PART II: SOME PROBLEMS SPECIFIC TO "WHY I AM NOT A MUSLIM"
In addition to the above general observations, and before we even
begin to look at the actual text of Warraq's book we can identify
two major problems from simply perusing the preface and the bibliography.
1. There are a number of reasons why people may write overtly
anti-Muslim books and this needs to be identified. We always need
to ask: "What is the author's agenda?" Some may write
out of a genuine ignorance of Islam, others write in order to
promote a theology other than Islam, such as Christianity, still
others may be writing in a valid scholarly-critical manner for
an academic audience. However, there are some who may write anti-Muslim
polemic because they have been mistreated in the name of Islam
and are, in actuality, expressing their anger and hurt over this
abuse. Often, people who were abused as children in the name of
religion will grow up to be rabidly anti-religious. This seems
to be the case with Ibn Warraq who writes that he was born Muslim,
but who now considers himself a secular humanist "who believes
that all religions are sick men's dreams, false-- demonstrably
false-- and pernicious." [emphasis mine] His acknowledgments
extol triumph over "religious fascism". Such a thing
does exist, and does nothing but damage the souls of men and women.
His religious education as a child consisted of rote memorization
of the Arabic Qur'an without comprehension and even before he
could read or write his native language. He writes that religious
dogma "had been foisted on me." Clearly, none of this
indicates an early religious education-- or really even any experience
associated with religion-- that was pleasant and meaningful for
him. (Though he doesn't say so, one could reasonably suspect that
this "education" might well have been accompanied by
liberal doses of harsh words, yelling, or maybe even hitting.)
We know this type of early negative experience can have a profound
and lasting psychological and emotional effect upon the person's
adult attitudes, as it seems to have done to Ibn Warraq. The ummah
as a whole may have contributed to the making of an Ibn Warraq
by our own poor skills at religious education, by our own poor
practice of Islam, and by our own theological backwardness and
lack of sophistication.
2. There is a saying that "no one is so convinced as a convert."
As a revert to Islam from Catholic Christianity I can attest to
this. I find it mind-boggling that someone who has actually read
about and understood what Islam is could reject it, much less
be hostile towards it. To me Islam is entrancingly beautiful,
gentle, integrated, consonant and holistic. It is beautiful like
a work of art. Islam is scenic, and yet dynamic. It is both like
an object that can be gazed upon, and a promise of what one can
become. Islam strikes me as what people want, though they may
not themselves know that.
So, to me, for a person such as Warraq who was born Muslim, and
who was, in spite of abuses, presumably educated in Islam, to
then become hostile to Islam and even all religion puzzles me.
Would not the person be able, as an adult, to distinguish between
abuse done in the name of Islam with what the Qur'an truly teaches
and the sunnah of Muhammad (saws) actually illustrates? But when
we actually check Ibn Warraq's references we find that he does
not appear to have been educated in Islam at all. For all intents
and purposes he refers only to what have been called "Orientalists"--
a label made famous by Edward Said's book "Orientalism".
Said's book is by now a modern classic. It details the self-centered--
perhaps even racist--influence and perceptions evident in many
standard Euro-American writers on Islam and Arab culture-- writers
who are accepted and cited uncritically by Warraq even though
he is writing after publication of Said's important work. (Said
is not a Muslim.)
As Ibn Warraq goes about his rather vicious attack on Islam he
does not attack actual Muslim writers, scholars or thinkers, but
utilizes only a certain type of non-Muslim writing about Islam.
Indeed, it appears that Ibn Warraq never did learn to truly read
the Arabic Qur'an as it appears he has had to rely upon translations
of the Qur'an. In addition, with all the various Qur'anic commentaries
written over a millennium and a half, he relies on the only one
that is generally and easily available to English speakers: Yusuf
Ali's. This is kind of strange. He does not substantively refer
to one Muslim biography of Muhammad, nor to any of our literature
on seerah. Names of classic Muslim writers-- Ghazzali, Hanbali,
Malik, Bukhari, Muslim, Rumi, Tabari, etc.-- do not appear, or
if they do it is without substantial analysis or a balanced presentation
of the views of these prolific writers. Nor does Warraq refer
to any contemporary Muslim writers such as Keller, Qaradawi, Rahman,
Faruqi, Asad, Akbar, etc. Nor does he refer to balanced non-Muslim
writing such as that by Karen Armstrong. How can such a work be
taken seriously? It can't. But it does look impressive.
This brings up a number of thoughts even before we have really
looked at the actual body of the text: Warraq is not going to
be talking about Islam as it is practiced and debated about by
real Muslims, nor even as it was taught to him, but only as it
appears to some non-Muslims, many of whom have been roundly criticized
by Edward Said and typed into an entire style of scholarship called
"Orientalism". That is, Warraq is presenting how Islam
might look to some who are outside of Islam and who, according
to Said (of course, as well as many others, but Said gave it a
name), appear to be bigoted, prejudiced, and perhaps even racist.
Essentially, Warraq's book isn't about Islam at all, nor about
his experience being educated and raised as a Muslim. He states
that he grew up in an Islamic country. Why then, are all of his
references from the Euro-American non-Muslim traditions? I find
this very odd. Presumably, he would have access to classical Muslim
writing from his own (unidentified) culture. There is a surprising
lack of personal anecdote in a book that at first glance seems
so personal. We hear no stories about growing up Muslim. Is Ibn
Warraq who he portrays himself to be? Another, similar book by
an ex-Muslim also has strange peculiarities ("Answering Islam"
by Abdul Saleeb and Norman Giesler) that cause me to wonder about
the truthfulness of the author's biography.
Warraq's selective references must raise suspicions in our minds.
Surely, it shows that he is not going to engage in a critical,
responsible, balanced debate with Islamic teachings. And he doesn't.
Indeed, he himself implies that his work cannot be considered
serious scholarship. Discussing a biography of Muhammad by Count
Henre de Boulainvilliers he writes that de Boulainvilliers had
"no knowledge of Arabic and had to rely on secondary sources;
thus his work is by no means a work of serious scholarship."
(p. 19) By that standard, neither is Ibn Warraq's.
He writes: "This book is first and foremost an assertion
of my right to criticize everything and anything in Islam-- even
to blaspheme." So, this is not a book of critical thought,
it is the yelp of a hurt child, an angry adolescent, a bitter
and resentful adult.
I must acknowledge, Warraq's book is tough. Frankly, few Muslims
would be able to respond to the material he presents. It is true
that mainstream Muslim theology has failed to keep up with the
times. The "closing the doors to ijtihad" was, in my
opinion, a disastrous error and has left most of us-- even
our traditionally educated scholars-- unprepared to respond
to contemporary questions about Islam and unable to engage in
effective da'wah with contemporary people. If Warraq did come
from a traditional background where religious education consisted
of the rote memorization of the Qur'an he indeed would be completely
overwhelmed when first encountering non-Muslim methods of academic
historical and textual critique and analysis. It simply isn't
a part of most Muslims' experience or education. It is no wonder
he was persuaded by the Orientalist literature.
However, what this means is that the average Muslim who reads
this book may well come away from the experience shaken and unsettled.
Now, to be sure, much of what Ibn Warraq says about Islam is easy
to dismiss. His use of adjectives, such as "superstitious"
when discussing the Hajj are rather easy-to-spot rhetorical devices.
Many of his themes, too, will be familiar to any Muslim who has
encountered Christian evangelicals. Some of these were discussed
in Part I of this paper. For instance, in spite of the fact that
the Qur'an describes itself as a confirmation and summing up of
what has come before, Warraq, like evangelical Christians, will
smugly write that "Muhammad brought nothing new" as
if this is some kind of proof of Islam's being inauthentic.
WARRAQ FAILS TO DEFINE SIGNIFICANT CONCEPTS AND TERMS
Warraq not only uses adjectives that are as subtle as a club,
he also fails to define important terms. For instance, as said,
he describes Muslim rituals such as the Hajj as "superstitious",
but he fails to enter into a discussion on the difference between
a superstitious action and a ritual action. For anyone seeking
to understand religious behavior and religious language such distinctions
are of utmost importance and there is plenty of literature on
the subject. It is especially important in light of the fact that
standard Islamic teachings warn against anything that would hint
of superstitious behavior. Ritual behavior is not the same as
superstitious behavior though they may look the same to the outsider.
Warraq doesn't even recognize that there is an issue here. He
thus displays an elementary and incomplete education in general
religious studies. Obviously, he does not present traditional
Muslim views on superstitious behavior.
He labels behaviors without defining what he means by the label
and so displays a partial and incomplete education on the issues
he is trying to discuss. By choosing adjectives with negative
connotations he is thus able bash Islam, albeit in an intellectually
vapid and heavy-handed manner that lacks any style or finesse.
Another example of this failure to define important terms is Warraq's
use of the word "myth" without defining or discussing
the concept as it is used in general religious studies. For instance,
he says that it is a myth that Muhammad was wise and tolerant,
but without evidence as to why this is a myth and not history.
He shows absolutely no awareness over the fact that myths are
not "false". They easily, and often do, accurately reflect
and contain within their structure and content authentic history.
This is a very important issue in general religious studies. Another
is his failure to articulate the difference between the use of
the word "philosophy" in Euro-American traditions, and
as it is used in Muslim traditions. (Since my background is in
philosophy this really sticks in my craw.) In classic Muslim writing
"philosophers" are people engaged in inordinate speculation
about things that cannot be known-- the "unseen". In
the West, philosophy refers, in essence, to the skill of critical,
It is obvious to me that Warraq simply hasn't engaged in any serious
religious studies or studies of religious language and behavior,
much less related issues in philosophy such as ontology or epistemology.
Or rather, his education has been partial and biased. This is
often the case with both religious and irreligious extremists.
He simply does not know what he his talking about. As the saying
goes: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
WARRAQ IS NOT IMMERSED IN WESTERN INTELLECTUAL HISTORY
Warraq is not as familiar or conversant in Euro-American intellectual
history as he portrays himself to be. This is devastating for
him because he is relying on a subsection of that thought (i.e.
the "Orientalist") to attack Islam, and all religions
in general, but has no perspective on how that subsection fits
in with Western intellectual traditions as a whole. He makes numerous
For instance, he writes on p. 16 "On the whole, Western society
in general and the media in particular are totally uncritical
of religion." This is laughably absurd and just plain false.
When one encounters such blanket statements-- especially ones
that are so obviously false -- an alarm should sound in your head:
"this guy has extremist tendencies".
The United States was founded partly on a critique of religious
power, and Euro-American history is strongly influenced by the
Protestant (uh, "protest") Reformation and religious
traditions. It is Euro-American culture that gave us Marx, Freud,
Neitzsche-- all powerhouses of scathing religious critique.
He states that the eighteenth century "readily adopted the
myth of Muhammad as a wise and tolerant ruler and lawgiver."
This would be news to anyone and Warraq doesn't provide proof
for such a blanket statement, nor is he clear on exactly who
readily adopted this myth.
While there were some sympathetic Western treatments of Islam
before the twentieth century there was by no means a wide-spread
assumption regarding Muhammad as Warraq states. There still isn't.
Indeed, Warraq seems to contradict his own historical understanding
by writing on page 22 that Carlyle's 1841 account of Muhammad
"is often considered the first truly sympathetic portrait...
by a Western intellectual." Presumably Warraq knows his centuries.
How could this nineteenth century work be the first sympathetic
portrait in the West when sympathetic "myths" were "readily
adopted" in the eighteenth century? Warraq does not
explain, but these types of sloppy errors must always cause the
reader to pause and assess the author's competence in the subject
Warraq manhandles Western intellectual history by citing obscure
writers and overly simplifying the complexity of Western thought
on issues such as "the noble savage" and "moral
relativity". In addition, he attributes motivations to whole
groups of Western intellectuals without the slightest evidence.
For instance, he states that Christian writers of the last two
centuries did not criticize Islam because "Christianity and
Islam stood or fell together. They knew that if they started criticizing
the dogmas.... of Islam, their own fantastic structure would start
to crumble." (p. 24) An astounding statement, to be sure!
Another example of this just plain sloppy thinking and writing
is on p. 116. Warraq states he wants to argue that "Monotheism
is not necessarily philosophically or metaphysically superior
to polytheism, given that no proof for the existence of one and
only one God is valid." Now, the first part of this sentence
may indeed be true, but notice his tricky use of the word "necessarily".
Of course it isn't necessarily the case-- at least not
that can be proven, but that has nothing to do with the quality
of any arguments on behalf of the superiority of monotheism (though
Warraq attempts no substantive philosophical or metaphysical discussion
of the issue). That it follows from the second statement is simply
false and nicely displays Warraq's illogic.
Though there is no scientific proof of God's existence, neither
is there proof that God does not exist, nor are their proofs that
any type of deity exists or does not exist. It simply isn't even
a scientific issue subject to a laboratory type of testing. It
is an issue of faith, and transcendence, and meaning in human
life. Warraq shows no awareness at all of such issues, which he
would need to discuss to truly undermine religion in and of itself,
much less undermine Islam.
Another similar example of this sloppy illogic and partial education
is when he discusses modern studies of Jesus (may our Lord's peace
and blessing be on him). This one made me chuckle it was so off-base:
Many European and American scholars of the last 150 years or so
have centered their attention on the topic of the "historical
Jesus". The topic has recently been on the covers of popular
US weekly news magazines. Of course, there are those who posit
that Jesus never truly existed, though they may still respect
the teachings of this (for them) fictional character. Serious
scholars who doubt that a real person actually lived and taught
are, to be sure, in a minority and to my understanding it is not
actually considered a serious possibility. But Warraq, feeding
his general anti-religion extremism, makes a mountain out of this
molehill of speculative literature. In his zeal to grasp anything
that might make all religions look bad he does nothing but clearly
display his general ignorance of themes and trends in contemporary
Many standard Christian theologians make a distinction between
"Jesus" as a regular man and "The Christ"--
Jesus as an avenue of God's revelation to humanity. Warraq gets
really confused on this. He picked out the phrase "Christ-Myth"
from a book thinking that the phrase questions the historicity
of Jesus. It does not. He then quotes someone discussing the issue:
"Scholarly opinion still holds... to the postulate of an
historical figure whose life story was very soon displaced by...
mythmaking activity." Read it carefully. Warraq didn't. (I
have to laugh at this. pp. 147-148) He doesn't grasp that the
type of "mythmaking" being discussed here doesn't imply
the complete cover-up or destruction of historical reality. The
"mythmaking" discussed in this type of writing refers
to stories that can contain within them some true history, or
even true statements about reality. This is a sure tip-off to
someone who has an incomplete education in general religious studies
as well as Christian theology.
On p. 119: "One of the great achievements of Muhammad, we
are told, was ridding Arabia of polytheism. But this, I have tried
to argue, is monotheistic arrogance. There are no compelling arguments
in favor of monotheism, as opposed to polytheism."
Read that quote carefully again. Does the last sentence connect
with the first in a meaningful way? No. To rid a land of polytheism
is in no way necessarily related to whether or not monotheism
is indeed philosophically superior to polytheism. Indeed, from
the first sentence one would expect Warraq to argue that Muhammad
did not rid the land of polytheism.
Warraq is quite confused in his thinking and in his argumentation.
What he has done here is something like this: "Americans,
we are told, got rid of all blue automobiles. But this is automotive
arrogance. There are no compelling arguments in favor of non-blue
Either they got rid of the cars or not, the arguments for that
are another issue.
Warraq resorts to simplistic explanations of motivations and dynamics
in order to explain extremely complex social changes. And so fails
to, at times, make the slightest sense.
He attacks like this because so many Muslims will argue that monotheism
is "superior" to polytheism-- but this is not a philosophical
argument used in the Qur'an, it is an item of revelation
and so is accepted primarily on faith and only secondarily on
reason. There is a big difference between the two! Our own lack
of theological sophistication on such topics provides fuel for
his anti-Muslim polemic.
He continues by recounting how some have noticed that when people
move from polytheism to monotheism their old gods and goddesses
may not actually disappear, but become a pantheon of angelic or
demonic beings. (This can be clearly seen in some areas where
Christianity merged with local custom, such as in parts of South
America and Mexico, or in the religion of Santeria.) However,
that this has happened in Islam is certainly not clear to me.
Indeed, I've seen little if any evidence for such a thing.
For Warraq, the fact that the Qur'an declares the existence of
angels and jinn does mean that Islam followed this same route.
He quotes in support of his view the non-Muslim Edward Lane on
the "five orders" of spiritual beings and other non-Qur'anic
speculations about the jinn. In essence, what Warraq does is first
cite a conclusion: pre-Islamic polytheism simply became Muslim
belief in jinns and angels, and then tries to provide evidence
to support his conclusion from secondary non-Muslim sources who
are obviously reporting Islamic folklore, rather than the actual
teachings of Islam from the Qur'an and sunnah.
(This is a good time to remind ourselves of one of Warraq's admitted
agendas: to express his right to say anything at all about Islam
he so desires. The truth about Islam has little to do with his
true motivations for writing this book.)
In sections like this Warraq is not arguing against the foundations
of Islam: the Qur'an and sunnah, but what some Muslims have said
and thought about the Qur'an and sunnah. This is a move
similar to arguing against the whole of Christianity based upon
what only certain Christians-- such as those writing during the
Inquisition-- teach about Christianity. We cannot ignore the variety
within a religious tradition if we want to argue against that
religious tradition as a whole. But this is precisely what happens
in just about any anti-Muslim writing I've encountered, Warraq
is no exception. For him to present a list of every atrocity done
in the name of Islam throughout history says nothing at all about
Islam itself, only about some Muslims.
There are many more examples like those described above in Warraq's
writing. Suffice it to say that though he writes with an air of
authority and uses many citations he simply doesn't know his head
from a hole in the ground when it comes to the history of Western
philosophical and intellectual thought about religion. I find
it highly ironic that he relies on Western writers, but then fails
to truly grasp the intellectual milieu out of which they arise,
and to which they are responding. In addition, he takes the folklore
of some Muslims, and the speculations of some Muslims, and the
poor practice of some Muslims, and seeks to present such things
as the foundational teachings of Islam (which are the Qur'an and
sunnah-- all else is commentary) and so fashion a destructive
critique of Islam. The only thing he destroys is the reader's
respect for his intellectual abilities, which appear deeply flawed.
WARRAQ FAILS TO EVEN APPEAR BALANCED OR OBJECTIVE
You will not find in Warraq one substantial word regarding the
persecution of the Muslims in Mecca: the economic boycott, the
assassination attempts, the physical and verbal abuse. You will
not read a substantial account of how Muslims were forced to emigrate
to Abyssinia, and forced to leave their homes in Mecca for Yathrib
(Mecca) due to the abuse they received only because they taught
and practiced tawheedian monotheism. You will not find a substantial
treatment of the Muslim views regarding treaties with other tribes
while in Medina, nor the accounts of how those treaties were broken.
You'll not hear about the Qur'aysh's murderous, genocidal hatred
of the Muslims, nor how the new religion of Islam threatened their
privileged and moneyed status. You will however read (p. 92) "[Muhammad]
was no more than the head of a robber community, unwilling to
earn an honest living" because he raided Meccan caravans.
There is no hint from Warraq that Muslims were in a defensive
position born of weakness. They were people who had been forced
from their homes, not an aggressors with superior strength and
positions of power!
Warraq doesn't even give the appearance of an objective critique
of Muslim history and teachings. He doesn't even give much indication
that he is at all familiar with Muslim accounts of history. He
gives no account of why they are not accurate. He only cites from
the most rabid anti-Muslim "Orientialist" polemic without
ever explaining why it should even be accepted in the first place
(remember, he is writing after Said's "Orientialism").
Muslim accounts are not only not accepted, they are barely mentioned.
Warraq is a historical revisionist, not unlike those who seek
to revise the history of the Nazis in order to make them look
less heinous. Warraq reverses this: he revises history to make
Muhammad (saws) and the Muslims look like the most heinous of
Nazis. He even describes Muhammad as a fascist.
WARRAQ'S PARANOIA AND SUSPICION OF SCHOLARS
To my mind, the section that really illustrates Warraq's flaws,
failures, ignorance, and frankly, paranoid suspicion, is in a
discussion of a book by Ann Elizabeth Mayer entitled "Islam
and Human Rights" (pp. 187-191). It is in this section that
the negative effects of Warraq's pathological hatred of Muslims
on his intellectual skills and use of reason are so clearly displayed
in all their tattered glory. It is actually kind of sad.
First, let's review a bit. 1) Warraq's purpose in writing this
book is "first and foremost an assertion of my right to criticize
everything and anything in Islam-- even to blaspheme." 2)
In order to fulfill this agenda and express his hostility he will
present only those quotes, citations and views of history that
fulfill this agenda. Though the text looks like a serious work,
it is not. 3) Because of this imbalance he fails to recognize
the importance of certain terms and concepts in general religious
studies and thus displays a level of education that is inadequate
to the task he sets for himself, that is, if that task had anything
to do with saying true things about Islam. 4) Also because
of this lack of scholarly objectivity there are laughable errors
in his understanding of Euro-American intellectual history, as
well as in his understanding of Christian theology.
Mayer's book is about abuse, injustice, and oppression in "Muslim"
countries. What Warraq can't stand is that Mayer properly makes
the distinction between what Muslims may do in the name of Islam
and what Islam's foundational beliefs, principles, ideals and
teachings really are. He writes:
Like practically every single book and article published since February 1989, [note: he is indeed aware of this literature, he just chose to ignore it all] especially for the nonspecialist reader, Ms. Mayer's book is at pains to point out (1) that "Islam" is not monolithic, that there is no such thing as the Islamic tradition, or just "one correct Islam," or one correct interpretation; (2) that, in the Islamic human rights schemes examined... it is not Islam that is at fault, it is, at most, one particular interpretation of it ... (3) that there is no such thing as the sharia, i.e., Islamic law did not freeze at some arbitrary point in the past; and (4) that, deep down, Islam may not be hostile to rights and democracy, after all. (p. 189)
Well, I say as a Muslim, as someone with at least some formal
education in the areas of philosophy, psychology and religious
studies, this is true. Well, except perhaps for the fact that
we did "freeze" our growth and development as
represented by the phrase "closing the doors to ijtihad".
Mayer writes and studies in the field of law and human rights.
Her book is for specialists, unlike Warraq's implication.
Though he describes Mayer's book as "excellent and very persuasive"
Warraq just can't stand the fact that Mayer recognized these obvious
truths quoted above and so hurls at her what can only be construed
as rank insults to any serious writer or scholar.
When an author such as Mayer qualifies her own work with statements
that give the lie to Warraq's perceptions he can only impugn the
author's intellectual honesty and academic character as follows:
However, a close reading of Ms. Mayer's book reveals that after all she is only paying lip service, for ecumenical harmony, to the notion that there is no such thing as "Islam" about which we can make valid generalizations. [i.e. generalizations that are inimical to human rights]
Ms. Mayer is only possessed of "pious hopes" regarding
the truth of her distinction between the foundational teachings
of Islam and the injustice often done by people or political systems
in the name of Islam. Her attempts to "exonerate" Islam
(as if it is guilty of something) is "desperate" (p.
190) The evidence of her "desperation"? Her own preface
wherein she writes as quoted by Warraq:
Even without studying the question of how Islam relates to human rights issues, my experience in work on behalf of the cause of human rights would have sufficed to convince me that Islam is not the cause of the human rights problems endemic to the Middle East....
Were I Ann Elizabeth Mayer I might well be outraged at such statements
that impugn my own intellectual integrity in such a manner. I
am also completely suspicious whether Warraq is reading her properly
regarding core Islamic beliefs about which we can generalize.
There are such core beliefs, obviously. They just are not as Warraq
would have us believe, nor as his fevered brain has imagined them
to be. Mayer knows this.
His paranoid suspicion of Mayer is quite telling, as he continues
to make errors of logic and analysis when discussing her "desperate"
attempts to distinguish between foundational Islamic principles
and the atrocious behaviors done by many in the name of Islam.
It would be many weeks before I could obtain a copy of Mayer's
book to check the validity of my suspicions. And so, I called
Dr. Ann Elizabeth Mayer at the Wharton School of the University
of Pennsylvania to solicit comment on this. (Obviously, and from
her online vitae, she is no academic/scholarly slouch!)
We had a very interesting conversation. Though she had not read
Warraq's book others had told her of it. She had nothing kind
to say about Warraq and writers like him. She considers Islam
"beautiful" in its beliefs and is quite clearly distinguishing
in her own work between the "political use of Islam in particular
state systems that are oppressive" and the core values and
principles of Islam that simply do not support the actions of
those oppressive systems. People such as Warraq, she said, are
completely intellectually bankrupt. They only have "an ax
to grind". She scathingly described at length her contempt
and disdain for writers and anti-Muslim "hate-mongers"
such as Warraq, and stated she wished such people wouldn't even
read her complex, balanced and scholarly works. She thinks that
people such as Warraq eventually self-destruct, but that will
not keep other hate-mongers from seizing upon his book to perpetuate
Mayer qualifies her own studies and makes disclaimers about exactly
what she is studying. Any decent, honest, scholarly academician
does this. Warraq clearly displays his perverse selection of facts
to support his hostile agenda. He loves that Mayer documents human
rights abuses in "Muslim" countries, but just cannot
accept that Mayer does not blame core Islamic principles for these
It is also in this section that Warraq actually articulates, but
then fails to recognize the significance of central issues pertaining
to healthy or unhealthy Islamic practice. It is quoted above and,
in essence, is the question: "Who's interpretation of the
Qur'an is correct?" Had Warraq stuck with this question and
made it the focus of his book he could have picked and chosen
among trends within Islamic practice and theology that may actually
merit and call out for everyone's hostility and disdain, not just
Well, there is really not all that much I need to add. Warraq
Muslims talk a good talk about "unity", but the ummah
is, in fact, sectarian. Who's vision and understanding of the
Qur'an and sunnah is correct? The Sufi? The Wahabi? The Taliban's?
Hamas'? The Khalifite? The Sunni? The Shia? Who is correct? Conservatives,
modernists, traditionalists, etc. etc.?
Those who give witness that there is no god but God and Muhammad
is the messenger of God need to realize that unity does not mean
uniformity. But we need unity in front of those who are actively
hostile towards us. And that means being honest with ourselves
and with others about our faults and defects. We cannot allow
our own poor practice of Islam to be used in attacks against the
Qur'an and Mohammad's sunnah
It is unfortunate that in this day and age such overtly bigoted,
ignorant, and intellectually dishonest books are still being written
and published. However, in my opinion we need not fear them. Though
such writings may anger us and hurt us, they can also challenge
us to grow in our din. There is often mixed among the intellectual
errors a mirror reflecting ourselves back to our view, and
we may not like what we see, but we must face it with courage
I pray that this short and by no means exhaustive paper will assist
you to identify and respond to some of the errors we find in anti-Muslim
writings, but I also pray that it has caused you to reflect on
your own understanding of and practice of Islam.
And Allahu alim.
Jeremiah D. McAuliffe, Jr., Ph.D.