‘Talibani Atheism’ & how it fuels Islamophobia

Yyynkt2Bigotry of any sort – whether based on race, gender, religion or ethnic background – is like cancer. It must be condemned in its start before it metastasizes and takes root in society. At this point, it is usually too late to cure the disease, which rapidly progresses to its natural, malignant fallout. Islamophobia is one such strand of bigotry.

The term is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as an “intense dislike or fear of Islam; hostility or prejudice towards Muslims”Multiple studies have shown that Islamophobia is on the rise in the West for the last few decades. This should be a cause of concern for all citizens of the civilized world.

Islam is not a monolithic faith. It has numerous sects and sub-sects that differ based on their understanding of the Quran. They also differ in their analysis and extent of reliance on recorded narrations – collected centuries later – of Prophet Muhammad, with one sect treating all such narrations as authentic, another disregarding them altogether and a whole spectrum in between. Given this diversity, the actions of a particular faction within Islam can only be representative of that group, not the whole religion. It is the teachings of the Quran and the proven example of Prophet Muhammad that define the Islamic faith as a whole.

Of the sects within Islam, I belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. This is one of the largest communities of Muslims worldwide, with tens of millions of members in over 200 countries in the world, all united under His Holiness, the Khalifa of Islam. We not just claim, we also demonstrate that Islam promotes universal justice, freedom of speech and free exchange and criticism of ideas. We promote peace through dialogue and support universal freedom of conscience for people of all faiths – and of no faith. We are at the forefront of humanitarian service throughout the world. We have schools to impart secular education, hospitals to treat the sick, and charity projects to provide food and water etc. across parts of the developing world. In the United States alone, we collected 30,000 bags of blood to commemorate 9/11 victims and recently took our fight against hunger to the US Congress. We condemn violent Jihad, and apostasy and blasphemy laws as un-Islamic and inhumane, and champion the separation of Church and State.

Taliban and Al Qaeda are examples of fringe outliers to the right of the sectarian spectrum. They are the Christian, Jewish and Atheist equivalent of KKK, Brit Hakanaim and the League of Militant Atheists respectively. Claiming that these terrorist groups represent their respective faiths or philosophy is not simplistic, it is outright stupid.

Here is where “Talibani atheists” – a term I coined over the weekend – come in.

Like Islam, atheism is no monolithic group of people either. Most of my atheist friends are great people, like most of my theist friends. Kile, the editor-in-chief of Claremont Journal of Religion, is one such example. He is keen on “interfaith” discourse and on building bridges between religious and atheist communities. He disagrees with religion but does not hate it. Most of my atheist friends are like Kile. Then, there are my New Atheist friends that are anti-religion. There is diversity within this group as well. There are those, like Faisal Saeed, who believe that religion – and hence scripture – must be subject to critique and countered with rational argument. A proponent of reason, I agree with his stated approach and use the same to counter extremist narratives.

And then, there are those like Hirsi Ali and Sam Harris, who – like their Talibani counterparts – are extreme outliers in this diverse group. So, why do I call them Talibani atheists? And what sets them apart from other atheists?

Talibani atheists are like the Taliban. They share the same neuronal biochemistry. Just as the Taliban are spiteful, the Talibani atheists are dutifully programmed to obsessively hate, ridicule and condemn religion in their daily routines. They believe that all Islam – including Ahmadiyya Islam – is evil, and they deny the existence of moderate Islam altogether. They argue that a good Muslim and a good human are mutually exclusive. If I am a good person, I must not be following Islam. If I follow Islam truly, I must be a bad person. The Taliban, similarly, stigmatize those they despise, based on mere affiliation. Like their counterparts, Talibani atheists are rigid in their worldview and childishly stubborn. Moreover, Talibani atheists rely on Talibani narrative for their understanding of Islam.

“But we don’t have guns?” they plead. “Thank God (or Goodness),” I respond.

Unlike Talibani atheists, Faisal is a liberal New Atheist. He acknowledges the existence of moderate Islam and believes that Scripture can lead people to bad or good, depending on what they read in it. He does not lump me and Al Qaeda under a monolithic bloc he calls “Islam.” His fight is not against Islam per se, but against the radical Islam that we both despise and fight. He applauds Ahmadiyya Islam, for instance, for its rational reading of scripture. This is a reasonable position that I applaud, and that highlights the key difference between a Talibani atheist and a liberal one.

The reason Talibani atheists consider moderates “bad Muslims,” or as some New Atheist friends insist, “non-Muslim” is because considering us good Muslims forces them to acknowledge the existence of moderate Islam. They insist that extremists interpret the Quran “literally,” whereas moderate Muslims do not, a lie that falls flat on its face when they are caught relying on the interpretations of the same extremists as their evidence against Islam.

The Taliban attack and kill moderate Muslims like the Ahmadis in Pakistan and elsewhere. While the moderates suffer and fight them on ground, Talibani atheists borrow their narrative, flaunt it, give credibility to their “twisted interpretations” and base it to condemn us as “bad Muslims.” They look for easy targets in the moderates – the same moderates who fight at the fronts of this ideological war.

As a consequence of this prejudiced approach, Taliban atheists are directly responsible for Islamophobia. For, indeed if Al Qaeda defined the face of Islam and none else did, I would fear it too. Anyone would. Anyone should. At a large scale, such promotion of fear and hate of Islam is known to result in anti-Muslim bigotry and hate crimes. Because the word “Islam” is deliberately linked to evil, anyone claiming affiliation with Islam is looked upon with suspicion and hate. As such, for their role in demonizing a faith and the resultant demonization of its adherents, Talibani atheists are Islamophobe bigots and must be identified and condemned as such before this cancer takes root.

“You want to censor criticism of Islam!” they yell. “No,” I calmly reiterate. “I appreciate intellectual criticism and use it in my work against religious extremism in parts of the Muslim world.”

We know well what followed when Nazis demonized Judaism in Germany. We know what followed when the Black color was demonized in America. We know what follows when extremist zealots are allowed to promote their prejudices against Ahmadiyya Islam, Shia Islam, atheism etc. in places like Pakistan. We also know how Talibani atheists in the past, when empowered, went door to door hunting down theists in Russia. Let us not wait to witness such a dreadful outcome. Instead of waiting for it to metastasize beyond cure and mourning ex post facto, let us all condemn and call out the bigotry that is inherent in Talibani atheism – the bête noire of atheism – now.


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  • GordonHide

    The relevant fact about the persecution of Christians in Russia after the revolution was that the persecutors were communists. The Russian Orthodox Church was a big supporter of the ancien régime and therefore an enemy of communism.

    Do you have any evidence at all that even one ex-Muslim atheist has turned on his tormentors to do them violence? I doubt it. The ex-Muslim atheists in the West are the ones who have escaped from the internecine hell holes that characterise much of the Ummah.

    • Wether they were communists or capitalists is irrelevant. Fact is their motivation was evangelical atheism. Read the wikipedia article I linked to on “League of militant atheists.” Thanks for your comment.

      • GordonHide

        You’ve been deceived by your own propaganda. Read:
        for a more realistic view of of the League of militant godless.
        The league was a creation of the communist government financially supported by them.
        Most clerics who died violent deaths during the first 50 years of communism died at the hands of organs of the state other than the league.
        I repeat the motivation of the communist state was their realistic belief that the church was a creature of tzarism and a source of potential political opposition.

        The membership of the league was grossly exaggerated and so few of the nominal 5,000,000 members paid subs that the league was entirely dependent on state subsidy.

        • I dont care if they were funded by the communists or by Martians. Taliban were funded by the USA too (in 1980s). That does not absolve Taliban of their wrongdoing. The league of militant atheism’s motivation, by their own admission, was ‘atheism.’ Read the link and video in the article. Thanks.

        • GordonHide

          You seem to have missed my point. The few actual active members were motivated by anti-clericalism but they were not the people responsible for most of the murdering of clerics. You can’t be motivated by something you don’t believe in. Think about it.

      • GordonHide

        Atheism is simply a lack of belief in gods. It provides no motivation for anything. If atheist’s are ever responsible for criminality or anything else, as I’m sure they have been, their atheism is not what provides the motivation.

    • Hypocrite

      It is irrelevant as Kashif said. Communism is USSR was also an anti-theistic regime. Whether they were Muslims or Christians is irrelevant. The drive for killing them was their religion. period

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  • Ek Chakkar

    Comment below is for whole paragraph ending, “…champion the separation of Church and State.”

    I read nowhere in background to article’s main point that Ahmadis look at world as one of believer and kafir. This is one of many big ideas that define Islam. You can talk about respect for other faiths all you want but, for me, until you reject concept that those who don’t believe in Allah are kafir, all goodness displayed is superficial. This goodness covers essential worldview that one set believes in Allah and is, therefore, on path of good while other set does not believe in Allah and is, therefore, on path of not-good. This is an apartheid view.

    As proof of my claim that believer-kafir dichotomy is apartheid, see Ahmadi activism in Partition of India. By seeking social justice for Muslims before Parition, we have result today of severe persecution of Hindus, Sikhs and Christians in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Demographics of last 70 years tell depressing story of massacre of Hindus and Sikhs.

    To earn respect for coining new terms like the one in this article and promoting harmony in society, you have to first acknowledge grave mistakes of past based on ideas promoted by Ahmadis. Until then, for me, Ahmadi ideology is hypocritical.

    • Thanks for your comment. I feel you do not know much about Ahmadiyya Islam. Feel free to visit http://www.muslimsforpeace.org.

      • Ek Chakkar

        Thank you for response and link. Website gives no information about Ahmadi activism that helped in Partition of India. Main reason for commenting on this specific part of Ahmadi history is because it is evidence of what Ahmadis have done to influence power. Because results of Partition were disastrous for Subcontinent, people like me want to understand what is different today about Ahmadi activism.

      • laura r

        another site, thats good.

    • Hypocrite

      The same is true about anti-theism. Do you reject Stalin? where are those moderate voice of new atheists who reject Stalin? you should do more to distant yourself from them!

      “his is one of many big ideas that define Islam. You can talk about respect for other faiths all you want but, for me, until you reject concept that those who don’t believe in Allah are kafir, all goodness displayed is superficial.”

      This is absolutely fundamentalist view. First it seems that you don’t know even extremist do not have problem with Judaism and Christianity. They are the people of “‘the book”.
      Second, You have no right whatsoever to determine who is a Muslim and who is not. This is outright bigotry. Malala is Muslim, Kashif is Muslim, Mulla Omar is Muslim, Al-Baghdadi the same. You can insist that those who are more liberal are not “real Muslims”, but this is nonsense. Islam can be individualized just like Protestantism, and every body cherry pick his religion. This does not mean he is not Muslim (same can be said about other religions). Sorry, but your insistence is exactly a reflection of what Kashif said. To then attack him because Islam “is violent”. His version and many others’ versions are not, therefore your efforts remain fruitless.
      Your view that Islam is one entity is refuted by looking at everyday life. Islam is defined by its followers and therefore It is very diverse.

      And then ask yourself what do you need from people like Kashif? not to promote their version of peaceful Islam? so that Taliban promotes itself? is that all you want? seriously, I am saying this as a normal atheist. What the heck you and your kind have in mind? to push all Muslims to violence? to kill them? rather than your bigoted view, it is much better to promote these interpretations so that we can push back fundamentalists.

      • Ek Chakkar

        I provided evidence of my view in challenging Kashif’s stand in promoting his peaceful version of Islam. His intellectual ancestors have an atrocious record in dividing people of Subcontinent. He is on record calling Jinnah as ambassador of ‘Hindu’-Muslim unity (http://kashifmd.com/2011/12/26/demystifying-jinnahs-pakistan/), a statement that is provably false, considering Jinnah progressively embraced the notion forwarded by Allama Iqbal that ‘Hindus’ and Muslims could not co-exist in one country.

        Therefore, to me, Kashif’s peaceful version of Islam appears hypocritical and I am seeking clarification on his views of significant influence of Ahmadi activism in Partition.

        “Your view that Islam is one entity is refuted by looking at everyday
        life. Islam is defined by its followers and therefore It is very
        – I never expressly stated that and, if you interpreted any words as such, that is your right. For clarity, please note I do not think Islam is one entity. Basic Islamic ideology divides people into believers and non-believers. Now, please explain how I am stating all Muslims are one entity when repeating basic idea.

        What do I want from Kashif, you ask? First, cite or produce serious scholarship (peer-reviewed research) on role of Ahmadiyyas on Partition. Second, as spokesperson for certain type of Islam, own up to mistakes of past in dividing peoples of Subcontinent on basis of two-nation theory. And third, participate in open debates on how Muslims of Subcontinent can integrate their pre-Islamic heritage so ancient cultures of Sucontinent can thrive.

        I am asking for serious introspection and debate. It is your right to call it bigotry.

  • BlacRevan

    It is obvious at the very least you know little of ‘neural biochemistry’. Maybe you think using large words is more persuasive to the ignorant? Don’t pretend to know science, you are a liar.

    • Hypocrite

      Personal attacks just make you look illogical. If you have any criticism say it, if not, don’t poison the atmosphere

  • laura r

    that was a good read. explains things in detail, easy to understand. i know there are many kinds of muslims. wish the good ones would speak out more about the expansion of extremists, fundementalism, & sharia. does that put them in danger?