Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

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Freedom of Expression:
the Perspective of an Evolutionary Political Theory [EPT]

The aim of this article is to identify the role that freedom of expression plays in politics. Doing so can illuminate the following relevant issues: Firstly, the extent of freedom of expression, or to be more precise, which topics we should be free to discuss or opine ourselves about and what should be left out of reach of this freedom. Secondly, why it is that different systems of belief have different attitudes towards freedom of expression. (The endnotes contain some underpinning arguments, which the reader can peruse if desiring more than the general points outlined below.)

A Brief Account of Morality and Power

According to EPT, (please see 'Knowledge Processing, Creativity and Politics',) political power comes about as a result of agreement upon a unified set of moral rules (USMR). [1] However, considering the effect of power we should expect power struggle and disagreement over moral rules underpinning the formation of power. For instance, power can be interchanged with other resources. That's why individuals may try to unseat each other from positions of power, not necessarily because they differ over moral issues, but to be in a position to benefit from power. People also compete over power because they represent differing moralities, a leader may argue for the greater freedom of a section of society, others may want to hold on to the orthodox view. We usually take it for granted that although people may hold different moralities, civil wars and disintegration of political power does not happen everywhere, particularly in a liberal democracy. [2] But just imagine what would have happened had there not been institutions of election, parliaments and a unified police force? Such situations existed in the past, and can still exist in any condition where a part of the population does not recognise the legitimacy of the aforementioned institutions. It is not a given that every society would survive without these institutions, but the contention of Knowledge Processing, Creativity and Politics, (KPCP), is that, in situations where such institutions did not exist, human societies that survived did so by inventing or adapting already existing ideologies. It is only in the last few centuries, as a result of commitment to liberalism, that liberal democracy evolved, which is another method of providing USMR.

How Ideologies Do the Job

The methods of ideologies consist of the following components. They set out a USMR and at the same time bar challenges through some ideological propositions. In religions, the primeval ideologies, the ideological propositions include those statements that attribute moral rules and values to deities. For example, the claim that the ideologues, those who contributed to the formation of the religions as, as holy men, for instance, "they were prophets or incarnation of gods": Note also statements which consider believing in the religion as a moral duty, and thus condemning those who do not do so. Of course, the claim that God exists and He has created all that humans perceive is an empirical statement. The trouble is that there is no any supporting evidence in its favour. What is offered here is an additional explanation for the assumption that a Creators exists. No doubt, lack of knowledge accounts for much of the assumptions of the existence of gods - gods and not just one God, as every religion has its own god or gods, which  another religion proves there is no objective ground for assuming existence. However, the theories that explain the existence of the world should not have been such an emotive matter. Physicists are not killing each other over whose theory of explaining the universe is right.  However, it is political power at stake that we are talking about. This religious worldview is behind the power of the clerics in Iran, and those clerics with social status elsewhere. When translated into economic power, it account for the incomes of a multimillion army of clerics in the world. So it is no wonder why that Allah and the like are so important for them.

In Marxism a set of moral rules was decreed, although their moral nature were not recognised as such. For instance, the Marxists proclaimed that socialism, communism, nationalisation of properties or means of production and dictatorship of the proletariat, these are best arrangements for human beings. These are obviously moral propositions considering that they would affect the lives of every human life and how individuals treat each other, and considering that they cannot happen without deliberate human decision and actions. Yet Marxism dismisses morality as a part of ideology - defined in Marxian terms, (which differs substantially from this EPT definition). The arguments in favour of these Marxist measures were given in term of the historical materialism, which claims that human societies go through some stages from primitive communism, slave owning society, feudalism and capitalism, to end up inevitably with socialism and communism. No doubt, these are also empirical propositions and their validity can be investigated through scientific enquiry. However, the ideological part of the communist claim is that people follow their social class' interests. Accordingly, a bourgeoisie, for example, would not admit "the obvious scientific validity" of the Marxist worldview, even though it is glaringly obvious. Such a claim, in effect, implies that a Marxist will deny any individual's or groups' opinions having  validity in assessing the Marxist claim. Any opposition would simply be dismissed as biased for social class interests. Effectively, this means that communists claim their propositions are scientific and true without even going through a scientific assessment. [3] Subsequently, the communist rejects challenges against the moral decision they make, regarding the revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat. The dismissal of dissent, under the pretext they are motivated by social class interests, performs the same role as  religious prohibition does in the name of 'divinity'.

Nationalists and fascists declare the ownership of a country in the name of an ethnicity or a nation, and demand dominance over certain other ethnicities. Obviously, all these matters have moral concrerns, considering that in the practical translation they will affect the people's lives and usually result in suppression of the other ethnicities. However, without openly acknowledging the moral nature of these claims the nationalists justify their position on the basis of a worldview which sees the planet divided into nation states, with each nation racing against the other for dominance. Accordingly, the ideologues and the activists represent their enterprises as bids for survival or assertion of the superiority of their ethnicity among other ethnicities and nations. In the meantime, all their detractors are represented either as enemies not to be trusted or as dupes and stooges who should be ignored and deterred from expressing themselves. In effect, the nationalists dismiss moral dissenters as either enemies or misled by enemies.

The major detrimental effect of ideologies stems from the ideological propositions, not unexpectedly, which are not persuasive enough to dissuade everyone away from criticising or proposing alternative views. A great many people may doubt that God, granting that He exists, would send messengers, and even if people did, they may still doubt that Mohammed, of all people, could be that prophet. God could have made his message known through any other means. Moreover, how could a messenger of God order fighting to impose a religion, and allow himself to pillage and take females of the conquered people as sex slaves, after killing their men folk? One could also ask, how could it be that a Creator, and thus by definition the omniscient and most intelligent, could not know about liberal democracy as a model  which resolves power struggles peacefully, whereas Mohammed's companions had to kill each other in their struggle over power? Even without the benefit of the evolutionary theory and knowledge of the planet Earth's history, people may reject this 'prophet'. Thousands of years before the Koran, Greeks and ancient Mesopotamians put forward much more plausible and elegant worldviews. Indeed, thousands among Arabs and non-Arabs were in a similar position, and did not believe in Mohammed's holiness. Similarly, objections can be raised against the nationalist, fascists and Marxists' accounts. For instance, Kurds dispute the claim for possession of countries and the histories that Arabs and Turks usually make, which imply the denial of legitimate existence of Kurds in their own countries. [4] However, the Arab and Turkish nationalists do not permit opposing discourses. Accordingly, we can regard laws which ban expression of ideational differences with official statements as the ideological propositions.

So, what do ideologies do to their detractors? [5] Attacking ideological premises would leave the power structure of the ideological group exposed. People in such situation use social pressure, buy off some critics, intimidate others into silence, use economic pressure, deprive the potential critics from means of public broadcasting, and if none of these methods worked, then to eliminate them. Indeed, we can see all the methods being used in the current crises of the Mohammed cartoons. However, ideologies, in this process of dealing with dissent have acquired specific political structure and have treaded a specific course of history that are characteristic of ideological system (see KPCP and 'Islam on the Couch').

The Liberal Democratic (LD) Method

The other method for dealing with disagreement over moral issues and power struggle is liberal democracy, evolving as it did many millennia after religions, and almost coinciding with the evolution of nationalism and Marxism. KPCP suggests that liberalism can be narrowly defined as the moral values and rules demanding respect for life and autonomy, so that expressing moral opinion and dissent are possible. However, these liberal measures, or rights, make overcoming moral differences and consequently preserving political power impossible. Moral disagreement, as hinted at, can stem from a variety of motives, some spiteful and others generous, some from lack of knowledge. Human political history tells us that consensus over issues of which is the best political system, how should the wealth and resources be distributed, what should be the relation between the sexes, etc., is not easy. Consequently, we need to ask how it may be possible to provide a USMR to hold together effective political power, whilst we maintain respect for life and autonomy. If we are presented with this problem in simple terms, without myths of divine origin or denying human authorship of morality, we may consider this idea: why not experiment with certain moral rules, and change or improve them according to an assessment of the consequences? Indeed, if we examine the operation of liberal democracy, we would realise that it is, in some ways, a method and institution that carries out such experimentation on moral rules. [6] This is not to say that there might be any other commentator who might agree with me over regarding LD as an institution for experimentation. However, it is obvious that in elections one group of people come to power with certain programs and when perceived as failures, the electorate might bring their rival to power.

No doubt, experimentation could not take place if the winner in one session were able to get rid of the losers or severely curtail their critics' ability to voice objections. the winners may not be interested in admitting they were wrong, or at least, not completely right. Accordingly, we can see the importance of liberal measures -respect for lives, autonomy and freedom of expression for individuals- as essential means to ensure experimentation. These rights are the core of liberalism, and without them experimentation can hardly take place. Experimentation with moral ideas is one part of the solution: to choose a USMR needs also knowing which moral ideas, among many competing ones, to experiment with, considering that many ideas can be put forward. Here the role of democracy comes in. Basically, democracy chooses those ideas that the majority favours. Although, it is clear this does not imply that the majority choice is the correct one, but it accentuates the importance of experimentation and liberal measures allowing future changes.  

In effect this EPT suggests that liberal democracy is a kind of scientific institution specialising in dealing with moral ideas. The need for such a special institution arises from the fact that moral ideas give rise to political power, unlike non-moral scientific ideas.

The Inferences

Now, the introduction above allows us to make inferences regarding the meaning, limit and risk of curtailing freedom of expression. Moreover, this introduction allows us a perspective to assess the implications of having ideologies within the domains of liberal democracy.

One immediate inference is that both ideologies and liberal democracy deal with the same problem -how to provide USMR and how to deal with moral dissent which undermines the integrity, efficacy and even existence of political power. However, they provide the solutions in diametrically opposing ways. Ideologies mystify the issue of the origin of USMR, so its provision is left for "experts, great leaders, religious scholars, and prophets," while in the background some wheeling and dealing is done, so that the opposition is either undermined or disposed off. The other solution bringer, liberal democracy, presupposes the presence of competition through moral dissent, and provides continuously updated versions of USMR through democracy. Accordingly, we can say that ideologies and liberal democracy cannot coexist. This is glaringly obvious. There have not been any places ruled by an ideology where liberal democracy was also allowed. Liberals, worldwide, are still unable to understand this much. That is why they allowed and still allowing Muslims to infiltrate their way into the system on a massive scale, and terrorise their citizen into giving up their freedom of expression, which is what gives meaning to the liberal democratic system.  

In the context of EPT, the important freedom of expression is what revolves around expressing moral rules and values, their applicability, consequences and the worldviews or arguments which support various moral ideas. This is not exactly the same  kind of traditional freedom of expression which has been disputed with rage over the Mohammed cartoons. Traditionally, defining liberal freedom of  expression has been too abstract. Muslims have been invoking it frequently to justify their propaganda campaigns, though of course, there is no question of allowing the other sides the benefit of the same principle. Some people justify publishing pornography, commercially motivated advertisements, like encouraging and glamorising smoking or artworks that might be seen as encouraging violence on the bases of freedom of expression. From the perspective of KPCP, the decision to allow or ban these latter activities should rely on the assessment of their moral effect, and need not come under the domain of freedom of expression.

Recently, the right to freedom of expression has been challenged at the backdrop of the Mohammed cartoons. It is represented as though the anger is solely over representation of Mohammed. The fact is that no criticism of Islam is acceptable by Muslims. This is to be anticipated from an ideology. But what effect will believing in Islam have on liberal democracy, particularly as increasing numbers of Muslims are settling in liberal democracies? From the perspective of KPCP, believing in an ideology, or a separate USMR, means establishing potentiality for a separate power structure. It means creating a pocket of rival political power within the host community. It is no wonder, then, that creating squads of terrorists is so easy (see article,"Islam on the Couch," for reasons that the clashes against LD are not greater). In a sense, the will, finance and constituents are all there. The only missing element is  leadership. [7] The wonder is that there are not a greater number of terrorists, (but see 'How to Respond to Islamic Terrorism' and 'Islam on the Couch').

Democracy without the right to differ upon morality would lose its content. What is there to choose when there is no freedom to debate, differ or change the moral rules? However, for the time being some Muslims can take advantage of democracy to undermine liberal democracy. In Iran democracy without liberalism meant that Iranians lost their right to choose the form of government once and for all. It is very likely that Palestine will have the same fate. [8] But the same fate will meet any currently liberal democracy where Muslim, who have not submitted to liberal democracy and particularly have not accepted the freedom of expression, come to constitute (or perhaps dominate) the majority. Judging from the placards Muslims do not hide their intentions of dominating the world.

Finally, it is time to discuss limits for freedom in discussion of moral rules and their ideological support. Twentieth century history, with conflict between liberal democracies, fascism and communism, shows that ideological regimes are incompatible with ideologies. Humanity was so fortunate not to have vanished in a nuclear 'Armageddon', and for this we owe Gorbachev much. Will we be as lucky if the Mullahs' of Iran get their hands on nuclear weapons? What demoralised communists and made Gorbachev look favourably towards reforms and openness was due largely  to the ideational challenges. These prevented growth of communism in the West, and discredited communists in the eyes of many who lived in communist countries. It was not only due to dysfunctional economies. [9] Fighting off communism was easy for LD. The notion of sanctity of religion constitutes an impediment- it has already proven to be very costly- one only hopes it is not completely catastrophic. It is this passivity of traditional liberals towards religion, and perhaps the obsequiousness shown by contemporary liberals and ex-Marxists, populating the Western press, towards Islamists, that made Islam a formidable foe. Otherwise, Islam is intellectually very rickety, and  would not withstand a concerted media onslaught similar to what communism went through. Liberal democracy needs to be resolute in its effort to control the ideological entities that spring up, at least, in their midst. In the moral ideational struggles no holds should be barred. The aim should not be disguised. The aim should be declared openly: complete submission to liberal democracy. It is about time that liberal democracy declares Islam in its un-sanitized form as immoral. It should be abandoned, in a similar way to the unreformed communism during the era of the Cold War. For this, the main weapon should be the freedom of expression. Liberal democracy need not accord the slightest special consideration to Muslims. Islam rejects all religions and belief systems so they should find it as fair if the others treated them similarly. Islamic authorities regard liberal democracy as a danger and inimical to Islam. They ban it wherever they are able to do so. The current concessions that LD allows Islam tantamount to the Trojan Horse and will prove as deadly and horrendous. It is wrong and very irresponsible of liberals to passivize themselves by abandoning the freedom of expression.

[1] An example of a USMR is perhaps, all the moral rules and values in The Koran, implying generally one ought not to kill, steal or lie'. However, propositions condemning unbelievers, or which elevate believing in God and Mohammed to the status of obligation, would be regarded as ideological. KPCP contends the genuine moral propositions have altruistic contents. For instance, if it is said that corporeal punishment of children or people in general is immoral, we will be able to investigate the benefit or the harm of the practice by examining the lives of those affected by it. We might conclude beating may harm the subject or the society and may benefit the agent. We can also infer there might have been other more creative methods in dealing with the situation but the selfishness of the agent may have been the reason the agent resorted to a method looked at the time as easy and swift. Of course, we cannot produce conclusions which are indisputable. This reason makes liberal democratic experimentation necessary. The same scientific investigation cannot be done on ideological propositions. If it is claim  morality requires worshiping God we cannot verify or falsify  refusing to worship God will harm God, considering  there is no evidence to "His" existence and in any case He is not accessible to us to examine (for more detailed discussion of these issues please see my soon-to-be-published book 'Knowledge Processing, Creativity and Politics'). 

Another USMR is the Ten Commandments, when deemed  comprehensive enough to cover all areas of disputation in the life of a community. In a liberal democracy the USMR is all the laws and practices governing the political live and social relation the economy, define what is a crime or acceptable behaviour. They are unified by the virtue of having been issued by one and the same political system whose part institutions are recognised as legitimate by the system's constituents. Usually the communists and nationalists do not draw the attentions towards the laws they issue in regard to criminal and civil cases. Although these laws should be considered as a part of their USMR. In addition to these the communists and nationalists USMR involve characteristic moral rules (see the main text).

[2] Speaking of morality would raise also the question about the nature of morality. KPCP suggests there are two essential aspects to morality. One is moral capability, the possession of  which must be a part of human nature mediated by genes. Moral capability, is a part of a general susceptibility of behaviour to assessments, made by the self or others, of one's worth in regard to others' or the assessment of one's behaviours and attitudes on the bases of moral, ideological, aesthetical or resource based values, made explicitly through value propositions or implied in the behaviour and attitudes of individual interact ants. KPCP suggests in response to assessments by values, whether explicit or implicit, humans strive to possess or restore what I called as 'emotional fitness'.

This concept assumes when someone takes credit for herself to be a success, on the basis of a positive evaluation expressed by others, particularly when they are important to the person, assumes such appreciation is implicit in the way one is treated, or assumes oneself is praiseworthy on the basis of the values she believes in, certain positive emotions are aroused such as self-satisfaction, pride and elation and these emotions lead to a state of extroversion. Consequently, these emotions contribute to social success and survival in the Darwinian sense. In contrast, negative evaluation leads to shame, guilt or embarrassment  leading to introversion, inaction and perhaps eventually submission. These are the kinds of emotions causing pain and dispose the individual either to reconsider the self and others, or to conform and accept a subordinate position might in evolutionary terms be still more beneficial than confrontation. However, considering the important fact that individuals compete, we should also expect a drive to manipulate and abuse these evaluative-emotional-mechanisms in order to subordinate others, and thus to further one's own cause. This means a rival or a person who aspires for dominance may try consciously or unconsciously to induce negative evaluations into rivals or challengers as an inexpensive means of social or political control. In response, I speculate there can be a mechanism whereby a person tries to restore their own positive evaluation of the self. There can be many ways to achieve this. One may try to conform to social values and attempt to achieve favourable social recognition. One may change the social setting to where one is assessed positively. The new social setting can be for some a circle of sycophants, for others a new political party or their own initial social group. For more creative people it may entail rejecting some explicit or implicit values and attempting to develop alternatives. It may consist of resorting to self-delusion and thus isolating oneself, as I believe narcissists do. (Self-delusion may seem counterproductive; however, in a moderate degree it may be advantageous if it helps in maintaining a positive assessment of the self and thus a degree of extroversion long enough to attain social achievement. Self-delusion may also be useful if it makes a person immune to unjust social judgements or treatments.) Other methods may consist of rejecting negative assessments and resorting to aggression, or applying various kinds of pressure so an interlocutor evinces only positive assessments.

 Humans interact with values in general including moral values (see KPCP for further details).

The other aspect is the moral propositions. This is supposed to include all ideas about how political institutions should be, how individuals, sexes, different section of society should treat each other, what the best arrangements for distributing resources are, etc.

KPCP suggests these propositions are claims of knowledge, and like other claims of knowledge, dealing with physical resources, they should be subject to scientific enquiry. However, because they are moral and thus the agreement upon them results in the formation of political power, a special institution would be needed to investigate them. It is suggested therefore, that liberal democracy is the institution  which humans have evolved to deal with moral claims of knowledge. Before liberal democracy, humans evolved ideology, with the primeval one being religion. One can cite many reasons for why humans failed to evolve liberal democracy right from the beginning. However, one has to include the following. Humans are essentially apes who have been evolving to rely upon the capacity for knowledge processing, acquisition, transmission and application of knowledge. In circumstances characterised by lack of knowledge about the nature of morality, the self and the world; absence of institutions  deal with differences over moral matters and propensity to use violence, since it is much swifter and cheaper for individuals who possess greater capacity for using violence, humans evolved ideologies,  relying ultimately on violence to impose themselves. Perhaps, had we not been apes we would not have evolved religion. How else can we explain how we can believe in preposterous stories of creation present in religions, or a God who is so technologically primitive he could not come up with a way to broadcast his message to his creatures apart from sending by a Gabriel, who descends down the heavens (without the benefit of parachute), to a Mohammed, who then eats dates, marries little girls, brandishes a sword in the dessert to force men to believe in Allah, and runs his wars by looting? Could any story be more fun? Even a mediocre science fiction writer could come up with  more plausible fiction than this.

[3] KPCP does not claim it is possible to find a person who will be in position to assess the truth or validity of an idea. However, it suggests that owing to the powerful effect of moral ideas, liberal democracy should undertake the experimentation with moral ideas (see KPCP). Marxists, however, reject liberal democracy as an ideology of the bourgeoisie, and thus discredit it.

[4] Assyrians, on their part, point out the gains Kurds made in their cooperation with the Turks in driving away or slaughtering of the Assyrians and Armenians. So the Kurds for them are not the innocent victims the Kurdish nationalists try to project of themselves. It is obvious too  that Yazidi Kurds do not share all the concerns Muslim Kurds have, as they can suffer by the hands of Muslim Kurds as much as they suffer in the hands of non-Kurds, as history can tell. This is not to say Kurdish nationalism is as fascist as the Arab and Turkish nationalism. However, the criteria for fascism would come down to certain practices. Among these, to force silence on others, trying to sideline and deprive from power, issuing disparaging discourses against them, and also to unduly exalt the Kurds and their leaders.

[5] For the objection against Marxism see my forthcoming book, 'Knowledge Processing, Creativity and Politics'.

[6] For a fuller account of the activities and status of the actual liberal democracy and the reason they look the way they do, see (KPCP, the article or the forthcoming book).

[7] It is interesting but a different issue to know the common characteristics of those who step to the front to lead, considering the uncertainty, lack of knowledge and the disadvantaged position Muslims find themselves in, in terms of technology, economy and the inferior position Muslims occupy, in regard to power on the global position.

[8] Not all Muslims participate in elections. There is a clear injunction from the Koran that good Muslims do not choose their own rules, since they are chosen by God.

[9] This note does not detract from Gorbachev's contribution considering that if he were not concerned with goodness and decency he would not have bothered any way.

It is not likely a leader within the Islamic world will appear who can carry out something similar to what Gorbachev did. Communism, theoretically and publicly, differed only in regard to rejecting the division into social classes and what they assumed to be the detrimental effects of division. Communists, in other cultural aspects, were a part of a Western society.  This is why once it was apparent they were failing to deliver, many communists and their subjects were disillusioned and left the ideology. However, Muslims do not mingle with non-Muslims, mainly because of the injunction in the Koran not to befriend non-Muslims, and also because of the attitude towards women. The mission of Islam is the establishment of a worldwide state of Islam, so Allah's rule is total. The promise of the Islamists to the population is not a rosy life. It is rather the worldwide dominance of Islam, avenging the insults to Islam manifested in occupying Palestine, and probably not paying homage to Mohammed. Economy of course would have mattered if the West had a different policy. Currently, the economy of Islamic rich countries depends on exporting oil, for which they do not have to do anything apart from receiving the proceeds. The technology, exploration, extraction, transportation and creation of markets have all been done by the West or by the technology originated in the West. It a sad state of affair therefore that whenever oil is found in a land inhabited by non-Arabs but ruled by Arabs the non-Arab face genocide and the most degrading treatments, like it is going on in Darfur currently and was committed in Kurdistan. For many other Islamic countries economy is a concern, but they do not feel the crises, mainly because of the Western economic aid. These and in addition to the transference of technology and knowledge prevents a necessary realisation by Muslims that their culture is obstructive to progress, economic well being and civilisation (see the reason for the inevitable failure of ideological systems, in KPCP).

Perhaps, what helped Gorbachev is that communism did not have sufficient time to fully develop characteristics of religion, although it was and is a religion for some. Communists so far do not have institutions for graduating clerics who would take the role of shepherding their flock, play a conciliatory role between individuals, or act as a moral guide,  in the same way as religions do. The religious guidance institutions play an enormous role as an industry for a great many people, and they are maintaining it for their own livelihood and status.

Showan Khurshid is the author of : "Knowledge Processing, Creativity and Politics: A Political Theory based on the Evolutionary Theory" which can be purchased here

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