Tuesday, April 18, 2006

On Apostasy, Treason & Ostriches

I’m sure people of all faiths and no faith in particular were relieved when the Afghan government decided to release Christian convert Abdur Rahman.

In case you don’t remember, Rahman was facing the possibility of a death sentence for the “crime” of apostasy. Following a concerted international campaign involving pressure from both Christians and Muslims (as well as others of goodwill), the Afghan court announced Mr Rahman’s release.

Of course, not all have found this to be an occasion of joy. One such voice of disappointment is anti-Muslim propagandist Dr Patrick Sookhdeo.

Sookhdeo is the International Director of a body calling itself “The Barnabas Fund”. The Fund claims to be an organisation which “serves the suffering Church and makes their needs known to Christians around the world, encouraging them to pray.”

Yet if one were to examine the “
Statement of Faith” of the Fund, one could be forgiven for concluding that this organisation is little more than a front for Christian fundamentalists with theocratic aspirations. In the same manner as Muslim fundamentalists, and in complete contrast to the more secular-minded majority, the Fund states that it believes in “the sovereignty” of God.

Further, the theology of the organisation makes it clear that not all Christians are included within its mission. Indeed, the organisation displays some very un-Christian attitudes toward non-Christian minorities living in the West.

Dr Sookhdeo seems determined to “expose” Islam as a malign force in the world. His writings reveal an agenda of portraying all Muslims as being involved in a giant conspiracy to destroy the West.

Yet Dr Sookhdo’s own theocratic political tendencies and his blatant anti-secular and anti-liberal streak make him a far more sinister and dangerous threat to Western democracy and liberalism. Further, his attempts at painting the cultures and theological understandings of 1.2 billion Muslims with the same brush are reminiscent of the worst excesses of anti-Semitism as it existed in Europe (and, in some circles, still exists).

It is therefore quite fitting that we briefly focus on Dr Sookhdeo’s work at this time when we approach the 100th anniversary of the exoneration of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, the French Jewish soldier who was accused of spying against his native France. The attitudes and sentiments of many French writers supporting Captain Dreyfus’ prosecution are being repeated in the works of Dr Sookhedeo.

No doubt there are Muslim-majority states where non-Muslim minorities are being mistreated. No doubt there needs to be more heard from Muslim minorities living in relative freedom in Western countries in support of non-Muslim minorities.

So how do we resolve this? Do we encourage the more moderate mainstream voices from amongst the Muslim communities? Do we give prominence to those Muslims wishing to revive the true spirit of the sharia?

Or do we take Dr Sookhdeo’s approach and demonise all Muslims whilst writing off any attempts by mainstream Muslim voices to project the voice of reason?

For Dr Sookhedeo and his ilk, the release of Abdul Rahman was a tragedy. Why? Because it meant he would find it much more difficult to demonise Islam and mainstream Muslims. In the case of Abdul Rahman, Muslims themselves were at the forefront of defending the rights of this poor man.

A far preferable option for Dr Sookhedeo would be for Abdul Rahman to have been mercilessly butchered. Then Sookhedeo and his organisation could dance on Rahman’s grave and sing their mantra of that nasty evil Islam which oppresses Christians. No doubt, this will have resulted in a huge increase in donations to the Barnabas Fund, as well as adding fuel to the fires of anti-Muslim hatred the Fund so readily lights.

Mainstream Muslims are tolerant and caring people. They want peace and justice just like every other sensible human being on the planet. If all Muslims were a bunch of suicide bombers (as Sookhedeo and his ilk would have us believe), Iran and other Muslim-majority states wouldn’t need nuclear weapons. Instead, 1.2 billion human bombs would be enough to wipe our planet out of the solar system.

I was particularly pleased at Sookhedeo’s attempts to explain away my own analysis of the spectrum of sharia opinion on apostasy, published in the New Zealand Herald on 29 March 2006. I was particularly bemused by his description of my article as “a masterpiece of propaganda, blending fact and fiction”

Sookhdeo, of course, is a master of recognising propaganda. After all, he spends much of his time producing propaganda. His entire indicates a rather severe case of paranoia in which I am part of a huge conspiracy to keep poor Westerners in the dark about the nasty realities of Islam.

In one particular paragraph, Mr Sookhedeo insults all New Zealanders by claiming that their ignorance enables writers such as myself to deceive them. He writes:

In fact it is Irfan Yusuf’s readers who are likely to be ignorant of Islamic law, not the Afghan people. If he were not so certain of the ignorance of most New Zealanders, indeed of most Westerners, he surely would not have dared to write such an article.

So there you have it, folks. Kiwis and Westerners are all a bunch of fools with their heads buried in the sand. Westerners are ostriches, and the Muslims are a nasty bunch of extremists always ready to deceive the incredibly stupid West.

According to the Barnabas Fund's director, 1.2 billion Muslims are all a bunch of extremists who are part of a huge conspiracy to deceive ignorant and imbecilic Westerners into believing that Islam is anything but a nasty violent agenda for theocracy. But then, theocracy itself isn’t the problem. It’s just that Muslims don’t want a Trinitarian theocracy!

© Irfan Yusuf 2006

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