An important note: A tweeter had presented rebuttals to few of the arguments in what follows. I consider it important to inform the reader that I have included them in one of my subsequent posts - Islamophobia is a Misnomer - a few Rebuttals (click), which I request the reader to go through to form, what I consider a slightly more nuanced opinion on the whole issue.
I do not believe that an entity that is omnipotent, omniscient, sentient and intention-driven, and which also created the Universe and oversees the various occurrences in it, exists. Allah (click), incidentally possesses many of the attributes, which the entity I do not believe to be existent is supposed to possess. Now that makes me a kafir (=infidel) through multiple criteria (click).
The Quran (click) is purported to be the final word of the God (Allah):
"Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the verbal book of divine guidance and direction for mankind. Muslims also consider the original Arabic verbal text to be the final revelation of God." - Wikipedia
Now, the Quran says many things (click), lot of which are prescriptions and proscriptions on how to lead one's life, i.e., what to do or what not to do. Some of those prescriptions/proscriptions (click) are of umm... err... disturbing nature (of course for infidels like me). I quote a few that leave little to imagination:
I. All the English translations of the Quran written in Arabic language in this post are taken from University of Southern California's 'Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement', which comes with the following disclaimer:
"Please keep in mind that ANY translation of the Qur'an will most definitely contain errors (e.g. see our online list of corrections [click])."
II. The web site uses translations by three different authors, who respectively are: Yusuf Ali, Marmaduke Mohammad Pickthall and M. H. Shakir. Thus, each sura I quote will have three translations. This I believe, should largely lay to rest the skepticism expressed regarding the accuracy of translations of the Quran (click):
"Translation of the Quran has always been a problematic and difficult issue in Islamic theology. Since Muslims revere the Qur'an as miraculous and inimitable (i'jaz al-Qur'an), they argue that the Qur'anic text can not be reproduced in another language or form. Furthermore, an Arabic word may have a range of meanings depending on the context, making an accurate translation even more difficult." - Wikipedia
"The original meaning of a Qur'anic passage will also be dependent on the historical circumstances of the prophet Muhammad's life and early community in which it originated. Investigating that context usually requires a detailed knowledge of Hadith and Sirah, which are themselves vast and complex texts. This introduces an additional element of uncertainty which can not be eliminated by any linguistic rules of translation." - Wikipedia
III. You can verify from the University of Southern California's web site, each quoted sura's translation by clicking on "Verify" after the translation ends. The translation will automatically open in a new window or tab, but do wait for some time for the linked page to load completely and for it to point to the intended Sura.
IV. Some of the suras are to be read in continuation to best understand their complete meaning.]
YUSUFALI: Whoever is an enemy to Allah and His angels and messengers, to Gabriel and Michael,- Lo! Allah is an enemy to those who reject Faith.
PICKTHAL: Who is an enemy to Allah, and His angels and His messengers, and Gabriel and Michael! Then, lo! Allah (Himself) is an enemy to the disbelievers.
SHAKIR: Whoever is the enemy of Allah and His angels and His messengers and Jibreel and Meekaeel, so surely Allah is the enemy of the unbelievers. [Verify: Sura 2:98]
YUSUFALI: We have sent down to thee Manifest Signs (ayat); and none reject them but those who are perverse.
PICKTHAL: Verily We have revealed unto thee clear tokens, and only miscreants will disbelieve in them.
SHAKIR: And certainly We have revealed to you clear communications and none disbelieve in them except the transgressors. [Verify: Sura 2:99]
YUSUFALI: Say: "Obey Allah and His Messenger": But if they turn back, Allah loveth not those who reject Faith.
PICKTHAL: Say: Obey Allah and the messenger. But if they turn away, lo! Allah loveth not the disbelievers (in His guidance).
SHAKIR: Say: Obey Allah and the Messenger; but if they turn back, then surely Allah does not love the unbelievers. [Verify: Sura 3:32]
YUSUFALI: When ye travel through the earth, there is no blame on you if ye shorten your prayers, for fear the Unbelievers May attack you: For the Unbelievers are unto you open enemies.
PICKTHAL: And when ye go forth in the land, it is no sin for you to curtail (your) worship if ye fear that those who disbelieve may attack you. In truth the disbelievers are an open enemy to you.
SHAKIR: And when you journey in the earth, there is no blame on you if you shorten the prayer, if you fear that those who disbelieve will cause you distress, surely the unbelievers are your open enemy. [Verify: Sura 4:101]
YUSUFALI: In a Believer they (infidels/idolators) respect not the ties either of kinship or of covenant! It is they who have transgressed all bounds.
PICKTHAL: And they (infidels/idolators) observe toward a believer neither pact nor honour. These are they who are transgressors.
SHAKIR: They (infidels/idolators) do not pay regard to ties of relationship nor those of covenant in the case of a believer; and these are they who go beyond the limits. [Verify: Sura 9:10]
YUSUFALI: But (even so), if they repent, establish regular prayers, and practise regular charity,- they are your brethren in Faith: (thus) do We explain the Signs in detail, for those who understand.
PICKTHAL: But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then are they your brethren in religion. We detail Our revelations for a people who have knowledge.
SHAKIR: But if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, they are your brethren in faith; and We make the communications clear for a people who know. [Verify: Sura 9:11]
YUSUFALI: But if they violate their oaths after their covenant, and taunt you for your Faith,- fight ye the chiefs of Unfaith: for their oaths are nothing to them: that thus they may be restrained.
PICKTHAL: And if they break their pledges after their treaty (hath been made with you) and assail your religion, then fight the heads of disbelief - Lo! they have no binding oaths - in order that they may desist.
SHAKIR: And if they break their oaths after their agreement and (openly) revile your religion, then fight the leaders of unbelief-- surely their oaths are nothing-- so that they may desist. [Verify: Sura 9:12]
YUSUFALI: Will ye not fight people who violated their oaths, plotted to expel the Messenger, and took the aggressive by being the first (to assault) you? Do ye fear them? Nay, it is Allah Whom ye should more justly fear, if ye believe!
PICKTHAL: Will ye not fight a folk who broke their solemn pledges, and purposed to drive out the messenger and did attack you first? What! Fear ye them? Now Allah hath more right that ye should fear Him, if ye are believers
SHAKIR: What! will you not fight a people who broke their oaths and aimed at the expulsion of the Messenger, and they attacked you first; do you fear them? But Allah is most deserving that you should fear Him, if you are believers. [Verify: Sura 9:13]
YUSUFALI: Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame, help you (to victory) over them, heal the breasts of Believers,
PICKTHAL: Fight them! Allah will chastise them at your hands, and He will lay them low and give you victory over them, and He will heal the breasts of folk who are believers.
SHAKIR: Fight them, Allah will punish them by your hands and bring them to disgrace, and assist you against them and heal the hearts of a believing people. [Verify: Sura 9:14]
YUSUFALI: Let not the believers Take for friends or helpers Unbelievers rather than believers: if any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah: except by way of precaution, that ye may Guard yourselves from them. But Allah cautions you (To remember) Himself; for the final goal is to Allah.
PICKTHAL: Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with Allah unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them, taking (as it were) security. Allah biddeth you beware (only) of Himself. Unto Allah is the journeying.
SHAKIR: Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than believers; and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of (the guardianship of) Allah, but you should guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully; and Allah makes you cautious of (retribution from) Himself; and to Allah is the eventual coming. [Verify: Sura 3:28]
YUSUFALI: But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
PICKTHAL: Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
SHAKIR: So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. [Verify: Sura 9:5] Now here I would like to point out that though I am not an idolator, many people I hold dear, like my mother, father, relatives and closest friends are!
USUFALI: O ye who believe! fight the unbelievers who gird you about, and let them find firmness in you: and know that Allah is with those who fear Him.
PICKTHAL: O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him).
SHAKIR: O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil). [Verify: Sura 9:123]
YUSUFALI: And thou hadst not expected that the Book would be sent to thee except as a Mercy from thy Lord: Therefore lend not thou support in any way to those who reject (Allah's Message).
PICKTHAL: Thou hadst no hope that the Scripture would be inspired in thee; but it is a mercy from thy Lord, so never be a helper to the disbelievers.
SHAKIR: And you did not expect that the Book would be inspired to you, but it is a mercy from your Lord, therefore be not a backer-up of the unbelievers. [verify: Sura 28:86]
While, I could have quoted the translations of many such suras here, I guess, these many would suffice to make my point. I have tried my best to not quote selectively, and have provided the context of each sura. Also, some might point out that there must be many Muslims who overlook the above kind of umm... err... disturbing prescriptions and proscriptions. Let us see what the Quran has to say about such selective following of the God's word:
YUSUFALI: After this it is ye, the same people, who slay among yourselves, and banish a party of you from their homes; assist (Their enemies) against them, in guilt and rancour; and if they come to you as captives, ye ransom them, though it was not lawful for you to banish them. Then is it only a part of the Book that ye believe in, and do ye reject the rest? but what is the reward for those among you who behave like this but disgrace in this life?- and on the Day of Judgment they shall be consigned to the most grievous penalty. For Allah is not unmindful of what ye do.
PICKTHAL: Yet ye it is who slay each other and drive out a party of your people from their homes, supporting one another against them by sin and transgression? - and if they came to you as captives ye would ransom them, whereas their expulsion was itself unlawful for you - Believe ye in part of the Scripture and disbelieve ye in part thereof? And what is the reward of those who do so save ignominy in the life of the world, and on the Day of Resurrection they will be consigned to the most grievous doom. For Allah is not unaware of what ye do.
SHAKIR: Yet you it is who slay your people and turn a party from among you out of their homes, backing each other up against them unlawfully and exceeding the limits; and if they should come to you, as captives you would ransom them-- while their very turning out was unlawful for you. Do you then believe in a part of the Book and disbelieve in the other? What then is the reward of such among you as do this but disgrace in the life of this world, and on the day of resurrection they shall be sent back to the most grievous chastisement, and Allah is not at all heedless of what you do. [Verify: Sura 2:85]
So basically, if a Muslim does not follow the Quran in entirety, he/she is disgraced for life, and more important, Allah would punish severely after the said Muslim dies. Which implies, a true Muslim is not supposed to use his/her discretion in selecting what suras to follow and which ones not to.
Let me come more specifically to the title of this blog post: what is Islamophobia?
While, there are more nuanced definitions to be found of the term on Wikipedia's article on Islamophobia (click), I am taking the least devious one, the one which is arrived at from its etymology: Islam-o-phobia, i.e., phobia of Islam. Phobia is defined (click) as:
"A phobia (from the Greek: φόβος,phóbos, meaning "fear" or "morbid fear") is an irrational, intense and persistent fear of certain situations, activities, things, animals, or people. The main symptom of this disorder is the excessive and unreasonable desire to avoid the feared stimulus." - Wikipedia
So, after reading what Allah has commanded the true Muslims on how to treat infidels like me, if I fear for my life and safety, is that fear irrational, excessive and unreasonable?
Let me clarify here a few things. I am perfectly aware that no one gets to choose their parents, and hence the religion they are born into. I will never hold against the circumstances of their birth against anyone. One of the impassioned 'arguments' offered by religious apologists (of all colors) is that one's religious beliefs are a matter of choice, and we must not judge people for that. Now honestly, that is such a silly thing to say! Do we not judge people precisely by the choices they make? If no volition would be involved, e.g., in matters of skin color or height or voice or some physical handicap, it would not be wise to judge people adversely for that. So what choice do those people have if they do not approve of the tenets of religions they were born into?
Let me recount a small incident here. Over the social networking web site, twitter, a user who had said in a tweet mentioning me, "you might disagree, but all Muslims must be killed". I told him that I did not agree with him, and that whatever he was saying amounted to hate-speech and he could be punished for that, and most important, I 'unfollowed' him. I must add that it was not a case that all his tweets had been insane, he had a few 'good' (sensible) things also to say. But important point is, the moment he espoused violence against a certain group of people only for the family they were born into or for their chosen religious beliefs, I expressed my strong disapproval and denounced his views. Can a religious scripture be 'unfollowed', provided one actually disapproves of things written in it? Can a religious scripture be similarly disapproved of and denounced for espousing violence against a certain group of people only for the family they were born into or for their chosen religious beliefs? Why or why not? I leave that question to be answered by religious apologists and religious theists. Remember, the said tweeter had also said a few things that were sensible.
Okay, coming to another aspect of Islamophobia - contempt towards and discrimination against Muslims. Why should I be expected to respect someone who systematically hates me by virtue of following the Quran in entirety, and who would not help me, nor befriend me, and would take it upon him/herself to kill idolators who I hold dear? Perhaps, I could be accused of being sensationalist. Let us try again! What shall I think of a person who considers the precepts in the above quoted suras as unassailable truth and divine revelation to be revered? Especially so, when the said person has the option of rejecting those ideas as utter rubbish?
Then, there is one more argument put forth by religious apologists:
"But why do you selectively target the evils of religion? There are so many good things in religion, no? Why not just follow the good things and forget the bad things?"
There are two things I would like to say in response. First, consider a person who goes to an orphanage. He makes generous donations, and also asks others to do the same. But he picks up every child wearing a blue colored dress and stabs and kills him/her. And moreover, he does this in cold blood, without remorse. What would be your assessment of such a person? Would you persist with your plea of "just look at the positives and overlook the negatives"? Why should such cherry-picking be done? Why not assess the person in entirety? Likewise, why not assess religions in entirety without trying to be too lenient in judging them? Second thing I want to point out is, the moment one takes a call as to what is "good" in a religion and what is "bad", they are using their own discretion on what is good v/s bad. Which means their reasoning and discretion had superseded the precepts of the scripture. In other words, they do not need the said scripture to know what is good and what is bad!
So, what am I to think of religious apologists who want to themselves make unwarranted concessions to religion and also expect me to make the very same concessions? What am I to think of those who would hail the orphan-killer as a great saint and revere him because of few 'good' things he does by overlooking his murderous streak?
In summary, I have put forth what the Quran says of infidels like me, which obviously a true Muslim is supposed to subscribe to. In light of these facts, it is difficult to not fear and to respect true Muslims and the religious ideology they willingly follow (despite having a choice to reject that ideology, provided the said Muslim actually disagrees with it). And hence, the term 'Islamophobia' in its purest sense is a misnomer.
PS: With this I complete 100 posts on my blog. :)