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ISLAM and its future

In our society it is not politically incorrect to criticize religions, so we hear many nice remarks about Islam. It is therefore a shock to encounter the ideas of Ibn Warraq, who recognizes that leaders like Bush and Blair are obliged to speak well of Islam, since they have to deal with Islamic countries. While he understands multiculturalism. he laments that it leads to an unwillingness to criticize other cultures and religions. Ibn Warraq was brought up as a Muslim. but then read the Koran carefully and explained in What the Koran Really Says why he finds it repugnant. It violates all human rights, Islamic countries signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the proviso "only in so far as it does not violate the Koran". He enumerates the ways in which the Sharia flouts human rights. As people of the Book, Jews and Christians have limited rights, but those of other religions, such as Hindus, must convert to Islam or face death. This helps explain the religious conflicts in India.

In Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out, Ibn Warraq has gathered the testimony of a number of people who have renounced Islam, including four women. He gave them all a choice of using an alias or their real name. Several chose the latter, which was courageous, since apostasy is punishable with death. Ibn Warraq is an alias. I do not know his real name. As for his life, we are simply told that he was born in India and educated in the West (presumably England). Certainly Islamic information services must have identified him, even though he wears big dark glasses and seemingly a wig. His books would have brought him to their attention: The Origins of the Koran, The Quest for the Historical Muhammad, What the Koran Really Says: Language, Text, and Commentary and Why I Am Not a Muslim. He must be the target of several fatwas. He presumably known Salman Rushdie, whose background is similar. I do not know if Ibn Warraq is given police protection.

His description of the Muslim world is depressing. He describes the bloodbath when Pakistan attempted to suppress the independence of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh. His most ferocious attacks are on Iran, which he describes as a brutal theocracy, as ruthless as the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. He must be in touch with Iranian exile groups and probably with Iranian students. If President Bush is looking for arguments in favor of attacking Iran, Ibn Warraq can supply them. He devotes considerable attention to a Tunisian woman who revolted against her Islamic upbringing and took refuge in Paris, where she has her own website. Her brother became involved with the Iranian secret police, a story she describes in a book Carime, mon frère. I wonder is any France-based WAISer can tell us more about this. As for Saudi Arabia, it is the center of Arab imperialism, with its insistence that the Koran be read in Arabic, not in the translations available in many countries. I wonder how the big printing press in Medina fits into this. It publishes the Koran in many languages, including Hebrew.

One was of escaping Islam is to reverts to one's pre-Islamic roots. This is especially true in Egypt, where for a long time pre-Islamic history was not taught. Now there is a revival of interest in it, raising the question as to whether Egyptians are really Arabs. Presumably it would be a good think if Indonesia reverted to its pre-Islamic roots, now represented only by Bali. If all of Indonesia had the charm of Bali, the world would be a better place. Last year's bombing in Bali was partly inspired by the belief that people of Hindu-type faith must concert or face death. It would seemingly not be liberation for Saudi Arabia to revert to its pre-Islamic roots.

However, the important conclusion to be drawn from Ibn Warraq is that there is a widespread movement among young Muslims to renounce Islam. There are well over a hundred websites devoted to this, some in Arabic, some in other languages. The movement seems to be based in France, England and the US. Ibn Warraq has only scorn for the few Muslims in France who have aligned themselves with ultra nationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen, which is indeed a marriage that makes no sense. One wonders what influence this limited number of apostates can have on a billion Muslims. They are mostly younger people, and they may well have the support of university students in countries like Iran. If the apostate movement spreads. it would reduce world tensions. How long will the brutal mullahs in Iran survive?

Ronald Hilton - 7/13/03