:: Article

Genetically-Modified Islam

By Andy Blade.

Thank you, Michael Muhammad Knight for responding to my article “Islam Calling”. I would have left it at that, too much time has been wasted already on this tedious issue — but there is one very serious point I was trying to make that perhaps I should have focused on more: the claim that Islam is a religion of peace. I will make the make the point now as clearly as I can, and then I will shut up and never mention the dreaded I or M words again.

Knight objects to my maintaining that his interpretation of Islam, is not “the real deal”. For his sake, and all the others like him who claim to follow “true Islam”, I will make myself a bit clearer.

This whole ‘intepretation’ thing needs clarifying once and for all.

Knight is not “generally perceived as a defender of Islam,” he tells us, but like all ‘interpreters’ of the Koran, he feels the need to justify his particular understanding of Islam — because if he doesn’t we might think he is stupid for believing in a load of old nonsense and/or that he is nasty and supports terrorism, which of course he isn’t and he doesn’t. I like what I know of him and I enjoyed his book The Taqwacores. Anyone who “stink-palms” 1970’s rock icons is alright by me, even though I don’t have a clue what it means. He has every right to defend the book of his chosen religion, even the bits that leave a bad taste in the mouth, because he is a Muslim and it is his duty to defend the Koran, even if he only likes to focus on the more savoury bits and pieces himself. Neither he nor any other Muslim can actually condemn the nasty bits, but they seem nervously content to either gloss over them, or offer a metaphorical, alternative meaning. This tacit support of the unpleasant surahs in the Koran that implore its followers to…well, to do what terrorists do, is the crux of the matter. It will always come back to this sticking point because:

The Koran appeals to extremists because it is extreme in so much of what it has to say. It appears to actively encourage scornful, hateful violence on people like me — the unbelievers, the ‘kafirs’ (unbelievers). The kafirs, you see, are as guilty as hell.

And…

The Koran appeals to moderates because it, also, contains messages of peace.

I don’t know the exact percentages of nasty verses against nice verses in the Koran, and it doesn’t really matter. The contradiction is clear and you can see why it causes problems for those Muslims who recognise their religion as a peaceful one — and for those community leaders and politicians who try so hard to win ‘hearts and minds’ (grr, grr, I hate that phrase) by portraying it as such.

If anyone tells you that Islam is a “religion of peace”, bear in mind that they are obfuscating the full picture (to themselves as much to anyone else). Why would they do this? Why don’t they just make up their own manifesto and call it something else? Form a splinter group? Join another religion? “Because why should we allow extremists to hijack our religion?” they cry. “It is you that is doing the hijacking!” the extremists would respond. I agree with that last statement.

Let’s play a game. Sit back and have a little read through the following inspirational quotations from the Koran, then try to re-interpret them as ‘peaceful’ messages.

Sura 9:5,29,41,
“Slay the idolators [non-Muslims] wherever ye find them, and take them captive, and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. Fight against such of those who have been given the Scripture as believe not in Allah nor the last Day…. Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah!”

Or how about 5:51:
“O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: they are but friends and protectors to each other. And he among you that turns to them for friendship is of them.”

Or 4:89:
“Seize them [unbelievers] and slay them wherever you find them: and take no friends or helpers from their ranks.”
“Slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush.” (Sura 9:5)

or…

8:57 “So if you gain the mastery over them in war, punish them severely in order to disperse those who are behind them, so that they may learn a lesson.”

Or how about this delightful hadith:
“The last hour will not come before the Muslims fight the Jews and the Muslims kill them, so that Jews will hide behind stones and trees and the stone and the tree will say, O Muslim, O servant of God! There is a Jew behind me; come and kill him.”

Or this one:
“No Muslim should be killed for killing a Kafir.” (Hadith vol. 9:50)

Even Alastair Campbell would be unable to spin this stuff. Do you feel spiritually-uplifted now? It’s like Deepak Chopra on crack. A religion of peace? Yeah right.

Cat Stevens, although unable to defend himself from a stink-palm attack, is pretty good at side-swiping comments thrown at his religion. This is how he sees it: “Out of one billion peace-loving Muslims, some vociferous extremists, unfortunately, have helped to confirm some people’s worst fears. I feel sorry for that. It’s grossly unfair for the vast majority of humankind who still have yet to benefit from what this wonderful spiritual code of life [Islam – or ‘entry to peace with God’] can offer.”

“I was among the first Muslims to publicly express my sorrow and objections to the atrocious attacks against innocent victims of 9/11 and 7/7. No right thinking follower of Islam could possibly condone such an action: the Qur’an — as with the Old Testament — equates the murder of one innocent person with the murder of ‘the whole of humanity’.”
(from www.yusufislam.com)

There’s that quote again. Notice the word “innocent”. Why couldn’t God have left out that spiteful little qualifier? Is it because He was making this point — that those that aren’t innocent, by implication, must be those guilty Kafirs? And you know what happens to Kafirs, right? Oh, and “no right thinking follower of Islam…”? Don’t you just love a religious power struggle? You see, only “wrong thinking” followers of Islam could interpret the Koran in such a way.

There are those who would step into the fray at this point with a declaration along the lines of: But the Bible/Torah/Whatever has some nasty bits in it too.Who cares what was written back in the dark ages? It doesn’t apply today.

I would concur with that of course. I would also, at that point, bin my copy of the Bible/KoranTorah/Whatever and wonder how God could have made such a terrible mistake in not thinking it through properly — that is, if I believed, in the first place, that the creator of the universe was a vengeful, egotistical pyscho intent on keeping his creation in line via threats, fear and terror.

There is no justification for supporting contradictory, hateful, archaic, superstitious mumbo-jumbo. Quite the reverse in fact. Scrap the lot, I say. Then up goes a shout: No. We can’t do that!

Oh, okay. Hang on then. Let’s try something else. Let’s look at what Michael Muhhamad Knight and other moderate Muslims are wont to do when their backs are against the wall — let’s refer to Islam’s rich and mystical, universalistic and inclusive side instead of its hateful blathering. The writings of Ibn Arabi and Rumi reflect how one can still follow Islam and yet have it mean whatever you want it to, which, of course is excellent news for revisionary apologists who seeks to reinterpret parts of the Qur’an and Hadith to suit themselves. Great! With a limited amount of intellectual cutting and pasting, Islam can metamorphose into anything you like. This is nothing new: interpreting and reforming Islam has been going on throughout its 1400-year history, it’s just that in our day and age it is reaching fever pitch, everyone’s at it, even non Muslims.

I heard on the radio this morning that the British goverment are colluding with the makers of Monopoly in producing an Islam game, which will be on the market shortly. A game for the whole family. Inside the box are a set of cards; each with an article of Islamic Law that needs changing. After selecting a card, the players must consult the Qur’an and Hadith (provided) to see if they can come up with a better interpretation. Then they submit them to the ‘Sheikh’ — appointed before the game begins — for approval. Bonus points are awarded for improving the lot of women and minorities and allowing children to listen to rock music. Be careful though, if your reforms are rejected, you have to take a card from the ‘Apostate Deck’. These contain death threats and a range of painful ways to die. If you manage to negotiate all this and reform Islam, you win the game.

Of course the above is nonsense, Gordon Brown and his gang have got far better things to do than waste time on meaningless gestures concerning ancient belief systems. Haven’t they?

I sympathize with Knight and the vast majority of open-minded, liberal and peace-loving Muslims. Muslims are so emotionally, and culturally, attached to Islam, they are unable to contemplate life without it. Islam provides them with identity, comfort, boundaries and direction. Abandoning it is far too painful and frightening, which is where there reinterpretation comes in. I would postulate that Muslims today are finding it difficult to tolerate the traditional Islam as it has been interpreted by mainstream Islam scholars for 1400 years. So they go off into Sufi mysticism or modernistic liberal Islam and basically project whatever they want onto it, creating a new genetically-modified Islam. This new GM Islam is the Islam that community leaders and politicians seek to encourage. GM Islam will discount all violent rhetoric, it will edit ‘God’s’ words, remove contradictions and get moulded into something that the West sees as acceptable and of no threat. The only problem is, GM Islam doesn’t actualy exist.

So, good luck to you Michael Muhhamad Knight and all the rest of the Muslims who are following their own man-made Islam. It’s OK because Islam is man-made anyway. It was man-made by Muhammad in the first place. So you are carrying on a fine tradition. But I have to say that although I loathe the fundamentalists and their retarded, violent mindset, they score slightly higher on the honesty and integrity meter in their crusade to follow Islam as it was presented to them by Muhammad, than do those that make up their own version as they go along. We should be grateful that the extremists allow us an opportunity to see Islam (and all other religions) for what they really are: outdated, manipulative bollocks, born out of an ancient power struggle that should have no place in our world.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Andy Blade was the lead singer in original punk band Eater. He is the author of The Secret Life of a Teenage Punk Rocker: The Andy Blade Chronicles and continues to play solo or with the revamped Eater. Check out his Top 5 here.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, September 6th, 2007.