Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Articles, Comments

Debate With Prof Walter Lammi

Prof. Lammi: Islam-Watch is Irrelevant, Misdirected and has Misunderstood Islam

Note: We are pleased that Prof. Walter Lammi from Egypt has sent us some thoughtful comments on our website. His comments have been somewhat critical of our aims and objectives. However, he has also agreed to participate in a civil discussion/debate. Editor, MA Khan will respond to his comments. Prof. Lammi's comments are boxed followed by Editor's reply.

Thank you for alerting me to your website, which is a serious effort that deserves respect. Certainly the freedom for apostasy is a fundamental human freedom and should exist everywhere. Your effort is to that extent worthwhile.
IW: Welcome Prof Lammi. We are happy that you have found our website worth commenting on. We appreciate your understanding that right to apostasy is a fundamental human freedom. But we are dealing with Islam. Islam and its holy book, the Koran, which you have termed a "book of ultimate significance" (below) does not recognize that right of man. Both Koran and Sunnah are very categorical about apostasy from Islam as serious crime which bears punishments ranging from "greatest punishment" (~death?) to death. I am quoting a few relaxant sections from the Koran and Hadith that deal with apostasy.

1. They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah's way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper [Q 4:89]
2. Make ye no excuses: ye have rejected Faith after ye had accepted it. If We pardon some of you, We will punish others amongst you, for that they are in sin [Q 009.066].
"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.' " [Sahih Bukhari 4.260]
Volume 9, Book 83, Number 17: Narrated 'Abdullah: 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."
Volume 9, Book 89, Number 271: Narrated Abu Musa: A man embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism. Mu'adh bin Jabal came and saw the man with Abu Musa. Mu'adh asked, "What is wrong with this (man)?" Abu Musa replied, "He embraced Islam and then reverted back to Judaism." Mu'adh said, "I will not sit down unless you kill him (as it is) the verdict of Allah and His Apostle.
You can refer to our latest article for further details and discussions.
However, I must question the political relevance of your work. To be anti-Muslim, especially in a secularist direction, plays well in the West, and the representatives of that decision, like Wafa Sultan, are universally acclaimed not only for their courage - which is indeed admirable - but also for their positions. However, the real problem it seems to me is not Islam and not religion in general, but religious fanaticism. This problem is simply not addressed in wholesale rejectionism, for you are, so to speak "throwing out the baby with the bathwater."
In the Western secular democracies, courageous people like Wafa Sultan's are definitely valued. The reason is very simple: What Western secular societies today and it's evolution from the very turbulent and disturbing past to modern stage resulted from the courageous stands of the people like Wafa Sultan. Since the beginning of Enlightenment movement 4 centuries ago, people like her (who have always been hated by the common people) stood up and spoke of the tyranny and barbarity of religious or secular nature with uninhibited conviction. There has been sacrifice on their part, yet they helped transform the theocracy-driven barbaric Western societies of the middle ages into modern secular democracies. Muslim societies have failed to accommodate people like her. They are not safe even under the protection of the Western countries.
About throwing baby with the bathwater, this is nonsensical analogy. That is a matter between the baby and the mother. For the mother, the baby is an investment - emotional, psychological and material. But for an apostate, nurturing Islam is nurturing death, torture and punishment for himself. How do you want me to regard Islam that has no contribution to my life (other than 40 years of feeding hatred against non-Muslim community when I was a Muslim), that cripple my life in so many ways and of course, that orders it followers to kill me? Of course, the tragic barbarity of Islam on mankind since its inception and its continuance is needed to be taken into account.
Take for example an article from your website, Ali Sina's "From Rags to Riches." This purports to be a refutation of the Koran, accomplished by juxtaposing quotations. As a hermeneutical exercise, however, I am afraid that it is quite worthless. In reading, context is everything, and a study of the Koran no less than the study of any book that we take seriously cannot legitimately proceed by lifting individual statements for polemical purposes. This reflects exactly the same literalism as the fundamentalists!
We agree that there are chances of errors in analysis of isolated sections of book and arriving conclusion. This chance of error is application to any books. We do not know why and how you conclude that one is more likely to commit such errors while studying the Koran (also probably Bible/Torah?). Which universally accepted thesis has established such a notion? Would you please give us the reference?
In regard to Dr Ali Sina's article, we have agreed that there are chances of errors. But we need to point out to those errors. Such a thing has not been done. There hasn't been any alternative explanation of these verses of the Koran. All the Islamic Ulemas, legists and jurisprudence seem to agree to such analysis, as to the fundamentalists. And Prophet Muhammad himself explained those verses of the Koran in exactly the same manner as Dr Ali Sina has analyzed and so do the extremists. What we are waiting here for is that someone come and give us (misunderstanders of Islam) and the radicals a proper and convincing interpretation of those verses (of course, for the first time) - so that they (fundamentalists) can correct themselves. That will solve the terrible problem the world faces today. We should be credited for creating an opportunity and space for such a possibility. Our effort is not worthless as you suggested.
If we do not accord the Muslim "book of ultimate significance" the same respectful care with which we would approach any other book anointed for its greatness by more than a millennium of study by highly intelligent people, we render ourselves irrelevant to serious discussion. If we do not respect religion, we render ourselves irrelevant to serious dialogue and risk descending into mere polemics.
Why religion is needed to be respected? One respects somebody or something when the latter adds value to one's life. I respect democracy; I respect secularism because it adds definite value to my life in substantial measures. Islam did not and does not add any value to my life but instead, it cripples my life in every step. Islam might add value to the life of the Muslims and let them respect their religion. I am at disadvantage in so many ways because of Islam. I am not morally and logically obligated to respect Islam and any such thing that has similar effect on my life.
You have said Islam is a "book of ultimate significance" to Muslims. Would you please enumerate as to how Islam/Koran adds significance or value to Muslims' life, in particular to those living in the West. How is it helping them, enriching them and their neighbors?
A more fruitful direction of inquiry, it seems to me, is: how does religion, especially a religion of law like Islam, come to conceptual language? How is the traditional dialogue within Islam changed under the globalized influence of the European Enlightenment? What is the relation of religious "belief" and "theology"?
This section of your comment is a bit fuzzy. Would you please deliberate a bit more in simpler language understandable by earthly human beings?
To sum up, with particular reference to Koranic interpretation: How and when did a rich civilization give way to an impoverished ideology? That is the question of Islamicist fundamentalism.  Muslims used to study the universe in order to understand the Koran; now, for the most part, they ignore the universe and only read the sound of words.
Who are those Muslims? Prophet Muhammad? Or his immediate associates namely Abu Bakr, Omar, Ali, Osman, ibn Walid? These are the finest heroes of Islam and we have sufficient knowledge about their activities and interests. But never such things came to our attention. Maybe we have missed it! Or there may be other great heroes of Islam, who might have done that. A bit detail would be helpful.
However, your assertion is flawed. Islam is the (only) perfect code of life and Koran is the ultimate minefield of knowledge and wisdom. Koran is complete. This is the fundamental doctrine of Islam. The saying that one needs studying the universe (gaining knowledge from other sources) to understand the Koran is contrary to the basic thesis of Islam. It amounts to insult to the Koran and Islam and should technically amount to blasphemy or heresy. Many of the 8th to the 14th century philosophers and scientists of Islam (not theologians) tried to do that and they were termed heretics and apostates and many of them had to pay the ultimate price for that. Instead, it is the Koran that contains all the knowledge and mysteries of the universe (ask Mourice Bucaille & Keith Moore et al., who recently discovered all the minefield of science in the Koran, which Muslims couldn't do in 14 centuries).
Thank you Prof. Lammi for your time and reading. We look forward to valuable response from you.