ISIS prisoners moments before their execution.
The world is ablaze in an orgy of jihadi terror and war in the lands of Islam and no one seems to know what to make of it, let alone how to resolve the crisis.
The brutality of this mayhem was best captured in a deeply disturbing video released on the Internet by jihadis fighting for the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS).
It shows a bearded, young ISIS fighter in full battle gear posing for the camera with a decapitated head in his hand.
On cue from the cameraman, the jihadi fighter lifts the head, turns towards it and says, "Hello, my name is John."
Both men then break into laughter, after which the cameraman derisively remarks, "Why doesn't John look like he died of natural causes?"
The decapitated head is then thrown to the ground as another ISIS man can be heard off camera joking: "This guy died of natural causes by a knife ... It cut his throat", to which the cameraman guffaws, "Natural causes - the mujahedeen ... Natural cause for an apostate," before chanting the Islamic battle cry, "Allah O Akbar."
This desecration of a dead body is not an isolated incident.
Just last year the Taliban were filmed playing football with the decapitated heads of beheaded prisoners - fellow Muslims.
And while much of the Islamic community is in a state of denial, blinded to the atrocities being committed by their co-religionists across the globe, the rest of the world watches in shock.
In Kenya and Nigeria Islamists are targeting Christians while in Iraq and Pakistan they are killing Shia Muslims, who Saudi-funded clerics have designated as "Kaffirs'", non-believers in Islamic disguise whose founders, they falsely claim, were Jews.
The apologists among us claim these atrocities are not part of the Islamic rules of war, but that does not withstand scrutiny.
The fact is, no less a person than the grandson of Prophet Muhammad was beheaded in battle by fellow Muslims on Oct. 10, 680. His decapitated head was paraded in the streets of Damascus.
The eminent Egyptian Islamic reformer of the 20th century, Ali Abd al-Razik, writes in his book Islam and the Fundamentals of Authority that within a year of Prophet Muhammad's death, political disputes among the Muslims were settled by public beheadings.
Raziq writes about one incident of early Islam when the celebrated Muslim general Khalid Ibn Walid made a cooking pot out of the decapitated head of another Muslim general, Malik ibn Nuwairah, after defeating him in a battle and beheading him as a POW.
Fortunately, Canada is the only western country that has a critical mass of liberal Muslims honest enough to acknowledge the fact that not all of our history is as unblemished as our parents and clerics wanted us to believe as children.
The slaughters we read about in Syria, Kenya, Iraq, Pakistan, Nigeria and Afghanistan have common factors.
They're the same ones that feature in the so-called honour killings and female genital mutilation of girls in the UK, Canada, America and Europe, as well as in much of the Arab world and Africa.
The sooner we Muslims acknowledge this truth, the better equipped we will be to join the rest of humanity as partners in peace for our common good.
If not, we may well end up in the scrap heap of history.
Tarek Fatah, is a Canadian writer, broadcaster and anti-Islamist Muslim activist. He is the author of Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State and the founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress.
I feel strongly offended to see how scores of articles and speeches on topics such as female genital mutilation (FGM) and honor killing often bypass the secondary Islamic documents supporting these issues. This attitude of denial has only given us the destruction of countless Muslim women and a bad name to Islam.
Records of the empires of Hammurabi, Assyria, Napoleon, Rome and more show that honor killing goes across culture, region and religion. Historically, a woman’s “chastity” is the property not of herself but her family. As this phenomenon now is dominant in Muslim societies, we should look into how sharia law impacts this brutal culture.
Family members of a girl or woman – mostly men -- kill her for “bringing shame to the family” by not fulfilling their expectations of love, sex, clothing, behavior, intimacy, fidelity – including even a flirtation with men on Skype, Twitter, through SMS, etc. Even chatting on Facebook is prohibited, as declared by Sheikh Abdullah Al Mutlaq, a senior scholar in Saudi Arabia.
Let us look at real scenario. After the sister/daughter is killed, there are two sets of sharia law to apply:
Case A - “Punishment of intentional killing is death”. But, “A killer cannot be put to death if one or all heirs of the victim pardon/s him or take Blood Money”- Codified Islamic Law Vol 1 – 41, 44 (The Codified Islamic law is a three volume compilation from mainly Hanafi law written by six Islamic scholars and published by the Islamic Foundation, Bangladesh.)
As the family already lost the victim, they do not want to lose another one (the killer). So, the killer may be ordered to pay blood money to his own family. It is also quite natural that one or all of the heirs of the victim pardon/s the killer. Politically and financially powerful killers in Muslim countries can easily force the victim’s poor helpless family to take the blood money and “pardon” the killer. In this case, the state is powerless to prosecute the killer.
Case B - “Parents and Grandparents will not be punished (by Hudood) for killing sons or grandsons.”- Shafi’i law # o.1.2.4 & Codified Islamic Law Vol 1-65B. [Hudood are Islamic laws stating the limits ordained by Allah and including the deterrent punishments for serious crimes]
It does not mention daughters or granddaughters but in essence, it applies to them too. This law was based on so-called Sahi Hadith (Prophet’s examples); see Sahi Ibn Majah Vol 4- 2661, 2662, Sahi Tirmiji 1404, 1405 & 1406:
These man-made sharia laws and hadiths are the main tools of legitimizing violence in the name of Islam and are one of the main reasons of growing global Islamophobia. We Muslims must apply our right to reject those laws based on logic and human rights.
Application of these laws varies, but honor killers are hardly punished. This brutality is supported by some vote-seeking local politicians in Pakistan. From the Quran and the Prophet we can successfully defeat all kinds of oppression of women in the name of Islam except FGM and honor killings.
Unfortunately, I did not find enough support to defeat those from Islamic sources.
We have a long way to go. Education/enlightenment is the only key. The West cannot achieve sustainable peace leaving the Muslim world behind; we also cannot achieve sustainable peace leaving our women behind by oppressing them.
The author is member of advisory board of World Muslim Congress, General Secretary of Muslims Facing Tomorrow, Canada, and Canada-Representative of Free Muslim Coalition.
Screenshot from the film, The Stoning of Soyara M
Sharia and Islamic laws have received a great deal of scrutiny since the events of 9/11. The negative news about sharia, where Muslims act violently and base their behavior on Islamic laws, seem to be never ending and coming from all over the world. The latest round of bad news is coming out from the countries of Nigeria and Sudan.
For a number of years, the militant group Boko Haram in Nigeria has been causing all kinds of trouble: fighting against the government, burning churches, schools, and killing and abducting people. Their stated goal is to build a pure and pristine Islamic state, without any influence or interference from Western values. They recently kidnapped over 200 girls and are planning to sell them as sex slaves or concubines. News of the kidnapping has garnered a great deal of media coverage.
Leaders of Boko Haram are validating their violent actions by saying they are mandated by Islamic law or sharia, but Muslim leaders and organizations around the world have condemned their actions, denying that the actions of the group have anything to do with Islam or sharia and its values.
While it is perfectly understandable that Muslims in general do not want to have anything to do with the many violent actions perpetrated by Boko Haram, the important question that needs to be asked is: Does Islamic law or sharia condones or accepts slavery and concubinage in principle?
Although, there are many different versions of Islamic laws, and many different interpretations of Islam using the principles of sharia, all forms of Islamic laws accept slavery and concubinage--from the dawn of Islam in the 7th century, till the present day and age.
Under the literal interpretations of the jurisprudential rules of sharia, accepted by most mainstream Muslim scholars and jurists, there is no way of banning the heinous and repugnant institutions of slavery and concubinage in principle, except letting it slide in practice, especially when Islamic supremacists are not in power.
The reason for this is because the rules and conditions for turning free men and women into slaves, the way to treat and maintain them, and when to release them, are all mentioned, regulated and allowed in numerous places in the Quran and the Hadith (recorded sayings and conducts of prophet of Islam). The Quran and Hadith are the two basic, foundational scriptures of Islam, from where the sharia laws and principles have been deduced by the Islamic scholars over many centuries.
The Prophet Mohammad and his companions did indeed practice slavery and concubinage, but they were men of that time. Muslims should seriously ponder the following questions: Do we really need to blindly imitate everything they did in the 7th century Arabia to be just and ethical? Would the Prophet Mohammad, as a true prophet of God, practice slavery and concubinage, if he were to appear in the present age?
Another case, that is related to Islamic law and that has gained a lot of negative media attention, is the case of a Sudanese woman who has been convicted by a court in Sudan on the charge of apostasy under sharia law.
Setting aside the intricacies of the case at hand, the important question to ask is: In general, is it a crime for a person to change one’s belief or religion, i.e. apostatize, under the laws of Islam?
Many Muslim leaders and organizations, especially in the West, are pointing out to several verses in the Quran, chief among which is the verse Q 2:256, which states: “There is no compulsion in religion,” which apparently supports freedom of belief and religion.
But Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who is accepted and revered by many mainstream Muslims as a top Islamic scholar in the world, has stated that apostasy is a grave threat to the whole Muslim community and that it is the duty of all Muslims to fight against it in all forms.
Also he has stated: "The Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-`ashriyyah, Al-Ja`fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed."
This is not only Sheik Qaradawi’s personal opinion, but also the opinions and judgment of numerous authoritative classical scholars of Islam throughout the ages. Not only that, in many Islamic countries, apostasy is a criminal offense prescribed under the law.
How come all of these jurists and scholars seem to be unaware of the Quranic verses giving freedom of religion? Whom are we to believe?
These two cases are only the tip of the iceberg. For Muslims, who have the stomachs, the hearts of compassion, and the sense of equity and justice, there are many websites documenting the violent misdeeds of fellow Muslims perpetrating atrocities against both Muslims and non-Muslims, in the name of Islam, using blasphemy laws and apostasy laws, plus unequal and unfair treatments of women, religious minorities, dissidents and non-conformists.
It is easy to ignore and turn a blind eye to such bad news for some narcissistic Muslims, who want to hear only praise and acclaim, and accuse those who are reporting Muslim misdeeds as purveyors of hate and Islamophobia.
But if Muslims really believe in Islam and have full confidence in their religion, they must be willing to meet all the challenges truthfully and honestly, and own up to their problems.
All of these cases of apostasy, blasphemy and slavery very well illustrate the deep problems with the Islamic laws as they developed, solidified and achieved consensus, primarily during the medieval age. It is now high time that each and every Muslim stand up and speak up to reform sharia laws, else it is likely that many Muslims in the future generations are going to get disillusioned and apostatize en masse, as it happened before in one place history.
During the 1930s, in British India, Muslim women apostatized wholesale in order to escape the strict version of Islamic divorce law they were under (Muslim women needed to wait 90 years to get a divorce under Hanafi law, even if abandoned by their husbands), and one eminent Muslim scholar had to devise a legal stratagem to provide a loophole to stem the tide.
It is reasonable to assume that many Islamic scholars know the dysfunctional nature of the Islamic laws, but they are afraid of not only losing their livelihoods but also their lives, by stepping in front of the masses. Also, in many cases, they do not have the appropriate knowledge and learning to carry out the reforms on their own, especially without a strong ecclesiastical support structure.
There are many versions of the Islamic laws, but all of them, as they stand now, unfairly discriminate against non-Muslims, against every woman and allow the practice of human bondage under prescribed conditions.
Despite all of this, it is not true that all the Islamic laws are so bad that they need to either fixed or abandoned entirely. The majority of sharia laws have to do with religious rites and rituals. Hence, it is vital to separate religious laws and authority from state control and regulations. Muslims should be free to practice the aspects of sharia which are purely religious and ethical in nature. We should not throw the baby with the bathwater, but if we wait too long, the water would become too cold and kill the baby, and there would be no other choice but to get rid of both together.
Islam does not have a centralized authoritative church structure; the religious authority is weak and diffused. Therefore, it is vital for the ordinary Muslims to rise up and ask their leaders to renew and revitalize Islamic laws by abandoning the strict literal approach, and by using the God-given faculty of reasoning and learning from history and nature.
While is true that only an expert chef can cook an excellent meal and that only a skillful architect can build a beautiful building, one does not have to be an expert to taste a lousy meal and see an ugly building. Every Muslim can see that the present condition of sharia needs reform, and it needs reform badly due to centuries of stagnation.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity and victimhood, organizing a series of Islamophobia conferences one after another, Muslims should be promoting and organizing deep-rooted internal reforms by holding conferences, discussions, seminars and open-debates.
Instead of superficial, cosmetic, skin-deep beatification to impress the uninformed non-Muslims, Muslims should be concentrating on deep structural reforms to bring out the true beauty of Islam by self-examination and self-criticism.
There are many bright and learned Muslims all around, they just need the space, the security and the freedom to come up with good ideas for reforming the Islamic laws. Any society that does not protect its dissidents and mavericks is not going to come up with new ideas for renewal and reform. Instead will stagnate badly and languish unhappily.
Honesty is the best policy; there is no dignity in deception. No use in holding up the head when one is a badly suffering from diarrhea from behind; everyone will see it sooner or later.
Muslims are over 1.5 billion strong today, but will it remain strong always, espousing, literal and unfair ethical norms, in the ever interconnected world, where nothing remains secret or hidden for very long?
In Muslim societies, there is always the threat of blasphemy and the religious reformers have to fear for their lives before they can open their mouths. In the West, especially in the U.S., where the First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and expression, that is where the best chance is for the ordinary American Muslims to successfully carry out a program to enhance, renew and reform Islamic laws.
Unfortunately, most leading Muslim American organizations are using the religious freedom provided by the First Amendment as a shield to protect sharia wholesale and thereby putting all Muslims and all aspects of sharia--the good and the bad-- at terrible risk and jeopardy.
The objective of sharia, the project of finding God’s way, was never a finished project in history. The prophet of Islam died without ever holding a copy of the Quran, Hadith or any sharia law book in his hand. It is the duty of each and every Muslim to renew their faith in every age, so that, it is relevant to every situation and hopefully approximates to the true Will of the Creator on a continuous basis.
In the following video of Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Qaradawi says that if not for the Islamic law that one who leaves Islam is to be killed, there would be no Muslims left in the world:
Abducted Nigerian girls shown 'converted' to Islam in a video released by Boko Haram
Recently, on a radio panel about Islamic sharia law featuring two academics from American universities -- a Muslim Professor of Islamic Studies and a Christian professor of Religious Studies -- it was frustrating trying to keep the conversation on track.
Both professors were preoccupied with "The Golden Age of Islam" and "How Christianity went through a similar crises" and other similarly irrelevant information. The real focus should have been: "What is happening in the name of Islam today and what do we do about the atrocities being perpetrated in the name of sharia as we speak?"
Unfortunately, that question was consistently being buried. For many Muslims and especially Muslim organizations, a discussion about Islam and Muslims usually ends up in defense and deflection. Rarely does the conversation focus on half the population: women. That is the crux of the problem. If women are considered only half-human, why dwell on their human rights?
It is our moral and ethical responsibility, as Muslims, to discuss and debate these issues – even though they may be considered "our dirty laundry."
But how are we going to get there when the only picture most Muslims want to paint is one of grandeur and glory of the past? One way is to take a step-by-step factual look at what is taking place in the Muslim world.
Approximately a month ago, more than 200 schoolgirls were kidnapped in the north of Nigeria by a radical Islamist group, Boko Haram – which loosely translated means "Western education is forbidden." Since then, the terrorists have threatened to sell the girls as slaves, force them into marriage and convert those who are Christian to Islam.
Boko Haram and other extremists are who they are because they openly reject the values that make up liberal democracies as in the USA and Canada. These extremists have not embraced freedom and modernity: their aim is to live like seventh-century Muslims -- in patriarchal, tribal societies rallying against Western values.
It took the global media and world powers time to connect the dots; we in the Western world tend to look at events in Africa or the Middle East through the lens of the individual freedoms, democracy and human rights that we embrace.
Here in North America, education for both boys and girls is a given and taken for granted. In most Muslim societies, however, education for women has become a challenge, as we know from Malala Yousafzai's encounter with the Taliban. Boko Haram, the Taliban of Africa, are terrified of educated, liberated Muslim women. They prefer to keep women under a cloak of darkness.
Add to this a hatred for the West and its values, and you have an explosive combination of violence and faith being pushed upon innocent citizens. The question is, why did this happen and what do they want? Is it just about education? The answer is simple: Boko Haram has been trying to impose its version of sharia on Nigeria for a long time, and inaction on the part of both Nigeria's government and global powers has led to this latest horrific act of abduction.
This is not the first time Boko Haram has terrorized civilians and it will not be the last. Boko Haram's members believe that they are doing what God wants them to do. They justify their acts in the name of Islam, and Muslim leaders are intimidated into silence. As if speaking out would render them unfaithful to their faith. Nothing could be further from the truth.
The terrorists therefore feel empowered and emboldened to continue their horrific acts, while the world watches.
In a recent video, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau says, "These girls, these girls you occupy yourselves with... we have indeed liberated them. These girls have become Muslims." It is obvious that Shekau's idea of liberation is to impose his own brand of Islam on the Christian girls who were abducted.
Many apologists among Muslims like to say that Boko Haram are not really Muslims. This is another easy deflection. Deflection is not new. When 9/11 happened, many Muslims said -- and still do today -- that the 9/11 attackers were not "really" Muslims.
But are we deluding ourselves?
Boko Haram leader Shekau, known as "Darul Tawheed," is an expert in monotheism. He studied first under a cleric and then at Borno State College of Legal and Islamic Studies. He states that the members of Boko Haram are following sharia law, so they are self-defined Muslims.
We can find fault in them for orchestrating horrible crimes against humanity, but we can never fault them for being Muslim. They can throw Quranic verses and hurl hadeeth (secondary commentary) faster than we can say "fatwa."
Muslims globally cannot remain under the illusion that because they put out press releases, or state that Boko Haram is "un-Islamic," or not Muslim, they can distance themselves from these crimes against humanity. This is dishonest. If they do not openly condemn Boko Haram and similar groups such as the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood, they are by default supporting those causes.
Boko Haram is part of the same ideology that created Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Muslim Brotherhood. All of them follow a violent, misogynist interpretation of Islam with sharia as their guiding policy. They are wreaking havoc on both the Muslim world and the West.
The sharia that they follow is the sharia that the Sultan of Brunei now wants to impose on his people: it is hostile to women and minorities. Its followers want to persecute gays, bring back stoning and impose the terrifying apostasy laws that are a way of eliminating dissent.
Muslim organizations in North America who are followers of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology have encroached on our system. If they are really concerned about the abducted girls they must first reject the aspects of sharia that are creating monsters such as Boko Haram. This means an open and impassioned rejection of the cutting off hands, stoning, gender oppression and terms such as "armed jihad". This means asking hard questions, such as "how can we live in the 21st Century under archaic 13th century laws"?
Raheel Raza is an award winning author, journalist, and filmmaker on the topics of Jihad and Sharia. She is president of The Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow, and an activist for human rights, gender equality, and diversity.