In “One-way traffic” in Pakistan’s Dawn (thanks to Mathew), Irfan Husain makes many of the points I have made many times. Will he be called an “Islamophobe”?
In the eyes of the world, Muslims are practising a double standard whereby they insist on the right to spread their religion aggressively, while preventing other faiths from evangelising among them. And while they too often treat non-Muslims living in their midst as second class citizens, they demand that they be allowed to build mosques and run madressahs in non-Muslim countries.
Writing about the Abdul Rahman case in the Observer of March 26, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali says: “Again and again, Muslim scholars assure us that there is no compulsion in matters of religion and that Islam upholds fundamental freedoms. Yet it remains the case that all the existing schools of law prescribe the death penalty for apostasy…”…
Muslims who live in the West are now constantly on the defensive, having to explain to their local friends and colleagues that Islam is a religion of peace and that the terrorism around us is the work of a handful of extremists. But when churches are attacked in Pakistan or a priest is killed in Turkey or an Afghan faces the death penalty for converting to Christianity, it is hard to maintain that all is well in the Islamic world.
While sane and moderate Muslims naturally believe that these excesses arise from a misinterpretation of the faith, non-believers see things differently. When suicide bombers and terrorists spread death and destruction in the countries that gave them shelter, they too often blame the faith that drove them to these moments of madness.
Habib Johnson, an American reader with whom I have been in correspondence before, writes: “A few months ago, I wrote to you about my plight having converted back to Christianity after my family embraced Islam. As an African American I wrote about the problems I faced from mostly Muslims of Asian origin in my mosque area (most of them Pakistani) who made life hell for me. It convinced me Muslims will never assimilate and become moderate … even if they are living in a country that gives them everything, including the licence to preach and build mosques…
“How can Muslim leaders who ad nauseum say “˜there’s no compulsion in Islam” sit quiet when a man is sentenced to death for the simple reason he changed his religion? Every day I read newspapers in Muslim countries shamelessly tom-tomming the conversion of Christians (especially whites) to Islam. Isn’t this hypocrisy of the highest order…?” He concludes by asking: “Should you write a column about this?” And he answers his own question: “Hell no; I care for your well-being.”
The writer makes some deeply troubling points. Indeed, the Abdul Rahman case encapsulates the entire conflict between Islam and modernity. Can we really believe that we should have the right not only to practise our faith in non-Muslim societies, but also to convert others, while we deny others the same right in our countries? More to the point, will we be allowed by others to continue with these double standards indefinitely?
The truth is that for years, Muslim immigrants have been exploiting western liberal attitudes that have made it possible for them to get jobs, an education for their children and health care for their families. All this while the majority have chosen to maintain their distinctive lifestyle that westerners often find offensive. Their attitude towards women, for example, flies in the face of the same liberalism that Muslims use to spread their faith.
But now, terrorism has exposed the faultlines between the two civilisations, and an increasing number of western voices are saying enough is enough to this one-way traffic.
Indeed. Enough is enough.