Five Years of Islam-Watch: Is the Fire of Islamic Enlightenment Catching On?

Wednesday, 24 November 2010 19:11 M.A. Khan Confronting Islam - Apostates
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Islam-watch.org turned 5 on Novemeber 20th  and editor M. A. Khan looks at the progress Islam Watch has made in its mission....

Some 10 years ago, when I was first introduced to writings critical of Islam—the so-called anti-Islam or Islam-bashing writings as Muslims call it - I felt offended, I felt outrage and anger, despite my highly liberal upbringing and attitude, which I have explained in my testimony.

Yet after 2-3 years of struggle with my faith, I eventually freed myself from the shackle of Islam. And some five years later, I started islam-watch.org, realizing that there is no alternative to razor-sharp criticism of the foundation of Islam, namely the Quran and Prophet Muhammad, for effecting the much desired change in Islam—reformation, moderation, enlightenment or whatever one may call it, amidst a raging violent tide. And of course, our primary goal was to enlighten Muslims about the horrendous nature of Islam, so that they can leave Islam too.

 

 

Today, on the fifth anniversary of the launch of islam-watch.org, it is worth taking stock of how much our desired changed in Islam has been attained. Have we made some ground? Or has Islam further regressed toward violence and obscurantism?

First, to the question of helping Muslim leave Islam or increasing the pool of Muslim apostates, when islam-watch was launched, one could only hear the names of Salman Rushdie, Ibn Warraq, Ayaan Hirsi, Taslima Nasrin, Anwar Shaikh, Nonie Darwish, Ali Sina, Abul Kasem, Sher Khan, Syed Kamran Mirza, Ayesha Ahmed and a few such apostates. But today, there are hundreds of testimonies of ex-Muslims floating on the internet. There are dozens of blogs, critical of Islam, started by ex-Muslims. There are former teachers of madrassas and imams of mosques, who have left Islam and writing actively or running anti-Islam blogs.

When I started this site, our major authors were Ali Sina, Abul Kasem, Syed Kamran Mirza, Mohammad Asghar, Sher Khan, Mumin Salih, myself and a few more. Today, all these authors have mostly gone into obscurity. Our Website is today propelled by a totally different group of highly promising ex-Muslim writers. One of our major aims, while launching this website, was to nurture and help flourish promising writers, critical of Islam, from Muslim background. We have been more than successful on that front.

Another point I want to highlight here: After five years of my interaction with the critics of Islam prior to launching this site, I was intrigued by the fact that there were virtually no writers (except M. F. Mughal) of Pakistani origin. Yet, from my personal interaction with some Pakistanis, I thought there was a section in Pakistani society that is quite rational. My intuition was not wrong. Today, quite a good few of our contributors are of Pakistani origin. If you go to the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, you would find that the testimonies of ex-Muslims there are dominated by those from Pakistani apostates. Most of all, we have quite a few highly courageous voices and critics of Islam from the Arab world—a region and people, one could have thought some 10 years ago to be impregnable by scepticism of Islam.

There are numerous half-Muslims, quarter-Muslims, who need a little direction and enlightenment to catch fire on. Websites like islam-watch.org offers that, and we are seeing the outcome.

To the question of whether 'Islam has further regressed toward violence and obscurantism?'—on the surface it may look so, especially in the Islamic world, where criticism of Islam like on our Website has failed to penetrate like it has in the West. And in the West, there is a visible change in the tone of Islam, a clear toning down of the Islamists. Protests against a Muhammad cartoon or a Quran burning/desecrating incident would draw much fewer Muslims on the streets of London today that it would have five years ago, so would the Celebration of 9/11 draw a much fewer Muslim radicals in London.

Another way of looking at it: After starting this Website, the emails I used to receive from Muslims during the first 2-3 years used to be quite frequent and unspeakably abusive or deadly menacing. And despite the readership of our site has increased no less than 10 folds, especially from Islamic countries like Pakistan, I have received not a single threat from Muslims over the last two years. Now-a-days, when I receive an abusive email from an offended Muslim, the language is much better; other unhappy Muslims write in to defend Islam is pretty much a civilized language. And the majority of emails I receive from readers of Muslim background these days are from ex-Muslims to let me know how happy they feel after leaving Islam, or Muslims asking for reading materials on Islam.

There is, obviously, a considerable shift toward toning down of aggression and radicalism amongst Muslims; and this toning down must be contrasted with the many courageous voices of moderate Muslims and ex-Muslims, challenging and attacking Islam in increasing numbers. A paradigm shift in Islamic radicalism is clearly happening in the West, probably in the Islamic world too, and it will only intensify in the coming years and decades.

There are many factors effecting this reduction in Islamic radicalism and aggressiveness, which could range from political measures undertaken, to criticisms of Islam like on our Websites, to a tactical move undertaken by clever Islamists. I believe tactical move by stealth Islamists is a factor and it's a dangerous move.

My belief is: suppression of Islamic radicalism through means other than the critical examination of the Islamic core, i.e. without true enlightenment about Islam, would not offer us a lasting solution to Islam's scourge on humanity. And the razor-sharp criticism of the Islamic core in Website like ours will play the decisive role in subverting the Islamic design, if we ever win this battle. Islam-watch.org, I believe, has made a contribution to that end in some measure. Enlightenment about Islam and consequent abandonment of it, silently or otherwise, is occurring on a scale never seen in history. A deluge is coming. And we will continue to battle on to enhance our contribution in this enlightenment, and, thereby, to the long-term solution of this struggle.