Saturday, 9 August 2008

The punishment for apostasy is not death!

contains an interesting case which shows the liberality that Islam is capable of.

A Chinese woman converts to Islam in order to marry her Iranian husband. She never practised Islam and, when her husband left her, she asked to be allowed to return to Buddhism on the grounds that she never practised Islam even when she was officially a Muslim, citing her diet which still contained pork and the continuation of her pagan worship to a number of Chinese deities as evidence that she never really was a Muslim.

This was allowed and the Islamic authority that was supposed to have overseen her conversion and subsequent practice blamed for their failure to do so.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

A Theocracy that Worships Reason?

This blog is fast becoming a scrapbook of my intellectual development, such as it is.

Karen Armstrong stated in one of her books about Islam that it is perfectly possible to be both an atheist and a Muslim.

After all, substitute "Allah" for Truth, Reality, Fate and the Future and you will find it infinitely easier to say you believe that such a God is a mental shorthand for Truth, Reality, Fate and the Future and also a lot easier to say than "Jesus Christ is Son of God".

Reason is after all such an abstract and cold concept. An omnipotent God who is perfectly moral, who could be our "invisible magic friend" is bursting with heart-warming possibilities.

It is not for nothing that therapists suggest lonely maladjusted children with no friends create an imaginary friend to give them a sense of empowerment. Man has therefore created God, Pygmalion-like, for precisely the same purpose.

The following short essay may be of interest to those who wonder why an atheist such as I am is finding Islam so ripe with secular possibilities.

Religion is but an ideology and non-religious ideologies, such as fascism, liberalism, democracy, communism, socialism, nationalism etc too have their own power to seduce many into committing horrific acts of violence, murder and war. A holy book which keeps telling you to use your reason seems to me to be, well, perfectly reasonable.

I therefore suspect that cultural chauvinism, xenophobia, racism and anti-semitism combine to add up to Islamophobia. (Before someone asks, I do know that some of them are indeed out to get us, and I can see why too.)

The Role of Human Intellect in Islam by M. F. Zein

The principal cause of human suffering is shown -in the Qur'an- to be due to blind imitation of absurd beliefs and customs of one's erring predecessors, with disregard of all evidence of truth supplied by both reason and divine guidance:

‘For, behold, they found their forebears on a wrong way, and now, they make haste to follow in their footsteps! (Qur'an 37/69-70) (29).

On the significance of our human life the Qur'an states:

‘And nothing is the life of this world but a play and a passing delight; and the life in the hereafter is by far the better for all who are conscious of God. Will you not, then, use your reason? (Qur’an 6/32).

On the message of the Qur'an:

‘We have bestowed upon you -O Men- from on high a divine writ in which is a message for you -containing all you ought to keep in mind- will you not, then, use your reason? (Qur’an 21/10).

On worshipping other than God:

‘Fie upon you and upon all that you worship instead of God! Will you not, then, use your reason? (Qur'an 21/67).

Urging people to contemplate on the miracle of life:

"And He who grants life and deals death; and to Him is due the alteration of night and day. Will you not, then, use your reason? (Qur'an 23/80).

The Qur'an urges man's intellect to ponder on the miracle or re-creation:

‘But- know that God gives life to the earth after it has
been lifeless! We have indeed made our messages clear unto you, so that you might use your reason. (Qur'an 57/17).

Telling the Prophet that he could not be held responsible for the kind of man who chooses to follow his own whims and desires:

‘Hast thou ever considered -the kind of man- who takes for his god his own desires? Could thou then -O Prophet- be responsible for him? Or dost thou think that most of them listen -to thy message- and use their reason? Nay, they
are but like cattle-nay, they are even less conscious of the right way! (Qur'an 25/43-44).

Urging man to use reason before he is overcome by old age and
possible senility, the Qur'an states:

‘But -let them always remember that- if We lengthen a human being's days, We also cause him to decline in his powers -when
he grows old-, will they not, then, use their reason -before it is late? (Qur'an 36/68).

Thus people are advised not to postpone the exercise of moral
choice, given that one's lifetime is limited with not much time left at one's disposal. Humans are superior creatures inasmuch as they have been endowed with the faculty of discernment, and a wide measure of free will, but are soon liable to decline in old age.

As a result of Islam's appeal to the intellect and reason, the Islamic civilization flourished with the beginning of the seventh century. Within less than one and half centuries of the Prophet's death, Islamic civilization reached peaks unknown to the world of that time. Unlike Christian Europe of the time, intellectualism in the Islamic world was a highly admired
quality and was encouraged in places where Islam spread. In addition, Islam restored religious tolerance in those parts of the world long under repression by the Western Church.

In comparison, Rome fell to the barbarians a few decades after the Roman Empire decreed Christianity as the sole religion
permitted for practice by individuals.

Only very recently, Bishop John Shelby Spong wrote: 'We are that silent majority of believers who find it increasingly difficult to remain members of the Church and still be thinking people'.

In other words, Westerners became -and could become- intellectuals only when they rid themselves of Church hegemony and repression. This state of affairs explains to a large extent the fact that Western civilization was able
to flourish only after the Reformation. To this end, human progress and civilized society in the West is now fully equated with secularism.

In sharp contrast Islam has an inherent secular aspect so often repeated in the Qur'an where the spiritual can never be separated from the mundane. Urging humanity to:

"Seek by means of what God has granted thee, the good of the life to come, without forgetting thy own -rightful share in this world." (Qur'an 28/77)

According to the Qur'an, every Muslim intellectual can be a theologian and every theologian must be an intellectual. Muslim peoples fell into decadence when they abandoned the intellectual, secular aspect of Islam and maintained only dogmatic practice of religion merely fulfilling outward worship while becoming oblivious to Islam's secular ramifications.

Monday, 4 August 2008

10 policies for Labour to reinvogorate itself

I cannot imagine any sensible person in the Labour government wanting to lead the Labour Party to defeat in the next election. (It is a very disturbing conclusion to reach that there are no longer any sensible people left in the Labour government, apart from the principled and admirable Frank Field whom I would love to see becoming PM through Telling the Truth.) A Camoronian premiership is a historical inevitability, surely? Nor can I understand why Brown will not formally stake his claim on his absolute right to lead Labour into defeat at the next general election.

Blair is the only other "sensible person" left in the Labour Party fit to lead it into defeat. Perhaps he should be invited back into government and a by- election arranged to let him back in if he be fool enough to accept.

As for the new policies required to bring enliven Labour's lacklustre performance and policy drift, may I suggest proposals to:

(1) introduce an elitist, nationalist, rationalist but non-racist, non-expansionist one-party state run along the lines of the host of the Olympics 2008 who are doing so well for themselves

(2) reintroduce capital punishment and the principle of condign and economical punishment of criminals

(3) constitutionally establish the principle of limited government

(4) abolish the welfare state and reintroduce the concept of the deserving and undeserving poor and a government department to distinguish between the two

(5) introduce compulsory health insurance and dividing its provision into

(a) basic
(b) standard
(c) luxury

(6) give the British a referendum on the EU on an "in or out" basis

(7) disestablish the Church of England (and break the too-long connection with defeat, decline and dementia) and invite "tenders" from other faiths to replace it. The Muslims will probably have a few ideas about how Anglican Islam could be established.

(8) reinforce the British tradition of having a "Special Poodle Relationship" with the world's superpower and henceforth take active steps to become a Pekingese lapdog

(9) allow children to learn Mandarin in British schools as they used to learn European languages

(10) withdraw child benefit from any parent unable to produce a marriage certificate to prevent Britain becoming even more a Land of Illegitimacy, Illiteracy and Innumeracy or, not to put too fine a point on it, The Land of Bastardy and Bastards ...