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Criticism of Islam has existed since Islam's formative stages. Early written criticism came from Christians, prior to 1000 AD, many of whom viewed Islam as a radical Christian heresy. Later there appeared criticism from the Muslim world itself, and also from Jewish writers and from ecclesiastical Christians. In the modern era, criticism has come from Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Communists most notably ex-muslims who became converted to another religion or became atheists or agnostics, as well as people both inside and outside Islam, on a wide variety of topics.

Objects of criticism include the morality of the life of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, both in his public and personal life. Issues relating to the authenticity and morality of the Qur'an, the Islamic holy book, are also discussed by critics. Other criticisms focus on the question of human rights in modern Islamic nations, and the treatment of women in Islamic law and practice. In wake of the recent "multiculturalism" trend, Islam's influence on the ability of Muslim immigrants in the West to assimilate has been criticized.

History of criticism of Islam

Early Islam

The earliest surviving written criticisms of Islam are to be found in the writings of Christians, who came under the early dominion of the Islamic Caliphate. One such Christian was John of Damascus (born c. 676), who was familiar with Islam and Arabic. The second chapter of his book, The Fount of Wisdom, titled 'Concerning Heresies', presents a series of discussions between Christians and Muslims. John claimed an Arian monk influenced Muhammad and viewed the Islamic doctrines as nothing more than a hodgepodge culled from the Bible.

Writing on Islam's claim of Abrahamic ancestry, John explained that the Arabs were called "Saracens" because they were "empty of Sarah". They were called "Hagarenes" because they were "the descendants of the slave-girl Hagar". In the opinion of John V. Tolan, a Professor of Medieval History, John's biography of Muhammad is "based on deliberate distortions of Muslim traditions", but Tolan does not elaborate his statement.

Medieval Islamic world

Over the years there have been several famous Muslim critics and skeptics of Islam from within the Islamic world itself. In tenth and eleventh-century Syriamarker there lived a blind poet called Al-Ma'arri. He became well-known for a poetry that was affected by a "pervasive pessimism." He labeled religions in general as "noxious weeds," and said that Islam does not have a monopoly on truth. He had particular contempt for the ulema, writing that:{{cquote|They recite their sacred books, although the fact informs me that these are fiction from first to last. O Reason, thou (alone) speakest the truth. Then perish the fools who forged the religious traditions or interpreted them!

In 1280, the Jewish philosopher, Ibn Kammuna, criticized Islam in his book Examination of the Three Faiths. He reasoned that the Sharia was incompatible with the principles of justice, and that this undercut the notion of Muhammad being the perfect man: "there is no proof that Muhammad attained perfection and the ability to perfect others as claimed." The philosopher thus claimed that people converted to Islam from ulterior motives:

According to Bernard Lewis, just as it is natural for a Muslim to assume that the converts to his religion are attracted by its truth, it is equally natural for the convert's former coreligionists to look for baser motives and Ibn Kammuna's list seems to cover most of such nonreligious motives.

Maimonides, one of the foremost 12th century rabbinical arbiters and philosophers, sees the relation of Islam to Judaism as primarily theoretical. Maimonides has no quarrel with the strict monotheism of Islam, but finds fault with the practical politics of Muslim regimes. He also considered Islamic ethics and politics to be inferior to their Jewish counterparts. Maimonides criticised what he perceived as the lack of virtue in the way Muslims rule their societies and relate to one another. In his Epistle to Yemenite Jewry, he refers to Mohammad, as "hameshuga" - that madman.

Medieval Christendom

  • In Dante's Inferno, Muhammad is portrayed as split in half, representing his status as a heresiarch (one who split from the Christian church).
  • Some medieval ecclesiastical writers portrayed Muhammad as possessed by Satan, a "precursor of the Antichrist" or the Antichrist himself.
  • Denis the Carthusian wrote two treatises to refute Islam at the request of Nicholas of Cusa, Contra perfidiam Mahometi, et contra multa dicta Sarracenorum libri quattuor and Dialogus disputationis inter Christianum et Sarracenum de lege Christi et contra perfidiam Mahometi.
  • The Tultusceptru de libro domni Metobii, an Andalusian manuscript with unknown dating, shows how Muhammad (called Ozim, from Hashim) was tricked by Satan into adulterating an originally pure divine revelation. The story argues God was concerned about the spiritual fate of the Arabs and wanted to correct their derivation from the faith. He then sends an angel to the monk Osius who orders him to preach to the Arabs. Osius however is in ill-health and orders a young monk, Ozim, to carry out the angel's orders instead. Ozim sets out to follow his orders, but gets stopped by an evil angel on the way. The ignorant Ozim believes him to be the same angel that spoke to Osius before. The evil angel modifies and corrupts the original message given to Ozim by Osius, and renames Ozim Muhammad. From this followed the erroneous teachings of Islam, according to the tultusceptrum.
  • According to many Christians, the coming of Muhammad was foretold in the Holy Bible. According to the monk Bede this is in Genesis 16:12, which describes Ishmael as "a wild man" whose "hand will be against every man". Bede says about Muhammad: "Now how great is his hand against all and all hands against him; as they impose his authority upon the whole length of Africa and hold both the greater part of Asia and some of Europe, hating and opposing all."
  • In 1391 a dialogue was believed to have occurred between Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Palaiologos and a Persian scholar in which the Emperor stated:

The first sentence of this quotation, when repeated by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, led to a series of riots, firebombing of churches and a Fatwa against the life of the Pope (see Pope Benedict XVI Islam controversy).

Enlightenment Criticism

In Of the Standard of Taste, an essay by David Hume, the Qur’an is described as an "absurd performance" of a "pretended prophet" who lacked "a just sentiment of morals." Attending to the narration, Hume says, "we shall soon find, that [Muhammad] bestows praise on such instances of treachery, inhumanity, cruelty, revenge, bigotry, as are utterly incompatible with civilized society. No steady rule of right seems there to be attended to; and every action is blamed or praised, so far as it is beneficial or hurtful to the true believers."

Late 19th and Early 20th Century Critics of Islam

During the late 19th and early 20th century, the new methods of Higher criticism were applied to the Qu'ran, claiming that it had a non-divine origin. Ignaz Goldziher and Henri Corbin wrote about the influence of Zoroastrianism, and others wrote on the influence of Judaism, Christianity and Sabianism.

Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister through most of World War II, was a strong critic of the effects Islam had on its believers. He stated in his 1899 book The River War:

Contemporary critics of Islam

Notable contemporary critics include: Several scholars do not self-identify as critics of Islam but criticize some of its aspects:
  • Benny Morris, is an Israeli historian. He views the Israel-Palestinian conflict as a facet of a global clash of civilizations between Islamic fundamentalism and the Western World, saying that "There is a deep problem in Islam. It's a world whose values are different. A world in which human life doesn't have the same value as it does in the West, in which freedom, democracy, openness and creativity are alien.
  • Bernard Lewis holds that unbelievers, slaves, and women are considered fundamentally inferior to other groups of people under Islamic law.
  • Patricia Crone, is a scholar, author and historian of early Islamic history working at the Institute for Advanced Study. She co-authored the controversial Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World, a book that researched the early history of Islam, coming to conclusions at variance with the traditional view.
  • Geert Wilders, a Dutchmarker politician who wants to ban the Qu'ran in the Netherlandsmarker, because it conflicts with the Dutch laws and calls for violence in general.
  • Warner Todd Huston, a prominent Americanmarker columnist who has drawn criticism for arguing that Islam should be banned in the United States and for writing on the website of Illinois Senate Candidate Alan Keyes that "the only true solution is that millions of Muslims must be killed and the sooner the better it will be for the whole world. Not because Jews are somehow perfect or that Muslims just plain "need killing," but because Islam is so patently evil and needs to be defeated!"


  • Michel Onfray, a French philosopher and ardent supporter of atheism. Onfray attacks Islam along with other monotheistic religions, speaks of "Muslim fascism" that had risen with the Islamic Revolution in Iran and considers Islamic teachings to be "structurally archaic". He also considers Western consumerist culture to be flawed as well.
  • Richard Dawkins, an outspoken antireligionist, atheist, secular humanist, and sceptic, and he is a supporter of the Brights movement.
  • Sam Harris, author of the bestseller The End of Faith, who is skeptical that moderate Islam is even possible, arguing that Muslim extremism is a consequence simply of taking the Qur'an literally. This book has a chapter entitled "The problem with Islam", where he puts forward arguments specific to Islam, saying "There are good beliefs and there are bad ones and it should now be obvious to everyone that Muslims have more than their fair share of the latter".
  • Christopher Hitchens, a writer and critic of religions including Islam. Has raised concern of what he describes as "fascism with an Islamic face".
  • Richard Carrier, a philosopher and ancient historian, frequently criticises Islam in his writings on the Secular Web.
  • Pat Condell, a stand-up comedian and writer who criticises religions, including Islam in his online video posts.

Evangelical Christians

Former Muslims

There are also outspoken former Muslims who believe that Islam is the primary cause of what they see as the mistreatment of minority groups in Muslim countries and communities. Almost all of them now live in the West, many under assumed names because of a genuine danger to themselves. Many have had death threats made against them by Islamic groups and individuals.
  • Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has focused on the plight of Muslim women, saying that "they aspire to live by their faith as best they can, but their faith robs them of their rights."
  • Taslima Nasrin, is a Bengali/Bangladeshi ex-physician turned feminist author. She is a severe critic of Islam and of religion in general, who describes herself as a secular humanist.
  • Magdi Allam, an outspoken Egyptian-born Italian journalist who describes Islam as intrinsically violent and characterised by “hate and intolerance”. He converted to Catholicism and was baptised by Pope Benedict XVI during an Easter Vigil service on March 23, 2008.
  • Nonie Darwish, a Coptic Christian, who founded the pro-Israelmarker web site Arabs for Israel and stated that "Islam is more than a religion, it is a totalitarian state" She is also the author of Now They Call Me Infidel: Why I Renounced Jihad for America, Israel, and the War on Terror.
  • Nyamko Sabuni, who is the Minister of Integration and Gender Equalitymarker in Swedenmarker and advocates banning the veil and establishing compulsory gynecological examinations for schoolgirls to guard against female genital mutilation, stating, "I will never accept that women and girls are oppressed in the name of religion" and declaring it is not her intent to reform Islam but only to denounce "unacceptable" practices. She has received death threats, requiring 24-hour police protection, for her views.
  • Zachariah Anani, a former Sunni Muslim Lebanesemarker militia fighter. Anani said that Islamic doctrine teaches nothing less than the "ambushing, seizing and slaying" of non-believers, especially Jews and Christians.
  • Khalid Duran, a specialist in the history, sociology and politics of the Islamic world, who coined the term "Islamofascism" to describe the push by some Islamist clerics to "impose religious orthodoxy on the state and the citizenry".
  • Ehsan Jami, a Dutchmarker politician who criticized Islamic prophet Muhammad, describing him as a "criminal".
  • Maryam Namazie, a Communist activist and the leader of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain.
  • Anwar Shaikh who has written several books exposing and criticising Islam.
  • Walid Shoebat a former member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation who took part in terrorist attacks against Israeli targets. He stated that "Secular dogma like Nazism is less dangerous than Islamofascism that we see today ... because Islamofascism has a religious twist to it; it says 'God the Almighty ordered you to do this. It is trying to grow itself in fifty-five Muslim states. So potentially, you could have a success rate of several Nazi Germanys, if these people get their way." ".
  • Ibn Warraq a secularist author, intellectual, scholar and founder of the Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society and a senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry specializing in Koranic criticism.
  • Wafa Sultan, whose family converted to Islam from Judism while living in the Middle East, who has pointed out that the prophet of Islam said: "I was ordered to fight the people until they believe in Allah and his Messenger." Sultan has called on Islamic teachers to review their writings and teachings and remove every call to fight people who do not believe as Muslims. Dr. Sultan is now in hiding, fearing for her life and the safety of her family after appearing on the al-Jazeera TV show.


Responses to criticism of Islam

  • John Esposito has written many introductory texts on Islam and the Islamic world. For example, he has addressed issues like the rise of militant Islam, the veiling of women, and democracy. Esposito emphatically argues against what he calls the "pan-Islamic myth". He thinks that "too often coverage of Islam and the Muslim world assumes the existence of a monolithic Islam in which all Muslims are the same." To him, such a view is naive and unjustifiably obscures important divisions and differences in the Muslim world.
  • William Montgomery Watt who in his book Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman addresses Muhammad’s alleged moral failings. He claims that “Of all the world's great men none has been so much maligned as Muhammad.” Watt argues on a basis of moral relativism that Muhammad should be judged by the standards of his own time and country rather than "by those of the most enlightened opinion in the West today."
  • Karen Armstrong, tracing what she believes to be the West's long history of hostility toward Islam, finds in Muhammad’s teachings a theology of peace and tolerance. Armstrong holds that the "holy war" urged by the Qur'an alludes to each Muslim's duty to fight for a just, decent society.
  • Edward Said, in his essay Islam Through Western Eyes, stated that the general basis of Orientalist thought forms a study structure in which Islam is placed in an inferior position as an object of study. He claims the existence of a very considerable bias in Orientalist writings as a consequence of the scholars' cultural make-up. He claims Islam has been looked at with a particular hostility and fear due to many obvious religious, psychological and political reasons, all deriving from a sense "that so far as the West is concerned, Islam represents not only a formidable competitor but also a late-coming challenge to Christianity."
  • Cathy Young of Reason Magazine claimed that the growing trend of anti-Islamic and anti-Muslim sentiment stemmed from an atmosphere where such criticism is popular. While stating that the terms "Islamophobia" and "anti-Muslim bigotry" are often used in response to legitimate criticism of fundamentalist Islam and problems within Muslim culture, she claimed "the real thing does exist, and it frequently takes the cover of anti-jihadism."
  • Deepa Kumar, the author of Outside the Box: Corporate Media, Globalization, and the UPS Strike, in her article titled 'Fighting Islamophobia: A Response to Critics' says "The history of Islam is no more violent than the history of any of the other major religions of the world. Perhaps my critics haven't heard of the Crusades -- the religious wars fought by European Christians from the 11th to the 13th centuries." referring to the brutality of the crusades and then contrasting them to forbidding of acts of vengeance and violence by the Sultan of Egypt Saladin, after he successfully retook Jerusalemmarker from the Crusaders. Speaking on the Danish Muhammad cartoon controversy (which resulted in more than 100 deaths, all together), she says "The Danish cartoon of the prophet Mohammed with a bomb on his head is nothing if not the visual depiction of the racist diatribe that Islam is inherently violent. To those who can't understand why this argument is racist, let me be clear: when you take the actions of a few people and generalize it to an entire group -- all Muslims, all Arabs -- that's racism. When a whole group of people are discriminated against and demonized because of their religion or regional origin, that's racism." and "...Arabs and Muslims are being scapegoated and demonized to justify a war that is ruining the lives of millions."

Criticism of the truthfulness of Islam and Islamic Scriptures

Reliability of the Qur'an

 -- historical authenticity of the Qur'an

Muslims believe the Qur'an to be the perfect word of God, and as such it cannot contain any errors or contradictions, and must be perfectly compatible with science. It is so perfect that readers must conclude it is of divine, rather than human, origin.

Critics argue that:
  • the Qur'an has scientific errors.
  • the Qur'an contains verses which are difficult to understand or contradictory.
  • the Qur'an contains incorrect cosmological explanations.
  • there is nothing miraculously new in the Qur'an
  • the Qur'an is not original, but rather shows the influence of Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Sabianism, and Samaritanism in its origins. American missionary Samuel Zwemer claimed the Qur'an "is not an invention, but a concoction; there is nothing novel about it except the genius of Muhammad in mixing old ingredients into a new panacea for human ills and forcing it down by means of the sword."
  • Some accounts of the history of Islam say there were two verses of the Qur'an that were allegedly added by Muhammad when he was tricked by Satan (in an incident known as the "Story of the Cranes", later referred to as the "Satanic Verses"). These verses were then retracted at angel Gabriel's behest.

Reliability of hadith

Hadith are Muslim traditions relating to the Sunna (words and deeds) of Muhammad. They are drawn from the writings of scholars writing between 844 and 874 CE, more than 200 years after the death of Mohammed in 632 CE. In general, for Muslims the hadith are second only to the Qur'an in importance, although some scholars put more emphasis on the perpetual adherence of Muslim nation to the traditions to give them credibility, and not solely on hadith. Most of our knowledge about the life of Muhammad comes from the hadith, many of which were biographies of Mohammed. Many Islamic practices (such as the Five Pillars of Islam) are drawn from the hadith.

However, there is criticism of the historical reliability of hadith.

Within Islam, different schools and sects have different opinions on the proper selection and use of hadith. The four schools of Sunni Islam all consider hadith second only to the Qur'an, although they differ on how much freedom of interpretation should be allowed to legal scholars. Shi'i scholars disagree with Sunni scholars as to which hadith should be considered reliable. The Shi'as accept the Sunna of Ali and the Imams as authoritative in addition to the Sunna of Muhammad, and as a consequence they maintain their own, different, collections of hadith.

Lack of secondary evidence

The traditional view of Islam has also been criticised for the lack of supporting evidence consistent with that view, such as the lack of archaeological evidence, and discrepancies with non-Muslim literary sources.

Criticism of the morality of Islam

Criticism of the morality of Muhammad

Muslims consider Muhammad to be the final prophet, the messenger of the final revelation that he called the Qur’an. Muslims believe that Muhammad is righteous, holy, no more than a messenger, a warner and seal of Prophets. However, critics such as Koelle and Ibn Warraq, as well as some other former Muslims, see some of his actions as immoral.

Criticism of the morality of the Qur'an

Muslims believe that the Qur'an is the literal word of God as recited to Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. Criticism of the Qur'an generally consists of questioning traditional claims about the Qur'an's composition and content.

It is a central tenet of Islam that the Qur'an is perfect, so criticism of the Qur'an is considered criticism of Islam.

This is a list of critical arguments:
  • Critics argue that the Quranic verse 4:34 allows Muslim men to discipline their wives by striking them. (There is however confusion amongst translations of Quran with the original Arabic term "wadribuhunna" being translated as "to go away from them", "beat", "strike lightly" and "separate".
  • Critics claim that violence is implicit in the Qur'anic text, and that Islam itself, not just Islamism, promotes terrorism.
  • The Quran is criticized for advocating the death penalty.
  • Some critics argue that the Qur'an is incompatible with other religious scriptures, attacks and advocates hate against people of other religions.

Human Rights: Apostasy

Apostasy in Islamic law

Bernard Lewis summarizes:

The four Sunni schools of Islamic jurisprudence, as well as Shi'a scholars, agree that a sane adult male apostate must be executed. A female apostate may be put to death, according to the majority view, or imprisoned until she repents, according to others.

The Qur'an threatens apostate with punishment in the next world only, the historian W. Heffening states, the traditions however contain the element of death penalty. Muslim scholar Shafi'i interprets verse as adducing the main evidence for the death penalty in Qur'an. The historian Wael Hallaq states the later addition of death penalty "reflects a later reality and does not stand in accord with the deeds of the Prophet." He further states that "nothing in the law governing apostate and apostasy derives from the letter of the holy text."

William Montgomery Watt, in response to a question about Western views of the Islamic Law as being cruel, states that "In Islamic teaching, such penalties may have been suitable for the age in which Muhammad lived. However, as societies have since progressed and become more peaceful and ordered, they are not suitable any longer."

Some contemporary Islamic jurists from both the Sunni and Shi'a denominations together with Qur'an only Muslims have argued or issued fatwas that state that either the changing of religion is not punishable or is only punishable under restricted circumstances. For example, Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri argues that no Qur'anic verse prescribes an earthly penalty for apostasy and adds that it is not improbable that the punishment was prescribed by Muhammad at early Islam due to political conspiracies against Islam and Muslims and not only because of changing the belief or expressing it. Montazeri defines different types of apostasy. He does not hold that a reversion of belief because of investigation and research is punishable by death but prescribes capital punishment for a desertion of Islam out of malice and enmity towards the Muslim.

According to Yohanan Friedmann, a contemporary Muslim with liberal convictions may stress tolerant elements of Islam (by for instance adopting the broadest interpretation of Qur'an 2:256 ("No compulsion is there in religion...") or the humanist approach attributed to Ibrahim al-Nakha'i), without necessarily denying the existence of other ideas in the Medieval Islamic tradition but rather discussing them in their historical context (by for example arguing that "civilizations comparable with the Islamic one, such as the Sassanids and the Byzantines, also punished apostasy with death. Similarly neither Judaism nor Christianity treated apostasy and apostates with any particular kindness"). Friedmann continues:
The real predicament facing modern Muslims with liberal convictions is not the existence of stern laws against apostasy in medieval Muslim books of law, but rather the fact that accusations of apostasy and demands to punish it are heard time and again from radical elements in the contemporary Islamic world.

Contemporary treatment of accused apostates

Today, out of 57 mostly Islamic countries in OIC, five make apostasy from Islam a crime punishable by death: Afghanistanmarker, Saudi Arabiamarker, Iranmarker, Sudanmarker and Yemenmarker. According the US State Department, there have been no reports any executions carried out by the government of Saudi Arabia for several years. On the other hand, in Pakistan, vigilante attacks against alleged apostates are common.

Abdul Rahman

The recent case of Afghan Abdul Rahman has achieved particular notoriety. In early 2006, Rahman was arrested and held by Afghan authorities on charges that he converted from Islam to Christianity, a capital offense in Afghanistan. Many Muslim clerics in the country pushed for a death sentence, but after international pressure (including a public statement by U.S. Secretary of State at the time Condoleezza Rice) he was released and secretly given asylum in Italymarker.

Nasr Abu Zayd

In 1993, an Egyptianmarker professor named Nasr Abu Zayd was divorced from his wife by an Egyptian court on the grounds that his controversial writings about the Qur'an demonstrated his apostasy. He subsequently fled to Europe with his wife. Another Egyptian professor, Farag Fuda, was killed in 1992 by masked men after criticizing Muslim fundamentalists and announcing plans to form a new movement for Egyptians of all religions.

Apostasy and Human Rights Conventions

Some widely held interpretations of Islam are inconsistent with Human Rights conventions that recognize the right to change religion.

In particular article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rightsstates:

To implement this, Article 18 (2) of the ICCPR states:

The right for Muslims to change their religion is not afforded by the Iranian Shari'ah law, which specifically forbids it

Muslim countries such as Sudanmarker, Iranmarker, and Saudi Arabiamarker, have the death penalty for apostasy from Islam.

These countries have criticized the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for its perceived failure to take into account the cultural and religious context of non-Western countries.

In 1990, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference published a separate Cairo Declaration of Human Rights compliant with Shari'ah. Although granting many of the rights in the UN declaration, it does not grant Muslims the right to convert to other religions, and restricts freedom of speech to those expressions of it that are not in contravention of the Islamic law.

Sayyid Abul Ala Maududi, the founder of Jamaat-e-Islami, wrote a book called Human Rights in Islam, in which he argues that respect for human rights has always been enshrined in Sharia law (indeed that the roots of these rights are to be found in Islamic doctrine) and criticizes Western notions that there is an inherent contradiction between the two. Western scholars have, for the most part, rejected Maududi's analysis.


Many have said that "women are not treated as equal members" of Muslim societies and have criticized Islam for condoning this treatment.The term "Muslim apartheid" has been used to highlight religious isolation in France as well as gender segregation practices.

The Catholic Church has warned Christian women about marrying Muslim men because of the "inferior" status of women in Muslim countries and the nonexistence of maternal rights to children.


Critics such as Muslim lesbian activist Irshad Manji, former Muslims Ehsan Jami and the Dutch politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, have criticized Islam's attitudes towards homosexuals. Most international human rights organizations, such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, condemn Islamic laws that make homosexual relations between consenting adults a crime. Since 1994 the United Nations Human Rights Committee has also ruled that such laws violated the right to privacy guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

However most Muslim nations insist that such laws are necessary to preserve Islamic morality and virtue. In May 2008, the sexual rights lobby group Lambda Istanbul (based in Istanbulmarker, Turkeymarker) was banned by court order for violating a constitutional provision on the protection of the family and an article banning bodies with objectives that violate law and morality.

Violence towards critics of Islam

Despite claims that the sources of Islam demand it to be a "religion of peace" with violence being regulated by laws of Jihad, it has been criticised for its followers exhibiting intolerance and violence towards critics (often viewed as being pejorative of Islam and its Prophet):
  • Ibn Warraq has collected and published stories of the reported mistreatment of Muslim apostates at the hands of Islamic authorities.
  • Christoph Luxenberg feels compelled to work under a pseudonym to protect himself because of fears that a new book on the origins of the Qur'an may make him a target for violence.
  • Hashem Aghajari, an Iranian university professor, was initially sentenced to death because of a speech that criticized some of the present Islamic practices in Iran being in contradiction with the original practices and ideology of Islam, and particularly for stating that Muslims were not "monkeys" and "should not blindly follow" the clerics. The sentence was later commuted to three years in jail, and he was released in 2004 after serving two years of that sentence.
  • In recent times fatwas calling for execution have been issued against author Salman Rushdie and activist Taslima Nasreen for pejorative comments on Islam.
  • On November 2, 2004, Dutch Filmmaker Theo van Gogh was assassinated by Dutch born Mohammed Bouyeri for producing the 10 minute film Submission critical of the abusive treatment of women by Muslims. A letter threatening the author of the screenplay, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, was pinned to his body by a knife. Hirsi Ali entered into hiding immediately following the assassination.
  • On September 30, 2005, the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published editorial cartoons, many of which caricatured the Islamic prophet Mohammed. The publication was intended to contribute to the debate regarding criticism of Islam and self-censorship; objectives which manifested themselves in the public outcry from Muslim communities within Denmark and the subsequent apology by the paper. However, the controversy deepened when further examples of the cartoons were reprinted in newspapers in more than fifty other countries. This led to protests across the Muslim world, some of which escalated into violence, including setting fire to the Norwegian and Danish Embassies in Syria, and the storming of European buildings and desecration of the Danish and German flags in Gaza City. Globally, at least 139 people were killed and 823 injured.
  • On September 19, 2006 Frenchmarker writer and philosophy teacher Robert Redeker wrote an editorial for Le Figaro, a French conservative newspaper, in which he attacked Islam and Muhammad, writing: "Pitiless war leader, pillager, butcher of Jews and polygamous, this is how Mohammed is revealed by the Qur'an"; he received death threats and went into hiding.
  • On 4 August 2007, Ehsan Jami was attacked in his hometown Voorburgmarker, in The Netherlandsmarker, by three men. The attack is widely believed to be linked to his activities for the Central Committee for Ex-Muslims. The national anti-terrorism coordinator's office, the public prosecution department and the police decided during a meeting on 6 August that "additional measures" were necessary for the protection of Jami who has subsequently received extra security.

Islam's influence on the ability of Muslim immigrants in the West to assimilate

The immigration of Muslims to European countries has increased greatly in recent decades, and frictions have developed between these new neighbours. Conservative Muslim social attitudes on modern issues have caused much controversy in Europe and elsewhere, and scholars argue about how much these attitudes are a result of Islamic beliefs.

Some critics consider Islam to be incompatible with secular Western society; their criticism has been partly influenced by a stance against multiculturalism advocated by recent philosophers, closely linked to the heritage of New Philosophers. Fiery polemic on the subject by proponents like Pascal Bruckner, and Paul Cliteur has kindled international debate. They hold multiculturalism to be an invention of an "enlightened" elite who deny the benefits of democratic rights to non-Westerners by chaining them to their roots. They claim this allows Islam free rein to propagate abuses such as the mistreatment of women and homosexuals, and in some countries slavery. They also claim that multiculturalism allows a degree of religious freedom that exceeds what is needed for personal religious freedom and is conducive to the creation of organizations aimed at undermining European secular or Christian values. This tendency to focus criticism of Islam on politics and the non-European identity of its traditions triggered a new debate on Islamophobia.

Comparison with Communism and Fascist ideologies

In 2004, speaking to the Acton Institute on the problems of "secular democracy", Cardinal George Pell drew a parallel between Islam and Communism: "Islam may provide in the 21st century, the attraction that communism provided in the 20th, both for those that are alienated and embittered on the one hand and for those who seek order or justice on the other." Pell also agrees in another speech that its capacity for far-reaching renovation is severely limited.,

An Australian Islamist spokesman, Keysar Trad, responded to the criticism : "Communism is a godless system, a system that in fact persecutes faith".Writers like Stephen Schwartz and Christopher Hitchens, describe Islamist attributes similar to Fascism. Author Malise Ruthven, a Scottish writer and historian who focuses his work on religion and Islamic affairs, opposes redefining Islamism as `Islamofascism`, but also finds the resemblances between the two ideologies "compelling".

See also


Criticism of other beliefs

Bias and/or prejudice against other beliefs

External links

Sites critical of Islam

Christian academic sources

Jewish academic sources

Muslim responses to criticism


  1. De Haeresibus by John of Damascus. See Migne. Patrologia Graeca, vol. 94, 1864, cols 763-73. An English translation by the Reverend John W Voorhis appeared in THE MOSLEM WORLD for October 1954, pp. 392-398.
  2. Ibn Kammuna, Examination of the Three Faiths, trans. Moshe Perlmann (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1971), pp. 148–49
  3. Robert Spencer, "Islam Unveiled", pp. 22, 63, 2003, Encounter Books, ISBN 1-893554-77-5
  4. Critique of Islam St. John of Damascuss
  5. John McManners, The Oxford History of Christianity, Oxford University Press, p.185
  6. John Victor Tolan, Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination, Columbia University Press, p.139: "Like earlier hostile biographies of Muhammad (John of Damascus, the Risâlat al-Kindî., Theophanes, or the Historia de Mahometh pseudopropheta) the four twelfth-century texts are based on deliberate distortions of Muslim traditions."
  7. Ibn Warraq. Why I Am Not a Muslim, p. 3. Prometheus Books, 1995. ISBN 0-87975-984-4
  8. Norman A. Stillman. The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book p. 261. Jewish Publication Society, 1979 ISBN 0827601980
  9. Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam, p.95
  10. The Mind of Maimonides, by David Novak. Retrieved April 29, 2006.
  11. Epistles of Maimonides : crisis and leadership. Texts translated and notes by Abraham Halkin ; discussions by David Hartman (Philadelphia : Jewish Publication Society, 1993.)
  12. Mohammed and Mohammedanism, by Gabriel Oussani, Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 16, 2006.
  13. both in vol. 36 of the Tournai edition, pp. 231-442 and 443-500.
  14. J. Tolan, Medieval Christian Perceptions of Islam (1996) p. 100-101
  15. J. Tolan, Saracens; Islam in the Medieval European Imagination (2002) p. 75
  16. Why I am not a Muslim by Ibn Warraq, p35 [ISBN 1591020115]
  17. Winston S. Churchill, from The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-50 (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1899)
  18. Jula Duin ("Washington Times," October 30, 2002 State of 'dhimmitude' seen as threat to Christians, Jews Egyptian-born historian Bat Ye'or and her husband, David Littman, have been making the rounds of several campuses this month to lecture on "dhimmitude," a word she coined to describe the status of Christians and Jews under Islamic governments.
  19. Daniel Pipes Miniatures : Views of the Islamic and Middle Eastern Politics pg 114 The scholar Bat Ye'or explains for non-Muslims that this has meant through history "war, dispossession, dhimmitude, slavery, and death."
  20. Griffith, Sidney H. "The Decline of Eastern Christianity under Islam: From Jihad to Dhimmitude, Seventh-Twentieth Century by Bat Yeor, Miriam Kochan, David Littman", International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 30, No. 4, November 1998, pp. 619-621
  21. "Survival of the fittest": Part I Part II. Haaretz. By Ari Shavit. Published 8 January 2004.
  22. Daniel Pipes. Keep the Koran Legal. The New York Sun August 9, 2007
  23. A Muslim Response to the Pope
  24. Michel Onfray: Atheist manifesto. The case against Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Carlton, Vic. 2007, pp. 199-214.
  25. The End of Faith" by Sam Harris p108 [ISBN 0-7432-6809-1]
  26. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, "Unfree Under Islam", The Wall Street Journal, August 16, 2005, [1]
  27. Pope converts outspoken Muslim who condemned ‘religion of hate’ -Times Online
  28. Rage over anti-Islam rally
  29. Labour party Ex-Muslim: "Muhammad was a criminal" Elsevier, 23 June 2007.
  30. New group for those who renounce IslamThe Daily Telegraph
  31. Walid Shoebat - Biography
  32. The spectator 3 October 2007 "The great Islamic scholar, Ibn Warraq, one of the great heroes of our time. Personally endangered, yet unremittingly vocal, Ibn Warraq leads a trend. Like a growing number of people, he refuses to accept the pretence that all cultures are equal. Were Ibn Warraq to live in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia, he would not be able to write. Or if he did, he would not be allowed to live. Among his work is criticism of the sources of the Koran. In Islamic states this constitutes apostasy. It is people like him, who know how things could be, who understand why Western values are not just another way to live, but the only way to live — the only system in human history in which the individual is genuinely free (in the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson) to ‘pursue happiness’."
  33. The spectator Oct 2007
  34. Stephen Crittenden L The Religion Report Ibn Warraq: Why I am not a Muslim Oct 10 2001 Secularist Muslim intellectual Ibn Warraq - not his real name - was born on the Indian subcontinent and educated in the West. He believes that the great Islamic civilisations of the past were established in spite of the Koran, not because of it, and that only a secularised Islam can deliver Muslim states from fundamentalist madness.
  35. The spectator Oct 2007 IQ2 debates on the topic "We should not be reluctant to assert the superiority of Western values" Ibn Warraq An independent researcher at the humanist Centre for Enquiry in the USA. Author of ‘Why I Am Not a Muslim’ (1995) and editor of anthologies of Koranic criticism and an anthology of testimonies of ex-Muslims ‘Leaving Islam’ (2003). A contributor to the Wall Street Journal and The Guardian, and has addressed distinguished governing bodies all over the world, including the United Nations in Geneva on the subject of apostasy. Current projects include a critical study, entitled ‘Defending the West: a Critique of Edward Said's “Orientalism”’ to be released 2007.
  36. Center for Enquiry [2]Religion, Ethics, and Society - Experts and Scholars"Ibn Warraq, Islamic scholar and a leading figure in Koranic criticism, is a senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry"
  38. Dr. Wafa Sultan Seeks Radical Change From Radical Islam - Defense/Middle East - Israel News - Arutz Sheva
  39. Home > Programs > Islam and American Democracy > Publications >
  40. Edward W. Said, Islam Through Western Eyes, The Nation, January 1, 1998
  41. The Jihad Against Muslims: When does criticism of Islam devolve into bigotry?
  42. Fighting Islamophobia: A Response to Critics by Deepa Kumar, Monthly Review, April 2006
  43. Islamic Science: Does Islamic literature contain scientific miracles? by Denis Giron
  44. Does the Qur'an Have any scientific Miracles? by Avijit Roy
  45. Lester, Toby (1999) " What is the Koran?" Atlantic Monthly
  46. Cosmology and the Koran: A Response to Muslim Fundamentalists by Richard Carrier
  47. "The Life of Muhammad", Ibn Ishaq, A. Guillaume (translator), 2002, p.166 ISBN 0-19-636033-1
  48. An Atheist's Guide to Mohammedanism by Frank Zindler
  49. Javed Ahmed Ghamidi, Mizan, Chapter: Sources of Islam, Al-Mawrid Institute
  50. What do we actually know about Mohammed? by Patricia Crone
  51. Ibn Warraq, The Quest for Historical Muhammad (Amherst, Mass.:Prometheus, 2000), 103.
  52. Kathir, Ibn, “Tafsir of Ibn Kathir”, Al-Firdous Ltd., London, 2000, 50–53 - Ibn Kathir states "dharbun ghayru nubrah" strike/admonish lightly
  53. Tafsir Tabari
  54. Laleh Bakhtiar, The Sublime Quran, 2007 translation
  55. "The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary", Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Amana Corporation, Brentwood, MD, 1989. ISBN 0-915957-03-5, passage was quoted from commentary on 4:34 - Abdullah Yusuf Ali in his Quranic commentary also states that: "In case of family jars four steps are mentioned, to be taken in that order. (1) Perhaps verbal advice or admonition may be sufficient; (2) if not, sex relations may be suspended; (3) if this is not sufficient, some slight physical correction may be administered; but Imam Shafi'i considers this inadvisable, though permissible, and all authorities are unanimous in deprecating any sort of cruelty, even of the nagging kind, as mentioned in the next clause; (4) if all this fails, a family council is recommended in 4:35 below." Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary (commentary on 4:34), Amana Corporation, Brentwood, MD, 1989. ISBN 0-915957-03-5.
  56. Ammar, Nawal H. (May 2007). "Wife Battery in Islam: A Comprehensive Understanding of Interpretations". Violence Against Women 13 (5): 519–523
  57. "Suicide bombing, in the Muslim world at least, is an explicitly religious phenomenon that is inextricable from notions of martyrdom and jihad, predictable on their basis, and sanctified by their logic. It is no more secular an activity than prayer is."
  58. Bible in Mohammedian Literature., by Kaufmann Kohler Duncan B. McDonald, Jewish Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 22, 2006.
  59. Gerber (1986), pp. 78–79
  60. "Anti-Semitism". Encyclopedia Judaica
  61. Saudi Arabia's Curriculum of Intolerance (pdf), Freedom House, May 2006, pp.24-25.
  62. W. Heffening, in Encyclopedia of Islam
  63. Encyclopedia of the Quran, Apostasy
  64. Interview: William Montgomery Watt, by Bashir Maan & Alastair McIntosh
  65. Grand Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri: "Not Every Conversion is Apostasy", by Mahdi Jami, In Persian, BBC Persian, February 2, 2005. Retrieved April 25, 2006.
  66. What Islam says on religious freedom, by Magdi Abdelhadi, BBC Arab affairs analyst, 27 March 2006. Retrieved April 25, 2006.
  67. Fatwa on Intellectual Apostasy, Text of the fatwa by Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi
  68. S. A. Rahman in "Punishment of Apostasy in Islam", Institute of Islamic Culture, Lahore, 1972, pp. 10-13
  69. The punishment of apostasy in Islam, View of Dr. Ahmad Shafaat on apostasy.
  70. Religious, Apostasy (Irtdidad) In Islam, by B.A. Robinson, Religious, April 7, 2006. Retrieved April 16, 2006.
  71. Is Apostasy a Capital Crime in Islam?, Jamal Badawi
  72. No Punishment, If No Harm, Sheikh `Abdul-Majeed Subh
  73. Ayatollah Montazeri: "Not Every Conversion is Apostasy", by Mahdi Jami, In Persian, BBC Persian, February 2, 2005. Retrieved April 25, 2006.
  74. Yohanan Friedmann, Tolerance and Coercion in Islam, Cambridge University Press, p.5
  75. International Religious Freedom Report 2006 Saudi Arabia
  76. UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  77. In 1981, the Iranian representative to the United Nations, Said Rajaie-Khorassani, articulated the position of his country regarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by saying that the UDHR was "a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition", which could not be implemented by Muslims without trespassing the Islamic law. Littman, David. "Universal Human Rights and 'Human Rights in Islam'". Midstream, February/March 1999
  78. As a matter of law, on the basis of its obligations as a state party to the ICCPR, Iran is obliged to uphold the right of individuals to practice the religion of their choice and to change religions, including converting from Islam. The prosecution of converts from Islam on the basis of religious edicts that identify apostasy as an offense punishable by death is clearly at variance with this obligation.: Human Rights Watch report on Iran [3]
  79. Sharia as traditionally understood runs counter to the ideas expressed in Article 18: Religious freedom under Islam: By Henrik Ertner Rasmussen, General Secretary, Danish European Mission
  80. Apostacy, "Leaving Islam" - The Peace FAQ
  81. The Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, Adopted and Issued at the Nineteenth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers in Cairo, Religion and Law Research Consortium, August 5, 1990. Retrieved April 16, 2006.
  82. Maududi, Human Rights in Islam, p. 10. "Islam has laid down some universal fundamental rights for humanity as a whole ... ."
  83. Maududi, Human Right in Islam, p. 13. "The people of the West have the habit of attributing every good thing to themselves and trying to prove that it is because of them that the world got this blessing ... ."
  84. Bielefeldt (2000), p. 104.
  85. See also
  86. Muslim apartheid burns bright in France Minette Marrin - Times Online
  87. World Politics Review Muslim Apartheid in Britain: A Veiled Threat?
  88. Vatican notes status of Muslims' wives
  89. Irshad Manji's call for an Islamic reformation
  90. Homosexuality and Islam
  91. 'Turkish court slaps ban on homosexual group', Hürriyet daily newspaper, Turkey
  92. Bloomberg: Muslims in Copenhagen Protest Reprinting of Danish Cartoons
  93. Extra security for Ehsan Jami,, 7 August 2007.
  94. Pascal Bruckner - Enlightenment fundamentalism or racism of the anti-racists? [4] appeared originally in German in the online magazine Perlentaucher on January 24, 2007.
  95. Paul Cliteur, Moderne Papoea’s, Dilemma’s van een multiculturele samenleving, De Uitgeverspers, 2002, review: [5]
  96. Pascal Bruckner - A reply to Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash,"At the heart of the issue is the fact that in certain countries Islam is becoming Europe's second religion. As such, its adherents are entitled to freedom of religion, to decent locations and to all of our respect. On the condition, that is, that they themselves respect the rules of our republican, secular culture, and that they do not demand a status of extraterritoriality that is denied other religions, or claim special rights and prerogatives"
  97. Pascal Bruckner - A reply to Ian Buruma and Timothy Garton Ash "It's so true that many English, Dutch and German politicians, shocked by the excesses that the wearing of the Islamic veil has given way to, now envisage similar legislation curbing religious symbols in public space. The separation of the spiritual and corporeal domains must be strictly maintained, and belief must confine itself to the private realm."
  98. Hitchens, Christopher: Defending Islamofascism: It's a valid term. Here's why, Slate, 2007-10-22
  99. A Fury For God, Malise Ruthven, Granta, 2002, p.207-8


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