A conversation with Majid Oukacha, for Gatestone Institute

  photo Majid Oukacha HDMajid Oukacha is a young French essayist who was born and grew up in a France which he recognizes less every year. « A former Muslim but an eternal patriot, » as he sometimes likes to describe himself, he is the author of Face to Faith With Islam, a systematic critique, without value judgments, of the most inconsistent and imprecise Koranic laws.

  Grégoire Canlorbe: Could you start by reminding us of the circumstances and motives of your abandoning Islam — and of your decision to take up your pen to unravel your former religion for the public at large?

  Majid Oukacha: Like all Frenchmen who were born and grew up in France in the late twentieth century, I am fortunate to belong to a peaceful nation that allowed me to enjoy rights and freedoms for which I never personally had to fight. My parents, French citizens of Algerian origin and Muslim persuasion, provided me with a religious education, which destined me to remain a devout Muslim. They also gave me a civic, social and ethical education based on respect for France and its values, as embodied in its motto, « liberty, equality, fraternity. »

  I started going to the mosque at the age of eight. The first imam who taught me, and who came from a foreign country, had a perfect French accent, a big, cheerful smile, and he was careful never to give orders to his students outside the walls of the mosque. The courses I took quickly led me to see that what I thought was a blessing — to be born into a faith able to save me from Hell, which, according to the Koran, spares only Muslims — would also become a permanent burden.

  When one is a Muslim, every trivial action of daily life is codified, from how to drink a glass of water upon waking to how to go to bed. I submitted to Allah to avoid the torments of His wrath in the afterlife; I obeyed codified rituals that sometimes seemed a waste of time or a nonsense. My non-Muslim friends were accustomed to hearing me tell them I had to interrupt a game of football or cards to go to the mosque. There, I essentially learned to do the salat, the Muslim five-times-a-day prayers, as well as the bottomless pit of behavioral codes established as virtues by the romanticized figure of the prophet Muhammad.

  In the middle of the uniform flock — blindly imitating a distant spectrum imposing its obligations and prohibitions — I was not afraid to ask « hard » questions.

  « Why in Koranic law about the need to cut off the hand of thief (Surah 5, verse 38), does Allah not say which hand is to be cut off (the right one or the left one)? Why does He specify no minimum value for the theft from which the hand of a thief can be cut off? Stealing an apple for the first time in one’s life, does it really deserve to have a hand severed? And why does Allah not say the minimum age of a thief who must have a hand cut off? Should a 12-year-old who has never stolen before really be held as responsible as a 40-year-old repeat offender? »

  « Why should one walk seven circles around the Black Stone during the Hajj and not six or eight? What will happen if I walk around it eight times? »

  « The Prophet Muhammad explains in his Sunnah that a woman, a black dog or a donkey passing in front of a praying Muslim can cancel his prayer; but, as usual in the Sunnah, Muhammad merely advances a judgment without explaining why it should be that way. To someone who does not believe in Islam, such a statement sounds like a superstition. Why not give the intellectual journey linked to it, instead of just a dogmatic sentence? If it is Allah Himself who gave him this knowledge, why didn’t the Hadith that mentions this prophetic story become a verse of the Koran? The Koran is supposed to represent the messages of Allah which the prophet Muhammad passes on to his contemporaries to inform them about what their creator expects of them. If a woman passes one kilometer from someone who is praying, is the prayer canceled then? What is the maximum distance from which a prayer is cancelled altogether? »

  The logical « domino effect » of these questions is only a small part of the many thoughts that can, and should, keep one’s mind alert — far from the corset of indoctrination that is closed to doubt. I never heard satisfying answers to the limits of this juridical Islam to which I had always pledged allegiance, so I decided to seek them directly from Allah himself. Just before entering university, I tried to understand Islam with an unbiased look, rather than to learn it as an unquestioning believer.

  I had decided to read the entire Koran, from the first to the last sentence, and to register impressions, doubts, and questions in a notebook. Reading the Koran that way not only forced me to have to admit that almost all Islamic laws and dogmas had no scientific or rational basis, but it also highlighted that Islam, under its founder, was a misogynistic religion, preaching slavery, and an enemy of freedom of thought. I had fallen. My trust in what was both obvious and intangible had deceived me all this time. It is the libertarian and egalitarian values of secular and humanist France — which I have learned to love and respect — which gave me the strength to refuse to give in to the fear of blackmail in the form of eternal Hellfire.

  Leaving Islam confirmed my longtime fear that one day I would witness the French people lose all these freedoms and this lifestyle that make France a beloved and envied country throughout the world. All revolutions do not necessarily begin or end in a bloodbath. In a democracy, the majority has the power to make or break a revolution, away from anarchy and war. The day an Islamic majority in France will vote for a president and parliamentarians able to define for all of us what separates right from wrong, good from evil and fair from unfair, what choices then will remain for us?

  You cannot flee from problems indefinitely. You have to fight them at one time or another. I need to convince the maximum of my contemporaries that Islam is a threat to our individual rights and freedoms, and I choose to fight using words, because communication (through writing, speech) is the weapon that gives me my strength. I am, as far as I know, the only author who has made a comprehensive critical study of the principal legal and doctrinal aspects of Islam, by addressing the technical inaccuracies of the laws but without ever stating any moral or value judgment. I have no taboos so I dealt with explosive topics: slavery, pedophilia, criminalization of freedom of conscience… I think this is the most effective method to demonstrate to the widest possible audience the obscurantism and danger of Islam: a universal legislation that cannot coexist with difference.

  Grégoire Canlorbe: This objective look at the technical limitations of Koranic laws seems rare. Is it possible to do the same work with religious books from Christianity or Judaism?

  Majid Oukacha: For Muslims, every sentence in the Koran is meant to be a tale whose author is Allah Himself, the creator of the world, and who is an omnipotent, omniscient and perfect God. This God proclaims many draconian universal laws that are not limited by place or time.

  This base makes analyzing the Koran far simpler than analyzing some of the sacred texts of Judaism or Christianity. The Talmud cites original narratives and interpretations thought by humans. It is up to today’s Jews to decide whether to adhere to these passages or to question them. We can say the same of the New Testament, which is dear to Christians.

  Today, the countries where one lives best, if one is a woman or a free thinker, are precisely the countries with Christian and Jewish roots: France, the United States of America, Israel, Australia, England… These countries defend the individual freedoms of the weakest and the most varied people more than any Muslim country in the world has ever done. If a Muslim wants to criticize a misogynistic passage from the Bible or the Torah for example, good for him!

  I judge a tree by its fruit. To me, the critique of Christianity or Judaism will never be anything other than an intellectual hobby. The critique of Islam, however, is a political responsibility because this « tree of knowledge » seems to produce chaos wherever it takes root. In France, wherever Christianity and Judaism are the dominant cultural force, women can walk around more peacefully than elsewhere and free-thinkers like me can disbelieve freely. Have you ever heard of a former Christian or Jew in the 21st century who must live hidden away because he criticized his former religion?

  Grégoire Canlorbe: You insist on reminding everyone that the demographic Islamization of the French people is rampant, and that the ability of Muslims one day to constitute the majority of voters exposes France to the risk of Islamization. Yet the majority of Muslims living there today seem to practice their religion in a moderate, tolerant and peaceful way.

  Majid Oukacha: If you take French Muslims one by one and interview them in the eye of a camera, the overwhelming majority of them will honor the slogans that promote human rights. They will talk about freedom, equality and peace. A majority of French Muslims may well declare themselves peaceful, but Islam remains the cultural common denominator of all the Frenchmen who have told me that the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists murdered during the massacre of January 7, 2015, « had it coming to them. »

  Another topic: verse 34 of Surah 4 of the Koran allows men to beat their wives — from whom they actually fear disobedience. Generally, when I talk with a Muslim who tells me that, according to the Koran, women are beings not inferior to men, I ask the following question: « Does Verse 34 of Surah 4 of the Koran forbid or allow to hit a disobedient wife? » As far as I can remember, no Muslim has ever answered me that this verse forbids Muslims to hit a disobedient wife. What I get are attempts to minimize or hide the significance of this act.

  I cannot even count the number of Muslims who have told me that Muslim husbands should beat their disobedient wives softly or hit them with a small wooden stick such as a miswak (a teeth-cleaning twig). French law forbids hitting a « disobedient » wife — period. Hitting a « disobedient » wife « gently » is still hitting and humiliating her.

  No matter what the Muslims of France — torn between the Western cultural codes and the Koran — say, the majority of Muslims feel closer to an Islamist Muslim who wants to stick to the letter of the laws of the Koran than they do to a non-Muslim who ignores the Koran. There are speeches, and there are facts. When a Muslim country is ruled by an Islamist, no popular revolution overthrows him in favor of a head of state who supports human rights. The Islamist Mohamed Morsi was the victim of a military coup-d’état, not of a popular overthrow. When popular revolutions happen in the Muslim world, they dismiss Westernized dictators, such as Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi or Tunisia’s Ben Ali.

  Peace is not verified by claims; it is verified by deeds. The worst places to live in the world when one is an atheist or a woman are precisely the countries where Islam is the dominant cultural force. Muslim societies turn out to be authoritarian and coercive because of the divine character that Muslims attribute to the Koran, which is basically pro-slavery, misogynistic and freedom-destroying.

  Grégoire Canlorbe: When it comes to elaborating on the creeping Islamization of laws and mores in French democracy, what do you see as the symptoms of Islamic domination in the first place?

  Majid Oukacha: Far from the political speeches, you just have to listen to people describe problems that did not exist in France only 50 years ago but have become increasingly recurrent. Most local officials who court the votes of Muslims in local elections have been violating the principle of the total separation of religion from state, laïcité, which in France is still the cement of the stability pact among citizens of differing cultures. Mosques are showing up everywhere, all too often thanks to the taxpayers of France. The Christmas tree that used to stand in the kindergarten of my childhood has today become an offense to the religious faith of certain people. I will let you guess who they are.

  Also today, French Christians, atheists or agnostics who eat or drink in the street during Ramadan can be confronted — sometimes violently — for allegedly showing disrespect to Muslims, by daring to consume a sandwich or a drink in a public place in broad daylight. Muslims who pretend to be pacifists and republicans should first cleanse their own ranks, at least by daring to admit that some problems almost systemically come from people claiming the same religious affiliation as them. I have never heard of any Frenchman reproached for using a phone or driving during the Sabbath day.

  At present, in France, when we approach the issue of Islamization with the benefit of hindsight, one can clearly observe that in neighborhoods where Islam has been the dominant cultural force for several generations, « living together in harmony » does not exist. When Islam dominates some areas of France that have not always been Islamized, the majority of non-Muslims who have financial means run away.

  The French politicians who currently govern us have no interest in recognizing or solving these rifts. In a manner of « divide and conquer », pitting people against each other in elections allows these officials to keep their positions. It also diverts the attention of the French away from the failure to solve the economic crisis.

  Grégoire Canlorbe: Ideologists and heads of state in the Islamic world often present Islam as the solution to the materialistic decay that is supposedly leading Western civilization to its doom. Sayyid Qutb, the spiritual guide of Osama bin Laden, wrote in 1964, in Milestones:

  « Mankind today is on the brink of a precipice… The Western world realizes that Western civilization is unable to present any healthy values for the guidance of mankind… Islam is the only System which possesses these values and this way of life. »

  How would you respond to this charge of permissiveness, consumerism and individualism in Western societies?

  Majid Oukacha: I sometimes have the impression that our leaders have less and less shame in safeguarding their moral purposes by immoral means. Under the pretext of fighting « the radicalization of Islam, » for instance, many of our politicians would like French secularism to give way to a system that legally and socially recognizes a « state-controlled » version of Islam, knighted, promoted and financed by public authorities.

  The only Islam which the current French state could recognize would obviously be a religion defined as peaceful and tolerant by its founder, the prophet Mohammed. Muslims are so numerous in France and they represent such an electoral weight, that in public opinion, it would be like a bomb going off to have to admit that they worship a God who thinks that if you do not believe in Islam, it is a crime that will cause you to burn in Hell forever.

  France and other countries in the West are increasingly the victims of a cruel twist of irony in which their own founding values and principles are turned against them. I am a defender of freedom of belief and equality between all humans, regardless of gender, skin color or religion. But I do not want safeguarding these ideals to require the public school textbooks French children read to be filled with Islamophilic propaganda.

  The media and political systems, which make the rain fall or the sun shine in France, have more and more trouble denying inconvenient truths. They appear to prefer reassuring lies. Yesterday, we were told that « the Muslim migratory invasion is a far-right-wing fantasy. » Today, we hear that « anyway, they are there lastingly, we cannot do anything about that it because there are now too many, so we have to deal with them in order to avoid a civil war. »

  I have no desire to make political compromises with Islamist politicians who worship a pro-slavery and misogynist book that criminalizes freedom of belief. I prefer the individualism of intellectual ideals and moral values of modern Western civilization to the Islamic « big-brotherian » system. I prefer the freedom to have sex before marriage; the freedom not to believe in a religion or to convert to another religion; the freedom to mock the mighty (which includes these eternal mighty from Islam such as Allah and Mohammed).

  Grégoire Canlorbe: Islam seems to call into question the sort of freedoms that we feel empower our society. Islam looks like a religion that has turned its citizens into slaves of a totalitarian system, but that has succeeded by the bonding power of blood and the bonding power of killing others. In the long run, Lenin, Hitler and Mussolini did not meet, however, the same success as Mohammed in their totalitarian enterprises. How do you explain that Islam has managed to impose itself in face of the Western societies for more than a thousand years, while Fascist and Soviet regimes collapsed in less than a century?

  Majid Oukacha: Nazism and the totalitarian communism in the USSR were both led by fallible men who could know military defeats, betrayals which they had not managed to predict; and, ultimately, death. Islam is a totalitarianism headed by an eternal God, who cannot be defeated or submitted. From the perspective of Muslims, the Koran was written by a perfect, omnipotent and omniscient God, who imposes as His supreme legislation laws valid at all times and in all places — until Judgment Day. The most efficient totalitarianism in the world is by far Islam: it is impossible to overcome its non-existent God. What does not exist cannot lose and cannot die.

  Grégoire Canlorbe: Thank you for your time. Would you like to add anything else?

  Majid Oukacha: What I care about more than anything else is freedom of thought. It is criminalized by the Koran, which sends to eternal Hell all those who have never been Muslims. A country is primarily defined by the people living there and the Islamization of France is a reality that fewer and fewer people deny. I am not naive: it is through childbirth and immigration that Islam will become the majority faith in France.

  I invite the French people to judge the tree of Islam by the fruit that it produces in reality. Wherever Islam culturally dominates, there are only conflicts of cultures; women who feel guilty for being attractive and who are infantilized and abused; and above all, a continual extinction of creativity and imagination. The rare artists and scientists of the Muslim world who manage to stand out and be known worldwide all received a Western education, far from the opportunities their homeland, which standardizes humans, would have offered them.

  The French, who fear the Islamization of France through politics or war, can no longer be silent. The situation is critical. We must dare to talk and act. The day France becomes a Muslim country, it will be almost impossible to back out. Those who secretly wait and hope behind a closed door, far from the course of action, should not complain when their right to remain silent becomes a duty to remain silent.

  That conversation was initially published on Gatestone Institutein October 2016. A French version, slightly longer, was published by Agefi Magazine, in November 2016.

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