With Reference to Islam
- Prefatory Note
- Of Learning Humility and Tolerance
- Of Respect for Islam
- Terror and Al-Quran
- Of Islam and Violence
The following text is from a reply sent, in November of 2012, to a personal correspondent living in America who enquired about my peregrinations among various religions; about why – as mentioned in previous correspondence – I still respected the Muslim way of life; and about my response to the particular criticism that ‘Islam encourages terrorism’. I have corrected a few typos, clarified the sense in one or two places, and added sub-headings.
A pdf version is available here – humility-tolerance-islam.pdf (281 kB)
Of Learning Humility and Tolerance
As someone who has lived an unusual and somewhat itinerant (but far from unique) life, I have a certain practical experience, over nearly fifty years, of various living religions and spiritual Ways of Life. An experience from which I have acquired the habit of respecting all those living religions and spiritual Ways: Christianity (especially Catholicism and monasticism); Buddhism; Islam; Taoism; Hinduism; Judaism; and the paganism manifest in an empathic appreciation of and a regard for Nature.
Due to this respect, there is a sadness within me because of the ignorance, intolerance, prejudice – and often the hatred – of the apparently increasing number of people, in modern Western societies, who disparage Islam, Muslims, and the Muslim way of life, and who thus seem to me to reflect and to display that hubris, that certitude-of-knowing, that lack of appreciation of the numinous, that at least in my fallible opinion and from my experience militates against the learning, the culture, the civility, that make us more than, or can make us more than, talking beings in thrall to their instincts who happen to walk upright.
My personal practical experience of, for example, Christianity, is of being raised a Catholic, and being a Catholic monk. Of Buddhism, of spending several years meditating and striving to follow the Noble Eightfold Path, including in a Buddhist monastery and with groups of Buddhists. Of Islam, of a decade living as a Muslim, performing daily Namaz (including attending Jummah Namaz in a Mosque), fasting in Ramadan, and travelling in Muslim lands. Of Taoism, of experience – in the Far East – a Taoist Martial Art and learning from a Taoist priest. Of Hinduism, of learning – in the Far East – from a Hindu lady and of over a year on my return to England continuing my learning and undertaking daily practice of Hatha Yoga according to the Haṭha Yoga Pradīpikā. Of paganism, of developing an empathic reverence and respect for Nature by time spent as a rural ‘gentleman of the road’, as a gardener, and by years doing outdoor manual labour on farms…
Following a personal tragedy which suffused me with sadness and remorse and which – via pathei-mathos – ended my life-long desire for and enjoyment of practical Faustian peregrinations, there arose a years-long period of intense interior reflexion, and which reflexion included not only discovering and knowing the moral error of my immoral extremist pasts but also questions concerning the nature of faith, of God, and our desire, in times of personal grief and tragedy and remorse, and otherwise, to seek and often to need the guidance, the catharsis, of a religion or a spiritual Way.
Importantly, as I wrote in Pathei-Mathos, Genesis of My Unknowing,
“…what exposed my hubris – what for me broke down that certitude-of-knowing which extremism breeds and re-presents – was not something I did; not something I achieved; not something related to my character, my nature, at all. Instead, it was a gift offered to me by two others – the legacy left by their tragic early dying. That it took not one but two personal tragedies – some thirteen years apart – for me to accept and appreciate the gift of their love, their living, most surely reveals my failure, the hubris that for so long suffused me, and the strength and depth of my so lamentable extremism.”
Forced by grief – by pathei-mathos – to admit my mistakes, the suffering I had because of my extremism and my selfishness caused, I discovered I did not like myself, my character, and felt I needed to reform myself. But how? Through the guidance and acceptance of a living religion or some spiritual Way of Life? By holding fast onto Islam? By returning to my Catholic roots, or to Buddhism or Taoism? Or by, and perhaps unhumbly, trying to find some solutions of my own? Suffice to say it took me over five years [2006-2011], and culminated this year in my philosophy of pathei-mathos, my fallible answers to certain questions concerning morality, expiation, reformation, the numinous, and the nature of Being and of beings.
In the process, I came to appreciate humility; to admit its importance in trying to live a moral life where there is an appreciation of the numinous, a desire to be gentle, compassionate, to value love, and where there is the feeling that one needs to avoid causing suffering. To admit that we do not have or know all or even many of the answers; that we are fallible and thus that our own answers or conclusions or opinions may be wrong, and that we need therefore to be tolerant and respect the choice, the views, of others and the religions and the spiritual ways that offer and which have offered them answers to questions regarding meaning, morality, and love, and possibly also given them catharsis, purpose, an appreciation of the numinous, and happiness.
For one of my answers was that I felt, in common with many others, that
“…there is, to paraphrase an expression of George Fox used by The Religious Society of Friends, ‘that of the numinous’ in every person, and that answering to ‘that of the numinous’ can take and has taken various manifestations over millennia with all such manifestations deserving of respect since there is an underlying unity, a similar spiritual essence – a similar discovery and knowing and appreciation of the numinous, a similar understanding of the error of hubris – beyond those different outer manifestations and the different terms and expressions and allegories used to elucidate that of the numinous.” 
In addition, I began during those five years to fully appreciate Islam, beyond the rather harsh interpretation of it which I as a Muslim had for many years accepted and followed. An appreciation which took me on further travels; involved days of discussions; much further study, personal and with others; and enabled me to place my years of living the Muslim way of life in the context of not only my life in general but also in relation to my experience of other religions and spiritual ways of living.
Of Respect For Islam
In respect of this appreciation of Islam:
” I felt really at home with, among, devout Muslims – those trying to follow the guidelines of Quran and Sunnah (or in the case of the Shia, being Taqlid of a Mujtahid). There was, and is, so much to admire about the Muslim way of life, from the modesty of women, the reverence for the Prophet, the cultivation of humility, the necessity of Wudhu, praying five times a day, the reliance on only Allah, fasting in Ramadan, the real feeling of belonging to the Ummah, the avoidance of intoxicating substances…
Of all the religions I have personal experience of, I found Islam to be perhaps the most human. In the Quran and Sunnah our weaknesses are laid bare, and in Shariah there is a guide to living in a balanced, a human, and a numinous, way.” 
Thus my personal view of Islam, of the Muslim way of life, and which view I have expressed in recent correspondence with others, is a very positive and tolerant one; of respect born from experience, a scholarly study, and a comparative assessment with other religions and spiritual ways also personally experienced.
Perhaps the bad opinion many people in the West have of Islam would be changed if they spent time with Muslim families in places as diverse as Egypt, Somalia, Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan, Senegal, Malaysia, and Birmingham. Until they have, who are they to pass judgement on the Muslim way of life, and on the Quran, the Sunnah, and the Shariah, that inspires and informs that way of life?
Terror and Al-Quran
An ayah [verse] often (mis)quoted by those ignorant of, intolerant toward, or prejudiced against, Islam, Muslims and the Muslim way of life, is Ayah 151 of Surah Al ‘Imran, which is usually interpreted as “Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the unbelievers.” Indeed, some self-proclaimed enemies of Islam have even produced images of the World Trade Center in flames, following the attack in 2001, overlaid with that interpretation of that Ayah as one of their ‘proofs’ that Islam incites ‘terrorism’.
However, a reasoned consideration of the interpretations of the Ayat [verses] such people use in their propaganda reveals their error and their ignorance. For instance, the Arabic of Ayah 151 of Surah Al ‘Imran is:
سَنُلْقِي فِي قُلُوبِ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا الرُّعْبَ بِمَا أَشْرَكُوا بِاللَّهِ مَا لَمْ يُنَزِّلْ بِهِ سُلْطَانًا وَمَأْوَاهُمُ النَّارُ وَبِئْسَ مَثْوَى الظَّالِمِينَ
[Transliteration: sanulqi fee qulubi allazeena kafaroo l-ruba bima ashraku bil-lahi ma lam yunazzil bihi sultanan wamawhumu l-naru wabisa mathwa l-zalimeena ]
Importantly, does الرُّعْبَ imply ‘terror’ as the aforementioned interpretation suggests, along with all that the modern English word terror implies, as in the difficult to define term terrorism? No, it does not; rather, the Arabic implies the fear/the dread and ‘the astonishment/awe’ – that is, that human feeling inspired by apprehending or experiencing some-thing supernaturally or extraordinarily powerful and numinous; for example, an Ayah (Sign) of Allah, Al-Khaliq, Al-Azim, Al-Jalil. The fear/trembling/awe/astonishment felt, for instance, by the Apostles when, as recounted in Luke 24.37, they witnessed Jesus alive after the crucifixion.
That is, I suggest that what is referred to in Ayah 151 of Surah Al ‘Imran – as in the other four Ayat where الرُّعْبَ / رُعْبًا occur – is similar to the ‘suffusion with fear’ and the ‘being scared’ that occurs and has occurred, as recounted in both Christian scripture and the Quran, when a mortal is (a) confronted by God/Allah or some-thing divine/numinous/awe-inspiring, and/or (b) has such fear, and such a being scared, thrust into their hearts by God/Allah, as a Sign, a warning, or as mention of their fate.
In respect of Luke 24.37, for instance, the Greek text is: πτοηθέντες δὲ καὶ ἔμφοβοι γενόμενοι ἐδόκουν πνεῦμα θεωρεῖν. The term ἔμφοβος means ‘suffused with/by phobos’ – held/gripped by fear; timorous – and occurs in Sirach 19.24 and Luke 24.5, the latter of which is very interesting: ἐμφόβων δὲ γενομένων αὐτῶν καὶ κλινουσῶν τὰ πρόσωπα εἰς τὴν γῆν εἶπαν πρὸς αὐτάς Τί ζητεῖτε τὸν ζῶντα μετὰ τῶν νεκρῶν. That is, suffused with phobos, they assumed a posture of submission/reverence/respect by bowing their heads; in effect prostrating themselves in the presence of some-thing divine/numinous/awe-inspiring. Since πνεῦμα – pneuma – implies apparition or ghost, and πτοηθεντες suggests they were ‘scared’ (cf. Odyssey 22.298 – τῶν δὲ φρένες ἐπτοίηθεν) then Luke 24.37 could be translated as “But they, suffused with fear and scared, felt that they saw an apparition.” 
My, admittedly fallible, view now – after some years of reflexion and study – is that, in an English interpretation of the meaning of a work as revered, and misunderstood, as the Quran, English words in common usage must be carefully chosen, with many common words avoided, and that it would sometimes be better to choose an unusual or even archaic word in order to try and convey something of the sense of the Arabic. Thus, with a careful interpretation common misunderstandings of the text – by non-Muslims unversed in Arabic – can possibly be avoided, especially if – as might be the case with unusual words – the reader has to pause to consider the meaning or make the effort to find the meaning, if only in a glossary appended to the interpretation. A pause and/or an effort that is suited to reading a work revered by millions of people around the world.
In the matter of Ayah 151 of Surah Al ‘Imran, a possible interpretation of meaning is:
Into the hearts of they who disbelieve We shall hurl redurre because they, without any authority revealed about such things, associate others with Allah; and for their home: The Fire, that harrowing resting place of the unjust.
Here, I have used the unusual English word redurre, with a meaning of ‘awe combined with a trembling fear’. A word suggested by its occurrence in religious works by Richard Rolle and John Gower, and also by texts such as Morte Arthure .
Of Islam and Violence
It is easy to misinterpret texts; easy to form an opinion based on reading such misinterpretations; easy to generalize from a few misinterpreted texts – or from texts taken out of context – and produce propaganda that incites prejudice, intolerance, and even hatred.
For example, it is possible for a reader of translations to find more talk of ‘terror’, retribution, destruction, killing, and violence, in the Old Testament than in the Quran. Consider, for example, a commonly available translation of Deuteronomy 32. 25:
“The sword without, and terror within, shall destroy both the young man and the virgin, the suckling also with the man of gray hairs.”
Do the plethora of such quotations from readily available translations of the Old Testament make Christianity and Judaism barbarous religions of hatred, violence, and terrorism? Are such translations of LXX accurate, to be relied upon in the matter of forming an opinion about what is meant?
Few people today would claim – based on some quotations from a translation of the Greek Old Testament – that Christianity and Judaism are barbarous religions of hatred and terrorism, and if they did so claim, there is over a thousand years of Jewish and Christian scholarship to contradict it, as well as the contribution adherents of both those religions have made, over thousands of years, to culture, science, and to doing works which have benefited humanity. Not to mention the millions of adherents who, following the precepts and guidelines of their faith, live or try to live moral lives and who thus make and have made the world a better place.
Similarly, there is the contribution Muslims have made, over more than a thousand years, to culture, science , and to doing works which have benefited humanity. Just as there are millions of Muslims who, following the precepts and guidelines of their faith, live or try to live moral lives and who thus make and have made the world a better place; and just as there is over a thousand years of Muslim scholarship to contradict the claims made by the ‘Islam is a savage, evil, religion’ brigade, a treasure of scholarship that the members and supporters of the anti-Muslim brigade are, of course, either ignorant about or which they, in their bigotry, scorn.
Similarly, who today – other than the ignorant or the bigoted – commits the logical fallacy of distribution in respect of Christianity by condemning that faith based on the actions of a few individuals or fanatics who claim they are Christians, or who, for instance, in the name of defending ‘Western Christian culture’ murder seventy-seven, mostly young, innocent people? Who, other than the ignorant or the bigoted, condemns Catholicism because a few priests commit crimes against children? Who draws attention to the professed Christian faith or the Christian baptism of murderers and rapists in order to defame Christianity?
Yet the anti-Muslim brigade repeatedly commit the logical fallacy of distribution, and the fallacy of incomplete evidence, arguing as they do from the particular to the general, and selecting and presenting as they do – in support of their prejudice – material which appears to support their claims about Islam and Muslims, while ignoring or dismissing the much larger body of material which does not support their claims about Islam and Muslims.
Thus do the ignorant, the bigoted, the intolerant, anti-Muslim brigade draw attention to the beliefs and the acts of the small numbers of Muslims – out of billions – who follow a harsh interpretation of Islam, while ignoring the diversity within Islam, ignoring the scholarship which militates against such a harsh interpretation and such acts, and ignoring the millions upon millions of Muslims, world-wide who, by following the precepts and guidelines of Islam as manifest in Quran, Sunnah, Ijmah and Qiyas, live or try to live moral lives, who appreciate the numinous, strive to avoid the error of hubris, and who thus make and have made the world a better place.
In this matter of division, divide, tolerance, and prejudice, I am rather reminded of George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address. Such eloquent, reasoned, words expressive of a man of good intentions and discernment who not only appreciated the virtue of tolerance but knew the nature of we oft-times dishonourable, sometimes honourable, human beings:
“…designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection…
It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government… Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge…
Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it…
In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.
It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy.”
Did his words prevent designing men from causing a civil war between North and South? No. Did his words in support of virtue and the diffusion of knowledge prevent the racism that prevailed in the South from lasting over a hundred years? No. Did his words prevent the disharmony between nations that led to the First and the Second World Wars? No.
But his words did inspire generation after generation of individuals who, each in their own personal way – sometimes small, and local, sometimes larger – did make a moral difference, and who all in their own personal way promoted and diffused knowledge, fostered fraternal affection, who championed good faith and justice towards all nations, and who strove to cultivate peace and harmony.
Who all, in summary and gradually, made America, and the world, a better place.
 Pathei-Mathos – A Path To Humility. 2012.
 Just My Fallible Views, Again. 2012.
 On a pedantic note, I understand δοκέω as meaning here not the conventional unemotional ‘suppose/thought’ nor (worse) ‘opinion’ but rather as ‘felt’ in the sense of experiencing (as they do) an intense and personal feeling. Hence my rendering that they “felt that they saw…”
 John Gower, Confessio Amantis
That thogh thi love more draweAnd peise in the balance more,Thou miht noght axe ayein therforeOf duete, bot al of grace.For love is lord in every place,Ther mai no lawe him justefieBe reddour ne be compaignie,That he ne wole after his wille
Whom that him liketh spede or spille
(Book 5, v. 4558) The Complete Works of John Gower. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1899-1902
That thow ne schall rowte ne ryste vndyr the heuene ryche,Þofe thow for reddour of Rome ryne to þe erthe [108-109]
 In terms of culture one might mention just a few, such as the preservation of important Greek manuscripts; Bayt Ul-Hikma;the first universities (in Al-Andalus) and pleasures such as coffee. In terms of science, one might mention Arabic numerals and the decimal system, algebra, early research in chemistry and medicine, pharmacology, observational astronomy, navigation, the inventions of Abbas ibn Firnas; and so on.
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(Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0) License
and can be freely copied and distributed, according to the terms of that license.
The three articles included in the pdf compilation below developed from – and in a many places summarize and/or quote from – replies I sent to various correspondents between February and November of 2012 and which correspondence concerned topics such as prejudice, my views concerning Islam and anti-Muslim groups, the use of the terms culture and civilization, and whether or not those opposed to immigration and/or ‘Islamification’ are prejudiced and, if so, whether they should be reproved. Given this diversity of topics, and the individual nature of my replies over a period of some nine months, there is inevitably some slight overlap of topics in the three essays.
These articles present only my personal, fallible, opinion about such matters, and which opinion reflects the weltanschauung and the morality of my philosophy of pathei-mathos (formerly ‘the numinous way’), as outlined in Recuyle of The Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos and texts such as Pathei-Mathos – A Path To Humility.
As I wrote in one such reply in respect of my criticism of certain political groups and their beliefs:
Reluctant as I am and have been for some time to give my personal opinion about such political organizations – given my own lamentable history of extremism and my many errors of experience spanning some four decades – I cannot quite escape the feeling that perhaps by not criticizing such groups, when directly asked and on the basis of my personal experience and knowledge of extremism, I am somehow not doing something I morally should do.
My criticism of such groups and the anti-Muslim views they expound, and which views form the raison d’etat of such groups, derives from my four decades of experience of extremists and my decade of study and personal experience of, and involvement with, Islam; and this experience, involvement, and study has led me to conclude that the majority of people involved with such groups are prejudiced and that the views they expound are unbalanced and extreme revealing as such views do not only a profound ignorance of Islam, of the Muslim way of life, and of Shariah, but also that hubriatic certitude-of-knowing, that impersonal harshness and lack of a personal humility, which are the essence of all extremism and which inspires extremists to violent dishonourable deeds in the name of their prejudice, their cause or their ideology.
Thus, and for example, I draw attention to the fact that such people have the temerity to write, speak, and demonstrate about, what they are ignorant about and prejudiced against, and that one of their propaganda ploys they use, redolent of their ignorance, of their lack of knowledge about Islam and their lack of practical in-depth experience of the Muslim way of life,
“…is to quote English interpretations of a particular hadith and English interpretations of ayat from the Quran, thus ignoring (i) that a particular hadith or ayat (and Ahadith and Ayah in general) should be studied in Arabic and must be considered in the context of the whole Quran and the Sunnah and Ijmah combined; and (ii) the truth that to know, fully understand, and appreciate, the religion of Islam – the Muslim way of life – one must have extensive practical experience of how those texts, the Quran, the Sunnah, and Ijmah, are manifested by and in the daily and the social lives of those who use them as guides to living and as guides to the sacred, the divine. And a practical experience that is diverse: not of only one locale, but of many. In the case of Islam, this means understanding Adab, and appreciating, from experience, the diversity within Islam – for example, the Sufism of North Africa; the way of life of the fellaheen of Egypt, Turkey, Morocco; the way of life of Punjabi Muslims in places like Leicester, and of Muslims in Somali and Dar-es-Salaam. And it is such diverse practical experience that will enable a person to appreciate just what Shariah is, what it means, and what it does not mean nor imply. Anything other than this is, in my view, ignorance of Islam.”
In addition, many such anti-Muslim groups and the people involved with or supportive of them – and who say things like “Islam is one of the great evils of the world” – also profess to be defending ‘Western Christian culture/civilization’ even though their attitude, behaviour, and words, reveal a profound ignorance of Christianity.
It is my belief that such extremism, prejudice and ignorance, should be rejected and exposed; that the ways of Western societies and the Muslim way of life are both – when understood and appreciated – a force for good, and that,
“…both ways of living, that of West and that of the Muslims, can profitably learn from the other, because reasoned dialogue, an acceptance, celebration, and tolerance, of diversity, is the moral, the virtuous, thing to do. From Islam we in the societies of the West might, for instance, re-learn the virtue of a personal humility, dignity, and respect for the sacred over and above the material and the profane, things which the way of Jesus of Nazareth, and the prophets before him, taught us – or saught to teach us – but which many of us somehow and for some reason seem to have forgotten.”
I am thus reminded of words such as the following:
“For what purpose then was [the scroll of Ruth] written? To teach how great is the reward of those who do deeds of kindness.” Midrash Ruth Rabbah 2, 13
“Let us then try what love can do.” William Penn, Some Fruits of Solitude
- Prefatory Note
- Prejudice, Extremism, Islamophobia, and Culture
- Toward A Balanced View Of Islam and The West
- Concerning Islamophobia
Toward A Balanced View Of Islam and The West
The ‘save our civilization from Islamification’ – and ‘no surrender to Shariah’ – brigade often proudly speak and write about the societies of the West in glowing terms, and contrast their own ‘advanced’, ‘civilized’, societies and way of life with Islam, and which religion of the Muslims they describe as “one of the great evils of the world” , as ‘barbaric, bloodthirsty, primitive, murderous’, and which they claim ‘subjugates women’.
This attitude reveals several things. That those who so pontificate are – instinctively or willfully – extremely biased against Islam, Muslims, and the Muslim way of life ; and/or that they have an extremely romanticized view of the societies of the West (and especially of their own society); and/or that they are hatefully speaking/writing propaganda, and inciting prejudice and hate and demonizing Islam and Muslims, in order to promote their views/cause/organization/ideology. And demonizing Islam and Muslims in much the same way as those minority of Muslims who adhere to or believe in a harsh interpretation of Islam demonize the societies of the West and some (or all) of the kuffar.
For such an attitude is unbalanced, irrational, ignorant; ignoring as it does the reality – the truth – of the societies of the West and the reality – the truth – about the varied societies, past and present, of Muslims. 
A Balanced View
The balanced view is that both types of societies – the Western and the Muslim – have, and have had, problems and divisions, and governments and individuals who have sanctioned and done barbaric deeds. And people of good, honourable, intentions and people of bad, dishonourable, intentions. And people aware of the misdeeds of the past and the problems of the present – of what is morally necessary in order to offset or solve such problems – and who are trying in their own ways to make their societies better, more moral, in accord with the principles they believe in, whether those principles be described as political, religious, or social.
The anti-Muslim brigade, for instance, claim that ‘Islam subjugates women’ and treats them unfairly, while ignoring – or being in ignorance about – the misogyny that is rife in the West, with nearly 100,000 women per year seeking treatment in the British city of London alone for violent injuries received in their own homes, with, on average, in Britain, two women per week being killed by a male partner or former partner – that is over 100 women a year. Also, in England and Wales alone, in one year, there are around 600,000 recorded incidents of domestic violence, and every minute of every day the British Police are called by a woman who has been subject to violent domestic abuse. 
The anti-Muslim brigade, for instance, claim that ‘Islam is barbaric, bloodthirsty, murderous’, while ignoring the fact in the past hundred years Western countries have, through conflict and war, caused or contributed to far more deaths than Muslim societies: well over one hundred million human beings. Over sixty million people in the Second World War – the most brutal and bloody war in human history. Over sixteen million in the First World War. Over twenty million in the Soviet Union. Many millions killed in colonial wars; and in just two days, nearly a quarter of a million people in Japan killed by the dropping of atomic bombs. In the past three years alone, the drone strikes authorized by the Obama administration have killed between 282 and 535 civilians, of which 60 were children . Such attacks have been described, by Western commentators with a legal background, as “violations of international law” , as “terrorizing men, women, and children”  and as “extra-judicial assassination – accompanied by the wanton killing of whatever civilians happen to be near the target, often including children” .
The anti-Muslim brigade, for instance, make claims about the ‘violence and inhumanity of Jihad’ while (i) ignoring the fact that no Muslim society, in the last hundred years, has invaded and occupied another land, Muslim or kuffar; and (ii) ignoring the recent colonialism of the West, and wars such as those fought in Vietnam, and recent invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan, which have resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths, many civilian.
Also ignored by those who pontificate about “the great evil that is Islam” are the many the social problems in Western societies which make the lives of millions of people despairing, and grim; a life which many escape from by turning to drugs or alcohol .
But do all the above things – and other things such the torture of Muslims in Abu Ghraib and Bagram, the rendition and torture of Muslims suspected of being terrorists, the death of 290 people on Flight 655 shot down by US missiles – make Western societies barbaric, bloodthirsty, murderous, terrorist, violent, uncaring, full of hate? Do they show that the principles underlying Western society are wrong, evil, immoral, barbaric, oppressive of women?
Or do they show that the peoples and governments of the West have done some bad things, made mistakes, but have admitted (or are beginning to admit) their errors, have learnt from them – and are still learning – and thus are not prefect and should not be idealized? Do they also show that claims of perfection, that such idealizations of the West as the anti-Muslim brigade make, are themselves wrong, mistakes worthy of reproval just as the demonization of the West by those Muslims who adhere to or believe in a harsh interpretation of Islam is wrong?
A Force For Good
My personal view now of Western societies – based on experience, a life of extremisms and subversions, and deriving from much reflexion, an acknowledgement of my own mistakes, and much pathei-mathos – is that they are a force for good, and that, for all their problems and flaws,
“…there is, within them, a certain tolerance; a certain respect for the individual; a certain duty of care; and certainly still a freedom of life, of expression, as well as a standard of living which, for perhaps the majority, is better than elsewhere in the world and most certainly better than existed there and elsewhere in the past.
In addition, there are within their structures – such as their police forces, their governments, their social and governmental institutions – people of good will, of humanity, of fairness, who strive to do what is good, right. Indeed, far more good people in such places than bad people, so that a certain balance, the balance of goodness, is maintained even though occasionally (but not for long) that balance may seem to waver somewhat.
Furthermore, many or most of the flaws, the problems, within such societies are recognized and openly discussed, with a multitude of people of good will, of humanity, of fairness, dedicating themselves to helping those affected by such flaws, such problems. In addition, there are many others trying to improve those societies, and to trying find or implement solutions to such problems, in tolerant ways which do not cause conflict or involve the harshness, the violence, the hatred, of extremism.” 
Furthermore, also based on experience and much reflexion, my personal view of diverse Muslim societies (Sunni and Shia, and from North Africa, to Egypt, the Sudan, the Middle East, to Asia), is that – on balance – they are also a force for good, full of people of good will, of humanity, of fairness, who strive to do what is good and avoid what is dishonourable – Amr bil Maroof wa Nahi anil Munkar.
Thus both ways of living, that of West and that of the Muslims, can profitably learn from the other, because reasoned dialogue, an acceptance, celebration, and tolerance, of diversity, is the moral, the virtuous, thing to do. From Islam we in the societies of the West might, for instance, re-learn the virtue of a personal humility, dignity, and respect for the sacred over and above the material and the profane, things which the way of Jesus of Nazareth, and the prophets before him, taught us – or saught to teach us – but which many of us somehow and for some reason seem to have forgotten (I know I forget them for decades).
Furthermore, claims of perfection about, and idealizations of, one’s own society/nation/country/religion – and the demonization of others – are not only irresponsible, unwise, but also hubris, perpetuating as such hubris does the reprehensible suffering that has so blighted and which still blights this one small planet orbiting one ordinary star in one galaxy among a cosmos of billions of such star-filled galaxies.
The solution to such suffering, such mistakes, is simple, for it begins with each one of us, internally. With a rejection of extremism, and a discovery and an appreciation of (or a rediscovery of) the numinous and of our shared humanity; an appreciation that predisposes us feel and know our limitations and faults, as fallible mortals, and which feeling and knowing forms the essence of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Taoism, and of the humanism that has motivated and inspired so many in the West for two centuries or more.
Acknowledgements: This article is based on – and expands upon/summarizes and/or quotes from – several replies sent to various correspondents between February and November of 2012, many of whom enquired about or asked specific questions concerning my views in relation to Islam, the societies of the West, and anti-Muslim groups. It presents only my personal, fallible, opinion, and which opinion reflects the weltanschauung and the morality of my philosophy of pathei-mathos, as outlined in Recuyle of The Philosophy of Pathei-Mathos and texts such as Pathei-Mathos – A Path To Humility.
 Richard Dawkins, speaking in Stornoway, as reported in The Scotsman newspaper, dated November 2, 2012.
 In Concerning Islamophobia, I wrote:
“The ‘indiscriminate negative attitudes or emotions’ that Islamophobics have for Islam and Muslims is the result, in my fallible view and in my experience, of a lack of knowledge – an ignorance – about both Islam and the Muslim way of life, and of the propensity we humans seem to have to express opinions about, or pass judgement on something we have little or no personal experience of, and/ or on someone or some many we do not personally know. This personal ignorance concerning something, or someone or some many, we express an opinion or views about is also something we seldom admit to others, and often do not admit even to ourselves.”
One propaganda ploy used by the ‘save our civilization from Islamification’ brigade – redolent of their ignorance, of their lack of knowledge about Islam and their lack of practical in-depth experience of the Muslim way of life – is to quote English interpretations of a particular hadith and English interpretations of ayat from the Quran, thus ignoring (i) that a particular hadith or ayat (and Ahadith and Ayah in general) should be studied in Arabic and must be considered in the context of the whole Quran and the Sunnah and Ijmah combined; and (ii) the truth that to know, fully understand, and appreciate, the religion of Islam – the Muslim way of life – one must have extensive practical experience of how those texts, the Quran, the Sunnah, and Ijmah, are manifested by and in the daily and the social lives of those who use them as guides to living and as guides to the sacred, the divine. And a practical experience that is diverse: not of only one locale, but of many. In the case of Islam, this means understanding Adab, and appreciating, from experience, the diversity within Islam – for example, the Sufism of North Africa; the way of life of the fellaheen of Egypt, Turkey, Morocco; the way of life of Punjabi Muslims in places like Leicester, and of Muslims in Somali and Dar-es-Salaam. And it is such diverse practical experience that will enable a person to appreciate just what Shariah is, what it means, and what it does not mean nor imply. Anything other than this is, in my view, ignorance of Islam.
 Among the ignoble propaganda ploys used by the ‘save our civilization from Islamification’ brigade is to report some crime or ignoble deed if and only if the religion (or the presumed religion) of the perpetrator is Muslim, or if the perceived ethnicity of the perpetrator is Asian/Arab/African, to thus ‘prove/show’ how horrid, bad, brutal, barbaric, those ‘muzzies’/Arabs/Asians/foreigners are. These propagandists thus ignore similar deeds done by Europeans/Whites/Christians.
Another ignoble propaganda ploy they use is to report some crime or ignoble deed done by, or words spoken by, some Muslim or Muslims who adhere to or believe in a harsh interpretation of Islam and then claim that that deed or those words ‘prove how horrid, bad, brutal, barbaric, terroristic, Islam is’. These propagandists thus ignore similar extremist deeds done, or similar harsh words spoken, by Europeans/Whites/Christians, past and present.
 Sources: (a) Punching Judy, BBC TV Documentary; (b) Crime in England and Wales (Home Office annual publication); (c) Women’s Aid Federation of England.
 Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Covert Strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, 2012
 Living Under Drones, Report by New York University School of Law and Stanford University Law School, 2012
 Glenn Greenwald. The Guardian, September 25, 2012
 Glenn Greenwald. The Guardian, November 15, 2012.
 For instance, cocaine use in England and Wales is the highest in Europe, indulged in by over four million people – and Scotland’s rate of cocaine use is among the highest in the whole world. [Source: European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction]
For instance, America has the highest number of people in prison, per capita, in the whole world – over 1.7 million people, with well over half of all prisoners in America there for drug related offences [Source: (a) Drug Policy Information Clearinghouse (White House Office of National Drug Control Policy); (b) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (The Department of Health and Human Services).]. In addition nearly 22 million Americans aged 12 or older are illicit drug users [Source: (a) Foundation for Social Improvement; (b) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Department of Health and Human Services ].
In respect of alcohol, an estimated 15 to 20 million Americans are addicted to alcohol or regularly abuse alcohol for personal or social reasons. Furthermore, in America, alcohol use is involved in: (a) one-half of all murders, accidental deaths, and suicides; (b) one-third of all drowning, boating and aviation deaths; (c) one-half of all crimes; and (d) almost half of all fatal automobile accidents. [Source: (a) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism; (b) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Department of Health and Human Services]
 David Myatt, Notes on The Politics and Ideology of Hate, April 2012