Ask a Muslim: No, Dear Reader, Sex-Obsession Isn’t Confined to Muslim Nations


RD recently received the following email from reader HK, in reference to my recent post, “Dear Reader, I’m Assuming You Don’t Know Any Muslims”:

I am writing to offer a suggestion for an RD piece (or series?) that would be extremely useful to me, and I suspect to many other RD readers:

Please discuss some of the problematic aspects of the Koran, and of Islam.

For example:

why are there no majority-Muslim countries that are democracies, or that recognize civil liberties?

why are majority-Muslim countries so concerned with matters like sex (and particularly adultery), which are, after all, about private behavior?

why is Islam science-phobic?  And what does that tell us about Islam and Muslims?   With all the Muslims in the world, how many have been awarded prestigious prizes in science?

what about that verse in the Koran that advises readers to lie, if necessary, to protect Islam?

what about dhimmitude and the Koran verses that impose taxes on non-Muslims?

These are only some of the most obvious questions.  No doubt there are many others.

I can understand how RD might be reluctant to do a piece (? series?) dealing with these matters.  But I think such a piece would help educate lots of folks, including me (and obviously I have a negative view of Islam), and would say something about the  courage and intellectual integrity of RD and its writers and editors.

Thank you.

Dear Reader,

Thanks for writing in.

First, the majority of the world’s Muslims live in democracies. That includes Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mali, Tunisia, Nigeria, etc., most of which are Muslim-majority. Are these perfect? Of course not. But they are democracies, and they aspire to democracy.

Many of the countries that aren’t democracies have attempted democratic transitions, and have been actively or indirectly blocked by our country. Which is a democracy. So, why does our democracy actively hinder the development of democracy?

Second, name a single country to me that isn’t obsessed with sex. Sex, being part of human nature, is of concern to humans, because they are human. We just had a state try to block the recognition of gay marriage, which I think comes down to private behavior. Actually I’d be kind of weirded out if we weren’t talking about sex.

It is, after all, integral to us.

Third, I can’t tell you how many American Muslims I know whose parents simply refuse to allow them to major in anything except science. We are, as a community, obsessed with science. Not that science itself is a good thing. I might as well turn the question around and ask, Why did Western civilization invent industrialization, which in turn has led to global warming? Environmental destruction is a product of the West.

You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If you want to claim the good, own the bad. If you want all the good, you get all the bad.

Fourth, I don’t know of a single ethical system that doesn’t permit lying in certain circumstances. Sometimes it’s out of kindness—nobody answers, “do I look fat in this?” honestly—and sometimes it’s because we fear for our lives. If I lived in Soviet Russia, would I be honest about my political opinions? Would it be immoral not to? You could spend all day with that one.

Fifth, verses of the Qur’an do not create obligation or prohibition even if the verses themselves claim to. They are read only and ever in context with the wider Islamic tradition, and create arguments. These arguments can be inconsistent. One could read Islam’s sources and produce an argument for monarchy just as one could democracy. Which prevails depends on any number of factors—but Islam does not contain a political system.

Yes, some Muslims believe it does, but so what? Some Christians believe Vladimir Putin is a good leader. Others believe the war on Iraq was righteous. Some want to recognize gay marriage. Some practice plural marriage. Nobody agrees on anything, even though, half the time, they’re using the same texts and invoking the same principles. If you can accept that in every other sphere of life, the only reason you can’t accept it concerning Muslims is because of a double standard.

Sixth, “dhimmitude” was an accommodation to diversity as a reality. Should it be practiced today? No. Is it necessary? No. There were times in Islamic history when treaties created mutual obligations to defense instead of jizya.

In a democratic age, I believe in a democratic alternative. Though let’s not get carried away. We in the U.S. practice dhimmitude as well. We believe we have the right to attack anyone, anywhere in the world, and we have the right to prevent others from defending themselves.

I’m tired of people talking about Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam as if it’s the only instance in the world of discriminatory politics. (It is, by the way, and I don’t agree with it, and don’t believe it is grounded in Islam—it’s a product of the post-Prophetic era.)

For a simple example of this, look at the Permanent Five of the United Nations Security Council. Is it reasonable that four of the five are overwhelmingly white, Christian nations? For what reason do France and England get a say in who does or doesn’t get bombed, and not, say, South Korea, South Africa, Brazil, Australia, Indonesia, or Kazakhstan?

How is it that one member state, China, has more people than the other four combined, and yet is treated equally? The Palestinians were told, in the run-up to 1948, that their country would be divided according to international law.

In order to be a part of the body that made that decision, however, they would have to first forfeit half their land. Then they could be part of it. If that isn’t dhimmitude, I don’t know what is. My struggle is to build a more just and equitable planet. I believe that work starts here, where we live, and not in ascribing blame to the other end of the planet. We are responsible for ourselves.

We live in a democracy. Let’s make it more democratic, and treat others the way we wish to be treated.




  •' MainTour says:

    Is one of the goals of Islam is to setup a Caliphate where the people live by Sharia Law? Which places today come the closest to this Islamic Ideal?

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    I won’t argue all of Mr,

  •' Fired, Aren't I says:

    Interesting, because gay and trans persons today still have to hide their identities to avoid being murdered – in the United States. I guess we’re not a democracy either.

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    Apples and oranges,”Fired,aren’t I”…First of all,people being murdered in the U.S.for declaring themselves LBGT is an aberration,and rarely happens,whereas proffessing oneself to be Christian and leaving Islam is practically a guaranteed death sentence in predominantly Islamic nations.As you can read on this site,NO Muslim has bothered to deny it.In genuinely democratic countries( Like the U.S.),even LBGT persons can’t be killed with impunity;our legal system doesn’t countenance the wanton murder of its citizens,no matter their sexual orientation,and YOU know it,Fired,aren’t I.But you’ve heard no official,governmental protest inre ISIS’s murder of homosexual persons by tossing them off buildings,have you? No,and you won’t,either.Now,it’s been shamefully long in coming,but let’s be honest and admit that the tide IS turning,and,rapidly,in favor of full inclusion in mainstream society of LBGT persons,and protection of their rights. Hold your breath for that in ANY Islamic nation,my friend.—PEACE IN CHRIST.

  •' Hypocrite says:

    Sure Dude. But pointing to one point while ignoring the rest is stupid. Example: US has been the most aggressive violent country in the past several decades. It killed millions, overthrown several democratic governments and backed fundamentalism because of its own benefit. Does this make everything in US or related to Christianity bad? If you think so, then it is okay, because at least you are consistent with your way of reasoning.

  •' Hypocrite says:

    Islam has no agency by itself. But sure, there are a bunch of ultra-orthodox Muslims who believe so. This does not translate into “all Muslims or most Muslims want Caliphate”. As somebody who lived in an “Islamic country” for most of my life, I would be the first one who oppose such stupid Caliphate.

  •' Fired, Aren't I says:


  • Dear writer:

    You are apparently quite confused as to the meaning of the word “democracy.”

    Nigeria is an authoritarian country. Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh, Mali, and Pakistan are at best what are called “hybrid” regimes. Of the two left, Malsia and Tunisia are what are referred to as “flawed democracies.”

    It is pretty obvious that the Muslim world consists of largely authoritarian countries, with a few more enlightened types of states sprinkled on top. This is simply not deniable, other than to a propagandist, which, I am afraid is what Haroon Moghul seems to be.

    It’s the sort of fib that mystifies me. Not simply because it is so easy to check and identify as being false — but because it is entirely unnecessary to making the substantive point that the author wants to make. The call is for greater tolerance of our Muslim neighbors and a more measured international policy. I can think of a hundred different ways to make the case for these eminently reasonble things. But I see no reason why lying about the typical regime of the typical Muslim country should be one of them.

    As for his somewhat infantile sniffing about the Security Council membership, I would recommend an introductory level history text that covers the last century. You know, the kind you read in high school. It is quite easy to find out how the Security Council turned out the way it did. Oh, and by the way, a Christian Conspiracy is not part of the answer.

    I used to enjoy Mr. Moghul’s columns, but increasingly, they just seem like very transparent, adolescent exercises in special pleading.

  • You are really confused, if you think there is anything remotely similar, in the sorts of jeopardy LGBT people find themselves in, in the US, versus the Islamic world.

  • One paragraph is too long?

    Look, I’m on your side of the issue — strongly pro-LGBT rights. But it’s just plain foolishness to pretend that the Islamic world isn’t just about the worst possible place to be LGBT.

  • Does recognizing the US’s flaws require lying through our teeth about the relevant status of most Islamic countries?

    How about telling the truth about both?

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    Thank you,Daniel.If we’re speaking frankly here,it’s no picnic being female in a predominantly Muslim country either.Just sayin’.

  •' bpuharic says:

    Having been to Malaysia twice, I can honestly say it does NOT have freedom of religion. There are significant numbers of Buddhists, Hindus and Christians there, yet they’re definitely 2nd class citizens. They’re force to support Muslim institutions, such as mosques, and university admission is open to Muslims with other religions forced to wait until Muslims have filled available slots.

    Turkey, as it’s become ‘more’ Muslim under the AKP, has become less free with the govt jailing journalists.

    Pakistan is hardly a democracy since Christians are routinely killed for their beliefs, as are members of minority Muslim sects.

    Indonesia is the only fair claim to a “Muslim” majority democracy. That’s a pretty fair claim indeed, but Islam and democracy still have a number of problems to resolve.

  •' Tony Springer says:

    Good answers that show the difficulties of pre-modern religions in a late modern world. You may have strengthened your answers with some historical references, especially on how Islam had strong mathematical and scientific achievements, ca. 1000.

  •' Fired, Aren't I says:

    WIll this include telling the truth about Israel, instead of giving them a free pass as well? And before you assume too much, I’m one of those JVP Jews, not “Israel shouldn’t exist” ultra-leftists.

  •' Fired, Aren't I says:

    You don’t know any Western-Nation Muslims, do you? Maybe try talking to them. Unless they don’t exist where you live; I know it’s in the bible belt.

  •' Fired, Aren't I says:

    You’re not as much on my side of things as you think, if you think Haroon’s articles politely and intelligently making the case for his own people tantamount to “special pleading.”

  • I am originally from New York. I suspect I know more American Muslims than you do.

  • I noticed you entirely ignored the substance of my remarks, which has to do with the bogus list of “democracies” indicated by Mr. Moghul.

  • I agree with the case. I don’t agree with outright lying as to whether certain countries are “democracies”.

  • I am on the Zionist Left, so there is very little I have not criticized the current Israeli government for. With respect to the issue at hand, however, it is a hell of a lot better to be an LGBT in Israel than in any Muslim country — indeed, LGBT Palestinians routinely flee *to* Israel, from the territories.

  •' DKeane123 says:

    Humans are hard wired to be interested in sex, and as a natural extension religion is concerned with sex too. So, I’m less concerned with the obsessiveness with sex than religion looking to control it or even worse – justified misuse of it.

    There has been an article making the rounds where a Salafist Cleric named Yasser Barahimi has basically claimed that a man doesn’t need consent for sex with his wife (it is okay to rape your wife). Now I like to think that most people will know automatically that this isn’t okay. I’ve heard certain moderate interpretations, that say that neither the man nor the woman should be reluctant to have sex with the spouse (unless there is a physical or mental issue) – but it still appears to me that your right to say no is revoked when you get married (at least according to this cleric).

    As an ex-Catholic, I know there is text about surrendering bodily autonomy to your spouse, but they appear to have to used modern morality to work their way around that. The last Pope mad several declarations against it.

  •' DKeane123 says:

    “These arguments can be inconsistent. One could read Islam’s sources and produce an argument for monarchy just as one could democracy. ” – My problem with almost every religious book. So much for “divinely inspired or created” – God or whatever you want to call it has a serious communication problem.

  •' cranefly says:

    Keyword: “if.”

  •' cranefly says:

    “With all the Muslims in the world, how many have been awarded prestigious prizes in science?”

    1. Muslims invented trigonometry. I’ll be impressed if you can win a Nobel Prize for Science without it.

    2. Prestigious awards are handed down by human people based on their motives and opinions of who should get them. Anyone who has set foot in academia has witnessed that there are all kinds of monetary and political interests playing a role in who gets recognized and who doesn’t. It’s hilariously naive to act like “prestige” is handed out by the Universe to reward objective superiority, yet self-described intellectuals and their credulous votaries keep regurgitating this xenophobic, revisionist talking point. It’s like a religious belief, pretending to be logic.

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    I’m sorry,cranefly…What are we talking about here?

  •' cranefly says:

    In retrospect, we should probably be talking about your command of vocabulary. Nothing in the word “democracy” requires a society to be just; “tyranny of the majority” is a problem that every democracy has to deal with. It’s why our democracy permitted human slavery for so long.

    But of course, if your hypothetical situation in which you feel unsafe converting to Christianity were not hypothetical, but reality, that would certainly reflect an injustice. There are certainly Muslim countries where you wouldn’t have to feel unsafe, and Muslims who would not want you to.

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    Yeah…Pot,meet kettle.I’m not an expert on Islamic-majority nations per se cranefly,but I racking my brain for one that would welcome a Muslim embracing Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour publicly.Please;I’m ALWAYS ready to learn.Feel free to enlighten me as to where that particular nation is.I will gladly stand corrected,but I suspect that it will wind up being a”hypothetical”.

  •' cranefly says:

    Racking your brain? There’s the problem. Why would your brain know? I’ve only been to Senegal and the Gambia. I went to church with converts in the former.

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    Sorry cranefly,I’m going to have to call you on that one.Muslims derived their development of trigonometry from the Greeks and the Hindus;ergo,the Muslims didn’t invent trig.As for what we discussed earlier,the fact that you visited countries with 92 and 95 percent Muslim populations respectively and went to church with a few converts from Islam means…what,exactly? If they were Muslims,now they’re apostates from Islam,and I’m sure that there are some interesting backstories attached to their conversions.Even so,my primary premise still stands.The issue is not whether some form/version of Christianity is tolerated is a few named Islamic countries no one denies that.But again,there is no doubt that on the whole,Christianity is barely tolerated in SOME Muslim nations,and will bring death to those who were formerly Muslims who renounce Islam to embrace Jesus Christ publicly in the majority of these countries.Their governments will NOT protect those who run afoul of the designated religious authorities inre this issue,it’s just that simple.In some Islamic nations one can be LEGALLY murdered for becoming an apostate!! So—that my main point,cranefly.In genuinely democratic countries,change of religion won’t incur legally sanctioned murder.

  •' cranefly says:

    Muslims contributed substantially to mathematics. You are clearly convinced, based on thoughts in your head, of some semi-intelligible accusations against Islam. There’s no point in this conversation continuing.

  •' Laurence Charles Ringo says:

    Wow,cranefly…Try re-reading your own posts,my friend! “Contributing substantially to mathematics”is a far cry from…”Muslims invented trigonometry”…,the claim you made in your preceding post.And history,both past AND present,bears out all I’ve said concerning Muslims’treatment of those NOT Muslims and those who would have the temerity to leave this religion.But,as you say…there is indeed no point in continuing this conversation.Believe what you will,and God bless you.

  •' cranefly says:

    I meant it to be higher praise, since the developments in question weren’t limited to trigonometry. In any case it’s no criticism that they built on a foundation that had existed for hundreds of years. That’s how science works. Keep thinking your thoughts.

  •' Diogenes says:

    A few observations:

    1. The answer to the question about prizes is 12, or 35, or 141, or some number. As a general principle, when a person can answer a tough question with an answer that’s relevant AND in her favor, she will; people who cannot provide answers that portray their beliefs (religion etc) positively, will evade and provide non-relevant info.

    2. It’s important to remember that all religions differ as a function to the culture in which they are practiced. Islam as practiced in the US has some major differences from the way it’s practiced in France, or Pakistan, or etc.

    3. It is indisputable that apostates take great risks in majority-Muslim countries.

    4. Islam in majority-Muslim countries *is* obsessed with sex–with gays, adulterers, etc. The question is, WHY?

    5. It’s important to distinguish between rare events, such as some criminal being up a gay person in the US, and events encouraged by the state, e.g. stoning adulterers.

    6. If it is true that other religions allow/encourage lying in defense of the religion, it ought to be easy for Mr. Moghul to cite examples.

  •' Diogenes says:

    Haroon Moghul implicitly acknowledges the truth of the allegation that
    Islam encourages lying in defense of the faith. In doing so, he has
    apparently overlooked two very serious points:

    1. How can we have any confidence that he is telling the truth in his comments, and not lying to protect Islam?

    2. He has apparently not learned something that children learn: “everyone does it!” is not a reasonable defense.

  •' Jim Reed says:

    One example of Christianity lying in defense of their religion is the Josephus reference to Jesus. They inserted the reference into Josephus a couple hundred years later, and despite it being obviously fake, it is a primary lie that Christians tell to this day to support the historical accuracy of their religion.

  •' DKeane123 says:

    So there is actual data about this. If you go to the bottom third of the webpage – it discusses who believes you should be killed for leaving the faith. One thing to be careful of, is that the percentages are for only those people that believe Sharia should be the law of the land (which is earlier in the webpage and has majorities for almost all the countries). In Malaysia, South Asia, and Middle-east/North Africa Large percentages of Sharia proponents believe it is just fine to kill someone for leaving Islam.

  •' andrew123456789 says:

    Trying to get past the self-importance of your writing, I’ll only comment on your condescending paragraph regarding the security council. Do you think the writer doesn’t know the history of the security council? It’s not relevant to the writer’s point. Quite obviously, he is pointing out the inherent injustice of the security council’s power here and now. You are creating a straw horse by going in that direction. I don’t know your columns, but I certainly don’t enjoy reading your comments.

  •' andrew123456789 says:

    If it is an untruth, I doubt it is a lie, as it is taught academically as well as in religious circles. This is an area of interest to me, so I’d be curious what made you certain that the reference to Josephus is obviously fake. I’m not asking in animosity, but rather in truly wanting to know, because this is new information to me. I haven’t studied this stuff in about twenty years!

  •' andrew123456789 says:


    How many readers of Religious Dispatches are not anti-Islam?

    How many understand that the history of Islam is vastly different from the history of Christianity?

    How many understand that the “Enlightenment” in Europe was a unique event not shared around the world?

    How many understand that without the preservation of works by Aristotle and others, the West would be a vastly different world than it is today?

    The fact that there are great problems, particularly with human rights, in the so-called “Muslim World” (I have trouble with that term, but I’ll play along) says very little about Islam as a religious system and form of belief. In every religion you have your literal followers who don’t think for themselves. In every religion you have your zealots. Most of the Muslim world happens to also be impoverished. There are many factors not being discussed here.

    At its heart, there is much beauty in Islam.

    But nobody cares about this.

    I’m gay, and I know there are few Muslim-majority countries in which I would not be persecuted. This is no more a product of Islam than antigay laws in the West were a hundred years ago. Remember: different histories.

    I love this site, but I’m done reading the comments sections of articles about Islam. I look to the beauty in every religion, and reject the ugliness. There is so much arrogance in this comment section it’s giving me hives.

  • I certainly don’t enjoy reading your comments.


    I’ll try to cope, somehow.

    The fact remains that his list of “democracies” is bogus and demonstrably so.

  • There is so much arrogance in this comment section it’s giving me hives.
    Maybe some benadryl cream would help?

  •' Jim Reed says:

    The Josephus passage is,

    “At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one should call him a man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. For he appeared to them on the third day, living again, just as the divine prophets had spoken of these and countless other wondrous things about him. And up unitl this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.”

    Every bit of this is exactly what a fourth century Christian apologist would have written, and exactly what Josephus, a first century Jewish historian would not have written. Combine that with the fact that no other Christian referred to this passage until the fourth century and later, and it’s fake. Before that time Christian apologists did reference the works of Josephus for other things. If this passage was in Josephus at that time, they would have used it for sure.

    There are Christian historians who know this. That doesn’t get communicated down the chain and told to the people. I think this is because even though some know it is fake, it is still the best historical proof that Christianity has, so they are going to use it and not stop people from using it.

  •' james warren says:

    Christianity has violent militias that slaughter innocent Muslims. This is why many people in a global culture no longer find religions like Islam and Christianity compelling or persuadable.
    Both religions have their own versions of Shari’a Law: patriarchy, other-worldliness, hypocrisy, bigotry, homophobia and violence against unbelievers or former believers.

    Until we can move beyond the ancient tribal norms that are still part of today’s faith traditions, we will continue to be stuck in the present.

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