19. Goes for the Jugular
Goes for the Jugular1
Buckle up your seat belts as Warraq takes us for a nerve-wracking ride through the seamy and sordid parts of Islam. With his book as travel guide, you’ll never forget the dark and treacherous sides of Islam.
Warraq has the credentials because he’s taken the journey himself - one that started with the certainties of growing up in a Muslim family, then through the dark night of doubt and, finally, to rejecting completely all revealed religion. He now considers himself a “secular humanist who believes that all religions are sick men’s dreams, false - demonstrably false - and pernicious.”
Two events galvanized him into writing this book: “nauseating” Western apologists (“liberal journalists, scholars and woefully misguided Christian clergy”) who tried to get Islam off the hook for passing a death sentence on Salman Rushdie, and the many Muslims who are victims of the resurgence of fanatical Islamic fundamentalism.
Warraq takes his title from Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian, using Russell’s own ideas against Islam, as well as many other top guns (see his 8-page bibliography). This a very good idea for, as Warraq points out, any argument that has been used against the revealed religions of the West - like Christianity - may be used with equal force against Islam.
Warraq acknowledges that Christian fundamentalism is not the same as Islamic fundamentalism because most Christians have moved away from the literal interpretation of the Bible while “all Muslims - not just a group we have called ‘fundamentalist’ - believe that the Koran is literally the word of God.” Since it is valid for all times and places, its ideas are absolutely true and beyond all criticism. Thus to question the very word of God is blasphemous. It is every Muslim’s duty to believe it and to obey its divine commands. This is the worst legacy of Muhammed, for this very attitude “closes the possibility of new intellectual ideas and freedom of thought that are the only way the Islamic world is going to progress into the twenty-first century.”
And therein lies Warraq’s attack. He systematically goes for the jugular. He explores the origins of Islam and the Arabic idolatry that preceded Muhammed. He highlights the treachery and rationalizations of Muhammed as the “Prophet” revealed God’s word in the Koran, including the contradictions and barbarities of Muhammed himself. He discloses the hodgepodge, garbled nature of the writings of the Koran - full of borrowings from talmudic Judaism, apocryphal Christianity, the Samaritans, gnosticism, Zoroastrianism and pre-Islamic pagan Arabia. Warraq demonstrates the totalitarian nature of Islam and its incompatibility with democracy and human rights. He points up Arab imperialism, colonialism and slavery. Warraq underlines the great inferiority of women under Islam as well as the barbarity of female circumcision. He underlines the taboos about the wine, pork and homosexuality. Warraq spotlights the maltreatment by Islam of its heretics and freethinkers (like Rushdie). Finally, it was most disturbing to find out that contrary to the propaganda of how much we owe the transmission of science and mathematics to the Muslims, that Islam has always had a hate affair with Western science because “all sciences endangered the faith.”
This is, in short, a kind of encyclopedia of unbelief that zeroes in on Islam. As such it takes its rightful place on my shelf of creme de la creme books.
1 This review appeared in the American Rationalist, March/April 1996.