“We need a Muslim reform.”
“The reason Islam has so many more problems than Judaism or Christianity is because it has never been reformed.”
“We need listen to the moderate Muslim reformers instead of agreeing with ISIS’s view that the real Muslims are the terrorists.”
Views on an Islamic reform movement run the gamut from Islam apologists like Mehdi Hasan who reject the idea altogether to ex-Muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali who says that Islam must be reformed. Myself? I despise the lies of Muslims like Hasan (and his obnoxious, brain-eating pal Reza Aslan), and consider Ayaan to be a personal hero. It’s not hard to guess where I fall on the spectrum, but I will lay it out:
I believe Muslims have to choose an extreme and total reform, conversion to another religion or accepting secularism, or death.
There is no other option – except, perhaps, complete isolation of Muslim countries from the rest of the world, however, this is untenable in our current globalized society, not to mention a horrible solution for Muslim people themselves.
I am not someone who takes any pleasure in the possibility of violence. I am not someone who has ever in my life called for violence against Muslims or any other group. This is not intended as a threat or as a justification for violence.
However, I will always speak honestly about what I see in front of me, and what I see is simple: the Western world is being terrorized by Islam. And the actual terrorists are the least of our worries. The demographic and cultural takeover of Western countries is far, far more dangerous than suicide bombings, stabbings, mass shootings, and truck attacks.
This is reality, whether the left wants to admit it or not: the more Islamic a society becomes, the worse it will be. This has been proven true in every single case.
And as weak and as scared of being called “racist” as Westerners are, we are not going to accept this treatment forever. So-called “moderate” Muslims who whine about “backlash” every time an Islamic terrorist attack occurs do not seem to realize that their very attitude is guaranteeing that one day we really will see anti-Muslim backlash.
Not anti-Islam – people who know too much about Islam and speak out about it – but anti-Muslim.
And I have every reason to believe that this backlash will at a certain point become violent. I believe this to be an unfortunate and inevitable reality if Muslims continue the way they are going.
Option two is conversion. I believe that this in many cases this is actually the most tenable solution, particularly to Muslims in non-Arab countries whose only connection to Arab culture is via Islam, and especially to Muslims in the Western world. It is highly unlikely that people accustomed to an extremely patriarchal and authoritarian religion are going to become secular atheists.
Whether or not Muslims becoming Christians will be better than Muslims becoming atheists is irrelevant – my concern is whether or not Muslims becoming Christians is better than Muslims staying Muslim. For those who think all religion is evil and wish to abolish it, I will grant your position my agreement for the purpose of this argument – however, Western civilization was not created by secular atheists. All human cultures lean towards religion, historically speaking. Christianity happened to be a religion which allowed for (yes, with certain interpretations being won through tyranny, violence, and so forth) the later acceptance of the seperation of Church and state, scientific inquiry, and ultimately secularism.
Islam, of course, makes no such allowances.
There’s also the fact that Muslims recognize their faith as an Abrahamic continuation of Judaism and Christianity – which could (in theory, I do not claim to be an expert in comparative religion or in conversion of hostile faiths…) allow for a theological explanation for conversion vs. simply rejecting the monotheistic, Abrahamic God and becoming Hindu, for example.
This brings us to option three, reform, and to my recent encounter with a fascinating person in the Islamic reform movement. I had the pleasure of interviewing Imam Tawhidi last night on my Youtube show, Right Millennial, and it certainly gave me a lot to think about.
For those who are unfamiliar with his work, Shaikh Mohammad Tawhidi’s Twitter bio gives a powerful insight into who he is: “A student of religion who uses his brain. One day the news will say the Imam of Peace was shot dead. Probably even slaughtered.”
I recommend you watch the interview I did with him, linked above, as well as one conducted by one of my favourite Youtubers, Canadian professor and scientist Dr. Gad Saad. I want to keep this article within a reasonable length, but I have no interest in over-simplifying or misrepresenting his positions, so I invite you to listen to him and ascertain what his views are for yourself.
I also want to make clear that though criticisms are often made of the Imam’s honesty or intentions, my current view based on my interactions with him is that I believe he is genuine in his intentions, good in his heart, and open to answering my questions even if I don’t like the answers.
(It is very telling that the vast majority of Muslims spend so much time lying that I find myself to be immediately distrustful of them when it comes to discussions about theology.)
However, that does not mean he changed my mind about Islam and about considering myself a staunch anti-Islam advocate.
I believe that my conversation with Imam Tawhidi has further proven to me what I have long believed about Islam and about Muslims: there are good Muslims. However, they are good in spite of Islam – not because of it.
Much that was said by the Imam came down to a simple internal moral truth. Allah must be good because he is God, the Quran must be good because it is God’s word, and Muhammad must be good because he is a Prophet of God. This allows him to “easily”, in his words, reject the hadiths such as the sahih al-Bukhari (accepted by almost all Muslims as authoritative, containing some of the most vile teachings of Islamic law and vile histories of Muhammad’s life) which portray an evil interpretation of the Quran, an evil set of actions by Muhammad, and an evil vision of Allah.
This sounds appealing. I get it. Though I have criticisms of the Imam’s view of the historical Muhammad (I believe that the “mainstream” history is likely the factual one), I can understand that if all Muslims would think as he does, I wouldn’t care how true the history is. I’m a pragmatist that way.
Again, I reiterate, I believe in the Imam’s morality and I applaud him for explicitly condemning things such as blasphemy laws, stoning, hand-chopping, child marriage, etcetera, and for calling respected Islamic individuals terrorists when they commit terrorist actions.
I have a big problem with his worldview that I cannot reason away: Imam Tawhidi says that his religion must be good – but the concept of what Imam Tawhidi considers to be good is not from his religion. It is from his own morality and his own humanity.
Sure, he finds justifications within the Quran, and within various disputed historical texts, to support his own view of goodness, but he is doing just that – cherry-picking Islam to support his conclusion of modern 21st century morality.
I consider Imam Tawhidi to be one of the best examples of a Muslim reformer (naturally, this has lead to many disagreements with him and other reformers, not to mention the Muslim community at large). He is knowledgeable about Islam. He is trying to be honest as far as I can see (though I do take issue with certain statements he made on my show such as the idea that the Quran does not explicitly teach Jew hatred). He is willing to condemn execrable actions and individuals in strong terms.
His twitter bio, unfortunately, likely waxes prophetic: the chance that he will quite literally die trying to reform Islam is high.
I can respect him as a person simply because of this fact. I do not believe the idea that he is some sort of paid agent, or out to gain fame and financial reward by speaking against Islam in it’s current state. He is taking a huge risk with his personal safety for one of two reasons.
A) he is attempting to spread Islam through the guise of reform (I personally believe the majority of reformers fall into this category)
B) he is attempting to reform Islam because (like me) he sees no other option, and sees it as his duty as a human being to bring good to the world and to improve Islam.
I tend to believe the latter reason applies to Imam Tawhidi. I stated at the end of my interview that many challenges in this world begin with the voice of one (including Islam itself, ironically enough) speaking up against evil and doing what is right, no matter the cost.
I wish Imam Tawhidi the best, and I hope we will have the opportunity to speak again in the future. I benefited, I think, from having an honest, face-to-face (well, webcam to webcam) conversation with someone I have broad disagreements with.
Yet, I am left with a peculiar, cloying sadness, which permeates much of my internal reflection on Islam and on Muslims.
Galations 1:8 states the following:
“But should we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”
Though I often approach Islam from a logical, almost atheist perspective (my own religious views are not so cut and dry, but I am open about believing in God and being raised as a Christian), I feel on a spiritual level that this Bible verse really does ring true. One that Muslims, such as Imam Tawhidi, do not accept as accurate.
Islam has brought so much evil to the world, this is true. It has decimated nations, it has killed millions of people.
But what saddens me even more is what it does to individual Muslims.
I know that as I write this piece, with as much unflinching honesty as I can muster, it is likely that Imam Tawhidi will end up reading it. I brought him on my show with the intention of being respectful without compromising my own views, and I feel I accmplished that. This article was harder to write.
It’s never easy to harshly criticize someone that you like. And yet, criticism from those who we like, and who like us, is often the most valuable kind.
Imam Tawhidi was a kind and pleasant person. Off camera he was just the same – and he made me laugh. I could picture myself enjoying dinner with him. Talking. Two ideologies, two person histories, two worlds: and yet, two normal people. Humans.
I want to simply say “Imam Tawhidi is doing good things” and wish him well.
In the back of my mind, however, I keep thinking one thought: If I feel that Imam Tawhidi is a good man, how much better of a man would he be were he freed of the confines of his own narrow and rare interpretation of Islam?
I often say that I see Islam as evil. Today, I still think that is true. I think there is very little taught within it that is good, and even less that is good that is not found in other faiths or in secular morality.
What I understand more deeply, now, and not without melancholy, is that Islam is tragic. Islam is a tragedy upon the world, and among those good men and women who believe in it.
I may be able to believe that God could create something from nothing – but I do not believe a man can reform a blessing from a curse.