August 8, 2010
The Islam I Left BehindBy Amil Imani
Looking back, I see no particular time or event that, in one stroke, severed my link with Islam. There was nothing nearly as dramatic as what reportedly happened to Paul on the road to Damascus transforming him from a rabid Christian persecutor to a devoted follower of Jesus.
My alienation from Islam started as far back as I could discern things. More to the point, I never embraced Islam in the first place, although I was born and raised in a Muslim family.
I believe in a modified version of Occam's Razor, popularly known as the law of parsimony. To me, an explanation with the fewest assumptions is either the correct one or the preferable one. The best answers, more often than not, are the simple answers.
My search for answers has taken me on a journey of discovery in the competing, crowded, and confusing marketplace of ideas. I noticed a universal human need to believe in some power or forces beyond ourselves and beyond the finite and the corporeal. If there were no God, we humans would make one up, it is said. In order to satisfy this seemingly innate need, three major contentions have emerged: rejection-ism, characterized by dismissing any and all gods; deism, positing a god who created the universe, set it in motion, and let it play out without interfering in it; and God-ism, with many gods, that demanded a super-god to sort them out.
Of the three camps, God-ism seemed to me the most attractive and troubling at the same time. And Islam's God-ism -- Allah-ism steeped in superstition, replete with nonsensical explanations and discriminatory Sharia law -- repulsed me. All I needed to guide my life was contained in the ancient Zoroastrian triad of good thoughts, good speech, and good deeds. The Ten Commandments are a sensible extension of the above triad, and the Universal Charter of Human Rights is its further elaboration.
Things Islamic not only did not resonate with me, but they also often clashed head-on with what I valued and loved. What appealed to me and even enchanted me were more often than not taboo in Islam or anathema to the creed. I loved life, beauty in all its forms, poetry, the ancient Iranian culture and traditions. I loved laughter, celebrations of joy such as birthdays, our yearly festivities of Nowruz, my favorite that lasts for thirteen days. Nowruz, this ancient festival, has been celebrated for thousands of years by my people; it ushers in the spring, welcomes renewal of life, and expresses optimism for the year ahead to bless us with good health, abundant food, family, and friends in the land of a civilized, free people.
I owe my parents a great debt of gratitude for not pounding into me a blind belief. They allowed and even encouraged me to think for myself, to chart my path in life. Father was my model. He treated Mother and the girls as unquestioned equals. Mother, by her deeds, taught me that my friends, who happened to be Muslims, Jews, Christians, Baha'is and Zoroastrians, were every bit as worthy and Iranian as we were. She welcomed them all to our home and often at our table.
From very early on, I was troubled by Islam. It labeled people who were all alike differently and built walls separating them instead of bringing them together. Islam, the dominant religion of my native country, stigmatized non-Muslims and even persecuted them. I began questioning the value of religion. I couldn't see much in Islam that attracted me, and I knew just about nothing regarding the religion of my friends and neighbors. I sought answers, but not from the mullah at the mosque because I had a feeling I wouldn't like his answer anyway. I had heard their line more than I cared to. I began reading as widely as I could, and it helped.
I discovered, that historically, as far as it can be determined, all human groups lived by codes of beliefs. The codes were far from universally uniform, either in context or formality. Yet they all served the critical function of prescribing behaviors that enhance the welfare of the group while proscribing those that undermine it. In tandem with the emergence of the code of conduct was the practice of rituals. While the code of conduct secured order within the group, rituals gave it a sense of identity, essential for solidarity of the "in-group" against the ever-present threats of the "out-group."
Over time, the code of conduct and rituals merged, to various degrees, to serve the group. Some examples are religious ceremonies, secular observances, and the mixtures of the two.
Codes of conduct require enforcement. The physically strong, and perhaps the more cunning, emerged as group leaders and enforcers -- chiefs, sheiks, earls, lords, and kings are continuations of this line of authority. Yet all along, there was a realization that an authority or authorities with much greater powers transcended that of the human. The ancient Greeks' various gods, and the pre-Islamic idolaters of the Arabian Peninsula represent this line of thinking.
Among some human groupings, the utilitarian value of prescriptions and proscriptions for the group evolved into the belief in opposing superhuman powers. Good things, such as bountiful rain, great harvest, and plentiful game, for instance, were seen as the offerings of the benevolent superhuman, while famine, earthquakes, plagues, and so forth were attributed to the actions of the malevolent superhuman. The Zoroastrian concept of Ahuramazda -- the god of good -- and Ahriman -- the lord of evil represents this line of belief.
At some point, monotheism appeared on the scene. The Abrahamic religions represent this line of development. One Supreme Being was posited as the all-powerful, all-everything author of the universe. It simplified things greatly. No need to supplicate many gods, or please one and antagonize another. This Supreme Being communicated with humans through intermediaries of his choosing, some so claimed. And through these intermediaries, He prescribed laws and ordinances. Obedience to His laws attracted His blessings, and disobedience incurred His wrath, often administered by human agencies in this world with more to come in the purported next world.
The God of the monotheist is a hands-on God. And Islam's Allah is extremely hands-on. He leaves virtually no room for anything or anyone to do anything without his full knowledge and authorization. In the Quran, it is explicitly stated that not even a leaf falls from a tree without the decree and knowledge of Allah -- just one of innumerable assertions that define the all-everything Islamic superhuman.
In more recent times, another form of evolution appeared on the scene. The work of Sigmund Freud represents this line of development. God was marginalized. God was reduced to a hypothetical father figure who would reward or punish the children, depending on their actions. Yet, a form of duality was posited within the individual: the Id representing the impulsive, the ungoverned by the code of conduct; the amoral, devoted exclusively to self-gratification; and the Superego, standing for the law-abiding, the moral, and the caring for others.
My love of reading the inexhaustible treasure of exquisite Iranian poetry helped nurture me. Along the way, I learned about and revered Cyrus the Great and a host of other Iranians who personified all that is good and in line with the great benevolent God, Ahuramazda. The more I learned and witnessed about Islam, the more it repelled me, for it is much more in accord with that of the agent of evil, Ahriman.
Islam glorifies death by calling many of its martyrs the solders of Allah. Islam preaches superiority of the "we" and inferiority of the "other." It is a creed steeped in superstition, demands blind obedience to authority, and sanctions just about every form of freedom -- the very precious gift of the Creator Ahuramazda that makes us humans. Everything in Islam is in black and white. One is either Muslim -- good -- or non-Muslim -- bad. Men are superior; women are subservient. This life is worthless and should be offered for the pleasure of Allah as defined by the clergy.
Islam is a creed of a primitive age. It is fixated in time and place; it harbors the ambition of taking the 21st-century world back fourteen centuries and ruling it by its dogma of intolerance, injustice, and death. Yet Islam is not only an obsolete vestige of a defunct era, but itself is an infinitely fractured belief that can hardly put its own home in order. The numerous Islamic sects are at each other's throats; sub-sects and schools despise one another as much as they hate the non-Muslims. Hatred, not love, drives Islam.
I came to the realization that the root cause of my people's degradation and suffering is Islam. It is a creed that was imposed on an enlightened, tolerant, and free people at the point of the sword by savages hailing from the Arabian Peninsula during the seventh century with promises of booty and women in this world and glorious eternal sensual rewards in the promised paradise of Allah in the next. With each passing day, I rejoice more and more in my good fortune, in my ability to avoid the yoke of Islamic slavery and its blinders that imprison a billion and half people by walls of superstition, hatred of others, and celebration of death.
It is distressing to witness Islam making headway in the traditionally non-Islamic lands. Masses of brainwashed faithful, semi-literate Muslims, badly underserved in their own native lands, are moving to countries where the "infidels" welcome them with material wealth denied to them in their own homeland, as well as the liberty to subvert the very societies that give them refuge.
Even more distressing are those goodhearted simpleton non-Muslims up in arms defending the rights of Muslims to practice their religion in free societies such as the United States of America. These well-meaning, badly misguided folks don't realize that practicing Islam requires subverting and destroying any and all non-Islamic beliefs and practices. All one needs to see this deadly aspect of Islam is to examine how Islam is practiced in places such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, and even the so-called more moderate Islamic states such as Egypt.
The overflowing treasuries of the oil-enriched Islamic rulers finance legions of pampered clergy with a highly vested interest in maintaining and promoting the creed. Islamist apologists and mercenaries are collaborating shamelessly with the clergy in portraying a greatly deceptive picture of what Islam is in order to win a highly coveted prize -- the West.
Truth can be distorted and even hidden for a time. Yet it invariably emerges. Thus is the case with Islam. Although it is, by its deceptive means, attracting some adherents in foreign lands, it is losing them by the tens of thousands in its own region as more and more people see for themselves the evil belief and deeds of this creed. It is from the ranks of the newly emancipated that voices of alarm are raised to warn mankind about the true nature of Islam. Even a cursory examination of the teachings of Islam, the life of Muhammad himself, and the conduct of Muslims in the world provide irrefutable evidence for the fact that this creed, called religion, is anathema to all that is cherished by civilized and fair-minded human beings.
I am not against Muslims. I condemn Islam and those who support and promote it. In the same sense, I am not against slaves, but I am against slavery and those who advocate and advance it. The very practice of Islam is tantamount to perpetuating and practicing slavery. Slavery enslaves the body, while Islam entraps the mind. Both ideals and practices are abhorrent and detrimental to the realization of our highest hopes as human beings.
I left Islam behind because that's where it belongs -- behind in history. I summon Muslims to cast off this belief. I urge all people to resist Islam's encroachment, not to be deceived by its sanitized version presented in the non-Islamic lands, and to encourage Muslims to free themselves from its shackles.
Amil Imani is the author of Obama meets Ahmadinejad.