Islam and Toleration


A colleague just alerted me to the website of an organization dedicated to promoting toleration both for and among Muslims: the Libforall Foundation. It looks quite interesting — the mission is certainly of vital importance. Another organization that works to promote toleration for Islam and among Muslims is the American Islamic Congress, which is sponsoring the “Dream Deferred” essay contest with which I’m working..

The Lamp of Liberty offers a complementary product, which is the spread of liberty among speakers of Arabic (not all of whom are Muslim).

7 Responses to “Islam and Toleration”

  1. LibForAll Foundation appears to be a Sufi-oriented group alarmed over the Saudi-funded Wahhabi expansion in Indonesia. I’ve talked to similar people. A few months ago, I heard similar complaints from Bangladeshi friends, who argued that Saudi money is funding Wahhaism and corrupting their government.

    One wonders if the Jordanian royal family, which believes they are the rightful guardians of the Islamic Holy Cities, would change the dynamics of Islam if they regained the guardianship. We will never know. The simple fact is that we are Saudi Arabia’s defense force. Saudi Arabia wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for America (Saddam, for one, would have saw to that!) As a protector of the status quo, we have inadvertently precluded any challenge to the Saudi monopoly of Islam’s center.

    PS, the other sites are interesting but I was disappointed that they were oriented towards non-Muslims. If this is a fight for the soul of Islam, I would expect to see intra-faith dialog more than inter-faith dialog. Many Islamic societies, most importantly Arab, have too little self-criticism. Perhaps we’ll see this struggle play out in Iraq–which will have freedom of speech and the press.

  2. Q.J. Hendrix Thompson

    With all due respect, after reading the info in the strategy recommendations on the libforall website, this sounds like another foreign aid project.

    If the advocates will take out the US government and using American Taxpayers’ money in funding this project, I’ll be convinced that this is a legitimate effort to combat ideologies. I am all in favor to counter Islamic terrorism with libertarian principles. However, I am very skeptical when advocates want the US government to get involved.

    I agree that the grunt work to make change in the Muslim world must come from Muslims themselves. In my opinion, it is liberty minded Muslim individuals and civil society organizations, supported with private donations, are the ones that will be the most effective in this fight.

    Q.J.Hendrix Thompson

  3. Dennis Corrigan

    Under the “patron and advisor” tab on the web site Libforall we read:

    “His Excellency Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid
    Serves as Libforall Foundation’s
    Official Patron and Senior Advisor
    Popularly known as Gus Dur, H.E. Kyai Haji Abdurrahman Wahid was Indonesia’s first democratically-elected president and long-time head of the Nadhlatul Ulama, the world’s largest Muslim organization, with nearly 40 million members. He was also the recipient of the 2003 Friends of the United Nations Global Tolerance Award.”

    See for Wahid’s opinions, which are identical to those on the web site.

    More important is Robert Spencer’s response to Wahid:


    “The former President of Indonesia, Abdurrahman Wahid, has published a piece in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Right Islam vs. Wrong Islam: Muslims and non-Muslims must unite to defeat the Wahhabi ideology. …

    “This is the kind of thing that makes me suspicious. ‘Transforming Islam from a personal faith into an authoritarian political system’? But Islam has never been a personal faith as opposed to a political system. It has always had a political dimension, and has never accepted the sacred/secular distinction. This kind of thing makes me wonder if Wahid is just engaging in the same kind of deceptive analysis we have seen so much of already. And another thing: Morocco to Indonesia and the Philippines? What about Spain and Western Europe? And the U.S.A.? The jihadists have made clear their global intentions. Why not speak plainly about this? …”

    Wahid is quoted in the WSJ piece:
    “Those who seek to promote a peaceful and tolerant understanding of Islam must overcome the paralyzing effects of inertia, and harness a number of actual or potential strengths, which can play a key role in neutralizing fundamentalist ideology. These strengths not only are assets in the struggle with religious extremism, but in their mirror form they point to the weakness at the heart of fundamentalist ideology. They are:

    1) Human dignity, which demands freedom of conscience and rejects the forced imposition of religious views; ”

    Spencer avers:
    “And yet, Mr. Wahid, the denial of freedom of conscience goes back to Muhammad’s baddala deenahu, faqtuhulu — If anyone changes his religion, kill him (cf. Bukhari vol. 9, bk. 84, no. 57) and the death penalty for apostates is still taught by non-Wahhabi Muslim theologians. Please explain how you intend to overcome the influence of this. … ”

    Wahid’s quote continues his list started with (1) above:
    “6) the power of the feminine spirit, and the fact that half of humanity consists of women, who have an inherent stake in the outcome of this struggle;”

    And again Spencer responds:
    “Please explain also Mr. Wahid how you intend to overcome this. The Qur’an, after all:

    “1. Likens a woman to a field (tilth), to be used by a man as he wills: “Your women are a tilth for you (to cultivate) so go to your tilth as ye will” (2:223);
    “2. Declares that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man: “Get two witnesses, out of your own men, and if there are not two men, then a man and two women, such as ye choose, for witnesses, so that if one of them errs, the other can remind her” (2:282);
    “3. Allows men to marry up to four wives, and have sex with slave girls also: “If ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if ye fear that ye shall not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess, that will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice” (4:3);
    “4. Rules that a son’s inheritance should be twice the size of that of a daughter: “Allah (thus) directs you as regards your children’s (inheritance): to the male, a portion equal to that of two females” (4:11);
    “5. Tells husbands to beat their disobedient wives: “Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them” (4:34).

    “What was that again about the power of the feminine spirit?

    “I am not saying that Wahid is trying to deceive us. But if he isn’t, he needs to address the obvious gaping holes in his analysis and recommendations. And the world at large needs to know about those gaping holes. The Wall Street Journal should have known better than to publish this shallow and misleading piece — but everyone is so hungry these days for the soothing syrup of Islamic moderation and reason that they will swallow any kind of trumped-up counterfeit without a second thought.”

    Comments on Spencer’s thoughts are available at:

  4. Tom G. Palmer

    I fail to see the justification for this statement:
    “More important is Robert Spencer’s response to Wahid:….”
    It seems strange to consider Robert Spencer’s response “more important” than the call to toleration from one of the world’s most popular Muslim leaders, to which Mr. Spencer responded on a website. Moreover, discussing such matters is an important part of moral theology, as has been undertaken among Jews and Christians. Does Mr. Spencer believe that Jonah was swallowed by a whale? Or that people should be punished for eating shellfish? Or that boys who have wet dreams should be beaten and driven from the house and forced to sleep in the fields? Religous thinkers have debated religious texts about such matters for a long time. Jews and Christians, who had long histories of irrational behavior and vicious intolerance (see R. I. Moore’s “The Persecuting Society” and Perez Zagorin’s “How the Idea of Religious Toleration Came to the West”) have, despite isolated pockets of persecuting intolerance, come to be identified with toleration. It wasn’t just a matter of extracting the essence of the religion and discovering — whoa! — that it was toleration all along; toleration came after long struggles, including intellectual disputation. Why not applaud Muslims who struggle to promote toleration within an Islamic context?

  5. S. Bassett

    This is the best that can be achieved by those muslims who neither wage jihad nor sympathise with those who do (nominal muslims in other words) – and it’s barely worth a damn. Although it’s possible for nominal muslims to criticise the Saudi-backed jihad-promoting heresy of Wahhabism as being the ‘wrong’ kind of Islam, on the basis of doctrinal deviations from orthodox Islam, what they are not able to do, for all their wishful thinking, is to repudiate those aspects of Wahhabism which are shared by all the orthodox schools of Sunni Islam, most importantly the sharia doctrine of jihad which supremacist ideal has been central to orthodox Islam for well over a millenia, and which is firmly grounded in both the Koran and in the murderous ‘model’ conduct of Mohammed. For goodness’ sake, there isn’t anything remotely equivalent to this situation in any other major religion.

    There is no viable moderate form of Islam, other than simply choosing to disregard certain of its key tenets, such as the duty of jihad. This is what the former president of Indonesia stands for, and this is the quiescent ‘traditionalist’ Islam celebrated by Daniel Pipes. So why wouldn’t this in itself be sufficient? Because, given that there are absolutely no grounds for non-jihadists to repudiate jihad they have no real defense against those who do take their religious duties seriously, as is precisely the case in Indonesia today. Instead, they present a false view of Islam as they wish it would be, and in so doing help undermine those who are attempting to alert the West to the full nature of the threat it is facing as a consequence of muslim immigration.

  6. Dennis Corrigan


    Thanks for your prompt response, and indeed for the Web site/blog itself. It’s not only the best source of documentation on Dennis Raimondo’s perfidy, it also features truly inspirational pieces on libertarian progress.

    You said: “I fail to see the justification for this statement:
    ‘More important is Robert Spencer’s response to Wahid:….’ ”

    My rationale for the statement above is that Spencer’s remarks, and those that commented on the posting, offer some pointed questions on positions that Gus Dur (Wahid) glosses over.

    For example, in Wahid’s WSJ piece we read:

    “News organizations report that Osama bin Laden has obtained a religious edict from a misguided Saudi cleric, justifying the use of nuclear weapons against America and the infliction of mass casualties. …

    [Yup. RDC]

    “It is time for people of good will from every faith and nation to recognize that a terrible danger threatens humanity. We cannot afford to continue ‘business as usual’ in the face of this existential threat. …

    “All too many Muslims fail to grasp Islam, which teaches one to be lenient towards others and to understand their value systems, knowing that these are tolerated by Islam as a religion. The essence of Islam is encapsulated in the words of the Quran, “For you, your religion; for me, my religion.” That is the essence of tolerance. …”

    Now Spencer raise the important point:

    “Pretty much the only thing that distinguishes the jihad theology of the Wahhabi/Salafi “minority fundamentalist religious cult” from the jihad theology of all the eight schools of Islamic law (madhahib) is that the Wahhabis are much more willing than the traditional schools to declare other Muslims to be unbelievers and wage jihad against them. The teachings about offering unbelievers conversion, subjugation or death are not significantly different. …

    ” ‘For you, your religion; for me, my religion’ is from Sura 109 of the Qur’an. Muslim scholars consider it an early Meccan sura. Traditional Islamic theology has held for centuries that on points of disagreement the later Medinan suras take precedence over the early Meccan ones — and in what most Muslim authorities consider to be the last sura of all, Surat At-Tawba (sura 9), we find the ‘Ayat as-Seif’ (Verse of the Sword, verse 5) and the call to wage war against Jews and Christians until they submit as inferiors under Islamic rule (verse 29). The idea that sura 109 must be understood in light of this material was not invented by Wahhabis: it is taught by the great medieval Qur’an commentator Ibn Kathir; by As-Suyuti, another revered commentator, and by many others.

    “Does Wahid not know all this, or does he just hope we don’t? The jihadists have a coherent, developed, and traditionally-based theology explaining why they take sura 9 over 109. Does Wahid have a coherent theology explaining why Muslims should take 109 over 9 and leave non-believers in peace? If he does, he should share it with the world, which needs it desperately. But he gives no hint of it in the Wall Street Journal.”

    Let me go on to one more issue, Gus Dur says in the WSJ that a major strength in fighting Jihadism is “1) Human dignity, which demands freedom of conscience and rejects the forced imposition of religious views;”

    But see Spencer “And yet, Mr. Wahid, the denial of freedom of conscience goes back to Muhammad’s baddala deenahu, faqtuhulu — If anyone changes his religion, kill him (cf. Bukhari vol. 9, bk. 84, no. 57) and the death penalty for apostates is still taught by non-Wahhabi Muslim theologians.” Apologies for the repetition.

    So to summarize, the difficulty I have with Gus Dur is that he proposes the square circle as the solution to the threat of nuclear weapons attacking Western cities. “The Wall Street Journal should have known better than to publish this shallow and misleading piece,” says Spencer.

    Good luck to Gus in changing his religion so that it no longer imposes the death penalty for conversion and blasphemy. However, given that Muslims believe the Koran is the pure unchangeable word of God, how does he avoid the charge of apostasy, when he negates its clear statements about killing those who convert, etc.?

    Remember: “later Medinan suras take precedence over the early Meccan ones”.

    Qur’an 4:90 “If they turn back from Islam, becoming renegades, seize them and kill them wherever you find them.”
    Qur’an 8:12 “I shall terrorize the infidels. So wound their bodies and incapacitate them because they oppose Allah and His Apostle.”
    Qur’an 8:59 “The infidels should not think that they can get away from us. Prepare against them whatever arms and weaponry you can muster so that you may terrorize them.”
    Qur’an 8:57 “If you gain mastery over them in battle, inflict such a defeat as would terrorize them, so that they would learn a lesson and be warned.”

    That is the justification for my statement in the last post. Spencer (actually a commenter) quotes the Koran. Wahid waffles and obfuscates. Spencer offers facts; Wahid, bromides.

    Look, I too would rather we faced Gus Dur’s Islam! But unfortunately we face the Islam founded by the prophet’s revelations:

    Qur’an 47:4 “So, when you clash with the unbelieving Infidels in battle (fighting Jihad in Allah’s Cause), smite their necks until you overpower them, killing and wounding many of them. At length, when you have thoroughly subdued them, bind them firmly, making (them) captives. Thereafter either generosity or ransom (them based upon what benefits Islam) until the war lays down its burdens. Thus are you commanded by Allah to continue carrying out Jihad against the unbelieving infidels until they submit to Islam.”

    Good luck to us all.