When everyone is talking shit about Islam, it’s worth remembering a few things.
1. Mohammad was no dope. He wasn’t crazy, he was a mystic who channeled a dispensation to his generation from the mythic realm. The old centers are closed, as Rene Guenon pointed out, the Temple is destroyed, the Ark is hidden.
2. Islam embraces the concept of Gnosis, salvation through knowledge, while Christianity has purged itself of this idea, relying entirely upon some mystical blood of the lamb for a notional salvation. Islam was so close to Gnostic Christianity that many Gnostics converted easily, in Egypt and the Hum (Bosnia).
3. Islam is even less monolithic and more hetergenuous than Christianity, Judaism or Buddhism. There are more brands of Islam than any other “world” religion.
4. Islam is Christianity lite, as Christianity is Judaism lite, as Judaism is Zoroastrianism lite.
5. Islam officially tolerates all the Peoples of the Book, including Judaism, Christianity and Mandeanism. They don’t go for Hindu paganism or Wicca.
6. Islam created a realm of peace called the Dar el Salaam, the Islamic world, where travellers could safely traverse the entire territory without fear and in anticipation of real hospitality, from Morocco to Zanzibar to China.
7. Even if officially Islam calls upon Muslims to live only among the Umma, the community of believers, there are wide interpretations on how to behave among the infidels, or unbelievers. Live and let live is the prevailing sentiment.
8. Mystical Islam, Sufism, embraces all religions, in a way Bahai only imitates poorly.
9. Veiled women are fashion, not Islam, as Sadat’s wife repeatedly pointed out. It’s cultural, the same thing as modest women wearing kerchiefs or nuns wearing habits and wimples. Not a big deal.
10. Female circumcision is also cultural, not Islamic.
11. The ban on depicting human images was part of the Christian tradition, giving rise to the flat icons of Eastern Orthodoxy, which were a sort of compromise between the ban and devotion to saintly personalities. Islam got it from Christianity and ultimately Judaism.
12. The death penalty for converting away from Islam is symbolic, akin to Mormons converting entire generations of ancestors when a living person converts to Mormonism.
13. The ban on alcohol is really only a ban on grape alcohol, if you interpret it strictly. Vodka is apparently OK, if you’re a fundamentalist.
14. All the other “world religions” have equally crazy laws and punishments, but out of consideration for common sense we don’t stone divorcees to death or burn witches at the stake anymore.