|Will the Internet Slay Islam?
Wolfgang Bruno – 5/17/2007
A remarkable testimony to the power of the modern mass media revolution was noted in the complaints of an Egyptian cleric in 2005: “Leading Egypt Cleric Wants Fewer Frivolous Edicts”.
The chief Muslim cleric in Egypt wants tighter controls on who may issue religious edicts, or fatwas. Egypt’s Grand Mufti says more fatwas have been issued in the past 10 years than in the previous 1400 years. Modern technology has made it easier than ever to issue or receive a fatwa, one of the religious edicts that guide Muslims’ interpretations of Islamic law. Someone with a specific question about what Islam allows can get a personalized fatwa on the matter over the Internet, through television or via cellphone. The number of religious edicts keeps growing, and because Islam has no central authority there is no set system for governing who is allowed to issue them.
This explosion of unorthodox religious activity can only be compared to that of Christian Europe in the early 16th century. Just as Gutenberg’s invention marked the first mass media revolution in the West, the Internet and satellite TV are now doing the same thing in the Islamic world. However, the outcome may be very different, and the parallels between the Protestant Reformation and what is happening in the Islamic world now shouldn’t be pushed too far. The introduction of the printing press was delayed by several centuries in the Islamic world because of religious resistance and never had the same effect there as it did in the Christian West, which should strongly indicate that although technology is important, it isn’t everything. Culture matters. Islam does not have quite the same centralized hierarchy as the Catholic Church had in Europe, which means that the change cannot be linked to a specific date as it did with Martin Luther’s 95 theses. Although it did ultimately have consequences far beyond the borders of Europe, and although it did happen at a time of Ottoman Muslim expansion in the Mediterranean, the Reformation was primarily an internal, Christian and European affair. The turmoil in he Islamic world now affects more or less the entire world, and many of the critics are based in rival civilizations. And last, but not least: The religions are entirely different. Christianity was reformable, whereas Islam probably isn’t.
Does this mean that the current information revolution will destroy Islam? That is the view of David Wood:
The truth about Muhammad has been one of the world’s best-kept secrets. For centuries, it has been virtually impossible to raise objections about the character of Muhammad in Muslim countries, for anyone who raised such objections would (following the example set by Muhammad himself) immediately be killed. Outside the Muslim world, there has been little interest in Islam. But things have changed. Now many people are interested in Islam, and Muslims aren’t able to silence everyone. Moreover, with the advent of the Internet, it is now impossible to keep Muhammad’s life a secret. The facts about the founder of Islam are spreading very rapidly, and Muslims are frantically scurrying to defend their faith. But the information superhighway is paving over the ignorance that has for centuries been the stronghold of Islamic dogma. In the end, Islam will fall, for the entire structure is built upon the belief that Muhammad was the greatest moral example in history, and this belief is demonstrably false.
This optimistic view ignores several important facts. Many of the worst Islamists have above average education, as did many supporters of Communism in the West. Which shows that, unfortunately, increased knowledge does not always translate into increased wisdom. The second catch is that Muslims do not view the world in the same way as Westerners of infidels do. In his book The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam, renowned cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi explains how Islam has restricted the authority to legislate the haram and the halal (forbidden and permitted), taking it out of the hands of human beings and reserving it for the Allah alone through explicit verses of the Qur’an and from clear ahadith of the Prophet Muhammad. The jurists’ task does not go beyond explaining what Allah has decreed to be halal or haram. Prohibiting something which is halal is similar to committing shirk (idolatry).
According to traditional Islamic law, and confirmed by leading scholars today, it is perfectly allowed for a Muslim man to have forced sex with the infidel concubines he just captured by massacring their relatives in front of their eyes. Muhammad himself did this several times. You just shouldn’t wear a silk tie while doing it. Likewise, it is perfectly permissible, halal, to behead a Buddhist schoolteacher in southern Thailand, but haraam to wear a gold ring at the same time. This thinking is why slavery was eventually abandoned and forbidden by the Judeo-Christian West, where the emphasis is on what’s moral or immoral, but only banned through external pressure by the same West in the Islamic world, where the emphasis is on what’s permitted or forbidden. It also explains why Qaradawi himself is reputed to be married to a girl in her pre-teens, 60 years his junior. He is perfectly aware of the fact that Muhammad had sex with a 9-year-old child, and has confirmed, in Arabic, but not in English, that this is allowed even today. To say that “Muhammad was immoral” just won’t wash with a truly devout Muslim, who is trapped in a circular thinking where the very concept of “morality” begins and ends with the example of Muhammad, his Sunna.
The website Islam Q&A gives an explanation of why it is forbidden for Muslim men to wear silk in this life, but permitted in Paradise, just as the case is with wine, which is also forbidden on Earth but exists in abundance in the afterlife. Islam is adept at taking something away from its Believers, but promising lots of it to them after death. Again, it doesn’t matter to a true Believer whether this makes any sense. Islam means “submission,” so you should simply submit to the wisdom of Allah:
Why are men not allowed to wear silk?
It is not right to make following a command or prohibition dependent upon knowing the wisdom behind it; rather we should hasten to carry out the commands of sharee’ah, regardless of whether the wisdom behind it is clear to us or not. If it is clear, then praise be to Allaah, and if it is not, then the Muslim should not let the fact that he does not know it prevent him from acting in accordance with the ruling of sharee’ah. Islam means submission to Allaah, may He be exalted, and obeying Him. If a person makes his actions dependent on understanding matters which may or may not convince him, he is in effect following his own thoughts and desires, not his Lord and Master. (….) (silk) was basically created for women, as is the case with gold jewellery, so it was forbidden for men because it can corrupt them by making them resemble women. (…) when it touches the body, it makes a man effeminate and goes against his masculinity and manliness, so if he wears it his heart gains the characteristics of femininity and softness. There is no doubt that wearing silk will diminish manly characteristics(…) Whoever is too dense to understand this should just submit to the Wise Lawmaker.”
Yes, the Internet is important in this struggle, but it is at least as important for informing non-Muslims about the true nature of Islam as enlightening Muslims, many of whom will be mentally immune to criticism of Islam. Some of them, however, can be reached. There are approximately one billion nominal Muslims in the world. How many of these are secret ex-Muslims? Ibn Warraq has estimated that 10- 15% of the Muslims in the UK are actually apostates. If that percentage reflects the Islamic world as a whole, we are talking about a number of people the equivalent of a country the size of Japan. Even half of this is a country the size of Britain. Although only a (fast-growing) minority of Muslims around the world have access to the Internet, simple mathematics indicate that there are already hundreds of thousands, probably millions or maybe even tens of millions of ex-Muslims in cyberspace. This, as well as additional tens of millions of Muslims who already have at least some doubts, is the soft underbelly of Islam.
We’re now stuck in a race against time, and Muslims know it. That’s why they are working so hard to shut down freedom of speech and any “mockery” or rational criticism targeting Islam in infidel countries. Will Muslims bomb away freedom of speech in the West before we detonate this unexploded bomb underneath Islam’s feet? Every time they hit us with a terrorist attack, we should respond by increasing the volume of criticism of Islam in circulation on the Internet. Some would claim that this isn’t our fight. It is now. Ernest Renan has said that if there ever was something like a Reformation in the Islamic world, the West should gracefully stay out of it. However, he lived in the 19th century and could not have imagined that we would be stupid enough to let millions of Muslims settle in our major cities. We are implicated now, whether we want to or not. We are no longer just fighting against Islam but for our own freedom of speech, and thus democracy itself. Maybe we cannot slay this dragon, but we can certainly help the people who can.
Muhammad and his thugs went to great lengths already in the early days of Islam to shut up critics. The punishment for leaving Islam is death, a fact which has largely kept organized groups of ex-Muslims from forming. Until now. With a significant Muslim presence in the West, we see elements of such groups forming for the first time in history. Secret ex-Muslims around the world are quietly watching these developments. Some are stepping forward.
Dr. Wafa Sultan was a largely unknown Syrian-American psychiatrist living outside Los Angeles until she blasted Islam on Aljazeera. TV is a powerful medium, and has a stronger immediate impact than the Internet. However, many ex-Muslims will probably prefer to hide on the Internet rather than showing their face in front of millions of Muslims, many of whom think they deserve to die. It takes the extraordinary courage of someone like Wafa Sultan to do so, and it takes a TV station to air these views in the first place. For these reasons, this movement may best be nurtured and spearheaded through the Internet, the way Ali Sina and Ibn Warraq are doing now, and let the ripples spread to other media.
I have earlier stated that Islam is a “dinosaur in the age of mammals.” I believe this is true. However, it is still a big and bad beast, even more dangerous and angry now precisely because it is wounded. We cannot allow such a creature to roam the streets where our children are growing up. We need to cage it, and hope that rational criticism, which its immune system cannot in the long run withstand, will slowly wear it down. This is a world war, and the best thing we can hope for is a prolonged “cold” war, with many minor clashes but no huge, cataclysmic hot war. This will require a global containment of the Islamic world, the expulsion of any Muslims in the West deemed to be a security threat and strong support to the movement of ex-Muslims. All of these steps will have to be implemented soon, or we will have no other options left but a full-scale war, with massive casualties. We will probably win such a war if it comes to it, but the death toll will exceed that of any other war in human history, and leave scars for generations to come. Time is growing short. Are we up to the job?