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Posted by on Dec 27, 2012 in Uncategorized | 5 comments

“Richard Dawkins Follows Prophet Muhammad’s Teaching on Freedom” I Think Not.

I read an article today in the Huffington Post by Qasim Rashid entitled Richard Dawkins Follows Prophet Muhammad’s Teaching on Freedom. Rashid claims that Dawkins has borrowed the idea of the right to choose one’s own religion directly from the Qur’an:

Dawkins, likely inadvertently, has endorsed (without crediting) a principle Prophet Muhammad championed 1400 years prior. The Qur’an categorically condemned any form of religious compulsion by declaring in no uncertain terms, “There shall be no compulsion in religion” (2:257). This remarkable verse extends beyond just religion as the word translated into “religion” is deenDeen encompasses any form of thinking, ideology, or intellectual perspective–not just religion. Islam forbids compulsion regarding any of them.

Likewise, the Qur’an, in 22:39-41, commands Muslims to protect all houses of worship — temples, churches, synagogues, and mosques — so that freedom of conscience remains free. That is, the Qur’an provides muscle to ban compulsion of conscience. It is the only ancient scripture — religious or secular — to both specifically champion, and also provide muscle, to protect universal freedom of conscience.

I’ll give Rashid the benefit of the doubt here and assume the translation is correct and the interpretation conveyed above is accurate. I am able to extend this courtesy simply because the argument falls apart entirely regardless. Rashid assumes that an ideal can only be conceived of once, and any other person that promotes this ideal must have derived it from the earliest known source. This, of course, is just plain silly. The idea of allowing people to choose their own religion is patently obvious. This concept does not need divine revelation; all that is required is simple logic, reason and, more importantly, consideration for your fellow man.

Rashid also fails to realise that Muhammad was not the first person to suggest people had a right to choose their religion. Cyrus the Great established religious freedom in the Achaemenid Empire in the 6th century BC, and similar freedoms were instituted in the 3rd century BC in India. So either Muhammad, likely inadvertently, has endorsed (without crediting) a principle two separate civilisations championed 600-900 years prior, or Rashid has to admit that any thinking person can reach the conclusion that people should be allowed to choose their religion.

I think I would not have found these statements so abhorrent if Muslims worldwide actually adhered to these verses. However, apostasy deserves the death penalty and blasphemy laws impinge on citizens’ right of conscience in many Islamic states. Nowhere is the concept of religious freedom and the right to choose one’s own religion more at threat than in the Islamic world.

  • NoCrossNoCrescent

    The Koran is categorically not about freedom of conscience. Apilogists who quote the “ni compulsion in religion” bit fail to tell you what immediately follows: “As the true path has been distinguished from falsehood”. In other words you won’t be forced to a Muslim if you are already one! The stories of the life of the prophet are indicative that he was anything but tolerant. He committed genocide against jewish tribes in Arabia and drove them away one after another. He destroyed the pagans’ idols.
    The Huff Post drivel is either ill informed or maliciously deceptive.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/humanisticas/ Peter Ferguson

      Thanks for that. My knowledge of the Qur’an is scant at best so I had to tackle his ridiculous argument from a different angle.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Serban-Dragulin/733211229 Serban Dragulin

    There was no compulsion in religion in the persian empire, or the roman empire (prior to the “loving” christians)

    • http://www.skepticink.com/humanisticas/ Peter Ferguson

      Yes that is true but I decided to cite the two examples above as they were written into law and we still have the texts today.

  • Michael

    The problem with Islam is that the “prophet” Muhammad and Islam are defined by “dualism” as explained in this video:
    A Rational Study of Radical Islam, by Dr. Bill Warner
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C9sYgqRtZGg

    Dualism, as Dr Warner puts it, is the radical transformation between Muhammad’s early life as a peaceful preacher in Mecca, and his later life as a violent warlord in Medina. The Koran reflects this dualism with peaceful verses from his early period, and violent verses from his later period.

    This means apologists like Rashid can quote from the peaceful verses, and Osama bin Laden can quote from the violent verses, and we’re left wondering: which is the real Islam?

    To answer that we have to look at the doctrine of Islam, to see how mainstream interpretations of Islam have solved this dualism problem.

    Robert Spencer, The Islamic doctrine of abrogation
    http://www.jihadwatch.org/2006/10/the-islamic-doctrine-of-abrogation.html

    “… it has been a mainstream notion in Islamic theology that if a verse revealed at Mecca contradicts another revealed later at Medina, the Medinan verse takes precedence …

    Many traditional Islamic theologians and Qur’an commentators argue that violent material, such as sura 9, abrogates more relatively tolerant material such as sura 109. This is not a newly-minted view “cherry-picked” by Osama bin Laden; it is in fact a very ancient view…

    Another still-influential Qur’an commentator, Ibn Kathir (1301-1372) quotes an earlier authority, Ad-Dahhak bin Muzahim, to establish that the Verse of the Sword, sura 9:5 (“slay the unbelievers wherever you find them”) “abrogated every agreement of peace between the Prophet and any idolater, every treaty, and every term.” …

    This idea is crucial as a guide to the relationship of the Qur’an’s peaceful passages to its violent ones. Suras 16, 29, 52, 73, and 109 — the sources of many of the Qur’an’s verses of peace and tolerance — are all Meccan. That means that many Muslims, guided by commentators such as those above and the imams who teach from them, see these suras only in light of what was revealed later in Medina. Being the last or next-to-last sura revealed, sura 9 is generally understood as being the Qur’an’s last word on jihad, and all the rest of the book — including the “tolerance verses” — must be read in its light.”

    Ergo, Sam Harris is correct when he says in The End of Faith: “While there are undoubtedly some “moderate” Muslims who have decided to overlook the irrescindable militancy of their religion, Islam is undeniably a religion of conquest. The only future devout Muslims can envisage—as Muslims—is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, subjugated, or killed.”

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