Tag Archives: Mehdi Hasan

Slay the idolaters….but which idolaters?

koran11

In the counter-jihad world it is widely taken as unquestionable that the jihad verses of the Koran sanction eternal warfare against non-Muslims until the whole world is converted or subjugated. This is because they are open ended and therefore refer to you and me in London and New York today just as much as they do to Mohammed’s tribal enemies in Mecca in 630 AD. That is what I find when discussing it with counter-jihadists anyway, and it is what I believed until I had a long and bitter debate with someone making the case that mainstream Islam is not unavoidably supremacist because those verses should be interpreted contextually.

It was only some time after that I looked more closely at the jihad verses, and those surrounding them, and realised to my horror that she was right. Or half right anyway. Right that they can very plausibly be interpreted contextually but wrong that Islam is therefore not inherently and unavoidably supremacist. How come?

Imagine that Islam never spread out of Arabia, that perhaps the Persian and Byzantine empires rallied and squashed it, never to be heard of again. Then imagine coming across this strange old book in the loft of a church or synagogue in the one-camel town of Mecca 1400 years later. What would you make of it? I suggest that you would probably think it a collection of tales and motivational sermons from some cult leader to his followers in their bid to take over Mecca and the surrounding area. Would you see anything in it that suggests any ambitions beyond that, anything that clearly mandates eternal application over the whole world?

Take the infamous verse 9:5:

Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

Which idolaters is it referring to? There is nothing which identifies all idolaters for all time. Looking at the previous verses:

In verse 1 and verse 3 Allah is giving Mohammed permission to annul the treaty he made with neighbouring idolaters. In verse 4 Allah makes an exception of those of the idolaters who have abided by the terms of the treaty. So who are the idolaters to be ambushed as instructed in verse 5? Presumably the idolaters who supposedly broke the treaty. Jihadis (and counter-jihadists) claim that the verse refers to all idolaters for all time but they have to derive that interpretation from elsewhere because it is clearly not in the text.

Moreover, the sacred months referred to were a specifically local custom, tying the verse even more firmly to its context. Mohammed got so much grief for carrying out his first caravan raid during that time that Allah was obliged to send down a special revelation to get him off the hook.

Likewise with 9:29:

Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, and forbid not that which Allah hath forbidden by His messenger, and follow not the Religion of Truth, until they pay the tribute readily, being brought low.

In verse 25 and verse 26 Allah is addressing those Muslims who took part in the Battle of Huneyn. In verse 28 he is referring to those idolaters, necessarily within reach of Mecca, who must not be allowed near the Inviolable Place of Worship, ie the Kaaba in Mecca.

But 9:29 means Jews and Christians everywhere and forever? Really? What would William of Occam (he of the razor) say?

Even with 8:39, one of the two most apparently supremacist verses in the Koran:

And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah

the standard translations say nothing about everywhere and forever. The verse could plausibly be read as being fulfilled when Mohammed marched into the Kaaba and destroyed the 360 other gods.

Verse 34 talks of the Meccans who kept the Muslims from the Kaaba.
Verse 41 is about establishing Mohammed’s cut of the loot.
In verse 42 Allah reminisces about the Battle of Badr.

Who are the unbelievers who must be fought until religion is all for Allah, all unbelievers forever and everywhere or just the Meccans? I see nothing about holy war “without limit of time or space”, just a very specific campaign over control of the Kaaba and booty.

It took Hilali and Khan, the Saudi government’s own translators, to turn it into:

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]

Likewise, they turned 8:60 from the 7th century:

Make ready for them all thou canst of (armed) force and of horses tethered, that thereby ye may dismay the enemy of Allah…

into the decidedly 21st century:

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…

Admittedly it is the Hilali-Khan translation which is to be found in all those Saudi funded mosques around the world, influencing generations of Salafis, but that adds nothing to its validity, only to its malign effect.

The other most apparently supremacist verse, 48:28, is much the same:

He it is Who hath sent His messenger with the guidance and the religion of truth, that He may cause it to prevail over all religion. And Allah sufficeth as a Witness.

The previous verses are clearly about the Muslims’ campaign for control of Mecca and the Kaaba (verse 24, verse 25 and verse 27). That being so, is there any reason to suppose that “all religion” was intended to refer to all religion in the entire world rather than all the religion practised in the vicinity of Mecca?

We could go on but you get the point. I have been through all the 160 or so jihad verses, conveniently highlighted in mauve here, (and their surrounding verses) and can find none which clearly point to a place or time beyond Mohammed’s military campaigns. If you can I would be grateful to hear of them.

Surprisingly, it is a non-jihad verse which seems to provide the strongest support for the supremacist view albeit indirectly, 33:21:

Verily in the messenger of Allah ye have a good example for him who looketh unto Allah and the Last Day, and remembereth Allah much.

Much hangs on this verse. The Sunnah is the example of Mohammed and Sunnis are those who follow it. So what do we find in the example of Mohammed? Some people manage to concentrate on the benign parts of Mohammed’s example but to jihadis (and to those among us who unaccountably harbour an irrational fear of Islam) the example of Mohammed is indisputably red in tooth and claw.

Is it reasonable to think that Allah meant Mohammed’s good example should cease to be taken as such after his death? General examples of any kind are usually regarded as being without an expiry date, probably more so when given by entities who were supposedly there at the beginning of the universe and who will be there at the end.

What then might someone who strives to follow Mohammed’s example make of it in Cardiff or Sydney today (literally today, 2nd May 2017 as an unexceptional example)? Even if Mohammed’s rampages were only ever local, it would be difficult to argue with those who come to the conclusion that Allah would approve of their playing out his murderous example on a larger stage until all unbelievers are converted or subjugated.

On the other hand there are two good pieces of contemporary evidence for Mohammed’s supremacism outside the Koran:

Firstly, there is the documentary evidence of his threatening letters to surrounding kings and even emperors. As far as I know they are undisputed, at least John Andrew Morrow who goes to heroic lengths to whitewash Mohammed in his book about the Covenants of Mohammed accepts them as genuine. The fact that Mohammed had the chutzpah to write to emperors in such terms is highly persuasive of his limitless ambitions but also, look how direct he is with the smaller fry in his neighbourhood:

“Be informed that my religion shall prevail everywhere (to Haudha bin Ali, governor of Yamama).

“Allah has sent me as a Prophet to all His creatures“ (to Jaifer, King of Oman).

Secondly, there is the circumstantial evidence of the actions of Mohammed’s immediate successors who, as his companions in life, presumably knew his intentions best. Did they settle down and turn Arabia into a model theocracy, happy to let the surrounding infidels get on with their thing? No they consolidated their power with the brutal Ridda Wars then took Islam from Spain to India (and not by knocking on doors). They stopped there not because they had spread the word of Allah far enough but because opposing armies halted them.

Leaving the 7th century behind us, more than 100 years after Mohammed’s death Ibn Ishaq tells us in his biography, which is the foundation of the Sira, that it was Mohammed himself who sent jihad beyond Arabia by ordering an attack against Byzantine Syria from his deathbed.

Ibn Ishaq also tells us that after hitting a stone with his pickaxe during preparations for the Battle of the Trench Mohammed said:

“The first spark means that Allah has promised me the conquest of Yemen ; the second that Allah has granted me the conquest of Syria and the West ; and the third that Allah has bestowed upon me victory over the East.”

Another 100 years after that we see this sort of thing in the Hadiths:

“Allah drew the ends of the world near one another for my sake. And I have seen its eastern and western ends. And the dominion of my Ummah would reach those ends… Sahih Muslim (41:6904)

I would not want to be convicted on evidence passed down by word of mouth over 200 years but the point is that Mohammed’s supremacism becomes ever more entrenched in Islam. The process is augmented with the great mediaeval commentaries, for instance:

“Allah the Exalted and Most Honored said, while delivering the glad tidings to the believers that the Messenger will triumph over his enemies and the rest of the people of the earth. Tafsir of Ibn Kathir.

And by the various schools of Islamic Law, for instance:

“Among the things that entail apostasy from Islam are…to deny that Allah intended the Prophet’s message (Allah bless him and give him peace) to be the religion followed by the entire world. The Reliance of the Traveller.

What can we conclude then?

1. The jihad verses do not show that Mohammed was supremacist – ie globally and eternally supremacist.

2. There is good evidence elsewhere that he was, and this has been amplified over the centuries in Islamic scriptures.

I submitted my findings to some knowledgeable people and they said with one voice “So what? Try telling that to Muslims”.

But I do not want to persuade Muslims that Mohammed was not supremacist. I want to persuade non-Muslims that he was despite the limited scope of the jihad verses. As things stand it is too easy for people who know only the Koran to wrongly conclude that Mohammed was not supremacist and therefore Islam isn’t.

They are of course encouraged in this mindset by the many deceptive Islamic apologists (Mehdi Hasan and Reza Aslan come to mind) and by Western (not Eastern) imams. Those people know that there is more to Islam than the Koran but why disturb the infidels’ comfortable illusions? Think beekeepers, smoke, bees.

No, the claim that Mohammed’s supremacism is demonstrated by the jihad verses is not a defensible position. By insisting on something which can be so easily debunked we are undermining our own credibility and reinforcing the preconceptions of a generation who have been told that only phobes and worse challenge the “Religion of Peace” story. Better to abandon it and concentrate on pointing out the evidence elsewhere for both Mohammed’s and Islam’s lust for dominion “without limit of time or space”. Who knows, perhaps the odd rejecter of the counter-jihad message may be persuaded…one less of them, one more of us.

***  UPDATE  ***
After all this time and trouble I have finally come across a verse which does appear to unambiguously declare Allah/Mohammed’s universally supremacist intent!

Allah hath promised such of you as believe and do good work that He will surely make them to succeed (the present rulers) in the earth even as He caused those who were before them to succeed (others) (24:55)

This seems to be a conclusive rebuttal to the contextual argument, ie that there is no Koranic support for Islamic supremacism beyond the Mecca/Medina area of 630 AD.

Ibn Kathir, in his commentary on sura 24, makes his understanding of verse 55 clear:

“This is a promise from Allah to His Messenger that He would cause his Ummah to become successors on earth, i.e., they would become the leaders and rulers of mankind, through whom He would reform the world and to whom people would submit”.

What would those who claim that Islam can live permanently as equals with other religions, without the aim of eventual domination, make of the verse? I never hear them tackle it.
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The real Islam

Ah yes, the real Islam – what might that be? Would we recognise it if we found it, and does it even exist?

Few of us would have thought it worth our while to enquire except for the fact that the followers of some versions of Islam have taken to blowing us up and chopping our heads off, quoting suspiciously plausible verses of the Koran as justification. Not only that but our leaders routinely tell us that jihadist groups have nothing to do with the real Islam. Can it really be the case that they are in a position to tell unreal Islam from real Islam? They never spell out what the real Islam is beyond platitudes such as “a great salvation religion” or “a great historic faith which has brought spiritual nourishment to millions”. Perhaps they are just making it up.

Here is a selection of views on the subject taken from a trawl round the internet:

“Anyone who knows the real Islam knows that Islam is love.”

“Islam is a collective psychosis seeking to become global, and any attempt to compromise with such madness is to become part of the madness itself.”

“Islam is as diverse as Muslims themselves”.

“True Islam (Submission) is like a precious jewel that is buried under piles of man-made innovations and social traditions that have little to do with the religion.”

“[Islam is] an impious, blasphemous, vicious cult, an invention of the devil, and the direct way into the fires of hell. It does not even merit the name of being called a religion.”

“Islam is not simply a religion. Islam is a socio-political system. It is a socio-political, socio-religious, socio-economic, socio-educational, socio-judicial, legislative, militaristic system cloaked in, garbed in religious terminology.”

“Islam – not so much a religion, more a personality disorder.”

“I start from the principle that Islam is what Muslims say it is”.

“There is no “true Islam” in Islam. There has never been any central “authority” in Islam that could define such a thing.”

What do other interested parties tell us?

Let us dispose of the silliness first. There is a strain of thought among academics called non-essentialism. Its adherents would have us believe that Islam, like everything else, has no essence therefore Islam can be whatever you like. This is because non-essentialism means that “for any given kind of entity, there are no specific traits which entities of that kind must possess”. It has been said that non-essentialism is itself an essentialist position but I’ll leave that one to you – it hurt my head. I’ll just suggest that it is one of those ideas which are so ridiculous that only intellectuals could entertain them.

That is not to say that the usual deceptive apologists do not recognise a useful button when they see one. Mehdi Hasan says “Where is the book of Sharia law? It doesn’t exist. People argue over what Sharia law is.” This is merely the usual Mehdi sleight of hand. There is such a thing as Sharia law and although there are differing interpretations there is in fact a great degree of uniformity between the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence. The major variations we see around the world come largely from the differing amount of sharia adopted by different countries.

His transatlantic counterpart Reza Aslan tells us that “All religions are infinitely malleable”. They certainly are finitely malleable around the edges but if there is ever an Islam in which Allah is regarded as part of a trinity then surely it is Islam no more. Reza should try dropping into his local mosque and suggesting it.

Closely related is the view of one CofE participant in the interfaith dialogue charade :

“I start from the principle that Islam is what Muslims say it is”

This prompts the obvious question “Which Muslims?” Are we to give more credence to the Muslims of IS or Al-Azhar or Quilliam or to Ibn Kathir or Caliph Ali or the wild-eyed dawah man on the High Street every Saturday? If you are not willing to distinguish between authentic or inauthentic versions then the logical conclusion must be that there are 1.6 billion Islams and therefore none.

Those most seriously concerned with the question of course are Muslims themselves, ever mindful of hellfire. A hadith attributed to Abu Dawood recalls Mohammed saying:

“My people will be divided into 73 sects, all of them will be in the fire except one.” The companions asked, ‘Who are they O Messenger of Allah,’ Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “They are those who will be like me and my companions.”

So the gold standard here is clearly the example of Mohammed and his original followers. With odds of 72 to 1 against avoiding eternity in the fire, it is clearly a matter of some importance for Muslims to get it right. That is why various sects look back in history attemping to identify the version most in accordance with the original, authentic Islam.

The Ahmadi need only look back to the end of the 19th century when their Mahdi appeared in order to “restore Islam to it its true essence and pristine form, which had been lost through the centuries”. Naturally other Muslims regard them as heretical and they are persecuted in their native Pakistan.

Salafis look back to the first three generations of Muslims, the “righteous predecessors”. The Shia look back to the time of the fourth Caliph, Ali. IS look back to the first Caliph, Abu Bakr.

Of particular interest to would be reformers is the Sudanese religious thinker Mahmoud Taha who found the real Islam in the early Meccan phase. After 3 years of seclusion he announced that the lives of the early Muslims in Mecca were the supreme expression of their religion and consisted of sincere worship, kindness, and peaceful coexistence with all other people. In contrast the Medinan verses, full of rules, coercion, and threats, including the orders for jihad, were merely a historical adaptation to the reality of life in a 7th century city-state, in which “there was no law except the sword”. He was executed for apostasy in 1985.

So many differing views but actually the answer is right there in front of us. Allah defined both Islam and its best practice himself. Since Allah is known to be a fairly literal-minded sort of deity the real Islam must be Islam as it existed on the day he said:

“This day I have perfected for you your religion…” (Koran 5:3).

Since sura 5 is reckoned to be either the penultimate or the last substantive sura the real Islam must include the “fighting in Allah’s way” that Mohammed was concentrating on at the end of his career. By this time he had written to the various neighbouring kings, and even emperors, informing them that if they knew what was good for them they would convert without delay. He was already planning his move out of Arabia by attacking Byzantine Syria, thus taking his ambitions international.

Allah also provided an example for true Muslims to follow, again from the Medinan verses:

“There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day…” (33:21).

How was Mohammed conducting himself in Medina? Well, he was ordering amputation and crucifixion for trouble makers, and stoning for adulterers. He was torturing and beheading his enemies. He was calling for the unbelievers to convert, pay the jizya or be killed. He was sanctioning sex-slavery of non-Muslim women and boasting of casting terror into the hearts of unbelievers.

Remind you of anyone?

That’s right, looking around the world today there can only be one contender – ISIS in all their cruelty and depravity. Suppose Mohammed came back today to check on how the 73 sects were coming along. Do you think he would approve of those which have watered down the Sharia or those which decline to spread the word by holy war or those which get around the ban on usury or those which accord equal status to women? In particular, what would he make of those who claim that Islam is not what Allah told them it was but what they themselves say it is? Personally, I think he would call them hypocrites and tell ISIS “Well done boys, you’re the one.”

20 years from now

(Written in 2014 – some minor deviations already!)

Version 1.

2034. There are whole cities officially under sharia where the police and non-Muslims do not venture. In the rest of the country a blasphemy law prevents criticism of the one true faith yet in the semi-autonomous region of Deenistan, formerly known as Lancashire, it is illegal to repair churches and Christians have to pay a special tax. The first stoning takes place in the Old Trafford football stadium. Naturally there are no Jews left in the country. Armed militias battle it out with other kinds of Muslims and the Kuffar, just like on the other side of the Channel. Whole neighbourhoods are regularly ablaze. After the Italian Navy set up an EU funded ferry service from Libya, and Italy and France co-operated on the high speed Brindisi to Dover rail link, the Muslim population has swollen to 23%, officially. White flight continues apace but in the Celtic fringes they say “What did you ever do for me, Englishman?”.

Multiculturalism has become Balkanization. The puzzle of the “moderate Muslim” has been solved. The King Faisal Stock Exchange is the centre of world Islamic finance. The young King George, a recent revert, and his beautiful Queen Ayesha (though it’s hard to tell behind that niqab) have turned Buckingham Palace into a centre for the propagation of the faith. Tony Blair and Anjem Choudary sit in the House of Elders, both bearing the title “Hero of Islam”. After numerous blue on blue incidents it has been decided to set up two independent armed forces. The Muslim Brotherhood, the third largest political party, whose offices occupy the top six floors of Canary Wharf, have joined a coalition with the United Kingdom Survival Party in return for a guarantee of free passage in and out of the country for forces of the Caliphate.

A goup called the UAF, having served their purpose, have succumbed to a short campaign of throat cutting. Those who once read the now defunct newspaper “The Guardian” wring their hands and say “It wasn’t meant to be like this”. Old men who tell tales of the Tower Hamlets demo of 2013 look their grandchildren in the eye and say “I tried”.

Version 2.

2015. After a string of low level attacks from the Syrian returnees, MI5 admits there are more extremists than they can possibly monitor. David Cameron insists that the situation has nothing to do with Islam. Boris Johnson, spotting his opportunity, suggests it might have something to do with Islam. Nick Clegg witters about a great salvation religion.

2016. The mood of the country turns ugly after the Bluewater shopping centre massacre but the tide really begins to turn when jihadis plant a bomb outside the offices of the Guardian (the ungrateful swine!). The truth of the old saying “a reactionary is a liberal who’s been blown up” is borne out. An article appears in the Guardian with the title “Diversity bad, Unity good” and another one suggesting that the British Empire did some useful things.

The Pact of Umar is sometimes mentioned at Hampstead dinner parties. It is no longer considered smart to say that Britain has been multicultural since the Jutes. Solicitors who coach asylum seekers through the regulations no longer find “I’m a human rights lawyer” serves as a good chat up line.

EDL demonstrations attract tens of thousands. The occasional journalist and MP start to refer to them as “patriots”.

Mo Ansar, who has not appeared on TV since it was discovered that he was not actually a lawyer and Imam, and Fiyaz Mughal, a mendacious grievance-mongering taqiyya artist, also down on his luck, complain to anyone who will listen that it’s all so unfair.

The BBC stop pretending that IS and Boko Haram are unIslamic.

It becomes widely known that there is more Jew-hatred in the Koran than in Mein Kampf.

The “Ibaana” programme intended to deradicalise extremist prisoners is suspended when one of the Imams involved is found to be teaching his charges bomb making.

2017. The Cameron government falls and the new prime minister Michael Gove announces a state of emergency, declaring “Both sides know there is a war on now”. He recants on his earlier view that the problem is not Islam but “the specifically 20th century phenomenon of Islamism”.

As an experiment Ed Miliband takes a stroll through Tower Hamlets one evening wearing his skull cap. After he recovers the Labour Party gives limited support to the government. Alas, there are no more Liberal Democrat MPs to give anything to anyone.

Individual liberties are sharply curtailed, as in any time of war:

Plans are put in place for a national identity card programme.

Sharia courts are banned along with sharia compliant legal and financial instruments.

The hate speech legislation, widely seen as a de facto blasphemy law, is revoked.

New, tighter restrictions are placed on the building of mosques, incuding the banning of foreign funding. All sermons have to be given in English. Mosques found encouraging jihad are to be demolished.

A Royal Commission is set up under the chairmanship of ex-Muslim scholar IQ al Rassooli to consider such questions as whether the Medina suras of the Koran should be banned completely and whether religious scriptures should lose their exempt status regarding the crime of incitement to murder. Critics claim that there are also calls to genocidal violence in the Bible but after research is carried out it is found that there are no more Amalekites to be concerned about it either way.

Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller are asked to give evidence and are invited to tea at Buckingham Palace where Theresa May offers a fulsome apology for banning them in 2013.

Halal meat has to be clearly labelled. It is made illegal to serve it to diners in restaurants and public institutions without their knowledge and consent.

The Charity Commission draft in a team of forensic accountants to ascertain where all that zakat is really going.

Schoolchildren are taught the truth about Mohammed the bloodthirsty warlord. A core syllabus is set up emphasising British values and history.

2018. The government sends the Muslim Brotherhood packing, along with all the other factions they got so chummy with in the old Londonistan days.

Changes are made to the welfare system designed to halt dangerous demographic trends. Sikhs and Hindus say that if indigenous Brits can’t be bothered to reproduce then they will do their best to step into the breach.

There is a five year moratorium on all immigration from OIC countries apart from persecuted non-Muslim minorities.

2019. Ken Livingston and George Galloway decamp to Sweden where they are still welcome.

Translation facilities in public services are slashed and the money saved is put into English language teaching.

2020. Identity cards are issued to everyone entitled to be in Britain. Those who do not qualify are deported. Work starts on the backlog of illegal immigrants.

The government declares Islam a special case because of its dual nature; the private devotional religion (which is welcome) and the political aspect of supremacism, sharia and jihad (which is not). Muslims are required to swear an oath of loyalty to Britain superseding their loyalty to Islam. If they do not accept they have their citzenship revoked and are deported, along with their dependants, to any country which will have them or, as a last resort, Sudan with which Britain has come to an arrangement.

2021. After an economic version of cold fusion is perfected the price of oil falls by 70%. Bloody riots ensue around the Gulf and rulers leave for Switzerland to be near to their money.

2022. Young Muslims start to look at the Koran and ask “What is this bollocks?”

Mehdi Hasan becomes a Seventh Day Adventist, saying “Thank God I stepped into the light. The cognitive dissonance was killing me”.

2024. Matthew Goodwin, the social scientist who once called for the censoring of polls which could provide support for Islamophobes, publishes a book proving that the only way to coexist with Muslims is to limit their proportion in any given population to no more than 2.5%.

2026. Muslims publicly apostasize in such numbers that the fear of reprisals loses its force. They march with placards saying “Mohammed was a monster”. Death threats from the Muslim community dry up.

2028. Sufism becomes the dominant branch of Islam in Britain.

2029. Muslims begin to display a rudimentary sense of humour.

2030. Members of the UAF drift away, embarrassed at their former foolishness. Some of them get proper jobs.

2032. Geert Wilders is awarded the Nobel Peace prize for helping to avert in Europe the horrors we see in the great Sunni/Shia convulsions of the Muslim heartlands.

2033. The proportion of self identifying Muslims stabilises at 2%. They are once again seen as an exotic and welcome addition to the life of the country.

2034. Everyone lives happily ever after.

Deceptiveness – Mehdi Hasan

I’ve never taken to Mehdi Hasan. He talks too fast, making one specious point after another and moving on before you can spot the flaw, relying on the tongue being quicker than the mind. Also the fact that I’ve heard him come out with everyone’s favourite doctored quote “…he who kills a soul… etc” doesn’t endear him to me. Nor that he can still use the wretched term “Islamophobia” with a straight face.

However, when someone used the clip of him at the Oxford Union debate in support of their positive view of Islam I thought I’d take the trouble to slow him down with the pause button in order to examine his claims:

1. “A Muslim mathemetician called Muḥammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi came up with algebra and algorithms”.

Irrelevant and overstated. Although the word “algebra” came from one of al-Khwarizmi’s innovative mathematical procedures and the word “algorithm” is taken from his name, he did not come up with them. In both cases he was working from pre-existing works by Indians or Greeks.

2. “Although I wrote about anti-semitic prejudice in the Muslim community modern anti-semitism comes from the Judaeo-Christian tradition”.

Well, a lot of it does but he does not mention that the intense, even demented, anti-semitism in the Muslim world today has been incubating quite independently from Christianity ever since the Jewish tribes rejected Mohammed as a prophet. He was cursing the Jews on his death bed and today Muslims refer to them five times a day in their prayers as “those who earned your anger”.

The following hadith has been incorporated as part of the Hamas charter:

“The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews”. (Sahih Muslim 41:6985)

3. “The journalist Tom Friedman told me if Islam were running Europe in the 1940’s there would be 6 million more Jews alive today”.

What a fantastically silly thing to say (if my aunt had….well, you know the rest), particularly since Muhammad Amin al-Husayni the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem spent most of the war in Berlin enthusiastically supporting the Nazis’ final solution and recruiting Muslims to fight in the Waffen SS.

In 1944, while speaking on Radio Berlin, al-Husseini said “Arabs, rise as one man and fight for your sacred rights. Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history, and religion”.

4. “Atheists see all religions as evil, violent and threatening”.

Firstly, is it not comical when people who complain that Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc happily do the same to other religious or anti-religious groupings?

Secondly, how could anyone at all, atheist or religious, who knows about Jainism, Buddhism or the actual teachings of Jesus or Mohammed accept the equal malignancy of all religions? As a comparison Mohammed ordered stonings, Jesus said “He who is without sin cast the first stone”.

5. “Crusades, Inquisition, Lord’s Resistance Army, pogroms etc”.

Why do Muslims always hark back to the Crusades as an unforgivable aggression against Muslim lands and which the West is meant to feel guilty for? They were a pin prick compared to the Muslim crusade a few hundred years before which expropriated Christian lands from Palestine to Spain.

And, as for the LRA (and Leviticus, another favourite of Islamic apologists), is it not significant how far from the teachings of Jesus the practitioners of this particular false equivalence have to go to find anything resembling the actual words and deeds of Mohammed?

6. “113 out of the 114 suras of the Koran start by introducing Allah as a god of mercy and compassion”.

So what? I start all my letters “Dear…”, usually to people who are not dear to me at all. It’s the content that counts and we all know what is in most of the suras.

Just as an example, this is how one unremarkable sura (111) continues after introducing Allah as a god of mercy and compassion:
“May the hands of Abu Lahab be ruined, and ruined is he.
His wealth will not avail him or that which he gained.
He will [enter to] burn in a Fire of [blazing] flame
And his wife [as well] – the carrier of firewood.
Around her neck is a rope of [twisted] fiber…”.

7. “Islam is not pacifist but only allows military action in certain limited contexts”.

Unfortunately Mehdi does not detail these certain limited contexts or give scriptural justification, not surprisingly since it is a hotly contested area. Let us just say that:

a. There are suras which appear to require only that the neighbouring people are unbelievers to attract the Muslims’ violent attentions.

b. The renowned scholar Muhammad Sa’id Ramadan al-Bouti (assassinated Damascus 2013) seems to have drawn a different conclusion from Mehdi:

“The concept of Holy War (Jihad) in Islam does not take into consideration whether defensive or an offensive war. Its goal is the exaltation of the Word of Allah and the construction of Islamic society and the establishment of Allah’s Kingdom on Earth regardless of the means. The means would be offensive warfare. In this case, it is the apex, the noblest Holy War. It is legal to carry on a Holy War.” (“Jurisprudence in Muhammad’s Biography”)

c. In the later part of his career when he had the military strength Mohammed certainly invaded neighbouring tribes and kingdoms simply to convert or subjugate them.

Here is Mohammed writing to the Christians of Aylah in Northern Arabia:
“I will not fight against you until I have written thus unto you. Believe, or else pay tribute. And be obedient unto the Lord and his Prophet….Come then, before trouble reach you. I commend my messengers to you. Give to Harmala three measures of barley; and indeed Harmala hath interceded for you. As for me, if it were not for the Lord and for this [intercession of Harmala], I would not have sent any message at all unto you, until ye had seen the army. But now, if ye obey my messengers, God will be your protector, and Mahomet, and whosoever belongeth unto him”.
(Sir William Muir “The Life of Mahomet”)

d. His successors did likewise, presumably under the impression that they were following Mohammed’s intentions, conquering every kingdom or empire from Spain to the borders of India within 120 years of Mohammed’s death. Either that or it was the most spectacular and sustained campaign of self defence in history.

8. “Suicide bombings and terrorist acts are done for political not religious reasons”.

Mehdi has half a point here but Islamic terrorism is conducted not for political or religious reasons alone but for political and religious reasons together. In Islam, unlike all other major religions, politics and religion are inextricably intertwined. That is why terrorists, such as the Woolwich butchers, quoted both Koranic verses and political grievances.

9. “Shaykh Tahir-ul-Qadri published a 600 page fatwa condemning the killing of all innocents and all suicide bombings unconditionally without any ifs or buts”.

Not even the odd if or but? You might wonder how he dealt with the so called terror verses of the Koran. It turns out that he did not have to because he was working from his own translation which renders every violent act defensive with the addition of helpful comments. Just like that….for instance:

Sura 9:123 “O believers! Fight against those of the disbelievers who are around you (i.e., who are directly involved in hostilities and terrorist activities against you). And (fight in a way and at a time that) they find in you toughness (of might, valour and defensive capability). And bear in mind that Allah is with those who guard themselves against evil.”

Helpful, no doubt, to those desperate to believe in the religion of peace or to those wishing to encourage them, but would it convince your everyday jihadi?

10. “Where is the book of Sharia law? It doesn’t exist. People argue over what Sharia law is.”

It is hard to know what point Mehdi is making here. Is it that because there is no one unchanging statute book that there is nothing to worry about? You might as well say that because Islam is fractured into many sects that it presents no problem to the non-Muslim world.

According to Robert Spencer “Sharia in reality is marked by a remarkable uniformity: the four Sunni schools of Islamic law agree on about 75% of all rulings. Whenever and wherever we see Sharia implemented, it looks essentially the same. Changes and variations come in when Sharia provisions are relaxed or dropped altogether, as in secular Turkey — but that is not some different version of Sharia, it is no Sharia at all”.

11. “If a tiny minority of Muslims are committing acts of terrorism why aren’t the rest of us doing it?”

a. Because there is no need. Jihad (the struggle to promote Islam) comes in many forms other than violence, such as contributing to charities which help terrorists or by spreading the influence of Islam through proselytising, lawfare and endless demanding and complaining (note the Arab saying “Show a victim’s face and you will take over”).

As Ibn Khaldun the mediaeval historian said:
“In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the Muslim mission and (the obligation to) convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force“.

b. Not everyone follows their religion closely or is neccesarily aware of their obligations, especially as many Muslims merely recite the Koran in Arabic, a foreign language to the majority. Sadly, the more seriously a believer takes Islam the greater the likelihood of violent jihad. How often do we hear of a terrorist that he was becoming more devout in the preceding months, such as this British Jihadi fighting in Syria:

“It wasn’t taught to me that Islam is peace and there’s no fighting.
It is peace but it requires fighting.
The duty of a Muslim is to love jihad.
One of the sayings of the prophet peace be upon him whoever does not go jihad or doesn’t even talk about it dies with the characteristic of of hypocrisy.
I am actually a Muslim following the way I should be.”