Q. “If religion is instrumental in spreading altruism, can we fight altruism in America without fighting religion?”
A. “In America, religion is relatively non-mystical. Religious teachers here are predominantly good, healthy materialists. They follow common sense. They would not stand in our way. The majority of religious people in this country do not accept on faith the idea of jumping into a cannibal’s pot and giving away their last shirt to the backward people of the world. Many religious leaders preach this today, because of their own leftist politics; it’s not inherent in being religious. There are many historical and philosophical connections between altruism and religion, but the function of religion in this country is not altruism. You would not find too much opposition to Objectivism among religious Americans. There are rational religious people. In fact, I was pleased and astonished to discover that some religious people support Objectivism. If you want to be a full Objectivist, you cannot reconcile that with religion; but that doesn’t mean religious people cannot be individualists and fight for freedom. They can, and this country is the best proof of it.”
As a moral and legal code, sharia law is among the most dehumanising, demeaning and degrading for women ever devised by man:
Under sharia law, a woman’s testimony is worth half of a man’s testimony in court (Koran 2:282).
Under sharia law, men are the “guardians” of women; women are to be obedient to men, and husbands may beat their wives for disobedience (Koran 4:34).
Under sharia law, a woman may not refuse sexual access to her husband unless she is medically incapable or menstruating, a teaching based partly on Allah himself saying in the Koran, “Your women are a tillage for you; so come unto your tillage as you wish” (Koran 2:223)
Under sharia law, a woman inherits less than a man, generally half as much, again based on holy writ: “Allah enjoins you concerning your children: the male shall have the equal of the portion of two females” (Koran 4.11, 4.12).
Under sharia law, men and women who commit fornication are to be flogged. As to the punishment for fornicators, the Koran says: “Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day: and let a party of the Believers witness their punishment” (Koran 24:2).
Under sharia law, a man may unilaterally divorce his wife through talaq, whereas women are limited to divorce either under specific circumstances, such as the husband’s impotence, or with the husband’s consent and payment of a certain amount of money (khul).
Sharia law permits fathers to contract binding marriages for their children so long as they are minors; and although a boy married against his wishes may exercise his power to divorce his wife unilaterally once he matures, a girl’s exit from such an unwanted marriage is much more difficult.
Under sharia law, the custody of children is generally granted to fathers, and mothers lose custody if they remarry because their attention is supposed to go to their new husbands.
Although majority-Muslim countries have in practice abolished slavery (Saudi Arabia did so mainly as a result of foreign pressure in 1962), slavery still has not been abolished in sharia law. Sexual slavery was common in Islamic history and is accepted by sharia law.
Defenders of sharia note that in some respects, Islamic law improved the position of women in 7th century tribal Arabia, for instance by categorically banning female infanticide. Yet surely, in the 21st century, we can set the bar higher than that?
Hirsi Ali also brings up the dangers of the “privately enforced” sharia-lite where Muslims:
…sharia lite is informally enforced within Muslim communities in Western countries, including Australia. In Australia, Islamists rely on sharia law to arbitrate divorces and inheritance disagreements. In 2015, a journalist writing in this newspaper observed that “given the undercover application of sharia law, often within mosques, there is little scrutiny of the process and the fairness of the adjudications”.
I was a Muslim refugee once. I know what it’s like. I know what it’s like to gamble your entire future on a one-way ticket to a foreign land, what it’s like to fill in the forms, not knowing for sure what the right answers are. I know what it’s like to fear rejection, deportation and the dangers that await you back home.
….it was my high expectations that made last Friday’s executive order on immigration so puzzling. It was, apart from anything else, clumsy. It caught border protection agents and customs officials by surprise. It sowed confusion and fear among travelers, immigrants and legal permanent residents. Its poor execution was a gift to the president’s critics.
In halting the entry of all refugees, and in appearing to be directed against Muslims — including even those who had worked for the U.S. military as interpreters — it was much too broad. In temporarily banning citizens from just seven countries, however, it was also too narrow (citizens from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and several North African countries have also been implicated in terrorism).
True, the president had made clear back in August that this was part of what he intended to do. “We will have to temporarily suspend immigration from some of the most dangerous and volatile regions of the world that have a history of exporting terrorism,” he said. “As soon as I take office, I will ask the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security to identify a list of regions where adequate screening cannot take place. We will stop processing visas from those areas until such time as it is deemed safe to resume based on new circumstances or new procedures.”
But what got lost in the hysteria that followed last Friday’s announcement was that these are temporary measures, not the foundation for future policy. As Trump said in August, his administration “will establish a clear principle that will govern all decisions pertaining to immigration: we should admit into this country those who share our values and respect our people … In addition to screening out all members or sympathizers of terrorist groups, we must also screen out any who have hostile attitudes towards our country or its principles — or who believe that Sharia law should supplant American law. Those who do not believe in our Constitution, or who support bigotry and hatred, will not be admitted for immigration into the country. Only those who we expect to flourish in our country — and to embrace a tolerant American society — should be issued immigrant visas.”
If that is still the Trump administration’s plan, then it has my support.
Is Islam a religion of peace or war? Is it amenable to reform? Why do so many Muslims seem drawn to extremism?
On September 10, 2001, Sam Harris was studying neuroscience in California, and Maajid Nawaz was in Egypt working as a top recruiter for one of the biggest Islamist organisations in the world. The next day sent them down paths that would converge 15 years later in an unlikely collaboration.
Harris entered life as a public intellectual after 9/11 and soon found himself regarded as a leading voice of the “New Atheist” movement, along with Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett. He spent much of the next decade writing books such as The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, and The Moral Landscape and publicly engaging religious scholars and apologists in highly contentious conversations. Meanwhile, Nawaz was arrested and thrown into an Egyptian prison, where he spent four years before beginning his slow journey out of radical Islamism. By the time he emerged, he had decided to dedicate his life’s work to reforming Islam from within. He started Quilliam, a counter-extremism organisation. Islam and the Future of Tolerance tells the story of an unlikely conversation on a topic of grave importance, and how it changed two foes into friends.