Editor’s Note: Recent news has prompted interest about Islam, and whether it’s a religion of war or peace. A prominent Muslim Shiek issued a Fatwa against ISIS, young British Muslims have taken a stand against ISIS with #notinmyname, and Muslim leaders have rebuked the ISIS interpretation of Islam.
Hazem Farraj, a TV host and inspirational speaker who grew up Muslim and is a Palestinian, offers his interpretation of the recent news debate between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck.
Bill Maher has done it again.
He has the news and social media world on overload because of more remarks on Islam. This time, Ben Affleck is making headlines along with him. The conversation between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck on Islam was ironic. Essentially, Affleck was saying all religions are good and fanatics are everywhere while Maher’s worldview is that all religions are bad. But, Maher, who disdains religion of any kind, is right in that Islam DOES teach that if any Muslim leaves his religion, Islam ITSELF – not fanatics- not radicals- not terrorist-demands that the “apostate” be killed.
When Maher quoted a poll saying that 80% of Egyptians believe a person who leaves Islam should be killed, I wasn’t surprised. I didn’t need a poll to tell me that. It seems we have so soon forgotten about Daniel Pearl who was beheaded in 2002, Nick Berg who was beheaded in 2004, and Lee Rigby who was killed in 2013 all because of some men, whom Ben Affleck doesn’t want to acknowledge are by-the-book Muslims.
Before you get angry and upset at me, consider this:
If a sincere person wants to study religion, one must go to the source. Why? Simply because the truth is found at the source. The correct way to study any religion is to historically get as close to the founder of that religion as possible. To study Judaism, study Moses and the things he taught in the Torah. To study Christianity, study Jesus and the things he taught. To study Islam, study the life of Mohammed. What were their traditions? What did they say? What did those closest to them say? Believe your pastor, but believe Jesus more. Listen to your Rabbi, but the Torah is higher then his opinion. And to my Muslim friends, listen to your Shaikh, but his opinions are not higher then that of his prophet.
When I get a glimpse into the historical founder of Islam, I don’t see the nice version of him that Ben Affleck sees or what the peace-loving Muslims see. I see a tribal warrior; a man who started out peaceful in his early days of prophethood but got more radical as his following grew. He had poets killed by his sword because they wrote against him with their pens. They were Asma Bint Marwan and Abu A’fk, a Jewish poet (Ibn Hisham, Ibn Ishaq, Alfred Guillaume-translator, The life of Muhammad: a translation of Isḥaq’s Sīrat Rasul Allāh, pp. 675-676).
Maher’s frustration with the liberals silence on women’s rights is very logical. He mentioned that Ayan Hirsi Ali needs bodyguards in her fight for women’s equality in her Islamic community. Is it culture or is it Islam that undervalues women’s rights? Mohammed established a bond of brotherhood by offering one of his wives- just giving her away, as if it she was an object (Sahih Bukhari 3:34:264). In fact, when an early Muslim was to be “given a woman, servant, or cattle,” that person should seize its forehead and pray to Allah (Sahih Bukhari 3:34:264). Men were and are still today permitted to beat their wives (Quran 4:34). Women are intellectually deficient (Sahih Bukhari 2:24:541). I do realize that the issue was whether killing and murder was warranted in Islam. Quran 4:89 speaks for itself: “Do not take from amongst them [Christians & Jews] friends until they flee forsaking their homes and kill them wherever you find them.”
These tribal 7th century killing verses exist in the Quran, but Islamic history shows us that Muslims began peaceful and tolerant and seemingly deteriorated for the worse with time. After the migration of Mohammed to Medinah, Mohammed’s messages from Allah became more radical, more blatant. This is different from Christianity, where we see a regression of the tribal culture [culminating theologically with all judgments happening on the Cross]. Another important principle to note within Islam is “the law of abrogation” (Arabic: nasikh wa mansookh), which calls for those latter radicalized Medinah revelations to supersede the former peace-loving verses of Mecca. The Quran 2:106 says these latter revelations are “better” then the previously revealed verses from Mecca. So apostates were condemned in the 600s AD, and they are STILL being condemned in our modern day.
So there you go, I said it. My first instincts in writing this is that I’m nervous because I know what happens in my culture when you criticize Islam. Islamic texts demand it, the highest Islamic scholars have proclaimed it, and ISIS is literally quoting it while doing the beheadings.
But here’s the good news:
I have an unshakeable faith in the youth of the Middle East. 70% of the Arab world is under the age of 30. This is absolutely amazing because as silly as it may sound, the social media craze has hit the Middle East and people who were once confined to their small-minded ways are expanding their perspectives and seeing that they don’t have to be isolated and exclusive. They are seeing what freedom has to offer and many of them want it.
My final though is this: We must never fear speaking the truth in love and calling things as they are. At some point, a line must be drawn in the sand by the Muslim community. They will either have to reform Islam or simply discard it themselves as many people have, including myself, who had 2 Sheikhs tell my family to kill me, and 1 Sheikh offer to pay anyone to kidnap and return me to Mecca for “treason.”