Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Islamic Verbal Divorce: The bizarre practice of 'Triple Talaq'

"Divorce may be pronounced twice; then the wife may either be kept back in fairness or allowed to separate in fairness." (Al Baqarah 229)

"And the divorced women (after the pronouncement of the divorce) must wait for three monthly courses (menstruation)... and their husbands are fully entitled to take them back (as their wives) during this waiting period, if they desire reconciliation." (Al Baqarah 228)

"Then, if the husband divorces his wife (for the third time), she shall not remain lawful for him after this divorce, unless she marries another husband..." (Al-Baqarah : 230)

"When you marry the believing women, and then divorce them before you have touched them, they do not have to fulfill a waiting period, the completion of which you may demand of them." (Al-Ahzab : 49)

"And if those of you who die, leave wives behind, the women should abstain (from marriage) for four months and ten days." (Al-Baqarah 234)

Source: http://www.searchtruth.com/tafsir/Quran/65/index.html


"Talaq-i-Bid'ah means innovated (or sinful) form of Divorce. It is defined as a divorce which is pronounced thrice in one sitting when the wife is in the state of purity (tuhr), i.e., when man says: "I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you."  The Hanafis believe that though this form of divorce is sinful and innovative, it is nevertheless valid and divorce will take place.  According to the Hanafis when triple divorce is pronounced, the wife will become totally alienated from the husband and he cannot remarry her.  She becomes haram (totally prohibited) for him.  Neither can he take her back nor can he go for fresh nikah with her. He can go for nikah with her only after she marries another person and that person divorces her on account of marital conflict or she becomes a widow.

According to Maulana 'Umar Ahmad 'Usmani this is the position of not only Abu Hanifa but also of Imam Malik and Shafi'i. Imam Shafi'i says this form of divorce is perfectly valid.  It is not innovation (bid'ah).  It is quite proper on the part of the husband to pronounce such a divorce.  No husband can be prevented from adopting a valid course.  Even Imam Ahmad Hanbal's position is the same as that of Imam Hanifa and Imam Malik.  Thus it 'seems that all major founders of four schools of jurisprudence accept the validity of triple divorce.'"

"In the Qur'an, nikah (marriage) is described as misaqan ghaliza, i.e., strong bond and has explained how and with whom one can enter into this strong bond and this strong bond cannot be dissolved without proper reason and method.  It certainly cannot be dissolved whimsically.  A man has to pass through different stages to bring about reconciliation either by persuading his wife to behave properly, or by appointing arbitrators as per Qur'anic injunctions (4:35).  If all this fail only then recourse can be taken to divorce. "

-Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph. D. 
President, Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.


So what is the deal with this triple divorce stuff? It seems as casual as ordering a triple scoop of vanilla Ice cream or something. Like all things religious, people can't exactly agree...to just how favourable this form of verbal divorce is, where a man simply says 'I divorce you' three times (in one sitting, vs. two sittings, vs. three sittings), and the deed is done. It seems there is disagreement as to how much time he should wait between each time of saying 'I divorce you', probably as a measure to avoid on-the-spot divorces from happening during fights or disagreements. Some argue whether you should utter the words once or thrice. 

Minor details, point is - pretty much most schools of Islamic thought agree that a verbal divorce is valid once you've uttered the words under the conditions they find favourable. With enough loopholes and vagueness to argue one's way out if thats what the man later desires. Notice of course that this convenient ability of on the spot verbal divorces is only granted to *man*. But oh no no, dissolving marriage isn't whimsical at all...just that it depends entirely on the whims of 'the man'. 

It just so happens the Quran is generally addressed to men. Women are addressed indirectly, through what men should tell them to do. Sure some will argue that 'mankind' or whatever refers to everyone, and that in some instances maybe, if you squint your eyes the Quran is addressing women directly. The quote I shared above is a perfect example of how the Quran addresses women through men

"And if those of you who die, leave wives behind, the women should abstain (from marriage) for four months and ten days." (Al-Baqarah 234)

Also in the paragraphs I shared above, you can see how women are treated as objects, at mercy of their husband's will. 

"A man has to pass through different stages to bring about reconciliation either by persuading his wife to behave properly"

"Persuade" her to behave properly indeed: 

It is often cited as a good thing that a man is given several stages, before he can resort to beating her. Even as a last resort, this is outright misogyny, abuse. So I can't say that the one way triple-verbal-divorce surprises me. And in an ideal Islamic society, where everything is set up to make the woman dependant on the man and most vulnerable...she truly is at his mercy. He can divorce her by uttering words, he can marry other women while being married to her, he can strike her...

It sounds ridiculous that adults could believe uttering something as meaningless as beetlejuice or 'bloody Mary' is going to have real world consequences. That's how I see it, it may be how you see it...but we can't possibly begin to imagine the fear it evokes in women who's real lives can actually be affected by this utterance. 

This recent Guardian piece explains it well, and cites some truly awful examples:  

“All Muslim women are haunted by this word,” Nisa said. “During fights, I used to argue back but if it got too heated, I stopped because I was frightened my husband might say talaq.”

In India, which has a Muslim minority, Muslim men have sent triple talaq by text, email, Facebook, Skype and WhatsApp. The reasons vary from not liking the wife’s dyed hair to her cooking.
At a civil court, Nisa was told by a judge that the instant divorce was valid as it was permitted to Muslim men under Muslim personal law, or the sharia.
Its incredibly upsetting to hear that Muslim men get this verbal divorce ability granted to them, because 'religion'. Equality under the law seems to be slipping through our fingers especially because of cultural and religious relativism. 
Now that we have the technologically updated version of 'triple talaq', we've got things like whatsapp and facebook divorces!? For fuck's sake. This should be unacceptable to anyone with half a brain, let alone courts and judges. 
I received this story from a reader recently...breaks my heart to think that women live in such fear. 
Dear Eiynah,
My story is about my parents. My father is old and in hospital, suffering from several illnesses including dementia. My mother brings him food and visits him often, but he isn't always in a lucid state. Sometimes he has random fits of rage and gets really angry with her for no reason at all. As a good Muslim wife she's spent her entire life serving him and treating him with respect. They haven't had a relationship as equals, ever. Now that he is ill and not in his senses most of the time, the dynamic has shifted in the sense that she is not dependent on him but vice versa, still she is intimidated by the idea that he has more power in their relationship as a man, because of how Islam has commanded a husband/wife relationship to be.
The other day I received a call from her. She was very upset on the phone and crying, I asked what was wrong and she told me that during one of his unpredictable outbursts (which are caused by dementia, as well as all the medication he takes) - he started saying he wanted to divorce her. He was babbling and clearly not making sense, he wasn't in his senses and also under the influence of medication, but he said it twice (probably not even with the intention of triple talaq, he was just mad, inexplicably and so venting frustration this way). My mother, with a quivering voice told me she ran out of the hospital room, and left the hospital, rushed home as fast as she could because she was afraid he'd utter 'talaq' for the third time. I calmed her down and convinced her that it didn't count because he is not in his senses, obviously. It upsets me to think that she is worried about this, As an Atheist myself (my parents don't know) I obviously don't believe in this stuff. But the only way to explain it to my mom is in religious terms. So I tried to talk her down, but later learned that she even went and consulted some ultra religious people she knows, just to make sure she hadn't been suddenly divorced because her husband has dementia and doesn't know what he's saying half the time. A simple trip to visit him at the hospital resulted in so much trauma for my mother. And its easy to say she shouldn't believe in such nonsense, but this is all she's ever known in her life.

When I'd calmed her down on the phone, I did have a laugh and tease her a little bit, because come on, it was kind of funny how she took it so seriously. She laughed along with me, and i hope it eased her worry. But I wish she'd truly consider how illogical such beliefs are. We live in theWest, in a country where divorce is obviously not accepted if its just verbal, still she was seriously worried.

So that's my story, I just wanted to share what kinds of effects religion can have on marriage, relationships, illness. 


Wow :( I'm sorry to hear about this story, but glad you cheered your mom up after and joked about it. Power to the Muslim women fighting against this archaic practice.

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Responses to some of the questions I've been getting:

Does the school have a responsibility to protect kids? 

Of course.

So... what if they really thought it was a bomb? Weren't they justified in their actions?

Then they should have, would have evacuated, unless thats how bad at ‘protecting kids’ they are. 
If they didn’t think it was a bomb, it was wrong to call the cops and have him cuffed.

He didn’t really invent the clock, he’s a fraud.

Give me a break. Kids lie about homework and stuff all the time. Unfair to call him a ‘fraud’ and cast suspicion on his motives without real proof.

Yeah but he isn’t an ‘inventor’ and he’s getting all this praise/attention, even from The White House!

He’s getting attention not because his ‘invention’ was incredible….but because he was treated unjustly, people don’t want his desire for learning to be affected by this bad experience. He was put in handcuffs and there’s no proof that he claimed it was anything other than a clock. 

But some have said the police report lists it as a bomb ‘hoax’…

In my view, it’d be a hoax if he actually tried to scare people into thinking it was a bomb.
Then he’d definitely be at fault. But according to the info available, it doesn’t seem this was the case.

They say this incident was caused by ‘Islamophobia’, what are your thoughts on that term?

I don’t care for the word because it puts the focus on Islam rather than Muslims. Anti Muslim bigotry is a problem. Dislike for an ideology is not the same thing. People should be able to oppose Islam, without being accused of bigotry. This may have been a case of bigotry against a boy because of his religion, which is unfair…and completely separate from criticizing the religion itself. People are not their religions. People deserve dignity and respect, ideas don’t.

Is it possible that Ahmed and his family have some disturbing views stemming from Islam?

He’s a kid. Is it really relevant to *this* story to bring up what his views may or may not be? The key issue here is that a child was humiliated in front of his school. To make matters worse he was new there. I can’t imagine how awful that must have felt, thankfully he’s been shown so much support, it ended well. And yes, anything is possible, he might hold a number of views that I disagree with or find problematic that may or may not stem from his religion. But to assume he holds troubling views because he identifies with a certain faith is unfair. I know of secular minded Muslims who ignore the troubling parts of scripture. If he has a passion for science he should be encouraged, not regarded with suspicion. 

Is this a conspiracy to make America look bad? 

No. America does a fine job on its own sometimes :) see: Trump 

What are your thoughts regarding Dawkins’ recent tweets on Ahmed?

I have a lot of respect for Dawkins, but I don’t always agree with his tweets. 

What would you say if there is info about this being an intentional hoax bomb in the future?

Well, why are we discussing this when there isn't any such info at the moment? If there is evidence he intended to scare people, of course...I'll happily adjust my stance based on new information. There just isn't anything that I've seen yet that isn't a crazy conspiracy theory. 

Yeah but giving him this much importance is an injustice to kids who actually build better things than him.

Again, his 'invention' or lack thereof, is not the focus of the story.


Let me point out some differences though, because this happened in the US you see a large number of people standing up for Ahmed’s rights, a minority person's rights. Had unfair treatment like this occurred in Pakistan or Saudi, a Muslim country…you wouldn’t have large chunks of the country as well as its leader rallying for minority support. Secularists can be flogged, Christians can be thrown in jail for blasphemy and you won’t hear such outrage from the Muslim population in support of minority rights. You won’t get hashtags from Muslims on a large scale stating #IStandWithApostates, #IStandWithBlasphemers in fact Salman Taseer of Pakistan who chose to fight blasphemy laws got sprayed with bullets instead. His killer celebrated and garlanded by lawyers…because how dare you challenge religion? That is the difference. 

Many vocal critics of Islam (atheists), stood up for Ahmed, and against anti-muslim bigotry. Never do I see critics of ‘atheism’ stand up in support of unfair labelling, mistreatment, misrepresentation of ‘atheists’. That is the difference. 

In fact someone was heard blaming this incident of anti-muslim bigotry on 'new atheists', because yeah we all know how influenced Texas is by (new?) atheism. 


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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

9-11 & Tribalism

Around this time of year, I'm wary of the the hardcore American nationalism that surfaces - but because of the many lives lost in Mecca on the anniversary of 9-11, this sentiment was out in full force. People were calling it 'karma' for 9-11, some were saying 'Muslims' got what they deserved. A disgusting line of thought, because it's not terrorists or 'the state' who were crushed by the crane, it was innocent people. People who were gathered to pray to an almighty, loving god...

My thoughts are with those who lost friends and loved ones.

I stopped briefly to wonder...how do so many believe 'god' lets such tragedies strike in his house? In the place where pious 'god-fearing' people gather to worship him? A question we'll never know the answer to, because 'god works in mysterious ways' - it's all part of his plan. God is all knowing, and never makes mistakes. So, crushing people in the holy place was definitely what he meant to do.  :(

(Apologies for thinking out loud for a second, this is the kind of stuff I really can't make sense of, especially in the aftermath of a tragedy.)

Anyway, the American tribalists, gleeful at the demise of 'Muslims' caused by some apparent cosmic payback, are no better than the Islamists who wish death upon Westerners, no better than those who chant 'Death to America'. 

The owner of the notorious 'Muslim-free' gun store had a very 'classy' promotion in memory of 9-11. This is the kind of sentiment that's become synonymous with the 'Never Forget' meme. It's sad, because a very real, devastating occurrence has been appropriated by hyper-nationalists to further their own bigoted agenda. It belittles those who lost their lives that day. If only bigots could see how they cheapen such losses. 

As a person of colour, an immigrant...9-11 holds several meanings for me. I will do my best to put down my thoughts below. 


America The Religion

As a very vocal critic of Islam (the religion I was born into), I find myself fighting off accusations of being an ‘American agent’ far too often. Muslim tribalists who consider me a ‘betrayer' assume I have an undying loyalty to America. Since I clearly have no loyalty to Islam, I must be some sort of spy or die-hard US fan. Only two scenarios exist apparently, love for Islam or love for the US. :/ 

It’s fascinating how one end of the scale is Islam and the other America, as if it was a religion unto itself..the US of A . Some would say that it is, but the difference is you’re not killed for blaspheming against the US. In fact, many Americans have built media careers on laughing at the failings of their own country. I find that to be one of the most endearing things about America actually, the ability to self-criticize - and I long for it in my own culture. If we could self-reflect, admit to our issues the entire world would be a different place. Muslims... their actions and their ability to address clear problem-areas within the community are *that* significant to the landscape of the world today. 

Image from Team America

America is at the forefront of many Muslim perceptions as the number 1 opposing tribe. The wealthy, powerful oppressor, the imperialist. Resentment ranges from smaller details like Disney’s appropriation of Aladdin, to the larger issues like foreign policy. But in most cases it seems this Western superpower can do no right (despite the fact that many Muslims immigrate there for a better life, more human rights, better opportunities). Sure it provides the rest of the world with it’s favourite TV shows, music, and culture that many happily adopt, or imitate even. But this just lends itself to lopsided accusations of ‘Imperialism’.

Image from Disney's Aladdin

Sometimes those accusations hold truth, of course,  like when an American corporation picks an ethnic clothing item to mass-manufacture. It makes me cringe, that it takes something of cultural value and waters it down for consumption, repackages it as ‘American’ without any credit to those who invented it. I get that. But sometimes these accusations are taken too far, and become a caricature of what they intended to be. *No*, opposition to a misogynist tool like the burqa isn’t a Western conspiracy to control what women of the East wear. It isn’t an attempt to make Muslims submit to a foreign expansionist power, it’s a natural opposition to something sinister, used primarily to ‘possess’ and erase women. 

America is a lot of things, but the evil mastermind, conspiring to control/demonize *every* *single* Muslim, sometimes via *faked* tragedies - it is not.

How I experienced America(ns)

As a consequence of growing up in Saudi Arabia (as a Pakistani) and living through ‘Operation Desert Storm’, my feelings about the US are not so easily defined. Throw in my relationship with Islam, as well as America’s relationship with Islam and you have layers of overlapping and conflicting thoughts. 

In Saudi Arabia I was raised with a certain perception of the United States….and it’s not what you might think either. In some ways the US was idolized and admired, in some ways it was looked down upon. But there wasn’t any of the ‘death to America’ sentiment that I can recall. There wasn’t that much overt hatred for the West either…but it was a different time, the pre 9-11 era. Admittedly I didn’t have an average Saudi life as an expat kid. We grew up within the walls of a Westernized compound, where the booze flowed freely and women sunbathed topless at the pool. People were always paid more and treated better if they were Western, especially American. The morality police didn’t 'lightly cane' the ankles of blonde haired women if their headscarves slipped off. Pakistanis like my family were the bottom rung. We were foreigners, but not the right kind. I recall a Saudi man asking us to pull our car out of the last available parking space once, because as he explained (shouted), he was Saudi and therefore entitled to it. We didn’t pull our car out, but defying a Saudi was always scary. It was a risk. Luckily my family was privileged enough to live among highly valued Westerners and be educated/work amongst them and so we were treated better than many Pakistanis are. 

My point is, there was a clear admiration for Americans. Then Operation Desert Storm happened…something changed...even way back then. Our compounds were flooded with obnoxious US soldiers who walked around as if they owned the place. They were loud and rowdy from what I remember. They didn’t have to abide by the Saudi rules set for the rest of us mortals. I recall being intimidated by them, but I was too young to understand the politics behind what was actually going on. I was told they were on 'our side', it's not like I was lead to believe they were the enemy - but still, the very visible foreign army presence was uncomfortable for me. Our compound handed out pamphlets about what to do in case of a mustard gas attack. Again, I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation as a child, but sensed the tension. 

Once it was over, and my memory is fuzzy…there was a bit of a shift in how Americans were perceived. An increased 'Us vs Them’. I didn’t really identify as ‘Us’ or ‘Them’…so I just observed from the outside.

One summer, during a rebellious phase in teenagehood, I was babysitting at a neighbouring compound. This compound housed a lot of 'good Christian' army families from the US. I was in the community centre with the kids and had my first real run-in with conservative Christianity. I was wearing a lot of black eye-shadow and my favourite Manson t-shirt, and one of the army wives started talking about how she’d pray for Manson’s soul, soon more army wives joined in to talk about how evil Manson was…I was annoyed, but I was fascinated too - at the display of religiosity. 

Image from Fanpop.com

Is this what an American fundamentalist religionist was like? They had those too? *gasp* I was relieved to know Islam was not alone in the fact that it had crazy fundies. Although the Christian army wives paled in comparison to the morality police I’d seen regularly in Saudi, they still left me feeling a general distaste for religion. The US Army was not leaving a positive impression on my young mind, that’s for sure. And it was not out of some loyalty to Islam. 

Even to this day, when I speak to US Army vets, those who are honest tell me about the way they were indoctrinated to be anti-Muslim. A strategy of war, dehumanizing the other, and its not like this doesn’t happen in the East. Almost every child is indoctrinated to believe Westerners are less moral, different, promiscuous. But - In a situation where we are already perched to expect the worst from one end and the best from another we certainly don’t hold them accountable in the same way. In many instances we expect from the West what we can’t even fathom from the East. I have been guilty of this too. My liberal gut reaction was to hold a ‘humane’ secular country like the US  to higher standards than any Muslim country. 

This was wrong. I failed to stand up for those who suffered under the ideology, I failed to stand up for myself. Different moral standards, lower expectations…I inadvertently excused religious intolerance in the East, by not criticizing it, by expecting it. This line of thinking doesn't aid progress, I see that now. 

I will criticize America happily (as you can see), but I will also keep in mind the proportion of what irks me about it, vs. the proportion of other things that trouble me. The blatant subjugation of women, public beheadings, the inability to deal with ‘offence’ in a mature manner, a lack of freedom of speech, treatment of minorities. These are the things that require a bit more urgency than the cultural imperialism of Disney. Proportionality is key. 

Look at this pretty blonde lady, standing out like a rose
in a sea of faceless, burqa'd zombies. *eyeroll*  It's kind of douchey.. I get it. 

Yes Homeland is inaccurate and annoying as shit. But, you should see the way Westerners or 'blasphemers' are portrayed in Pakistani media. I do believe we had a film that showed 'Salman Rushdie' being struck by lightning that came from flying Qurans...

9-11, Fetish Parties and Chomskyites

My family immigrated to Canada around the time I started university. And the contrast between the Canadian temperament and American was immediately noticeable - a big relief to me was how little the mention of god or religion came up. I loved how polite people were, how soft spoken with such few displays of obnoxious nationalism. In Canada -for the first time ever, I felt at home. I could actually be myself, I didn’t have to hide my opinions on religion, I didn’t have to dress modestly, I was free. 

I truly enjoyed my newfound freedom. I wore cosets and fishnets, I danced, I drank, I lived. 

Then 9-11 shook my understanding of the world.

Even though I hadn’t identified as Muslim in years…my life was about to change. The day of, I was in complete shock, I was woken up by my friend who lived down the hall in my dorms. I couldn’t register what she was saying, till it finally sank in. People purposely flew planes into buildings. Wtf. 

We watched TV all day, just horrified, terrified, frozen…it was an unthinkable tragedy. I was devastated, but as the days went on I recall there being a certain quality to the way it was reported. It seemed to perpetuate the Us vs.Them narrative - there it was again, that tribalism. The coverage also possessed a certain urgency because it was America’s tragedy. And please don’t misunderstand or think that I am downplaying the horror, I’m not. It was life changing for me, it has helped shape my worldview even today. But as a brown skinned person with a Muslim name in a post 9-11 world, your perspective includes the shift in the way you've been treated since. From that day we were all regarded with suspicion. Other tragedies occurred in the world, but nothing was comparable in terms of how people reacted. My birth country Pakistan has terror attacks and deaths upon deaths but most of us are numb to tragedies in that part of the world. It’s whats expected. In fact, it’s hard to keep track of and separate the tragedies that occur daily. It's always bothered me when there’s a plane crash or something, and a country reports specifically how many of “their" lives were lost. As if the other lives mattered less… there was a sense of that in 9-11 coverage. 

It confirmed for me that the religion I was born into was manifesting in some seriously hideous ways. It was already a given in my life that religion/Islam was terrible, but because it was a given I felt no real need to vocalize my criticisms. I was a relativist, sigh. I was being educated by Chomsky worshipping professors that enhanced this. But 9-11 made me reevaluate, because I found myself saying…"what else would you expect from a bunch of savage extremists. But what is wrong with you America…why are you creating this divide". My focus was on America’s failings because Islam’s failings were to be expected. That didn't sit right for too long, thankfully.


We need perspective, proportion and we need to call out all failings on all sides accordingly. The Western far left suffers from a kind of narcissism, where everything bad happening today is because of 'The West'. Islamic terrorism is because of - you guessed it, 'The West'. No, it's not. Some agency, some accountability and higher expectations would go a long way. 

Everything does not revolve around the West, everything is not a result of the West. Sunni's do not kill Shia's because of the West. Thinking this way is no better than the 'imperialist' mindset these leftists accuse everyone of. Terrorists did not fly planes into buildings and kill themselves because of 'The West', terrorists did not kill 132 school children in Pakistan last year because of 'The West', they killed them because they found divine justification in Hadith to carry out their kill fantasy, because they deemed a group of people disloyal to Islam. This kind of 'dedication' is a result of pure, blind faith. Yes geopolitics plays a role, foreign policy angers people, but to absolve the ideology at the root of religious terror is ludicrous. Many people are angry, not all of them kill. Give someone with a taste for killing, divine justification though...and they just might. 


The day after 9-11 I was at a fetish party, dressed in bondage collars, a nun outfit and black lipstick…ready to forget the draining events of the past day. When suddenly the DJ was instructed to switch off the music and an announcement was made in remembrance of the victims of 9-11, a very long, awkward moment of silence followed. It was an odd place and an odd time, fetish parties never stopped for real life tragedies. They were in fact a place we all went to forget about the real world, we dressed up in costumes and carried surreal props and accessories. It was a weird moment, the Chomskyite lefties from my university were not pleased, I felt the pull of that side but my prior relationship with Islam didn’t let me fully indulge. 

Anti-Imperialism & The Post 9-11 Era

In the years after 9-11, My relatives and I were treated very poorly at US borders and airports. We’ve been spoken to rudely, My 65+ dad pulled out of lines, made to sign extra 'security' forms specifically because of our names, our association with Saudi, and our Muslimness. This tragedy undoubtedly created a divide, that hasn’t been repaired to this day. On the one hand we have overly defensive Muslims, refusing to acknowledge or address any problems within the community. On the other hand we have the creation of anti-Muslim bigots like Pam Geller. Each paranoid defensive group feeding off the other, the shrieks of Islamophobiaaaa grow louder as do the Fox news-esque calls to recognize Muslims as a threat. Rational thought and logic are lost in in this cacophony of extremes. 

As a reactionary response to anti-Muslim bigotry, we have liberals who are happy to call out the Christian far right for standing in the way of human rights, but get defensive when someone like me wants to call out the Islamic far right for the same thing. There's a strange marriage between the Islamic far right and the Western left. A union that may have taken place anyway, but post 9-11 sentiment was the cement.

As more members of the Ummah jump on the 'anti-imperialist left' bandwagon, not necessarily because they hate capitalist expansion but because their tribalism demands they side with the anti-West camp, I’d just like to remind everyone that it’s been a long time that America and Islam, America and Saudi Arabia have been in bed together. 

From my post International Relations

Those who think these are always opposing sides should re-evaluate and look at all the places they intersect, the diplomatic relations, the consumerism of pilgrimage, the golden arches of McDonald’s that glow in the holy city of Mecca, where non-Muslims are not allowed to set foot. It’s time to examine the increase we see in prepackaged, shiny nuggets of McIslam. 

A roundabout in Karachi, Pakistan which says 'Allah' in Arabic...
and yes...it is sponsored by Pepsi! Even god needs a corporate sponsorship, come on. 

A picture I took when I was in Pakistan many, many years ago.
A bizarre Ramadan ad campaign where you'd get *free* prayer beads if you
upsized your meal. Yes that's a McDonald's M made out of prayer beads. >_<
McIslam Nugget: No, of course not! Religions don't promote anything, obvs. It's not like they are moral guides
of some sort. No no, words don't actually mean anything...you assign your own meanings to them.
Opposing 'cultural imperialism' with consistency would mean that Wahhabi Arab imperialism in the Muslim world would also be opposed. But the silence on that is deafening. 

Repairing the rift that a tragedy like 9-11 has created requires us all to step outside of our tribes, throw down our arms and acknowledge the wrongs of our camps. I’ve been a 'liberal' apologist and a tribalist. I know where that comes from. I’ve been an anti-capitalist angry teenager too, I’ve held the West to a different moral standard than I’ve held my own community to. I will no longer, naturally expect less from my people. I will hold them accountable, I will expect them to progress. And that expectation comes from a desire for betterment, not hate, not 'white supremacy' or being on the CIA payroll as many would have you believe. 

*some details have been changed to protect privacy/anonymity


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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Long overdue: FAQs

My post last week about reconciling Islam & Homosexuality led to a lot of questions and a lot of accusations. You already know I'm an ex-Muslim...but what else am I? Am I an Islam-apologist? Am I an Islamophobe? Am I a Satan-Worshipper?  Here's your chance to find out!

Anti-Muslim Bigot FAQs

  • Why do you support reform for a religion as violent and literal as Islam? It is recognized as the perfect, infallible word of god - making it much harder to reform than say Christianity. It's unchangeable, therefore unsupportable. 
I recognize that Islam is different from many other religions in the fact that it leaves very little room for change. It is meant to be the literal word of god, the final word of god. How then, can it be changed? Well....I've always believed that humans are more moral than the religions they follow. Ancient scriptures may not change, we cannot rewrite the past...but our morality is constantly evolving. Slavery was acceptable once upon a time and it's recorded in the holy books - a clear indication of just how much they got wrong, and just how untrustworthy holy books should be as a moral guide. 

Despite it being permissible in the Quran, most Muslims you encounter today will oppose the Quran by saying slavery is no longer acceptable. They may not admit to the fallibility of the book and make excuses for it (out of context, relevant to the times, etc) - which is problematic, but it's a step up from accepting slavery. Something like this indicates that we can create a shift in the collective mindset of Muslims, or anyone for that matter. We now have gay-friendly mosques, a gay Imam, etc. These are all positive signs of change. And if hypothetically, we didn't support reform...what alternative would there be? Convincing over a billion people to apostatize? Forced deconversion? Something way worse? What options are there? None that seem to be ethical or practical... so we can either support reform, or sit back and watch Islam become more and more intolerant. 

  • Why do you claim someone can be a Muslim even if they don’t follow the religion properly?
Defining who is Muslim and who isn't is a slippery slope. One that ISIS uses to declare people infidels before they burn them in a cage, one that the govt of Pakistan uses to officially discriminate against the Ahmedi Muslim population by declaring them 'imposters'. Defining a 'real' Muslim is also a convenient tactic used by apologists for the religion. Anyone doing anything positive is by default a *real* Muslim, anyone doing something negative is not a real Muslim. The fact is that the Quran, like any holy book is full of contradictions, and people can cherry pick their way to a path of violence, discrimination, bigotry or one can cherry pick a more peaceful path...ignoring all the violent uncomfortable verses. The second you start defining a 'real' Muslim you not only legitimize the extremist narrative that literal fundamentalists are the only 'true' Muslims, but you also legitimize the apologist narrative that ISIS has 'nothing to do with Islam'. So, the way I see it...it's not really for us to decide who is a 'true' Muslim or not. If someone self-identifies, and draws inspiration from Islam, they are Muslim enough for me. That's not to say you can't question the hypocrisies of someone doing the opposite of what their faith tells them, while still claiming piety. I've known hijabis who drink, have one-night stands, etc. I am happy to point out their hypocrisies, but I don't really challenge their 'Muslim'-status. If we started doing that we'd never encourage those who are straying and rejecting parts of the religion anyway. Instead we'd keep holding them back by saying, you must adhere to EVERYTHING to qualify as Muslim. 

See also: No True Scotsman

  • I don’t think moderate Muslims are representative of Islam, why do you? 
Please see my response above. I think all kinds of Muslims represent Islam. It's unfair to those progressive voices that do exist within the faith to not even acknowledge them. They are weak enough as it is, and rarely acknowledged by the Ummah. It is them we should empower so the fundamentalist voices begin to shrink. If you insist on pushing the narrative that only extremist Muslims represent the religion then you're weakening the forces that oppose it. Do not confuse this with an acceptance that *only* moderate/palatable versions of the faith are indeed 'true'. The raw material undoubtedly exists for people to interpret in terrible oppressive and violent ways, Islam is responsible for that.

Look up: 'Muslim Drag Queens', Maajid Nawaz as examples of truly progressive Muslims challenging the faith.  

  • There aren’t different ‘interpretations' of Islam - surveys show that an alarming number of Muslims support regressive, dangerous ideas such as death for apostasy. So if you say that ‘moderate' Islam is a valid interpretation, aren’t you just being like Reza Aslan?
No. Reza and people like him...look to absolve religion of any blame for the horrors enacted in it's name. I would really like the words on the paper to be held accountable for the atrocities they inspire. But I would also like the progressive voices within the faith, who challenge it... to be acknowledged. 

Concepts such as death for apostasy, killing homosexuals are indeed commanded by the faith. These beliefs are not fringe beliefs either as Reza would like you to believe. Reza says 'don't blame god if you're a bigot'. He thinks people bring their own tendencies to the faith, rendering the faith itself not responsible for its own commands. Which is as ridiculous as it sounds! If words mean 'nothing' why are so many people trying to adhere to them? And if they mean nothing, shouldn't we bin them anyway instead of keeping them around as revered moral guides? Sure people have different tendencies, some violent and some not, obviously those with violent tendencies will look to find justification - and find it they will. 

Why can't we highlight the danger of such divine justifications, and also accept people who ignore these commands? This would be the first step in dismantling the power of religious Islamic orthodoxy.

  • Why are you supportive of criticism of Islam but not supportive of criticism of Muslims? 
Because there are plenty of Muslims who don't believe in the truly problematic stuff contained within the 'religion of peace'. These Muslims are a minority sadly - I would like them to be supported, propped up and have them lead the way to change, rather than the soft Islamists that are usually given importance in the media. It is niqab defenders, gender segregation defenders, Sharia supporting cultural relativists we must focus on in our critique. They slip under the extremist radar because they are non-violent extremists, while progressive Muslim voices who oppose these things are seen as 'native informants', 'house Arabas' or 'not Muslim enough'. We need to flip this way of thinking in the general population, look upon those defending oppressive practises as the bigots/apologists for bigots they truly are...

  • My faith doesn't create jihadis, My faith isn't violent like the Abrahamic faiths - so it's technically better, right? Since your issues lie primarily with Abrahamic faiths, why not give my religion a try? 
Being better than Islam or any of the Abrahamic faiths shouldn't make you smug. Being better than the worst isn't something to be proud of. Please read my post about the dangers of non-Abrahamic complacency

And thanks, but I won't be giving your religion or any religion a try. It's nothing personal. 

Muslim Bigot/Apologist FAQs

  • Are you an Islamophobe?
The term 'Islamophobia' is flawed to begin with as it focuses on 'Islam' ... the Idea. All ideas are open to scrutiny, and ideas simply don't have rights, feelings, families. The issue should be with anti-Muslim bigotry. Which is a huge problem (something I speak up against constantly), one that only adds confusion to valid critique of an archaic idea like Islam. If the problem lies with generalizing and stereotyping *Muslims*, why is the term based on *Islam* and not Muslims? It doesn't accurately reflect the concern at all. Muslim-phobia may be more relevant. 

As far as Islamophobia goes...as an apostate who's death is commanded by the ideology why wouldn't I fear/loathe Islam? Is my fear irrational though? I don't think so. 

  • How can you be against anti-semitism but *for* the criticism of Islam, and for horribly offensive drawings of the prophet? You wouldn't be ok with racist drawings of 'evil Jews' would you? Doesn't this make you a hypocrite?   
No. You are conflating Ideas with people again. I am against bigotry towards all people...I am against anti-Muslim bigotry and anti-Semitism in the same way. I am against derogatory depictions of Muslims and people of other faiths too (However, specific people who say/support indefensible things are fair game imo). My issue is with the *ideology* not it's adherents who are diverse. You fail to see that depictions of a prophet many find troubling is not an attack on Muslims (people), it's a questioning of one of the primary stars of Islam (Idea). Mo is not someone any Muslim has ever met or known or can even prove the existence of. Drawing him is as personal as drawing a unicorn really. Not only is it a right to question bad ideas, it is a duty...especially when some of them are so 'unquestionable' they result in death. Once upon a time Galileo was imprisoned for discoveries that contradicted the church's teachings. This kind of thing doesn't happen anymore precisely because of constant questioning...I'd like that to happen for Islam too. 

  • Islam is perfect and infallible, it is the literal word of god. How can you reform something that's already perfect? 
If Islam was so perfect, it wouldn't inspire so much hatred...It wouldn't inspire so much bigotry and murder....It wouldn't be so easy to 'misinterpret'. 

Just to give you one example:  Islam, like Christianity got the ethics on slavery so wrong. Even humans figured it out eventually...but 'god' couldn't? If you say the book was written at a time when slavery was acceptable, I ask - why is your god's morality dependant upon the time the Quran was written? If his word is perfect and infallible shouldn't it be applicable to *all* time? Either he is fallible or either you think slavery is ok. Both ways, Islam doesn't look good.

  • How can you say that someone's a Muslim if they don’t follow the religion properly?
See my response to the same question above. And: if you believe in an almighty creator, why not leave it up to them to decide who's doing a good job and who isn't? 

  • Don't you think all your criticism of Islam is giving cover to bigots? 
This can be said about pretty much anything. Don't you think your criticism of atheism is giving cover to anti-atheist bigots? Don't you think your feminist criticism is giving cover to man-hating bigots? Sure, bigots exist..it's an unfortunate fact of life, we shouldn't let that get it the way of legitimate criticism and fights for equality which aim for an increase in human rights. You can usually tell a bigot by their desire to generalize and attack people not ideas. It's important for all of us to recognize who the bigots are amongst us. 

  • How can you blame Islam alone for religious violence, what about the crusades? 
It's an undeniable fact that the majority of religious violence today is associated with Islam. Do other religions inspire violence? Absolutely...I don't think any rational critic of Islam would deny that. Religion is generally terrible, religions are terrible in some similar ways to one another...and some differing ways as well. Christianity's darkest days are seemingly behind it, and for the most part it's been watered down and holds much less power over it's adherents than Islam. When people talk about Islam today....they are discussing the violence and horror in *current* times. This doesn't mean anyone is denying the horrors committed in the name of Christianity. Islam is a younger religion, yes - but it doesn't have the same excuse of ignorance that Christianity did during the crusades. When some of the most violent jihadists are tech savvy enough to use google, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube...they clearly have access to more information at the touch of a fingertip than anyone did during the crusades. In this day and age, there is simply no excuse for such barbarity...and yes that does make it worse....much worse...that people with today's morality can channel morality from another century, that they can justify raping children and keeping sex slaves via divine texts. It's not that Christianity doesn't justify slavery....it's that it's been disempowered enough that people do not take it seriously. 
  • Why is it that you only point to Muslim women as being oppressed, why is it not ok when they cover their heads, yet you don't seem to be bothered by nuns? 
Ah the nun comparison! One of my favourites...Nuns are not some fine example of female empowerment ffs. I'd call them pretty oppressed by religion as well. However, even they are allowed to leave their homes and appear in public without their habit. The modesty codes prescribed to Muslim women in general don't allow for women to be seen by non relatives of the opposite sex without their head covered (and depending on your interpretation it could mean you aren't allowed to show your face in public either). And that's how burqas, hijabs, niqabs differ from nun habits. I also don't see many nuns punished for not wearing a habit, no morality police to cane them...no state-enforced wearing of nun habits either. 

Rational FAQs

  • How can you “moderately" believe in something that is clearly violent, misogynistic, homophobic? 
I don't understand either. Believe me...I have plenty of issues with 'moderates' myself. How can they endorse something that clearly preaches violence, bigotry, homophobia, misogyny *and* call themselves liberal or progressive? I don't get it. It's either out of pure ignorance or some sort of cognitive dissonance....many Muslims I speak to aren't even aware of the horrible verses present in the scriptures. They've only been exposed to the positive parts, and so are rightfully confused when people talk about Islam being violent and intolerant. BUT - we have google now...it doesn't take much to look up the things you're confused about and inform yourself (especially when it's something you pledge allegiance to through identifying as an adherent). Some people prefer to be scripturally ignorant though, because increased knowledge would mean increased questions....and then possibly a long and painful unraveling of the entire way they understood the world. This is too much work for some people. I can understand how one might fear opening a pandora's box of sorts, with questioning a religion that one feels safe in. I also don't think that telling every moderate they are an idiot for still believing is effective. Sometimes it's useful to give people some space to let their magical beliefs unravel at their own pace.

  • If Islam was a religion of peace, wouldn’t that become apparent the more closely it was followed, the more peaceful it’s followers would be?
Absolutely! Don't buy that BS for a second, because It's not a religion of peace...no religion of peace would endorse killing someone who wanted to leave the faith or endorse wife beating. And if you have to keep telling people it's peaceful because all the evidence is to the contrary...well that's your answer right there. The level of insecurity amongst Muslims is there for a reason...their faith doesn't stand the test of time, no faith does. It's time for Western liberals especially to stop treating Islam like a fragile little baby. Let Islam have your mockery and scrutiny the same way Christianity gets it...please.

  • Why would someone gay want to believe in and practise a faith that clearly rejects them?
I don't know. I wish they didn't want to, but in reality many people still find comfort in the faith they were born into, even if it clearly rejects them. Our efforts should be two pronged in this case, one to ridicule, mock and dispel the intolerant ideas within the faith... and two, to make sure we stand with those *within* the faith who challenge and oppose it (however bizarre that is).

  • Are there some people who are masquerading as moderates?
Yes! Most 'moderate Muslim' commentators on Islam are in fact not at all moderate. Ask them to condemn sharia or stoning of adulterers, gender segregation and you'll see their 'moderateness' melt away. We need to recognize truly progressive voices and stop promoting false moderates in the media. 

  • How is it that you're ok with supporting contradictory labels like 'gay Muslim' but not 'Muslim feminist' ?

 An excellent question. Basically, my criteria for supporting someone is honesty. I cannot support someone dishonest, whether its a gay Muslim or a feminist Muslim. I would support any Muslim that acknowledges the problems in Islam *and* acknowledges that we need to fix them, be that a gay Muslim or a feminist Muslim. 

But - if someone's coming from the view that they are gay Muslims because Islam is not homophobic and in fact gay friendly...I cannot support them fully because that narrative is harmful. It is also unjust to those who are killed, beaten, discriminated against because of what is contained within the ideology. You can't minimize the harm that the religion causes just because it would make you feel better about your beliefs. Similarly if someone is a Muslim feminist in that they identify as a Muslim but also recognize the misogyny within the faith and challenge it as a feminist - they have my full support. If they present lies in order to reconcile their 'feminism' with religion, they are ultimately causing more harm and downplaying the pain of millions of women who suffer because of Islam. In that case they have zero support from me, 

To deny is to stand in the way of progress. To challenge is to embrace progress. 


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