Holland C. Tylor and the Illusion of a Moderate Islam
Mr. Holland C. Tylor, is a convert to Islam. He claims to be a moderate Muslim. He was a friend of the late president of Indonesia, Mr. Abdurrahman Wahid who was also a moderate Muslim. Mr. Tylor has compiled the essays of several prominent moderate Muslims in a book titled, The Illusion of an Islamic State and claims Islam is essentially a moderate religion which is being hijacked by the radicals.
I met Mr. Tylor, in an email discussion group, where I and a couple other friends, (Nonie Darwish and Andrew Bostom) argued that Islam cannot be reformed and a moderate Islam is impossible. Muhammad was a violent man and his teachings are violent. Therefore the true Islam can never be a moderate religion. On the other side were, Dr. Zuhdi Yasser, Mr. Tarek Fatah, Dr. Daniel Pipes and Mr. Holland Tylor who are proponents of the moderate Islam.
That is where I came to know Mr. Tylor. I invited him to read my book, Understanding Muhammad and he invited me to read his and we exchanged our respective books.
I read several essays of his book and made a list of about a dozen of questions, mostly based on his article and the one written by the late President Wahid. On May 13, of this year (2012), I asked Mr. Tylor whether he is ready for my questions. He immediately responded, “I am ready.” The next day I sent him my first question.
But he did not reply. So I wrote him a short note saying I am waiting for his response. Mr. Tylor responded, “Please be patient and I will get back to you regarding the question you sent. Feel free to send others if you have them already prepared. I would like to see them.”
I told him I prefer to send the questions one by one so I can publish our exchanges. (Actually I was concerned that if he sees all of them he will panic and will not respond) I told him this is not going to be a debate. I will not comment on or refute his responses. I will present my points, arguing why I don’t believe Islam can be moderate and will publish it along with his response. We will let the readers to decide and he will have the last word.
Mr. Tylor went silent. On My 29, I wrote him another reminder, and expressed my eagerness to continue this interview. I told him why I believe his proposed solution is the real mirage and explained, “When someone is sick it is best to prescribe for him the right remedy. By giving him false hopes we could do more harm to him. Mankind is sick with Islam. Does your remedy work? This question is of utmost importance. Are we deluding the world with another farce or can Islam become moderate and peaceful like other religions?”
I said, “If you really believe in what you preach, this is the time to prove it and put an end to this conundrum. If you don’t believe in what you preach then I don’t know what to say. You must have your reasons to promote something that you know is false.” I told him that truth will not remain under the clouds forever and it is better to side with the truth. I urged him to either defend his claim that the real Islam is moderate or abandon it.
Mr. Tylor was offended. He said that he was in Qatar, attending Brookings Institution’s U.S. – Islamic World Forum and had other obligations. He noted that my email was “counter-productive, in terms of achieving your stated goal (of getting me to respond or publicly abandon my views).” He said our discussion is not going to decide the fate of the world or most people’s views of Islam. He then said, “Mutual politeness will, however, facilitate communication.”
I told him that I was not impolite to him, but disappointed that after reading his rather large book, a book that added no new insight to my understanding of Islam, since it rehashed the very fallacies I used to hold on to before my enlightenment, and after writing my question refuting his claims he had ignored me. I know that there is Internet in Qatar and did not buy that excuse. Despite him ignoring me,Mr. Tylor accused me of being impolite. That was okay with me. I am happy to suffer even insults as long as he responses to my questions. My goal is to show Islam is terminally sick. There is no hope for this cult.
More days passed and I received no reply. So I thought he must have difficulty answering, which is actually a good thing, so I sent him my second question. He said “I read it, and am thinking deeply about the statements you make, and the perspective which lies behind these statements.” He wanted to know whether I have any previous discussions posted on my website that illustrate how I propose to post my questions and his answers to them?
I told him I have had many debates that are posted on my sites, but this is not a debate. I will publish my questions and his responses to them in the same page and will not comment further. He will have the last word. The next question will be on a different topic.
On June 18, more than a month after I sent him my first question, Mr. Tylor wrote, “I’ve had a chance to focus on your first question, and have basically completed my response. I’ll get the document to you after I’ve had a chance to review it once more.”
But I did not hear from him again. On July 9, I sent him an email asking whether he had a chance to review his response to my first question.”
He responded, “I have been focused on two major grant proposals for our International Institute of Qur’anic Studies, but have not forgotten about you.”
Today is July 29, 2.5 months later and I still have not received the reply to my first question, which he said it is already complete. Why? Maybe the answer is in his last email. He is after two major grants for his Islamic institute that assures those who believe in miracles that Islam can become moderate, it is just the question of spending a little more money in the “right” cause. Who can blame him? Maybe I too would do the same were I in his shoes. But there are no grants for apostates, not even a minor one. All I get are a few donations in a year that cover about 20% of the cost of the server. Since I have never had a chance to any grant I can’t pass judgments on him.
The following is my first question. I will send the link to his page to Mr. Tylor and if he sends his response I will publish it. I’ll post the second question in a few days. I also believe that discussions like this will decide the fate of the world and they will affect people’s views of Islam. When I started writing about Islam, in 1998, most people had no idea about this faith. Today, many do and they know some very juicy details of the life of Muhammad too. I say proudly, I started it. Now it has taken a life of its own and it is unstoppable. The movie I am working on will be the nail in the coffin of Islam. I said a decade ago, that a time will come when Muslims will feel embarrassed to be called by that name. That time is nigh.
I read the Preface to the English Edition of your book (Compilation) The Illusion of an Islamic State, titled FIGHTING FIRE WITH WATER written by you, and the Editor’s Introduction, by Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid, ex-President of Indonesia, titled THE ENEMY WITHIN. I also read a few pages from other contributing authors to the book. I base my questions on what you and P. Wahid have written.
Before I start let me emphasize that I come from the same background. My Islam was no different from what you and the late President Wahid promote. You grew up in Iran at the same time I was growing up there. You remember how liberal we were. None of this Islamist nonsense existed back then. Those were good days. It all changed overnight in 1979. Those who wore miniskirts and rock and rolled with the tunes of Beatles and Elvis, the so called “moderate Muslims” started wearing headscarf and beards and become Islamists.
I had left Iran by then. I could not understand why this happened, until I read the Quran some 15 years later, in 1994. Then, everything fell into place and I began to understand what hitherto was indecipherable and mayhem. When I read the Sira, biography of Muhammad, all my suspicions were confirmed. Therefore, I understand where you come from. Been there done that!
I am going to be honest with you and tell you that I am not asking these questions to understand your version of Islam. I know it already. I am posing these questions to challenge you. My goal is to make you see that the Islam you promote is not the real one, that it will never prevail and that it is a deception. All deceptions are dangerous. Just as you accuse the so called extremists of having the illusion of an Islamic State, I believe you have the illusion of the moderate Islam. In fact an Islamic State is within the realm of possibilities. All it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. However, the illusion of a moderate Islam is logically impossible. If you can envision a round square, you may be able to materialize the illusion of the moderate Islam.
To make it easy on both of us and on our readers, (I will publish this interview on Faithfreedom.org as I said before) I will ask one question at a time or maybe two.
Let me start with what P. Wahid has written. He talked about, Mpu Tantular’s principle of Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (“Oneness amid Diversity”) in Islam. Can you please show me where Muhammad talks about such concept? Diversity necessitates tolerance. It means co-existence of different beliefs, which demands freedom of conscience. Does Islam allow such freedom? Can people choose not to believe in Islam or leave it after believing in it? Can someone born to Muslim parents leave Islam? I know your thoughts. Your answer is yes. I am interested in what Islam teaches in this regard.
You quoted from Sura 109 that says, to you your way and to me mine and said this suggests tolerance.
If it does, then it contradicts with several other verses that promote intolerance. For example: 3:85, “If anyone desires a religion other than Islam, never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost.” And 8:39, “And fight them on until there is no more fitnah (dissent, tumult) and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere.”
However, Maududi, Qutb and many other Muslim scholars claimed that there is no contradiction and that those who think the verse “to you your religion and to me mine” means tolerance are misunderstanding the verse.
Maududi in his interpretation of the Quran writes:
“If the sura is read with this background in mind, one finds that it was not revealed to preach religious tolerance as some people of today seem to think, but it was revealed in order to exonerate the Muslims from the disbeliever’s religion, their rites of worship, and their gods, and to express their total disgust and unconcern with them and to tell them that Islam and kufr (unbelief) had nothing in common and there was no possibility of their being combined and mixed into one entity. Although it was addressed in the beginning to the disbelieving Quraish in response to their proposals of compromise, yet it is not confined to them only, but having made it a part of the Quran, Allâh gave the Muslims the eternal teaching that they should exonerate themselves by word and deed from the creed of kufr wherever and in whatever form it be, and should declare without any reservation that they cannot make any compromise with the disbelievers in the matter of Faith. That is why this Surah continued to be recited when the people to whom it was addressed as a rejoinder, had died and been forgotten, and those Muslims also continued to recite it who were disbelievers at the time it was revealed, and the Muslims still recite it centuries after they have passed away, for expression of disgust with and dissociation from kufr and its rites is a perpetual demand of Faith.” [www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/quran/maududi/mau109.html]
But why rely on Maududi when we can read the sha’n-e nodhul of this verse in the Sira? Ibn Ishaq says that when the Aposlle was going round the Ka’ba, several dignitaries of Mecca met him and told him, “Muhammad, come let us worship what you worship, and you worship what we worship. You and we will combine in the matter. If what you worship is better than what we worship we will take a share of it, and if what we worship is better than what you worship, you can take a share of that.’ So God revealed concerning them, ‘Say, 0 disbelievers, I do not worship what you worship, and you do not worship what I worship, and I do not worship what you worship, and you do not worship what I worship; you have your religion and I have mine,” i.e. If you will only worship God on condition that I worship what you worship, I have no need of you at all. You can have your religion, all of it, and I have mine.” [Sira p. 165]
As you see this verse is not about tolerance. It is a typical way a narcissist shows his disdain to those who don’t agree with him. Muhammad is saying, I don’t give a damn if you believe me or not. To you your religion and to me mine!
Do you see how Muslims twist the Quran to deceive their audience? In Islamic countries this verse is never misrepresented. Only when the audience are the non-Muslims, Muslims change the meaning of the verse to make Islam look moderate.
There was nothing tolerant in Muhammad. He was still in Mecca and had just a handful of followers when he started insulting the religion of the Quraish. When one day he was going around the Ka’ba, the elders were present. They told him to stop dividing people, setting children against their parents and inciting the salves against their masters. They asked him to not insult their gods. Muhammad then stopped and said. “Will you listen to me O Quraish? By him who holds my life in His hand I bring you slaughter.” [Sira Ibn Ishaq, p. 131]
Ibn Ishaq says, “When the apostle openly displayed Islam as God ordered him, his people did not withdraw or turn against him, until he spoke disparagingly of their gods. When he did that they took great offence and resolved unanimously to treat him as an enemy.” [Ibn Ishaq, p. 118]
What tolerance? The Quraish were tolerant. Muhammad was never tolerant, not even when he was the underdog. He was violent from the beginning.
Do you inhale any tolerance in this verse? “Make ye no excuses: ye have rejected Faith after ye had accepted it. If We pardon some of you, We will punish others amongst you, for that they are in sin.” (Q. 9:66)
Related Article: The Illusion of Reforming Islam