Is it okay to criticize Islam?

Is it okay to criticize Islam? Many people consider it offensive to criticize another person’s belief and think our world would be a better place if we all had only good things to say and never criticized or condemned any system of belief.  This article will explore that idea in detail.

Photo credit Zoi Karalk

In this comment, someone commented that exmuslims seem to have a lot to say about Islam but felt that we should just keep quiet as Muslims are happy to be Muslim:

Should we just let Muslims be?  Not criticize their religion?

People feel hurt when they are attacked, right?  We need to be more tolerant towards others, and not criticize or attack them, right? If we want to live in a better world, we need to respect people’s choices, that is to be Muslim.

Now, here is the problem.  When someone says “Don’t criticize atheism because it offends me”. Atheism is an idea.  It doesn’t have “rights”.  Same with any religion or idea you can think of.

Without criticism there can be no progress

Criticism is the foundation of a healthy society. If we block free discourse, we will end up in a type of terrible situation where bad ideas are protected by law.

Galileo was thrown in jail for going against the official Church position that the Earth was the center of the universe.

Witches were drowned and burned at stakes for practicing magic.

It was considered acceptable to own another human being.

These values were defended using religious scripture.  It was considered that God himself allowed slavery.

Is it okay to attack Muslims?

No. For example, if I said

Muslims are the worst creatures on Earth.  They are deaf, dumb and blind.  They have no sense. They are cursed by Hanuman.  They are filthy so do not let them approach India after this day
(The Atheist Bible, Chapter of Hate)

This would be offensive, and rightly so. Would you agree?  Is this wrong?

Does the Quran do that?

Now if you believe that you have the right to propagate your values, should I not have the right to propagate my values?  Is that not the foundation of freedom of speech and healthy discourse?

Otherwise we might as well go back to blasphemy laws, witch hunts, and throwing people in jail for going against the Bible.

Believing in Islam comes with costs

In this famous narration, Prophet Muhammad said,

“The world is a prison for the believer and Paradise for the disbeliever.” (Tirmidhi)

The sacrifice required in practicing Islam is immense, especially in a non-Muslim country. Here are some thoughts in no particular order:

  1. Every decision you make in your life is weighed against the dictates of religion. The mental fear of hell is engrained into every decision you make. You constantly think “will God be pleased with this” and you worry that if you anger or upset him, he will roast you in hell.
  2. Interest is forbidden. Because of this, for my entire career I did not work for a single bank, insurance company, or any company that even dealt with banks or interest in any way
  3. Cannot buy a home with a conventional mortgage. This means that I could not own a home. Instead of paying interest, I paid rent to non-Muslims who had interest based mortgages.
  4. All food must be eaten per dietary requirements. This means many restaurants are off-limits. Halal food is not available as easily on the East coast of Canada where my wife is from. Thus, we had to stick to veggies and fish when we travelled to see her family.
  5. 5x a day prayer can be difficult at times. I used to find a quiet place to pray at the office during the day. When we were out at the mall, we had to do our ablutions (wudhu) in public sinks and then find a quiet place in the mall to pray.
  6. Fasting the month of Ramadan. In summer in Canada and UK this is a 17 hour fast. It is required on every single believer over the age of puberty. 17-hours a day for 29 or 30 days in a row.  This means waking up around 3am to stuff some food in your barely functional stomach, go back to bed for a few hours, then wake up to go to work dry-mouthed as no water is allowed.  This is what Muslims struggle with for an entire month.  The lucky ones work in offices.  The unlucky ones do manual labor jobs in the heat and risk dehydration or fainting.
  7. If you are a woman, marriage and divorce laws are terribly unfair, and you must suffer with being a lower-class citizen in terms of your worldly rights.
  8. If you are a woman, you must cover your entire body from head to toe, even in the hottest days of summer. If you want to go swimming, you must cover your entire body. My wife had to struggle with this law and used to avoid swimming because of this. She also used to get hot and sticky and sweat buckets in summer due to the hijab law.
  9. Some Muslims believe Music is haram and never get to enjoy the joy of music without guilt.
  10. Gay Muslims have to suffer with an entire life of not being accepted and forced to live in the closet or deny their innate sexuality
  11. Muslims cannot date. They are forced to marry somewhat blindly. This occurs more or less in different cultures.

How should we criticize?

Many times people use criticism as a way of making themselves feel superior to others.  Should we go around shouting “Muhammad is a pedophile” or shoving our values down people’s throats? NO, of course not. If we want to dialog, we need do it with wisdom. We shouldn’t be shoving this down people’s throat.

Discuss with people who want to discuss. In the right context, when they are willing to discuss.

Religion bashing for the sake of it is not cool. Don’t be obnoxious. Don’t be a prick.  Discuss with others to help them, not to make yourself feel superior to them.

If Islam is false, helping Muslims see this reality is one of the greatest services to humanity you can do

2 thoughts on “Is it okay to criticize Islam?

  1. It is a sign of intolerance and mental and intellectual laziness to reject any type of criticism and very reminiscent of the Catholic Church in the 16th century, battling against any challenge to its dogma. Many Muslims hide behind their religious dogma and refuse to critically view the moral teachings of their faith, which is something that is a byproduct of not really knowing and/or understanding what your book is teaching. There are many parallels to Christians, who don´t really read their Bible and simply shrug off any problematic Bible verses. Most Muslims don´t even understand Arabic and see no urge to be able to directly understand what their god is telling them in the Quran. Strangely many Muslims belittle Christians for having lost their original scriptures and now having to rely on arbitrary translations.

    Some Muslims denounce any criticism directed to their faith as “Islamophobia”, i.e. an irrational fear of Islam. That is quite ironic, as many criticisms directed at it are very rational and valid.
    Enosiophobia, on the other hand, is the fear of criticism and of (thereby) committing a sin. A very fitting combination of fears that describes a religious person very well, as they are afraid of offending god by committing a sin while being too critical. That would also include entertaining overtly critical thinking. It is this irrational aversion of criticism that is plaguing many Muslims.

    Sadly the combination of ignorance and fear is a very combustible one and not surprisingly many people who have criticized Islam have been on the receiving end of death threats by zealots. However, when studying history it becomes obvious that no matter how stubbornly a faith tradition and/or its adherers resist change it will either be forced to change and thereby lose control of that change or simply fade into irrelevance.
    Through recent event Islam is already widely seen in the West as incompatible with modern values. It is up to today’s Muslims to either embrace change or to witness Islam being relegated by history like many religions before it.

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