Tarek Fatah claims he is a moderate-liberal Muslim of the "hardened secular" variety, but his antics in his recent tirade against Wafa Sultan, an ex-Muslim critic of Islam, proves that Muslims, of whatever variety they are, can't just fit in liberal-democratic societies....
Tarek Fatah, the author of Chasing Mirage, variously calls moderate, secular, liberal, and even ‘hardened secular’, Muslim. I personally have deep respect for him for his courageous campaign against radical Islamists in Canada.
In recent days, Fatah kicked up a controversy by attacking Dr. Wafa Sultan, an ex-Muslim critic of Islam, in an editorial in Canada’s National Post, for stating certain facts about Islam during a debate with Dr. Daniel Pipes in a synagogue in Toronto. What Sultan mentioned are based on Islam’s canonical texts, and accepted by the mainstream in Islamic society. As the saga unfolds, I have felt uncomfortable as Fatah has been labeled in various blog-postings as an 'anti-Semite', a taqiyah-tactician, an Islamist in the guise of a self-proclaimed ‘hardened secularist’ etc. I have, however, become increasingly disillusioned by some of Fatah’s antics in course of the current controversy, and started wondering what it truly takes to be a ‘hardened secular’ Muslim.
Fatah’s problem with Wafa Sultan is based on the following claims Sultan made: 1) Muhammad was a child-molester, because he, aged 54, consummated his marriage to Aisha, after waiting three years, when she turned 9; 2) Muhammad was a ‘Jew-killer’; and 3) there is no ‘moderate Islam’.
It transpires, as this controversy unfolded, when it comes to criticism of Islam and its founder, the allegedly ‘hardened secularist’ or ‘liberal’ Muslims won’t live by what they claimed themselves to be.
Islam is the final divine creed, perfected by creator of the universe, and Muhammad was an ideal human man ever, whose life Muslims must try to emulate as closely as possible. These are two foundational beliefs in Islam, which every Muslim—whether ‘moderate’, ‘hardened secular’, ‘liberal’ or whatever type—must hold true.
When something is “perfect”, that too by divine decree, it is beyond criticism; so are Islam and Prophet Muhammad. So, any criticism of the Islamic creed and its founder is a ‘no-no’ to Muslims, of whatever variety they claim themselves to be; they won’t tolerate it.
In sum, although criticisms of religion is a major cornerstone of ‘secular-liberal’ societies, but to Islamic seculars or liberals, even of the ‘hardened’ variety, when it comes to criticism of Islam and its founder, it must not be tolerated.
That’s exactly the case with Tarek Fatah. He couldn’t tolerate Sultan’s mentioning of facts about Islam and Muhammad, made in a critical light. So, he attacked Sultan. What is surprising: to fortify his case against Sultan, he fabricated lies, dangerous lies; he put words in Sultan’s mouth that she never uttered.
Fatah’s invention of lies to malign Wafa Sultan
I have met Wafa Sultan personally, and I know she has disdain for Islam, because of the impact it had on her life and it has on Muslims in general. Being an ex-Muslim myself, and knowing Islamic societies and having widely studied Islam’s canonical texts—the Quran, prophetic traditions (sunnah or ahadith), and prophetic sira (biography)—I can firmly say Islam is a creed of hatred and violence, and violation of human rights of non-Muslims, even of its own women. These facts are so evident when one looks at the Islamic world today or at its history.
The Quran is a ‘manual of terror’ against non-Muslims: polytheists, Jews and Christians. And Muhammad’s personal dealings with these people of Arabia—as depicted in the Quran, ahadith, and prophetic biographies by pious scholars—make this assertion perfectly justified. And based on these Islamic dicta, Muslims have committed immense violation of human rights of others, including claiming hundreds of millions of human lives, Fatah knows quite well. Sixty to eight millions of Fatah’s Hindu ancestors fell victim of Islam’s annihilation in India.
Given these facts, Islam the creed deserves disdain of sane-minded people. Islam is a license to commit atrocities against non-Muslim peoples, even against those Muslims, who are lax in following its prescribed ruling and guidelines. History has been a proof of that. Having appreciation for Islam is giving license to barbarism. So ex-Muslims like Wafa Sultan have disdain against Islam, the Muslim creed, but not against Muslims, whom she and all ex-Muslims, instead, sympathize with for falling victims to Islam’s hateful and debilitating ideology. We ex-Muslims firmly hold that those Jihadis, who commit atrocities against people of all types all over the world today, would be like any other people, peaceful and even friendly, to those whom they persecute, if not for Islam.
In sum, Wafa Sultan and us ex-Muslims have no hatred for Muslims, the human individuals, but we certainly hold disdain for Islam, because it deserves so. Indeed, hating Islam by all is essential for ridding humanity of one of its evidently worst lasting afflictions.
But, the so-called secular or liberal Muslims like Fatah, who are often criticized by the Muslim mainstream, have to criticize the critics of Islam, such as Wafa Sultan, in order to show their commitment to Islam and Islamic society. And to enhanced their credibility amongst Muslims, they would, if need be, invent lies about the critics of Islam. That’s what he has done in his critique of Wafa Sultan.
While Wafa Sultan, like all ex-Muslims, expressly hates Islam, not Muslims, Tarek invented lies, put words in Sultan’s mouth, which she never uttered, to portray her as an avid Muslim-hater. Fatah wrote:
I left the synagogue deeply disturbed. In the fight against Islamofascism, Wafa Sultan’s hatred of Islam was cultivating the very forces she claims to be exposing. When a questioner asked her “What is the solution?” she just shrugged her shoulders. Perhaps the answer she had in mind was too outrageous even by her own standards: Force Muslims to convert or die.
Five hundred years ago, Isabel and Ferdinand “cleansed” Spain of Islam and Muslims, but we are still here.
Fatah, thus, claims that Sultan hates Muslims so much so that she wants them converted by force or killed, like Spain was cleansed of Muslims five centuries ago.
In fact, Sultan did not shrug her shoulder to mean whatever Fatah may assume in his mind-reading, but she gave a clear-cut answer. According to Canadian journalist Joanne Hill, who made audio-recording of the whole proceeding, and wrote a counter to Fatah’s attack on Sultan, the question asked was: "How do you get Muslims to reform? Do you expect them to convert to another religion?"
And Sultan’s reply was:
"Give them the freedom to choose: that's all I'm asking for. Give them the freedom to search, to ask, to be exposed to different sides, different values, different lifestyles. I can tell you from my very own experience, what has helped me to reform myself is being exposed to Western values and being free to express my conclusion. I always compare between my life under Islamic Sharia and my life as a free woman in America and I write about that on my website in Arabic. So when you expose people to different [sic], and you give them the freedom to choose, that's all we need in the Islamic world. I'm not asking [them] to convert to a different religion; I'm asking to grant them the freedom to choose, the freedom to be, to follow whatever path they want to follow. That's all."
She further said:
"I'm not speaking up against Islam to please anyone but my conscience. We suffer a lot under Islamic Sharia. It is not fair. Enough is enough. We need to live our lives as human beings. I want you to know I'm not here to incite anyone against Muslims. Muslims are my family: my Mom, my brother, my sister. You know, I cannot peel off my own skin. I feel sorry for them because they are victims of a very hateful ideology. Really, if you take a look at any Islamic country, what do you see? Nothing but miserable situations, especially women, who are living in this society. So I am speaking up to save them, looking for a better future for them..."
These eloquently spoken words, to a ‘hardened secularist’ like Fatah, are just shrugging shoulders by Sultan to mean forced conversion or death of Muslims. Perversion of facts can’t be stretched to a limit further than this. When leading ‘hardened secular’ or ‘liberal’ Muslim can do this, one can only wonder what a true or ordinary Muslim would be capable of!
One must also take into account that minor criticism of Islam brings death-threats; even Muslims in Islamic societies are killed or attacked for minor deviation, such as for not attending prayers or not fasting during Ramadan. So, it’s not difficult to grasp how dangerous it is for Wafa Sultan, when Fatah says: she wants Muslims ‘converted of dead’. But for Fatah, to establish his “Islamic” credential amongst his Muslim audience, it’s worth it to put his opponent’s life in whatsoever danger by perverting truth to its limit.
Fatah’s denial of truths about Islam
Fatah felt disgusted when Wafa Sultan called Muhammad a child-molester, because of his marrying Aisha at the age of six, and having sex with her when she turned nine, and that she called Muhammad a Jew-killer.
The fact that Muhammad married Aisha when she was a child is supported by all versions of canonical prophetic tradition or ahadith. Muslims societies overwhelming accept it. Since the examples, set by Muhammad, should be emulated by Muslim at all time, Muslim societies widely practice child-marriages till today, although it has been greatly reduced over the past century, thanks to Western influence and criticisms.
Concerning Muhammad’s being a Jew-hater, he denuded Arabia of the Jews by mass-eviction, namely of the Jews of Banu Qainuqa and Nadir, and by mass-massacre of the adult Jewish men of Banu Quraiza, Mustaliq and Khaybar, while enslaving their women and children. Of the enslaved, the young and beautiful girls were used as sex-slaves. On the three occasions he engaged in mass-slaughter of the Jews, every time Muhammad took the most beautiful of the captured women as his sex-slave (Rayhana of Banu Quraiza, Safiyah at Khaybar, and Juwairiya of Banu Mustaliq) and slept with them on the same night their family-members had been slaughtered. These facts are authenticated by fundamental Islamic texts: the Quran, ahadith and/or prophetic biographies. But when an ex-Muslim critics of Islam plainly cites these facts, a ‘hardened secular’ Muslim like Fatah feels disgusted, and launches a tirade against the critic, and he even invents lies to fortify his attack, putting the life of the critic in danger.
No such thing as 'moderate Islam'
Another statement of Sultan that infuriated Fatah is: "There is no moderate Islam". To state the fact, this is not Sultan’s own claim. Muslims generally do not subscribe to such classification: they just want to called Muslim, or true Muslim, who strive to live by the dictates of the Quran and the prophet. I have lived 40 years as a Muslim, albeit as a liberal one: I hardly prayed, hardly fasted. And during those years, whenever someone asked if I were a Muslim, I, with a good deal of guilt, answered: ‘yes, but not a good one’. I have always longed to become a good Muslim some day.
A bad or moderate Muslim as I was, and as Fatah is, is no Muslim, as Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, in 2007, condemned the term "moderate Islam" as thus: "These descriptions are very ugly; it is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam and that's it."
Sultan was simply restating what Erdogan has proudly said without any protests from Muslims, whether liberal, radical or any other variety.
Way to be a 'moderate', 'hardened secular’' and 'libera' Muslim
From these discussions, it is possible to make a sense of what it takes to be a ‘moderate’, ‘hardened secular’ or ‘liberal’ Muslim.
You are such a Muslim, if you feel it is perfectly OK, when a leading Muslim leader condemn the term ‘moderate Islam’, terms it an insult to Islam. But when a critic of Islam say or quote the same, you must feel disgusted and unleash an attack on a such critic, even by inventing lies, if that makes your attack firmer.
You are such a Muslim, when you feel OK with Islam’s canonical texts over and over telling us that Muhammad married Aisha at the age of six, and had sex with her at the age of nine; when you feel OK with Islamic societies overwhelmingly accepts these facts. You will never condemn those texts. But you must feel disgusted when a critic of Islam simply cites that fact, and try to portray Prophet Muhammad as what he was: molester of a child. And of course, you must launch an attack on the critic by inventing lies, if need be.
You are a moderate-liberal Muslim, when you feel perfectly OK with canonical Islamic texts, namely the Quran, sunnah and prophetic biographies, narrates how Muhammad exterminated the totally-innocent Jews of Arabia by mass-slaughter, mass-eviction and mass-enslavement. You are perfectly OK with the Quran that is filled with numerous verses of Jew-hatred (hatred of polytheists, Christians, too). You must not condemn those texts; instead, you will accept them as a divine book of perfect guidance to human life. You must also be OK, when Muslim imams loudly speak of those tracts of Quranic Jew-hatred in their mosque-sermons to Muslim audience, such as in Al Azhar. But you must feel utterly disgusted when a critic of Islam simply mentions those facts that Muhammad was a Jew-killer, that Islam is anti-Semitic; worse if that critical forum is held in a synagogue in front of a non-Muslim audience. Fatah himself write:
Even a hardened secular Muslim such as myself was deeply hurt by what I heard that evening. I also was disappointed that the speech was at a synagogue, and the audience almost all Jews.
So far, exposed by Joanne Hill and other bloggers, Fatah has, probably for the first time, come out to criticize those Islamic texts that say Muhammad had sex with Aisha at the age of nine. He has, instead, tried to parrot some recent claims by other deceptive Islamists, based on obscure references in non-canonical historical texts, that Aisha was probably 20 or older when Muhammad married her. To save grace, Fatah has also, probably for the first time, asked upon Muslim to discard the canonical hadith texts in favor of some other historical ones, and to live by the Quran, which, he, out of delusion, thinks would save Muhammad and Islam from the charge of engaging in pedophilia, and help Muslim societies rid of child-marriages. I will follow up on that in my next…
It becomes amply clear what it takes to be a hardened secular-liberal Muslim. Fatah message: Hands off any Criticism of Islam and its founder, however fact-based and legitimate they are.
Secularism evolved as an opposition, as a fight, against religion and theocracy in the West. Unfettered criticism of religions, even if based on fiction or contrary to facts (note depiction of Jesus as a gay), is at the foundation of a secular society. But to Fatah, despite claiming he is a ‘hardened secular’, even fact-based criticism of Islam is intolerable. If Fatah wants to be simply a secular, not necessarily a ‘hardened’ one, Joanne Hill has some words of advice for him:
Mr. Fatah writes that he was "traumatized" by Dr. Sultan's words. If this is truly the case, I would suggest that Mr. Fatah's sensitive feelings render him too delicate for this Western society in which he has chosen to live, because we in the free world are not required to continually couch our statements in qualifiers or cushion our strong words.
M. A. Khan is the author of Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery.