Introduction: The Allah That Failed

Given that I am rather skeptical of the very possibility of a scientific survey of apostates, it is difficult for me to make any psychological, sociological, or anthropological generalizations based on fewer than fifty personal testimonies that would be valid outside this particular group. No quick portrait of the typical apostate is likely to appear-some are young (students in their teens), some are middle-aged with children; some are scientists, while others are economists, businesspeople, or journalists; some are from Bangladesh, others are from Pakistan, India, Morocco, Egypt, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, or Iran. Our witnesses, nonetheless, do have certain moral and intellectual qualities in common: for instance, they are all comparatively well educated, computer literate with access to the Internet, and rational, with the ability to think for themselves. However, what is most striking is their fearlessness, their moral courage, and their moral commitment to telling the truth. They all face social ostracism, the loss of friends and family, a deep inner spiritual anguish and loneliness-and occasionally the death penalty if discovered. Their decisions are not frivolously taken, but the ineluctable result of rational thinking.

I had once thought of calling this whole anthology The Allah That Failed, as a homage to the famous testimonies of former communists collected together in The God That Failed.' There are very useful analogies to be drawn between com munism and Islam, as Maxime Rodinson2 and Bertrand Russell have pointed out, between the mindset of the communists of the 1930s and the Islamists of the 1990s and twenty-first century. As Russell said,

Among religions, Bolshevism [Communism] is to be reckoned with Muhammadanism rather than with Christianity and Buddhism. Christianity and Buddhism are primarily personal religions, with mystical doctrines and a love of contemplation. Muhammadanism and Bolshevism are practical, social, unspiritual, concerned to win the empire of this world.3

Hence the interest in the present situation and its haunting parallels with the communism of the Western intellectuals in the 1930s. As Arthur Koestler said, "You hate our Cassandra cries and resent us as allies, but when all is said, we ex-Communists are the only people on your side who know what it's all about."' And as Richard Crossman wrote in his introduction to The God That Failed,

Silone [an ex-Communist] was joking when he said to Togliatti that the final battle would be between the Communists and ex-Communists. But no one who has not wrestled with Communism as a philosophy and Communists as political opponents can really understand the values of Western Democracy. the Devil once lived in Heaven, and those who have not met him are unlikely to recognize an angel when they see one.5

Communism has been defeated, at least for the moment; Islamism has not, and unless a reformed, tolerant, liberal kind of Islam emerges soon, perhaps the final battle will be between Islam and Western democracy. And these former Muslims, to echo Koestler's words, on the side of Western democracy are the only ones who know what it's all about, and we would do well to listen to their Cassandra cries.


1. A. Koestler, ed., The God That Failed (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1950). Other former Communists in the collection included Ignazio Silone, Andre Gide, Richard Wright, Louis Fischer, adn Stephen Spender.

2. Maxime Rodinson, "Islam et communisme, une resemblance frappante" [Islam and commonumism, a striking resemblance], Le Figaro, Paris, September 28, 2001.

3. Bertrand Russell, Practice and Theory of Bolshevism (London: Allen & Unwin, 1921), pp. 5, 29, 114.

4. Koestler, The God That Failed, p. 7.

5. R. Crossman, Introduction to The God That Failed, ed. A. Koestler (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1950), p. 16.

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