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Islam Is Not A Religion Of Peace In Societies Where Faith Is Law

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Following the most recent terrorist attacks in Allah's name in Brussels and elsewhere, the debate surfaced again on the question of whether Islam, as we hear often, is a religion of peace. To answer this question, it is necessary to clarify what is meant by a peaceful Muslim: Is it enough when a Muslim distances himself from the Islamic State, even though he or she rejects the universal human rights such as freedom of religion and belief?

I will not be discussing this question from a theological point of view. Such an approach is unproductive. We can find in the Koran and hadiths both peaceful and violence verses. Instead, I will focus on the religion in terms of its actual social practice, to try to analyze the conditions in the countries where Muslims are the majority.

Do tolerance and social peace prevail in Muslim-majority countries which enshrine "Islam" in law? Nowadays in most such countries, atheists, apostates and those who convert to another religion are persecuted.

According to the NGO International Humanist and Ethical Union, there are 13 countries where expressing atheism is punishable by the death penalty. What these countries have in common, despite their differences: Islam is the state religion.

Islamic extremism and terrorism cannot be fought effectively without raising the discussion within Muslim societies, and calling for an Islam of tolerance towards non-believers.

In a religion of peace, freedom of conscience and belief should be guaranteed to everyone. One could, if one did not know better, argue that it is the case with Islam. One might think for example that the problem is only with the laws of those countries, which do not reflect the actual will of Muslims.

Unfortunately, the facts speak a different language. It is not a rare occurrence that angry mobs of Muslims flock through the streets to punish, vigilante-style, or demand punishment against those who are considered apostates or blasphemers.

In Mauritania, for example, in 2015 after the Friday prayers, a group of angry protesters demanded the death penalty for blogger Mohamed Ould Cheikh Mkheitir.

His offence? He dared to criticize slavery in Mauritania in an article, and argued that the Prophet and the traditional interpretation of Islam legitimize slavery.

Or in Bangladesh in 2013, the streets of the capital Dhaka filled with angry crowds demonstrating against atheists. Since then there have been several such rallies, and five bloggers were murdered in cold blood by fundamentalist jihadi Muslims. The bloggers had advocated for science and rationality, defended various minority groups and human rights, and sometimes criticized and satirized religion.

islamic blogger

According to a survey of Pew Forum 2013, a majority of Muslims supported the introduction of Islamic law, Shariah, in their respective countries: 84 per cent of Muslims in Pakistan, 83 per cent in Morocco and 74 per cent in Egypt.

The survey also brought to light that 84 per cent of surveyed Palestinians and 81 per cent of surveyed Egyptians were for the death penalty by stoning for adultery, while "only" 44 per cent of Tunisians agreed with that statement.

And as for the death penalty for apostates, it was supported in Egypt by a whopping majority of 86 per cent; in Tunisia, a sizeable minority of 29 per cent.

Such statistics speak clearly about Islam and Muslim societies. These intolerant and violent views that fly in the face of internationally agreed-upon human rights standards and which are denounced in the West, quite rightly, as "medieval" are the stuff of which the Islamic State is made.

The Islamic terror in Europe is, in fact, a reflection of the current mess in many parts of the Muslim world.

Islamic extremism and terrorism cannot be fought effectively without raising the discussion within Muslim societies, and calling for an Islam of tolerance towards non-believers.

Is Islam a religion of peace? It is a cop-out to assert that it is by referring to certain verses from here and there, or by distancing yourself from terror and its perpetrators. But those who blinker themselves so often have no problem with Shariah; they do not flinch at the idea of the death penalty and barbaric corporal punishments, such as public flogging, even for innocuous "crimes" such as being gay or leaving religion. The Islamic terror in Europe is, in fact, a reflection of the current mess in many parts of the Muslim world.

While we cannot find an adequate solution to this huge problem of widespread fundamentalism, we must call it like it is without fearing the anger of fundamentalists or cowering before labels such as "Islamophobe," spouted by regressive leftists and moderate Muslims who are too ashamed to admit the problems within their own religion.

Islam today, as it is enshrined in most Muslim countries and in the minds of far too many Muslims -- a clear majority in many countries -- is not a religion of peace, but a religion of oppression and intolerance.

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