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.
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Mohammed, who supposedly uttered few verses that permitted worship of pre-Islamic Meccan goddess, but were later withdrawn by branding them to be a result of the Prophet being deceived by the Devil.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.
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:
How long the apologists for Islam would say Islamic terrorists are created by the West? The truth is, Islam creates Islamic terrorists.
— taslima nasreen (@taslimanasreen) November 14, 2015
A few months ago she was relocated from India to the US following threats to her life.
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’.
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:
As long as Muslims say IS has nothing to with Islam or talk of Islamophobia they are not ready to reform their faith.
— Ayaan Hirsi Ali (@Ayaan) November 15, 2015
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.
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.
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.