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18 January 2015

I Am Not An Arab

- but a Muslim

Written late December 2014 - (266 lines)

*

I am not an Arab - but a Muslim, yes
I say it proudly, so no need to guess
And for extra clarity let me also stress
I am grateful that Allah chose to bless

For I was not born a Muslim, no
I chose to convert some years ago
When almost sixty, and it goes to show
That life is one continuous flow

Most Muslims are not Arabs - see
I am part of the vast majority
Eighty percent approximately
Consisting of excellent company
Of every possible variety
Of origin and ethnicity
Race and nationality -
Now that is a comforting thought to me

Brothers and Sisters, wherever you may be
Let us set an example for all humanity!

*

As I am not an Arab and never will be one
I did what from a distance could be done
To separate Islam from its background
Faith from culture, and by doing so found
A few things in my private quest
Which may well be of wider interest

I chose not an Arab way of life but Islam
Therefore, perhaps unsurprisingly, I am
Disturbed by some aspects here and there
So now take this opportunity to share
With one or two unexpected turns
Some general thoughts and my major concerns

And to make clearer what I set out to do
First a brief historical review:

Islam as we know it today took root
In western Arabia and the fruit
Of Muhammad's amazing labours soon
Ripened under the crescent moon
For Islam truly started to grow
Fourteen hundred years ago
Of course not from nothing or out of the blue
Something not even a prophet could do
So it might reasonably be said
It was superimposed or overlaid
On what already existed then
To assist and guide the region's men

Laws and customs for family and clan
For travelling merchants with a caravan
For people in every village and town
Who had already chosen to settle down
And for semi-nomadic pastoralists
Moving their herds with the seasonal shifts -

But Arab traditions from the seventh century
Have little or no direct relevance for me
Nor for any non-Arab living today
And all they do is get in the way
By masking the faith in tribal lore
Which in truth we should all ignore
And concentrate instead on the core
Of the message given us back then to explore

Yet everybody still associates them
Automatically with the word "Islam"
And Islamophobes are top of the list
They all disingenuously insist
There is indeed an unbreakable link
But then they never stop to think
(Maybe they are not allowed to
For they all work for you-know-who)

Some pre-Islamic or tribal ways
And practices from such remote days
Are simply no longer suitable
The argument is irrefutable  
And I distance myself completely from these
They should be discontinued please

But they are not many, honestly
So far I have only encountered three
And do not expect an apology:
Amputations, stoning, and apostasy

Let us now look at them, one by one
For these are issues we should not shun
But freely and willingly openly discuss
For that in the end will be better for us

*

Those amputations for certain crimes
Are simply not acceptable in our times
But ghastly and barbaric and completely wrong
Even where the offender has a long
History of wrongdoing, use other ways
To deter the culprit so he or she stays
Out of trouble and behaves acceptably
As a useful member of society

We all have our contribution to make
So why further handicap someone, for God's sake?
Do amputations make sense to anyone?
If not, clearly something should be done!

And, Brothers and Sisters, as we turn
The pages of the Quran we learn
That there IS a substitute punishment
Already available: BANISHMENT
So even where clemency and appeals were refused
The option of banishment should ALWAYS be used
[Quran.5:33 - Marmaduke Pickthall:
The only reward of those
who make war upon Allah and His messenger
and strive after corruption in the land
will be that they will be killed or crucified,
or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off,
or will be expelled out of the land.
Such will be their degradation in the world,
and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom;]


Could you yourself cut off somebody's hand
When instead you could expel that person from the land?

If YES, you are no longer my friend
But then, most friendships come to an end...

*

Stoning to death is abhorrent to me
Though I do support the death penalty
But ONLY in cases without ANY doubt
And then it MUST be carried out
In a civilised manner without undue pain -
Or do we want to become savages again?

Stoning is an ancient punishment
Much older than Islam, and if you spent
Time reading the Torah you already know
That many transgressions demand the final blow
Some of them absolutely trivial
But the bloodthirsty god of Israel
Yahweh, is not easily satisfied
And only relents when enough have died...
[See my book ENOUGH! Islamophobia]

Since time immemorial stoning was the norm
So Islam simply adopted the form
This not to defend it, but it does explain
How Islam continued the existing chain
Of local and regional ways to behave
For master and wife and servant and slave

And yet, in the Quran, no single verse
Stipulates stoning to properly disperse
Justice for any specific crimes -
It is mentioned ONLY for former times

Still practised publicly and secretly
Stoning to death for adultery
Is nowhere to be found in the Quran
Instead a hundred lashes for both woman and man

[Quran.24:2 - Marmaduke Pickthall:
The adulterer and the adulteress,
scourge ye each one of them (with) a hundred stripes.
And let not pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah,
if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day.
And let a party of believers witness their punishment.]


So where does this innovation come from?
Is it not clear that we Muslims have some
Very serious revisions to do?
Any objections from any of you?

And now a question to shatter your bliss:
Could you yourself participate in this?
Could you, yes YOU, throw a single stone?
If YES, stay away from me, leave me alone...

*

And how can it be that apostasy
Still carries the death penalty?

Can it be found in a reliable text?
If not, which innovation is accepted next?

Its implementation might well be rare
But death is final so handle with care
Or damage that nobody can repair
Will surely result in the life-long despair
Of the bereaved who will declare
Their sorrow to anyone, anytime, anywhere...

But if authentic, perhaps the reason is
Something along the lines of this:

In Muhammad's time Muslims were few
And if for any reason a follower withdrew
His loyalty to Allah and his messenger
That person might be seen as a challenger
So cast him out, force him to go
Yesterday's friend tomorrow's foe
Having lost any tribal immunity
Now seen as a threat to the community
Steps would be taken to liquidate
To not give him time to consolidate
A rival faction by alerting every man
And meeting in secret to prepare a plan
For a minor skirmish or a major attack
To stab his former brothers in the back

But clearly that is NOT the situation today
There is no threat to Islam if someone walks away
So why prevent it? Let them go right ahead!
And if they went wrong they will know once they are dead!

Nobody should tell others what to believe
And many more embrace Islam than those who leave
So what is the problem? It does not exist!
Yet some fanatics will always persist...

Also, and this is too obvious, but still
Must be said before fanatics spill
Any more precious human blood
In their over-zealous obedience to God:

Never ever for one moment forget
That any apostate might later regret
The decision to leave Islam, and find
That the best option is a change of mind
And so, willingly, happily, revert!
Hopefully no Muslim would want to pervert
Or prevent the potential outcome here?
And if any do it will surely cost them dear...

And death threats can NOT be the way to deal
With the vulnerable, for they need to heal
And we should do all to make them feel
Appreciated, so therefore appeal
To those who may be about to seal
Somebody else's fate: now KNEEL...

And what about the rights of every relative
To protection and support as long as they live?
Disregarded and ignored -
Such a practice should be deplored!

Is apostasy really a sin big enough
To deserve execution? That would be rough
Justice indeed, if one could call
Such cruel methods justice at all

And if the sin of apostasy is so great
Should we little fallible humans not wait
And let somebody else be a much better judge
For all we know on earth is how to fudge
Any given issue, big or small
Like babbling infants just learning to crawl...

Now some fanatics may boo and hiss
But just calm down and remember this:
No human has EVER been given the nod
By the Creator to start playing God...


We should refuse such a dreadful task
And as a solution I sincerely ask:
Why not suspend that law for now
Find a form of words that somehow
Disables it but does not revoke?
That would in one single elegant stroke
Take that terrible decision away
From us, and leave it until the day
When it will be too late to pray
And Allah shall have the final say...

Death for apostasy? How can this be?
No place for such barbarity
In the twentyfirst century...
If there is any logic please explain it to me!

We can and should end this grisly feast
Which is counter productive to say the least!

*

Amputations, stoning, and apostasy
Are in my opinion undeniably
Totally untenable
And morally indefensible
So therefore rightly criticised
By everybody else - they are uncivilised
And all three should immediately
Be suspended indefinitely
Throughout Muslim society
Locally, globally, universally
Yes, in Makkah and Madinah too
For we Muslims have much better things to do

*

My case now presented as best I could
I then thought long about whether I should
Ask a simple but daring question please:
If Muhammad lived today would precisely these
Laws on crime and punishment be revealed
To him by the Creator, so that fates be sealed
In ways so revolting they are hard to describe
And to be used for ever by the whole human tribe?

Or would they be worded very differently
Reflecting time and place and society?

Well, I am not a prophet, but I do believe and think
We should NOT obey laws that use human blood as ink...

Yes, crime and punishment go together, but still
To save is surely much better than to kill...
[Quran.5:32]

ALL life is sacred and must be revered
And anyone who successfully steered
Us away from that should be doubted at least
If ever we humans are to rise above the beast...

*

And so we come to the end of this file
I do hope you enjoyed it, meanwhile
I shall remain always on my guard
Ever vigilant, for old habits die hard

The fact that I strongly disagree
With aspects of our methodology
Does that now necessarily
Mean that Allah has a problem with me?

And if He has, I shall find a way
To compensate, come what may
But all shall be revealed some day
And until then I shall hope and pray

*

Copyright © 2014 - IBRAHEEM (O.E.H.Johansen) - All Rights Reserved

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