Q&A WITH AN ATHEIST

RELIGION IS THE ROOT CAUSE OF ALL EVIL ESPECIALLY WHEN SCIENCE AND HUMANISM PROVIDE SUCH REAL HOPE FOR HUMANITY.

If one were to take religion out of the equation for one moment, would the world become a better place? If yes, how would one explain this? “Defenders of religion claim Adolf Hitler was an atheist. Communism under Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot or Mao Zedong banned religion, but also massacred millions. And science brought incredible and amazing advances, but also pollution and the atomic bomb.” (Source: Dawkins on religion, June 2013, Al-Jazeera)

In fact, atheists nowadays like to argue how atheism should not be held responsible for the actions of some authoritarian regimes that worked very hard to expunge religion from under its control (e.g., Pol Pot, Stalin, Chairman Mao, etcetera) but then: We should not forget what happened following the establishment of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, two nations that actively promoted “state atheism” by violently suppressing religious expression and persecuting faith communities: “While it wasn’t atheism that motivated Stalin and Mao to demolish or expropriate houses of worship, to slaughter tens of thousands of priests, nuns and monks and to prohibit the publication and dissemination of religious material, it was anti-theism that motivated them to do so. (Source: Sam Harris and “New Atheists” aren’t new, aren’t even atheists on 21 Nov 2014 by Reza Azlan, Salon.com)

In many ways, the persecution of religious minorities continue unabated to this date among millions of Muslim and Christian minorities in China today.

Besides, if you truly believed that religion is “one of the world’s great evils” – as bad as smallpox and worse than rape; if you believe religion is a form of child abuse; that it is “violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children” – if you honestly believed this about religion, then what lengths would you not go through to rid society of it.? (Source: Sam Harris and “New Atheists” aren’t new, aren’t even atheists on 21 Nov 2014 by Reza Azlan, Salon.com)

 For a Muslim, being an atheist is like living life without a guiding rulebook on how best to act, which probably works for some but may not work for others.

I think that encouraging people to change their actions is more essential than trying to change their beliefs. If everyone in the world became an atheist, it wouldn’t solve all the world’s problems; if everyone became kind and good, it would. (Source: Why I ditched God for good by Ariane Sherine on 3 December 2013, The Guardian), religious or non-religious.

In fact, here are two additional excerpts about religion versus atheism worth pointing out:

#1: I’d say the conclusion is obvious that the only thing as disturbing as the religious is the modern atheist . . . Similarly, [Christopher] Hitchens appears to have become obsessed with defying religion, so made himself one of the most enthusiastic supporters for a war he saw as being against the craziness of Islam. But the war wasn’t about God or Allah, it was about more earthly matters, which the people conducting that war understood. (Source: Just because you’re an atheist doesn’t make you rational by Mark Steel, 29 Dec 2011, The Independent)

 #2: I also see Richard Dawkins differently. I see him as a grown up version of that 16-year-old kid, proud of being smart, unable to under- stand why anyone would believe or think differently from himself. I see a person so removed from humanity and so removed from the ambiguity of life that he finds himself judging those who think differently. I see someone doing what he claims to hate in others. Preaching from a selfish vantage point. (Source: The people who challenged my atheism most were drug addicts and prostitutes by Chris Arnade on 24 December 2013, The Guardian)

MEN OF RELIGION ARE VERY VIOLENT.

Karen Armstrong, bestselling author on history and religion said in an interview in late November 2014:

“No state, however peace-loving it claims to be, can afford to disband its army, so when people say religion has been the cause of all the major wars in history this is a massive oversimplification. Violence is at the heart of our lives, in some form or another . . . “Blaming religion”, Armstrong argues, “allows Westerners to ignore the essential role that violence has played in the formation of our own societies – and the essential role that our societies have played in seeding violence abroad”. (Source: Karen Armstrong on Sam Harris and Bill Maher: “It fills me with despair, because this is the sort of talk that led to the concentration camps” on 23 November 2014 by Michael Schulson, Salon)

 RELIGION CAUSE WARS AND DEATHS.

If we think religion has been a negative force in modern world history, consider the alternative. Religion couldn’t have done worse than the history of savage secular violence and unprecedented butchery that dominated the history of the West in the twentieth century, marked by two world wars, fascism, Nazism, and communism – none of which had anything to do with religion. Secular extremism has only offered us worse. The real problem lies in the nature of human aspirations, good and bad. We in the West will be on a sounder path if we can de-Islamize our perceptions of regional issues and view them simply as universal human social and political problems for which we, too, share some responsibility . . .

The true horrors of the twentieth century have almost nothing to do with religions: two world wars, Fronco, Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Rwanda – the deaths of hundreds of millions of people, all involving secular, even atheist regimes that seized upon dogmatic ideas and brutally implemented them at all cost. (Source: A World without Islam, Author, Graham E Fuller)

 SO YOU ARE SAYING ALL ATHEISTS ARE  TROUBLE MAKERS?

While there is a minority but loud group of atheists who are profoundly disrespectful of fundamental individual rights and the basic right to freely worship, the vast majority of atheists and self-professed agnostics are open-minded and respectful of other creeds. In fact, a number of high pro le atheists today like Richard Dawkins are increasing gaining more detractors than followers as time goes by – and as their true colour emerges.

Richard Dawkins is yet another example of a man hugely disconnected with the massive growing movement of atheists today, frequently criticised for his narrow-mindedness and his insistence of “preaching from a selfish vantage point”. (Source: The people who challenged my atheism most were drug addicts and prostitutes by Chris Arnade on 24 December 2013, The Guardian)

 Not every atheist looks up to Ayaan Hirsi Ali given how she has a tendency to speak from both sides of her mouth: “We believe Ayaan Hirsi Ali represents a sadly common voice in the atheist community that attacks and provokes, rather than contributes to constructive criticism or dialogue”, according to a statement by a group of students. (Source: Yale Atheists, Humanists and Agnostics, Yale University)

“Sam Harris genuinely appears to view himself as a voice of science and reason . . . Harris must be aware that Middle Eastern nations have repeatedly been subjected to humiliating wars of invasion, conquest and expropriation that have killed millions of people. They play no evident role in his thinking about the state of Islam”. (Source: Atheism, Islam and liberalism: This is what we are really fighting about on 12 Oct 2014 by Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com)

 BUT ATHEISM IS COMPLETELY AGAINST VIOLENCE.

The Chapel Hill shootings in February 2015 is perhaps a useful example of a militant atheist. On February 10, 2015, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were all killed in their home in Finley Forest Condominiums on Summerwalk Circle in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, United States. A year later in Oregon, there was yet another school shooting in the US by proud atheist Chris Harper, a 26-year-old who shot and killed nine people and injured at least seven others. Before each person was killed execution style, he asked each of his victims: “Are you a Christian?” and “if you are a Christian then stand up” and as they stood up, he continued ‘because you are a Christian you’re going to see God in about one second’ followed quickly by a gunshot. The Las Vegas shooting (worse mass shooting in recent US history) by Stephen Paddock (known atheist or anti-theist) on Oct 1 2017 is yet another example.  Again, it is wrong to argue this applies to all atheists. The vast majority are open-minded and respectful or at the very least, indifferent to other beliefs and creeds.

STILL, ATHEISM IS THE BEST OPTION FOR MANKIND.

“As practised by Richard Dawkins and his ilk (the late Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher, Sam Harris, et al), what is branded as “New Atheism” now amounts to a fanatical religion, degenerated into an o beat cult, entirely contradictory to the delusion they are preaching that they are atheists . . . The manner, however, in which Dawkins and his coreligionists preach and practise their atheism is not much different than the manner in which Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi preaches and practises his Islam, or John Hagee confesses his Christianity, or Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan his Judaism. They are all fanatical absolutists, dead certain in their hateful convictions, and without the slightest human doubt about their fanatical dogmas. They are all interdictions and punishments: no room for error, no time for introspection, no interior space for tolerance . . .

Judaism produced its Maimonides, Buber, and Levinas, Christianity its Schleiermacher and Kierkegaard, Islam its Rumi and Ibn Arabi, Hinduism its Ramakrishna, Ramana Maharshi, and Mirabai. But who have these profoundly fanatical atheists produced to teach them patience, humility, and forgiveness? Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris – an abiding love of humanity and our frailties? They are each more vindictive, arrogant, and spiteful than the other. Can you imagine if these vindictive fanatics were to rule the world, legislate its laws, and execute its mandates? Anxiety-ridden, obsessive, and hypochondriac – they excel in the neurotic behaviour they then attribute to “religion”. (Source: Is there a Theology to this New Atheism? By Hamid Dabashi, 27 September 2015, Aljazeera.com)

BUT RELIGION IS NOT RATIONAL. MEN OF RELIGION BELIEVE IN GOD WHILE ATHEISTS BELIEVE IN SCIENCE.

In the words of a Hira Amin, a PHD student at Cambridge: “Just because I believe in God does not make me a less rational human being. The prevalent belief that science answers all questions is astonishing. As Western philosophers of science point out, science cannot answer questions surrounding the issues of morality, meaning and purpose. Science can only study the physical world, not the metaphysical. Religious people do not reject science; we believe there is more to life than just physical matter”. (Source: A post by Hira Amin, PhD at Cambridge University extracted into an article titled what is it like to be a Muslim in Britain today on 9 July 2014 by Emma Howard, The Guardian)

FAITH MEANS TO BELIEVE WITHOUT REASON.

This is false. Islam requires faith, not blind faith, as there is a world of scientific evidence, if one were to read the Qur’an and make a genuine effort to reflect and understand it from a neutral – scientific and historical stance. A good example is that of the carbon-dating of a parchment of text from the Qur’an kept at Birmingham University, which sparked an almost irrelevant debate in June 2015 as to when the Qur’an was compiled, when the key point about the miraculous nature and contents of the Qur’an was stupendously overlooked. Back in the day, the Qur’an was compiled by followers who wrote down Muhammad’s [PBUH] words on “pieces of papyrus, at stones, palm leaves, shoulder blades and ribs of animals, pieces of leather, wooden boards” according to Cyril Glasse in The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam.

Based on the carbon-dating of a parchment of text from the Qur’an on hand, leading Oxford academics claimed it originated between 568-645 AD, or five full years before the Qur’an is widely believed by Muslims to have been compiled in year 650, or eighteen years after the death of Muhammad (PBUH), who is generally thought to have lived between 570 to 632. The book was put together under the rule of Uthman, the third Caliph and close companion to Muhammad (PBUH), who was elected from 644 to 656. The academics argued this “may change our understanding of the way in which Islam’s holy book was compiled.” Needless to say, the assertion was disputed by many fellow academics.

What was unfortunately not as widely covered was the fact that: “A study of the orthography of the pages – the spelling, grammar and other conventions of language shows that it can be dated to the second half of the seventh century and therefore fits in with the more traditional explanation of the Qur’an’s development. Among the telltale features that indicate that it is from a later version of the holy book are the use of verse markers and marks denoting how a consonant should be pronounced. Such devices, it is argued, were not in use during the Prophet’s life.” Dr. Mustafa Shah, senior lecturer in Islamic studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, told The Independent Newspaper: “When you look at this, it is clear they simply t with the stylistic conventions of Arabic linguistic form of the later seventh century”. (Source: Scholars split by claim that Koran scrap rewrites story of Islam by Cahal Milmo, 5 September 2015, The Independent)

Nonetheless, this begs an important question how was so much information about modern day radar technology, the contraction motion that facilitates birth, the solidity of the atom and electron orbits, bone loss at old age, the ozone layer at the poles as the sun rises, the cloning of living things, the pulling motion that facilitates birth, the expanding universe, earth’s gravitational force, fossilization and iron content, the sun’s hydrogen and helium content, oxidation in the blood, the sun’s trajectory, orbits and the rotating universe, earth’s geoid shape, layers of the atmosphere, the formation of petrol, sub-atomic particles, pulsating stars, weight of clouds, formation of rain, how the process of photosynthesis begins in the morning, seas not mingling with one another, darkness in the seas and internal waves and hundreds of other scientific facts – known 1400 years ago regardless of whether the Qur’an was compiled in year 568-645 which in any case is unlikely given how the “use of verse markers and marks denoting how a consonant should be pronounced were not in use at the time” – or after 650 which is more likely given the “stylistic conventions of Arabic linguistic form of the late seventh century”, illustrating best the metaphysical and miraculous source of the Qur’an could not have been a human.

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“REFORMED” OR EX-MUSLIMS

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A MUSLIM ISLAMOPHOBE.

There are indeed some ex-Muslims and “reformed” Muslims among us who speak and publish misinformed notions about Islam and Muslims. To complicate the murky waters, they may even publicly denounce well- known Islamophobes who unashamedly misrepresents facts about Islam and Muslims in their own version of unadulterated hatred but ultimately, their words and shared values are as aligned as it can be, making them Muslim Islamophobes from among us – people with Muslim names.

Not just Sajid Tarar, who heads up Muslims for Donald Trump or Palestine-born, Washington-based immigration lawyer, Kamal Nawash, who is just as fond of Trump along with his hate-mongering acolytes or up to 4 percent of registered Muslim voters who casted their ballots for none other than Trump, according to a survey conducted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations in October 2016.

Regrettably, these individuals and groups have curiously given the appearance of normalcy to a President that has thus far relied on dog- whistle politics when it comes to Islam and ordinary Muslims, providing the Trump administration with a token cover for their ongoing bigotry against minorities, admittedly not just Muslims.

While it is easy to point the finger at non-Muslims who level unfair criticisms about Islam and promote suspicions of ordinary Muslims but to truly combat Islamophobia, it is important we acknowledge the presence of such misguided self-professed “reformed” Muslims in our midst.

“Muslims” who are unwitting allies of barbaric monsters like Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (reportedly dead but regardless) whose three-pronged objective apart from (I) wrecking global carnage is to divide Muslims against each other similar: (II) to individuals with Muslim names in the West whose actions such as supporting fascist Trump who does not see a problem brazenly smearing all Muslims with the taint of extremism via misinformation and thus, has contributed greatly to “mainstreaming Islamophobia”; & (III) or individuals with Muslim names who promote falsities such as “noxious ideas embraced by ISIS are [somehow] shielded within our medieval texts” by cherry picking verses, ironically ignoring Qur’an 3:8 which refers to these people as “perverse” by declaring, “. . . those in whose hearts is perversity seek discord and wrong interpretation of [the Qur’an].”

BUT “REFORMED” MUSLIMS HELP ORDINARY MUSLIMS.

Writers and public speakers that rely on one-dimensional thinking and who claim to be Muslims or “former” or “reformed” Muslims including Ali Ayaan Hirshi, Fouad Ajami and some others with Muslim names who often find themselves in this ever-expanding paradigm fall within this category but:

“While they attempt to couch their language in the terms of pure critique of religious thought, in practice they exhibit many of the same tendencies toward generalisation & ethno-racial condescension as did their predecessors, particularly in their descriptions of Muslims”. (Source: Scientific racism, militarism, and the new atheists on 2 April 2013 by Murtaza Hussain, Aljazeera) however it is important to point out it is dishonest to suggest all former Muslims are against Muslims and Islam.

There are many ex-Muslims who no longer practice Islam but do not go out of their way to pick on Muslims or unfairly criticise Islam or any other religion. Similarly, there are atheists that are tolerant and some that are not. In essence, there is no one size that fits all.

BUT “REFORMED” MUSLIMS ARE BRAVE TO POINT OUT WHAT MOST ISLAMIC LEADERS ARE OFTEN TOO SHY TO ACKNOWLEDGE.

False.
These Muslim activists are all deeply concerned about the future of Islam if left in the ownership of its most extreme adherents. In aligning themselves with supporters of the Islam-hostile industry, as part of a high-risk attempt to enact change in how Islam is practised and perceived, they have earned the rancour and distrust of the majority of Muslims . . . In the end, the embrace of the Islamophobia industry is an untrustworthy one. Muslim activists who hope to create meaningful dialogue will find their experiences exploited by a system that, in truth, cares little for meaningful dialogue – in the fine words of Bina Shah, an opinion writer for the International New York Times in an article titled “The high-risk strategy of Muslim reformers. From Ayaan Hirsi Ali to Maajid Nawaz, the Islamophobia industry preys on the painful experiences of Muslim” by Bina Shah, 25 September 2015.

WHAT DO “REFORMED” MUSLIMS HAVE TO GAIN FROM CRITICISING MUSLIMS?

Like renowned Islamophobes today, these former or “reformed” Muslims and Islamophobes depend on the multi-million dollar Islamophobia network for their book sales, speaking engagements and think-tank funding, not so different from the methods used by the Islamophobes at the time of Muhammad (PBUH) who were only concerned about maintaining their lifestyle through the business of trade and tourism via false idol worship from across the Arabian peninsula into Mecca.

In fact, the Islamophobes at the time of Muhammad (PBUH) are known to have tried offering him gold equivalent to his weight and even used his uncle, Abu Talib as an intermediary for negotiations (similar to how funding, grants and public spotlight is offered to certain “reformed Muslims” with anti-Islam views today).

When all else failed including verbal and physical threats – Abu Jahal, one of the leaders or his most vocal opponent devised a plot nominating a strong person from each tribe to be given a sharp sword to assassinate Muhammad (PBUH). By doing so, the blood would be on all tribes and given how the small group of Muslims would not be able to fight back against all tribes, they would be forced to take blood money (cash settlement), which the wealthy Islamophobes would have been very happy to pay and settle to get rid of their problem.

Similarly today, the misinformation campaign includes the planting of false myths about many misinterpreted beliefs in Islam by certain “reformed Muslims” who ally themselves to the agenda of the anti-Islam industry. This being one such strategy employed to plant the seeds of division among Muslims. It is one thing to discredit or correct a wrong stated by an Islamophobe. It is a whole new level when the smearing and purposeful misinformation is spewed by a former or “reformed” Muslim.

© 2018. Ordinary Muslim Productions. All Rights Reserved