I must admit to a weakness: The Times is the leftmost newspaper I ever read. The reasons aren’t so much political as medical: I’m slightly hypertensive, and the pseudo-intellectual twaddle purveyed, say, by The Guardian makes the condition worse. Ten-quid words masking a tuppence of thought are guaranteed to add 30 diastolic points to my blood pressure. However, even Polly Toynbee couldn’t have damaged my health as much as the article I read in yesterday’s issue.
A Cambridge lecturer Abdal Hakim Murad (né Tim Winter) has converted to Islam. How a presumably educated Westerner can ever do that is beyond me, but I’d be interested to read his personal, well-reasoned account of what attracted him to a religion explicitly hostile to the West.
In general, I welcome arguments against anything I hold dear, provided they are a) intelligent, b) well-informed, c) logically sound, d) driven by a desire to find the truth rather than to score cheap agitprop points. An argument that meets these conditions can make me change my mind or at least treat my opponent with respect. Alas, Mr Murad’s article errs egregiously against a), b), c), d) and every other letter in the alphabet.
It’s natural for someone indulging in eccentric pursuits to put this down to some sweeping trend gaining momentum, rather than to his own quirk. In that spirit, Mr Murad cites a report stating that 100,000 Brits converted to Islam in the last decade – a 40,000 increase on the decade before. That’s supposed to cause a serious problem to ‘Islamophobes’, a term Murad reserves for those who have the slightest of problems with creeping Islamification. (The Murads of this world do tend to replace arguments with name-calling: anyone who doesn’t think women should lead bayonet charges is a ‘misogynist’, anyone who’s opposed to same-sex marriage is a ‘homophobe’, anyone who thinks university admissions should be based on merit only is either a ‘racist’ or an ‘elitist’.)
However, in the next sentence he specifies that three quarters of those ‘new Muslims’ are young women. Murad omits a critical datum: how many of these women have converted under pressure from their Muslim husbands or live-in boyfriends. Such omissions leave room for conjecture, and mine is that it’s probably most. Suddenly, the 100,000 number is edging towards an explanation that has little to do with purely God-seeking urges.
Most converts, as Murad half-admits, come from ‘some deprived areas, where the problem of failed relationships, drink and drugs has reached crisis proportions for many young people.’ So what do you know, not all new converts are Cambridge lecturers or aid workers, like Murad’s fellow convert Khalil Dale, brutally murdered in Pakistan by his new co-religionists.
And why, according to Murad, do all those people convert to Islam? Elementary theology, Dr Watson. They have ‘rejected Christianity because of the complexity of its belief system’. Specifically, they are attracted to ‘Islam’s simple monotheism’ because they ‘are bewildered by the doctrine of the Trinity’. Judging by what Murad has already told us about the conversion demographics, most ‘new Muslims’ would be bewildered by a nursery rhyme – they are the sort of folk who think ‘paediatrician’ is the same as ‘paedophile’.
But even they should be able to get their heads around the verse that encapsulates with divine simplicity the entire ‘complexity’ of Christianity: ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you …’ Out of these 15 words, only one, ‘enemies’, has more than one syllable, and this word shouldn’t cause undue difficulties for Muslims.
They are, after all, attracted to the ‘simple monotheism’ of their own holy book that tells them: ‘The unbelievers are an open enemy to you.’ (4:101) ‘Slay them wherever ye find them…’ (2:91) ‘We shall cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve.’ (3:151). There are 107 such simple verses in the Koran, conservatively counted. One can see how they would be so appealing to the minds shaped by ‘failed relationships, drink and drugs’.
Such simple truths have inspired the likes of Nicky Reilly, who tried to blow up a restaurant in Bristol with a nail bomb, shoe bomber Richard Reid and 7 July bomber Germaine Lindsay. The report from which the 100,000 number comes says the number of such converts represents a ‘very small minority’. (As did the Bolsheviks in 1917, and look what happened.) But Murad disavows such acts: ‘we refuse to be judged by the behaviour of our fundamentalists’.
Splendid. So what should you be judged by then? By the ‘saintly and fearless hero’ Khalil Dale who ‘watched the Iranian revolution in 1979… and sympathised with what he saw as a believing people’s revolt against a cruel Western-backed autocrat.’ If those wild-eyed Khomeini fanatics were ‘believing people’, give me atheists any day and twice on Sunday. Any Westerner who didn’t see them for what they were, ought to have had his head examined.
Though I suspect Mr Murad is beyond help or any rational argument, I’d be happy to explain to him, in words of one syllable, the ‘bewildering doctrine of the Trinity’, or – assuming he can read – recommend a few simple books on the subject. What I wish someone would explain to me is how a formerly reputable newspaper can publish such drivel.