Leaving Islam




Response to Ali Sina’s essay "Slaying Islam


by Isafarb

17 Apr 2001

I have read several articles by Sina and unfortunately every time I read them I am angered by his vitriolic language which is a reflection of his fanatical mindset. I use the term fanatic deliberately with regard to Sina as he as donned the same garb, and has the same ends in mind, of those he claims to be fighting - hatred and destruction. The fact that he has targeted a religion to his fanatical zeal, and not the practitioners, as he claims, in no way differentiates him from his fanatical muslim brethren who target other religions or Western ideology upon which to vent their frustration as unrealized human beings. The word fanatic as explained by the dictionary means “unreasonably enthusiastic; overly zealous”; and fanaticism as “excessive and unreasonable zeal”.

In order to place my response in the perspective from which it is written I shall say that I am writing from outside the boundaries of religion in general, and Islam in particular. I was born into a muslim family and raised in an extremely liberal muslim environment and my movement away from religion was a slow and thoughtful process - no dramatic conversion from any fire and brimstone event. There are several tenets which I have still not resolved because of lack of knowledge on which to assess my judgment. I think that reserving the right to pass judgment on an issue until all the facts have been adequately analyzed is the basis of critical thinking which leads to enlightenment. Again I am using the language of religion in order to point out how profoundly we are affected by religion and its language because it speaks to a deeply felt longing that all human beings share. Knowing that religion can no longer adequately address that longing comes only after one has cultured an ability to view religious doctrine in a dispassionate and scholarly manner. That is the enlightenment of which I speak.

Ali Sina’s language and manner are neither scholarly nor enlightened. He certainly has acquired the requisite knowledge upon which to base his judgments and could quote chapter and verse on behalf of his stand, but it is his evaluation and his goals that I find very disturbing and am questioning. Firstly my critique of his mindset can be based purely on his semantics. Some examples of his language in describing a muslim :

"You cannot win a Muslim’s heart by love. Once a person becomes a Muslim he losses his humanity; his reason is gone; his sense of justice is vanished; his heart becomes full of hate. He thinks of killing unbelievers; he despises people who are not muslims and hate consumes his being."

What an all encompassing generalization on the same dangerously bigoted lines as the the Nazi’s justification for exterminating the Jews - give a race or religion enough negative connotations by the intelligentsia and the thugs who adopt a simplistic aspect of that ideology will carry it through to its logical end.

And also:

"Then look at those who are still caught in the claws of this satanic cult. [Islam] See how they spew their venom at everybody. If we get rid of Islam we get rid of our hate against each other and we can build a new hate-free world together."

How does Sina propose to bring about this ideal “hate-free world”?

"Islam is a disease that destroys everything... We are going to eradicate this deadly disease. We will destroy Islam... we have to kill islam. We have to aim our darts at the heart of Islam. We have to attack Muhammad and destroy the credibility of the Quran."

How may I ask is this language and its aims different from the bible bashing of priests sermonizing from their pulpits, or Khomeini's rhetoric about America as the Great Satan, or the Taliban’s rallying call to fight in the Jihad against the infidels of the West. [Especially America, because these dogmatists instinctively know that American ideology, at least fundamentally, is antithetical to all strains of fanaticism.]

It is language that is unworthy of a scholar. One could of course ignore Sina’s verbiage and defend the underlying principle that calls for such measures to counter the growing spread of violence in fundamentalist religions everywhere, Islam being the most prominent. But Sina’s attack is specifically aimed at Islam and not the problem of why people believe in religion and the motivation behind imposing those beliefs at the point of a gun. I will also concede that it does befall those who are Muslim scholars to reveal the historical accuracy of the origins of Islam and the authentic character of Muhammad in order for other Muslims to view such research as unbiased by ulterior motives. However Ali Sina has elevated his research to the status of a belief system on par with the very cultism he is denouncing and his diatribe into prophetic doomsday predictions or naive idealistic visions of his utopia.

"Now we know what to do. We are going to eradicate this deadly disease. We will destroy Islam. Taslima Nasrin said that fundamentalism is a poisonous branch shooting from the trunk of Islam. Until the trunk of Islam is alive it will keep growing poisonous branches. [this is ?] The solution is [?] to it. You fight against fundamentalism in one place and ten more fundamentalist and terrorist movements shoot out in other places. The world must realize that Islam IS fundamentalism. You cannot fight against Islamic fundamentalism without fighting against Islam itself."

Therefore according to Sina one has to completely destroy Islam in order for peace, love and tolerance to be a viable option in the world. He belongs to that breed of intellectuals who have repeatedly, throughout history, espoused the slogan - the end justifies the means. What bloody atrocities have been committed in the name of that slogan, and examine those who have adopted that slogan in defense of their ideology. All religions in defense of their massacres of the unbelievers, dictators in consolidating their power and communists in expanding their hegemony - to name only a few prototypes. Of course Sina says he does not want to physically slay his dragon but only to act as the heroic knight who frees the victims of this “monster” by showing them the way out of the dragon’s lair. Once it is pointed out that the victims of Islam have merely been deluded into accepting their erroneous beliefs by a demonic figure who created his evil cult in order to perpetuate his mastery over them - all these misguided souls will cry halleluiah and say they have finally seen the light and would be ashamed even to admit that they once called themselves muslims. That is naive idealism to a point of ludicrousy combined with a lack of psychological insight into the motives of most people who follow one religion or another.

Christianity has been and still is in the process of being examined quite microscopically. The Bible has and is being subjected to all kinds of analysis as to historical authenticity and how much of its content is viable fact. It is also being examined from a philological and hermeneutic standpoint in regard to the the art of storytelling where myth and legend portray fundamental human values rather than accurate historical fact that modern man places so much of an emphasis on, perhaps to his emotional detriment. Nevertheless people continue to have faith in the Bible, perhaps not so much as the immutable word of God any longer but as an instrument that conveys his spirit. One may erode or shatter a persons belief with knowledge to the contrary, but faith does not need knowledge. A “leap” of faith is how it is referred to and it is by nature blind. Religion, or rather the religious feeling, is a means to fill the emptiness of perpetual longing that every individual feels. So for Sina to think that simply in revealing the history of Islam or the contradictions of the Quran he is going to instantaneously make people see the light, and topple all irrationality in all religions boggles the mind as to his intellectual ability and insight. He is wrong on two counts: first his statement that in questioning Islam, and revealing its inconsistencies, it will pave the way for people of other faiths to question their supposed divine revelations - they have been doing so for many years now, Islam is the only mainstream religion that has not been placed under the same kind of scrutiny until now; and secondly in portraying Islam as a “beast” which can be slayed by revealing it “errors” and “absurdities”, and Sina’s subsequent derogatory evaluation of those factual inaccuracies, as all that is necessary to make unbelievers of all.

"We have to attack our enemy from two fronts. One is Muhammad himself, his immoral character is an eloquent proof that this man could not possibly qualify to be a messenger of God. The second front is the Quran. We have to make everyone see the errors and the absurdities of this book. Once this ideological revolution take[s] place among muslims, the effects of that will reverberate in other parts of the world and the thinkers of other religions will see the absurdities of their own Faiths and will come down hard at the irrational beliefs of their own fathers."

I also question Ali Sina’s assessment of Muhammad. How does one “qualify” to be a messenger of God? Sina’s implication in that statement, and others he has made in the same vein, is that there is a certain, perhaps unspoken, standard for a messenger of God which Muhammad, in a historical light, violates. Therefore Muhammad is a demonic cult leader posing as a false prophet leading people on a path of damnation. Sina is again inverting one irrational belief into another. From a divine messenger of God we have a satanic monster. Where is the humanistic evaluation of a real historical figure that is the purpose of scholarly research to reveal? How about an extremely clever man who had a strong and charismatic enough personality to found a new faith and consolidate its basis to make it spread and grow as a dominant force in the world. He used whatever means that would justify his ends. Much as other historically dominant figures have throughout history - Genghis Khan, Hannibal, Caesar, Napoleon, Hitler et all. What differentiates them from Muhammad is that he based his justification to conquer and dominate man upon God and a new religion. It is an act of supreme virtuosity that he was one of the few historical predators who unleashed the power of men’s longing for a belief in certainty into a creed for dominance. We can condemn his intentions and actions on moral ground, once all the relevant facts have been revealed, but to turn him into a supernatural being - either good or bad is what needs to be got away from.

Sina states that all other religions except Islam are tolerant of faiths other than theirs. That when one abandons Islam one automatically loves and respects the people of other beliefs. That, as I do not claim be a scholar yet, is complete hogwash. He need only read history or look around the world to see that the majority of the world religions have persecuted the “other”, as Sartre would say. Most wars have at their base some sort of purported religious conviction at stake.

It seems that Sina’s fight against Islam is based on nationalistic motives. He wants to liberate Iran from the grip of islamic dogmatism. He wants to see the creation of his vision of Utopia replace the existing status quo in Iran. He thinks he can achieve this renaissance within thirty years. How is this to be achieved? By peaceful means and with scholarly research. Once all these books refuting the divine origin of Islam etc. are published, thereby freeing Iran from the tentacles of islam, debate will reign amongst all Islamic theologians, dictatorships will topple, progress of un-islamic countries will compel islamic counties to adopt the same progressive ideology (as though these countries are doing so now!) and the “majestic architecture” of Iran (which is mainly islamic ironically) will be placed in the service of knowledge and art. This “new age of enlightenment” will “ease the tension between Muslims and the rest of the world and establish universal peace on this planet”. ( What Muslims? - I thought that any remaining ones would be too ashamed to declare themselves as so)

I don’t think I lack imagination or vision, but for me to take any of Sina’s visions without not just one but many grains of salt would be just as naive as his assertions and fantasies and worse still imply compliance with both his means and his end. He states that his means for converting the islamic world are to be peaceful then why the marital tone of his language? Language that is specifically aimed at inflaming the emotion. And if I can react in this way, where my desire is to view the construction of a rational framework for historical / religious discourse what about people who are committed heart, mind, body and soul to Islam, which is the overwhelming majority of Muslims. Is it possible to present historical facts together with derogatory valuation and denunciating rhetoric for your message to be taken seriously by those who you claim you want to convert? I think it would have the opposite effect and reinforce those same doctrines and people will rise up to defend their cherished beliefs to the death if they feel it is threatened by merely sacrilegious motives.

If Ali Sina wants to be regarded as an Islamic scholar worthy of such a title he needs to change his mindset. But I think his concern is predominately the battle of winning back Iran rather than contributing to an impartial redemption of historical facts. He uses historical data and couples it with inflammatory language to further his agenda of overthrowing the Islamic government of Iran. To say that this will be achieved by peaceful means when his whole stance is so blatantly bent on combat and destruction is either an innocent naiveté, of which I do not think Sina is guilty, or he uses such language with the deliberate attempt to inflame emotions in order for chaos to rein. The confusion of deliberate chaos, and the opportunities it affords for the assumption of power, has been the playground of all intellectuals bent on fostering bloody revolutions.

I am not quite sure how the issue of Gandhi and the creation of Pakistan logically ties in with the basic premise that Islam is a religion that is full of hatred and must be destroyed at all cost. I suppose Sina wanted to use Gandhi as the symbol, in the essay, as the peaceful means by which he says he wants to achieve that end, and Pakistan as an example of Islamic intolerance. Just critiquing the essay on form alone I would say that his conclusions do not logically follow from his premises, and therefore his arguments remain unconvincing. He also has his historical facts wrong again. Jinnah was not Islamic in the least and used Islam merely for political ends in creating Pakistan. Pakistan was created, at least theorically, as a safe haven for muslims, and where religion and state were to be kept democratically seperate. So Sina, in donning the title of muslim intellectual, should at least research his subject matter more before writng about it. It is really only his language and evaluations that shock the reader into a response. Though I will admit that I have learnt much about Islamic history from some of Sina’s previous work, this essay however does not even merit that citation.

My point, in this lengthy response, is a note of warning. In order to refute the basic tenets upon which a religion is founded one must not resort to the same intransigent position as the fanatics that espouse them. I think the staunchest dogmatists are usually recently turned atheists coming from a fairly strict religious background. They have the same close minded, bigoted and biased judgment about their point of view as do believers brandishing a sword. They simply switch from one form of extremism to another - the coin remains the same however you may toss it and which ever face you view. There must be, especially among the intellectuals working on this problem, an impartial perspective from which to soundly present history and interpret texts and people in a holistic manner; and not use disconnected events and writings simply to condone their psychological perspectives. Of course evaluation of that data cannot help but be colored by the in-built prejudices of the observer - that is something science recognizes and takes into account. In the same manner as scientists impartially evaluating data that presents itself for their hypothesis, so must these new Islamic historians use the same intellectual honesty and rigour in their checks and balances to control for inherent prejudice. I am neither suggesting an amoral tolerance of destructive elements or that there be no synthesis and postulation of counter theories in light of new knowledge. I am simply appealing in the name of that pleasure that is derived from reading or listening to a sane, rational and undeniably lucid thesis that elevates and transforms the listeners to a level of human dignity that no amount of emotional proselytizing can ever compare with.


A Response to Isafarb's comment

By: Aparthib

18 Apr 2001

This is in response to Isafarb's critique of Sina dated 17 Apr 2001 Time: 02:03:28 :

Well Mr. Isafarb, all your verbose critique of Dr. Sina can be summarized as:

  1. Mr. Sina may have a point but his language was very harsh and wrong like calling for an attack on Islam etc. 
  2. His writings are not scholarly 
  3. His vitriolic criticism of Islam rather than Islamic extremist is going to create further hatred among Islamic believers. 
  4. His views are as fanatic as as the religious fanatic itslef, hence there is no difference between the two and even Nazism. 
  5. The main agenda of Sina is to liberate Iran.

All that you have said boils down to one of the above five, you have said nothing beyond that. All of the above was your judgement on Sina rather than a refutation of his points and views. So where do you stand? Are you with the religious fanatics? Yes/No? If yes, then no comments. But if No then what is of real concern to you? The acts of religious extremists (that hurts in a tangible way) or the manner/language of Mr Sina's critique of religious extremism and his contention that such extremism is rooted in Islam itself (That doesn't hurt anyone in any tangible way) ? Seems like to you the bigger concern are the likes of Mr. Sina who are vociferously opposing religious fundamentalism. If you shared that concern then you could have at least suggested better ways and constructive criticisms to Mr. Sina instead of such vitriolic castigation of Sina's article. Whose hand are you strengthening? Whose side are you on? Is the language of his expression that much of a big deal if the message is right? Is the "HOW" part more important than "WHAT" part? Besides, before "equating" his passionate opposition to Islamic extremism with fanaticism have you considered the fact that his call is not for chopping anyone's head or issuing life threats unlike the religious fanatics? Where is the fairness in this equation? You don't see the action-reaction, cause/effect duality in all these. Religious fanaticism is the cause/action. Secularism (including Sina's vociferous version that you call fanaticism) is the effect/reaction. How can a reaction to a fanaticism be a fanaticism. That's a logical absurdity. His expressions are hyperbolic at best reflecting the urgency of the problem and can never be taken literally. How can one "KILL" Islam? He proposes to kill it by exposing/debunking the flaws/inconsistencies in Islam through expressions. Such exposition has already disillusioned many former blind faith holders in Islam. This is what he means by "KILL". Does that bother you? Then you are sure revealing your true affiliations. All religions share some common spirituality that is part of being human. We all wonder about the root cause of creation (Call it God), possible life after death etc. His "Kill" did not aim at such harmless spiritual yearning. Buddhists, Shamans, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews etc all share that harmless spiritual part of religion. That can hardly be a matter of concern to Sina or any secularist. It is the rigid dogma of the revelations that incite its followers to kill/control dissenters, women for exercising their basic human rights that is the real concern. No other religion TODAY poses such threat to individual right and freedom as does Islam. So his passionate opposition to Islam, not for its spiritual belief in God, heaven, hell etc but for its coercive preaching and exhortations. If one could kill the coercive parts leaving only the innocuous spiritual part then all the power to him as unrealistic as it is. But the best one could do ids to expose the flaws and objectionable parts of the revelations and scriptures so the fence sitting believers can be disillusioned about the pretentious claim of the religious apologetics about the lofty nature of Islam. That is what he meant by "KILLING" Islam. After that killing the peaceful believers can still derive spiritual strength from reciting its verses, like the devotees of all religion do from chanting mantras etc, without the baggage of any threat to non-believers or dissenters. Mr. Sina or any secularist will not have any problem with such peaceful and private quest of spirituality, be it via Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Shamanism, or even Voodooism, no matter how illogical all these religions seem to them from an informed scientific perspective



19 Apr 2001


Replying to Aparthib

I repeat - the end does not justify the means. All of the points you have raised and are questioning I have answered in my article if you would read it in a more temperate state of mind.

I have clearly defined my position, there are no hidden agendas. You seem to think there are two basic positions - either one is for fundamentalism, explicitly or implicitly, or against. And in my critiquing the ones who clearly seem to stand in opposition I am implicating myself on the side of the fundamentalists - I am strengthening their hand as you put it. Firstly I don't think they need any help from me; and secondly one does not have to stoop to the level of the fundamentalists in order to fight them. There is another option. I have also stated that already. It is an unbiased, rational and holistic interpretation of history which in its authenticity is hard for anyone to intellectually refute. It can obviously be emotionally refuted by people with strong religious belief, but not rationally. It in no way relies on its affect by appeal to emotions, that is the arena of faith. One has to extricate oneself from that foundation in order to effectively combat irrationality of all kinds.

I agree with your evaluation that Sina is a reaction to fundamentalism. I have stated that previously as well. It is his kind of reaction that is the whole point. To be a reaction to a spirit-cripplingly harmful cause is not necessarily a wholesome thing. One can simply invert the values learned and rebroadcast them. One can see that example in children raised in dysfunctional families. They transmit their value system, wittingly or unwittingly to their children. It has nothing to do with logic, absurd or otherwise, that like begets like. My strong critique of Ali Sina is that he should know better. He is obviously a highly learned man, and his knowledge can greatly benefit the cause against fundamentalism. But the "How" is as important as the "Why".

Words are symbols for our thoughts. The kinds of words we use and their connotations and implications reflect our mind-set. Sina is not advocating physical violence as such but in using inflammatory language against those who are, he is inciting its use. Fundamentalism cannot be fought on its own grounds without violence. Knowledge, and subsequent enlightenment, is a long and slow process. It cannot be performed overnight especially against those who have closed their minds. Just try to tell a mullah or a peasant in Peshawar or Afghanistan, which make up the majority of the Taliban, that Muhammad was a demonic cult figure and the Quran a hoax, with Sina's added passionate adjectives as you call it, and I'd like to see how long it takes to turn that creature into a violent lunatic.

Fundamentalism cannot be killed by facts and the tenacity of the religious need cannot even be liberated by knowledge right away. But one can appeal to the rational human being who is intellectually honest via his need to know the truth at all cost. One must appeal in a sane and unbiased manner to be effective. The educated youth especially are starved for things that make sense. If one is able to effectively spark a question mark in a person's previous belief system that will spread the seeds for an open attitude in a quest to learn. That is the only way a religion can be effectively rendered impotent. It is not easy and it is not quick. In today's age of mass information it will hopefully be quicker for Islam than the dark ages of other religions. Sina has the requisite knowledge to help achieve those ends but not the right attitude or aim. It actually hinders the process of constructing a framework in which rational discourse can occur.



19 Apr 2001

By: Aparthib

Replying to Isafarb:

Most of you of what you are saying are simple proselytizing with trite imperatives that do not provide any cogent ground for the acerbity with which you are lashing out at Sina.

Your precept "one does not have to stoop to the level of the fundamentalists in order to fight them" is being followed to the letter by Sina. He didn't stoop to the level of the fundamentalists by calling for anyone's decapitation or issuing fatwa, death threats, planning bomb attacks etc. He is using only pen. I am wondering how Mr. Sina by just simply using pen, not calling for any violence, not presenting any misinformation (You haven't refuted any misinformation in Sina's article) could provoke so much ire in you.

Your comment about "It is an unbiased, rational and holistic interpretation of history which in its authenticity is hard for anyone to intellectually refute". Now who can deny this trite precept? But what relevance does this have in the present context of your lashing out at Sina? Either you point out with sound argument where and how exactly he was biased, irrational or un-holistic (whatever that means to you), or it is a totally irrelevant precept for you to invoke in this context. So is the "the end does not justify the means" precept, how is that relevant here? What was his means anyway? Few words of hyperbolic expressions renders the remaining thousands of lines of facts and critical analyses unworthy as means ?

You say "To be a reaction to a spirit-cripplingly harmful cause is not necessarily a wholesome thing." So by your logic any Palestinian "reaction" to a "spirit-crippling" occupation of Israelis of their land is also not wholesome? What is the basis of your imposing on Sina this absurdly extreme standard of puritanical cleanliness of expression. Can he not use any hyperbolic language at all here and there to reflect his sense of passion for a justified (And you seem to agree the end is justified) cause? He is not writing a PhD thesis. he is writing to ordinary folks and he needs to use ordinary language as well that most folks use themselves and understand. Using some expletives on top of hard logic does not diminish the logic part. And it is the logic and the content which should matter to anyone. Anyone who sees the expletives only, is only proving to be shallow and disingenuous. Your obsessed and prudish insistence on using academic language for an intellectual fight against fanaticism seems to indicate that it is a far more pressing issue than that of fanaticism itself. You seem to channeling all your wrath and passion against Sina's "mode" of delivery of his message. Why not express some support for his cause if you are sincere and then as a friend/well-wisher write to him personally suggesting better mode of delivery instead of trying to demonize him to all others in this forum.

Your comment "Sina is not advocating physical violence as such but in using inflammatory language against those who are, he is inciting its use." is an abject surrender to evil. Is it at all unexpected that the fundamentalists will be inflamed by Sina who is opposing them? So why make that an excuse to criticize his mode of views. Either way they will be inflamed. It is rather you who seem to be inflamed although you claim to agree to his message. So why are you concerned at the prospect of infuriating the fundamentalists ? Just because fundamentalists will be infuriated so adopt a wimpier language, like a prudish professor engaged in an uncritical academic discourse that does not point out any falws of anyone? That would sure suit the fundamentalists. And also you.

Your comment "Fundamentalism cannot be fought on its own grounds without violence. Knowledge, and subsequent enlightenment, is a long and slow process." does not make any pertinent sense here. Are you suggesting Sina's approach of using pen is ineffective? Then what good is it for you suggest to Sina that he use even milder language that will make a fundamentalist laugh in derision? I am afraid there is hardly any point after stripping off all your rigmaroles. Your further comment about the effect of "telling a mullah or a peasant of Peshawar or Afghanistan" is also misapplied. Mr. Sina is obviously not targeting them in his website. They hardly have the means and skill to access internet. He is addressing those who are educated and claim to know but are stuck in blind faith. Many of them have the potential of seeing the light of reason (Even when the reason is adorned with some hyperboles). they can then take onto themselves the task of enlightening the ordinary masses in whatever mode they deem proper. All of your lofty talks of proselytizing about rational discourse, intellectual honesty, educated youth being starved for things that make sense etc are fine but has no relevance here. Also your patronizing exhortation to Sina that he should know better does not add any substance to your critique of him. Just get out of this obsession about Sina's inconsequential "HOW" part and look at the more important issues of the "WHAT" part.



20 Apr 2001


You seem to be missing the boat Aparthib - if you calm down a bit you might get the point. Time will not allow me to keep repeating myself. So to you your idols, to me my gods. We obviously do not worship at the same temple.








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