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A View from the Far East

Shah Ismail (Far East)

I was born in the Far East forty years ago. Born and bred a Muslim in a predominantly Buddhist nation, I grew up feeling we were far superior in every aspect to nonbelievers, a concept upheld by Muslims around the world, even though their economic and social status are significantly behind the non-Muslims (Samuel Huntington wrote in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order that Muslims are convinced of the superiority of their religion; but obsessed with the inferiority of their economic standing).' I echoed the thoughts and teachings of Muslim elders, who told us that we were fortunate to be part of this purest and truest religion whose followers are given automatic entry to heaven just for being Muslims. Then I realized that everything we do as Muslims, from helping a starving orphan to playing matchmaker between a male and female, is all predicated on this concept of a choice between "heaven" and "hell," instead of doing things out of the goodness of our hearts. For a long while I, too, was fantasizing and salivating over my eternal resting place in heaven where I believed I held a ticket as a favor from Allah for being a slave to him. As my curiosity grew, I began to focus and search for the depth of heaven and what it had to offer. Lo and behold, I learned that Allah would provide us Muslim men (or boys, in my case) with seventy-two beautiful virgins, twelve pearl-like boys, honey, wine, fruits, water, milk, and a couch. Oh, boy! as a teenager with hor mones raging, there were times when I fantacised about being married to those virgins, a common lure mullahs use in recruiting young Muslim men to fight the jihad (the same ploy that Muhammad used in attracting many Arab men to fight with him against his enemies fourteen hundred years ago).

The more I realized that I was the chosen one, the more I felt disconnected from kafirs (unbelievers), thus building a wall of prejudice toward them. The wake-up call for me was when I was sixteen years old and visited Singapore during a school break. I toured a popular attraction site called Tiger Balm Garden in Singapore. In it was a series of depictions in statues and art delineating what hell was like if you were a sinner. It was full of monsters, hydras, dragons, halfhuman-half-animal creatures-all busy torturing sinners in the worst forms imaginable, or perhaps unimaginable to civilized human minds (it makes me wonder if Almighty Merciful God could be that cruel to his children!). As I exited the garden, I noticed a big sign over my head that read, "Those who fail to pay their federal tax to the government of Singapore shall be doomed to face such eternal damanation as well," signed by Mr. Lee Kwan Yu, the president of Singapore.

On the way back to my hotel, I couldn't help but to think that hell was a scare tactic applied by the Caliphates, as used by the heads of governments today in both politics and religion alike.

As a kid growing up and as someone who attended Islamic congregations, mosques, and funerals, I noticed that the mullahs, muftis, and Muslim elders all preached how fearful Allah is, while being most merciful; how vengeful, while being most forgiving; how hateful, while being most loving; and so on. Of many funerals, I saw how women were prohibited from attending the burial of their loved ones. Mullahs reason that a woman's presence is a sign of disrespect for the dead at the burial ground. And women in general seem to have no significant role to play in Islamic society other than to be cooks and mothers. Men are clearly in charge of their women, dictating everything to them, from what their proper attire should be to how to conduct their behavior, especially in the presence of other men-all under the pretext of preserving dignity, which in actuality is control over their women. Islam is centered so much on women and sex that it has become an obsession in many Islamic countries today. My sisters were first sheltered by their father and brothers (myself included) and then later sheltered by their husbands-which is the norm in most Muslim families even in the twenty-first century. Consequently, the more Muslim women are brought up to be dependent on their men (father/husband), the more they become unproductive in society. I remember my Americanborn niece once commenting that she never saw a Muslim woman participating in the Winter Olympics or a team from any Muslim country playing in women's soccer tournaments in recent years. I am grateful that my niece lives in the United States, where she is free to be who she wants to be without a man controlling her mind and body, unlike the way her mother was brought up in her native country.

In the late 1970s I came to the United States as a young student eager to go to college in a land foreign to a Muslim mind like myself. Feeling lonely, I turned to Allah at least five times a day. At that time, revolution broke out in Iran, which later resulted in the taking of fifty American hostages. Most of my friends in college learned of this religion, Islam, for the first time and became curious, especially when seeing on television thousands of men and women in Iran chanting "Death to America" while holding the Koran in one hand and a gun in other hand. In my Monday morning sociology class, I was asked to stand before the class and to give a lecture on Islam (Islamic Course 101) by Professor Boon to her curious thirty or more students, who apparently had little or no knowledge of it. And I did give a talk as a confused but proud Muslim who felt it was my duty to spread the word of Allah to these nonbelievers, despite my limited knowledge of Islam and the Koran. As with all religions, I lectured on how peaceful, tolerant, forgiving, and merciful the religion founded by the Prophet Muhammad was. The truth was, like most Muslims today, I had read the Koran over and over, yet never comprehended the contents of it as it is written in Arabic, a language foreign to millions of Muslims. Consequently, we subconciously become the taliban (students) of imam who interpret the Koran as they see fit.

In my native country, we have a self-appointed mufti who periodically pronounces fatwas. Though the mufti has never attended a modern school, Muslims in my country look to the mufti for answers, everything from social and medical to judicial issues. My aunt, for instance, still embraces his teachings that the earth is flat and the moon landing by man was a Western hoax. Later I learned that it was the mufti's fatwa that women be barred from attending burial ceremonies. In our community, we were respected particularly not for what we had done but for our so-called title Sved-all Muslims with such a title claim direct descent from their beloved Muhammad. Since my grandfather was an imam who migrated from Yemen in his early years, his claim to be descended from Muhammad was an advantage that worked in our favor in our community. In actuality, Muhammad's two biological sons died in infancy, thus any claim of being a Seed by Muslims was baseless, though it remains unknown to most people today.

The more I observe Islam the more it becomes clear to me that it is a religion owned and manipulated by the Arabs for the Arabs in general. It is as though they have a monopoly on it and any challenge by non-Arabs will face fierce resistance. My feelings were confirmed during a visit to Saudi Arabia. Never have I seen a group of people wanting to safeguard this religion from the outside world as in Saudi Arabia. For example, while I was sitting in a shade watching worshipers circling the Ka`ba during Umra (lesser pilgrimage to Mecca), I saw a mutawah (religion police) who mercilessly dragged a ten-year-old boy by his arm while the kid cried, begging to be free. What was the crime`? The boy was seen snapping a photo with his disposable Kodak camera. The mutawah was joined later by a uniformed policeman who took the boy into his custody without making any attempt to search for the boy's parents. I felt disgusted! Even a cult wouldn't treat children that way. What is it that they have that they want to hide so much from the outside world? That is precisely why Saudi Arabia is a nation most hostile to non-Muslims visiting their land. I know of no religion except Islam that bans others from visiting their places of worship, and it is certainly synonymous with a cult or mafia organization whose primary goal is to keep itself isolated from the outside world.

Now let us talk about logic in Islam (if there is any). During my trips to Saudi Arabia, I was annoyed by a customs official who ransacked my suitcase at the King Abdullah Aziz Airport in Jeddah. Attempting to crack a joke, I suggested to the officer that he get a dog to help him do his work. The officer was visibly insulted by my remark and reported to his boss who was a few feet away from him. The boss came over and warned me that if I ever made this remark again I would be jailed. So what was my crime? Dog, an animal most loyal and loving to man yet so abhorred by Muslims. Why? Because dogs are considered unclean and unsanitary. There are many hadith (traditions) that recommend the killing of dogs or describe how they are unacceptable to the Prophet, angels and God; e.g.: "The Prophet said: Angels do not enter a house in which there is a dog or there are pictures,"'-- and "Allah's Messenger ordered that dogs should be killed."3 While the rest of the world adores this creature, it is unwelcome in the Islamic world. Then it dawned on me that Muslims are obsessed with cleanliness to the point of self-cleaning at least five times a day. I only wish that they cleaned themselves in their hearts more often than outer bodies.

Pigs! Muslims are more afraid of pigs than American cluster bombs. That is true! Today though you have a better chance of being struck by lightning twice in a row than to be infested by trichinosis-a disease that causes illness as result of meat, like pork, but is no longer a threat, thanks to modern medicine. Muslims are terrified of pork.

Intolerance! I knew that Islam was in deep water when I realized how intolerant it has become in my lifetime. Many Muslims, as if appointed by Allah, have taken the law into their own hands. In an Islamic country, the worst forms of crime are "apostasy," "blasphemy," and "heresy." One wonders who are they to speak for God? Recently, a medical professor named Dr. Yunus Shaikh from Pakistan was convicted by the Pakistani court of law. What was his crime? He dared to speak the truth that the Prophet Muhammad was not circumcized until he founded the religion Islam in his forties. He was found guilty of slandering Muhammad, even though the Prophet was not a Muslim until the revelation of the Koran was passed on to him by the Angel Gabriel when he was forty years old-by the messenger's own account.

It is no secret that scores of Muslims are killed every day for crimes against Islam as we enter the twenty-first century. Scientifically, we are behind. Socially, we are confused and messed up as ever. Technologically, we have yet to learn how to make a Q-tip. Politically, none of the fifty-seven Islamic nations has a democratic form of government.

In 1995 a house in Brooklyn was engulfed in a fire. In that house, a female cat had just given birth to seven kittens. Through the raging fire, the mother cat was seen risking her own life rescuing her baby cats, one by one, out of the house into a safe place. In the end, the mother cat was badly burned. The moral lesson here is that "honor killings" are still carried out today in some Muslim countries like Algeria, Jordan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia by parents, brothers, or uncles against Muslim girls in the name of preserving their image and dignity. Unthinkable, even in the animal kingdom! Again it is the case of Muslims being victimized by Muslims in Islam. Barbarism in its worst form! And more practices such as stoning, beheading, limb chopping, throat slashing, and genital mutilation are still condoned in many Islamic societies today.

In the aftermath of September 11 attacks by Muslim extremists in New York and Washington, I realized that Islam was doomed until Muslims dare to speak out and recognize their centuries-old shortcomings and collectively prepare for a major revision of the Koran, which they believe to be the unchangeable, untouchable word of God. The Christians and Jews did it a long time ago in order to adapt to this changing world. So long, Islam! Regrettably.

NOTES

1. Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), pp. 102, 183, 185, 211.

2. al-Bukhari, Book of Dress, vol. 7, book 72 of Sahih, trans. M. Muhsin Khan (New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan, 1987), Hadith no. 833, p. 540.

3. al-Bukhari, Book of the Beginning of Creation, vol. 4, book 54 of Sahih, trans. M. Muhsin Khan (New Delhi: Kitab Bhavan, 1987), Hadith no. 540, p. 339.

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