Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ayaan Hirsi Ali on NPR: Is Islam a Religion of Peace?

I noted here that non-Muslims often do not fare well in debates with Muslims. Fortunately, liberated Muslims do much better. At this link is a recent debate on the subject "Is Islam a Religion of Peace?" with participants Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Douglas Murray, Zeba Khan, and Maajid Nawaz. I invite you to watch the entire debate, and then to my comments as follows:

1. One of the problems with debating Muslims about Muhammad and Islam is that they insist on talking about anything except Muhammad and Islam. Ask a Muslimah about the high rate of female illiteracy in the Muslim world (a subject that I discussed here and here). She will quote a Hadith about "seeking knowledge even if you have to go to China" and tell you how her parents came to America (to escape the craziness of living in the Muslim world) and sacrificed so she could go to Harvard. She won't tell you that the Middle East pays little attention to the education of women for the simple reason that Muhammad paid no attention to the education of women.

Ask her about Islam's relationship to the Jews. She will tell you a story about Muhammad's concern for the Jewish neighbor who threw garbage in his yard and inform you, as Zeba does, that her parents sent her to Hebrew school for nine years. She won't tell you (if she even knows) that Medina was a Jewish city when Muhammad first went there with Jewish tribes who had lived there in peace and prosperity for hundreds of years. Ten years later, they were all exiled or beheaded simply for refusing to accept him as a Prophet of God. Nine hunded males, including boys as young as 10 years old, were beheaded in one day. She won't tell you about the vicious murder of Asma bint Marwan, the Jewish mother of five, at the Prophet's command for writing poetry he found threatening. She certainly won't tell you about the rape of the Jewess Sofiyah bint Huyayy the night after Muhammad tortured and beheaded her husband for refusing to reveal the location of his treasure. Sofiyah was 17 and Muhammad was 62.

She will tell you that the Quran states "there is no compulsion in religion". She probably doesn't know that according to the Quran's greatest expositor, Ibn Kathir, that verse was a response to the Muslim women of Medina who gave their sons to Jewish women to raise (since the Jews followed the dietary and hygenic laws of the Torah, their infant mortality rate was much lower). When Muhammad expelled the Jews from Medina, some of the Muslim mothers wanted their sons back. The Prophet's response? "They cannot come back, because there is no compulsion in religion."

Ask her about Jihad, and she will quote a Hadith about the greatest Jihad being spiritual self-improvement. She won't inform you that Jihad is mentioned well over 100 times in the Quran and that 97% of those references are to its primary meaning, the spread and domination of Islam.

Ask her about terrorism. She will inform you, as Zeba did, that only a small minority of Muslims espouse violence. She probably won't tell you about the first victim of Muhammad's terror, a caravaneer named Amr bin al-Hadrami  who was carrying foodstuffs back to Mecca when Muhammad's warriors  attacked. I'm not sure if the terror he felt when they descended upon him shouting Allahu Akbar is any different than that experienced by those who leapt to their deaths from the Twin Towers on 9/11.

2. Muslim debaters love to erect straw figures they can demolish, rather than discuss the main subject of the debate. Maajid Nawaz was quick to respond when his opponents referred to Usama bin Ladin as an Islamic scholar. "He's an engineer," scoffed Maajid, "He's only an engineer. How can you describe him as an Islamic scholar?"

I doubt if Maajid has carefully read The Al Qaeda Reader, or Al Qaeda In Its Own Words. Both books document the hundreds of references to the Quran, Hadith, Sira, and Tafsir in bin Ladin's speeches. A full fifty percent of Ayman Zawahiri's voluminous writings are expositions of the same texts. Maajid chose not to go there, preferring to simply mock Ayaan Hirsi Ali for not stating that by training UBL was originally an engineer.

As I noted at the beginning of this post, non-Muslims often perform poorly in debates with Muslims. Ex-Muslims who are well familiar with the modus operendi of their former co-religionists do much better. At the beginning of this debate in front of a New York City audience, only 25 percent of the audience believed that Islam was not a religion of peace. By the end of the debate, that number had risen to 55 percent. In the end, truth trumps fantasy every time.


Susanne said...

Interesting! I read a book by OBL's first wife and 4th son and in it she mentions how Osama knew his religion well and studied it. So I agree that he wasnt' only an engineer. :)

Traeh said...

I watched that debate. At one point, Douglas Murray, on Hirsi Ali's side of the debate, stated that Muhammad was a bad man. I found it very interesting that the two Muslims in the debate looked rather sheepish and perhaps a bit embarrassed when Murray spoke thus, and furthermore, they never even tried to rebut the charge. They responded to other elements of the debate. I think they understood that if the debate were to focus on Muhammad, the scandal would have been large for those audience members uninformed about the life of Muhammad. It is virtually impossible to defend against modern charges that Muhammad did all kinds of horrific things. The core Islamic texts document what he did!

Yes, in debate with Muslims, non-Muslims on average probably don't do as well as former Muslims. But in the case of this debate, I think non-Muslim Douglas Murray was probably more effective than his debate partner, former Muslim Hirsi Ali -- though she was pretty effective.

Quotable Quotes: said...

I also remember Douglas saying Muhammad was a bad man, as well as Maajid saying his marrying Aisha probably wasn't a good idea. What I'm trying to communicate is not that Muhammad was a bad man, but that he was just an ordinary man. I don't think he was necessarily better or worse than most military commanders across history, and I hope Muslims can begin to see him as someone who can be criticized as any other military or political leader can be criticiaed. I also take Maajid's admission that Aisha was a bad idea with a grain of salt; I'll believe it when he writes an article about it, or proclaims it in his local mosque!

Traeh said...

Muhammad seems to have had a number of good qualities. But on the whole, I suppose it would not be wrong to call him a bad man for the overall thrust of what he did. You suggest he was simply ordinary -- no worse than many military commanders and political leaders.

But weren't many military commanders in history quite bad men? Wouldn't Muhammad fit into that category?

Further, Muhammad has succeeded in creating the longest-lived and most powerful totalitarian movement in history, has he not? Should the person who did that have an ordinary morality ascribed to him?

One might argue that his system is so successful precisely because he mixes the predominant evil of the system with some good elements. That would make him not so much demonic, as ordinary, just as you say. Hitler could not last because he was too purely evil, too demonically unbalanced. Then again, Hannah Arendt studied the Nazis and wrote of the banality of evil, how it seems a function of mediocrity and stupidity more than of actual evil, how the Nazis were quite ordinary in their homes, often good family men.

But it is hard not to see some kind of destiny in Islam as a fundamental counterforce to good in the world today. It is hard to see Muhammad as someone of mediocre morality only. Surely whoever it was who was the source of all the evil emanating from Islam today must have been evil? A bad man?

Quotable Quotes: said...

I think it is important for a blogger to choose their audience, and decide what they want to communicate to that audience. Although I appreciate non-Muslims readers, I something feel as if what I am saying to them is preaching to the choir. I am really interested in challenging Muslims to reconsider why they believe Muhammad is a Prophet of God, and why they believe the Quran is a book from God. To debate the relative goodness or badness of Muhammad in comparison to other historical personages is not what I am interested in. But to present evidence that Muhammad was a flawed individual and that the Quran was a very human book interests me very much. Hope that makes sense.

aemish said...

Quotes, if you wouldn't mind providing your readers the courtesy of describing why you -- as a Lutheran, no? -- believe Jesus is the son of God and why the Bible is a book from God that would be most appreciated. Cheers :o)