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Islam Never Should Have Been a World Religion

A public beheading in Saudi Arabia

A public beheading in Saudi Arabia

The savage barbarity of the Islamic State, comparable only to the barbarity of other Islamic states like Saudi Arabia, shocks the world.  Critics and apologists of Islam alike are calling for an overdue Reformation to civilize the religion much the same way as Protestantism is seen to have done to Christianity.  But reformers seem unable to bring Islam out of the 7th century, and I would wager this is because Islam is forever locked in place, not just to a point in time, but also to a point on the map.  The biggest problem with Islam is that nothing in its teachings or practices should have justified it becoming a global world religion in the first place.

1.  The world is a circle.

Three to five times a day, Muslims all over the world are supposed to pray facing the Ka’aba in Mecca.  Originally this was just a spiteful way for Muhammad to turn his back on the Christians and Jews who customarily prayed facing Jerusalem in his day, but the further Islam stretched from the Middle East, the less sense this really makes.  Like his contemporaries, Muhammad clearly had no idea the earth is a sphere, and that any line drawn through one point to another eventually connects completely around the world.  So because even facing the opposite direction of Mecca is ultimately still facing Mecca, geometrically speaking, Muslims don’t pray facing a certain point, they just pray in the shortest distance between two points.  Unless they happen to be equidistant from Mecca, in which case they could theoretically pray facing any direction.  His followers have spent centuries developing methods, instruments, and apps to calculate the quibla, even convening a conference of Muslim scientists and scholars to determine how to pray in outer space (which can explain why so many Muslims are prone to believe in faked moon landing conspiracy theories).  It seems obvious that Muslims are just over-thinking something that simply wasn’t thought out in the first place.

2.  The lunar calendar is inaccurate.

All time in Islam is based on the lunar calendar, from the year after the hegira, to the start of Ramadan.  This made sense for desert bedouins without clocks or calendars, but it makes no sense in a modern world with atomic time accuracy and a predictable Gregorian calendar.  The Islamic calendar can never be synced with today’s standardized dates, nor can it accurately forecast years or even months in advance.  Early Muslims had no idea the time of day was different around the world, and that the moon’s phases appear differently in each hemisphere, making the technical start of Ramadan dependent on local observers in Saudi Arabia.

3.  The length of day varies by latitude. 

In the holy month of Ramadan devout Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, which can be a problem for Muslims living closer to the northern and southern poles where “days” can last six months.  Assuming Allah did not intend for his worshippers to starve to death, one must conclude that either Islam was not designed to travel far beyond the Arabian desert, or Muslims were simply not intended to live in regions like Scandinavia.

4.  Nobody speaks Arabic.

The Qur’an was the first book written in Arabic.  If not for the spread of Islam, Arabic would have most likely remained an obscure tribal language spoken only in the Arabian desert.  Muslims now call Arabic the language of heaven and don’t consider translations to be equal to it.  Despite having their holy book locked in Arabic, however, not even most Muslims today actually speak the language (if they can read at all), and non-Muslims have almost no reasons to learn it.  Much has been ridiculed about how humans can be multilingual but the Muslim god can apparently only speak one language.  And conveniently, it’s the same language as the illiterate desert warlord who used his religion for power, profit, and sex.

5.  Mecca is at capacity.

Every year, or at least once in their lives, Muslims who are able to do so are expected to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.  This is a big problem for a city of limited size and a religion of 1.5 billion people and growing.  The Hajj, as the pilgrimage is called, is an annual event and cannot be distributed throughout the year.  Saudi Arabia’s government has tried to manage the inevitable overcrowding by setting arbitrary visa limitations per each country, which gives Saudi clerics remarkable leverage and control over all Islam.  They’ve also restricted access to the holy cities to Muslims only.  Still, some 3,000 people have died in the Hajj in the past 20 years due mostly to overcrowding issues like stampedes in tunnels and bridges, or the dangerous “stoning of the devil” ritual.  The pilgrimage is a relic of a time when the world was thought to be smaller, less populated, and more difficult to travel.  Fortunately for Islam, their religion keeps the majority of them too impoverished to be able to afford the Hajj.  If not for the discovery of fossil fuels, even most Saudis would likely be too poor.  Of course, if a similar boom were to lift other Muslim countries out of poverty, there would be no way the city of Mecca could handle the volume.  In the Islamic fantasy of world conquest, at least the genocidal ISIS seems to readily acknowledge that the earth’s population would have to be drastically reduced if the whole world were to be Muslim.

The goal of expecting Islam to behave like all the civilized world religions is hopeless, Islam will never truly be a world religion in the usual sense.  Expecting Muslims to abandon 7th century barbarism is as futile as expecting them to abandon flat-earth models of direction or the lunar calendar.  And even though Muslims might say they don’t approve of Saudi Arabia’s innumerable crimes against humanity, their criticism stops short when it comes to fulfilling their religious obligations to visit the country or just to pray facing it every day.  To do otherwise would no longer be the same religion, so we shouldn’t be surprised when Arabia’s appendages in the Islamic State resemble that godforsaken desert.  Without the cultural attachments to Arabia, Islam would just be a benign unitarianism, for unitarians can’t as easily justify beheading nonbelievers.  Islam isn’t just a product of its time, it’s a product of its place.  It can no more be taken out of the desert than it can be taken out of the 7th century.

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Free Speech and Islam

Recently, some ads critical of Islam went up on buses in San Francisco, courtesy of controversial blogger Pamela Geller.  Not long after that, it appeared several of these ads had been defaced.  The graffiti artist covered up the message with one of their own, as well as the image of Muslim superhero Kamala Khan, the new Ms. Marvel introduced a year ago by Marvel Comics.  The book’s muslim writer, G. Willow Wilson, approved of the graffiti on twitter.

I first heard about all this through Gawker’s io9 blog, which wasn’t very helpful because it didn’t even give any description of the content that it dismissed as “Islamophobic.”  Since their editors lacked either the journalistic integrity or the courage to print that, I’ll have to do it myself.  Next to a photo of Adolf Hitler with Muslim leader Haj Amin al-Husseini, it reads: “Islamic Jew-hatred: It’s in the Quran. Two-thirds of all US aid goes to Islamic countries. Stop the hate. End all aid to Islamic countries.”

msmarvel

The messages being sent by the vandals were confusing to say the least.  One says, “Stamp out racism”, the honor brigade‘s usual method of shutting out critics of Islam by calling them racists, even though Islam is not a race.  Another reads, “Free speech isn’t a license to spread hate”, the typical Muslim concession to a vague idea of free speech as long it doesn’t protect anything they object to.  Of course, Muslim leaders never seem to be as concerned with stopping their own from saying or doing things that other religions might find offensive.

It’s a threat to free speech whenever a group or individual believes they alone have the authority to determine what criticisms about their ideology can be seen by the public, let alone to enforce that interpretation through criminal acts.  In this case the vandals could have bought their own rival ads, or swayed public opinion through a protest or a boycott.  They could have easily taken a free picture, defaced the ads in photoshop, and then posted it on the internet and that wouldn’t have been illegal.  But regrettably, this exemplifies the disturbing trend of Muslims breaking the law whenever they don’t like something somebody says about their religion.  A few weeks ago, Muslim terrorists killed a dozen innocent people in Paris over a silly cartoon.  The government of Saudi Arabia condemned those terrorists, but then proceeded to flog blogger Raif Badawi the very next week.  And now, a manufactured representative of moderate Islam is being used to shut out another critical message with her creator’s blessing.  While they don’t all resort to physical violence (aside from property damage, of course), all of these from moderate to extremists are nevertheless examples of opposition to free speech by force.  The only discernible difference is not their level of tolerance for opposing speech, just the level of force they’re willing to exert to silence it.  It’s par for the course that a Muslim superhero is the champion of suppressing free speech.

Of course, Kamala Khan doesn’t speak for all Muslims, or even all moderate Muslims, but where are the voices of moderate Islam standing up for all free speech, not just sharia approved speech?  After the Charlie Hebdo attacks Alternet was quick to compile a list of 45 Islamic organizations denouncing the terrorism, yet this list seems less reassuring when put under scrutiny.  For starters, one of the examples (#18) is the brutal Saudi dictatorship which actively suppresses dissent with violence.  Another three are Ahmadi organizations (#’s 2, 7, and 15).  Although Ahmadiyya is the only sect of Islam that totally rejects violence as a matter of doctrine, they are at most only 1% of the worldwide Muslim population and generally considered heretics and persecuted by the greater Muslim majority, to the extent that it’s practically illegal to be an Ahmadi Muslim in several countries.  While their denunciation of violence is greatly appreciated, it not really statistically relevant because we could always count on this 1% to denounce violence, the other 99% of Muslims are the more important question.  It’s rather dishonest of Alternet to have such a small minority disproportionately representative of 6% of their sampling.  Even including Saudi Arabia, if the percentage of extremists truly were as tiny as Muslim apologists claim, then we could optimistically expect more than 90 responses for every Ahmadiyya organization that Alternet can find.  For 1 Ahmadi statement, there should theoretically be 99 statements representing the Ummah, but what we see instead is a huge blind spot of more than half the Muslim population.  This is why it’s important for Muslims everywhere to denounce violence and extremism as loudly and often as possible, because the world really has no clue where the majority stands.

G. Willow Wilson mistakenly believes the graffiti is also free speech, saying on twitter:  “To me, the graffiti is part of the back-and-forth of the free speech conversation. Call and response. Argument, counterargument.”  Some of her supporters have argued the mantra that the response to free speech is more speech, but anybody who can do basic math can see that the ads started with one message and ended with still only a single message.

Unfortunately, many misguided Western liberals have been swayed by the apologist’s “hate speech” argument.  Even if the media didn’t publish the content of the original message, they took their word that it must have been “Islamophobic”.  But while it should have mattered to those defending the censorship, the content really doesn’t matter to those who believe in the principle of freedom of speech.  One doesn’t have to approve of the message, but if you approve of it being suppressed, then you don’t really believe in free speech.  Like it or not, so-called hate speech is still free speech, and the idea of free speech exists for no reason other than to protect speech that somebody doesn’t like.  You’re not really a liberal if you support an oppressive religion silencing free speech.

Faster than you can cry “no true Scotsman!” I will argue that free speech is inseparable from liberty and liberalism–it’s a defining characteristic.  A compromising liberal accepting an ideology’s own limits of what critics can say about it is self-defeating, like a pro-lifer having an abortion or a vegan eating a cheeseburger.  Doing certain things that go completely against a professed ideology can exclude oneself from that identity.  And make no mistake, giving authoritarian religions control back over their own narratives is in effect neutering the progress of the Enlightenment and taking civilization back to the Dark Ages.  While you may freely agree with the Muslims that the criticism in question is incorrect or inappropriate, everybody should be ashamed of these lawless bullying tactics to take away another person’s right to speech.  Muslims will eventually have to start catching up to the 21st century, and Islam will have to stop being both the most easily offended religion in the world and also the most offensive.

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