Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Islam: Religion or Cult?

Islam is known as the second largest religion. The very fact that 1.2 billion people call themselves Muslims vests Islam with the mantel of legitimacy and confirms the claim that it is a religion. But is it?  In the previous chapters we saw the similarity of Islam with other cults. In this chapter we study this subject more in depth.

Can one billion people be wrong? Well, "argumentum ad numerum" is a logical fallacy and yes millions and even billions of people can be wrong. Truth cannot be established by the consensus of the majority. In fact many arguments have been debunked, even though everyone in the world once accepted them as true. For example, not until a few centuries ago everyone believed that the Earth was flat and was at the centre of the universe. Despite that common belief both geocentricity and the idea of the flat Earth were false. A false belief does not become true even if everyone thinks they are true. 

Therefore, not only one billion people, but the entire mankind can be wrong. As Bertrand Russell said: "The fact that an opinion has been widely held is no evidence whatever that it is not utterly absurd; indeed in view of the silliness of the majority of mankind, a widespread belief is more likely to be foolish than sensible."

After shattering the myth of argumentum ad numerum, let us put Islam under scrutiny and see whether it is a religion or a cult. The word cult has been much used and abused to the extent that people of one religion call other religions that they don't like, cult. But cults have very definite characteristics.  

In his best-selling book Combating Cult Mind Control, Steven Hasson, a former Moonie himself, describes the characteristics of cults and how they control minds. Once we analyze his description of Moonie cult and compare it with Islam we see a great deal of similarity, a similarity that is shared by virtually all cults. Let us compare point by point Hasson's description of cult with what we know of Islam:      

Steven Hasson's description of cult Islam's characteristics 
The Moonies do a very thorough job of convincing people that former members are satanic and that even being in their presence could be dangerous. [p.3] Apostasy in Islam is the greatest sin. Apostates are to be shunned, ostracized and even killed 4:89 9:66
Allah's Apostle said, "The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims." [Bukhari 9,83,17]

Ali burnt some people [hypocrites] and this news reached Ibn 'Abbas, who said, "Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, 'Don't punish (anybody) with Allah's Punishment.' No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, 'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.'"  [Bukhari 9,84,57]

 It is ironic that whereas Moon's stated goal is to unify the world, many of his strategies foster jealousy and spite among leaders, virtually insuring a lack of unity. [p.23] Soon after the death of Muhammad, the fight over power started and tens of thousands of Muslims were killed due to infighting among the leaders and close relatives of Muhammad by fellow Muslims.  
The more people opposed us, the more committed we felt. [p.24] Often Muslims claim that after reading my articles their faith in Islam has grown. This is not entirely bluff. Oliver Wendell Holmes said: "The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye; the more light you pour upon it, the more it will contract". Although Muslims may not regard themselves as observing Muslims, once Islam is criticized they feel their identity is under attack and tenaciously try to hold unto it even though they can't explain why.         
It was as if we were God's army in the middle of a spiritual war--the only ones who could go to the front lines and fight Satan each day. [p.24]   Muslims believe Islam is the only true religion and they are the only people who do God's work.  
The Moonies wanted to keep me from pursuing some disturbing questions. I had discovered some glaring inconsistencies. It was dangerous for someone in my position in the organization to ask questions that couldn't be answered. [p.25]   Muslims are not allowed to ask certain questions that go to the core of Muhammad's claim. Questions such as how do we know that Muhammad was telling the truth are taboo. In Islam you are allowed to ask question about modality for example "please tell us about Islam" but you can't ask questions about the validity of Islam. Muslims are very sensitive about this issue and threat and violence may ensue.    
Indeed, it was my ideals and my own fantasy of an ideal world that had lured me into the Moonies. Those ideals ultimately enabled me to walk out and publicy condemn cult mind control. [p.33]   Many people who convert to Islam do so because they project their own ideals on this religion but in reality they have very little understanding of Islam, its tenets and its violent history. Most of these converts ultimately leave Islam when they discover the truth.  
They indoctrinate members to show only the best sides of the organization. Members are taught to suppress any negative feelings they have about the group and always show a continually smiling, "happy" face. [p.41]   his is typical of Islam where image is everything. Muslims have a tradition of dissimulation called Taqyyah. Deceiving others to portray Islam in the best lights is something every Muslim, including the newcomers learns to do from early on.  
In some cults, members are systematically made to be phobic about ever leaving the group. Today's cults know how to effectively implant vivid negative images deep within members' unconscious minds, making it impossible for the member to even conceive of ever being happy and successful outside of the group. [p.45] In the same way, cult phobias take away people's choices. Members truly believe they will be destroyed if they leave the safety of the group. They think there are no other ways for them to grow--spiritually, intellectually, or emotionally. They are virtually enslaved by this mind control technique. [p.46]   Fear of leaving Islam is inseminated in the mind of the Muslim in various ways. The most heavy-handed method is the fear of hellfire. This fear is so engrained in the mind of the Muslim that virtually paralyzes his thinking ability. Even the most brilliant Muslims become literally powerless vis-a`-vis the fear of the afterlife and facing a vengeful and tyrannical god. Then there is the fear of ostracism, loss of social prestige and even persecution and death. The Muslim is led to believe that life outside Islam does not exist and he is constantly reminded of the tremendous losses hat he would incur, both in this world and the next.  

Based on the above, Islam is a cult. It is the biggest and the most successful cult. It practically reunites every feature of cult. Other cults may not be cultic in some of the above points. But Islam is cultic in every way and it would be a mistake to number it among religions just because over a billion people call themselves Muslims.


A Comparison:

Let us choose another cult, and compare it to Islam. Let us see if there are similarities between the two. For the purpose of this comparison I chose Aum Shinrikyo (Supreme Truth), the cult of the Japanese blind Messiah whose followers were involved in killing innocent people as a religious ritual.  


Shoko Asahara, Japanese man founded a cult called the Aum Supreme truth "This apocalyptic sect and its charismatic, blind leader are suspected of releasing Sarin gas in five Tokyo subway stations the morning of March 20, 1995, killing 12 people (one dying a year after the attack) and sickening more than 5,500 others. The religious cult is also suspected of a similar gas attack in June, 1994 in Matsumoto, a town north of Tokyo, that killed seven people and wounded 144. Furthermore they are suspected of a series of slayings and kidnappings of anti-cult activists and of preparing to overthrow the Japanese government -- all in the name of "good karma." 


1400 years ago, Muhammad an illiterate charismatic Arab, founded a monotheistic cult called Islam. To promote his religion he prescribed holy wars (jihad). He taught that next to prayers and fasting, waging war against the disbelievers is the most praiseworthy and meritorious act. He was a single-minded man who stopped at nothing to achieve his goal. He raided villages and looted merchant caravans and killed anyone who stood in his way with no mercy. He won his wars mostly through deceit and by taking his victims by surprise. This prophet of dooms laid siege on Jewish quarters and cut the water to them until they surrendered, and then he either massacred the males including the boys who had reached puberty, taking their women and children as slaves or banished them after taking all their belongings. He ordered the boys be inspected and if they had grown pubic hair he joined them with men and slew them. Muhammad assassinated his opponents and critics. During the last ten years of his life, he waged over 76 wars and slew tens of thousands of people.


Asahara justified indiscriminate mass murder through the religious belief of "poa" -- a Tibetan Buddhist term for reincarnation to a higher existence. According to Shoko's twisted doomsday teachings, one can only save their soul through killing. Through the years Asahara developed a mumbo-jumbo collaged religious doctrine that resembled some sort of New Age-Hippie-Bhuddist-Mysticism. He even went on a pilgrimage to see Nostradamus expert Michel Chomarat at Lyon 's municipal library to gain new insights into divination.  " 


Muhammad justified indiscriminate mass murder through the religious belief of monotheism; a Middle Eastern dogma that claims this universe has a creator called Allah whose purpose of creation is to be known and be worshiped. But this can't be done except through his intermediaries of which Muhammad was the best and the last. According to Muhammad's twisted doomsday teachings, one can only serve Allah by forcing others into submission to his cult, even if that means killing those who differ. Through the years of withdrawal, and spending days at a time in a secluded cave, Muhammad developed a mumbo-jumbo collaged of religious doctrine that was a concoction of Judaism and Christianity and a hefty dose of rituals borrowed from Arabian paganism. He got some rudimentary insights in other monotheistic religions of the Middle East from Warraqa, the cousin of his first wife who was a Christian monk and some of his own followers who were Christian slaves. 


To the New Age cocktail brewing in his head, Asahara added the incentive of world domination through violence that he taught to his followers. According to Shoko, a "poa" killing relieved victims from everyday life and the inevitable accumulation of bad karma. Thus what we call cold-blooded murder was regarded "as a beautiful 'poa,' and wise people would see that both the killer and the person killed would benefit" 


To the monotheistic farce brewing in his head, Muhammad added the incentive of world domination through violence that he taught to his followers. According to Muhammad, killing the disbelievers in the name of Allah was the source of His pleasure. Thus terrorism was regarded as 'eJihad' or holy war. To cajole his followers to participate in these wars he promised them an orgiastic paradise filled with voluptuous celestial whores and "pearly boys", whether they kill or are killed in the battle. 

Now let us suppose that there is a true religion. How we would distinguish it from the false cults? Obviously we cannot accept any charlatan and impostor who lays claim to be the messenger of God. How are we supposed to differentiate between the false prophets and the true ones? Why we should accept Islam and reject all other cults? 

Muslims' major proof for the truth of Islam is that over one billion people are Muslims. They argue that "not all these people can be wrong." They believe in Islam because, as they say, it is the second biggest religion and it is the fastest growing one. 

This is untrue because there are more Muslims who are leaving Islam. Today Over half of Iranians outside Iran do not call themselves Muslims and over 40% of them who still claim to be Muslims do not practice any Islamic rituals, like praying and fasting. We cannot have these statistics from inside of Iran but it is likely that once the present repressive regime of Iran is removed, most of the Iranians will denounce Islam and perhaps Muslims will become the minority in Iran .  

Even if we accept revelation as the ultimate source of knowledge and religions as indispensable and the best guidance for human beings, we have to find which religion is true and which one is a cult. What are the parameters that we should use to separate one from the other? 

In the final analysis, it is our own logic that should guide us in this uncharted territory. We have to use reason to test the truth. Having faith is not enough. We must put our faith to test of reason.  The cult leaders, who fear that their false claims would not stand the test of reason, warn their followers not to question God for this is the greatest sin. They say it is not up to humans to test God but it is God who should test his servants. They would rather demand immediate and steadfast devotion without offering any proof. They assert that the blind faith is the sign of the purity of heart and assure that God loves those who believe without questioning and those who believe at once without questioning will be rewarded. Rewarded for what? Rewarded for gullibility... for credulity? 

There are countless number of people who fall prey to the to mentally sick narcissist self-acclaimed messiahs that pup up in ever increasing numbers, every day. They number in thousands. We have to ask ourselves, would a wise and loving god give us a brain and the faculty to reason and then expect us to forgo its use when it comes to the most important decision in our lives, which is finding the right religion, which allegedly is the very purpose of our existence in this world that would determine whether we would have an eternal life in the paradise or would burn forever in the hellfire? 

Islam is not the fastest growing religion. Falun Gong is. This Chinese religion, in just a few years has attracted more that 100 million followers. Islam's growth is the result of another social problem and that is the population explosion in the poor countries. Muslims, because of their religious fanaticism have been alienated from science. To them the real knowledge is revealed in the Quran and that is all they need to know. Early Muslims burned books and considered all sciences to be demonic. In fact, except for a short period, this mentality dominated the minds of the Muslims everywhere. Even Khomeini was of the opinion that the Quran is the only book that must be taught in the universities. 

Therefore, unless they could find oil underground, Islamic countries remained mostly poor. The population in poor countries grow more rapidly and hence the number of Muslims. The number of westerners converting to Islam compared to the number of born Muslims diverting from it is negligible. Islam mostly appeals to the blacks in USA who are basically reacting against the white dominated Christianity and are in the search for their own identity and to the prison inmates who find Islam more in conformity with their proclivity.

Ali Sina is the editor of He is has contributed in 'Beyond Jihad - Critical Voices from Inside Islam'.  His latest book is Understanding Muhammad: The Psychobiography of Allah???s Prophet.