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Islamic Intolerance - By Ibn Warraq

Islamic Intolerance - By Ibn Warraq

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Published by Gilbert Hanz
Muslim theologians are unanimous in declaring that no religious toleration was extended to the idolators of Arabia at the time of Muhammad. The only choice given them was death or the acceptance of Islam.
Muslim theologians are unanimous in declaring that no religious toleration was extended to the idolators of Arabia at the time of Muhammad. The only choice given them was death or the acceptance of Islam.

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Published by: Gilbert Hanz on Aug 08, 2011
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06/28/2014

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Islamic intolerance
by Ibn WarraqWhen the storm over Salman Rushdie's novel The Satantic Versesbroke in February 1989, government leaders and editorialiststhroughout Europe and the United States piously trotted outsentimental homilies about communities living together inharmony and so on; they invariably ended by invoking Islam's"traditional tolerance." There followed a spate of articles andbooks that can only be described as works of "Islamicpropaganda" or "Islamic apologetics"; in other words, there wasno hint of criticism of Islam, its founder, or its doctrines. The mythof Islamic tolerance was built up during the eighteenth century forreasons I cannot go into here. With more sympathetic appraisalsof Islam in the twentieth century, we have a situation whereby, toquote Maxime Rodinson:The anti-colonial left, whether Christian or not, often goes so faras to sanctify Islam and the contemporary ideologies of theMuslim world.... A historian like Norman Daniel has gone so far asto number among the conceptions permeated with medievalism orimperialism, any criticisms of the Prophet's moral attitudes, andto accuse of like tendencies any exposition of Islam and itscharacteristics by means of the normal mechanisms of humanhistory. Understanding has given away to apologetics pure andsimple.
(1)
 Here we have the real trahison des clercs. The myth of the GoldenAge of Inter-Faith Utopia is just that--a myth. Islam, that is, theKoran, Muhammad and his deeds and words, Islamic law and itsinterpretation, has always been totally intolerant in theory and inpractice of non-Muslims. Christians, Jews, heretics, apostates,unbelievers, and atheists--indeed, as Bernard Lewis has remindedus, tolerance would have been seen not as a merit but as a
 
dereliction of duty.
(2)
How could it be otherwise, given that Islamis monotheistic? Monotheism is inherently intolerant, as Humeand Schopenhauer clearly saw, and this same thesis provides thephilosophical framework for The Satanic Verses. Schopenhauerwrites:Indeed, intolerance is essential only to monotheism; an only Godis by nature a jealous God who will not allow another to live. Onthe other hand, polytheistic gods are naturally tolerant; they liveand let live. In the first place, they gladly tolerate theircolleagues, the gods of the same religion, and this tolerance isafterwards extended even to foreign gods who are, accordingly,hospitably received and later admitted, in some cases, even to anequality of rights.... Thus it is only the monotheistic religions thatfurnish us with the spectacle of religious wars, religiouspersecutions, courts for trying heretics, and also with that of iconoclasm, the destruction of the images of foreign gods, thedemolition of Indian temples and Egyptian colossi that had lookedat the sun for three thousand years; all just because their jealousGod had said "Thou shalt make no graven image," and so on."
(3)
 Muslim theologians are unanimous in declaring that no religioustoleration was extended to the idolators of Arabia at the time of Muhammad. The only choice given them was death or theacceptance of Islam. Similarly, no tolerance is shown to atheistsand unbelievers. The Koran is full of lurid descriptions of thepunishments awaiting them. Surah XXII.9 states: "As for theunbelievers for them garments of fire shall be cut and there shallbe poured over their heads boiling water whereby whatever is intheir bowels and skins shall be dissolved and they will bepunished with hooked iron rods."The Koran also enjoins all Muslims to fight and kill nonbelievers:"When you meet the unbelievers, strike off their heads; then
 
when you have made wide slaughter among them, carefully tie upthe remaining captives" (Surah XLVII.4).As Bertrand Russell once asked, can God or Allah be so vain andcruel as to punish someone who does not believe in Him?Apostates do not fare much better. According to Islamic lawapostasy is punishable by death. In France alone, between twoand three hundred Muslims convert to Christianity each year;however, the real figure is difficult to assess, especially foroutside Europe, as, out of fear, the majority of Muslims whoconvert do so secretly.Christians are marginally better regarded than the Jews, but theKoran still accuses them of falsifying the Scriptures: "They surelyare Infidels who say, 'God is the third of three': for there is butone God; and if they do not refrain not from what they say, asevere punishment shall light on those who are unbelievers"(Surah V.75. See also Surah IV.157 where the crucifixion isdenied).They are also accused of worshiping Jesus as the son of God and,like the Jews, they have been led astray and must be broughtback to the true religion, that is, Islam. According to manytraditions, Muhammad himself was determined to destroyChristian churches.
(4)
Lane, in his classic Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, recounts how a young Muslim "receiveslessons of religious pride, and learns to hate the Christians, andall other sects but his own, as thoroughly as does the Muslim inadvanced age."
(5)
 According to the Koran, Jews have intense hatred of all trueMuslims, and, as a punishment for their sins, some of them had, inthe past, been changed into apes and swine, and others will havetheir hands tied to their necks and be cast into the Fire onJudgment Day. The attitude enjoined upon Muslims toward the

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