to whom He pleases, and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing.

**WAR** [9.16] What! do you think that you will be left alone while Allah has not yet known those of you who have struggled hard and have not taken any one as an adherent besides Allah and His Apostle and the believers; and Allah is aware of what you do.
**WAR** [9.19] What! do you make (one who undertakes) the giving of drink to the pilgrims and the guarding of the Sacred Mosque like him who believes in Allah and the latter day and strives hard in Allah’s way? They are not equal with Allah; and Allah does not guide the unjust people.
**WAR** [9.20] Those who believed and fled (their homes), and strove hard in Allah’s way with their property and their souls, are much higher in rank with Allah; and those are they who are the achievers (of their objects).
**WAR** [9.24] Say: If your fathers and your sons and your brethren and your mates and your kinsfolk and property which you have acquired, and the slackness of trade which you fear and dwellings which you like, are dearer to you than Allah and His Apostle and striving in His way, then wait till Allah brings about His command: and Allah does not guide the transgressing people.
**WAR** [9.41] Go forth light and heavy, and strive hard in Allah’s way with your property and your persons; this is better for you, if you know.
**WAR** [9.44] They do not ask leave of you who believe in Allah and the latter day (to stay away) from striving hard with their property and their persons, and Allah knows those who guard (against evil).
**WAR** [9.73] O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination.
**WAR** [9.81] Those who were left behind were glad on account of their sitting behind Allah’s Apostle and they were averse from striving in Allah’s way with their property and their persons, and said: Do not go forth in the heat. Say: The fire of hell is much severe in heat. Would that they understood (it).
**WAR** [9.86] And whenever a chapter is revealed, saying: Believe in Allah and strive hard along with His Apostle, those having ampleness of means ask permission of you and say: Leave us (behind), that we may be with those who sit.
**WAR** [9.88] But the Apostle and those who believe with him strive hard with their property and their persons; and these it is who shall have the good things and these it is who shall be successful.

So, in the Meccan suras 1 out of the 6 “j-h-d” verses appears among the war verses while in the Medinan suras 22 out of the 24 “j-h-d” verses do so. Therefore we can say there is an overwhelming correlation between the word “jihad” and warfare against the unbelievers in the Medinan suras. This will hardly surprise anyone who knows that Mohammed’s career consisted of two parts, his time in Mecca during which any violence was the prerogative of Allah and his time in Medina where he became a warlord and exercised violence on Allah’s behalf.

Also, none of the remaining 7 “j-h-d” verses is about spiritual struggle against one’s baser nature, ie the so-called Greater Jihad. Anyone wishing to promote that idea has to go a long way from the Koran to find any support for it. It is not even to be found in the six sahih (ie authentic) collections of hadiths but rests solely on one hadith from a later collection, dismissed by mediaeval Islamic scholars as weak or fabricated.

Another point worth making is that no less than 10 of the verses we are talking about occur in the last substantive sura, the ferocious sura 9. It seems that Mohammed became more warlike with age, rather than less. This of course echoes the situation with abrogation in the Koran since so many earlier verses are abrogated by verses in sura 9 (as shown in this list) in particular 9:5, the Verse of the Sword. This gives jihadis a much stronger claim to scriptural support than the elusive moderates we hear so much of but who disappear like the mist whenever a demonstration against ISIS is organised or the government requests help in tackling “extremism”.

Conclusion: Anyone wishing to use Islamic scripture, in particular the Koran, to claim a peaceful interpretation of jihad is indeed rowing against a very strong tide. Unless they’re just kidding us, of course.