Saturday, April 27, 2013

Imam Sheharyar Shaikh: Muslim Contribution to World Civilization, MUN

In a recent posting I related my initial experience in contacting our local Muslim group. Subsequent to that experience I heard about a lecture which the Muslim Student Association at MUN (Memorial University of Newfoundland) was sponsoring, entitled Muslim Contribution to World Civilization, as part of their university event “Islam Awareness Week”.

The poster for the event indicated the guest speaker was an Imam named Sheharyar Shaikh, “the former President of the North American Muslim Foundation (NAMF) in Toronto, Canada. He is currently the Imam of Masjid Qurtabah and specializes in Qur’anic exegesis with contemporary Islamic thought and modernity.”

Having my own ideas on the contribution made to civilization by Islam, I determined to attend the event and, when given the chance to speak, to deliver the statement which appears below. Bear with me as you read the statement because I know it seems as though I went with a very biased attitude and pre-conceived opinions. At the conclusion of the posting I’ll explain the surprise ending to the story.


Muslim Contribution to World Civilization

Lecture on Islam at MUN Jan 31, 2013

I hope you will give me a few moments to frame my question and to provide the proper context so I will not be misunderstood. It will take possibly 5 minutes. I trust that will be ok?

If anyone present would like an exact copy of my question, I have a number of photocopies with me. Feel free to take a copy at any point.

The title of this public lecture is “Muslim Contribution to World Civilization.” I came to this lecture this evening expecting to hear a re-making of history and a politically correct version of the influence of Islam. I was not disappointed.

Being a baby boomer my understanding of Islam was informed by the typical and age-old Western analysis which has in recent years become strangely twisted mostly by those in our society who seem to despise their own Western roots. To be specific, my thinking was aligned with individuals such as Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt and Andre Servier.

Sir Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965) was a British politician known chiefly for his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II. He is widely regarded as one of the great wartime leaders, and was voted the greatest Briton of all time and these are a few of his words regarding Islam:

How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property - either as a child, a wife, or a concubine - must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it (Islam) had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome.
[Source: Winston S. Churchill, The River War, First edition, Vol. II (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899), pp. 248-250.]

Theodore Roosevelt was the 26th President of the United States (1901 – 1909). Historians typically rank Roosevelt among the top five American presidents of all time.

Christianity is not the creed of Asia and Africa at this moment solely because the seventh century Christians of Asia and Africa had trained themselves not to fight, whereas the Moslems were trained to fight. Christianity was saved in Europe solely because the peoples of Europe fought. If the peoples of Europe in the seventh and eighth centuries, an on up to and including the seventeenth century, had not possessed a military equality with, and gradually a growing superiority over the Mohammedans who invaded Europe, Europe would at this moment be Mohammedan and the Christian religion would be exterminated. Wherever the Mohammedans have had complete sway, wherever the Christians have been unable to resist them by the sword, Christianity has ultimately disappeared. From the hammer of Charles Martel to the sword of Sobieski, Christianity owed its safety in Europe to the fact that it was able to show that it could and would fight as well as the Mohammedan aggressor... The civilization of Europe, American and Australia exists today at all only because of the victories of civilized man over the enemies of civilization because of victories through the centuries from Charles Martel in the eighth century and those of John Sobieski in the seventeenth century. During the thousand years that included the careers of the Frankish soldier and the Polish king, the Christians of Asia and Africa proved unable to wage successful war with the Moslem conquerors; and in consequence Christianity practically vanished from the two continents; and today, nobody can find in them any "social values" whatever, in the sense in which we use the words, so far as the sphere of Mohammedan influences are concerned. There are such "social values" today in Europe, America and Australia only because during those thousand years, the Christians of Europe possessed the warlike power to do what the Christians of Asia and Africa had failed to do — that is, to beat back the Moslem invader. 
[Source: Fear God and Take Your Own Part (1916) p. 70]

André Servier was an historian who lived in French Algeria at the beginning of the 20th century. Servier studied well the customs and manners of the North African people, becoming one of the few French intellectuals who studied in depth the life of Muhammed. His studies included the Ottoman Empire and the Panislamic movement.

To sum up: the Arab has borrowed everything from other nations, literature, art, science, and even his religious ideas. He has passed it all through the sieve of his own narrow mind, and being incapable of rising to high philosophic conceptions, he has distorted, mutilated and desiccated everything. This destructive influence explains the decadence of Musulman nations and their powerlessness to break away from barbarism…[8]

Islam is a doctrine of death, inasmuch as the spiritual not being separated from the temporal, and every manifestation of activity being subjected to dogmatic law, it formally forbids any change, any evolution, any progress. It condemns all believers to live, to think, and to act as lived, thought and acted the Musulmans of the second century of the Hegira [8th century A.D.], when the law of Islam and its interpretation were definitely fixed.
. . .
In the history of the nations, Islam, a secretion of the Arab brain, has never been an element of civilization, but on the contrary has acted as an extinguisher upon its flickering light. Individuals under Arab rule have only been able to contribute to the advance of civilization in so far as they did not conform to the Musulman dogma, but they relapsed into Arab barbarism as soon as they were obliged to make a complete submission to these dogmas.
. . .
Islamized nations, who have not succeeded in freeing themselves from Musulman tutelage, have been stricken with intellectual paralysis and decadence. They will only escape as they succeed in withdrawing themselves from the control of Musulman law.
[Source: Andre Servier - L’islam et la psychologie du musulman - London. Chapman Hall LTD. 1924, pp.153, 61, 191, 2, 18, Ch XVI, Preface]

I’m sure that these quotes are quite familiar to many learned Muslims. No doubt there are many quotes from other sources which would bolster the claim you made tonight that Islam is a superior religion which in one way or another has been largely responsible for much of our current highly advanced civilization.

However, these quotes bring me a step closer to my question. If, as this lecture proposes, Islam is the utopian religion which has (to some degree) spawned today’s remarkable society, can you tell me with which concept of Islam—with the concept of Churchill, Roosevelt and Servier or with the concept presented in this lecture—do the following facts and modern realities line up?

1.       There is a growing epidemic of Muslim persecution of Christians. From one end of the Islamic world to the other—whether in Arab lands, African lands, Asian lands, or Sinic lands, wherever Muslims are a majority—the largest non-Muslim religious group, Christians, suffer untold atrocities. Christian persecution is one of, if not the clearest reflections of Islamic supremacism.  Vastly outnumbered and politically marginalized Christians simply wish to worship in peace, and yet still are they hounded and attacked, their churches burned and destroyed, their women and children enslaved and raped. In 2012, Islamic countries comprised 9 of the top 10 'worst persecutors'. That means 90 per cent of the world’s fiercest oppressors and persecutors of Christians are culturally, politically and religiously Islamic. In fact, 38 of worst 50 countries persecuting Christians are predominantly Muslim.  Have they all misunderstood the Religion of Peace? Are they torturing and murdering their cousins – the People of the Book – in error and in contravention of quranic precepts?

2.       Organizations such as monitor and report on worldwide corruption. They consistently report that Muslim majority countries are the most corrupt nations on earth. Apparently sharia utopia is a myth. A typical reports indicates 9 of the 10 least corrupt are Christian while typically there are no Muslim countries in the top 10.

3.       Five of the nations ranked least peaceful in the world by the Global Peace Index are Islamic countries. Note that this Index does not take violence against women and children into consideration.

4.       Islam’s sharia law is the institutionalized oppression of women and non-Muslims. Women are treated abominably, starting with child marriage, polygamy, marriage and divorce laws, abuse, and honour killing. Islamic law does not accept the full political and civil equality of non-Muslims. Unlike other mainstream religions, Islam demands that anyone who leaves the religion and becomes an apostate must be killed and this is commonplace in Muslim majority nations. Sharia law demands cruel punishments like beheading for major crimes, cutting off hands and feet for minor crimes and stoning to death for adultery. Many Muslims are instructed to perform genital mutilation on their daughters.

5.       Muslim-majority countries score worst for religious freedom and social hostilities involving religion. There are 7 countries in the world where the state can execute you for being atheist. Every single one is officially Islamic.

6.       From an economic performance perspective, Muslims cannot claim any superiority. One Western nation, Germany, has a greater GDP than the top nineteen Islamic countries combined. In the 2009 report by the World Economic Forum, Islamic countries filled nine of the bottom ten places.

7.       Slavery is legal and is still practised in the Middle East and African countries like Sudan.

8.       Extreme hatred and anti-Semitism is typical of nearly all Muslim countries.

9.       Strangely, wealthier Islamic countries do not take in Muslims refugees and migrants from other countries. There are more than 50 Muslim countries, some of which are fabulously wealthy (such as Saudi Arabia, Libya, Qatar). Why it is that not one of these countries can accommodate Muslim immigrants?

10.   Islam is the only religion that requires territorial sovereignty – its laws are laws of the land rather than laws of the heart as we are accustomed to finding in religion. In the Western tradition, legality and morality are two different things. In Islam, they are one and the same. As Muslims press for their laws to become laws of the land, especially by suppressing criticism of Islam, the clash between these two systems of thought intensify as we can see in many Western countries at this very moment.

11.   Academic achievement in a nation ruled by a superior religion like Islam should be remarkable, one would think. With a population of over 1.5 billion people, Muslims, with a population of 1.5 billion people, have managed to win only 6 Nobel Prizes, of which one was a Peace prize to a designated terrorist, Yasser Arafat. Jews with a worldwide population of about 14 million have won 165 prizes. This suggests from an academic perspective that Muslims cannot claim to be ‘the best of peoples,’ as emphasized by Muhammed.

12.   Religion as we have known it has been good for society. It has nurtured morality, strengthened the family, fostered public service and encouraged social harmony. Islam, on the other hand, is self-segregating, fosters ideas of Muslim supremacy and thereby sows seeds of social discord. Even its tradition of charitable giving is solely for the benefit of fellow Muslims and it utterly destroys the family through its adoption of polygamy.

13.   To my knowledge, no Muslim organization has a coherent, active program anywhere to prevent Muslims under their sphere of influence from believing that jihad is the Islamic duty to wage war against non-Muslims, even though they denounce as "racist" and "Islamophobe" anyone who dares to suggest that some Muslims in our midst might actually subscribe to violent jihad.

14.   Many more inconvenient facts could be added to this list, but I will end with this quote:

“Saudi Arabia should be the crown of Islam, as it was its birthplace in the 7th Century. Keep in mind that Saudi Arabia’s Islam claims to be superior to all other religions. These are the statistics that the “true religion” spawned for 2000: GNP $232 billion; per capita income $10,500; infant mortality rate 49.6/1000; literacy rate 63%; and its sole exports were petroleum and petroleum products. Considering that their clerics claim that the faithful will be blessed, this is not an impressive showing for 1,300 years of multiple daily prayers to a deity. The fact is, the royal family of Saudi Arabia would be riding on camels, rather than in air-conditioned Mercedes, if it were not for the oil drilling technology of Christian nations. Wherever Islam is the primary focus of a government, the majority of its citizens languish in an abased existence. If those same people emigrate to a democratic society, where the pursuit of happiness is primary and their degree of religious expression is optional, they are apt to flourish.”
[Source: Jim Croft]

I ask again, with which concept of Islam does the preceding facts and modern realities line up? A general response will do.
Thank you.


I attended the lecture and it proved to be quite shallow in substance although the participants for the most part seemed to be enthusiastic listeners. There was time afforded for questions but I did not present my lengthy question because very strangely I felt very sorry for the entire lot of people there: speaker, students and organizers. It seemed to me a pathetic attempt to provide a satisfactory answer to the subject of the lecture: Muslim Contribution to World Civilization yet I could sense very strongly that these people were not only very well intentioned but also convinced that Islam was the ANSWER. I wasn’t quite ready for that and there was an element of surprise to the experience which made me re-think my approach.

I determined to take a different tack.

Stay tuned for my next posting in the continuing saga of Contradicting Muhammed

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