Tag Archives: Islamists

Aitezaz Hussain – The Boy Who Died Saving His School From Terrorists


Late for school assembly, many punishments are used to instil discipline into young impressionable minds to build character. When Aitezaz Hussain went to stand outside the school gate because of  his unpunctuality, little did his teachers know this act would prove to the world he had the right stuff. Character to save the lives of the children and teachers behind the school gate – at the price of never being able to go through them again himself.

Remember Aitezaz Hussain, who prevented a Lashkar e Jhangvi (LeJ) terrorist wearing a suicide vest detonating inside his school in Northern Pakistan. This is the reality in Pakistan where LeJ have been behind a violent anti-Shia and militant Islamist campaign of killing from assassination to burning down churches:

[LeJ] takes its name from the late Sunni Cleric Haq Nawaz Jhangvi, who spearheaded the anti-Shia campaign which began in the country 30 years ago as a counter-movement to the Iranian Islamic revolution.

Calling themselves “Jhangvi” loyalists, the Lej – or Army of Jhangvi – began allying itself with the Taliban movement which was just taking over in Afghanistan. Both the Taliban and the LeJ belong to the same orthodox,
puritanical Deobandi tradition of Islam associated with the Islamic revivalist movement in the region. [Source BBC]

Sunni killing Shia, militant promotion of one Islamist ideology over others. Despite calls for dialogue some militants like LeJ continue their bloody campaign, while other groups demand their puritanical conditions are met as the price for spilling no more blood. Maybe some will shout conspiracy that one report has him going to school while a later one has him outside the gate for being late and contradictory reports that the suicide bomber was a boy, another a man. These things in the wake of such an atrocious act can be muddled by well meaning eye witnesses and initial reports. Worse still, is the twisting that such violence is a result of western imperialism and not sick twisted militant Islamists that see school children as viable targets in a terror campaign of hatred.

As Pakistani writer Binah Shah mentions:

There’s really nothing more to say about this, except that Pakistan produces the bravest children in the world. Malala and Aitzaz and hundreds more like them, who face bombs and bullets just because they want to go to school. When will we wake up from our coma, and find the courage to protect them?

I’m so tired of our children dying for our cowardice. I think this brave boy deserves the Nishan-e-Imtiaz, the highest civilian award a Pakistani can receive. Will our leaders be brave enough at least to give it to him, if they can’t be brave enough to fight his killers instead? [Binah Shah]

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Lejla Kurić Rebuts Mo Ansar On Women and Islam


Regular readers will remember I covered Lejla Kurić’s post on Mo Ansar and Islamic extremism in Bangladesh and that she very kindly allowed me to use her illustration of Malala in my first Huffington Post piece on Assed Baig’s Skin Deep Analysis of the West and Malala.

Lejla has written her response to Mo Ansar’s interview on “Isn’t Islam Anti-Women?

Ansar arguably exaggerates the importance of Aisha, the wife of the Prophet, and claims that she has been smeared as a “child bride” by those hostile to Islam. He omits to mention that this is also what Islamic scripture, the Hadith, states and that, consequently, it is what many Muslims believe to be true. Ansar’s opinion may or may not have a historical basis but it goes completely against Islamic orthodoxy, which elsewhere he tries to persuade us is the way forward.

On Ansar’s idealised view of Sharia under the Ottoman Empire:

In the Ottoman Empire, Sharia Law governed uniquely Muslim affairs, and any disputes involving a Muslim party were therefore under the jurisdiction of the Sharia courts. Christians and Jews had similar autonomy in their communities. Qanun was legislation enacted by the Sultan, addressing matters not covered by Sharia, mainly relating to the functioning of state institutions. Furthermore, it was drafted by the Sultan’s private secretary, an Islamic scholar, to ensure there would be no conflict between Qanun & Sharia.

How describing Mo Ansar as a feminist leaves a bad taste in the mouth of Muslim feminists:

Feminism is a progressive movement of solidarity and ideas, which fights for the rights and opportunities women are denied for no other reason than that they are women. Ansar, meanwhile, is a religious traditionalist, and religious traditionalists are by their very nature reactionary. He denigrates the struggle for female emancipation and equality and yearns instead for a return to what he pretentiously calls “traditional models of male-female interplay”. That of course is his right in a democracy. But his views have no place in feminism and there is no reason why they should excite any attention whatsoever.

Do read the full post published today here.

You can read my earlier reply to Mo’s interview “Islam and Women” here.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Islam and Women


Vicky Beeching interviewed Mo Ansar on Isn’t Islam Anti-Women. I expected some tough questioning. For example about acid attacks on women, the “honour” killing of women, the status of women as sharia is practised in Islamic theocracy now, that dress codes are designed to reflect an Islamic manner rather than their own female or personal identity. How rape victims are treated in the judicial system in theocratic Islamic states, and adulterers. Not being able to hold public office or needing a chaperone to be in public – might just have cropped up in such a discussion.

Perhaps the experiences of women going to sharia councils in the UK or the recent documentary by Panorama. The disgraceful attack on defenceless baby girls that FGM is here and abroad.

The answer is that would be a big no. This was a cosy coffee morning interview praising faith rather than a Paxman well done late night grilling. We all have our styles, but not asking a single question on the issues above was an insult to the feminism part of the “Faith in Feminism” site.

Surely for Mo a grilled breakfast would have fitted his appetite for debate:

MA: Yes. It’s quite astounding that the religion which has at its centre a woman such as Aisha, an entire chapter of the Quran called the women and another dedicated to the mother of Christ; should now stand in the dock accused of the worst manifestations of misogyny and abuse towards women. It is a charge which needs to be refuted and with some vigour.

So Mo, in the absence of being asked why those terrible things are happening in Islamic countries to women if religion promotes feminism, here was his most vigorous refutation to a general claim of misogyny:

MA: The shocking truth is that to judge Islam by the worst conditions for Muslim women around the developing world is to create an ugly caricature, one which denies the geo-political machinations behind events and the balkanisation of women’s rights in these lands. The truer picture is that which we see when the rivers or confidence, empowerment, education, peace and prosperity flow together. We can only ask that the world looks towards Yemeni feminist Nobel prize winners like Tawakul Karman, as the real face and voice of a modern, politically engaged and socially astute Islam, rather than those with a Talibanised view of education and equality; it is a hard and closed thinking which wanders around in the shadows beyond the light of Islam. In truth, we may even find that a modern, enlightened Islam has much to offer a West which today, still struggles to find the right settlement for those balancing influences of sexuality, equality and feminism.

What version of enlightened Islam does Mo have in mind for us to judge? Here are some of his words on.






So in this enlightened Islam women should be prepared to be segregated from men whether formally or informally, that women should be dressed modestly – so forget about that party dress because being sexy is pornographic, and mothers the prophet is above your children in status so remember that if they ever become apostates or make a joke that someone overhears insulting the prophet – free speech to insult is not an option.

This is not even an ugly caricature but going by the words of Mo himself. His Islam tells you how to dress on waking, how to socialise, how to speak when you do, who to sleep with when you go to bed and that you had better satisfy each other if married before sleeping. Enlightened is not a word I would use, let alone feministic, to describe this.

Plus we still have this unresolved issue of email advice given by Mo Ansar to a woman suffering an abusive relationship. The only person whose confidentially needs protecting wants to wave it to publish the correspondence – Mo has said no.

The empowerment of women is the key thing to social change – it is an affront to history and the modern situation of women in Islamic countries to suggest that Islam has answered. The advantages for women in secular democratic countries are hard won – and women did it wearing whatever they liked and acted as brazenly as necessary to promote feminism. Women are not inferior – this needs to be clearly understood when your enlightened islam is a woman’s gaze to be lowered in modesty.

Women are being held back by islamic theocracy. It is being challenged by secular, politically astute Muslim women and non Muslim women – at considerable risk from Islamists. The rights of women are not derived by religious scribes – these rights are theirs if only they are not hindered, threatened or cajoled to be less than they truly are. Tawakul Karman survived an attempted assassination by someone wielding symbolically a traditional dagger – the weapon reflecting Karman rejecting Yemeni values of women being subjected to inferior status.

Her would be assassin wanting to kill her for practising “politically engaged and socially astute Islam” was a woman.

In the developing world give women access to birth control, education, health care, the ability to manage finances even borrow for investment, and a say in how the community is run. Let them get on with it. The results are proven when you do. Yet we also need a revolution in thinking too. Educated independent secular women will not need to listen to Mo or me.

It is noticeable that support for sharia by Muslims in Europe is a significant minority (18%) according to Pew Research. Compare that to the Middle East and North Africa (74%).

Release women from the tribal, cultural and religious shackles of seventh century thinking and designated roles so they can get on with much needed change. Mullahs, Taliban, elders and other misogynistic pricks are in the way and religion is the excuse they use.

I would also beware anyone who is for segregation of men and women, and calling for women to be modest, being enlightened about anything. For seen in the true light of the real enlightenment such people are shadow puppets to real rights for women.

Follow on Blog: Please Mo Answer – questions by historians Llewelyn Morgan and Tom Holland

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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May there never be compulsion in religion


Religious freedom is truly one of the great ideas to be expressed by the enlightenment. Though we can trace those ideas to other thinkers before, it was this movement which went beyond speaking and acting as freethinkers to actually challenge orthodox organised religion’s monopoly on thought and explanation. Humanism, emboldened by empirical observation and reasoning beyond scriptures, came out of the shadows of being an act of religious reflection. Humanist thought became a way of understanding the world, morality, ourselves and the cosmos without strict adherence to the confines of the divine or preceding tradition. Natural philosophy, and the scientific method ushered in a new era.

Whilst this age of reason is one to celebrate, one of the challenges to the notion of religious freedom is the consequence of leaving a faith – being an apostate. Here I am trying to lay out the battle for the idea of where it comes from and means now in Islam. The reason this matters is quite simply the death penalty that exists, or the process of being excluded by family and other believers, if someone renounces the faith they grew up in. Let alone principles of free speech and freedom of expression which together with freedom of religion are classed as universal rights.

Apostasy matters now

As my good friends at the Council of Ex Muslims Britain Forum (CEMB) observe:

Countless individuals accused of apostasy and blasphemy face threats, imprisonment, and execution. Blasphemy laws in over 30 countries and apostasy laws in over 20 aim primarily to restrict thought, expression and the rights of Muslims, ex-Muslims and non-Muslims alike. [CEMB]

In my critique of Islam I mentioned concern that by cherry picking the Koran and Hadith it gave cover for Islamists to kill apostates. For example:

Qur’an (4:89) – “They wish that you should disbelieve as they disbelieve, and then you would be equal; therefore take not to yourselves friends of them, until they emigrate in the way of God; then, if they turn their backs, take them, and slay them wherever you find them; take not to yourselves any one of them as friend or helper.”

Bukhari (52:260) – “…The Prophet said, ‘If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.’ ” Note that there is no distinction as to how that Muslim came to be a Muslim. [Ibid]

When discussing this with Sam Harris he made these observations:



A modern retelling

In Abdul-Azim Ahmed’s article for the Rationalist Association, he explains why as a Muslim he fully supported the Apostasy project using Koranic quotes to justify:

“The Truth is from your Lord; so let him who desires believe and let him who desires disbelieve.” – 18:29

“If they accept Islam, then indeed they follow the right way; and if they turn back, your duty is only to deliver the message.” –3:20

“And if your Lord had pleased, all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them. Will you then force people till they are believers?” – 10:99 [Rationalist Association]

It would be amiss of me not to point out that Ahmed stresses European Colonialism as having a theological impact on punishment for apostasy in response to machine guns and missionaries. Regrettably, death for apostasy existed way before the British Empire ever attempted to prevent the sun setting on it.

Yet sociological and political factors are playing a part. Acceptance of principles like pluralism and secularism mean challenging concepts such as apostasy. In the battle of ideas some modern theological thinkers are pointing out the subjective spin put on death for apostasy in the past, though often stating such a view is controversial to the point of putting a bullseye on your thinking cap even now.

As Usama Hassan mentions in a concept paper:

There is no explicit sanction in the Qur’an and Sunnah (teachings of the Prophet Muhammad) for the criminalisation and punishment of blasphemy: in fact, the opposite is the case; the few scriptural texts that are misquoted in this regard all refer to wartime situations, and the harsh, mediaeval Islamic jurisprudence on blasphemy was developed centuries after the Prophet himself.[Quilliam Foundation]

The War of Apostasy, also known as Ridda Wars shortly after the death of Mohammed suggests that violence was sadly a means of preventing dissent which was considered a threat to cohesion let alone future territorial ambitions on Persia and beyond. Conquest existed way before modern European colonisation.

The title for this post will be familiar to those aware of The Koranic verse, “Let there be no compulsion in religion” (2:256). A critique of the context of that verse can be found on the CEMB forum site. That rather than a call for tolerance it is the manifest destiny that Islam is the faith for us to follow when quoted in full:

“There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Shaitan and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing.”

Still that is a hallmark of a particular religion that it is the right way. The narrative given in the Quilliam Foundation concept paper: NO COMPULSION IN RELIGION: AN ISLAMIC CASE AGAINST BLASPHEMY LAWS is certainly an answer to Sam Harris’ earlier remarks.

It is the practise of political Islam by Islamists which concern all of the people mentioned above. Where we differ in belief we would uphold the values of pluralism, free speech and free expression. An inherent inalienable right we would agree is religious freedom. I am delighted to see that the Quilliam Foundation takes the radicalisation of people by some within Islam very seriously and looks to challenge that.

Maybe not in the next world

As mentioned in the past I wish we did not have to argue over interpretations of sacred texts but could move beyond them. That is not the world we live in. As such we will continue to debate and argue with each other over such things.

The bare minimum is that none should be put to death for the argument, and dissent from others beliefs should not just be tolerated but considered a cause for celebration in a pluralistic and free society.

Those who believe, those who follow the Jewish scriptures, and the Sabians, Christians, Magians, and Polytheists,- God will judge between them on the Day of Judgment: for God is witness of all things. – Koran 22:17

I hope mothers and fathers can embrace their children no less just because they no longer follow their religion. It really is a matter of free thought and not a reflection on them. However, the fear of the next life is one that still grips people. Apostasy will still concern people even in a free society.

Perhaps until we are free of the fear of death freedom of religion will not be absolute in this life when people consider the stakes are eternity and the blessings of the Almighty are available even now if all follow His will.

My thanks to Sam Harris, CEMB, Maajid Nawaz, Usama Hasan, and the Rationalist Association UK (and Abdul-Azim Ahmed) for known or unknown assistance in writing the above article (which is written by me and not necessarily endorsed by the above) and to @yakuza72 for passing on the cartoon.

Please support the Apostasy Project

My Apostasy Story

Update 18/6/2013: Tribune article on blasphemy in Pakistan

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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