Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some rubbish on the internet about Muslims can't be "Good Americans"

In the comments section of my previous blog post came a notification of an e-mail making the rounds regarding whether Muslims can be “Good Americans”. Let's take a look, shall we?


In light of the murders at Ft. Hood by a Muslim Officer (who had sworn to defend the people, our Constitution and the United States) this article becomes more timely and real than ever.

What does this have to do with being a Canadian when the first paragraph makes it quite clear this is about the United States? My guess, and this frequently happens with e-mails that circulate around, is that the original just said “Good American" and it reached the inbox of some Canadian who decided to tack on Canada as well. It becomes quite apparent when you read on that this has nothing to do with Canada or being Canadian.

Can a good Muslim be a good American or Canadian?

I sent that question to a friend who worked in Saudi Arabia for 20 years. The following is his reply:

Theologically - no. Because his allegiance is to Allah, the moon god of Arabia.

Right away we get to at least two problems.

1) That for someone to be a good American or Canadian they have to be theologically compatible with a specific viewpoint; and
2) That Allah is “the moon god of Arabia”

Anyone who spends just five minutes browsing through the Qur’an would quickly determine that Islam is an Abrahamic religion. Many of the stories and key people in the Bible are mentioned in the Qur’an (Adam, Abraham, Noah, David, Isaac, Jacob, Ishmael, Job, Lot, Solomon, Moses, Jesus, they're all in there). Allah is the same as the God of the Bible and the Torah. Surah 3:45-3:47 should spell it out plainly enough if you want a reference.

This of course creates a conrundrum for the writer of this article. If Islam is an Abrahamic religion, and Allah = God, then it would be tough to state that it is theologically inconsistent with being a Good American (and let's be frank in case you didn't figure it out, the article equates being a Good American with being Christian). Because if Islam was incompatible than by that logic neither would Judaism, and any non-Abrahamic religion (Buddhism, Hinduism, native religions etc).

So what's the article writer’s solution to get around this problem? Declare it’s actually a moon god of Arabia, thus denying the religion its clear Abrahamic connection altogether.

At this point I strongly suspect that the original writer of this article is an Evangelical Christian living in America, and I highly doubt they have ever been to Saudi Arabia, but I'll discuss that later. Why do I suspect this? Because the “moon god” issue is sometimes touted around Christian websites as part of anti-Islamic rhetoric.

Sorry Christianity but you are not the ultimate arbiter as to who is and who isn't worshipping God. Fundamentalist Christians can claim the moon god connection until they are blue in the face, the actual followers of the religion, i.e. Muslims, all fully believe that they are worshipping the same God of the Bible and Torah, that the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus, and so on.

The recent controversy in Malaysia is an odd one as no other Islamic country has an issue with non-Muslims using the word Allah to refer to God. My understanding is that the Malaysian government is concerned that if Christians use Allah instead of God it could help convert Muslims to Christianity. Not sure how that would work, and a judge threw it out.

Religiously - no. Because no other religion is accepted by his Allah except Islam.

this shows a complete ignorance of:
1) Islam;
2) countries where Islam is the majority religion; and
3) Medieval history of Europe and the Islamic world

The Qur’an does make distinctions between "People of the Book", the Abrahamic religions (Muslims, Jews, and Christians) and other religions. Islam definitely accepts Christianity and Judaism because, while perhaps “misguided” because they do not believe the Word of God as revealed to the Prophet Muhammed, they all do worship the same God. Christian and Jewish communities have lived amongst the Islamic world for 1400 years, and a Jewish or Christian woman can marry a Muslim man without needing to convert.

An Islamic scholar would probably have to chip in here but my layman understanding is that, in general, Islam takes the view that Jews and Christians were given the Word of God through various Prophets (Jesus, for example, is considered a Prophet of God). Because the scriptures were not written down immediately over time the sayings of those Prophets became corrupted by priests and other people in power, so that by the time they were written the scriptures were no longer the accurate revelations of God. (With the number of Gnostic texts out there I could see how this view could be supported.) Thus Islam concludes that Christians and Jews have been unfortunately misled by inaccurate scriptures, which was part of the reason why God revealed His Word to the Prophet Muhammed, to get worship "back on track" so to speak. Jews and Christians do not have to convert to Islam for they are still worshippers of God and ultimately God will judge them. The Qur’an has a lot in it about how someone's intentions and sincerity are important, Allah will forgive transgressions if people were honestly intending to do the right thing, so I guess Allah is perfectly willing to let Jews and Christians into heaven provided they lived a decent life had kept their religion because they truly believed Judaism/Christianity was a proper way to worship God.

The above interpretation is debatable I'm sure and like all religions there would be diverse opinion on the issue across the Islamic world. Some Surahs in the Qur'an probably support the view when some dispute it.

Anyway, to state that no other religion is accepted is false.

Now I am not implying that for the entire 1400 years Christians, Jews and Muslims all lived a happy peaceful coexistence. Depending on the region and at what point in history sometimes things were good and sometimes things were not. But as anyone who has studied Jewish history can tell you the same is true about Europe as well.

Other religions have also resided in the Islamic world and still remain to this day. There are many Zoroastrians in Persia, Druuze in the Levant Arab area, and let's not forget that large parts of India were once under the rule of the Muslim Mughul emperors, ruling over large numbers of Hindus, Buddhists & Sikhs.

Scripturally - no. Because his allegiance is to the five pillars of Islam and the Quran (Koran).

Okay so far this is three religious topics regarding how to be a "Good American" and it is getting ridiculous. Scriptural compatibility? What the heck does that even mean? Sounds even more ridiculous if you relate it to Canada. Isn't America all about separation of church and state? How can one be scripturally compatible with Canada?

The implication of this statement is clear -- a good American has to somehow be scripturally compatible. Hmmmm, wonder what scripture this might be referring to? I'll take a wild guess here that they are referring to the Bible. So I guess Buddhists can’t be good Americans either because of their allegiance to Buddha? What about Mormons, they have slightly different scripture? Sikhs? Wiccans? Atheists?

I'm not American and I have not done a lot of work on American history but my understanding is that many of the founding fathers were actually Deists (Thomas Jefferson & Benjamin Franklin for example), which is why there is a strong separation of church and state built into the founding documents of America. My understanding from attending JREF conventions is that many fundamentalist Christians are now trying to undermine that history in an attempt to erode the church/state separation, this statement about "Scriptural compatibility" seems to fall into this line of thinking. A topic far too big for this blog but I encourage anyone reading this, especially Americans, to investigate the history of church/state separation for themselves.

As for the Five Pillars people need to educate themselves a little bit on what they are before declaring that allegiance to them is somehow not becoming with being a good American, given the strong religious undertones of this article. (hint: one pillar is to worship no one other than God; another is to give to the poor)

Geographically - no. Because his allegiance is to Mecca , to which he turns in prayer five times a day.

This struck me as being analogous to saying Catholics can’t be good Americans because the Pope sits in the Vatican, but I digress.

Mecca is a city and as far as I know Muslims do not swear allegiance to it. One just needs to educate themselves a little as to why Muslims face Mecca when praying. This blog post is getting long, so instead I will direct you to this website which gives an explanation. Nothing to do with allegiance to Mecca.

This has nothing to do with a geographical “allegiance”, Muslims face Mecca to demonstrate their allegiance to God, not to a geographic place. Christians do not make pilgrimages to Bethlehem to demonstrate their allegiance to the town of Bethlehem.

Socially - no. Because his allegiance to Islam forbids him to make friends with Christians or Jews.

This is referring to Surah 5:51, which many have translated as stating Muslims can't take Jews and Christians as friends. Firstly not all agree with that translation (link has some detailed analysis), secondly this is a rehash of the fallacy that Muslims all obey every single thing in Scripture to the letter, exactly the same way, something we would never apply to Christianity. Would it surprise you to know I am friends with a number of Muslims? They don't seem to mind. Maybe Muslims are a lot like Christians and the vast majority of them do not follow every single thing in Scripture to the letter? You think?

Politically - no. Because he must submit to the mullah (spiritual leaders), who teach annihilation of Israel and Destruction of America, the great Satan.

Once again we have the fallacy that all Muslims practise their religion exactly the same way and have the exact same beliefs and prejudices, something I went on about in my blog post about the Swiss minaret controversy as well. And apparently the author of this article mistakenly believes that every single mullah is a rabid America-destroyer (which is odd since there are millions of Muslim Americans).

Yes there are mullahs who are openly hostile to America and Israel, they are the ones who get lots of press. I would not even say that such people were rare, they can certainly be found in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Libya, Palestine, Yemen, and Indonesia. But that does not represent the view of all of Islam, nor all mullahs. The problem is that "Mullah gives talk that does not mention America or Israel" doesn't make it into newspapers so peoples' perceptions can get skewed.

Domestically - no. Because he is instructed to marry four women and beat and scourge his wife when she disobeys him.

Okay let's think for a second -- how would it even be possible for every man to marry four women?

A Muslim man is allowed to marry up to four women, it is not a requirement to marry four women (Surah 4:3), and the vast majority just marry one. In Islam you have to treat each wife equally so it is just not financially viable for most men to maintain multiple wives. Even then the Sultan of Brunei, one of the richest men in the world, has two wives, and the Sultan of Oman married once, divorced, and has never remarried.

I believe the beating women reference comes from surah 4:34. It does say that, but as the last of three options. One translation states:
The men are made responsible for the women, and GOD has endowed them with certain qualities, and made them the bread earners. The righteous women will cheerfully accept this arrangement, since it is GOD's commandment, and honor their husbands during their absence. If you experience rebellion from the women, you shall first talk to them, then (you may use negative incentives like) deserting them in bed, then you may (as a last alternative) beat them. If they obey you, you are not permitted to transgress against them. GOD is Most High, Supreme

Not really as harsh as it is made out to be, but yes it is there. I do question how this is somehow equated with not being a "Good American" since domestic violence is still a significant issue in the West, and slapping a woman was common in movies and TV until the 70s. Domestic violence did not become an issue of American Patriotism, women's rights groups and victims fought hard to bring the issue into the spotlight in the 70s and 80s.

Intellectually - no. Because he cannot accept the American Constitution since it is based on Biblical principles and he believes the Bible to be corrupt.

But what about the Canadian Constitution? (*chuckle*) It's lines like this that make me wonder why someone would tack "Good Canadian" onto the article, did they even read it all the way through? I am quite sure the original author was just writing about Americans.

Ironically this section is about being "intellectual" yet what in the American Constitution is based on Biblical principles? No, seriously, help me out here.

Philosophically - no. Because Islam, Muhammad, and the Quran do not allow freedom of religion and expression. Democracy and Islam cannot co-exist. Every Muslim government is either dictatorial or autocratic.

I already noted above that Islam does accept other religions and a quick Google will find plenty of Christian churches in Muslim countries. Qatar opened its first cathedral a few years ago. I will grant that religious freedom is definitely more restricted in places like Saudi Arabia and Taleban-controlled Afghanistan. Freedom of expression varies from country to country, I haven't heard much problems with Malaysia or Turkey, things are a bit tighter in Egypt, Gulf countries tighter still.

Looking at this list of 205 countries rated by media freedom the highest ranked majority Muslim nation is Mali at #57 (for comparison Greece is #56, Israel #59 and South Africa #63). Next is Turkey at #108 (Mexico is #107), Kuwait at 115, Lebanon at 116. All higher than Thailand (120), Singapore (145), Russia (170) and a number of former Soviet republics as well as some predominately Christian nations in Africa and South America. So the Islamic world is not great at media freedom but many other non-Muslim nations aren't any better.

As for the democracy jab look at Turkey, Malaysia, Lebanon, some states in India, and surprisingly, Palestine, where the West Bank voted in one party while Gaza elected another. Yes, some Islamic countries are monarchies, some are ruled by dictators, or they have elections but clearly one party has a stranglehold on power, but not all of the Islamic countries do, and some may have democracy at local or provincial levels. Democracy and Islam can coexist. To say that every Muslim government is either dictatoral or autocratic is wrong.

And was Christianity a big supporter of democracy? Most of the history of Christian Europe were monarchies with the Church also having a solid grip on power. Some attempts at democracy had to fight against the Church to become established (the French Revolution for example).

Spiritually - no. Because when we declare "one nation under God," the Christian's God is loving and kind, while Allah is NEVER referred to as heavenly father, nor is he ever called love in The Quran's 99 excellent names.

Let me see if I have this right -- you can't be a good American (or Canadian) unless your scripture refers to your God as "heavenly father"? Say what??

And the Christian God is loving and kind!? Looks like the author has conveniently forgotten most of the Old Testament, which does not portray God as particularly loving and kind (was it really necessary to wipe out almost all life in the Flood because people were sinful? How many children and babies were killed? And why kill all the bunny rabbits except two? I also recall the occasional city and tribe being wiped out by God. And did Lot's wife really deserve that? Did Egypt deserve plague after plague just because the Pharoh was a jerk?).

There are lists of the 99 names and yes, Allah is not called "love". So what? What does God being called Love (where in the Bible is that anyway?) have to do with being a Good American? And a quick flick through the index in my Qur'an shows frequent mention of Allah being things such as:

forgiving and merciful (for example 1:1, the very first line! but in numerous other places such as 2:192, 2:235, 3:89, 3:129, 4:23, 4:106, 4:110, 5:98 etc),
a healer (3:38),
that He loves the doers of good (2:195, 3:134, 3:148, 5:13, 5:93)
that He is with the doers of good (29:69)
He loves those who purify themselves (2:222, 9:108)
He loves those who act justly (5:42, 49:9, 60:8)
if you love Him, He will love you (3:31, 5:54)
he loves those who rely upon Him (3:159)

Don't get me wrong there are parts where He is not so happy -- frequent mention that disbelievers will earn His wrath in the afterlife, but then the Old Testament God wasn't a barrel of joy & love either.

Therefore after much study and deliberation....perhaps we should be very suspicious of ALL MUSLIMS in this country.
They obviously cannot be both "good" Muslims and good Americans or Canadians.

After much STUDY! What studying?! Five minutes with a Qur'an dismisses many of the arguments, two minutes Googling dismisses most of the others. Anyone with half a brain about Canada could see the "Good Canadian" was just a tack-on, and I suspect some research into the history of the separation of church and state in America would undermine the not-so-hidden Christian undertone to being a "Good American". Oh, and the writer supposedly has lived in Saudi Arabia for 20 years, yet clearly does not know anything about the Qur'an? Uh-huh, right.

Call it what you's still the truth.

Truth? How about what this really is -- a pack of deliberate lies, fallacies, & deception mixed with denial and an inability to research the topic, with a pinch of hypocrisy. Had I mentioned the hypocrisy yet? This article loves to go on about how Islam cannot tolerate other religions, yet this article is chock-full of intolerance for other religions. It demands suspicion of an entire religious group, and the "Good American" criteria would exclude all other religions as well -- except Christianity of course.

If you find yourself intellectually in agreement with the above statements, perhaps you will share this with your friends. The more who understand this, the better it will be for our country and our future. The religious war is bigger than we know or understand!

If you find yourself "intellectually" buying into this drivel you checked your brain at the door long ago. I strongly advise you to take a course in critical thinking, or to start training yourself to do a bit of research on e-mail chains like this before getting all outraged and passing it on your friends.

Honestly, there are many problems in the Islamic world, but promoting nonsense like this is not going to help. Imagine if Gordon Brown went to Egypt to negotiate a treaty and people were protesting his visit, or the Egyptian Government was "suspicious" of him, because the Bible has a section in it about selling your daughters into slavery! Do you honestly think Mr Brown would take you seriously in any way? Do you think any real problems would be solved if people demanded that no other negotiations take place until this "daughter-slavery" problem was dealt with in the UK?

This is part of the problem the West has right now. So many Westerners do not understand Islam or the Islamic world and because of it they easily fall for a bunch of mistruths that turns attention away from the real issues and instead to red herrings like wondering if they can be a "Good Canadian".

This blog post gets both an "Islam" and "Critical Thinking" designation.


A 2 Z said...

[MSN Video]
Syed Soharwardy Video Title: Syed Soharwardy

Attack on Canada, U.S is attack on Muslims: imams

To watch this video, click here. [Syed Soharwardy]

Check out this video from MSN Video!

My attempt to send you an MSN video has probably failed. Anyway, this week on CBC they interviewed Mr. S. Soharwardy because he is circulating a petition to all the imams across North America. His aim is to send a "fatwa" to all the Muslim terrorists. He says that an attack on North America is an attack against the 10 million Muslims living here. Of all the imams, only 10 signed it. When asked why so few signed it he said that certain imams are under the "guidance" of their old countries. They are afraid of reprisals. Its the understanding of many North Americans that if we are ever attacked by a Muslim country, the Canadian or American Muslim would not come to our rescue. I hope you can find the interview. Thanks for all your hard work debunking the previous e-mail.

Glen McKay said...

Can't find the interview but did find a news article:
No mention of other imams being afraid, or a discussion of the number.

We would also need to know how many imams there are in N. America (9 in Canada have signed, probably a reasonable number given that I highly doubt there are hundreds of imams there)

The Dicklomat said...


You've done a great job refuting the author's arguments. It was a joy to read. However, it seems to me that you shouldn't have to confront the author on THEIR terms, which appear to be based on false premises.

Perhaps you can tackle this from the other end as well by following up your post with a credible definition of what a "good American" ACTUALLY is (starting with the dictionary or other proper definition of the term "American" followed by some objective means of qualifying good from bad along a scale...if this is possible in terms of the definition), and see whether or not Muslims would be excluded by THAT definition?

I expect this would moot the author's whole argument from the get-go. That being said, I'll bet it was a lot more fun (and more informative) to give the author benifit of the doubt on their definition of "good American" and then confront them with their own logical/factual inconsistencies!

- Jason

Kerry said...

There is somewhere HERE a European High Commission decision in which they found that Sharia Law was incompatible with democracy.

Obviously, there are 2 world views at play here. I think one of the great issues is that Sharia Law asks men to be responsible for women, denying them certain freedoms that men enjoy. Muslims perhaps see this as virtuous. Many western women (that I know )married to Muslim men have told me that that is a source of friction in their relationship. These women take responsibility for themselves as individuals and as equal, free partners in their relationships.
For interest sake, read this REALLY?!?! Pay attention to the definition, by the head of the national organization of muslim women, of who the real muslims are.

Another interesting list of stats/stories from Nigeria:

Glen McKay said...

Sorry A2Z but I went to your post and the comments seemed to be talking about something else so I did not want to derail it.

Based on the age of the perpetrators and the "plan", which seemed to include just blowing up any random building of note for no particular reason, it seems to me these guys were little more than testosterone-filled goons without a lot in the brains department. I can practically see them sitting in a room going "Yeah man, and we'll get the CN Tower too! That'd be totally cool and show that we are, like, serious." they read some hard-line stuff from some radical and then plan to send a message to show how tough they are. Kind of like some skinheads. In fact, that might be what they are -- Muslim skinheads. All anger against everyone other than themselves for whatever lame reason, gobbling up any ignorance that supports their view. Good on the RCMP/CSIS for nabbing these fools before they hurt somebody but I highly doubt they represent a broader spectrum of the Canadian Islamic community.

Kerry, I'll take a look at the links and get back to you.

Glen McKay said...

Kerry, reread your first link. The Turkish court was against a shari'a-based party, not the EU. In fact the EU court stated:

"The Court reiterated, nevertheless, that the exceptions set out in Article 11 were, where political parties were concerned, to be construed strictly; only convincing and compelling reasons could justify restrictions on such parties’ freedom of association. In determining whether a necessity within the meaning of Article 11 § 2 existed, the Contracting States had only a limited margin of appreciation. Provided that it satisfied the two conditions set out above, a political party animated by the moral values imposed by a religion could not be regarded as intrinsically inimical to the fundamental principles of democracy, as set forth in the Convention."

Turkey and enforced secularism have a long history, which is why they said shari'a was against democratic principles (i.e. Turkish principles).

evision said...

Anonymous said...


I enjoyed reading your post, It’s very interesting, refreshing and slightly amusing. The author of this email is clearly ‘islamophobic’, to use one of the popular terms of the twenty first century.

I know this comment might be a bit late for you, but in any case I wanted to add two points for you to munch on:

First, regarding the idea of submission to the mullah or spiritual leaders. I realize that you did not make this statement but I felt that I could add some clarifications to further expand your argument against this person’s accusations. I would like to point to his use of the word ‘submit’ (whether its use is intentional or not) because in Islam one must submit only to God and no one else. In the most primary explanation, Islamic spiritual leaders are those who have dedicated their education to religion so that they are much more aware of the different outlooks on various issues. They are religious authorities in the sense that they have dedicated their lives to understanding Islam, the Quran, the Hadith etc. Other than that they have no special standing or powers in the eyes of God therefore it would be against Islam to ‘submit’ to any of them. All people are equal.

You are correct to state that Muslims do not all practice their religion in the exact same way.

Second, is regarding the domestic point about how men beat their wives. In Islam the two governing texts are the Quran and the Hadith. In addition, the Suna or the practices of the prophet are relied upon. It must be clarified that the circumstances of such ‘beating’ are specific, and then the extent of such permissible ‘beating’ is also specific. I recommend this site with a detailed explanation:

Other than that, great job.

Kind Regards,
Bint Khalid

Anonymous said...

At the end everything that matters for a Muslim is what is written in the Quran. Even though you may choose to ignore the nasty stuff, you will be marked as not Muslim enough by your more rigid fellas.
Talking about religious freedom and Muslims has two sides:
1. There is a difference about how they treat Jews and Christians and all the other religions. It's true that they have allowed to build Christian Temples, but ever heard about "official" Hindu or official Buddha temple in Qatar. There may be plenty of Hindu, when I see the vast number of indian workers around. If you want to enter one of those temples for a mass, there is a police checkpoint. OK, you say they are checking for explosives, not bad. But they are also checking passports and asking questions...
2. How they treat "religious freedom" amongst themselves? Well if you want to leave islam, the punishment is execution. Being killed for abandoning Allah, sometimes it's enough to just be more liberal. It's known, death sentence was being applied to Christian heretics in middle Ages, without support in Bible, it was abandoned long time ago. However as this is written in Quran and not reformable, these backwardish practices will stay here till end of eternity.