Some of us think we can learn about Islam by listening to what is said about it - like that 'Islam is a religion of peace' or that the idea of terrorism is not Islam, but a perversion of the teachings.
Some of us look to the sources, the 'Holy' books, the Koran, the Hadith and the Sira. If that is not alarming enough, we can read books by those who have lived it. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an exceptional woman. I cannot recommend her books highly enough.
And there are idealists who travel to Islamic countries, partly for adventure, and partly to learn. Maya Maquis is one. I very much recommend her book, because this is from experience.
Here is what she says about it.
I’ve Learnt My Lesson is about events and my experiences of working as a teacher in the United Arab Emirates, and how my perception of life and my politically correct attitude towards Islam changed. It’s a book that deals mostly with small events; the things that make up our daily lives. But, it is in our daily lives that we exist and through which we experience happiness, pain and make decisions. It is a book about how, when every aspect of our daily lives is scrutinized, we start to live under a dark shadow that, at best, prevents us from participating fully in life. It is a book that zooms in on everyday life in the UAE, and implicitly reminds us how precious freedom is and that we must never take it for granted.
To buy this book, check online booksellers such as Amazon.
And it is vitally important to learn about Islam.
Some Muslim leaders are saying that they are already 'taking over' in the West. In some areas, usually referred to as 'No Go' zones, they are.
So yes, LEARN ABOUT ISLAM. Instead of decrying those who raise concerns as 'racist' or 'bigots' or whatever, make the effort to learn what you are talking about.
First, of course, the Koran, but note that some experts say that the English translations have been 'softened' for Western readers. for example, two versions of one particular verse.
Koran, 22:19 'Garments of fire have been prepared for the unbelievers. Scalding water shall be poured upon their heads, melting their skins and that which is in their belly. They shall be lashed with rods of iron.' Compared to Qu'ran 22:19. 'Punish the unbelievers with garments of fire, hooked iron rods, boiling water; melt their skin and bellies.'
The first is the translation that I have. And that 'softened' version was still quite enough for me to be totally disgusted, especially with the tedious and repeated threats of dreadful punishments in hell for the unbelievers.
But those different translations - No 'unbeliever' is going to be worried about a threat of punishment in a hell they don't believe in, but we all should be worried if Muslims are being directly told to punish the unbelievers. ISIS, for instance, seem to delight in devising wicked tortures for unbelievers, and those tortures have included being burned or boiled alive, just as the second translation of that particular verse commands.
There is a book I have only recently read, which I very much recommend. It is based on the account of Muhammad's life as told in the Hadith. (one of the three accepted 'holy' books of Islam.)
In the scorching sands of Arabia, Mohammed ibn Abdullah (The Prophet Mohammed) had a problem. After preaching for 13 years he had attracted on average just 12 followers a year to his new religion of Islam. Worse still, half the people in his home town of Mecca wanted to kill him. After fleeing to Medina however, things would change dramatically.
Over the course of the next 9 years, this orphaned shepherd boy would develop the most devastating system of conquest ever devised; Jihad. He would become King of all Arabia and convert the entire Peninsula to Islam. Even his enemies would be forced to worship at his feet.
After his death the uneducated desert Arabs would burst out on an unsuspecting world. Using this same system of Jihad, they would conquer both of the world’s greatest empires in just a few short years. Within 3 decades they would control the majority of the Middle East, North Africa and Northern India. Today the empire of Islam comprises 1.3 billion people and it is the fastest growing religion on the planet. Is it a religion of peace or of endless violence? Does it advocate suffocating sexual morality or sex slavery and harems? How can both the moderates and extremists be true Muslims? The surprising answers to these questions and more reveal themselves as this incredible story unfolds.
The material in this book is drawn directly from the foundational texts of Islam. Instead of merely quoting the texts however, it explains how they came into being and how they relate to each other. It then provides the key which unlocks their true meanings.Armed with this knowledge, readers are then able to make their own interpretations and draw their own conclusions. References are provided throughout and every effort is made to assist the reader to do their own research should they wish.
Despite the serious nature, the story itself is gripping and fast paced. Mohammed’s exploits constitute one of the greatest adventure stories of all time. Importantly, his life is the basis for the religion of Islam. By knowing his story, we can understand the forces which drive both militant and peaceful Muslims. It explains the mindset of the modern Jihadists and predicts the inevitable rise of ultra militant groups such as ISIS, Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda.
Anything by Ayaan Hirsi Ali will be valuable. She grew up in the faith, at one time, became more and more devout, and then started thinking until she finally saw what it was all about.
Biography as shown on Amazon -
Muslims who grow up in the faith seldom know much about it. The favoured method of teaching is to memorise as much as possible without any attempt at understanding. Brain-washing, in other words. To some extent, it is similar to Christians, who might have gone to church every Sunday of their life, but all the same, know little of their faith. They have never done any thinking for themselves.
And it is why Muslims can earnestly and honestly declare that theirs is a beautiful faith, and do not quite understand how those who are more devout can take the faith as justification for horrific crimes. The Koran says that it is fine to do whatever they like to the unbelievers, and the Hadith tells them stories of Muhammad's deeds - the lies and the murders and the betrayals of innocent people. Muhammad is the perfect example of a man, so Muslims believe, and so what he does has to be right. It means Muslims can find easy justification for whatever crimes they commit as long as it against an 'infidel.'
There is the added problem that the Koran is not in chronological order. Instead it is arranged according to length of chapter, presumably to make it easier to memorise. Contradictions become obvious, sometimes explained away as the 'duality' of Islam, often with the addition that no unbeliever can hope to understand it without years of study.
But all it needs is to be put in order, and then read with the knowledge that later verses 'abrogate' or supersede earlier ones. Many of the verses that are used to pretend that Islam is peaceful are from the early period of Muhammad's life when he lived in Mecca. But then he moved to Medina and discovered that war gained him far more followers than persuasion.
I set my first book in a Muslim country. ' Not a Man' - 'from child of the slums to Oxford Graduate, this is the story of Shuki Bolkiah, modern day eunuch.'
' Not a Man' was followed by a sequel and then three more. It is only in the fourth that I directly speak of the religion.
Meriam is Shuki's niece. She is a bright and beautiful girl who loathes wearing the cover-all 'makrebi.' As is the norm, she knows nothing of sex, and therefore does not realise when she is running into danger. She is raped and becomes pregnant, a disaster in the culture. Her mother does not want her to be killed 'for honour' and appeals to Shuki, her brother. Shuki gives Meriam a home in a civilised Western country.
It is not a smooth ride for Meriam. The beating that she suffered from her father has left her with the conviction that she is a terrible, terrible sinner. She tries to be the very best Muslim that she can possibly be. Only when she manages to throw off the conditioning can she make a good life for herself.
Check online booksellers to buy any of my books. Paperbacks also available.