Comics are often chided for failing to mock the nuttiness in Islam as well as Christianity. I’ll say one thing in their defence: Islamic totalism is beyond satire. How can you make this sound any more absurd than the facts reveal it to be? Iranian prosecutors have condemned a man to death for apostasy. That’s insane enough but they’ve also admitted that he never was a Muslim, but has “Islamic ancestry”. He will, in other words, unless a miracle takes place, be executed for renouncing a belief he never held. If you can make sense of that you are, well – nuts.
I’ve written that the criminalisation of apostasy and proselytising, while hideous and absurd, has an internal logic that may help us see why it’s thought required. (If you think there’s a God and he sends people who don’t follow him to Hell you’re liable to be tempted to believe it’s too risky to let people sow doubts.) That is a theme of contemporary Islamist writings but, for some, it’s clearly an unnecessary thought. They’ve lost sight of even the most bastardised of humanistic concerns; driven by the ruinous desire to assert the supremacy of their chosen chimera.
The idea that you can abandon something you’ve never accepted is a particularly mad one. Even Abul Ala Maududi, an influential theorist of jihadism and the Islamic state, and one of the most destructive ideologues of the past century, wrote that the threat of punishment ensures that people only join Islam if they really mean it; “block[s] entrance into [their] society of those people who are afflicted with the disease of capriciousness”. Vile as it is it’s also beside the point if people never enter but are merely considered “in”.
This communalistic notion is a feature of many Muslim societies. In Malaysia, for example, ethnic Malays are classified as Muslims. It’s not your birthright, it’s your birth responsibility. That’s one reason why it’s so horribly dishonest of them to justify hudud law – the flogging of drinkers; stoning of adulterers and so on – as something that’s not tyrannical because it’s only applied to Muslims (who, the implication hints, should know what they’re in for). Some of them aren’t Muslims any more than I’m a Christian.
One thing I’ll agree with Richard Dawkins on is that it’s silly to think of religious children: “Christian” infants; “Muslim” kids; even “atheistic” tots. Beliefs, if they’re at all meaningful, are things that you accept, not things that you inherit. In Britain, though, you can at least shrug off the baggage you’ve been saddled with; for these theocrats, though, it’s inescapable – like a rock strapped around your ankle.
The condemned man, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, is now being ordered to recant his faith in Christ and embrace Islam. His frank refusal speaks of more honour and bravery than all these vicious, menial clerics could dream of.