Trends and Flaws in Some Anti-Muslim Writing as Exemplified by Ibn Warraq

by Jeremiah D. McAuliffe, Jr., Ph.D.
1997 May be reproduced for non-profit purposes only, in its entirety, with proper attribution, and with notification to the author. Edited versions must be approved in writing by the author. All other rights reserved.

Bism Allah, al-Rahman, al-Raheem....

The 1995 book "Why I Am Not A Muslim" by Ibn Warraq (ISBN 0-87975-984-4) seems to me to illustrate a number of important issues for today's Muslim. These issues are related not only to how we understand and respond to those hostile to Islam. Disturbingly, Warraq's book does validly reflect back to us the severity of the ummah's current problems in the areas of religious education and Islamic practice.

In my general experience Muslims are often unskilled when it comes to responding to anti-Muslim polemic. In general, we only repeat back-- parrot-like-- what we have read in a few popular books, or what we have heard some impressive personality say. Many of us practice our religion only because "this is what our forefathers taught" and have failed to truly choose Islam in a mature and thoughtful manner. We understand and practice religion as do children and adolescents, rather than as adults. Because of this our skills and level of understanding are often inadequate to truly understand, and thus respond to, anti-Muslim propaganda. This is even more the case when we are confronted with valid criticism by anti-Muslims.

Warraq's book is easily one of the more vicious anti-Muslim writings I've ever read that is of recent publication. This stems from his strange combination of valid criticism of contemporary Muslim practice and Muslim attitudes with what seems to be a real ignorance of what is actually communicated by the Qur'an and sunnah.

Warraq's book is long, detailed, referenced and footnoted, but with extensive and glaring intellectual flaws. It would take a book twice as long as his to refute each of his errors. This paper shall first identify five general flaws that are present in Warraq's work and are also often seen in other anti-Muslim writing. I shall then discuss some issues and problems specific to Warraq's book. Throughout both parts I shall draw attention to areas that appear to me to be valid criticism.


Part I
Five General Errors Common to Warraq and Other Anti-Muslim Writers.

Part II
Some Problems Specific to Warraq: failure to define terms; not immersed in intellectual history; failure to even appear objective; paranoia and suspicion.


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