Mr. Kalsbeek is a teacher in Covenant Christian High School and a member of Hope Protestant Reformed Church, Walker, Michigan. Previous article in this series: May 15, 2006, p. 378.
“And the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.”
In March of 2006 Brigitte Gabriel gave a speech for the Religious Studies class at Memphis University in Tennessee. Her Lebanese upbringing had exposed her to firsthand Palestinian terrorism as well as anti-Jewish and anti-Christian propaganda in her native Lebanon. Prior to her speech the Religious Studies professor, David Patterson, began receiving threatening e-mails in which Gabriel was described as one of “the true enemies of Islam.” Things only got worse on the day of her lecture. The front several rows of the lecture hall were occupied by men and women dressed in distinctive Muslim clothing. Attempts to silence her were finally extinguished with the help of ten policemen. Afterward when Muslim audience members, yelling angrily at her, swarmed the stage, the police whisked her out of danger through a side door. Gabriel gave her response afterward with the following e-mail:
The intimidation takes its toll on you. I was dreading this all day, ever since my hosts told me they had been receiving hostile email about my lecture. It was weighing so heavily on my heart. My stomach was in knots. I got a migraine headache. I knew I was going into battle, and there was no way out of it. I was nervous and stressed. Each time this happens, I hate it and it makes me feel that I don’t want to do it anymore. But I will do it. I will never stop. If we stop, the Islamists will have won. We cannot allow that to happen.¹
In our attempt to understand events like this as they relate to the current face-off between Islam and the West we have briefly written about the history and beliefs of Islam. More recently we have been discussing the reactions of various groups from the West to the beliefs and present practices of Islam. In this article we intend to present a former Muslim’s response to Islam by means of an interview. We recognize that this is but one individual’s understanding of the situation, and that other former Muslims might see some things a bit differently. Nevertheless we believe this viewpoint will serve a little more to broaden our perspective of God’s sovereign rule in this all-important conflict of the twenty-first century.
C. Kalsbeek: “Just briefly, Hussein, tell us a little bit about your family situation and education?”
Hussein²: “I was raised in Kenya in the Coast province. This province was predominately Muslim. My dad was a livestock farmer. He received the title ‘Al Hajj,’ which means ‘the pilgrim,’ after making the pilgrimage to Mecca, Islam’s holiest city, in Saudi Arabia. So my family is a very strong Muslim family. My father had three wives. My mother, the youngest of all, is the only one of my parents alive. I went to Islamic school, madrassa, when I was young and studied Islam. There was also a secular school which started up, and I ended up also attending the secular school at the same time. Having graduated from madrassa, I started boarding school full time in 7th grade.”
CK: “What’s it like to live as a believer in Islam?”
H: “Muslims, you know, have the five things that they do (reciting of the creed, prayer, almsgiving, fasting, pilgrimage, ck), and the sixth one is jihad. They get up very early in the morning, before the sun comes up, for morning prayer, then noon prayer, also at three or four o’clock, at sunset and about two hours after sunset. Also fasting during the month of Ramadan is compulsory. Muslims in my home area pay 2.5 percent of their income to the Mosque and give as they are able to poor people.”
CK: “You said the sixth thing was jihad. When you were in school did they teach you that that was important?”
H: “No, I was Sunni. I was taught that jihad is to fight temptation—which is not mentioned in the Qu’ran. But the Shiites insist one has to ‘fight for the cause of Allah.’ You’ve probably read chapter 9 of the Qu’ran. That chapter is reminiscent of militancy in Islam during Prophet Muhammad’s time. No doubt they’re out to convert by force if opportunities arise.”
CK: “What effect did your conversion to the Christian faith have on your relationship to the rest of the family?”
H: “For fear of persecution I was advised by some Christians not to inform my family of my conversion right away. The people who prayed for me to convert instructed me to be quiet about my faith until I was done at least with college. They were afraid for themselves—should my family and Muslim leaders discover that they prayed for me to convert— and for me because Islam commands that an apostate be killed. But my family found out through my schoolmates at the boarding school, and then I was persecuted.”
CK: “What forms of persecution did you experience?”
H: “It was the month of Ramadan in 1990 when my family found out. I received threatening letters while I was at a high school about 100 kilometers from my home. I was told not to come home from school for the April holiday. In spite of that, I went home, because I did not know where else to go. The following day my mom told me that I ceased to be her son, and she asked me to leave her home before the worst happened to me because I refused to get up early, before dawn, to eat in order to observe the fast. So I left.
“After I was sent away, my parents falsely informed the government that I had deserted the family while I was under 18 years old. Then I was summoned to appear before a Kenyan government ‘court.’ A chief is the head of a government administrative unit called a location. He is granted powers under the Kenyan constitution to arrest and detain. He has the administration police at his disposal to carry out those duties, which are sometimes carried out arbitrarily.
“I appeared for the hearing and was told that I had to go back home to my family. On the way home from the court my family informed me on the spot that I had to renounce my faith. I did not know what to say, but the Holy Spirit gave me the strength to say that I would not renounce my faith. When I was home they poisoned my food, so I had to separate from my biological family in May of 1990, after which I lived in different parts of the country with various Christian families from other tribes for about six years. There I also suffered some persecutions, but not to the degree that another Kenyan convert from Islam went through. He was beaten severely and almost stabbed to death for converting to Christianity.”
CK: “Now let’s discuss some things about the religion and practices of Islam. Are all Muslims in basic agreement on anything?”
H: “All Muslims are in agreement on the keeping of the five pillars. Jihad is the only one on which they are not in agreement, as I explained earlier.”
CK: “We keep hearing from some that Islam is a religion of peace. In light of what is being practiced by some Muslims today, is that really true?”
H: “Originally it was a religion of peace, but as it gained power and prominence it became very demanding: ‘You have to do this or else.’ The progression of the revelation in the Qur’an clearly demonstrates that that peaceful beginning has been abrogated.”
CK: “Is it true that Muslims may read the Qu’ran only in Arabic? If so, how do those who cannot read the Qu’ran know what it requires of them?”
H: “Yes. Muslims are not required to read the Qu’ran and understand it. They must be able to recite certain passages of the Qu’ran during the five daily prayers. About 95% of Muslims in the world cannot read and understand the Qu’ran. They can recite it in Arabic for prayers, but they do not know what it means. So they must rely on their Imams (spiritual leaders, ck) to tell them what the teachings of the Qu’ran require.”
CK: “Is there such a thing as ‘moderate Islam?'”
H: “No, there is no such thing as a ‘moderate’ Islam/Muslim. Do you know how many Muslims there are that call themselves Muslims but don’t even go to the mosque or observe the five fundamental deeds? You have to live by this (pointing to the Qu’ran, ck). There is no such thing as moderate Islam, you are Muslim or you are not. And being a Muslim is doing the fundamental deeds, which include jihad.”
CK: “Aren’t there a lot of Muslims, though, that would say we shouldn’t do these violent things like the attacks on the Twin Towers, or the killing of other Muslims in Iraq?”
H: “When it comes to the way the Qu’ran and Hadith put it, any Muslim who says that Islam is a religion of peace or doesn’t advocate coercing people into the Islamic way of life is not a Muslim.”
CK: “But there are people that say they are Muslims and don’t agree with the violence of Islam, aren’t there?”
H: “They only say that for political reasons because they are covering up what they really know is true. Islam enjoins Muslims to exercise al-Taqqiyah (dissimulation). They can even denounce or renounce Islam under compulsion, provided they do not purpose it in their hearts, and still remain Muslims. Muslims in the West are exercising it. You will notice that they don’t condemn the Muslim acts of terror, because that is contravening Islamic teachings. But as they gain in numbers and prominence, they will come out in the open, which is what we see happening in Europe and Nigeria today.”
CK: “What about the present Danish cartoon issue. Are those cartoons of real concern to most Muslims? Those things were produced way back in September of 2005, and now all of a sudden in February of 2006 the cartoons become a big issue. What’s going on here?”
H: “I’m pretty sure those cartoons are being used for political reasons. Muslim leaders use the cartoon riots as a means to rally their people against the Western nations. Both Syria and Iran were in trouble with the United Nations around the same time. Islamic leaders also use diversionary tactics, like rallying their subjects to demonstrate against the West, in order to divert their attention from Islam’s inconsistencies.”
CK: “In your opinion, is there good reason for Islam to be angry with the West? It seems that a lot of commentators will say that what is going on today is a reaction of Islam to what the West has done in the colonization of Muslim lands in the nineteenth century and in taking advantage of them economically? Is there anything to this?”
H: “Islam blames the West, but this is just another diversionary tactic. For example, if it weren’t for the occupation of Israel, Islam already would have been exposed for how bad it is. The situation in Israel makes Islam look good because the Palestinians there are suffering, and it’s easy for them to blame the Palestinian problem on Israel, the United States, etc. The whole business there is keeping the rest of the world from knowing what true Islam is really like. And because of the situation in Israel, it’s easy for them to stir up their people against those who are supportive of Israel. The Palestinian problem serves as a means to rally Muslims against the West. If there were peace there—they don’t want that to happen—then their real problem with the West would be known by all: the freedom of religion. Islamic leaders are afraid of that, because it is only through religious freedom that many would come to know true Islam.”
CK: “Can there be peaceful coexistence between Islam and the West?”
H: “No, true Islam says we have to be governed by the Shari’a … period. Only if the West is compatible with the Shari’a can there be peaceful coexistence. Their diametrically opposite ideologies would make that impossible to achieve.”
CK: “So you are really saying that Islam is not willing to stay on its side of the world and leave the West alone.”
H: “Islam is not going to leave the West alone, because it is Islam’s worst enemy. The West has to abandon its quest to spread freedom throughout the world. The other problem is this: Muslims multiply fast. A time will come when they will say, ‘All right, there are millions of us in Michigan, carve us our own state out of Michigan, which will be under the Shari’a.’ I tell you, Islam’s goal is to take over the world.”
CK: “In your opinion, what is going to result from the clash between Islam and the West? Do you see any patterns developing as to where this will end up?”
H: “Hopefully Islam will be exposed for what it really is, otherwise the West is going to be taken over. Islam has been hibernating in the West, but look at what’s happening today in France and in other parts of Europe.”
CK: “You say ‘exposed.’ What if they are exposed, what is that going to do?”
H: “I believe a lot of Muslims will abandon their religion if it is exposed for what it really is. Many Muslims don’t know very much about Islam and what it stands for. Most of them just accept it because they were raised with it. The only thing that keeps many in the religion is that they are afraid of what happens if they don’t.”
CK: “In conclusion, if someone from the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) reads this interview and the former article about CAIR, is there any danger that the Standard Bearer will receive some unpleasant responses from that organization?”
H: “I don’t think so. I’m quite sure those guys are pretty scared. What we are saying is no different from what others have said, and they (CAIR) don’t want bad publicity. We shouldn’t be worried about that very much.”
CK: Thank you, Hussein. In my next Standard Bearer article I intend to discuss what Issachar’s response to Islam should be. If I may, I would like to include some of your input on that subject as well.
H: Yes, Lord willing we can do that.
As earlier mentioned, it may be that our interviewee sees things differently than other former Muslims. Strikingly similar, however, is the viewpoint of another former Muslim, Ibn Warraq. To illustrate that our interviewee is not alone in his evaluation of Islam, we submit the following excerpts from the much published Ibn Warraq:
To ask whether Islam can come into the twenty-first century is to ask whether Islam can be divorced from Islamic fundamentalism. Yet the root cause of Islamic fundamentalism is Islam itself.
Poverty is not the root cause of Islamic fundamentalism. Modern Islamists are mostly middleclass young men who are highly motivated, upwardly mobile, and well-educated…. Nor is the existence of Israel the cause of Islamic terrorism. Even Benjamin Netanyahu (Israeli prime minister from 1993 to 1996) admits, “The soldiers of militant Islam do not hate the West because of Israel, they hate Israel because of the West.” …Nor is Islamic terrorism caused by American foreign policy. If anything, U.S. policy toward the Arab and Muslim world prior to 2003 has been accommodating toward Muslim interests….
Ten years ago (in 1994) I wrote that the principal victims of Islamic fundamentalism are Muslims: men, women, children, writers, intellectuals, and journalists. That’s still true—as it is true that the theory and practice of jihad was not concocted in the Pentagon but derived directly from the Qur’an and Hadith, from Islamic tradition.
Unfortunately, Western liberals and humanists find this hard to accept. They are pathologically nice: they believe that everyone thinks as they do. They assume that all people, Islamists included, have the same desires and goals in life. Contrary to this naïve view, Islamic fundamentalists are the utopian visionaries. Their goal is to replace Western-style liberal democracy with an Islamic theocracy….
Dare we hope for an Islamic reformation? …At this point, some misguided liberal Muslims will offer a have-your-cake-andeat- it-too argument. On their view, the real Islam is compatible with human rights; the real Islam is feminist, egalitarian, tolerant of other religions and beliefs and so on. They then go on to re-interpret the many embarrassing, intolerant, bellicose, and misogynist verses in the Qur’an in wildly creative ways. But intellectual honesty demands that we reject such dishonest tinkering. The holy text may be open to some reinterpretation, but it is not infinitely elastic. Sooner or later we must come to terms with what the Qur’an actually says.
…(E)very tenet of Islamic fundamentalism derives directly and altogether legitimately from the Qur’an, the Sunna, and the Hadith. Moderate Muslims there may be, but Islam itself is not—can never be—moderate.
If Islamic societies are to be reformed, this must occur in spite of Islam, not in harmony with it. Questions of human rights must be brought out of the sphere of religion and into the sphere of the civil state. In other words, religion and state must be separated….
When such a Reformation is complete, Islam would exist within a secular state, relegated to the realm of the personal where it would wield limited power but could nonetheless continue to provide consolation, comfort, and meaning to millions of individuals.³
¹ Phyllis Chesler, “Embattled author vows: I won’t be silenced by ‘Islamists,'” The Washington Times 17-23 April, 2006: 13.
² The interviewee has requested that his last name be withheld.
³ Phillip Margulies, editor, The Rise of Islamic Fundamentalism (Detroit, MI Greenhaven Press, 2006) 172-177.