What Does the Qur'an Say?
Many Islamic apologists try to make a case on behalf of Islam based on what can easily be labeled a no true Scotsman fallacy. The basics of this argument are that so-called extremists do not represent Islam. These apologists argue that the majority of Muslims are what represent Islam. It would seem too, that this argument should be valid. The problem is however, that Muslims and Islam are actually two very different things.
You see, Islam only has one representative and that is the Qur'an. Additionally, the Qur'an is pretty specific about what a good Muslim looks like. Specifically there is one man which the Qur'an clearly states is the bright and shining example of what it is to be a Muslim. That man of course is Muhammad. About Muhammad, the Qur'an has this to say, "Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah." (Qur'an 33:21) As well as this; "And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character." (Qur'an 68:4) So we can see that the Qur'an heralds the character of Muhammad in high regard. And if one is to believe that the Qur'an is the holy word of god then one must believe what the Qur'an teaches. If the Qur'an teaches that Muhammad was a shining example of how Muslims should act, which it does, then we must admit that those who most mirror the character of Muhammad are indeed the truest of Muslims.
The Character of Muhammad: What Would Mo Do?
So, given this understanding we can say that those who behave most like Muhammad are following the Qur'an most closely and are therefore the closest to true Muslims we have to judge Islam by.
Now, in order to understand the character of Muhammad, we can look to the Qur'an and Hadith to ask the question; "What Would Mo Do?" So let's examine some actions carried out today in the name of Islam and find out what Mo would have done or did do in similar situations.
1 - Slavery
Boko Haram and other Islamic extremists have on many occasions tried to or have succeeded in selling people, often young girls, into slavery as part of their conquests. Particularly into the sex trade. What would Mo do in a similar situation?
There is no doubt that if one accepts that the Qur'an and Hadith are an accurate account and portrayal of Muhammad's life, then one must accept that he was an avid keeper of slaves including sex slaves. There are at least eight verses in the Qur'an dealing with slaves and sex slaves and even more appear in the Hadith. For the sake of time I'll not list them all, however, here is a complete list. One of these verses even includes the idea that it is right and just to take a woman who is already married as a sex slave.
If it was good and just for Mohammed to do this, then how can any Muslim be defamed for simply following in Muhammad's footsteps and doing what the Qur'an teaches is acceptable?
2 - Apostasy & Criticism
One of the big issues we see every day in the Islamic world is that of apostasy and how many Muslims choose to handle criticism. You see, it doesn't matter if we talk about terrorist groups such as ISIS or the Taliban, or if we talk about countries ruled under Islamic régimes. Their answer to apostasy and criticism is always either violent or amounts an unjustified imprisonment. We can see the hypocrisy of the moderate Muslim idea here when we look at the latest Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris. Saudi Arabia, in trying to keep up the pretense of being moderate, decried the events in Paris acting as though this sort of violence is not representative of Islam. Then, they turn around and give Raif Badawi 10 years imprisonment and 1,000 lashes for criticizing Islam. The hypocrisy is palpable.
But never mind what Muslims today do. I want to see what Muhammad did!
The Qur'an and Hadith are pretty clear on how to deal with apostasy as seen here. The penalty for leaving Islam is death. Even if you were born into it and never wanted any part of it, you aren't allowed to simply leave and reject it. This is the most likely reason that so many Muslims, especially those born into Islamic régimes never even consider simply abandoning Islam.
And how did Muhammad act towards his critics? The full explanation here could take up an entire blog itself, and indeed others have already done this, one of the better ones being this article. The general gist however, is that Mohammed was a tyrannical warlord who often murdered any critics he knew of.
So the actions of the murderers in Paris and those of Saudi Arabia against Raif and many others are entirely in line with what Muhammad himself did according to the Qur'an and historical records.
3 - Equality of the Sexes & Homosexuality
Men and women being treated equally, as well as homosexuals simply being treated as human beings, has been a source of much strife between Islamic and secular régimes. But what we want to know here is what Muhammad did concerning equality of the sexes and homosexuality, so we can see if these régimes are merely doing what they please or whether they're Islamically justified.
Here are some verses from the Qur'an and Hadith that show true Islamic sentiment when it comes to the sexes. Women are seen as worth far less than a man, at least half so, and in many aspects are seen as little more than property. These verses make it clear not only what Muhammad did concerning this issue, but also that Allah apparently found favor on Muhammad's actions.
As for homosexuality, the Qur'an is pretty clear here that homosexuality is an act punishable by death. Curiously enough however, the practice of homosexual pedophilia has long been common in the Arab Islamic world and is even alluded to in the Qur'an (see link directly above).
So once again we see that these Islamic régimes and terrorist groups are doing exactly what Muhammad and the Qur'an taught. They aren't straying from the path into extremism, they're just following the playbook.
I Could Go On But...
I could go on here, but I think you probably get the picture. However for those who would like a more comprehensive list of "What Would Muhammad Do?", please click here. Believe me when I say that I only touched the tip of the iceberg here.
Of course, this is the point where the apologists start whining about context. They'll argue that everyone was doing this crap at the time, so we have to just chalk it up to social convention in a less enlightened age. There is some merit to such an idea, because it is factually true that these acts were common for the time. The problem is that the Qur'an doesn't make that distinction. The Qur'an doesn't claim that Muhammad was just doing the best with what he had to work with. It doesn't claim that as society progresses that Islam should progress with it. The idea of a progressive and moderate Islam is the idea of some men who have seen how detrimental these literal ideas in Islam are and have tried to evince reform within Islam. I am grateful that such people are working to reform Islam, but that doesn't make them representative of what Islam actually is. The Qur'an and the acts of Muhammad are representative of Islam. There simply is no real way to accept Islam and deny the supposed righteousness of Muhammad and his actions. I imagine that the cognitive dissonance that comes from trying to justify the opposing ideas of what society and logic tells us is ethical and what the Qur'an says is righteous and justified, are a very heavy burden to bear.
Now, some critics will likely say this is just the viewpoint of some know-it-all atheist, but I'd have you just take a minute to watch the following video that crumbles such assertions to dust by getting the real scoop from the horse's mouth:
UNDERCOVER VIDEO EXPOSES the truth behind the myth of moderate Muslims:
An Analogy, if You Will
The idea that the majority is representative of any ideology is nonsense. But let me give you an example of why that is.
If we take Nazism as an example we can see this clearly. You see, amongst the German people during WW2, there were a great many Germans who wore the label of Nazi, but who condemned the acts of attempted genocide enacted by Hitler. If we were to apply the attitude that Islamic apologists pose we adopt towards Islam in respect to Nazism, we could make the case that Nazism isn't really that bad because the majority of people who called themselves Nazis weren't extremists.
However, the most accurate judgment of what a model Nazi should be is Hitler, the man who created the ideology. This is indeed the position that nearly everyone takes regarding Nazism. This same idea must be applied to Islam and Muhammad as well. Muhammad is the example of a model Muslim, and if those who follow exactly in his footsteps can be said to be depraved and unethical, then so too was Muhammad and are the teachings of the Qur'an.
A Final Thought
What I want you to understand is that this critique is of Islam rather than a critique of all Muslims. Muslims in general aren't the problem. There are plenty of peaceful and loving Muslims out there, and in fact they do make up the majority. The problem is with Islam itself. The problem is this ideology which espouses the notion that a despotic tyrant was the most righteous Muslim ever to live and that his actions pleased this god Allah. The problem is that those who commit these same acts Muhammad did can logically make the case that if it was good enough for Muhammad and good enough for Allah then, that it is good and just now. This is the case the man in the video above makes very clear. He isn't a terrorist or extremist. He isn't a radical. He's a self-proclaimed moderate Muslim living in the secular society of the UK. And yet, here we see that he and nearly every other Muslim in that room condone the acts of both terrorists and Islamic régimes alike as being justified by the Qur'an. If we are to make a judgment on Islam, let us not do it by simply looking at how most Muslims seem to act, and look at the doctrine which stands as the only true representative of Islam.
Oh, but I am a dreamer. A man of faith if you will. You see, while I have no faith in god or an afterlife, I still have great faith in the essential goodness of humanity. This belief is just as unsubstantiated as any belief in a god, and has a lot of evidence against it. I suppose though, that I am naive in this regard. Despite all I see each day to the contrary, I still believe that humanity is full of essentially good people who want to be happy and live in peace. But the only way to truly achieve that peace is if we have these discussions and are allowed to voice our thoughts and criticisms.
You may not like others ridiculing your beliefs, but that gives you no right to silence them through violence. It wasn't acceptable when Muhammad did it, and it isn't acceptable now. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings, I would leave you with one simple statement that sums this entire article up:
If you claim that the Charlie Hebdo shooters or groups like ISIS do not represent Islam, you are claiming that the Qur'an doesn't represent Islam. And without the Qur'an, there is no Islam.