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Seven Muslim-born authors who criticized mainstream Islam

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Photo: www.patheos.com

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Mohammed, who supposedly uttered few verses that permitted worship of pre-Islamic Meccan goddess, but were later withdrawn by branding them to be a result of the Prophet being deceived by the Devil.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.

Next Story

FGM is Embraced as a Traditional Practice in Indonesia: Research

Study: Indonesians Embrace Female Genital Mutilation as Religious, Traditional Practice

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INDONESIA FGM
Indonesian girls with their mother leaving a school-hall-turned-clinic after the daughters were circumcised in Bandung. The Indonesian government has come under fire after the UN General Assembly in November passed its first resolution condemning female genital mutilation (FGM) which more than 140 million women worldwide have been subjected to. Kania was later circumcised. VOA

By Nurhadi Sucahyo

With a knife, a razor blade, scissors or a needle, half of Indonesia’s girls are circumcised, and a new study found that it is a tradition more rooted in family folkways than religion.

“Cultural reproduction occurs in the household,” said Sri Purwatiningsih, a researcher of Center for Population and Policy Studies at Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta. “Circumcised grandmothers tend to circumcise their daughter. A mother who was circumcised by the grandmothers will most likely circumcise their daughter.”

Purwatiningsih presented her findings Thursday, the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, at the university, where the center refers to the procedure as female genital mutilation or cutting.

Indonesia ranks third in the world, at 49%, for the rate of prevalence of female circumcision, after Mali, at 83%, and Mauritania, at 51%. According to an Indonesian Basic Health Research study from 2013, 51% of the nation’s girls up to the age of 11 have been circumcised. Among them, 72.4% were circumcised at between 1 and 5 months, 13.9% when they were between 1 and 4 years old, and 3.3% were 5 to 11 years old.

INDONESIA FGM
A man shows the logo of a T-shirt that reads “Stop the Cut” referring to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) during a social event advocating against harmful practices such as FGM at the Imbirikani Girls High School in Imbirikani, Kenya. VOA

UN definition

Female genital mutilation refers to “any procedure involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genitals for nonmedical reasons,” according to the United Nations Population Fund. The most widespread practices worldwide involve partial or total removal of the clitoris, prepuce, or both, and the partial or total removal of the clitoris and the labia minora. The UNPF found the practice is linked to child marriage and said it “predates rise of Christianity and Islam,” and was practiced as recently as the 1950s in Western Europe and the United States because a clitoridectomy was performed “to treat perceived ailments, including mental and sexual disorders.”

More than an estimated 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation, and “the impacts on their health and well-being can be immediate — from infections, bleeding or psychological trauma — to chronic health conditions that can occur throughout life,” according to a U.N. release. It continued to say, “the cost of treating the total health impacts” of female genital mutilation is $1.4 billion globally per year.

“FGM is not only a catastrophic abuse of human rights that significantly harms the physical and mental health of millions of girls and women; it is also a drain on a country’s vital economic resources,” said Dr. Ian Askew, director of the World Health Organization’s Department of Sexual and Reproductive Health and Research on a U.N. website.

Indonesian study

A survey focused on Indonesian girls and women, conducted by the Center for Population and Policy Studies in 2017, found 87.3% of 4,250 households in 10 provinces obtained female circumcision information from their parents. Of those surveyed, 92.7% said they believed the practice was primarily religious and 84.1% said the practice is also traditional. An overwhelming majority of respondents, 97.8%, approved of female circumcision, saying the tradition should be practiced.

The survey also found that traditional Indonesian birth attendants were responsible for 45% of female circumcisions, midwives or nurses conducted 38%, female circumcision specialists performed 10%, and doctors performed 1%.

Hamim Ilyas, a professor at the Faculty of Sharia and Law at Islamic National University Sunan Kalijaga in Yogyakarta told VOA Indonesia that only those who interpret Islam in the most literal way can find justification for female circumcision in its teachings.

He considers the best approach to the issue to be “state based,” meaning families should obey Indonesia’s laws. He used traffic lights as an example, religion never taught a person to stop at a red light, but the signal represents a law that drivers know to obey.

“The minister of health’s regulation has forbidden FGM. … However, the government seems to be hesitant under pressure,” from fundamentalist sectors of Indonesian society, he said. “If the government is determined, if the government is brave, the practice can be eradicated. But the government seems not ready yet [to enforce the law] because the people are not ready yet. We have to change our society, to be a society that anti-FGM. It is through the transformation of religious understanding — not [by] changing the teaching, but changing the understanding of it.”

INDONESIA FGM
Indonesian doctor preparing to circumcise a female child in Bandung. VOA

Indonesian law

Ika Ayu, an activist at the Jaringan Perempuan Yogyakarta, or Yogyakarta Female Network, criticized the government’s indecisiveness on FGM, as even Majelis Ulama Indonesia, the country’s top Muslim clerical body, rejected the practice in 2008.

Despite the Ministry of Health regulations, she said, “The government has not ever been clear in regulating FGM, while we know FGM has been listed as harmful practice as part of [the U.N.’s] Sustainable Development Goals.”

She urged the government to be more decisive and added, “Today, we commemorate zero tolerance for female genital mutilation, but in practice, it is still being done. We should ask, ‘How can a country guarantee the fulfillment of every citizen’s rights?’ Female circumcision violates individual rights because it was done without the girls’ consent.”

Also Read- All You Need to Know About Anti-Semitism and Religious Conflicts

Dr. Mukhotib, a reproductive health activist who, like many Indonesians uses only one name, told VOA that the many reasons to reject female circumcision include the fact that it has no medical benefit, countering traditional beliefs.

“There is no benefit to FGM. It does not make women healthier,” he said. “If there is no medical benefit, why bother?” (VOA)