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Islam vs. Secularism?

A popular question for our times has become the incredible contrast a secular state has with one idealising Sharīʿah. The increasingly caustic nature of the issue can be construed from the actions of the Western right wingers, which in their mildest forms involve posting images on social media depicting a fist crushing Sharīʿah, with their Muslim counterparts having similar if not more violent views for the ideology of secularism. This in addition to the recent attempted coup in Turkey, claimed by some as the natural conclusion of the rising friction between Kemalists and their increasingly popular “Islamist” countrymen. While the two groups continue to get polarised, increasing their enmity towards each other, they also continue to ignore the simple incontrovertible fact that a vast majority of laws under either ideology overlap with each other.

In the list of the wrong questions, asking which leads people on a path away from the solution rather than towards it, is which one of the two ideologies is right and which one, wrong. While on a philosophical or theological plane, there is obviously little to no reconciliation possible, but on a more practical level things are strikingly different; especially in today’s world of a comparatively uniform morality and our capability to judge or argue particular laws as beneficial or harmful on a purely objective basis through research and statistics.

At the core of the problem, lies the presumption that the two systems are absolutely and in all forms, a contradiction to each other. If we were to imagine a scenario in which Pakistani people decide to form a secular state (if the reader can muster that active an imagination), the elected representatives will still have to come up with laws which they believe to be the best for the society. The only thing which changes are the sources that guide what that “best” is; while before it was Qur’an, Hadith and then objective rational logic, this time Islamic scripture is taken out of the equation.

Among the primary and most non-controversial methods that derive consensus for particular laws in the secular world is using research and statistics. Through these sources governments are able to objectively apply the principle of risk/benefit ratio (i.e. whether the potential risk of some allowance/prohibition is greater than its potential harm) which ironically, is mirrored by the Islamic principle of benefits outweighing the harms.

So how will this seemingly massive transformation actually effect some of the most ingrained and strictly followed Islamic laws such as the prohibitions of non-marital intimacy and intoxicants? These along-with the prohibition of swine meat have probably been the three most firmly followed legal principles and have continued to be representative of the Muslim communities from the very beginning – in explicit contrast to other more general ones, like prohibitions of cheating, lying etc. and even some specific ones, such as the prohibition of usury (incidentally Erdogan had also recently drawn criticism, by the secularists, for trying to limit alcohol sales and criminalise adultery) The outlawing of non-marital intimacy has been especially ubiquitous in Muslim societies, forming the basis of many secondary restrictions ranging from the trivial, like prohibiting handshakes between opposite genders, to the untenable, such as being used as justification for disallowing girls from going to schools.

While alcohol consumption is known to have some benefits, its harms are all too obvious in the scientific community. A concise description of the evidence available indicates: alcohol increases risk of 200+ diseases; WHO ranks it as the third largest risk factor for premature death; in the US, it is a factor in 40% homicides by convicted murderers; a factor in 40% of all violent crimes; 70% of alcohol-related incidents of violence occur in the home; two-thirds of victims who were attacked by an intimate partner reported the involvement of alcohol.

In the case of criminalizing promiscuity, supporters can direct attention towards some harrowing US college statistics. Different US polls concluded that on average up-to 20% women reported experiencing sexual assaults in just their four-year stay in college. For some colleges the figure was even as high as 30%. According to the Post/Kaiser poll, two of the principal risk factors for these assaults were alcohol – two-thirds of victims said they had been drinking alcohol just before the incidents – and “casual romantic encounters known as ‘hookups’”. Women uninvolved in hook-ups were less likely to report completed or attempted assaults. 77% of the respondents considered drinking less alcohol and 63% avoiding casual hook-ups as effective preventive measures.

Like all studies the ones used above also get criticized from one aspect or another, but the negative effect of such indulgences, whether small or larger, remains undeniable. While Western societies might be too far along and these prohibitions on a legal level may be untenable for them, their implementation in Muslim societies is practical and considering the risk/benefit ratio, it is the logical path to take, regardless of whatever the Qur’an and Sunnah have to say on the matter.

Certainly arguments and debates become much more complicated when it comes to additional laws labelled as Islamic but which: in some cases, do not find consensus among Muslim scholarship itself (like in the case of half testimony); at times, the difference from a secular law makes no practical difference, like the non-acceptance of female testimonies (by conservative interpretations) when determining Hudood punishments as these harsh penalties are already unacceptable in secular states; or cases where Western philosophy itself has been unable to satisfactorily conclude the question (like in the case of capital punishment).

Like the two test cases mentioned previously, similar reasoning constructed on entirely secular foundations can be, and in-fact is commonly used by the supporters of Sharīʿah for other Islamic laws too. But somewhere along the line, gap between the two Muslim factions becomes unsurmountable when they double down on their fears (some justified but mostly just paranoid) – the left, with their fears of female oppression, devolution of Muslim societies back to 7th century Arabia etc. and the right, with their apprehensions of letting loose “Western decadence” and godlessness among other things.

A major cause for the increasing polarization has been the instinctive knee-jerk presumptuous reactions Muslims respond with, which are riddled with incorrect inference and straw man fallacies. Just because one group dares to question the blasphemy law, does not automatically imply that group is supporting blasphemers, they might be promoting the classical Hanafi interpretation on the matter. Similarly, just because another group questions the length of a woman’s skirt does not incontrovertibly infer they want to stand in the way of women’s “freedom”. On this regard, interestingly, the “bane” of Muslim women freedom: Saudi Arabia, also happens to provide tens of thousands of foreign scholarships to its women, in-fact the number of female students availing such funding exceeds men by 12.9%. In case after reading the last sentence your mind swiftly and effortlessly jumped to other additional points of harsh criticism for the Saudis, you might need to read this paragraph one more time.

Core of the problem lies in natural human cognitive biases and the solution in the acceptance of their existence. As much as most people would like to believe that their way is the only way, the fact is: there are many ways leading to the exact same destination. What Muslims need to learn, is to accuse less and understand more, to talk less and listen more, to believe less and study more

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field, I’ll meet you there

Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

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Bestiality related Internet Searches

Internet Searches

The argument is made that because Muslim majority countries have a high Google Trends’ search volume index number for queries termed as bestiality related, this for some reason translates into tolerance for bestiality in the Muslim community and by extension possible allowance for it in Islamic law.

The amount of criticisms that can be stacked up against the methodology used for such an argument would require a separate article. A concise analysis of the data and then review of the faulty nature of such a methodology has been provided here.

Google trends’ Regional interest section enumerates the Search Volume Index” (SVI) values of regions in descending order. The index calculates the interest of a particular search term in a region, or in other words, indicate where a search term is comparatively more popular. Apparently, Google trends does include, in its calculations, a few different combinations of words, which it is programmed to consider as similar to the entered search query, but these combinations are far from comprehensive. The SVI itself is calculated as the ratio of number of queries for a particular term to the number of total queries, which is then normalized to give results within the range of 0-100. This gives SVI values which are essentially a comparison of the popularity of a search term between different regions. The region with the most interest will always have the value of 100. It should be pointed out that, this does not represent the actual search volume of a particular term, but its “interest” by comparison.

Google Trends, 'Google'
SVI values for search term, “Google” and its relative Regional interest

The image above, shows Google Trends’ results for the search term “Google”, in which seven SVI values representing seven distinct regions are enumerated in descending order. These results show that, according to algorithm calculations, Mexico has a 68% interest in this particular search query as compared to Tunisia. The trends’ calculations provide 0-10 different SVI values, corresponding to a particular region, for each search term. For the sake of understanding of how the following analysis is performed: if another search term were to be analysed and from a total of seven values shown, if the first three regions were found to be the same, it would mean that in the acquired data consisting of a total of 14 (7 from the first search term and 7 from the second) SVI values for these two terms, two SVI values correspond to Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco each. This means that these three countries are represented two times in this data. Such a representation of data will be used in this analysis.

Google Trends’ SVI values for 15 terms which are presumably bestiality related were examined, namely: “Dog sex”, “Dog sex porn”, “Camel sex”, “Animal sex”, “Pig sex”, “Donkey sex”, “Cat sex”, “Horse sex”, “Cow sex”, “Goat sex”, “Snake sex”, “Monkey sex”, “Bear sex”, “Elephant sex”, and “Fox sex”. The time period chosen was “2004 – present” (the present being February, 2016).

These 15 search terms resulted in 146 SVI values (each corresponding to a particular region) which include a total of 37 different countries repeating in varying numbers. Of them, there were Muslim majority (14), Christian majority (14), Buddhist/Hindu (6) and divided populations (3). The data at this point is pretty evenly divided.

The most intriguing find from the data was the comparatively high prevalence of the South Asian Bloc (SAB) namely Pakistan, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka, and in it the high representation of Pakistan. In the top three places, of the 45 different values, 31 (i.e. 69% of the total) of them corresponded to SAB regions, of which, Pakistan was repeated 14 times, India (6), Sri Lanka (6) and Bangladesh (5). In the top five, they made up 53% of the total number of values, Pakistan (15), India (12), Sri Lanka (7) and Bangladesh was 8 times repeated. In such a rudimentary organization of data, Pakistan does have an uncharacteristically high representation but the overall representation of SAB is curious.

Google Trends, Expletive Terms Searches - Excel Sheet Image
SVI values for search term, “Google” and its relative Regional interest

After this, analysis of SVI values ≥ 30 was done, assuming that below 30 the value was too low and virtually any country in a different time period or while analysing a different combination of words used in the search term or for some other anomalous reason could end up being included. In such a data, a total of 87 individual SVI values were attained, of which there were values belonging to Muslim majority (34), Christian majority (19), Buddhist/Hindu (27) and divided populations (7). Excluding the SAB, and for some degree of equivalency the top two for Christian majority, there were Muslim majority (11), Christian majority (10), Buddhist/Hindu (6). The even division mentioned before is again apparent.

Important to note at this point, is the sensitive fluctuation of included data; countries with SVI’s of 29-31 could have been included in the data at one time and after a few hours may have had to be excluded because of their value fluctuations. This was observed in the case of Malaysia, for which one SVI value was excluded in the beginning but after just a few hours had to be included in this data set.

From the above data it is apparent that for these particular search terms the SAB has a high degree of results tilting effect. In-fact, Pakistan and Bangladesh made up 68% of the total of Muslim majority countries representation in the “SVI values ≥ 30” dataset and India and Sri Lanka made up 78% of the total Buddhist/Hindu representation. Of the 27 different countries present in this dataset, just four countries of the SAB made up 51% of all the SVI values ≥ 30, while the remaining 49% of the values were divided among rest of the 23 countries.

As mentioned before, Pakistan has high representation in this data even by the uncharacteristically high standards of the SAB. But here, one of the legitimate criticisms that can be made is the ignorance of search terms in local languages. For example, the search term “Dog sex” would translate as “Kutta sex” for the people of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, but Pakistan and Bangladesh were absent from the recorded SVI values here. A somewhat similar result was also obtained for “Goat sex”.

Regarding the specific period used for analysis, it was observed that Sri Lanka which was at the time of this writing (February, 2016) top placed for the search term “Elephant sex” – from June, 2010 to July, 2014, had one of its neighbours at the top spot.

“Dog sex”, “Dog sex porn” and later separately, “Dog sex video” were analysed to show the difference caused by just single word changes. Tanzania which comes at top for the first and third terms, is absent from the top ten for the second term. Kenya which comes at 10th for the first and 9th for the third term, is at the top for the second term. Pakistan which comes at 2nd for first two terms comes at 5th for the third term. Such is the inadequacy of the methodology, in using such small sample sizes with so few permutations.

The inadequacy of the methodology involved became more obvious when terms such as “Dogorama” (a zoophile pornography film), “Sex with cat”, “Sex with sheep”, and “Sex with pig” were analysed.

  • A North American country which was observed only once (at 7th position) in the previous “SVI values ≥ 30” dataset (comprising of a total of 87 values) was at the top in the first three search terms (for the first term, it was the only country) and 3rd (although SVI value was < 30) in the only three regions for the fourth term.
  • A West European country which was observed zero times in the same previous dataset, was absent for the first term and second among the next three terms (only two countries were recorded for the second and third terms). The West European nation had SVI values similar to the North American country.

It should be mentioned here that, not all modified combinations similar to these, gave such drastically different results. The screenshots of the Google trends data used, were saved for future reference.

Regarding the inherent inaccuracies in such data, Google back in 2010, officially made the following statement:

“We do our best to provide accurate data and to provide insights into broad search patterns, but the results for a given query (…) may contain inaccuracies because the sample size is too small for the results to be statistically sound.”

Another problem in obtaining reliable results, comes in the form of the disparity in the bans put on such websites. It is likely that when it comes to adult content related searches, users will make direct use of adult websites’ search engines instead of indirectly going through Google search. For regions with active restrictions for such websites, the indirect method of using Google search is likely to be used which in turn drives up those regions’ representation in Google Trends. On the other hand, however, such restrictions on internet content can also push users towards using various proxy services, in which case these regions might show a decrease in their Google Trends representation. Fairly odd behaviour is observed when regions implementing active bans on adult sites, somehow, still manage to appear in the analytics graphs of visitors by region, presented by such sites. These even include cases where censored regions even manage to get into the top three spots.

In summary, although one Muslim majority country does have an exceptionally high representation for the particular search terms considered, even which is criticisable from several avenues like exclusion of searches in regional languages and same searches using different word combinations; no other Muslim majority country shows any extraordinary behaviour, they possibly might have, in some different time period, but not in the one analysed (which was the most comprehensive to use for such a scenario). Therefore, the relation of bestiality with Muslim countries even in such fallacious methodology is unsupported. The most reliable conclusion that could be established are the peculiar results for the South Asian Bloc, even which could be completely thrown out by attributing this uniqueness entirely to something as simple and unrelated as a difference in the popularity of making Google searches in English instead of other regional languages.

As has been discussed earlier, analysis like these are too incomplete to give any reliable conclusions. Any of the countries that end up being shown under a bad light in this analysis, should not be used as arguments against their “morality”; for which reason, care was taken to maintain, as much as possible, the anonymity of such regions.

MyResponses (FOX 26 Houston – Eid al-Adha)

A FOX Channel video on Muslim culture turned out to be an attraction for anti-Muslim individuals. Fortunately or unfortunately I decided to reply to the allegations.

The lengthy discourse is available at the following link:

https://www.facebook.com/fox26houston/videos/10153908927375348/?comment_id=10153909046570348&amp;offset=0&amp;total_comments=211&amp;comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R9%22%7D&#8221;

It should be the first comment. Remember to click on “View previous replies” link to check out the discourse from the beginning.

@Brent Freshour,

Thanks for the polite comments, I usually don’t get them here. Also, apologies for the late and the extremely lengthy reply.

  • “I have watched several debates on YouTube of people who really do know their stuff on this. Muslim apologist vs a critic. I’m always left with the impression that the critic makes a better case.”

When it is a Muslim Apologist Vs. a Christian Apologist debate then usually the Christian guy is on the defensive because here, Muslims debate using the Bible itself. The biggest problem for Muslim debaters with critics arises when they start using unreliable sources. Christians use this as evidence to show that Islam actually, literally came from Satan and how it is the beast predicted in their bible etc. Other critics use these to put forward an alternate narrative or conclusion to the one Muslim historians have drawn for centuries or even a millennia.

But the problem with non-Muslim conclusions is usually that theirs’ is not the one supported by the most evidence. As with all things in history there is pretty much always enough ambiguity to make historians provide various alternatives/explanations. The one which majority of scholars follow is the one supported by the most evidence. It is like the Occam’s Razor principle: “Among competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected.” Now, it can’t be denied that some sort of evidence can be found to support the alternate views but usually, if not always, these are from unreliable sources, the arguments commit straw man fallacies and most importantly they have huge amounts of alternate evidence directly contradicting their conclusions.

For example, in the historical texts mentioning Muḥammad article I linked above, the following accounts are used to show how Muslim conquests were barbaric, violent etc. (in other words pretty much the same to any other during that time). This was preserved in a codex containing the Gospel accord to Matthew and the Gospel according to Mark:

“… and in January, they took the word for their lives (did) [the sons of] Emesa [i.e., Ḥimṣ)], and many villages were ruined with killing by [the Arabs of] Muḥammad and a great number of people were killed…”

But on the other hand, In his book ‘A New Introduction to Islam’ (under the subtitle ‘The Invisible Conquests’), Dr. Daniel W. Brown says:

“Archaeological data tell a somewhat different tale. If we look for evidence of the burning, looting, or destruction described by Bishop Sophronius in 635, we find none. No systematic sacking of cities took place, and no destruction of agricultural land occurred. The conquests brought little immediate change to religious and communal life. There were no mass or forced conversions. Christian, Jewish, or Zoroastrian communities in Syria and Iraq may have felt threatened, but they continued to thrive. New synagogues, churches, and monasteries were still being built into the eight century, and churches or synagogues were not converted to mosques on any noticeable scale. The first urban mosques were not built until after 690, and the urban landscape of the Near East remained largely unaffected by the conquests (Pentz 1992). There was certainly change, but in the same directions and at the same pace as before the conquests (Morony 1984: 507-26). Two key measures offer telling evidence that the conquests brought little immediate disruption to the patterns of religious and social life in Syria and Iraq: production of wine (forbidden in Islamic Law) continued unchanged, and pigs (considered unclean by Muslims) continued to be raised and slaughtered in increasing numbers (Pentz 1992).

“Neither do we find evidence of dramatic change in the law or political institutions of conquered territories in the years immediately following the conquests. What did change was the ruling class. The new rulers spoke Arabic, represented a different ethnicity, and kept aloof from their conquered subjects. But for all the differences change came slowly even at the highest levels of political affairs. The new rulers continued to use Greek and Persian in administrative documents. They continued to mint Byzantine-style coins complete with the image of the emperor holding a cross, and Sassanian-style coins bearing Zoroastrian symbols and Sassanian dates (Morony 1985: 38-51). They were dependent on the old Persian and Greek bureaucrats and institutions. Major reform of the language of administration or of coinage did not take place until 695 — sixty years into Arab rule. Earlier attempts at reform reportedly failed in the face of stiff popular resistance. The Arab rulers also continued the same patterns of taxation. The conquests replaced the top rung of the Byzantine and Sassanian ruling class with Arabs, but they did not immediately or violently alter the administrative, religious, economic, or cultural landscape of the Near East.”

Source: https://books.google.com.pk/books?id=ViTmBB8DQNcC&lpg=PA109&ots=E70Hix6sGt&dq=daniel+w.+brown+the+invisible+conquest&pg=PA109&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q&f=false

Now, I’m not defending Muslim conquests here, personally I believe some form of looting, small or large, although it being against Islamic law probably did happen. This is just to show how a particular group of people because of their confirmation bias wouldn’t find it difficult to come up with ‘evidence’ supporting their narrative whatever that might be.

Here, a little introduction to how Islamic history got recorded is pertinent. Narrations regarding the prophet’s life were first mostly in the memory of the people, some were written down but most weren’t. After the prophet’s death some particular people started gathering all these narrations and writing them down. In the earliest generations the main objective was to write down anything attributed to the prophet. As long as there was even the slightest bit of certainty that a narration could be true it was written down. This resulted in the inclusion of a lot of unreliable narrations in the most important Muslim books (Al-Tabari’s book and Ibn-Ishaq’s biography of Muhammad).

Later, the next generations’ objective was to sort out the facts from the fabrications. Similar to what the historians nowadays do regarding old stories. The Muslims created a whole new discipline called the Science of Hadith for this purpose. They meticulously wrote down pretty much everything. This resulted in the most authentic books of Hadiths (Sahih Muslim, Sahih Bukhari etc.). For example, in earlier books, Muhammad’s victory over Mecca is associated with 10-15 people given the death penalty but in Sahih Bukhari this is revised to just one. Note that they are not absolutely authentic either, they can also sometimes contain mistakes. This authentication process was for the most part completed by the end of second century of Islam.

Unfortunately during these two centuries literally tens of thousands of narrations (reliable or unreliable) got accumulated. This huge quantity of narrations plus the thousands of pages of text Muslim scholars in those times wrote explaining or defending them, amounts to a gigantic mass of literature.

The somewhat unreliable books of Ibn-Ishaq and Al-Tabari are usually the main sources of evidence used by anti-Islamists and Muslim extremists alike. Using this early ‘Islamic’ literature, pretty much anything can be justified (the main reason why ISIS calls itself Islamic). Here, a group’s confirmation bias works very effectively. People looking for justification for their beliefs, will likely be able to find it but they almost always will have to cherry-pick the literature and ignore all the prose (which usually is in large quantities) that goes against their ideas. The reason thousands of Muslim scholars are able to condemn ISIS as being non-Islamic.

Now, when it comes to debates, the worst thing about them are their time constraints. As I once wrote in one of my previous discourses: “… the fact is proper refutations do take a lot of reasoning supported by several pieces of evidence … For example, if someone makes the claim that ‘Quantum Physics is absolutely useless’, the claim took only 5 words but a proper answer including only just the potential benefits of this field could take several pages.”

As you have seen from my previous replies, the arguments against Islam takes about one or two sentences and even their ‘short’ replies takes much more space.

For example, there is a small, just 44 words, narration attributed to the Prophet which is used as evidence for scientific contradictions in Islamic scripture. So basically, because of the way Islamic doctrine is established, just these 44 words can be used to disprove Islam in its entirety; and some people actually have left Islam because of narrations like these. But one of the adequate refutations that I came across is 1400+ words. Additionally, for those who don’t have background knowledge about Islam, which is most people (Muslim or non-Muslim), the refutation will have to be even lengthier. In a debate setting, this is extremely difficult for the Muslim debater. The only thing he can say is that the narration is unreliable, which leads to the criticism that anything Muslims can’t defend they use this cop-out.

The refutation is here: http://www.letmeturnthetables.com/2012/09/weak-hadith-sun-spring-warm-water.html

On a personal note, when it comes to debates like these, I also am not completely satisfied but because these arguments are usually years old, I am able to find some satisfactory, lengthy Muslim responses on the internet.

  • “The only specific reply I want to challenge here is your prophecy claim about Byzantium Egypt and how they would recover. Their last war with the Persians ended just years before Arabs rode out of Arabia. By that time the Byzantines had reclaimed Egypt. How does the Islamic claim make any sense? The Persians lost Egypt to the Byzantines well before the Arabs conquered it from the Byzantines. The time line as I understand it doesn’t seem to be able to add up to call that a prophecy.”

I apologise, I should’ve been clearer here. I originally intended to include a link to the whole story, but because that site was down and I had to look up the archived link, I forgot to insert the link.

The verses refer to the defeat of the Byzantine Eastern Roman Empire by the Persian Sassanid Empire in 614-615 CE. The prophecy predicts the Roman Empire’s major victory over the Persians within a period of the next three to nine years, which later actually happened. This has nothing to do with the Arabs. The Arabs came out of Arabia mainly after the Prophet’s death in 622 CE. Details and rebuttals to common criticisms of this prophecy are in the following source link.

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20140504150013/http://www.onislam.net/english/health-and-science/faith-and-the-sciences/464520-the-fulfilled-prophecy-of-surat-ar-rum.html?the_Sciences=

  • “You are well versed … The victors write history and the Califs had centuries to write the history they want you to believe.”

As I mentioned before, there is always going to be some degree of uncertainty about historical events. The scholars’ conclusions are the ones based on the most reliable evidence, in other words the Occam’s Razor. Because of this principle, I believe that the Muslim accounts, at-least for the most part, provide us with the most reliable and satisfactory narrative. Thinking like an objective person, I wouldn’t deny there is evidence to the contrary but, as far as I’ve read, it is hugely insufficient to compel a revisionist history. There are a huge quantity of assumptions that are needed to be made before the alternative narrative becomes a possibility.

We know beyond a reasonable doubt that the Arabs believed in some person named Muhammad at the time they started fighting the Byzantines.

We know that the previously largely decrepit, broken-down, nomadic tribes of Arabs worked as mercenaries for the Byzantines and Persians, never had an empire, no government structure and as a consequence, little law and order or protection of human rights; those very Arabs challenged the two greatest empires of the time. Not to mention at the same time too, Muslim armies have been recorded to have been fighting the Persians at the East and Byzantines from the West, simultaneously. Although, it is true that the two empires weren’t at full strength because of their infighting but one of the things that scholars agree upon is that their armies still had larger numbers, better equipment and not to mention more experience at fighting. There had to be something that produced such a revolutionary change among the Arabs in such a short time. The best explanation, in my opinion, is that they had found a new religion, whether it was a true religion or not they certainly believed it to be. All this happened within the first few years after Muhammad’s death. The Caliphs’ at this point certainly didn’t have the time or even the resources to spread mass indoctrination.

Another problem with the revisionist theories is that aside from their being huge contradictory evidence there is little supportive evidence. Because it took early Muslims about two centuries to distinguish fact from fiction about the Prophetic narrations, probably tens of thousands of individuals were directly involved in this literature. Not to mention, the hundreds of thousands non-Muslims living under Muslim rule who had nothing to gain by the Caliphs’ alleged rewriting of history. Similar to the accounts we have telling us how Christianity gradually became a state religion there should have been significant evidence for the case of Islam. Especially, when you consider the Persian Zoroastrians who mostly converted to Islam, they obviously had no idea about this ‘rewriting’; note that almost the entire Persian empire came under Muslim rule in just 25-30 years after the Prophet’s death. Additionally, there were significant Christian and Jewish populations in those Muslim lands. True or not we know that Christian accounts showing Muslims as marauding barbarians exist to this day, if the Caliphs’ had been so successful in rewriting history they should’ve been able to remove those accounts too.

Then there is the problem that Muslims have never had an organization equivalent to the Christian Church or an authority equivalent to the Pope. Muslims, because of the lack of a central religious authority, from the very beginning have had large difference of opinions with each other on religious issues. Just thirty years after the Prophet’s death, during the fourth Caliph’s times and when many of the people who had seen and heard Muhammad first hand, civil wars broke out because of the difference of opinions on God’s law. The rebellion group from this time was the ‘Khwarijites’ who can be termed as the precursors of today’s ISIS; they were completely wiped out.

But even in all that, there was, generally speaking, never a difference of opinion on any of the core Islamic values. As zealous or fundamentalist some Muslims were (and still are) there had never been any significant difference of opinion or fighting over the contents of the Qur’an. The Catholic Church in mediaeval times was known to have kept a tight grip on religious matters but Muslims had nothing remotely comparable to it. If a rewriting of religion had to happen it was going to be extremely haphazard and in no way would have produced a consensus such as the one which came into being, especially remembering how sensitive Muslims were on the issues of religion. The various Muslim sects (or ‘schools of thought’ as we like to call them) that exist today, practically speaking differ only on the Sharia’ i.e. their interpretation of God’s law and not on any of the core Islamic values.

In such a scenario, I believe that it would have taken the Caliphs’ nothing short of a, or rather many miracles to create an entirely new largely accepted doctrine.

  • “I’ve seen the evidence of how islam is a cobbled together piece of religion from various other neighborhood religions of those around them.“

The main one in this context that I’ve seen is the moon God argument. That because the crescent comes in Islamic imagery, it is an indication that Muslims originally believed in a moon God. This is easily refuted.

“Though the crescent was originally a secular symbol of authority for Muslim rulers, it is now often used to symbolize the Islamic faith. However, the crescent was not a symbol used for Islam by Muhammad or any other early Muslim rulers, as the Islamic religion is, in fact, against appointing “holy symbols” (so that during the early centuries of Islam, Muslim authorities simply didn’t want any geometric symbols to be used to symbolize Islam, in the way that the cross symbolizes Christianity, the menorah was a commonly occurring symbol of Judaism, etc.). This is why early Islamic coins were covered with Arabic writing, but contained no visual symbols.”

Source:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crescent#In_the_Islamic_World

Islam does have more than a few similarities with Judaeo-Christian literature. Muslims don’t deny that because they believe that it, although no longer in its original condition, still had divine inspiration as its original source. So naturally things are going to be similar. But other Islamic laws such as the forceful manumission of slaves if they were even slapped by their masters. Removing the concept that cooking, washing, cleaning and feeding jobs of wives are their responsibility and in-fact the husband was made liable to pay the wife if she performed those duties. Women becoming teachers which was in huge contrast to the Catholic Church doctrines. Al-Shifa’ bint Abdullah (a woman) was made the administrator of the market in Madina. There are many other contrasting examples like these.

  • “Though I can’t give that argument from memory and don’t care to do the work to make that case here, it is compelling when I have seen it.”

This is the main problem with one-sided discourses. When a person listens to one side’s arguments he leaves with a complete belief in their point of view but when he listens to the other side he then gets convinced to the other position and is amazed how he could have believed otherwise. Debates are in this context a better source of information. It’s likely that when you listened to the Muslim debates, you weren’t as convinced to the Islamic critics position as you were when you only listened to those one-sided arguments.

The problem with arguments like these is that they often don’t fulfil the sufficiency criterion of a good argument. They already have a drawn up conclusion and use the historical sources that validates their conclusion while ignoring the rest.

The procedure they (now I’m talking about the anti-Islamic website authors and not Tom Holland who apparently seems more objective) follow is write a few lines of their desired narrative, give evidence by quoting some sources (reliable or unreliable) – if it is reliable than they will make a point to note that this is from the most authentic Muslim book of Hadith, otherwise they won’t write anything – sources which apparently validates their narrative. They will give more examples like these and draw the reader into a natural conclusion that fits their beliefs.

On a personal note, once I was reading one of the alleged “scientific mistakes in the Qur’an” articles. Most of the arguments were straw man fallacies but the last point alleged a mathematical mistake. And I still remember the words which went something like: [The mistake] which can never ever be reconciled. The particular phrasing of this sentence made me even more convinced. Now, because of Islamic doctrine the logical, rational thing for me was to believe that Islam has finally been disproved (such is the fragile nature of Islamic creed). After hours of research, if I remember correctly I spent the entire night on this, I found that the anti-Islamic website author was either being hugely ignorant about Islamic facts or purposefully malicious. The Muslim explanation was only a few sentences long, and if I hadn’t been lucky that day, in all likelihood, today I would have been at your side of the argument, criticising ‘brainwashed’ Muslims. That experience is the main reason I know as much as I do on this subject.

 

 

 

@Brent Freshour,

  • “At the time of Mohammad, the quoran only existed in the minds of some who had memorized it. Some chose to scribble passages on bones and leaves and other things. After his death many of those who had memorized it died in battle. There were multiple efforts to compile it. The main one by a caliph.”

Zaid bin Thabit, one of the chief scribes relates: “I used to write down the revelation for the Holy Prophet, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. When the revelation came to him he felt intense heat and drops of perspiration used to roll down his body like pearls. When this state was over I used to fetch a shoulder bone or a piece of something else. He used to go on dictating and I used to write it down. When I finished writing the sheer weight of transcription gave me the feeling that my leg would break and I would not be able to walk anymore. Anyhow when I finished writing, he would say, ‘Read!’ and I would read it back to him. If there was an omission or error he used to correct it and then let it be brought before the people.”

This is a categorical proof that Companions used to write Qur’an in the supervision of the Holy Prophet -may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- and got it checked from him before making it public.

There are some other traditions which indicate that Companions had written copies of complete or incomplete Quran. For example;

Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Umar: “Allah’s Messenger forbade the people to travel to a hostile country carrying (copies of) the Quran.”

Likewise, there is evidence for the manuscripts of the Qur’an in the instruction of the Holy Prophet –peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- to Hakim bin Hizam when he sent him to Yemen as a governor. He said:

“Do not touch the Qur’an except when you are in the state of purity.”

It was narrated that Abu Hurairah said: “The Messenger of Allah said: ‘The rewards of the good deeds that will reach a believer after his death are: Knowledge which he taught and spread; a righteous son whom he leaves behind; a copy of the Qur’an that he leaves as a legacy; a mosque that he built; a house that he built for wayfarers; a canal that he dug; or charity that he gave during his lifetime when he was in good health. These deeds will reach him after his death.’”

Source with References: http://www.letmeturnthetables.com/2010/08/quran-compilation-prophet-lifetime.html

… a few days before his death, the Prophet (peace be upon him & his progeny) said:”…Come on, I will write for you a writing (because of which) you shall not go astray after me.” But ‘Umar said: ‘Surely, the Messenger of Allah is overcome by pain, and you have got the Qur’an; the Book of Allah is sufficient for us…”

Source: Sahih Muslim, vol. 3 (Beirut. 1st edition. 19O5/1375)p.1295

Apparently, ‘Book’ is supposed to mean the written complete Qur’an here.

There are other references I want to give, but I would suggest that you go through the Qur’an preservation articles I linked above.

  • “When Uthman came along he hurried up the effort and burned all the other “competing” quorans.”

Agreement to make one standard Mushaf (Manuscript):

‘Uthman raised the issue with fellow companions and asked for their intake. Once asked about his own opinion he, as reported by ‘Ali said:

“I see that we bring people to a single Mushaf so that there is neither division nor discord”. And we said, “An excellent proposal.” (Ibn Abi Dawud’s Kitab al-Masahif, Hadith 62. Classified as Sahih by Ibn Hajr in Fath al-Bari)

An independent manuscript was arranged:

As reported by Kathir bin Aflah, a twelve member committee was formed to oversee the task. (Kitab al-Masahif, Hadith 72. Classified as Sahih by Ibn Kathir)

This committee did not simply considered the Official Qur’anic Manuscripts prepared under Abu Bakr –Allah be pleased with him- infact they prepared an independent Manuscript repeating the same practice as carried out during the time of Abu Bakr –may Allah be pleased with him.

Mus’ab bin Sa’d reported: ‘Uthman delievered a sermon to the people and said: Your prophet died (just) fifteen years ago and you differ regarding Qur’an. Bring to me anything you have from the Qur’an that he heard from the Messenger of Allah –may Allah bless him. Then it started that a man would come to him with writing on pieces of board and shoulder-blades and parchments. So whoever came to him with something, he asked: “Did you hear this from the Messenger of Allah –may Allah bless him?” Then he asked, “Who is best in language among the people?” They said, “Sa’id bin al-‘As.” Then he asked, “Who is the best in writing among the people?” They said, “Zaid bin Thabit.” He said. “Then let Zaid write and Sa’id dictate.” And then he got the Musahif written and sent to various cities. And I did not see anyone objecting to it. (Kitabul Masahif, Hadith 67. Classified as Sahih by Dr. Muhibuddin Wa’iz)

Source with References: http://www.letmeturnthetables.com/2011/06/quran-compilation-uthman.html

Furthermore, Assistant Professor Joseph E. B. Lumbard writes:

“In recent years, the field of Quranic Studies in the West has been undergoing a paradigm shift brought about by the discovery and scholarly analysis of the earliest Quranic manuscripts. The most recent scientific analysis of the earliest available Quranic manuscripts conducted by Behnam Sadeghi of Stanford University demonstrates that much of what we know to be the Quran today can be dated to the year 670 AD, or earlier. For the earliest extant manuscript to have undergone extensive analysis, radiocarbon dating gives “a 68% probability of belonging to the period between AD 614 to AD 656. It has a 95% probability of belonging to the period between AD 578 and AD 669.”

Behnam Sadeghi has also revealed that these manuscripts have an earlier “under text,” that is, the text that was erased from the parchment upon which the text of the earliest manuscripts is written. Given the cost and labor of producing parchment in early seventh century Arabia, when a new text was written, it was often more expedient and cost effective to wash the older texts from the parchment and begin anew. Because the ink employed in the seventh century was metal based, a residue remained that can now be read by subjecting the extant parchment to infrared photography. This is the “under text.” For the Sana’a manuscripts, it reveals occasional variations in the ordering of the sūrahs (or chapters) of the Quran, and slight variations in reading that correspond to the variations that had been preserved in the extensive Islamic material detailing variant readings of the Quran. But all of these variations had already been and recorded in the Islamic historiographical tradition. In other words, analysis of the “under text” confirms the accuracy of early Islamic historiography.

This changes the field of Quranic Studies because it provides empirical support for the accuracy of the traditional Islamic accounts that many western scholars have previously claimed to be anachronistic and unreliable, such as the existence of variant manuscripts of the Quran before the collation of the text in 650. Furthermore, statistical analysis of the variants within the earliest manuscripts suggests that the final version that came to be the accepted text of the Quran “is overall a better reproduction of the common source.” Even minor textual variations that were reported by early Islamic scholars and transmitted in the Quranic commentary tradition find substantiation in the “under text” of the earliest manuscripts of the Quran.

In addition, recent studies have demonstrated that the earliest Islamic literature on variant readings of the Quran is for the most part reliable and that the historicity of the received data is, as Michael Cook of Princeton University observes, “a testimony to the continuing accuracy of the transmission of the variants.” Such findings correspond with the most recent anthropological studies that confirm the historical reliability of oral transmission traditions.”

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-e-b-lumbard/new-light-on-the-history-_b_7864930.html

@Brent Freshour,

  • “The matter becomes worse when we realize that Uthman’s text omitted chapters and verses that the other texts included…”

According to the Muslim belief, there were some revelations from God that weren’t supposed to be part of the Qur’an and some that were supposed to be initially included in the Qur’an but later when times and attitudes of the people changed they were annulled or repealed from the Qur’an by the Prophet himself (presumably following God’s commands). The narrations regarding these annulled verses form the basis of this criticism.

  • “According to Ibn Umar and Aisha, Muhammad’s wife, one chapter, Surah al-Ahzab [33] had 200 verses … tradition is also confirmed by Ubay b. Kabb…”

Some argue that these are weak narrations, whether that is true or not there is another huge problem for this argument. As stated above, “Ubay b. Kabb” also narrated the above, but historical sources tell us that he was one of the twelve people in the committee that Uthman set up to manage the Uthman’s Qur’an manuscript, “but he did not make any bid to get the alleged verse he remembered into the text.”

Source with more detailed refutations: http://www.letmeturnthetables.com/2011/01/ahzab-verses-lost-abrogated-or.html

  • “A verse on the stoning of men and women had been expunged from the Uthmanic text. It reads as follows: “As for old men and women, stone them for the pleasure they have indulged in.” Umar al-Khattab stated, “But for people who may say that Umar adds to the Book of Allah, I would have written the verse on stoning.” (Ibid., p. 61)”

“… [Umar’s] idea of writing at the margin of the Quran or adding as an appendix … shows that he only meant to add it as side note or commentary to the Quran to tell the future generations explicitly about the punishment of stoning whom he feared rejecting this commandment and going astray.

It was never meant to be a part of the Quranic text:

1-It is reported in a narration from Kathir bin Salt that: Zaid (b. Thabit) said: ‘I heard the Messenger of Allah say, ‘When a married man or woman commit adultery stone them both (to death)’, (hearing this) Amr said,

‘When this was revealed I came to Prophet and asked if I could write it, he (the Prophet) disliked it.’ (Mustadrik Al-Hakim, Hadith 8184. Hakim called it Sahih. al-Dhahbi agreed with him)

2- About this ‘verse’ Kathir bin Salt says that he, Zaid bin Thabit and Marwan bin Hakam were discussing as to why it is not written in the Quranic manuscript and Umar bin Khattab was present with them and listening to their discussion he said he knew it better then them and told them that he came to Messenger of Allah and said:

“‘O Messenger of Allah, let the verse about stoning be written for me.’ He (the Prophet) said, ‘I can’t do this.'” (Sunan Al-Kubra Baihiqi 8/211 & Sunan Al-Kubra Nasai Hadith 7148. Albani (in Sahiha 6/412) said Baihiqi pointed to its authenticity)

Who could stop the Prophet (pbuh) from writing this verse in the Quran if it was supposed to be? Indeed it was not meant to be written in the Quran and that’s why Holy Prophet disliked its idea of its being written down.”

Source with more detailed refutations: http://www.letmeturnthetables.com/2009/08/myth-of-qurans-lost-verse-about-stoning.html

  • “Aisha mentioned an additional clause in her reading of the Quran which is not part of the Muslim scripture we now possess … ‘Guard strictly (the five obligatory) prayers, and the middle Salat, and Salat Al-Asr. And stand before Allah with obedience.’ She said: ‘I heard that from the Messenger of Allah.’…”

This is almost verbatim Qur’an verse 2:238, the only thing that is different are the words “Salat Al-Asr”. The majority opinion of Muslim scholars is that “middle Salat” = “Salat Al-Asr”. Apparently Lady Aisha was elaborating the words “middle Salat”. There is apparently another Hadeeth that confirms that this was meant for elaboration.

The fact is, most if not all of these apparent discrepancies have already been explained by Muslim scholars decades or even centuries ago.

One thing I should mention is that, judging from my research on Google, there is vastly more criticism of Islam than there is of Christianity or probably of any other religions too. There is a Bible verse whose apparent meaning is that if an unbetrothed girl gets raped by a man, the man must marry the girl and never divorce her (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). This is the most scandalous verse that I have ever come across in the Abrahamic religions’ scripture but on google, among the first ten links only one link led to a criticism, all other were Bible or apologist sites. On the other hand, researching for far less controversial Qur’anic verses will give links to the critics websites up-to half of the top ten results.

Another really important argument regarding Qur’an preservation is a recently discovered mathematical relation. Muslims believe that both the chapter numbers and verse numbers of the Qur’an are divinely inspired. There are 114 chapters in the Qur’an and when each of the chapter numbers are added to their verse numbers, it naturally gives 114 results. Interestingly exactly half (i.e. 57) of them give even results and 57 odd. But the really amazing thing is that when the even numbers are added together it is exactly equal to the total number of verses (i.e. 6236) in the Qur’an. Non-Muslims call it just a criticism, Muslims call it a miracle. Personally, I think that the numbers involved are just too great to be ‘just a co-incidence’. Also, this is a recent discovery which decreases the likelihood that any human designed the Qur’an in such a way. If there was indeed a deity behind the Qur’an this method would have been a good method of making sure that none of the verses have been lost.

I would suggest that you go through both the anti-Islamic websites like answering-islam.com and Muslim apologist websites and then decide for yourself. Try to judge the arguments based solely on the quotations and not on the particular narrative that is tried to be pushed forward. If you come across any more criticisms you may need help with, I will be glad to help.

The Issue of Malala & Pakistanis

In the beginning it would have been inaccurate to state that the Pakistani people hate Malala. A more accurate statement would’ve been that Pakistanis hate what Malala had become, or rather “been made”, a symbol of; which got ascribed as “hate for Malala”, both by Westerners and Pakistanis alike.

In the present scenario, especially after the publication of her book, this evolved to what has been put the most succinctly by the following comment: Malala “has become a battleground on which an ideological battle is being fought by conservative-fundamentalist and liberal-secular forces.”

An Anomaly

From the very beginning, the unprecedented promptness and efficacy with which this story developed is enough reason for any Pakistani to become suspicious. Generally speaking, there is no doubt in the mind of an average Pakistani that what happened to Malala was used by the West, mostly America and Britain to further their own agendas, probably with some help from the Pakistani government, to gain political points, legitimize the American invasion, its continued presence in the region, rationalize drone strikes (or its civilian casualties) etc. The Western media’s unique and persistent focus on the issue lends support to this argument. Many children have died during this conflict, probably more as a direct result of NATO’s military action than the Taliban’s; but even a fraction of this much effort and importance was never provided to those cases. A recent (October, 2015) example to this point is the NATO bombing of a Doctors without Borders’ hospital in Afghanistan. Similarly, just 4-5 days after the Malala incident a US airstrike killed three children with little mention in the media. This argument is further supported by the fact that when, through the efforts of some human rights activists, children from the tribal areas of Pakistan who had been directly affected by the American Drone program, the children who had lost their loved ones during those strikes on “terrorists”, were finally given the opportunity to address the US Congress, a grand total of 5 members attended that meeting. Compare this to the full-houses Malala has been fortunate enough to address. Like many other people, Aitzaz Hassan who gave his life protecting the students of his school from a suicide bomber also remained largely unknown.

There are many other instances which go on to show that Malala Yousafzai is an anomaly by far.

Malala going on to win the Nobel Prize further exasperates the situation by putting a direct question mark on her reliability in Pakistani minds, especially considering the fact of how Obama also got one for, it can easily be argued, just making promises and not really actually accomplishing anything; at-least some of which he has yet (December, 2015) to fulfil like the closing of Guantanamo Bay prison. Furthermore, the fact that the PR company of corporate giants like Microsoft and Starbucks, Edelman, is also working for Malala’s family pro bono doesn’t help to dispel any suspicions. As one commentator put it: “Malala took a good stand but then her reputation was tarnished with with [sic] book deals and PR/propaganda opportunities.”

Guilt by Association

Another reason is the “Guilt by Association” concept. Because of a confusing myriad of factors, Pakistanis are among the top three countries in the world for the most “unfavourable view of the U.S.”; the other two being Russia and Jordan. This unfavourable view is higher than even in the Palestinian territories. So, naturally, people and ideas which have American support, are viewed by much scepticism, especially when it comes to American political support. On its own, this is a pretty fallacious reason, but in any case it has pretty valid motivations at its foundation. Additionally, this thinking also gives rise to the conspiracy theorists who in this context have been, adequately or inadequately, termed as “Malala Truthers” going as far as to claim that she was never actually shot.

While the association with Western governments may have been exaggerated, there is little doubt that Malala has had close associations with individuals who are, to say the least, disliked in Pakistan. Malala co-authored her book with Christina Lamb who was deported from Pakistan “for being involved in undesirable activities” which in this instance, apparently, was “for planting a story that Osama Bin Laden was travelling from Queeta by air to Islamabad”. She also spoke against the ban on the commonly regarded as blasphemous book of Salman Rushdie, who in-turn is, amongst Muslims, arguably the most hated person on the planet.

Continued Silence

In my opinion the most significant factor for Malala’s continued dislike by the Pakistani people is her apparent silence on the matter of drone strikes. These strikes have been looked upon with special scepticism, or to be more accurate, hostility, by the Pakistani people. A matter made more muddled due to the existence of several reports which, for one reason or another, end up having to include fluctuating estimates of innocents killed in those strikes. A relevant example is the article written in 2009 by Daniel L. Byman, which said “for every militant killed, 10 or so civilians also died”. Pakistanis because of their already unfavourable view of American policies, naturally gravitate towards the higher numbers for these innocent deaths. Malala for her part has spoken against them on at-least one occasion, however, from what I gather, most Pakistanis are unaware of this fact. Still, the argument remains, Malala hasn’t been nearly as vocal as she could, or rather as some would argue, should have been. She has had the opportunity to address from platforms and to audiences larger than any other Pakistani has been able to, perhaps in the entire 68-year history of the country; but the only instance, that I have been able to find evidence for, she does speak against the strikes, happens to be in a private meeting, granted the meeting was with the US president, but still, not nearly as public as it should’ve been.

Cognitive Biases

Another reason is the inherent, usually unrealized, involuntary response that, generally speaking, every human feels whenever anything that he/she is inwardly or outwardly loyal to, becomes attached to some form of negativity. People usually have to overcome some form of cognitive bias before they are able to objectively process such undesirable information; the most probable reason why Iqbal Masih is not well known in his own country. Malala has inadvertently become the reason for exactly that. Pakistan has become a symbol of female oppression in the 21st century and how “girls are not allowed to obtain education in that country”. I have personally come across a few posts on social media written by Pakistani female students who while studying in some Western country, recounted their encounters with people who were surprised by their nationalities and believed that they must have belonged to “really liberal families”. More importantly, whether such an idea is true or not, in the minds of most Pakistanis, Malala has done very little, if anything, to dispel that notion.

Additionally, although there is evidence to show that Malala has respect for Islam, she nevertheless has through her books criticised particular Pakistani Islamic laws and to some small extent shown a disdain for people having religious authority.

Malignant Lies

The situation becomes worse by badly researched, hugely ignorant if not deliberately malicious half-truths or blatant lies spread on social media. I came up with the following while researching for this article:

The Issue of Malala &amp; Pakistanis (WordPress Article Graphic)

The Urdu text describes Malala standing beside blasphemers Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen
(Abusive Urdu caption in the above graphic has been cropped off)

This was taken at Sakharov prize ceremony of its laureates. First of all, the man beside Malala is not Salman Rushdie but Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament who actually spoke against the hugely controversial anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims”. He because of his position and European background was criticised and shamed for this action.

Regarding Taslima Nasreen, she actually criticized Malala for, what can be described as, being too Islamic. She wrote in a blog:

“I congratulated Malala for the prize. She shook my hand with expressionless face. …I requested the European Parliament to arrange for my meeting with Malala when we both would be at the parliament. But I was told that no bilateral meeting would be possible for Malala. … I did not expect but was not shocked either when Malala started her official speech in the name of Allah. She said, Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim while she was giving a speech at the secular European Parliament. Malala believes in Allah and Islam. She often praises Islam and talks about women’s freedom. I wish she knew ‘religion is not compatible with women’s rights’ … Everybody loves Malala. I am afraid she will be able to convince young Muslim girls that Islam is a good religion that respects women and it is good to wear Islamic veils.”

The really unfortunate thing is that among Muslims, especially Pakistani Muslims, this graphic is probably the most compelling and definitive evidence to hate Malala but in reality its meaning is a complete falsehood.

An interesting article in this context is one by Mehwish Ali who attempts to refute some allegations against Malala. The comments on this article provides a curious window into the difference of opinion common Pakistanis have on this issue.

Lack of Popularity for Positive Endeavours

With the negative information regarding Malala, being popular in Pakistan the positive information is equally unpopular. In addition to speaking out against the drone strikes as mentioned before, Malala also donated her $50,000 Nobel Prize money for the rebuilding of a damaged school in Gaza. “This funding will help rebuild the 83 schools damaged during the recent conflict. Innocent Palestinian children have suffered terribly and for too long”, she remarked. News about her helping the “Muslims of Palestine oppressed by Western powers” would go a long way in distancing her from the concept of Western interests associated with her.

Additionally, it can be argued that opportunities like these are possible  motivations for Malala’s lack of critique of the West. Any person who dabs into a political scenario becomes controversial and in this particular case, political statements against the West, in all likelihood, would have made her “forgotten” rather than just controversial. Malala may very well have be walking the path which is the most beneficial.

Internal Misogynistic Attitudes?

One reason for the distrust, propagated by people who are usually termed, by themselves or by others, as liberals, count internal archaic misogynist attitudes apparently inherent in the Pakistani people, which in turn, is sometimes blamed on religious fundamentalism. I personally don’t believe that this argument holds against criticism. Sure, there would be groups of people who might share similar opinions, but these are aberrant opinions and not a representation of the norm. Atypical ideas, virtuous or wicked, in one form or another exist in all societies. If this was indeed the case, then similar negativity would have surrounded both Arfa Abdul Karim Randhawa or Naseem Hameed (Pakistani sprinter). Although I wasn’t able to find any evidence for it, Ms. Hameed might have gotten some flak for not following the Islamic dress code to its entirety, on the track. If in fact this was the case, judging from what I have read and heard, the gratification she received, short lived as it might have been, far outstripped any negativity.

“I Am Malala”

And then there is the matter of Malala’s book: “I Am Malala”. I didn’t go through the entire book, but judging by the few portions that I did go through, it seems that the author, in at-least a few places, is trying to ascribe excessive blame on Pakistanis who attempted to mould the country’s law into an Islamic one. In the pursuit of this goal the writer, whether knowingly or unknowingly, ignores vital details in order to keep the narrative intact.

In one such case, she writes: “But General Zia brought in Islamic laws which reduced a woman’s evidence in court to count for only half that of a man’s.”

But the author ignores the vital restriction. According to the paper, Gender and Access to Justice: Pakistan Case:

“Further Section 17 qualifies half status for women witnesses and restricts it to financial matters … in all other matters, the Court may accept, or act on the testimony of one man or one woman…”

This might not have been a significant enough omission if it were not so reminiscent of the distortions and half-truths anti-Islamists are known to use frequently. However, the probable motivation for Malala here is her aversion for the country’s religious authorities than the religion itself.

Another snippet conservative Pakistani Muslim society will find hard to swallow is the following critique: “…but Zia made our female hockey players wear baggy trousers instead of shorts…”

Following the Evidence

One of the primary reasons that conspiracy theories, distortions, half-truths and blatant lies become so popular is because, as Brian Dunning puts it: “The truth is less incisive, it’s less inflammatory, it raises no ire, and it draws no audience.” Humans, by nature, look for validation of their beliefs and paranoias. For this purpose a myriad of involuntary cognitive biases come into play. A basic understanding of critical thinking and metacognition here, cannot be valued enough. It helps to break down the arguments into their basic components. Is the information reliable? Is their enough evidence to reach this particular conclusion? etc. In the absence of sufficient evidence, any conclusion no matter how much satisfactory it “feels”, is nothing more than mere conjecture and speculation; and furthermore, to chastise someone for it is a misconduct. The unfortunate thing is that this procedure, this formula, is something that is ingrained inside the Muslim religion itself.

Therefore, was the “Malala event” effectively used by the West to further its narrative? – Little doubt about it. Is Malala against Islam? – Available evidence appears to suggest otherwise. Is Malala against Pakistani laws deemed to be Islamic in nature? – No more than any other secular entity of Pakistan. Is Malala being brought up to carry out and implement the Western model of a productive secular society to conservative Pakistan? – Only time will tell!