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Seven Muslim-born authors who criticized mainstream Islam

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By Nithin Sridhar

With the emergence of the Islamic State (ISIS) and the ever increasing foothold of global Islamic terrorism, serious questions are being raised about various fundamental tenets of Islamic theology, Sharia law, and present day practices in Muslim society.

Here is the list of seven Muslim-born controversial authors who have criticized Islam and Islamic society and some of whom have been branded as ‘blasphemous’ by Islamic groups.

Salman Rushdie. Photo: wamc.org
Salman Rushdie. Photo: wamc.org

1. Salman Rushdie: The British Indian Novelist who won the Booker Prize in 1981 for his book ‘Midnight’s Children’ landed himself in a great controversy when his book ‘The Satanic Verses’ was published in 1988. The book, among its plots and sub-plots, includes a legend about Prophet Mohammed, who supposedly uttered few verses that permitted worship of pre-Islamic Meccan goddess, but were later withdrawn by branding them to be a result of the Prophet being deceived by the Devil.

The reaction of the Muslim community to the book was huge, instantaneous, and soon turned violent. Muslims perceived the book as being highly offensive to Islam and took the book to imply that the author is branding the entire Quran as being words of Satan.

Islamic countries banned the book, bookstores were attacked in the US, and in 1989 Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issued a fatwa calling for the assassination of Rushdie for committing blasphemy. Following this, Rushdie was forced to go into hiding for a few years. Rushdie, who identifies himself as an atheist, calls for Muslim reformation and debate on Islam.

Taslima Nasreen. Photo: Huffington Post
Taslima Nasreen. Photo: Huffington Post

2. Taslima Nasreen: The Bangladeshi author was forced to flee her country in 1994 after she published her novel ‘Lajja’ about a Hindu family fighting against Muslim fundamentalism in 1993. The novel was considered anti-Islamic and was subsequently banned in Bangladesh. She suffered a number of physical attacks and death threats following the publication of Lajja, forcing her to flee the country. Nasreen identifies herself as an atheist and has severely criticized the rising fundamentalism and intolerance in Muslim society. She advocated secular humanism, freedom of expression, and gender equality.

After the recent Paris terror attacks, she had tweeted:

 

A few months ago she was relocated from India to the US following threats to her life.

Tarek Fatah. Photo: know.freelibrary.org
Tarek Fatah. Photo: know.freelibrary.org

3. Tarek Fatah: The Canadian author and broadcaster has written extensively on the issue of Islamic extremism, Islamic State, and Pakistan. He was born and brought up in Pakistan, but later relocated to Canada. He is a strong critic of Islamic radicalism but holds that it is the Sharia law and not Quran as such, which is to be blamed for much of the ‘poison’. In his book ‘Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State’, he argues how Muslims have been made to chase a mirage of Islamic State for the last thousand years and how Islamic State is not central to Islamic practice in the present context. Fatah has also faced many verbal attacks and death threats through Social Media.

4. Ayaan Hirsi Ali: The Somali-born Dutch-American activist is the author of the famous book- ‘Heretic: Why Islam Needs a Reformation Now’. In her book, Ali explains why the reformation of Islam and Muslim society is the need of the hour and asserts that it is the only way to end the menace of terrorism, oppression of women and minorities, and sectarian strife. She has extensively recorded about her struggles with Islam and Muslim society in her book ‘The Caged Virgin: A Muslim Woman’s Cry for Reason’.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Photo: www.scrippscollege.edu
Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Photo: www.scrippscollege.edu

In 2004, Ali participated in the production of a short movie titled ‘Submission’ (the English translation of the term ‘Islam’) about the oppression of women in Islamic society and subsequently received death threats. Later that year, Theo van Gogh, Ali’s collaborator in the movie was assassinated by a Dutch Muslim.

Ali, who now identifies herself as an atheist, criticizes Islam over its treatment of women, homosexuals, and has criticized Prophet Mohammed on his character and personality traits. In the aftermath of recent Paris attacks, while criticizing the Muslim denial of the connection between ISIS and Islam, she had tweeted:

 

Ibn Warraq. Photo: Youtube
Ibn Warraq. Photo: Youtube

5. Ibn Warraq: The well-known critic of Islam and Quran, who is known only by his pen name, is an Indian-born Muslim, who was brought up in Pakistan after his family shifted there during partition. He currently lives and works from Europe and has authored nine books, including the well-known book- ‘Why I Am Not a Muslim’.

Apart from this, he has also written ‘The Origins of the Koran’, ‘The Quest for the Historical Muhammad’, and ‘What the Quran Really Says: Language, Text and Commentary’, among other things.

In his book, ‘Why I am Not a Muslim’, which was written in the aftermath of the Rushdie affair, Warraq criticizes Islamic theology, history, and culture. He asserts that Islamic tenets are incompatible with individual rights and liberties of secular democratic countries. Prior to 2007, he had refused to appear in public fearing for his safety, the same reason which caused him to write under a pseudo name ‘Ibn Warraq’. He is the founder of ‘Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society’ and along with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, and Irshad Manji, he had released the St Petersburg Declaration urging governments across the world to reject Sharia law and fatwa systems.

Anwar Sheikh. Photo: aminmughalone.wordpress.com
Anwar Sheikh. Photo: aminmughalone.wordpress.com

6. Anwar Sheikh: The Pakistan-born British author and critic of Islam passed away in 2006. He wrote a large number of articles and books criticizing Islam, its theology, and history. In his most famous work, ‘Islam: The Arab Imperialism’, after analyzing the history of Islam and Arabia, he has concluded Islam is nothing more than a tool for imposing Arab Imperialism.

His other works include ‘Islam and the People of the Book’ and ‘Jihad and Civilization’, among many others. Sheikh was a staunch Jihadist who had killed two Sikhs during the Partition of India. At the age of 25, he became disillusioned with Islam and turned into its critique. Later, Sheikh converted into Hinduism and adopted the name Aniruddha Gyan Shikha.

Sheikh has extensively written critique about Prophet Mohammed, Sharia law, Jihad, and terrorism. In 1995, a fatwa was issued against him in Pakistan and many death sentences were handed out to him for abandoning Islam.

7. Ali Sina: The Iranian Ex-Muslim who currently lives in Canada and who writes under the pseudo name ‘Ali Sina’, is the founder of the website- Faith Freedom International (FFI), which describes itself as the “grassroots movement of ex-Muslims”. He is a thorough critic of Islamic doctrines, and he has debated with various Islamic scholars, including with the famous Pakistani scholars Javed A Ghamidi and Khalid Zaheer.

Banner of faithfreedom.org
Banner of faithfreedom.org

Sina asserts that Islam cannot be reformed since violence and contempt towards non-believers are central to Islamic doctrine and if Islam were to be really reformed, then much of its scriptures including Quran and historical accounts of Prophet Mohammed must be discarded. He further suggests in his book- ‘Understanding Muhammad: A Psychobiography of Allah’s Prophet’ that Prophet Mohammed was suffering from psychological disorders.

The FFI website has been subjected to hacking and DDOS attacks several times and Sina claims that he had received death threats as well.

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Will prohibiting Burqa result in freedom from under house arrest or religious bias?

According to Islam, it is not necessary to cover the face.

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Due to Burqa women can go and vote multiple times. This increases corruption in the election. Wikimedia Commons
Due to Burqa women can go and vote multiple times. This increases corruption in the election. Wikimedia Commons

In recent years there have been several incidents involving the Burqa. In 2009, a state college in Karnataka told a student she was not allowed to attend classes wearing a Burqa. It was later reported that the young girl reached a “compromise arrangement” with the college but did not continue in the same college. Days later, violent protests sparked in Hyderabad after a college principal allegedly told students not to wear a Burqa.

But opposite episodes have also occurred. In July 2010, a teacher at Kolkata’s Aliah University, which has a focus on Islamic studies, was not allowed to teach without a Burqa. The report followed an official notice released in April 2010, in which the university dismissed suggestions it enforced a dress code, mentioning specifically the use of the Burqa within its campus.

There is steep rise in the cases related to crime against burqa clad women. Wikimedia Commons
There is a steep rise in the cases related to crime against Burqa-clad women. Wikimedia Commons

At some point imposing a ban on Burqa will be beneficial…
Point 1:
According to Islam, it is not necessary to cover the face. Hands and face can be uncovered. So banning won’t conflict freedom of practicing religion. And it will not be against any religion.
Point 2:
There are security issues. Imagine man/women under burqa leaves a bag in a public place which later blasts. Now, what do police have? CCTV cameras, forget face they cannot determine if is it male or female due to Burqa. It is the biggest security Loophole.
Point 3:
Many Muslim women do not have a bank account because they are not allowed to cover their face in bank premises. If you didn’t know then yes you cannot cover your face with bank premises and ATM.
Point 4:
It’s easy to have multiple voters ID. Due to Burqa women can go and vote multiple times. This increases corruption in the election.
Point 5:
Crimes under Burqa are on the rise. Murder, kidnapping, robbery are been carried out using Burqa. It’s the biggest advantage for criminals.

What Noorjehan Safia says…
Noorjehan Safia Niaz, a founding member of Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, a movement which works to improve the status of Muslim women in India, said security concerns have not been a major issue when it comes to dressing. “Muslim women in India comply with all the laws. They are active participants when it comes to elections and has their photos on their passports. So identification and security have never been an issue as such,” she said.
Discrimination, however, has sometimes caused problems, said Ms. Niaz. “There are cases when women are not considered for a particular job because they wear a Burqa. In such cases, women have negotiated. They do not wear Burqa while at work but before and after it they put it on.” Overall, Ms. Niaz said that women themselves – not the law – should decide what to wear. “Let each woman decide what she wants to wear. Neither can you enforce a ban on Burqa nor can you force women to wear it.”