While I generally do not criticize any religious book, the generalized title "Why I Do Not Criticize Religious Books", would be inappropriate for this article. How is that? The answer would be that I have two major reasons for not criticizing the Quran, but only one major reason for not criticizing the Bible, the Gita, etc. These reasons are the topics of this article.

First, let me discuss the common reason for me not to criticize any religious book, the Quran, the Bible, the Gita, etc.

With due appreciation for the fact that we came from them, and with all the valid criticisms that can be done against our generation, I am convinced that the ancestors of us, all kinds of humans, were worse than us in virtually all respects. They knew less than what we know about life on Earth and about the universe. In terms of the progress in science and technology, and in terms of life's convenience, we are better and will continue to get better. In terms of providing and demanding human dignity and rights, we are also better than what they were. More we go back in time, we see the situation being regressively worse. But, in spite of the growth in religious fanaticism in many of the backward countries/societies, humans overall are progressing in terms of human dignity and rights.

Now, talking about the major religions, they were concocted many centuries back. With the perspective that I expressed above and through my readings of the books of at least three of the major religions, I am not surprised that the religions and their holy books are deeply flawed.

However, to me, the flaws in human history and in the religious teachings and dictates are not the real problems for our generation or for future generations of humans. So that I do not offend any religious person at least for now, let me give an example from our fairly recent history. Slavery was abolished in the USA in 1865. Before that, different states of the USA abolished slavery in different years. Before that, in the USA, black people were treated as a commodity, not as humans. But now we have a black person as the President of the USA, and blacks are in many positions of government and corporate powers. To me, slavery is not a problem in the USA for now or for the future. It is a matter of academic interest with the realization that the US ancestors were wrong. As long as people do not wish to bring back slavery, I do not have a problem with the contemporary white people in this respect. While slavery was a condemnable practice, I would not spend much time condemning it now.

Similarly, while I can see the flaws, including raw injustice and hatred in most of the religions, I do not think that the religions are the real problems for now or for the future. I see the people who wish to stay and go backward with religions to be the real problems. Thus, I do not open up the religious books to criticize their contents. This is my common, academic and unthreatened reason for not criticizing religious books like the Quran, the Bible, the Gita, etc.

So, what is my second reason for not criticizing the Quran? To answer the question in one sentence, I am scared of the followers, defenders, protectors and promoters of the Quran. Let me elaborate a bit on the answer with just one example.

The following is copied directly from the Islamic State online magazine, DABIQ:

"Upon conquering the region of Sinjar in Wilāyat Nīnawā, the Islamic State faced a population of Yazidis, a pagan minority existent for ages in regions of Iraq and Shām. Their continual existence to this day is a matter that Muslims should question as they will be asked about it on Judgment Day, considering that Allah had revealed Āyat as-Sayf (the verse of the sword) over 1400 years ago. He ta'ālā said, {And when the sacred months have passed, then kill the mushrikīn wherever you find them, and capture them, and besiege them, and sit in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they should repent, establish prayer, and give zakah, let them [go] on their way. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.} [At-Tawbah: 5]."


Note that in the above paragraph there is a verse from the Quran, which the Islamic State militants followed to commit their barbaric atrocities on a religious minority population, the Yazidis, who were not powerful enough to harm or threaten the Muslims anywhere in the world. And what are the reactions to these most heinous crimes among the followers of the Quran? I have not seen any significant Islamic religious leader/organization condemning the Islamic State, or issuing any religious edict for punishing that organization or its members/fighters.

Now, if a non-Muslim were to just cite that verse in any way, what do you think the average protector of Islam would conclude? He/she would conclude that the non-Muslim disrespected their holy book and/or hated their religion or them. But, of course, if personally I were to cite this verse, the purpose would be to educate the Muslims, to ask them to use some common sense, sense of justice, and compassion in deciding how much and what parts of their holy book they should follow and what parts they should disregard/discard. My citation would not promote anything like killing Muslim men or enslaving Muslim women or any other kind of injustice/crime against them.

So, to the protectors of Islam, the Quranic message, when cited benignly by a non-Muslim intellectual for humanizing the Muslims becomes hatred, but when followed through by the barbarians to commit real hate-crimes becomes their pleasure due to the propagation of Islam in the world.

Indeed, I am scared of people who cannot reason; such as people who think that God is almighty, yet they are fanatical about the need to add their human might to help God to maintain people's faith in him and his prophet. Over the last few decades, my birthplace of Bangladesh has seen an exponential growth in mosques and madrassas that have been cranking out hundreds of thousands of people whose reasoning power does not reach the extent of realizing that fighting, killing, dyeing, etc. for Allah is tantamount to denying his almightiness. Thus, being not so brave, I have this second reason for not criticizing the Islamic holy book.

(As a postscript, let me add that while I am not as brave, I do salute the brave souls, of both Muslim and non-Muslim inheritance, who are confronting the scourge of Islamization of Bangladesh, my beloved birthplace.)

====================================== This article is dedicated to Avijit Roy, a remarkable free-thinker and human rights activist, and the founder of Mukto-Mona, who was recently brutally murdered in Bangladesh by suspected Islamic hate-criminals.

comments powered by Disqus