Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Islam and Intellectual Terrorism


Aldous Huxley once defined an intellectual as someone who had found something in life more important than sex: a witty but inadequate definition, since it would make all impotent men and frigid women intellectuals. A better definition would be a freethinker, not in the narrow sense of someone who does not accept the dogmas of traditional religion, but in the wider sense of someone who has the will to find out, who exhibits rational doubt about prevailing intellectual fashions, and who is unafraid to apply critical thought to any subject. If the intellectual is really committed to the notion of truth and free inquiry, then he or she cannot stop the inquiring mind at the gates of any religion — let alone Islam. And yet, that is precisely what has happened with Islam, criticism of which in our present intellectual climate is taboo.

The reason why many intellectuals have continued to treat Islam as a taboo subject are many and various, including:

  1. political correctness leading to Islamic correctness;

  2. the fear of playing into the hands of racists or reactionaries to the detriment of the West’s Muslim minorities;

  3. commercial or economic motives;

  4. feelings of post-colonial guilt (where the entire planet’s problems are attributed to the West’s wicked ways and intentions);

  5. plain physical fear;

  6. and intellectual terrorism of writers such as Edward Said.

Said not only taught an entire generation of Arabs the wonderful art of self-pity (if only those wicked Zionists, imperialists and colonialists would leave us alone, we would be great, we would not have been humiliated, we would not be backward) but intimidated feeble Western academics, and even weaker, invariably leftish, intellectuals into accepting that any criticism of Islam was to be dismissed as orientalism, and hence invalid.

But the first duty of the intellectual is to tell the truth. Truth is not much in fashion in this postmodern age when continental charlatans have infected Anglo-American intellectuals with the thought that objective knowledge is not only undesirable but unobtainable. I believe that to abandon the idea of truth not only leads to political fascism, but stops dead all intellectual inquiry. To give up the notion of truth means forsaking the goal of acquiring knowledge. But man, as Aristotle put it, by nature strives to know. Truth, science, intellectual inquiry and rationality are inextricably bound together. Relativism, and its illegitimate offspring, multiculturalism, are not conducive to the critical examination of Islam.

Said wrote a polemical book, Orientalism (1978), whose pernicious influence is still felt in all departments of Islamic studies, where any critical discussion of Islam is ruled out a priori . For Said, orientalists are involved in an evil conspiracy to denigrate Islam, to maintain its people in a state of permanent subjugation and are a threat to Islam’s future. These orientalists are seeking knowledge of oriental peoples only in order to dominate them; most are in the service of imperialism.

Said’s thesis was swallowed whole by Western intellectuals, since it accords well with the deep anti-Westernism of many of them. This anti-Westernism resurfaces regularly in Said’s prose, as it did in his comments in the Guardian after September 11th. The studied moral evasiveness, callousness and plain nastiness of Said’s article, with its refusal to condemn outright the attacks on America or show any sympathy for the victims or Americans, leave an unpleasant taste in the mouth of anyone whose moral sensibilities have not been blunted by political and Islamic correctness. In the face of all evidence, Said still argues that it was US foreign policy in the Middle East and elsewhere that brought about these attacks.

The unfortunate result is that academics can no longer do their work honestly. A scholar working on recently discovered Qur’anic manuscripts showed some of his startling conclusions to a distinguished colleague, a world expert on the Qur’an. The latter did not ask, “What is the evidence, what are your arguments, is it true?” The colleague simply warned him that his thesis was unacceptable because it would upset Muslims.

Very recently, Professor Josef van Ess, a scholar whose works are essential to the study of Islamic theology, cut short his research, fearing it would not meet the approval of Sunni Islam. Gunter Luling was hounded out of the profession by German universities because he proposed the radical thesis that at least a third of the Qur’an was originally a pre-Islamic, Christian hymnody, and thus had nothing to do with Mohammed. One German Arabist says academics are now wearing “a turban spiritually in their mind”, practicing “Islamic scholarship” rather than scholarship on Islam. Where biblical criticism has made important advances since the 16th century, when Spinoza demonstrated that the Pentateuch could not have been written by Moses, the Qur’an is virtually unknown as a human document susceptible to analysis by the instruments and techniques of biblical criticism.

Western scholars need to defend unflinchingly our right to examine Islam, to explain its rise and fall by the normal mechanisms of human history, according to the objective standards of historical methodology. Democracy depends on freedom of thought and free discussion. The notion of infallibility is profoundly undemocratic and unscientific. It is perverse for the Western media to lament the lack of an Islamic reformation and wilfully ignore books such as Anwar Shaikh’s Islam—The Arab Imperialism, or my Why I am Not a Muslim. How do they think reformation will come about if not with criticism? The proposed new legislation by the Labour government to protect Muslims, while well-intentioned, is woefully misguided. It will mean publishers will be even more reluctant to take on works critical of Islam. If we stifle rational discussion of Islam, what will emerge will be the very thing that political correctness and the Government seek to avoid: virulent, racist populism. If there are further terrorist acts then irrational xenophobia will be the only means of expression available. We also cannot allow Muslims subjectively to decide what constitutes “incitement to religious hatred”, since any legitimate criticism of Islam will then be shouted down as religious hatred. Only in a democracy where freedom of inquiry is protected will science progress. Hastily conceived laws risk smothering the golden thread of rationalism running through western civilisation


[From New Humanist, Dec 01, 2001; First published in the Guardian and reproduced by kind permission of Ibn Warraq.]

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Ibn Warraq is the author of Why I Am Not a Muslim and the editor of The Origins of the Koran, The Quest for the Historical Muhammad, and What the Koran Really Says.

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Name: we must protect the right to be able to think clearly
Date: Monday October 06, 2008
Time: 08:07:53 -0700


If we don't, we as well go ahead an blow up the earth. If we can not critically examine ANY religion, we are cutting off our heads. If we can not advance the knowledge of any "religion" by being able to say: whoa, exactly what do you mean by that, that's wrong, why is there so much of such and such? We need to continue to look at this cult and be able to say, NO with rational thought. It also reminds me of Copernicus that was smart enough to have his books printed right before his death, that way the church couldn't prosecute him for his "heresies" in the scienitific field. Galielo wasn't that lucky, but he has now been vindicated by the church, the same church that condemned him. We all must taught how to rationally think, something that those that follow this religion are NOT taught, and those that do know how to think this way, cannot accept what they are reading.

Name: tanstaafl
Date: Monday October 06, 2008
Time: 08:16:03 -0700


Freedom of speech also means the freedom to offend. No one, be they president or peasant, has the right NOT to be offended.

Name: Beowulf
Date: Monday October 06, 2008
Time: 08:57:36 -0700


Islam is a terrible religion that stifles free thought, not only for non-muslims but also for muslims themselves.

Name: Islam and Psychiatry
Date: Monday October 06, 2008
Time: 09:29:36 -0700


In muslim countries psychiatrists are forced to believe in the existence of the Evil Eye because Muhammad did the same, according to a hadith. There are many muslims who become neurotic because of this superstitious belief, however, an adequate treatment is difficult, because the doctor might become considered an infidel if he teaches that the evil eye doesn´t exist. Moreover, many patients seek support from their muslim teachers who are totally ignorant about modern psychiatry.

Name: To Ibn Warraq
Date: Monday October 06, 2008
Time: 09:43:50 -0700


Very well written article. However Europes leaders are not thinking of the long term. They are thinking short term. They do not want to alienate muslim immigrants who are prooving to be a vote bank in some constituencies. This will eventually rise to xenophobia as you mentioned here. Can there not be a foundation in europe who will back the publication and talk shows which publicise and encourage a critical examination of europe? Some one should organise a body to take on this new campaign on a large scale.

Name: Excellent article.
Date: Monday October 06, 2008
Time: 09:49:53 -0700


Intellectuals of islam should think beyond their faith impartially. Only the light can show other things (one can see only in the light natural like sun or manmade like candle) Only intellectuals can serve and free their helpless co muslims from islam but entire humanity. They can no more be silent. Their silence will make more dangerous to human society like cancer to human body.

Name: islam is growing
Date: Monday October 06, 2008
Time: 16:56:14 -0700


islam don't need reformation, you do.

Name: vbv
Date: Monday October 06, 2008
Time: 21:13:14 -0700


Why I say islam is just a cult, an immoral and criminal cult at that , has been brought out by the author succinctly. There is no intellectual honesty in islam. It puts down any free inquiry as "heretic" punishable by torture or death. It cannot stand up to any honest criticism. Islam is supposed to be against idol worship - not just phyiscal idols but also idolising someone. But they have failed miserably: they still idolise Kaaba and the Crescent Moon with a Star adorning their mosques and idgaas, even the fact they require a Mosque as a place of worship betrays the fact that Allah is idolised in a place declared sacrosanct like in any other creed ,they idolise Muhamad ,the world's greatest charlatan and criminal cultist ever , to the point of murdering anyone who dared criticised him or his perverted ideas.Any belief system not able to stand upto honest criticism cannot be called a 'religion' at all ,just a bigoted cult! Islam is nothing but a cruel joke on humanity which requires freedom of thought and speech ,free intellectual discourse without fear or favour and above all the right to reject any creed or cult that seems irrational and idiotic. I would agree with Aldous Huxley that intellectualism is above sexual perversion , and islam propogates sexual perversion , treating women as sex slave with men marrying four women at a time apart from engaging sex slaves and what the right hand possesses in the event of a conquest in wars ,and above all a lewd paradise in the "hereafter" promised by that fake Diety Allah for the muslim zealots and jihadis. All this indicates that islam is not an honest, spiritual and intellectually strong creed but just an immoral cult!

Name: Ibn Hindi
Date: Tuesday October 07, 2008
Time: 10:15:10 -0700


Dear Ibn Warraq, I am sure many Islam-Watch readers are wondering where Islamic terrorism and all these Jihadi bombings in the Indian subcontinent are leading to ... Here is the big picture: There is a method to their madness.

Name: ARM - Google Six Million Muslims convert to Christ
Date: Tuesday October 07, 2008
Time: 12:58:41 -0700


To : Islam is growing. Hey chum - Islam needs reformation as it is declining. Google and see above. Al Jazeera aired this situation so don't be kidding your self.

Name: Blackhawk
Date: Tuesday October 07, 2008
Time: 13:03:34 -0700


This is for Islam is growing. You are full of crap and part of the problem. You ignorant pup. Go ahead and blow yourself up and get you some of them virgins. IDIOT.

Name: cjs
Date: Tuesday October 07, 2008
Time: 14:59:29 -0700


It is the deadly ideology of the Left and the death wish of the Liberals in collusion with death seeking muslims who are victims of the quran that is THE danger to all non muslims and the world in general.

Name: Divide and Conquer
Date: Wednesday October 08, 2008
Time: 22:43:35 -0700


The strategy of divide and conquer must be applied to the Muslim world. Let them finished each other.

Name: ha ha ha .....
Date: Wednesday October 08, 2008
Time: 23:40:20 -0700


In Indonesia, the intellectuals are too lazy to search for the truth about Islam, they accept Islam as it is, even though it is polished in any ways. They have blind-faith to Islam. I agree that Islam kills people's mind and its logic. It is the religion of zombies, ha ha ha .....

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