Ask an Atheist with Sam Mulvey

Islamic Extremists Are a Worry For Everyone – Including Other Muslims

I don’t think any group should be judged by its extremists.  I think the way that the rest of the group deals with extremists is important though, and says a lot about just how “extreme” the offending people actually are.  After reading this, I’m interested to see how the rest of the Muslim world responds to the treatment an imam is receiving in London after it was made known that he not only supports a women’s right to chose – whether or not to wear a headscarf (almost had you there, didn’t I?) and that he believes in evolution.

An imam of an east London mosque has been subject to death threats and intimidation for expressing his views on evolution and women’s right to refuse the veil.

Dr Usama Hasan, vice-chairman at Leyton mosque and a senior lecturer in engineering at Middlesex University, ceased delivering Friday prayers after 25 years of service when 50 Muslim protesters disrupted his lecture by handing out leaflets against him and shouting in the mosque for his execution.

A statement from the secretary of the mosque, Mohammad Sethi, that was leaked to extremist websites, said Hasan had been suspended after his lecture resulted in “considerable antagonism” from the community and for his “belief that Muslim women are allowed to uncover their hair in public”.

Sethi’s letter, dated 24 February, said Hasan’s views were in “violation of the constitution of the Masjid Trust” and that the decision had been made for the “safety and security of all parties”.

But Hasan stuck to his guns, right?  In the face of extremism, he did the only thing you can do: defend his rights to both have opinions and not be afraid for his life because of them, right?  Well…no:

However, he did issue a statement apologising for some of his “inflammatory” statements about evolution and retracted them.

I have no idea what statements he specifically retracted, but I do know that if a bully threatens to take your lunch money if you don’t bark like a dog and you do it, soon you’ll be wearing a leash and eating out of a bowl on the ground.

I understand that the guy has kids and a wife and is afraid for his family and for his life, so I’m not trying to say he should be judged as a bad person for taking back whatever it was he said.  However, he has certainly lost some of my respect for doing so.  Why?  Because evolution is a real, observable process!  Threatening or killing people who understand this is not going to make it any less of a fact.

Also – who apologizes to terrorists?  I mean seriously, I don’t care if I called your grandmother a hooker – if you threaten to kill me for saying it, I’m probably not going to apologize because I don’t think a spoken thought ever warrants a death threat.  But, unlike calling someone or something a name to be mean, for this analogy to be consistent your grandmother would factually have been or currently is a hooker – so me calling her one certainly doesn’t warrant an apology or a retraction.

And is apologizing actually going to do anything in this situation anyway?  Are people who are ready to kill you for believing that wearing a scarf is a choice really going to care if you take it back later?

Beyond all that, my real question is – where is the outrage from the moderate Muslim community?  I’m not trying to insinuate that it doesn’t exist, but rooting around the internets for a good half hour hasn’t turned up much.  I see that as a far bigger issue than a handful of extremists threatening to be crazy because, well, they’re crazy.  Without some kind of outcry from moderate Muslims, how are we uneducated outsiders supposed to believe that these extremist views are actually extremist and not the norm?



Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

I’d like to see the Muslim equivalent of anti-Phelps culture jammers counterprotesting Islamic extremists– unless having a sense of humour and perspective is deserving of a jihad?

fred johnson

The silence from the Muslim moderates is as usual deafening.

Similarly the continued silence of feminists about the sub human treatment of women in many Muslim majority countries.

It seems offending fascist groups with selfish ideologies is a bigger concern these days.

Most of the problems of the world are, and always have been, caused by religion. For example, Northern Ireland, the Middle East, and family planning clinic bombing in the USA. Then there were the crusades, the inquisition, and the dark ages. Get the idea?

Humanity will never truly be free until the black yoke of religion is lifted by the clear light of truth and rational thinking.


Extremist, fundamentalist. Po-tay-to, po-tah-to. Groups SHOULD be judged by their fundamentalists. They, after all, are the ones who most closely follow the basic tenets of their group (i. e. the word as it is written). The “moderates”, at best, turn a blind eye to atrocities committed by the extremists; at worst, they revere their more devout brethren.

For example, sweet Mabel the grandmother from middle America may say it’s wrong to murder abortion doctors, but in her heart of hearts she knows the bible says the wages of sin is death.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x