A Cult Leader
From Understanding Muhammad: A Psychobiography of Allâh's Prophet
We are often taken aback by the level of
fanaticism of Muslims. Millions of them riot, burn churches, and kill
completely innocent people because a newspaper has published a few
cartoons of Muhammad or because the Pope has quoted a medieval emperor
saying that violence is not compatible with the nature of God.
People generally are biased towards a belief system
that has this many followers. They believe that the sheer size of
Islam qualifies it as a religion. But is Islam really a religion?
Some say all religions start as a cult until, with the
passage of time, they gradually gain acceptance and the status of
religion. However, there are certain characteristics that distinguish
cults from religions. Dr. Janja Lalich and Dr. Michael D. Langone have
created a list that describes cults fairly well.
The more a group or a doctrine has these characteristics the more it
follows that it should be defined and labeled as a cult. The
following is that list, which I have compared Islam to point by point.
The group displays excessively
zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is
alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as
the Truth, as law.
Muslims are extremely zealous about their faith and
have an unquestioning commitment to their prophet, whose book, the
Qur’an, for them is Truth and Law.
Questioning, doubt, and
dissent are discouraged or even punished.
Muslims are forbidden to question and doubt the basic
tenets of their faith, and dissent is punishable by death.
Mind-altering practices (such as
meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and
debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress
doubts about the group and its leader(s).
Five times during the day Muslims stop whatever they
are doing and stand for a repetitive and ritualistic prayer and chant
the Qur’an. In addition, for one whole month in the year they must
fast and abstain from drinking or eating, from dawn to dusk, a
practice that can be particularly taxing in summertime.
The leadership dictates, sometimes
in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel, Ffor
example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry—or
leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live,
whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so
Every detail of the life of a Muslim is prescribed. He
is told what is forbidden (haram)
and what is permitted (halal),
what food to eat, how to dress, and what rituals to follow in order to
pray. A Muslim is not allowed to date, and marriages are arranged. Corporal
punishment, including torture for disobedience to the authorities, is
enjoined, both for children and adults.
The group is elitist, claiming a
special, exalted status for itself, its leader(s) and members. Ffor
example, the leader is considered the Messiah, a special being, an
avatar—or the group and/or the leader is on a special mission to
Muslims claim special status for their prophet, while
they vilify all other religions. They
can become extremely violent if their prophet is slighted. They regard
themselves as superior to all others, and when in a non-Muslim
country, they constantly lobby for concessions and preferential
treatments like the special privilege of having a special room set
aside in publicly funded schools so that Muslim students can pray
there. They are
frequently granted exceptions unavailable to members of other
religions. Recently in
, they tried to make Islamic law (Sharia) recognized and binding, so
they could bypass Canadian law. They
were defeated, thanks largely to the tireless opposition of
The group has a polarized
us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider
Muslims have a very strong us-versus-them mentality.
They call all non-Muslims, regardless of faith, kafir, an
expressly derogatory term, which means one who blasphemes God. For
them, the world is forever divided into Dar al Salam (House of Peace)
and Dar al Harb (House of War). The non-Muslim countries are the House
of War. It is the duty of every Muslim to wage jihad on the House of
War, to fight, kill and subdue non-Muslims and convert that land into
the House of Peace. Peace,
according to Islam can only be attained by subduing non-Muslims and
making them subordinate to Islamic rule. The idea is not so much to
convert everyone to Islam, but to make Islam dominant. The non-Muslims
can continue practicing their religion, but only as dhimmis, a term
which means protected and is only applied to Christians and Jews. The
Christians and the Jews (the people of the Book) will be protected,
provided they pay the protection tax, known as the jizyah and feel themselves humiliated and subdued, as stated in the
If they fail to pay the jizyah, they can be exiled or put to death.
This is how the Mafia operates. If you own a business, you could be
harassed or even killed, unless you pay them a protection fee to be
left alone. As for those unbelievers who are not protected, i.e. the
pagans, the atheist, the animists, etc., they have either to convert
or be killed.
The leader is not accountable to
For Muslims, all actions of Muhammad constitute law. He
cannot be held accountable for his actions. He was entitled to marry
or have sex out of marriage with as many women as he wished. He could
raid civilians, kill unarmed men, loot their properties and take their
women and children as slaves and even rape them. He
could assassinate his critics and torture them to make them reveal
where they had hidden their treasures. He
could have sex with children. He could lie and deceive his opponents.
He could massacre his prisoners of war in
cold-blood. None of that bothers his followers. At first they deny all
of the above charges vehemently, accusing you of maligning their
prophet, but once the evidence is presented, they suddenly change
tactic and defend him, justifying his evil deeds, the very deeds they
outrageously denied. For Muslims, Muhammad’s actions are not
measured by what we humans know as right and wrong. Rather he is the
standard, the measure of right and wrong. As the result, if a crime
was committed by Muhammad, that crime becomes a holy deed and is
emulated by his followers unquestioningly. Muslims
are capable of committing the most atrocious acts of indecency and
savagery with clear conscience, because it is sunnah
(performed by Muhammad).
The group teaches or
implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it
deems necessary. This may result in members' participating in
behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or
unethical before joining the group (for example, lying to family or
friends, or collecting money for bogus charities).
In Islam, the ends always justify the means. For
example, killing is bad, but if it is done to promote Islam, it is
good. Suicide is prohibited, but suicide bombing that will cause the
death of non-Muslims is a holy act. Stealing
from fellow Muslims is prohibited and the thief’s hand will be
chopped, but looting non-believers was practiced by Muhammad and so is
considered acceptable by Muslims. Sexual intercourse out of marriage
is taboo, but rape of the women of unbelievers is okay. The
goal, which is the establishment of the reign of Allâh on Earth, is
regarded to be so lofty that everything else becomes secondary. In
the history of Islam, we read that people murdered their own fathers
or waged war against them. Such actions are praised as the sign of
faith and devotion of the believer. Lying in Islam is prohibited,
except when it is said to deceive the non-Muslims and advance the
interests of Islam.
The leadership induces feelings of
shame and/or guilt in order to influence and/or control members.
Often, this is done through peer pressure and subtle forms of
Muslims’ thoughts tend to be overridden with guilt.
If a Muslim does something contrary to what is permitted, other
Muslims are required to remind him or her of the Sharia law and demand
compliance. In most Islamic countries, particularly in
, it is the state that makes sure the individuals follow the religious
law. In March 2002
's religious police stopped schoolgirls from leaving a blazing
building because they were not wearing correct Islamic dress.
As a result fifteen girls
were burned alive.
Subservience to the leader or
group requires members to cut ties with family and friends, and
radically alter the personal goals and activities they had before
joining the group.
Muslim converts are encouraged to cut their ties with
family and friends if they are not Muslims. I have received countless
heart-rending stories from non-Muslim parents whose children converted
to Islam with whom they have lost touch completely. Occasionally, they
may receive a call or a cold visit, but the visit may be so
restricted, so bereft of any love from their children and their Muslim
spouses that the outcome further saddens the already heartbroken
parents. The purpose of these visits is usually to ask the parents to
convert to Islam. They leave, as soon resistance is encountered.
The group is preoccupied with
bringing in new members.
Muslims’ main goal is to promote Islam. This practice
of promoting Islam is called da’wa. It is the duty of every
Muslim to bring new converts, starting with their own family and
friends. Expanding Islam is the main obsession of every Muslim.
The group is preoccupied with
Raising funds for jihad is one of the main objectives
of all Muslims. Today this is done through what are known as Islamic
during the time of Muhammad, and throughout the course of Islam,
raising money for jihad was done principally by looting. Islam’s
main goal is to establish itself as the pre-eminent earthly power.
Members are expected to devote
inordinate amounts of time to the group and group-related activities.
Muslims’ main preoccupation is Islam. They are
required to regularly go to the mosque, attend obligatory prayers five
times a day, listen to the sermons, etc. So enwrapped do they become
in their thinking about how to perform their religious duties, what to
wear, what to eat, how to perform their prayers, etc. that they are
left with very little time for thinking of anything else. In fact,
they are even told what to think and what not to think.
Members are encouraged or required
to live and/or socialize only with other group members.
Muslims are taught to shun kafirs and are encouraged to
socialize only with fellow Muslims. The Qur’an prohibits taking
friends from among unbelievers (Q.3:28), calls them najis
(filthy, impure) (Q.9:28), and orders harshness towards them
(Q.9:123). According to Muhammad, the unbelievers are the vilest
animals in the sight of God. (Q.8:55)
The most loyal members (the
“true believers”) feel there can be no life outside the context of
the group. They believe
there is no other way to be, and often fear reprisals to themselves or
others if they leave (or even consider leaving) the group.
The thought of leaving Islam is
something so unbearable for true Muslims they can’t even entertain
it. Despite the fact that
millions of Muslims have left Islam in recent years, hardcore Muslims
remain adamant in believing nobody ever really leaves Islam, that such
claims are all fabrications and part of the conspiracy to shake the
faith of believers. Emails
I have received from Muslims share one common theme. They
all warn me of hellfire in the afterlife. Between
the fear of hell and fear of reprisal, Muslims are trapped in a web of
terror of their own making.
Islam was not created to teach humans spirituality, nor
make them enlightened. The spiritual message in Islam is secondary or
virtually nonexistent. Piety in Islam means emulating Muhammad, a man
who was far from pious. Rituals like prayers and fasting are mere
window dressings to lure the foolhardy inside, to give Islam the
appearance of sacredness and spirituality.
This subject is explained in more detail in my book Understanding Muhammad: A Psychobiography of Allâh's Prophet
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