It Is the Duty of Muslims to Speak Out

It is sometimes important to talk about things that are tempting to be silent about. It is important to shed light on the intricacies, complexities, and nuances of the religion of Islam as well as the contemporary social, political and economic traditions linked to this faith and the uncontrolled rise of extremism.

I used to be a devout follower of Islam: one of the few who actually read the Qur’an word for word and tried to follow the rules in detail.

The penalty for renouncing Islam, it is also crucial to note, is death. It is legally administered in Islamic societies by governments, Islamic courts, and even individual Muslims who desire to fulfill their duty prescribed by Allah, the Qur’an and Muhammad.

These Islamic laws, of course, create fear about telling the true story.

A Muslim, you see, believes that the Qur’an contains the exact words of Allah. The Qur’an does not tell stories about God, as does the Bible; it is viewed as the very word of God, similar to the Ten Commandments. They therefore must be implemented without reservation, regardless of time and place.

According to some Islamic teachings, the reward for killing an unbeliever or apostate — someone who leaves Islam and renounces Allah and Muhammad — will receive the best place in heaven.

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A brave telling of the Koran’s human stories

Most of the attention given to this book so far has, rightly, been favourable. But it has skirted round the key point. Tom Holland is attempting to show that much of what Muslims believe about the Koran is incorrect. Since their belief is rigorously literal – they hold that the Koran is the uncreated word of God recited (the word Koran means “recitation”) directly through the mouth of Mohammed – any Muslim who accepted Holland’s evidence would have to reconsider many aspects of his faith.

This painful process of textual inquiry into scripture has been well known to Christians since the 19th century, when the Bible came under similar scrutiny. It has caused anguish, but many have been able to reconcile their faith with the discoveries of scholarship. No such process has taken place in Islam. Indeed, the suppression of questioning has actually got worse. Until 1924, for example, seven different versions of the text were considered canonical, so areas of doubt were implicitly acknowledged. Now there is only one normative text, and it is inconsistent in many particulars, but Muslims dare not say so. Holland is being brave.

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