Criticism of Islam

Criticism of Islam

Criticism of Islam has existed since Islam's formative stages. Early written criticism came from Christians, prior to the ninth century, many of whom viewed Islam as a radical Christian heresy.[1] Later there appeared criticism from the Muslim world itself, and also from Jewish writers and from ecclesiastical Christians.[2][3][4]

Objects of criticism include the morality of the life of Muhammad, the last prophet of Islam, both in his public and personal life.[4][5] Issues relating to the authenticity and morality of the Qur'an, the Islamic holy book, are also discussed by critics.[6][7] Other criticisms focus on the question of human rights in modern Islamic nations, and the treatment of women in Islamic law and practice.[8][9] In wake of the recent "multiculturalism" trend, Islam's influence on the ability of Muslim immigrants in the West to assimilate has been criticized.[10]



Early Islam

The earliest surviving written criticisms of Islam are to be found in the writings of Christians, who came under the early dominion of the Islamic Caliphate. One such Christian was John of Damascus ( c. 676 - 749 AD), who was familiar with Islam and Arabic. The second chapter of his book, The Fount of Wisdom, titled 'Concerning Heresies', presents a series of discussions between Christians and Muslims. John claimed an Arian monk (whom he did not know was Bahira) influenced Muhammad and viewed the Islamic doctrines as nothing more than a hodgepodge culled from the Bible.[11]

Writing on Islam's claim of Abrahamic ancestry, John explained that the Arabs were called "Saracens" because they were "empty of Sarah". They were called "Hagarenes" because they were "the descendants of the slave-girl Hagar".[12] In the opinion of John V. Tolan, a Professor of Medieval History, John's biography of Muhammad is "based on deliberate distortions of Muslim traditions", but Tolan does not elaborate his statement.[13]

Notable early critics of Islam included:

Medieval Islamic world

In the early centuries of the Islamic Caliphate, the Islamic law allowed citizens to freely express their views, including criticism of Islam and religious authorities, without fear of persecution.[14][15][16][17] As such, there have been several notable Muslim critics and skeptics of Islam that arose from within the Islamic world itself. In tenth and eleventh-century Syria there lived a blind poet called Al-Ma'arri. He became well known for a poetry that was affected by a "pervasive pessimism." He labeled religions in general as "noxious weeds" and said that Islam does not have a monopoly on truth. He had particular contempt for the ulema, writing that:

They recite their sacred books, although the fact informs me that these are fiction from first to last. O Reason, thou (alone) speakest the truth. Then perish the fools who forged the religious traditions or interpreted them!

Another early critic was the Persian physician Muhammad ibn Zakariya al-Razi in the 10th century. He criticized Islam and all revealed religions in general in several treatises.[19] Despite his views, he remained a celebrated physician across the Islamic world.[20] In 1280, the Jewish philosopher, Ibn Kammuna, criticized Islam in his book Examination of the Three Faiths. He reasoned that the Sharia was incompatible with the principles of justice, and that this undercut the notion of Muhammad being the perfect man: "there is no proof that Muhammad attained perfection and the ability to perfect others as claimed."[21][22] The philosopher thus claimed that people converted to Islam from ulterior motives:

That is why, to this day we never see anyone converting to Islam unless in terror, or in quest of power, or to avoid heavy taxation, or to escape humiliation, or if taken prisoner, or because of infatuation with a Muslim woman, or for some similar reason. Nor do we see a respected, wealthy, and pious non-Muslim well versed in both his faith and that of Islam, going over to the Islamic faith without some of the aforementioned or similar motives.

According to Bernard Lewis, just as it is natural for a Muslim to assume that the converts to his religion are attracted by its truth, it is equally natural for the convert's former coreligionists to look for baser motives and Ibn Kammuna's list seems to cover most of such nonreligious motives.[23]

Maimonides, one of the foremost 12th century rabbinical arbiters and philosophers, sees the relation of Islam to Judaism as primarily theoretical. Maimonides has no quarrel with the strict monotheism of Islam, but finds fault with the practical politics of Muslim regimes. He also considered Islamic ethics and politics to be inferior to their Jewish counterparts. Maimonides criticised what he perceived as the lack of virtue in the way Muslims rule their societies and relate to one another.[24] In his Epistle to Yemenite Jewry, he refers to Mohammad, as "hameshuga" – "that madman".[25]

Medieval Christianity

  • In Dante's Inferno, Muhammad is portrayed as split in half, with his guts hanging out, representing his status as a heresiarch (one who broke from the Church).
  • Some medieval ecclesiastical writers portrayed Muhammad as possessed by Satan, a "precursor of the Antichrist" or the Antichrist himself.[4]
  • Denis the Carthusian wrote two treatises to refute Islam at the request of Nicholas of Cusa, Contra perfidiam Mahometi, et contra multa dicta Sarracenorum libri quattuor and Dialogus disputationis inter Christianum et Sarracenum de lege Christi et contra perfidiam Mahometi.[26]
  • The Tultusceptru de libro domni Metobii, an Andalusian manuscript with unknown dating, shows how Muhammad (called Ozim, from Hashim) was tricked by Satan into adulterating an originally pure divine revelation. The story argues God was concerned about the spiritual fate of the Arabs and wanted to correct their derivation from the faith. He then sends an angel to the monk Osius who orders him to preach to the Arabs. Osius however is in ill-health and orders a young monk, Ozim, to carry out the angel's orders instead. Ozim sets out to follow his orders, but gets stopped by an evil angel on the way. The ignorant Ozim believes him to be the same angel that spoke to Osius before. The evil angel modifies and corrupts the original message given to Ozim by Osius, and renames Ozim Muhammad. From this followed the erroneous teachings of Islam, according to the tultusceptrum.[27]
  • According to many Christians, the coming of Muhammad was foretold in the Holy Bible. According to the monk Bede this is in Genesis 16:12, which describes Ishmael as "a wild man" whose "hand will be against every man". Bede says about Muhammad: "Now how great is his hand against all and all hands against him; as they impose his authority upon the whole length of Africa and hold both the greater part of Asia and some of Europe, hating and opposing all."[28]
  • In 1391 a dialogue was believed to have occurred between Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos and a Persian scholar in which the Emperor stated:
Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached. God is not pleased by blood - and not acting reasonably is contrary to God's nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats... To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death.
—Dialogue 7 of Twenty-six Dialogues with a Persian

Enlightenment Europe

In Of the Standard of Taste, an essay by David Hume, the Qur'an is described as an "absurd performance" of a "pretended prophet" who lacked "a just sentiment of morals." Attending to the narration, Hume says, "we shall soon find, that [Muhammad] bestows praise on such instances of treachery, inhumanity, cruelty, revenge, bigotry, as are utterly incompatible with civilized society. No steady rule of right seems there to be attended to; and every action is blamed or praised, so far as it is beneficial or hurtful to the true believers."[29]

Nineteenth century

The Victorian orientalist scholar Sir William Muir criticised Islam for what he perceived to be an inflexible nature, which he held responsible for stifling progress and impeding social advancement in Muslims countries. The following sentences are taken from the Rede Lecture he delivered at Cambridge in 1881:

Some, indeed, dream of an Islam in the future, rationalised and regenerate. All this has been tried already, and has miserably failed. The Koran has so encrusted the religion in a hard unyielding casement of ordinances and social laws, that if the shell be broken the life is gone. A rationalistic Islam would be Islam no longer. The contrast between our own faith and Islam is most remarkable. There are in our Scriptures living germs of truth, which accord with civil and religious liberty, and will expand with advancing civilisation. In Islam it is just the reverse. The Koran has no such teaching as with us has abolished polygamy, slavery, and arbitrary divorce, and has elevated woman to her proper place. As a Reformer, Mahomet did advance his people to a certain point, but as a Prophet he left them fixed immovably at that point for all time to come. The tree is of artificial planting. Instead of containing within itself the germ of growth and adaptation to the various requirements of time and clime and circumstance, expanding with the genial sunshine and rain from heaven, it remains the same forced and stunted thing as when first planted some twelve centuries ago."[30]

Modern Christianity

The first sentence of this quotation, when repeated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, led to a series of riots, firebombing of churches and a Fatwa against the life of the Pope

Truthfulness of Islam and Islamic scriptures


Reliability of the Qur'an

Muslims believe the Qur'an to be the perfect word of God, and as such it cannot contain any errors or contradictions, and must be perfectly compatible with science. Muslims believe it to be so perfect that readers must conclude it is of divine, rather than human, origin.

Critics argue that:

  • the Qur'an contains verses which are difficult to understand or contradictory.[31]
  • the Qur'an contains incorrect cosmological explanations.[32]
  • Some accounts of the history of Islam say there were two verses of the Qur'an that were allegedly added by Muhammad when he was tricked by Satan (in an incident known as the "Story of the Cranes", later referred to as the "Satanic Verses"). These verses were then retracted at angel Gabriel's behest.[33][34]


Hadith are Muslim traditions relating to the Sunnah (words and deeds) of Muhammad. They are drawn from the writings of scholars writing between 844 and 874 CE, more than 200 years after the death of Mohammed in 632 CE.[35] In general, for Muslims the Hadith are second only to the Qur'an in importance,[36] although some scholars put more emphasis on the perpetual adherence of Muslim nation to the traditions to give them credibility, and not solely on Hadith.[37] Most of the knowledge about the life of Muhammad comes from the Hadith, many of which were biographies of Mohammed. Many Islamic practices (such as the Five Pillars of Islam) are drawn from the Hadith.

However, there is criticism of the historical reliability of Hadith.

Within Islam, different schools and sects have different opinions on the proper selection and use of Hadith. The four schools of Sunni Islam all consider Hadith second only to the Qur'an, although they differ on how much freedom of interpretation should be allowed to legal scholars.[38] Shi'i scholars disagree with Sunni scholars as to which Hadith should be considered reliable. The Shi'as accept the Sunnah of Ali and the Imams as authoritative in addition to the Sunnah of Muhammad, and as a consequence they maintain their own, different, collections of Hadith.[39]

Scholars not ascribing to the traditionalist view of either Sunni or Shia Islam, notably Qur'an alone Muslims, point to the prevalence of authoritative Hadith which they aver contradict the Quran as placing the Hadith, in practice, as supplanting the Quran as an authority. This contrasts with the traditionalist view that the Hadith are always secondary to the Quran and that Hadiths contradicting the Quran are void. One illustrative contention between the different sects concerns the punishment for adultery. According to the Sunnah, the correct punishment is death by stoning. This punishment is absent in the Quran, as the Quran mentions two separate punishments for adultery as 100 lashes ([Quran 24:2-3]), or immurement in the home ([Quran 4:15-15]). Traditionalists claim there is no contradiction because the latter punishment is applied to fornication, and interpret the Quran as authorising Muhammad to ascribe additional laws of equal authority though absent in the Quran itself, such as stoning. Non-traditionalists may aver that as two punishments for adultery are already detailed in the Quran, the Quran claims itself as complete without mentioning the Hadith as a source of authority, the Hadith and Hadith-scholars at times give Hadith higher authority than the Quran.[40]

Lack of secondary evidence

The traditional view of Islam has also been criticised for the lack of supporting evidence consistent with that view, such as the lack of archaeological evidence, and discrepancies with non-Muslim literary sources.[41]



Muhammed is considered the prophet for Islam, its founder, and, by implication, a model for followers. Critics such as Sigismund Koelle and former Muslim Ibn Warraq see some of Mohammed's actions as immoral.[4][5]

Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf wrote a poetic eulogy commemorating the slain Quraish notables; later, he had traveled to Mecca and provoked the Quraish to fight the Prophet. He also wrote erotic poetry about Muslim women, which offended the Muslims there.[42] This poetry influenced so many [43] that this too was considered directly against the Constitution of Medina which states, loyalty gives protection against treachery and this document will not (be employed to) protect one who is unjust or commits a crime. Other sources also state that he was plotting to assassinate Muhammad.[44] Muhammad called upon his followers to kill Ka'b. Muhammad ibn Maslama offered his services, collecting four others. By pretending to have turned against Muhammad, Muhammad ibn Maslama and the others enticed Ka'b out of his fortress on a moonlit night,[42] and killed him in spite of his vigorous resistance.[45] The Jews were terrified at his assassination, and as the historian Ibn Ishaq put it "...there was not a Jew who did not fear for his life".[46]

Morality of the Qur'an

Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the literal word of God as recited to Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. Criticism of the Qur'an generally consists of questioning traditional claims about the Qur'an's composition and content.

It is a central tenet of Islam that the Qur'an is perfect, so criticism of the Qur'an is considered criticism of Islam.

This is a list of critical arguments:

  • Critics argue that the Qur'anic verse 4:34 allows Muslim men to discipline their wives by striking them.[47] (There is however confusion amongst translations of Qur'an with the original Arabic term "wadribuhunna" being translated as "to go away from them",[48] "beat",[49] "strike lightly" and "separate".[50]
  • Critics claim that violence is implicit in the Qur'anic text, and that Islam itself, not just Islamism, promotes terrorism.[51][52]
  • Some critics argue that the Qur'an is incompatible with other religious scriptures, attacks and advocates hate against people of other religions.[6][6][53][54][55]
Decision of a Fatwa committee on the case of a convert to Christianity: "Since he left Islam, he will be invited to revert. If he does not revert, he will be killed pertaining to rights and obligations of the Islamic law." The fatwa outlines the same procedure and penalty for the male convert's children, on reaching the age of puberty.


Islamic law

Bernard Lewis summarizes:

The penalty for apostasy in Islamic law is death. Islam is conceived as a polity, not just as a religious community. It follows therefore that apostasy is treason. It is a withdrawal, a denial of allegiance as well as of religious belief and loyalty. Any sustained and principled opposition to the existing regime or order almost inevitably involves such a withdrawal.

The four Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence, as well as Shi'a scholars, agree that a sane adult male apostate (if he doesn't repent) must be executed. A female apostate may be put to death, according to the majority view, or imprisoned until she repents, according to others.[57]

The Qur'an threatens apostates with punishment in the next world only, the historian W. Heffening states, the traditions however contain the element of death penalty. Muslim scholar Shafi'i interprets verse [Quran 2:217] as adducing the main evidence for the death penalty in Qur'an.[58] The historian Wael Hallaq states the later addition of death penalty "reflects a later reality and does not stand in accord with the deeds of the Prophet." He further states that "nothing in the law governing apostate and apostasy derives from the letter of the holy text."[59]

William Montgomery Watt, in response to a question about Western views of the Islamic Law as being cruel, states that "In Islamic teaching, such penalties may have been suitable for the age in which Muhammad lived. However, as societies have since progressed and become more peaceful and ordered, they are not suitable any longer."[60]

Some contemporary Islamic jurists from both the Sunni and Shi'a denominations together with Qur'an only Muslims have argued or issued fatwas that state that either the changing of religion is not punishable or is only punishable under restricted circumstances.[61][62][63][64][65][66] For example, Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri argues that no Qur'anic verse prescribes an earthly penalty for apostasy and adds that it is not improbable that the punishment was prescribed by Muhammad at early Islam due to political conspiracies against Islam and Muslims and not only because of changing the belief or expressing it. Montazeri defines different types of apostasy. He does not hold that a reversion of belief because of investigation and research is punishable by death but prescribes capital punishment for a desertion of Islam out of malice and enmity towards the Muslim.[67]

According to Yohanan Friedmann, an Israeli Islamic Studies scholar, a Muslim may stress tolerant elements of Islam (by for instance adopting the broadest interpretation of Qur'an 2:256 ("No compulsion is there in religion...") or the humanist approach attributed to Ibrahim al-Nakha'i), without necessarily denying the existence of other ideas in the Medieval Islamic tradition but rather discussing them in their historical context (by for example arguing that "civilizations comparable with the Islamic one, such as the Sassanids and the Byzantines, also punished apostasy with death. Similarly neither Judaism nor Christianity treated apostasy and apostates with any particular kindness").[68] Friedmann continues:

The real predicament facing modern Muslims with liberal convictions is not the existence of stern laws against apostasy in medieval Muslim books of law, but rather the fact that accusations of apostasy and demands to punish it are heard time and again from radical elements in the contemporary Islamic world.


In Sudan, 2007, British school teacher Gillian Gibbons was sent to prison for 15 days after being convicted of "inciting religious hatred for letting her pupils name a teddy bear Mohamed." Gibbons "escaped a sentence of 40 lashes after apologising to the court for any offence she had caused."[69]

Human rights conventions

Some widely held interpretations of Islam are inconsistent with Human Rights conventions that recognize the right to change religion.[70][71]

In particular article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[72] states:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

To implement this, Article 18 (2) of the ICCPR states:

No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion of his choice.

The right for Muslims to change their religion is not afforded by the Iranian Shari'ah law, which specifically forbids it.[70][71][73]

Muslim countries such as Sudan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, have the death penalty for apostasy from Islam.[74]

These countries have criticized the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for its perceived failure to take into account the cultural and religious context of non-Western countries.

In 1990, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference published a separate Cairo Declaration of Human Rights compliant with Shari'ah.[75] Although granting many of the rights in the UN declaration, it does not grant Muslims the right to convert to other religions, and restricts freedom of speech to those expressions of it that are not in contravention of the Islamic law.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami,[76] wrote a book called Human Rights in Islam,[77] in which he argues that respect for human rights has always been enshrined in Sharia law (indeed that the roots of these rights are to be found in Islamic doctrine)[78] and criticizes Western notions that there is an inherent contradiction between the two.[79] Western scholars have, for the most part, rejected Maududi's analysis.[80][81][82]


Some have stated that "women are not treated as equal members" of Muslim societies[8] and have criticized Islam for condoning this treatment.[9]

The term "Muslim apartheid" has been used to highlight religious isolation in France as well as gender segregation practices.[83][84]

Sharia is criticized for advocating the death penalty.[85]


Critics such as lesbian activist Irshad Manji,[86] former Muslims Ehsan Jami and the Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, have criticized Islam's attitudes towards homosexuals. Most international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, condemn Islamic laws that make homosexual relations between consenting adults a crime. Since 1994 the United Nations Human Rights Committee has also ruled that such laws violated the right to privacy guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Most Muslim nations[specify] claim that such laws are necessary to preserve Islamic morality and virtue.[87] In May 2008, the sexual rights lobby group Lambda Istanbul (based in Istanbul, Turkey) was banned by court order for violating a constitutional provision on the protection of the family and an article banning bodies with objectives that violate law and morality.[88] Then this decision taken to the Supreme Court and the ban lifted.[citation needed]

The ex-Muslim Ibn Warraq has noted that the Qur'an's condemnation of homosexuality has frequently been ignored in practice, and that Islamic countries were much more tolerant of homosexuality than Christian ones until fairly recently.[89]


When the Egyptian Prime Minister disbanded the influential Muslim Brotherhood, he was assassinated in late 1948. Following the assassination, the founder of the Brotherhood promptly released a statement condemning the assassination, stating that terror is not an acceptable way in Islam. This in turn led to his assassination in early 1949.

21st century

According to Islamic scholar Khaleel Mohammed, throughout the world, Muslim intellectuals are punished for criticizing some aspects of traditional and contemporary Islam. He cited the case of Muhammad Said al-Ashmawy being held in Egypt is under house arrest for his own protection; Abdel Karim Soroush who was beaten in Iran for raising the voice of inquiry, Mahmoud Mohamed Taha who was killed in Sudan. Mohammed claims that Scholars Rifat Hassan, Fatima Mernissi, Abdallah an-Na'im, Mohammed Arkoun and Amina Wadud were all vilified by the imams for asking Muslims to use their intellects.[90]

Self-Censorship around Islam

The fear of criticizing Islam and offending Muslims has led to some concerns around self-censorship.[91] Some writers, such as Bruce Bawer, argue that while the media allows open criticism of other religions, Islam often receives immunity from any criticism frequently targeted at other religions and other topics.[92]

  • Historian Will Durant refers to the Islamic invasion of India as "probably the bloodiest story in history",[93]:1 and contends that Islam spread through India with violence.[94]:459[95] Historian Koenraad Elst makes the case in his book "Negationism in India: Concealing the Record of Islam" that during the Islamic conquest of India, the population of Hindus decreased by 80 million, but Indian history conceals this fact out of fear of criticizing Islam.[96]:34 Sir Jadunath Sarkar contends that that several Muslim invaders were waging a systematic jihad against Hindus in India to the effect that "every device short of massacre in cold blood was resorted to in order to convert heathen subjects."[97]

Islam's influence on the ability of Muslim immigrants in the West to assimilate

The immigration of Muslims to European countries has increased greatly in recent decades, and frictions have developed between these new neighbours. Conservative Muslim social attitudes on modern issues have caused much controversy in Europe and elsewhere, and scholars argue about how much these attitudes are a result of Islamic beliefs.[98] Others argue that Western democratic values and freedoms are being given away to appease Islam, and grant Islam privileges not granted to other religions or community groups, resulting in deeper division.[99][100]

There is also a growing concern of Islamism in Britain, where Muslims are immigrating and urged by preachers, many linked to Wahhabism, to prepare for jihad, to hit girls for not wearing the hijab, and to create a 'state within a state'.[101] In The United Kingdom there are currently 85 sharia courts operating to deal with civil matters[102] and there are also sharia courts in Canada. Critics argue that "the rights of women are being sacrificed for the sake of multiculturalism"[103] Pakistani-born Michael Nazir-Ali said that Islamic extremism had turned "already separate communities into 'no-go' areas".[104] In Germany, Turkish-born author Necla Kelek noted that being Muslim was becoming a "self-sufficient identity" and many Muslims were voluntarily living in a "parallel world".[105]

Some critics consider Islam to be incompatible with secular Western society;[106] their criticism has been partly influenced by a stance against multiculturalism advocated by recent philosophers, closely linked to the heritage of New Philosophers. Fiery polemic on the subject by proponents like Pascal Bruckner,[107] and Paul Cliteur has kindled international debate.[108] They hold multiculturalism to be an invention of an "enlightened" elite who deny the benefits of democratic rights to non-Westerners by chaining them to their roots. They claim this allows Islam free rein to propagate abuses such as the mistreatment of women and homosexuals, and in some countries slavery. They also claim that multiculturalism allows a degree of religious freedom[109] that exceeds what is needed for personal religious freedom[110] and is conducive to the creation of organizations aimed at undermining European secular or Christian values.[104] This tendency to focus criticism of Islam on politics and the non-European identity of its traditions triggered a new debate on Islamophobia.[98]

Cultural Jihad

The resistance by some Muslims to assimilate has been called "cultural jihad". Dr. Zuhdi Jasser defines "cultural jihad" as a process where "these Islamists use, in a most duplicitous way, the laws and the rights they are given in our society to try to work against society and overthrow it." [111]

In Canada, a newly released intelligence report says hard-line Islamist groups the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb-ut-Tahrir want to build a "parallel society... which could undermine the country's social cohesion and foster violence", where they encourage Muslims to "self-imposed isolation." The report states that "Islamist social ideology appears to have gone unstudied, precisely because the use of violence is either unsupported or understated. "Nevertheless, several Islamist movements advocate a rejection of Western society and mores, and encourage self-imposed isolation of Muslims in the West."[112] Similar documents have also surfaced in Switzerland and North America. The general goals and strategic plans of the Muslim Brotherhood are only found in Arabic documents. One for Europe called "The Project" was found in 2001 in Switzerland, another for North America was found in 2005 called the "General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America."[113] An evaluation of this Memorandum was made for the US-Congress and for the Pentagon.[114] Their influence is fast growing, especially in Europe, but not easy to trace while the active members have to keep their membership secret. One citation from the document "General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America"[115] makes the objectives of the MB clear:

"The process of settlement is a 'Civilization-Jihadist Process' with all the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and "sabotaging" its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions."

Comparison with Communism and Fascist ideologies

In 2004, speaking to the Acton Institute on the problems of "secular democracy", Cardinal George Pell drew a parallel between Islam and Communism: "Islam may provide in the 21st century, the attraction that communism provided in the 20th, both for those that are alienated and embittered on the one hand and for those who seek order or justice on the other."[116] Pell also agrees in another speech that its capacity for far-reaching renovation is severely limited.[117] An Australian Islamist spokesman, Keysar Trad, responded to the criticism: "Communism is a godless system, a system that in fact persecutes faith".[118]

Writers like Stephen Schwartz[119] and Christopher Hitchens,[120] describe Islamist attributes similar to Fascism. Malise Ruthven, a Scottish writer and historian who focuses his work on religion and Islamic affairs, opposes redefining Islamism as `Islamofascism`, but also finds the resemblances between the two ideologies "compelling".[121]

Destruction of art

Islam has been criticised for its attitude towards depictions of people in art. When the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan, many took it as evidence that Islam was "implacably hostile to anthropomorphic art",[122] despite the fact that even Muslims were against the destruction.[123] According to 15th century Egyptian historian al-Maqrizi, the Great Sphinx of Giza was damaged in 1378 CE by a deranged iconoclastic Sufi sheikh who was later hung in revenge by locals.[124][125][126] Attitudes against depicting God, angels, and humans led to the careful covering (to prevent damage) of the mosaics with plaster in the Hagia Sophia.[127]

Responses to criticism

John Esposito has written many introductory texts on Islam and the Islamic world. For example, he has addressed issues like the rise of militant Islam, the veiling of women, and democracy.[128][129] Esposito emphatically argues against what he calls the "pan-Islamic myth". He thinks that "too often coverage of Islam and the Muslim world assumes the existence of a monolithic Islam in which all Muslims are the same." To him, such a view is naive and unjustifiably obscures important divisions and differences in the Muslim world.[130]

William Montgomery Watt who in his book Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman addresses Muhammad’s alleged moral failings. He claims that "Of all the world's great men none has been so much maligned as Muhammad." Watt argues on a basis of moral relativism that Muhammad should be judged by the standards of his own time and country rather than "by those of the most enlightened opinion in the West today."[131]

Karen Armstrong, tracing what she believes to be the West's long history of hostility toward Islam, finds in Muhammad’s teachings a theology of peace and tolerance. Armstrong holds that the "holy war" urged by the Qur'an alludes to each Muslim's duty to fight for a just, decent society.[132]

Edward Said, in his essay Islam Through Western Eyes, stated that the general basis of Orientalist thought forms a study structure in which Islam is placed in an inferior position as an object of study. He claims the existence of a very considerable bias in Orientalist writings as a consequence of the scholars' cultural make-up. He claims Islam has been looked at with a particular hostility and fear due to many obvious religious, psychological and political reasons, all deriving from a sense "that so far as the West is concerned, Islam represents not only a formidable competitor but also a late-coming challenge to Christianity."[133]

Cathy Young of Reason Magazine claimed that the growing trend of anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim sentiment stemmed from an atmosphere where such criticism is popular. While stating that the terms "Islamophobia" and "anti-Muslim bigotry" are often used in response to legitimate criticism of fundamentalist Islam and problems within Muslim culture, she claimed "the real thing does exist, and it frequently takes the cover of anti-jihadism."[134]

Deepa Kumar, the author of Outside the Box: Corporate Media, Globalization, and the UPS Strike, in her article titled 'Fighting Islamophobia: A Response to Critics' says "The history of Islam is no more violent than the history of any of the other major religions of the world. Perhaps my critics haven't heard of the Crusades -- the religious wars fought by European Christians from the 11th to the 13th centuries" referring to the brutality of the crusades and then contrasting them to forbidding of acts of vengeance and violence by the Sultan of Egypt Saladin, after he successfully retook Jerusalem from the Crusaders. Speaking on the Danish Muhammad cartoon controversy (which resulted in more than 100 deaths, all together),[135] she says "The Danish cartoon of the prophet Mohammed with a bomb on his head is nothing if not the visual depiction of the racist diatribe that Islam is inherently violent. To those who can't understand why this argument is racist, let me be clear: when you take the actions of a few people and generalize it to an entire group -- all Muslims, all Arabs -- that's racism. When a whole group of people are discriminated against and demonized because of their religion or regional origin, that's racism." And "...Arabs and Muslims are being scapegoated and demonized to justify a war that is ruining the lives of millions."[136]

See also


  1. ^ De Haeresibus by John of Damascus. See Migne. Patrologia Graeca, vol. 94, 1864, cols 763-73. An English translation by the Reverend John W Voorhis appeared in THE MOSLEM WORLD for October 1954, pp. 392-398.
  2. ^ a b Warraq, Ibn (2003). Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out. Prometheus Books. p. 67. ISBN 1-59102-068-9. 
  3. ^ a b Ibn Kammuna, Examination of the Three Faiths, trans. Moshe Perlmann (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1971), pp. 148–49
  4. ^ a b c d Mohammed and Mohammedanism, by Gabriel Oussani, Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 16, 2006.
  5. ^ a b Ibn Warraq, The Quest for Historical Muhammad (Amherst, Mass.:Prometheus, 2000), 103.
  6. ^ a b c Bible in Mohammedian Literature., by Kaufmann Kohler Duncan B. McDonald, Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 22, 2006.
  7. ^ Robert Spencer, "Islam Unveiled", pp. 22, 63, 2003, Encounter Books, ISBN 1-893554-77-5
  8. ^ a b See also Timothy Garton Ash (2006-10-05). "Islam in Europe". The New York Review of Books. 
  9. ^ a b Timothy Garton Ash (2006-10-05). "Islam in Europe". The New York Review of Books. 
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  • Cohen, Mark R. (1995). Under Crescent and Cross. Princeton University Press; Reissue edition. ISBN 978-0691010823. 
  • Lockman, Zachary (2004). Contending Visions of the Middle East: The History and Politics of Orientalism. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521629379. 
  • Rippin, Andrew (2001). Muslims: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (2nd ed.). Routledge. ISBN 978-0415217811. 
  • Westerlund, David (2003). "Ahmed Deedat's Theology of Religion: Apologetics through Polemics". Journal of Religion in Africa 33 (3). >

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