Abby

rainbow-islamHe is not the typical Kifaya topi lungi clad Muslim they show on the TV. He is educated, smart and intelligent. His friends call him Abby, they often say he does not even look like a Muslim. Abby bounces the compliment back with a cheeky smile and a wink. Abby maintains a social media presence and he comes across as person who is well versed with politics and current affairs. Abby is a firm believer in anything and everything that is seen as progressive by his liberal mates.

Abby has just finished work, it was a busy day but Abby knows how to handle work pressure. Negotiating his way through the busy metro traffic Abby arrives at home and throws himself on the couch. Time for catching up with some news.  Disaster! There has been an attack on a gay pub in Orlando Florida. Every news channel is running ticker updating the news of this gruesome slaughter. Twenty people have been killed. Abby is nervous. But why would Abby be nervous about an event that is taking place half way round the world? After all mass shootings are a regular occurrence in the US.

Fifty killed! This is no ordinary incident. Abby is not religious man but still he makes a prayer “Oh God, Oh God, please, please let this not be another Muslim involved in this act of shame”, Abby whispers.  It is almost like when Abby was anxiously waiting to know about his results in the HSC exam, his future depended on it.

Abby knows the drill, he has done this many times before but still he is nervous. It is a never a pleasant experience. Abby switches off the TV and tries to forget about the whole issue. But Abby’s phone is beeping in ever increasing frequency.  Abby figures it out, his liberal friends are tweeting and posting on Facebook, this can only mean one thing. Abby’s fear has come true. The shooter is indeed confirmed as person with Muslim name. Abby takes a deep breath and gets mentally prepared for what is to come.

Abby changes his display Picture on social media to LGBT flag. There should be no confusion about where he stands. His friends are proud of him. He is that rare model Muslim that his friends once believed can never exist. Abby knows he has to be careful. An enthusiastic display of protest can be seen as an attempt to hide is homophobic Muslim existence but not Re-Tweeting his liberal friend’s tweets can also create an impression that he may just be another Muslim who is not worthy to be in the sanctimonious liberal circle.

It was a tough night, Sanghis on Twitter showered abuses on Abby while his liberal friends passionately discussed Islamic theology. Is it the Quran or are the Hadits to blame? Is it this verse or is it that verse that inspired the shooter? Abby, the enlightened soul is visibly uncomfortable; he knows his liberal friends have gently placed him in the box of the accused while they deliberate over Islamic theology. Poor Abby, he has not been exposed to such a high dose of theology even in the month of Ramadan! Or is it Ramazan instead? Anyway!

Abby has gone through this before but it never gets easier. It was a difficult night but he was more scared of the next day.  Casual office conversations discussing the sad news coming from Orlando.  “Abby! What do you think will be the impact of this attack on the US elections” asks one elderly figure in a thick Indian accent. “I am not following the US election but I think this will help Trump” replies Abby. “That is not good news for you is it Abby?” says the elderly man sneeringly.

Abby knew this was never going to be an easy day. Abby quietly buries his head in the papers pretending to focus on work. His liberal friend notices the discomfort and decides to step in. “Fancy as smoke Abby?” he asks, “sure why not?” says Abby and they both head of the designated smoking area.

Abby’s liberal friend is wise. He knows what Abby is going trough so he decides to switch the focus to something light. “What is your opinion about Triple Talaq Abby? “asks the liberal friend who has a passion for reforming Islam and Muslims. Abby is not sure how to respond. Abby is not even married. Last time when Abby found a girlfriend he spent most of his time convincing her how he was not the typical Muslim. Abby broke up some time later. Apparently the conversations were not going anywhere.

In his solitude Abby often wonders why. Why is he held responsible for the act of a person who he did not even know existed before he saw the news on that fateful day just like anyone else.  He was just as appalled and saddened by the loss of so many lives.  A guy born and brought up in the US by his parents who migrated from Afghanistan, a guy who has a history of personal problems, a guy who legally bought guns in US, a guy that Abby has no relation with other than the fact that Abby is also among 1.6 billion Muslims and the guy who carried out this despicable act also identified himself as a part of 1.6 billion Muslims.

Abby is hoping the news cycle will die down soon. But Abby is also prepared to be put in the box of accused once again for something he has no connection with. He loves his liberal friends.

Quran and the common criticism of Islam

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While there is a lot of criticism of Islam available online there are some controversial issues that get more attention than others. In this blog I try to understand those controversial issues from the Quranic perspective. This article is not a testimony of what Islam and Muslims are, nor is this an attempt to present an apologia for the atrocities committed in the name of Islam or in the name of Mohammed, the prophet of Islam.

Apostasy

There is no verse in the Quran that says that people who quit Islam should be punished or harmed. There are verses in the Quran that say there is no compulsion in matters of religion (2:256). Then Quran goes further to make a case against forcing religion on people. “If your God had willed he would have created everyone a believer, will you then force religion on people?” it asks (10:99). So the “Islamic” problem of punishment for apostasy has an Islamic solution.

Blasphemy

There is no concept of punishment for blasphemy in the Quran. On the contrary Quran says Muslims should disassociate with people who mock their faith so they don’t become like those who indulge in such acts (4:140). Then Quran goes further and stops Muslims from mocking the religious leaders and gods of other faiths. (6:108)

Child Marriage

Quran prescribes marriage between adults who have a sound mind. Quran also forbids from marrying women against their will. (4:6)

Divorce

Quran prescribes a long negotiated settlement between the husband and the wife after appointing one lawyer for the man and one lawyer for the woman. (4:35)

Polygamy

Quran allows polygamy recommends monogamy (4:3 and 4:129). There was no way earlier tribes could have survived without the concept of polygamy when a large proportion of men died in wars. Polygamy allowed widows and their children another chance to become a part of family as family was the most important unit of tribal culture.

Female Genital Mutilation

There is absolutely nothing in the Quran that sanctions female genital mutilation. FGM is mainly practiced in some African countries both by Muslims and non Muslims. There is nothing in the Quran that sanctions this practice.

Circumcision

There is nothing in the Quran that sanctions male circumcision. Circumcision for males comes from an ancient Jewish practice that Muslims adopted. Today both Jews and Muslims follow this practice. So it may not be in the Quran but since Jews practice it and since it is not prohibited in the Quran then it means that circumcision can be considered as a practice sanctioned by Islam.

Female infanticide

Quran explicitly forbids female infanticide.(17:31, 81:8-9)

Violence against non believers

Quran asks Muslims to be fully equitable towards those non believers who peacefully live with Muslims (60:8). Quran allows Muslims to form marriage bonds with Christians and Jews (5:5). The idea that Quran has a general sanction to fight or kill non believers is baseless. Quran sanctions Muslims to fight those who threaten their nation state. This is a common modern law. If you try to challenge Indian state then Indian state will fight against you. If you try to fight any state in the modern world the state will fight against you. So Quran sanctions a just war and says that hostilities must cease when the enemy offers peace. Quran forbids killing of innocents saying that killing one innocent is like killing entire humanity (5:32).

Jizya (Tax on non believers)

Since Quran says that Zakat (charity) is compulsory on Muslims (9:60,2:177) it recommends that Jizya could be collected from non Muslims. Millions of Hindus have worked in the middle east, forget about paying Jizya they are not even required to pay any tax. Since Zakat is not being charged by the state there is no point of imposing Jizya either. So why cant Zakat be charged from non Muslims? For the simple reason that Zakat is a Islamic ritual while Jizya is tax imposed by the state hence imposing Zakat on non Muslims would be forcing an aspect of Islam on non believers. This is not permissible.

Slavery

Quran says freeing slaves from bondage is true righteousness (2:177,9:60,5:89). During those days there was no concept of nation providing security, it was the responsibility of the tribes and clans to guarantee security of the people. The people who lost the war were taken captives and then they were kept as slaves forever.Tribes guaranteed security to the captives in return for their services.

Quran allowed marriage between captives and victors (4:25). The eventual aim was to free all captives after war.  The earliest converts to Islam like Bilal were African slaves freed by Mohammed. In fact Quran bans trading in usury (3:130) because the unending cycle of interest eventually resulted in slavery. People borrowed money from the loan sharks and when they could not return the interest they were forced to become bonded labor. Mohammed banned this in the seventh century. India banned the practice of bonded labor in 1976.

Niqab

There is no verse in the Quran that asks Muslim women to cover their face, however there is a verse that prescribes covering of head and bosom (24:31). Quran also prescribes men to dress modestly (33:35). Also asks people not to walk with arrogance and pride (17:37). Also asks people not to eat more than what is required (20:81,7:31). Basically ask Muslims to be moderate in whatever they do.

Alcohol and Gambling

Quran prohibits Muslims from consuming alcohol and playing game of chance.(2:219-220)

Diversity

Quran does not give racial or cultural superiority to Arabs. Quran acknowledges cultural diversity in the world and asks people to learn from each other (49:13).

Science

While Quran endorses the concept of past miracles it definitely puts an end to the concept of miracles (6:109). There is nothing in the Quran that asks Muslims to do something that would harm their well being. In fact Quran even allows Muslims to eat pork in times of peril (2:173). Quran asks Muslims to go and explore the world (29:20). So there is nothing as such in the Quran that stops Muslims from exploring Science. In fact early Islam had many Muslim scientists.

72 Virgins

There is no verse in the Quran that talks about 72 virgins.

Stoning

There is no verse in the Quran that prescribes stoning as a punishment for any crime.

 

The Intermediaries

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Model of an ancient Jerusalem Temple

Matthew 21:12-13

Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves.

“It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’

Jerusalem

Irrespective of the popular narrative, Jesus was not a pacifist. He was strongly against the clergy and the way they used the name of God for commercial gains. The temples were in control of the clergy. Architecturally the temples had a layered structure with the inner most part (sanctum sanctorum) only accessible to the clergy symbolizing an important aspect of religion; You cannot reach gods unless you go through people who have access to gods.

The clergy determined how the sacrifices were to be made in the Temple and they determined the amount of money that will have to be spent to please the gods. Of course all the material offerings eventually belonged to the clergy. A modest compensation for helping people connect with god.

Outside the temples there were flourishing businesses selling items that were required to please the gods. The temple was essential to sustain those businesses and the temple itself became an essential part of the economy. Clergy used the temple and the fear of gods to convince people that parting away with their wealth in the form of sacrifices would please the gods which would in turn solve their health and wealth related issues.

Jesus witnessed this and in his zeal he overturned the tables of money changers and the benches of those selling doves for sacrifice. He also opened the cattle that ran through the dusty streets of Jerusalem. It was a spectacle.

Egypt

In Egypt there are an estimated seventy million mummified animals. Remnants of a culture where mummified animals were offered to please the gods or to act as intermediaries who took wrapped messages from those alive to those who have passed away. Forensic examination of animal mummies has revealed that these animals were bred in small cages and then were mercilessly killed in the most cruel ways so they can be mummified.

Mummification was big business and an essential part of the Egyptian economy. Only the clergy knew all the right mantras to properly offer the animal mummies to the gods. They too charged a modest sum for their services.

India

The Brahmins in ancient India took it a whole new level. They controlled the temples, they controlled the temple money, and they put themselves on the top of the social hierarchy, restricted others from learning religion and made rules that entitled them to social benefits. The following is an extract from Atharva Ved Book 12 Hymn 5 which explains the duty of giving cows to Brahmins and the sin and danger of withholding the gift.

O Cow, break thou the head of him who wrongs the Brāhmans, criminal, niggard, blasphemer of the Gods. Let Agni burn the spiteful wretch when crushed to death and slain by thee. Rend, rend to bits, rend through and through, scorch and consume and burn to dust,Consume thou, even from the root, the Brāhmans’ tyrant, godlike Cow! That he may go from Yama’s home afar into the worlds of sin. So, Goddess Cow, do thou from him, the Brāhmans’ tyrant, criminal, niggard, blasphemer of the Gods,With hundred-knotted thunderbolt, sharpened and edged with razor-blades,Strike off the shoulders and the head.Snatch thou the hair from off his head, and from his body strip the skin: Tear out his sinews, cause his flesh to fall in pieces from his frame. Crush thou his bones together, strike and beat the marrow out of him. Dislocate all his limbs and joints. From earth let the Carnivorous Agni drive him, let Vayu burn. him from mid-air’s broad region.From heaven let Sūrya drive him and consume him.

Phew!!

This system was successfully challenged by Gautam Buddah. Many of Buddha’s followers were Brahmins who were by their nature fair people and wanted to end this discrimination and exploitation. Buddha did not discriminate between sexes or castes. His message was simple and convincing. This was a direct challenge to the intermediaries.

Mecca

The Quraish tribe of Mecca controlled the access to the temple of the tribes known as the Kaaba. People from distant places visited Mecca to make their offerings to the gods. All these material offerings eventually ended up with the Quraish tribe. Each tribe had their own god housed inside the Kaaba and to enter the Kaaba they had to pass through the house of the leader of Quraish tribe, symbolizing the idea that the Quraish were the intermediaries between the pagan Arabs and their gods. This way the Quraish maintained their influence over the tribes in the region.

The prophet of Islam, Mohammed, was a Quraish, he was supposed to enjoy the benefits that came to his tribe through the gods of the Kaaba. He was not supposed to challenge and destroy everything his ancestors had established by shrewdly using gods to benefit their own tribe.

In every prayer that Muslims offer they renew their pledge of worshiping one God and asking one God for help (Quran 1:5). Mohammed’s God was accessible to every human, Mohammed’s God did not keep sacrifices for himself but wanted people to help their poor relatives, help the orphans, the travellers. Mohammed’s God wanted people to spend money to free slaves from bondage. (Quran 2:177).

And as per Quran, Mohammed did not promise riches to people, nor did he promise that he will get them salvation in afterlife. On the contrary he told them he has no knowledge of the unseen and he does not know his own future. (Quran 7:188)

Mohammed’s God wanted men and women to pray to him as equals. There were no queues or special lines for the special dignitaries. At the time of prayers the rich and the poor, the men and the women, the healthy and the weak all stand in rows as absolute equals and pray.

Dargah (Muslim Shrines)

Dargahs are the antithesis of Islam. Dargahs re-establish the dominant role of the clergy, they re-establish intermediaries, they potentially open up ways for exploitation of gullible masses. As per traditions, when Prophet Mohammed died, his companions destroyed the tree under which he spent time so people don’t convert it into a shrine.

There are no saints, no popes, no Brahmins in Islam. As per Islamic theology, everyone is equally answerable to God for their actions on the day of judgement and no soul will be able to help the other. (Quran 82:19)

The act of declaring someone as a saint violates the fundamental principle of Islam that only God can be the judge of someone’s deeds. To declare someone as saint is direct intrusion into God territory. The people who are buried in these shrines themselves only carried the message of Mohammed, they never asked their tombs to be glorified or turned into places of public interest. This was done by people out of love and respect.

Where do all the donations go? To the Dargah Trust which is managed by Khadims (servants of the tomb). I am sure by now you may have made the connection between various examples I presented from the past and these ‘Intermediaries to the Intermediaries’.

Let us assume that whatever I wrote in this blog is due to my lack of knowledge of Islam. Even then one question remains unanswered. If some good person can hear you from beyond the dead then why is it necessary to go close to that person’s mortal remains? A tomb can be left alone in peace and still a person can seek help of those saints.

The Hijab Flag

A person who claims to be a liberal says that millions of parents who make their girls wear a hijab are child abusers and need to be called out. Now these allegations have become too common so I decided to understand and respond to them. There are four types of child abuse:

  1. Physical AbuseUntitledsss
  2. Sexual Abuse
  3. Emotional Abuse
  4. Neglect

I tried my best to understand how making children wear a hijab fits into the definition of child abuse but failed. At this point I was under the impression that the gentleman is repeating the New Atheist claim that teaching religion to children is child abuse (of course it isn’t).

So just to be clear I confronted the gentleman with the example of Sikhs. After all Sikhs too make their children wear a turban from a very early age. This hit a Untitledsssraw nerve. In an angry invective laden tweet Shantanu made it clear that he had no issues with Sikhs making their children wear a religious headgear and the Sikh religious headgear for children is somehow not comparable to the Muslim headgear for children which he has declared as child abuse.

Then Shantanu goes on to say that Adults have the agency and free will to choose and kids don’t. At this moment I was confused. Apparently Sikh kids have the agency and free will to choose a turban and a Sikh lifestyle but Muslim kids don’t. Strange!

I try my best to understand what the other person is trying to say. Perhaps Shantanu is not so good at communicating his ideas, perhaps he wants to say that he has no issues with parents choosing a religious headgear for children as long as it is done for the right reasons. Sikhs do it for the right reasons and Muslims do it for the wrong reasons.

Shantanu did not say how Sikhs do it for the right reasons but he knows exactly why the Muslims do it for the wrong reasons. “To protect their modesty” he says. This also adds a new dimension to the debate. Presumably Shantanu cant read Arabic, has never read the Quran in Arabic or in English, nor has he taken any interest in learning about the history or origins of Islam, yet he is suddenly qualified to issue a sweeping fatwa on why Muslim women wear a hijab (Or are rather forced by Muslim men to wear a hijab).

Shantanu pulled out the most worn out Islamophobic trick ever. Islamophobes have little idea about what Islam is so they create their own caricature of Islam out of thin air. A caricature that they can easily mock. Not only is this caricature of Islam the truest form of Islam, they claim, but every Muslim who follows it is also an extremist.

So in the caricature created by Shantanu Muslims see Hijab as some kind of Kryptonite that will save the Muslim girls from bad men. Looking at his ignorance about Islam I tried to explain to Shantanu that Sikhs and Muslims make their children wear religious headgear for the exact same reasons. Sikhs emulate their Gurus and follow the path shown by them. Similarly Muslims emulate their Gurus and follow the path shown by them.

Hijab is not a something that came with Mohammed in Arabia of the seventh century. The history of hijab is perhaps as old as the history of the Jewish tribes. Even today the devout Jewish women wear the Jewish hijab called Kisui Rosh or the kerchief. In Christian traditions, Mary the mother of Jesus Christ is depicted as a hijab clad woman. The fact that Jewish women wore some kind of a Hijab is uncontested. Mohammed in the seventh century introduced and invited Arabs to worship the God of Jews and the God of Christians. Along with that came many Jewish customs for example; Jews and Muslims don’t eat pork, they do male circumcision, Muslim and Jewish men wear skull caps, Muslims eat halal meat which is based on Jewish Kosher meat; and many such similarities. Hijab came as part of a package to Arabs. In Islam, Mary the mother of Jesus enjoys the status of being the most exalted. Devout Muslim women try to follow into her footsteps.

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Kisui Rosh, The Jewish Hijab

So wearing of a hijab is primarily not a matter of modesty, it is a matter of piety. And of course there may be many other reasons to why Muslim women wear the hijab. Pious Sikhs make their children wear a religious headgear so do pious Muslims. They are simply following the tenets of their faith which is their fundamental right. And if the argument is that parents should not be allowed to teach religion to their kids then it opens a Pandora’s box. Why stop at religion? Should parents be allowed to teach specific food choices, movie choices, clothes, school, type of education? It is open ended.

Now the question is why did Jewish women start wearing the hijab? I don’t know. Why do Muslim men wear a skull cap? Why does the pope wear a skull cap? Why did Hindus start idol worship? I can’t answer any of these questions. If we take this path of rationally evaluating faith while ignoring human emotions and spirituality then we will end up where extremist atheist end up and that is a point where they believe all religious people are deluded and they automatically have the moral authority to talk at them and harass them. The only thing that is liberal about some self proclaimed liberals today is their ability to liberally make assumptions about other cultures.

There is nothing new about supremacists getting annoyed about how children are brought up in other cultures. This is exactly what led to several stolen generations in Australia where children were snatched from their aboriginal mothers and handed over to the Church and Government run institutions, all in the name of “protecting children from abusive parenting”. The issue of stolen generations still evokes strong emotions so much so that former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd issued a teary apology to the parents and kids of the stolen generation.

Thanks to bigots in the liberal garb we are now at a point where conservatism is on the rise. These people neither have the power nor the patience nor the academic reading of the subject to convince anyone to leave the hijab but collectively they have turned the hijab into a Muslim flag of defiance. It is apparent that these people are not looking for a dialogue with the Muslim community, they are merely interested in harassment. Why else would anyone start a dialogue by branding millions of parents as child abusers?

What should have been a purely social issue is now a political issue. Especially in the West. Muslim women know about the dangers they face while wearing a hijab on a public transport yet they wear it as if they are trying to make a point. It is these women who will also pass on the hijab flag to the next generation irrespective of what Muslim men or supremacist bigots think about the Hijab.

PS: I have absolutely no issues with Sikhs imparting religious education to their kids. The Sikh example was used to expose the double standards and selective targeting of Muslims by supremacists in the liberal garb. Don’t be surprised if they go after the Sikhs in near future. They pick the flavor of bigotry depending on the news cycle.

An Interview With A New Atheist

imagesI have with me Mr Aaye Noitall, the popular and dear leader of the New Atheist movement. New Atheism is often misunderstood and defamed by people who don’t know any better. Today we hope Mr. Noitall will introduce us to the philosophical thought behind the New Atheist Movement.

Mr. Noitall, welcome.

Let us begin by understanding the difference between Atheist and Religious philosophy.

Unlike religion Atheists do not believe in the idea of God or that the Universe was created by some bigger power whose existence cannot be proved in any way. Everything that has ever existed can be explained by understanding the laws of physics.

How do you think the laws of Physics came into existence?

I knew this was coming. This is a common theist question. Of course I am not referring to you as a theist; you look like an intelligent man. Laws of physics are Supreme, everything that we can see or hear runs according to laws of physics, everything can be explained using laws of physics, everything started with laws of physics, everything will end with laws of physics. We don’t know how laws of Physics came into existence but until we find out we have complete faith that laws of physics are supreme.

Would you at least concede that human consciousness and the ability to define what is right and what is wrong cannot be explained merely by laws of physics? 

Of course, human consciousness is not in the physical domain. For that we have come up with a value system called Humanism. It is a set of ideas we know are right for humanity and we want everyone to follow those ideas. Anyone who does not follow our value system is a deluded idiot.

Do you believe in Alien life?

We should never shut our doors to ideas. The universe is a vast place, there is a possibility that alien life exists but we can’t say for sure right now. There is no harm is searching for alien life. We can’t possibly find alien life if we completely reject the idea of alien life itself…unless they find us first, which is scary. I admit.

If there is nothing wrong in believing in the possibility of unknown how you can reject the existence of God? Is it possible that God may be an alien form?

If you put it that way then yeah, I suppose we can allow some humans with lower intelligence to keep looking for God. But we cannot have any laws that are given by that God.

But as per your own ideals, God does not exist. How can there be any laws given by God?

When we say “laws given by God” we are actually mocking the religious belief. We don’t actually believe that any laws are given by God. (Haha) All laws are made by humans. God is only used to stop people from scrutinizing those laws. And we avoid scrutiny merely by suggesting that our laws are good because they are not made by God.

It is often said that Atheists are supremacists who want to impose their own set of moral and ethical codes on the society. How do you respond to that?

Atheism just means that we reject the idea of God. It is a belief in nothingness. How can that be called supremacist? Yes we believe in the values derived from Humanism and they are of course far superior to the values derived from religion. In fact it is quite insulting that you think it is alright to compare the higher moral values of atheists with lowly values of the deluded religious fools.

Since God does not exist and religion is a man made philosophy just like Humanism would it be fair to say that both religion and humanism should be open to scrutiny and the best practices should be determined after careful deliberation, experimentation and data analysis?

I take strong offense at you putting the superior Humanism on the same plain as religion. Humanism is the product of high intellectual thought. How can people of low intelligence understand or scrutinize Humanism? It is good because it is the best.

Do you have a book of Humanism?

The idea of book is appealing but if we write down what Humanism is then people may confuse us for religion. They may quote our text out of context and harass us on every internet forum available. We do that all the time to religious people. We can’t let that happen to us. We are superior and our concepts are superior and we don’t need a book to tell us we are right or wrong. It is in our good human nature to know what is right and what is wrong.

Would you also say the same for religious people? After all they are humans too.

They are humans, yes that is an unfortunate truth that we cannot deny, but not all humans are born with the same intellectual capacity. How else can you explain a healthy brain falling for stupid ideas like God?

What do you have to say to those Atheists who claim that your criticism of the religious borders on bigotry. In fact the name ‘New Atheist’ has been given to you by Atheists so they can disassociate from you. They claim you are not trying to win the hearts and minds of people, instead you are trying humiliate them into submission.

“If you’ve got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.” said Theodore Roosevelt. We are firm believers in this enlightened philosophy. Some Atheists don’t have the courage to take on the religious people as we do. In their cowardice they start bad mouthing courageous and noble Atheists like us.

Fair enough. Now let us move to another topic on which atheists often find them on shaky ground. How do you respond to those who say Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were immersed in atheist thought and their actions resulted in the death of hundreds and millions of people?

Hitler, Stalin and Saddam Hussein all had moustaches. How many millions were murdered by militant Moustachism?

Stalin did not make learning of Moustachism compulsory in Schools, he made atheism compulsory, he closed down the churches and killed thousands of priests not because the priests were clean shaved he killed them because they were religious. He also had programs where youths were asked to convert their family members to atheism. If all this is done by, let us say, Khomeni you would certainly blame Islam. Then why should Atheism escape similar scrutiny?

Because Atheism is not even an ideology, it means nothing, we teach nothing, we know nothing…wait I want to take back the last claim. Atheism is simply a belief that God does not exist. What follows after that is not the responsibility of Atheism.

Then what follows after accepting God should not be the responsibility of theism. This essentially leaves us at a position where theism and atheism become completely irrelevant. So what is all the fuss about?

I don’t know.

Me neither.

Well thanks for talking to us Mr. Noitall.

 

 

Islam In The Subcontinent

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On the social media there is often talk of the so called “Arabization” of the Muslims in the subcontinent. Social media loves simple explanation but in the process loses all sense of reality. Let me explain how complex the Muslim society of India is before we even try to understand the influences that may or may not be working on them.

There are around 170 million people in India who identify themselves as Muslims. Apart from Jammu and Kashmir which is a Muslim majority state there is high concentration of Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal. In other states the Muslim population is between 6 to 15 percent of the total population of the state. In India different states have different languages and cultures and accordingly the Muslims too follow different cultural practices in cuisine, clothing and the way festivals are celebrated. Indian Muslims are just as diverse as the Indian population.

Now let me come to the interesting part of religious beliefs. The fundamental division between Muslims is on the basis of Sect. While there is no official statistics on the sectarian demographics, it is estimated that around 80% of Muslims in India are Sunnis. The division does not end there. Sunnis are further divided school of thoughts. Unlike popular belief that Muslims blindly follow the Fatwas from clerics there are various schools of thoughts among Indian Muslims that teach very different versions of theology. Since vast majority of Indian Muslims follow the Hanafi School, I will focus on explaining further differences.

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Barelvi school of thought

Barelvi school of thought is gets its name from the religious school located in the town of Bareli in Uttar Pradesh. This 19th century revivalist movement was established to counter the onslaught Christian missionaries. Believers in this school of thought see Prophet Mohammed as a supernatural being without any human weaknesses. Other defining feature of this school of thought is the importance given to shrines where there spiritual leaders of Islam are buried. They believe that praying at the tombs (mazaars) of these spiritual gurus will help the prayers reach God through the awliya (Gurus) as the intermediary.

Raza academy was recently in news for protesting against a film on the prophet of Islam. This academy is named after the founder of Barelvi Islam, Ahmed Raza Khan. The media tried to dismiss Raza academy as a fringe group when in fact it is quite a mainstream organization of Barelvi Islam.

Deobandi school of thought

The Deobandi school of thought was also established in the 19th century and it also gets its name from a town located in Uttar Pradesh. This school of thought strongly rejects the idea of shrines and declares that no intermediary is required to communicate with the omnipresent God.

This school of thought also rejects the idea that the prophet of Islam was a supernatural being and accepts him as human who lived and died a natural death. The Deobandi school of has emerged as a serious challenger to the Barelvi school of thought through its missionary work among Muslims. Some people confuse this with “Arabization” of Muslims when the fact is that this reformist movement is almost two centuries old in the subcontinent.

 The Conflict

Deobandis and Barelvis have very serious disagreements with each other to the extent that they consider each other outside the Church of Islam.

The Deobandi movement remained on the fringes of subcontinental Islam. There was a little impetus on reformation as shrines fulfilled the necessary social and spiritual needs of the people. There was no trigger that would push for a change in status quo.

With Islam becoming a global issue due to Western media, there came a new urgency among Indian Muslims (and perhaps Muslims around the world) to understand the meaning of Islam. This is where Deobandi movement got a massive boost. More and more Muslims are associating Shrines with idol worship and disassociating themselves with Barelvi Islam. Sufism had some great thinkers and unfortunately the Sufi thought is being rejected along with the Shrines which were the crucible of Sufi enlightenment.

Deobandis have their own set of problems. There is this attention to detail in rituals. From how to eat to how to sit to how to sleep there is close attention to detail to an extent that it can become quite irritating. There is no room to question or amend the Deobandi literature, nor is there any significant impetus on building scientific temperament. But their push to educate women has yielded some good results.

Salafi School of Thought

Salafis don’t believe the four major schools of thought. As per their claim, their impetus is on understanding and redefining Islam, once again, on the basis of Quran and the prophetic traditions (The Hadits) and rejecting all other books and interpretations written by different scholars over the years. While there is nothing wrong in this idea the Salafis have been involved in or have inspired some very violent movements in the Muslim world. Salafism is what is popularly known as Islamism or Islamist movement because of their fanatical focus on politics rather than spirituality.

One of the major reasons behind Muslims of India rejecting global Jihad is their rejection of Salafism. They don’t need Salafism because their urge to reform can be fulfilled by the indigenous Deobandi movement.

Wahabism

Wahabism is an 18th century Saudi Arabian religious reformation movement against Shrine worship. Wahabism is not necessarily Salafism but Saudis have often been accused of encouraging Salafis by helping them financially. Wahabi influence in India is often exaggerated. Most people in India wont even know who Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab was.

Quranist School of thought

This is a relatively new school of thought that rejects every book associated with Islam except the Quran because according to them all the other books are corrupted and they often contradict the Quranic teachings.

This is the most puritanical movement that exists today and is slowly gaining ground among educated Muslim elites. The Quranists reject ideas like blasphemy, punishment for apostasy, child marriage, female genital mutilation because none of these appear in the Quran. There are some Quranists who argue that the prophetic traditions (The Hadits) that do not contradict with the Quran are acceptable as a source of religious guidance.

Shias

Strange as it may seem Shia Islam emerged as a distinct theological school of thoughts only because some people did not agree on the leader after the demise of the prophet of Islam. Those people who wanted Ali, the prophet’s son in law to lead were unhappy at the appointment of Abu Bakr, prophets close friend, as the next leader of the nation of Islam. To most of us this would appear to be a minor disagreement but obviously some people felt quite strongly about it. Their defection created a whole new sect in Islam called Shia Islam. Now there are many different sub-sects within Shia Islam, namely, Ismailis, Zaidis, Jafri etc. Some would argue that Bohra and Khoja sects are specialized branches of Shia Islam.

Ahmedis

You may have heard the term Ahmedi and the persecution they face in Pakistan. Ahmedis believe in the Quran and the Prophet but they don’t see Mohammed as the last prophet of Islam. They follow the teachings of their spiritual Guru Mirza Ghulam Ahmad who was a brilliant scholar of Islam.

The conflict began when Ghulam Ahmad declared himself as the next prophet after Mohammed. Ahmedis are not accepted as Muslims by any sect of Islam because of their challenge to the most fundamental belief of Islamic theology that Mohammed is the last and final messenger of God.

The Ecosystem

CWr9gGAUEAAG142.jpg largeIslam is a ecosystem which is often confused to be an echo-system. There are diverse and competing ideologies trying to gain space. As is the case with any society. For Muslims belonging to various sects and school of thoughts it is important than ever before to focus on what people can agree on. A constant focus on disagreements will only create more rifts and cause misery.

No sect is inherently evil or are seeking to do wrong with a malicious intent. Usually people do what they believe is right, you may disagree with what they believe, you may even try to convince them about your point of view, but it is wrong to declare them as enemies. While you may disagree with them on certain issues, it is very important to respect their human rights and to understand that they too are seeking to live a peaceful life as per their understanding of religion.

Ahmedis are not considered as Muslims, they can easily disassociate themselves from Islam and move on. They face all the persecution and still strive to be called Muslims because their intent is not to malign Islam. All we need here is a bit of compassion and a bit of understanding. After all that is the whole point of being religious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Be A Good Indian Muslim

201518125436873734_20To be a good Muslim you have to believe that Islam is an inherently evil religion that will cause nothing but misery to anyone who follows it. Since Islam is an inherently evil religion a good Muslim will never discuss any aspect of Islam that may be seen as noble by people who are unaware of the evilness of Islam.

A good Muslim does not believe in victimhood narrative. He can see his father getting killed by mobs, his sister molested but he will still say “Saare Jahan se Accha Hindustan Hamara”. Complaining about the attack is a sure sign of victimhood while standing up and denouncing the perpetrators is a sure sign of radicalization.

A good Muslim has a visceral hate for all countries where majority of people are Muslim. Many of these countries may be far ahead on social indicators as compared to India but a good Muslim believes that these statistics hide the barbarism and cruelty that inherently exists in Muslim societies.

A good Muslim will stand for freedom of speech when people mock or abuse any aspect or personality related to Islam. A good Muslim will also denounce Akbar Owaisi for mocking and abusing Hindu deities.

A good Muslim will always vote for a secular party. All parties except BJP are secular and all secular parties either behave like BJP or can form an alliance with the BJP if required.

A good Muslim won’t complain about beef ban because eating beef is not compulsory in Islam but stopping others from eating beef is compulsory in other faiths and a good Muslim not only respects but follows the Sharia of other faiths.

A good Muslim does not say Allah Hafiz or Ramadan. A good Muslim says Khuda Hafiz because the word ‘Khuda’ is derived from the ancient Indian language called Persian.

A good Muslim looks down upon women who wear Hijab even if those women are more educated and more successful in life than he ever will be. A good Muslim should also ignore exceptions like a religious turban wearing man could be the Prime Minister of India for 10 years.

A good Muslim makes sure to tell everyone that he is supporting India when India is playing cricket. Failure to explicitly declare support is a sure sign of treason. Although an eagerness to declare support can also mean a conspiracy to hide the hatred towards India.

A good Muslim lets his secular non Muslim friends speak to and speak for him in a condescending manner. A good Muslim would not allow himself to be labelled an extremist by speaking for himself.

A good Muslim is clean shaven and prefers Indian clothing like the jeans, t shirts, suits etc. Wearing traditional attire or growing a beard is an early indicator of radicalization.

A good Muslim denounces animal slaughter in the name of religion. Although a good Muslim may choose to eat meat at any McDonald’s or any other outlets that serve non halal food. If a Muslim can’t appreciate the value of animal slaughter for commercial reasons then how can he be good Muslim?

A good Muslim believes that Islam has a special problem with women and it can only be solved when Muslims undergo reforms like Hindus did in the past. A good Muslim should conveniently ignore the fact that 50 million females have been killed in India due to selective abortions, the greatest genocide of females in the history of humanity after the supposed awakening of the Hindu society.

Despite religion inspired dietary restrictions and anti conversion laws a good Muslim has steadfast belief in the secular nature of India. A good Muslim also believes that India is secular only because of the inherent attributes of compassion and tolerance enshrined in Hindus and Hinduism.

In spite of their ongoing connections with the Mughal army, in spite of their involvement in the partition which resulted in Hindu land going to the Arabs, Hindus have allowed Muslims to live in India. A good Muslim acknowledges this and is always indebted to Hindus. A good Muslim is a thankful Muslim.

A good Muslim writes long articles on how secular political parties are in fact the communal parties and the only option left with Muslims is to vote for the BJP.

A good Muslim takes responsibility and apologizes for any wrong that is done by any Muslim in any part of the world. Also he makes sure to highlight non religious factors while explaining any problem that lies with India. Although it is advisable to ignore the faults and focus on the greatness of India.

You can either be a practicing Muslim or a good Muslim. The choice is obvious or perhaps you don’t have much of a choice. Be a good Indian Muslim.