If an ideology is peaceful, then its most literalist or fundamentalist adherents too would be peaceful. In the case of Islam, let alone Al Qaeda or ISIS, what the governments of Iran or Saudi Arabia do is plain for all to see. In Saudi Arabia they publicly behead people for even drug trafficking, and in Iran they hang them to death for being homosexual. Many surveys also have shown that the majorities in countries like Egypt, Pakistan or Malaysia support the death penalty for blasphemy.
So what should a Muslim who claims to be a moderate or tolerant and is concerned about the image of Islam do? Perhaps challenge those who kill in the name of Islam? Perhaps try to convince other Muslims that these violent interpretations are not really what Islam preaches?
What some of them do instead is cover up these truths and lie about them. I suspect this is for the purpose of proselytizing and making the image of Islam palatable to a Western audience.
The reason for this is that the biggest threat to these “reformers” (and I use the term reformer with great reservation) is not from other Muslims. Most other Muslims too do not want to talk about sex slaves or child marriages. The biggest threat to these people is from former Muslims. Former Muslims know Islam better than they do. It is former Muslims who embarrass them by exposing their lies. Hence they try to discredit them by calling them “Islamophobes,” and when that fails, they try to bully them by threatening to publicly disclose their identities.
I have myself had several debates on such issues with many Muslims who engage with others on the internet. But in my experience, the two who stand out in not just their persistent lies but also in how systematic and polished their answers are, are Qasim Rashid and his sidekick Kashif Chaudhry. Below, I give examples of a few topics I have debated with them over the internet. It’s clear that neither of the two are interested in talking about what Islam actually preaches. And not surprisingly, after being exposed, both of them have blocked me to end further discussions on these topics.
Islam allows sex with slaves. The Quran allows a man to have sex with a female slave he legally owns without being married to her. Muhammad himself had concubines in addition to his eleven wives, and at least one of them bore him a child (who died in infancy). The companions of Muhammad had sex with prisoners of war, and he made no objection to it (which makes it permissible for Muslims). This is not something that is disputed by the four Sunni schools of thought, the Shias or the Salafi (who collectively probably make more than 95% of Muslims). So, for all practical purposes, this is Islam.
I took this issue up with Qasim Rashid in response to his article in which he insists that the way ISIS has dealt with prisoners of war is not Islamic. I quote below the relevant part from his article.
“POWs, during and after the war must be treated with the dignity all human beings deserve.”
On the contrary, the truth in fact is that even raping prisoners of war was permitted by Muhammad. And as I said above, in Islam, if there is demonstrable evidence that there is a certain practice which Muhammad did not object to, then it is permissible for all Muslims. I share below a narration from Sahih Bukhari, generally acknowledged by the Sunnis (the largest sect among the Muslims) as the most reliable source of Islamic history.
Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 137:
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri:
We got female captives in the war booty and we used to do coitus interruptus with them. So we asked Allah’s Apostle about it and he said, “Do you really do that?” repeating the question thrice, “There is no soul that is destined to exist but will come into existence, till the Day of Resurrection.
Point to note: Muhammad’s objection was not to his companions having sex with prisoners of war, but to them trying to prevent a pregnancy by coitus interruptus.
Despite giving him the relevant references, Qasim remained undeterred. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, thinking that perhaps Ahmadis (the sect of Muslims he belongs to) believe things differently from other Muslims. He instead asked me to read a booklet written by Ahmadi scholars. Lo and behold, the booklet he referred to actually proved me right! The booklet categorically stated that for men sex with female slaves without marrying them is permissible. Ironically, even after being proven wrong from a booklet that he HIMSELF provided, he did not change his stance.
This is the link to the book he referred to which is on an official Ahmadi website.
And this is the relevant page from the book:
Despite being proven wrong, Qasim continued to insist that even though sex with slaves may be allowed (something he had earlier insisted that I was wrong about), it is only with the consent of the slave. That is a lie. Firstly, nowhere has that condition ever been laid down. Secondly, how can anyone imagine a prisoner of war, who may have just seen her father, brother, even husband killed consent to sex with their killers?
His sidekick, who is even more pathetic and shameless in his lies, wrote these two articles here and here (notice that the claims made in the Huffington Post article are markedly different from what he posted on his own blog).
I quote one of the relevant paragraphs here.
“Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) did not allow Muslims to have sexual relations, let alone rape or torture the women who were taken prisoners during these battles.”
I doubt either Kashif or Qasim Rashid are actually ignorant about this. But why they feign ignorance is quite obvious. They know that to a Western audience, the notion of sex slaves or raping prisoners of war are completely abhorrent and incompatible with modern society. So they cover it up.
Both Qasim Rashid and Kashif Chaudhry love to tout the mantra “Love for all, hatred for none”. However, every time I point out to Kashif that Ahmadi religious scholars insist that according to the Quran, homosexuals should be confined to their rooms away from society until they die or repent, he censors my posts. Luckily I have screenshots from one of the times I brought this issue up with Kashif, when he again insisted that Islam teaches tolerance for all unconditionally. Not unexpectedly, he blocked me right after this, saying that I abused him. Funny enough, I had abused him when he apologized to me insincerely in a private conversation several months prior to this. And even after that, he had often tagged me in his posts. So that clearly wasn’t the reason for blocking me. The reason was quite simply that I had exposed his lies.
This is from an official Ahmadi website. In the video, at 10:15 an Ahmadi scholar insists that homosexuals should be confined to their houses till either they repent or die. This is the height of hypocrisy on Kashif’s part. If one points out bigotry in others, one must also condemn and call out the bigotry of those with whom one identifies. Or at least acknowledge it when shown proof of it.
And finally, in relation to the current response to the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices, Qasim Rashid wrote an article in USA Today insisting that Islam allows freedom of speech.
I gave him two examples of people sentenced to death by Muhammad (and there are others, some of whom were even executed on his orders) because they ridiculed him. As expected, he first made excuses and then later blocked me when he couldn’t provide answers. One screenshot is below, which includes a reference from Muslim historical sources.
If this alone weren’t enough, Kashif Chaudhry has now made a habit of exposing ex-Muslim atheists – knowing full well the potential consequences. The Ahmadis themselves are amongst the most persecuted minorities in Pakistan, and Kashif, too, has written about this on a number of occasions. And yet, here he is putting the lives of others in danger simply because they do not believe in Islam anymore. I share here private Facebook conversations he had with two of my close friends, both of whom he has “outed” on his blogs. I have blacked out their names and their profile pictures. I cannot stress enough how dangerous this is. Not uncommonly, people are publicly lynched on the charges of blasphemy in places like Pakistan and even in the West, people from Muslim backgrounds can suffer significant ostracism from friends and family for being critical of Islam.
While undoubtedly a great deal of reform is needed in Muslim societies, neither Qasim Rashid nor Kashif Chaudhry are reformers. True reform will only come when Muslims acknowledge that there are parts of Islam that are violent, intolerant and incompatible with modern society. Covering up the reality of Islam helps no one – least of all Muslims themselves.
Ali Rizvi is an ex-Muslim from Pakistan.