SIO61: What Is True Islam? with Qasim Rashid

Joining us this week is Qasim Rashid. Qasim is an Ahmadi Muslim and author of the book Talk To Me. He claims that the true Islam is peaceful, but is he justified in making that claim? Is it bigoted to say otherwise?

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16 Replies to “SIO61: What Is True Islam? with Qasim Rashid”

  1. It would be interesting to have Noah Lugens on to explain what the Scathing Atheists learned about the Qoran when they did a parallel read through three or four translations of it. I think I remember them saying that, statistically, on average, the reader is exhorted to kill somebody for some reason every 1.4 pages. You don’t have to look very long or hard for a cherry to pick. Also, according to the Scathing Atheists, the Qoran didn’t all of a sudden make sense when they had finished reading the whole thing cover to cover without leaving anything out.

    Perhaps the Ahmadi community needs to produce a translation of the Qoran along the lines of those that have been done for texts such as the Tao Te Ching where word-for-word literal translations don’t make very much sense. The culture needs to be “translated” along side of the actual text. If the Qoran honestly does not mean “kill the infidel” when it literally says, “kill the infidel,” it would be interesting to have a translation that did not say “kill the infidel” but rather what was really meant. Just a thought.

  2. This was interesting to listen to. I think some of the strongest points Rashid made were when he pointed to the geopolitical and legal influence on opinion polls, which I’m realizing now, I haven’t been especially skeptical about.

    As he noted, if I lived in a country in which it was illegal to question the government’s interpretation of a religion, it would make sense that my answer to any kind of inquiry, official or otherwise, would reflect what seemed to be the party line, if only out of habit.

    More still, I think it’s worth exploring his assertion that Western government intervention, in so far as it has intentionally or unwittingly aided and established authoritarian governments in the Middle-East, could be a significant influence on expressed cultural values. I don’t mean that in the sense that we should figure out who’s ultimately more responsible, but just to challenge the narrative that because these countries have a particular religion represented and incorporated in their government, we should be able to make meaningful inferences about that religion based on how those governments utilize it in response to geopolitical forces.

    I think looking at nations with secular governments was a good analogy, and carried further, looking at the policies of multiple secular states (e.g., China, the Netherlands, Cameroon, et al.) would likely tell us far more about the particular international and political forces each faces than some kind of inherent truth about atheism.

  3. That’s an excellent point. China is not exactly the only predominantly secular nation on earth. There are other nearly religion free places that do not have human rights records nearly as abysmal as Chinas. You could almost conclude that atheism does not necessarily cause or embody oppression.

  4. I’d like a follow up podcasts about all the claims about islam that were made in this episode.
    I know Thomas S. is not a religious scholar, but I’d be interested if he is convinced agter further investigation.

  5. They have an exhaustively annotated version in English and Arabic. I was given a copy when I visited the Ahmadiyya mosque in Wimbledon, London (biggest mosque in Western Europe). I was really impressed with them as a community and as individuals. Sadly they are heavily persecuted by many Sunnis. The reason their largest mosque and international headquarters are in Londom when the religion formed in Pakistan is that they were essentially forced to leave by threat of violence.

  6. Nice episode Thomas!

    Calling international (for me at least) is only a 10c charge, but as there’s no other way to spend that credit, it’s basically free.

  7. Excellent response. The whole time I listened I was thinking how he sounded exactly like any number of liberal Christian ministers bending over backwards, sometimes in creative intelligent ways, to rationalize their religion. I’m also curious about what Tom & Cecil think about this since they tend to love the, “there is nothing wrong with Islam, the problem is culture and/or Western Imperialism” arguments.

  8. While Qasim was fascinating and extremely reasonable however the argument he dredged up that makes me mad is equating china to represent all atheists, I cant help but notice this is a category error, the equivalent of atheist is not muslim or christian, it is theist. Atheism is not another religion it is the rejection of all religion and to argue otherwise is tantamount to being dishonest. As Tomas pointed out China is atheist, but more importantly it is communist. This is the operable quality that sets its ideology, atheism is just a side effect.

  9. All I can say is… Great episode! The quality of the dialogue was top notch. Neither of you were avoiding questions or changing the topic unnecessarily and you both did a great job of thrashing out the issues.

    I’m with you Thomas in that I think a movement or a religion needs to be judged by its followers rather than its founding documents, but Qasim put up a good fight and he portrayed his sect in a wonderful light

  10. Actually, “communist” has nothing to do with it either. It’s China’s totalitarianism that allows it to be brutally oppressive to some people. We often equate communism and totalitarianism, but they are not necessarily the same thing. Most monasteries and convents are communist, but are not nearly so brutally oppressive as China can be.

  11. Yes, that’s pretty much what Rashid said verbatim. And if you google “kill the infidels,” that’s the passage that everyone uses to explain how it really isn’t “kill the infidels.” I think there’s more than one place in the Qoran that this sort of thing comes up, though. That’s why I thought Noah would be an interesting person to talk to, having looked at the source material in person not too long ago.

  12. This is exactly what I came here to say. Islam and atheism are not equivalent terms. Neither are Christianity and atheism. The equivalence is between atheism and theism. Quasim came across as a highly educated person so I’m pretty sure that he is well aware of this fact.

    Let’s take a look at his argument. I’m going from memory so please correct me if I misstate his argument.

    Chinese people are atheists.
    The Chinese government is brutal, repressive and has a dismal human rights record.
    Therefore atheism is brutal, repressive and promotes human rights atrocities.

    I can easily make the same argument.

    Saudi Arabians are theists.
    The Saudi Arabian government is brutal, repressive and has a dismal human rights record.
    Therefore theism is brutal, repressive and promotes human rights atrocities.

    I’m pretty sure that Qasim would consider my argument logically invalid so I’m not sure why he would think that his is valid. Christians try to make similar arguments all the time and it’s just lame.

    Having said all of that I enjoyed the interview.

  13. I enjoyed the cordial conversation.

    Thomas: you’ve got a great interview style, and for not having much familiarity with Ahmadi Muslims prior, you did a great job of pushing back politely, with follow up questions that hit on key distinctions and assumptions.

    As I listened to the episode, I was wishing I was there with you to unpack and push back on some things Qasim had said.

    Who am I? I used to be devoutly religious. I grew up as an Ahmadi Muslim, and I am now an ex-Muslim. My approach, however, is to critique the religion with reason and to treat others, including my former co-religionists, with love and tolerance. That’s one of the reasons I really enjoy your approach, Thomas.

    I’m not public yet but plan to be in the near future. For those of you curious about what wasn’t stated (such as how Ahmadi Muslims do not support homosexuals living loving, consensual homosexual lives), you can read my overview essay:

    The Ahmadiyya: Beliefs and Practices

    Regarding population figures, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community once claimed 81 million new converts globally in a single year, topping 200 million for their total global population of adherents.

    After several years, this was quietly restated on their website to the ambiguous, “tens of millions”. No formal retraction or statement of correction was ever made. No formal reasons were given. Many adherents of the movement still remember the large conversion number claims but have never heard of the correction, because no formal statement was ever made.


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