Why I don’t write about Islam

It’s a natural consequence of my living in the United States that I write about Christianity more often than any other religion. The majority of religious people I encounter are Christian — and a significant portion of them are trying to push their religion on others using guilt, sheer volume, or even the government — so when I come up with post ideas, they’re often related to that dynamic.

I really don’t intend to imply with my blog that any one religion or any particular flavor of supernatural belief is more irrational than any other. I try to mix it up when I can, usually with Judaism or Islam because those are the next two religions in my list by familiarity, and also because their beliefs are more well-defined than, say, Hinduism or Buddhism. But I don’t do it as often as I’d like.

I got a bit of a reminder recently about why this happens. I was walking through the student center on my campus, past the place where various clubs and organizations can reserve tables to pass out flyers, have bake sales, and the like. This time, the Muslim Student Association had a table, and since I always stop to ask the Christian kids (from any one of their unnecessarily-many fellowship groups) why it is they believe what they believe, I was excited for the chance to talk about Islam. They had a little poster advertising free Qur’ans and other free literature. I walked up to the guy at the table, mentioned that the sign about free Qur’ans caught my eye, and asked if we could discuss his beliefs in some detail because I had some questions about Islam for him.

He greeted me and asked earnestly, “Have you heard of Islam before?”

I was stunned, and probably laughed. “Um, yes, I just said … I wanted to ask you … Do you really meet people here who haven’t heard of Islam at all?”

He seemed pleasantly surprised, thanked me for pronouncing “Islam” correctly (how do other people say it?!), and mentioned that he had a teacher in high school who didn’t know what it was. He then explained some basic facts/beliefs about Islam and Mohammed, which made me wonder what he would have said if I hadn’t heard of Islam before, and then he asked me, “Have you ever heard of the Qur’an?”

Had I ever heard of the Qur’an?! I came over to see about getting a free one! I told him that of course I had, that I’d read maybe a quarter of it online in bits and pieces but never the whole way through at once, and I thought that might be interesting. I told him that I was an atheist myself, but that I was really interested in understanding why other people held the beliefs that they did.

We went on having a conversation for a bit — he described the Qur’an as the perfection of God’s word which had also been revealed in the Bible, where it had gotten corrupted, so I asked him about why he supposed God would have allowed his word to get misunderstood and misinterpreted for thousands of years and only in the seventh century C.E. decide to correct it and actually protect it from alteration this time. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t have an answer except for God’s mysterious plan … but it was a pleasant conversation, and I think I gave him something to keep thinking about.

I went away sort of shaken, though. He thought I wouldn’t have heard of the Qur’an. He thought I might have no idea at all what Islam even was. When Christian groups advertise on campus, it’s never by saying, “Have you ever heard of Christianity?” There’s so much stigma in the US against Islam, as well, that I’m sure many of the people who think they know what Islam is have gross misconceptions. And that’s why he looked like a frightened puppy.

I haven’t come across any supernatural beliefs that I think are correct. I don’t think this undergrad should be a Muslim, in the sense that I think that everyone should believe things that are true and I don’t think Islam is true. But I respect everyone’s right to make those evaluations for themselves, and it really seemed like he was feeling marginalized and getting discriminated against because he came to a different conclusion than the majority-Christian population (whose beliefs make no sense for the same reasons). So, I felt bad for him. It was difficult to take a hard line against his beliefs the way I do with the Christian evangelists. And I think that’s why I don’t write about Islam that much. It feels like they have a hard enough time as it is.

At the same time, the way religions fade away is for them to seem ever more ridiculous to the population as a whole. (I realize that Islam isn’t fading away on a global scale, but I think this argument still applies locally.) It’s inevitable that the last few people in any fading religion feel marginalized. Does that mean we should coddle them and encourage them until their religion grows enough to be worth criticizing again? That would be silly.

This post isn’t about why I shouldn’t write about Islam. It’s about why I don’t. What I have to remember is that asking critical questions isn’t disrespectful, even though some people may see it that way. It’s worth questioning and debating with those who hold implausible, unwarranted, or morally reprehensible beliefs, whether they make up 75% of the population or 0.5%.

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11 Comments

  1. No need to specify IsLame, or Jews because when most xtains are acting their worse it is when they are putting the old testament into play. And the old testament is the worse parts of the jews and IsLame as they all are essentially the same. So addressing xtians usually will cover the other two as well as they are all three abrahamic, misogynistic, bigoted, hatefilled BS.

  2. The only thing is that Islam poses a far greater threat to global prosperity than Christianity. And Islam perpetuates far more and far greater injustices than Christianity – i.e. genital mutilations, honor killings, burqas, anti-blasphemy and free speech, death-threats to apostates, and suicide bombings to name a few. (Check out thereligionofpeace.com for a very disturbing account – i can’t stay on that site for more than a minute). We liberals have a soft spot for minorities, but maybe we ought to get past that in this particular case. Sam Harris certainly has.

    Not that we should encourage bigotry. We need to separate criticizing beliefs from criticizing the people who hold the beliefs. But I think it is responsible to give at least equal due to Islam when dishing out criticism.

  3. Islame is even more dangerous the the Christian hell bent on Armageddon ,Destruction of the world psycho church. When it comes to being even bigger A-holes than Christians Muslims take it up a notch! Abdul, It’s not a contest! Both of these sand box faiths are on they’re way out,and it drives them Nuts;why less and less people are buying they’re hate filled bullshit stories. The 3 kitty box regions are insane .

  4. I make fun of every religion, but Christianity is the one I know about the most so it’s the obvious target. However, during Draw Mohammed Day last year I did a series of drawings (crappy bit funny drawings) satirizing how it’s not OK to draw the prophet. Comedy takes no prisoners.

  5. I had a Muslim friend in high school. Once I went over to his house, and I was told not to step over all the books he had lying around, because it was bad luck.

    He also was not allowed to touch or be near dogs or cats, because their hair was “unclean.” So whenever he came over to my house we had to lock up our pet. Nevertheless, he told me it is okay with his religion to keep a bird, which usually squawks and shits all over the place. Also, the Koran states that all non-believers go to hell when they die, so there’s that nonsense.

  6. “so I asked him about why he supposed God would have allowed his word to get misunderstood and misinterpreted for thousands of years and only in the seventh century C.E. decide to correct it and actually protect it from alteration this time. Unsurprisingly, he didn’t have an answer except for God’s mysterious plan … ”

    Well I’d say the reason why God decided to protect Quran is that it was the LAST book. The faith that has been going on since the time of Adam (peace be upon him), has been completed. So being a religion that is meant to be universal (Muslims believe that the other messengers were sent for THAT nation and THAT time only), its only logical that the final book will be preserved.

    But then again, its not really a matter of WHY Quran was protected its more a matter of is it REALLY the true word of God. And for that one must check for its accurateness, consistency and why people consider it a miracle. And that is one area that has been extensively researched and I have not found it lacking.

    BTW I love the Carl Sagan quote you used.

  7. Sorry, didn’t mean to spam but I just read the above comment and thought I might clarify a few things.

    “I was told not to step over all the books he had lying around, because it was bad luck.”

    I assure you that has nothing to do with Islam. Must be your friends cultural superstition or something.

    “He also was not allowed to touch or be near dogs or cats”

    Dogs are only allowed to be kept if they are meant to be guard dogs or meant for hunting (and the whole thing has nothing to do with touching the animal). As for cats.. nothing to do with islam. Infact we are told that once a person gave some water from a well to a thirsty dog and that earned him paradise (its from the saying of the Prophet Muahmmad (peace be upon him).

    “Non-believers go to hell when they die, so there’s that nonsense.”

    As per other religions, Islam says that if you do not believe in a God or associate partners with him. And you die as a non believer, then yes, you do end up in hell. But then again, Islam again and again says if you repent than it doesn’t matter how big your sins are you will find God, Forgiving. Islam is not just bout positive reinforcement, its also about negative reinforcement. Humans only behave when they are motivated and they know the consequences of their action, thus the establishment of laws and jails.

  8. Faryal:

    Well I’d say the reason why God decided to protect Quran is that it was the LAST book. The faith that has been going on since the time of Adam (peace be upon him), has been completed. So being a religion that is meant to be universal (Muslims believe that the other messengers were sent for THAT nation and THAT time only), its only logical that the final book will be preserved.

    This isn’t really a reason so much as a restatement of the Muslim belief. My question is, why didn’t your god give his “last book” earlier? If he’s omniscient and omnipotent, and if he wants to spread the truth to people, why did he make earlier attempts at offering revelations and then allow those to get corrupted with false teachings? It seems to me like a pretty twisted way to go about spreading a message.

    But then again, its not really a matter of WHY Quran was protected its more a matter of is it REALLY the true word of God. And for that one must check for its accurateness, consistency and why people consider it a miracle. And that is one area that has been extensively researched and I have not found it lacking.

    The question I raise above does, for me and many others, cast doubt on whether it is the word of God. At best, it might be the word of a god who likes to trick humanity with false teachings, and may even be playing some kind of a practical joke on us now — hardly the god described by Islam, I think you’d agree.

    Regardless, I have not found this evidence you speak of as having been “extensively researched,” demonstrating that the Qur’an is what Islam teaches it is. Perhaps you could point us to some resources that you think well explain how it is accurate and consistent to a degree that warrants the “miraculous” label, disproving the much simpler explanation that humans wrote it.

  9. I am writing in answer to your question:

    “why God would have allowed his word to get misunderstood and misinterpreted for thousands of years and only in the seventh century C.E. decide to correct it and actually protect it from alteration?”

    For thousands of years He didn’t protect His word from getting misinterpreted Why? He wanted to test man, he gave us free will so that we willingly follow him. To see how much we can come into the temptation to change His words for our own profit.

    Why He then decided to correct and protect it?
    Well, the world has to end one day and God promised Adam that He would send His Prophets from time to time so that they may follow them.
    So by making the Quran unchangeable, it is always available for those who may seek it.

    (Even though its words could be interpreted differently by different readers.)

    And after His words had been changed he sends down another Prophet, among the Arabs.

    The tidings of the coming of Muhammad (Peace be Upon him) given in other Books have been discussed in this article : http://www.islam101.com/religions/christianity/mBible.htm
    (have a look if you are interested)

    I have much to learn to know what His exact reasons were.

    You wonder why people believe in things that seem implausible to you? May be because what it seems to you isn’t how it seems to others? Everyone has his own outlook on things. Now who is right could be debate-able.
    Asking critical questions isn’t disrespectful if its done in a decent way.

    The belief in existence of God while to some seems a sign of folly and short mindedness. To others it is a source of strength, in hard times.

    Those who live for others and themselves lose hope when what they care for is lost to them.
    But the belief of God’s existence gives hope and patience to live on against all odds.

  10. NFQ:
    In reply to your question about the accuracy of the Quran, i would like to show you the scientific side of it– It has various statements about different subjects, including the big bang theory, which, I may remind you, was just recently conceived but which quran has mentioned 1400 years ago. Similarly there are statements about other topics like geology, biology, botany, physics etc which at that time were not discovered but all the same are present in the quran . if you want to know all the details here is a link http://www.scienceislam.com/scientists_quran.php . let me give you an example–

    Professor Alfred Kroner who is one of the world’s most famous geologists. He is a Professor of Geology and the Chairman of the Department of Geology at the Institute of Geosciences, Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany. Professor Alfred said:

    “Thinking about many of these questions and thinking where Muhammad came from, he was after all a Bedouin. I think it is almost impossible that he could have known about things like the common origin of the universe, because scientists have only found out within the last few years with very complicated and advanced technological methods that this is the case.”

    He also said: “Somebody who did not know something about nuclear physics 1400 years ago could not, I think, be in a position to find out from his own mind for instance that the earth and the heavens had the same origin, or many others of the questions that we have discussed here.”

    So, according to the theory of probability, it is not possible that a book written 1400 years ago could have so many ‘miraculous’ discoveries (which have been acheived in today’s date with the help of very advanced technology) could be written by any man or woman and it will be safe to conclude that it is the divine word of God.
    Thanks for reading…peace out

  11. Christopher N. Govandtwstar

     /  July 22, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    warning to anyone convert to Islam, before you convert read these verses in quran: q:4:34, q:2:282, q:2:223 about women/q:5:33, q:9:29,q:9:73 about war with non muslims/ q:5:38 about the penalty of someone who steals.q: 5:51 about are you allowed to be a friend with Christian or Jew.Dangerous make your research before convert. I am a former Muslim.

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