Thank you for taking the initiative to write in The Age on 29 August, 2014 your article ‘My Muslim religion has problems that need fixing’.
At the outset, I would like to acknowledge some important things. Firstly, I do not know your history. You may be a recent arrival to Australia, or your family may have a longer association with our nation. Either way, it is unimportant in one sense. Australians have always welcomed those who come to this nation and contribute to its future. It is clear from your military service and involvement in politics that you are a contributor and I do thank you for that, even if we may disagree on many issues.
Particularly, I would like to acknowledge that what you wrote was courageous. It was also very important. It was, perhaps, the first time that someone of the Muslim faith acknowledged publicly in a major Australian newspaper that the Islamic religion does have problems that need fixing.
More importantly, you stated publicly that these problems are a threat to this nation. You called for the Islamic community discuss these problems, denounce the actions that flow from them and then fix these problems so that they no longer affect your own community and others. You called for the Islamic community to change its mindset.
Most Australians from all walks of life would agree with you. And from the tone and style of your article, it is clear that even you recognise that the ones most likely to disagree with you come from within the Islamic community.
Australians see these problems graphically portrayed every day. They are right to be suspicious of a creed that leads men to carry out violent atrocities in its name. They are right to be worried about Islamic leadership here that takes a default position of silence, or that blames others when it does speak. Australians are tired of hearing how these problems are the fault of America, or us, or imperialism, or insults to Islam. They are sick of being labelled racist for questioning the beliefs of those who behead.
What your article did not do was call for the ‘true’ meaning of Islam to be taught to those who violently ‘misinterpret’ it. I think this is because you know that this ‘misinterpretation’ is nothing more than a myth. I think that you understand that the British man holding a knife on our television screens is logically following the fundamentals of Islam to their bloody conclusion.
So let’s be clear. You want to change the Islamic faith. To redefine its fundamental beliefs. You do this because those who follow the very basics of Islam are those who pose a threat to us here and who are beheading their way across Iraq.
And this point is very important to understand.
Muslims believe that Mohammed was the most perfect man to walk this earth. They believe that they must follow his example. You know this better than most.
Yet Mohammed was the man who ordered an entire tribe to be beheaded. He was the man who commanded that those who insulted him be murdered. He was the man who took sexual slaves from those he conquered. He was the man who decreed: submit, pay the jizya (yearly tax in return for life), or die. He was the man who told his military commanders that they should fight the non-Muslims until they worshipped Allah alone.
I do not write these words to offend. I write them because you are rational and to highlight the challenge that you have. While Muslims believe that they must follow the example of Mohammed as outlined in the Islamic texts, beheadings, sexual slaves and war will always go hand-in-hand with Islam.
So there are only two ways that you can ‘reform’ Islam.
The first is to accept that Mohammed’s example is not to be followed. Logically, this means accepting that Mohammed’s life was flawed and it necessarily calls into doubt the entire basis of the Islamic religion. How can Islam be true if Mohammed’s followers are to reject his actions?
The second way is to re-write Mohammed’s life. It means rejecting the Quran, the Hadiths and the Islamic traditions and replacing them with something novel. Are you going to become the author of the New Quran? And which Muslims will accept it?
I respect you for recognising that there are problems with Islam. But I submit that these problems cannot be ‘reformed’ away. If the foundations are flawed, the building will always be shaky. And if you put in new foundations, you must recognise that the building that grows on top will have new roots. It will no longer be Islam.
I also accept that raising these issues must be difficult for you. You cannot do so without questioning the ideology that is part of your family, your history and your identity. It cannot be an easy thing to do.
But I applaud your courage to do so, and I encourage you to continue doing so. And even if we continue to disagree over basics into the future, I would like you to know that you have my respect. If the Islamic community mirrored your example, it would not feel so isolated, and nor would Australians have so much reason to harbour suspicions about Islam. But let’s not try and hide the reason why: this would be because all of us would recognise that rejecting basic Islamic beliefs is part and parcel of keeping Australia safe and contributing to its future.
Finally, if you disagree, please respond. Debate and dialogue is the best way of shining a light on error. And if you do disagree, I am genuinely interested to know why.
I hope, therefore, that discussion continues.