What's the Difference Between a Habit and a Headscarf?

Why are some people vehemently against a Muslim headscarf but have no objection to a nun's habit? What's the difference?

The main difference is the ideology represented by the clothing. Islam's ideology is 51 percent political and only 49 percent religious. That is, 51 percent of the Koran is about what Muslims should do with non-Muslims.

A Muslim is obligated to strive to establish the law of Allah in all nations, imposing it against the will of non-Muslims if necessary. Islamic law is very detailed and specific, and includes the death penalty for apostates and gays, women are legally only worth a half a man, etc. The Muslim headscarf is one of the few visible signs of a commitment to the fundamental principles of Islam. That's why people are bothered by it.

But aren't Christians obliged to "establish the rule of Christ in all nations?" Isn't a nun's habit a visible sign of commitment to the fundamental principles of Christianity?

That's seems like a legitimate counter-argument, but are there "Christian countries?" That is, a country where the "laws of Christianity" are imposed on everyone in that country?

So far, there are 58 Muslim countries, and orthodox Muslims are dedicated to expanding that. These countries have joined together to form the largest global organization outside the UN, and they form the largest voting bloc in the UN. They have been pushing to legally impose Islamic blasphemy laws on the entire world, which means legally nobody would be able to have this conversation, even in "free nations." It would be illegal to criticize Islamic doctrine. It is already illegal in many countries.

Islam is having a huge and growing influence on world affairs. Everyone should learn more about this ideology. It isn't like other religions. The closest religion to it is Scientology, and it's not even close.

The assumptions people make about Islam are mostly wrong. But those assumptions are guiding our legal policies, and that is dangerous.

But wait a minute. Doesn't all this only apply to the most extreme and fundamentalist followers of Islam? Wouldn't the views of extreme and fundamentalist Christians be just as disturbing? It isn't fair to paint all Muslims with this same brush, is it? We could say all Scientologists are bad people, but that isn't the case either.

First of all, we're not talking about Muslims. We're talking about Islam, which is a set of written documents. It is a written ideology. When we say "orthodox Muslim," we mean someone who follows the principles written in Islamic doctrine. Yes, of course, there are many Muslims who do not follow the doctrine, just as there are Christians who don't follow the written doctrine in the Bible.

But what this argument obscures is that the orthodox Muslims are not misguided. They are doing what it says they must do in their written holy book. It says in the Koran 91 times that a Muslim should follow the example of Muhammad in every aspect. And Muhammad (according to biographies of Muhammad written by Muslims for Muslims) raided caravans, led battles, tortured people, ordered assassinations, and personally oversaw the beheading of 800 Jews. He captured and held slaves. He raped women. He started having sex with his favorite wife when she was nine years old. This is not slanderous rumor aimed to discredit Muhammad. This is taught with a straight face in Islamic universities, without any hint of embarrassment. This was the messenger of Allah and he could do no wrong.

A fundamentalist is one who follows the teachings closely. So the actual teachings make a big difference. And all we're saying is that the teachings of Islam are dangerous to non-Muslims. In Islamic doctrine, Muslims are the best of people and non-Muslims are the worst of creatures. This is not a conspiracy theory. This stuff is very easy to find out. You don't have to trust anyone's opinion. Just read the Koran. The Muslims who are true believers (orthodox) are counting on people not wanting to know.

In a conversation about this the other day, someone brought up a good example: the Amish. They have special dress and customs but they don't seek to impose it on anyone else. That's the difference. And it's a big difference.

Look up the Holy Land Foundation trial. The FBI raided the house of a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in America and found a document laying out their plan for our country. So far they have 73 legal organizations in America bent on replacing our laws with Islamic law. One organization has been altering the way Islam is portrayed in school textbooks. One organization puts pressure on Hollywood to make sure Islam is portrayed positively in movies. One organization sues people who try to educate others about what Islam is, or gets them fired from their jobs.

Scientologists aren't bad people, by the way. Most people who read the statements above would think I was slandering Scientologists. But I was talking about Scientology, the ideology. Specifically, I was referring to the "fair game" policy of Scientology. Again, it is a written document, and followed by the true believers. It says that if someone leaves Scientology (becomes an apostate), they are fair game. They can be tricked, lied to, sued, harassed.

But that's not as bad as Islamic doctrine. Islam says the penalty for apostasy is death.

Think about something for a minute. If someone says they're a member of a group that has a written ideology, would you assume they believe in at least some of the tenets of that ideology? Of course. Otherwise, why claim your membership? It's not always the case, of course. Oskar Schindler was a member of the Nazi party, after all.

But if you could choose who would be your next door neighbor or who would date your daughter, would you voluntarily choose someone who claims membership in a dangerous ideology? They might not be "true believers." But on the other hand, many Muslims who were perfectly nice people and not true believers were reached by the more orthodox who educated them on their obligations as a Muslim. They said, "You say you're a Muslim, but have you read the Koran? Do you know what you should be doing?" And they are "radicalized" which is a politically correct way of saying they began following the written doctrine and the example of the founder of Islam.

By the way, I'm not a Christian. I'm not any religion. And I'm not out to slander any particular religion. All I did was read Islamic doctrine and biographies of Muhammad. I wasn't trying to find out that Islam is evil. I just wanted to know what was really true because we've got some people saying it's a religion of peace and some people saying it's a religion of violence. I wanted to know for myself rather than listen to the opinions of others.

I went on a decade-long program of reading, including lots of pro-Islam books and the Koran, which I read twice from beginning to end. It's a fascinating subject to study. Especially the life story of Muhammad. It is completely mind blowing that someone like that founded a religion. And that the religion (the doctrine, not the people) reflects his personality. I would never have believed it, and over time, it has become obvious to me that many people don't believe it and don't want to believe it. But if they want to be well-rounded, if they want to be an educated member of the modern world, it seems to me that one of the things they should really know about is Islam as it is, and not how they wish it was or how others want them to think about it. They should find out for themselves.

Back to the headscarf. The reason people don't like it is that the headscarf says, "I believe in the tenets of Islam" and any non-Muslim who knows what those tenets are will not like them. Also, researchers have discovered that when the women in an area with a high Muslim population begin wearing headscarves, it is a signal that the Muslims in the area are becoming more devout (more "extreme," more fundamentalist). It is a visible sign of increasing devotion to the fundamental principles of Islamic doctrine, which includes an intolerance for non-Muslims and non-Islamic laws, and usually foreshadows violence to non-Muslims and those Muslims who are "insufficiently Islamic." That's why people make such a big deal about Islamic head and face coverings. That's why France and other countries have banned them and many are considering it. 

I personally think it's foolish. If you have a visible sign of growing fundamentalism, why would you ban it? To blind yourself? On the other hand, maybe it would help weaken the fundamentalism. And it would certainly help women be free of the obligation to do it in those countries.

What about the nun's habit? The answer is that being a nun is voluntary. But if a woman is born a Muslim, she is considered a Muslim and the penalty for her leaving Islam is death.

Catholic men are not likely to beat nuns if they don't wear their habits, but orthodox Muslims have been known to beat Muslim and non-Muslim women who don't cover up, and I have yet to read a report of a Catholic man throwing acid into the face of a woman because she was not wearing her habit. Orthodox Muslim men have been doing that to Muslim women in many places in the world.

People who are relatively ignorant of Islam are puzzled by the push toward banning headscarves, and would like to write it off as just ignorant bigotry. But if they looked a little deeper, they might find sensible reasons for it.

Seeing More Headscarves

When I was a kid, I never saw Islamic-style headscarves worn by anyone in my town. I first saw one a few years ago. Now I see them all the time. And it bothers me. Does that make me a racist?

People all over the free world are seeing the same thing, and are feeling disturbed by it. Concerned. Frightened even. Does that mean we are xenophobic bigots? The answer is no. I'm sure there are racist xenophobes among us, but for those of us aware of Islamic ideology and Islamic history, the reason we are uncomfortable with a growing number of Muslims in our midst is simple and reasonable: It has traditionally spelled doom for the existing culture. Islam annihilates cultures.

Islamic headscarves are indicative of ideology. If a Muslim woman believes in Islamic ideology, she will wear a headscarf. A headscarf is one of the few publicly visible signs of Islamic devotion. And if she believes in Islamic ideology, she will probably have lots of children and indoctrinate her children with the ideology too (Islamic texts encourage fecundity and indoctrination). And Islamic ideology is dangerous to non-Muslims. The higher the percentage of Muslims in a given population, the more dangerous they are (because of Islam's rule of numbers).

But I'm not a bigot or a xenophobe, and here's how I can tell: When I see a Hindu woman in a headscarf, it doesn't bother me a bit. Hindu ideology is not dangerous to non-Hindus. When I see a Buddhist monk, I don't feel concerned. If I saw a growing number of Buddhist monks in my town, it wouldn't bother me at all.

And I'm not a racist. If I saw more and more Japanese people in my town, it wouldn't disturb me at all.

It's the ideology. Anyone who understands what it says in Islamic texts should be concerned at the growing number of Muslims in our midst.

No One Would Listen

If you haven't read the powerful book, Night, by Elie Wiesel, you really should. It is his account of what happened to him during WWII. He was a young teen living in a small village in Hungary when, in 1942, the Hungarian police arrived to announce that all foreign Jews had to leave. The police loaded them all into trains and took them away.

The people in the town were disturbed, of course. It was a sad day. But after a few months, the memory began to fade, and life eventually returned to normal. They felt they were far enough removed from the war that it would end before it ever came to their remote village.

Then one day, one of those foreign Jews found his way back to the village. His name was Moishe. He was an old man, but the young Elie Wiesel had known him fairly well. Moishe had an extraordinary story to tell. He said when the trainload of Jews crossed the border into Polish territory, the Gestapo loaded them into trucks and took all the Jews into a forest where they were forced to dig huge trenches, and then they were all shot! Moishe himself was shot in the leg and left for dead. But he escaped and had been struggling to get back to the little village so he could warn people of what happened. He was urging everyone to flee; to get away before the Germans came.

He went "from one Jewish house to the next," wrote Elie Wiesel, "telling his story..." And he repeatedly and urgently told his story at the synagogue.

But nobody believed him.

They thought he must have lost his mind. Why would the Germans just kill Jews like that? Germany was a modern, industrialized, enlightened country. They wouldn't simply murder people so heartlessly and for no reason. Moishe must have lost his mind.

Moishe was insistent. He begged people to listen to him. He cried. He pleaded. But not one person believed him. They didn't want to believe him, and that's a formidable barrier to communication.

Our message — that what is written in Islamic texts is dangerous to non-Muslims — is also something many people do not want to believe. The implications are too heavy. The people of Elie's village didn't want to contemplate what it would mean if Moishe's story was true. It would mean tragedy and heartache and a loss of faith in humanity. It would mean a drastically different future for everyone. If they believed Moishe, the wise course of action would be to immediately pack up or sell everything they own and move somewhere they'd never been before. They'd have to start over. The journey would be fraught with uncertainty and danger. Most of them had lived their whole lives in that little village.

But they had another option, didn't they? They could explain away Moishe's terrifying story. They could decide there must be some other explanation.

That's what we run into also, isn't it? People are desperately trying to explain it away. If it's true that the doctrines of Islam are dangerous to non-Muslims, we should all drop what we're doing and address it. What's the point of going on about our lives, as they did in Elie's village, if it will all go terribly wrong in a few years? No, there would be no return to normal. If someone truly and fully grasps the real situation, they're in a whole new world, and the "important goals" they were busy trying to accomplish up until now would be abruptly abandoned in order to handle this new (and far more pressing) reality.

But they have another option, don't they? They can decide there must be some other explanation. You must not understand it correctly. You must be taking the Koranic passages out of context. Muslims who believe in Islamic doctrines must be a very small minority. There must be some other explanation.

I invite you to read Night and think about this: What would you have done if you were in Moishe's situation? Do you think you could have gotten someone to believe you? How would you get through to people? Or would you have given up, as Moishe did, and leave them all to their fate?

In 1944, the German Army arrived at Elie's village and immediately initiated new policies to limit freedoms for Jews. The noose closed in tighter and tighter, one policy at a time, until one day all the Jews of the village were imprisoned in a ghetto and ordered to board the transport trains. People were terrified. What did this mean? They were busy in Elie's house frantically packing up food for the trip when Moishe came up to the front door and shouted, "I warned you!" Then he turned and left without waiting for anyone to respond.

It was too late to do anything about it. They were transported to Auschwitz, and all of them suffered terrible, unbelievable physical and psychological torment. Most of them ended up dead.

If Moishe had been able to make people believe him, everyone in the village would have had plenty of time to flee.

Let's not repeat the same mistake. Let's get through. Not with force. Not with crying or pleading or intensity. Let's find out what allows our message to penetrate, and let's use it with ever-growing skill. If you need help, it is available here: Tools.

Good News: Some Things Changed This Year

Things change. Sometimes things improve. Here are a few changes from this year that demonstrate a weakening of orthodox Islam in Muslim countries: 

Child marriage was banned this year in Palestine and Saudi Arabia. They both made the minimum marriage age 18 years old. 

Honor killings have been criminalized in the United Arab Emirates. 

Pakistan has passed a new anti-rape law. 

After 30 years of being ruled by orthodox Muslims, Sudan has deposed them, abolished the death penalty for apostates, and made FGM illegal.

(Source: Future Crunch

Child marriage, honor killings, FGM, laxity about rape, and the death penalty for apostates are all basic features of Islamic law. For true believers, these are not negotiable. The fact that these countries are changing their laws to be less Islamic is a testament to a growing pressure from within the country and also international pressure. It is concrete evidence of a movement away from orthodox Islam, even in the Muslim world. It means Islamic law has been, to some degree, discredited for a greater number of people. This is what we're working toward

There is still a lot more to be done. We haven't won. But let's celebrate when we have something worth celebrating.

Militant Scientologists Gun Down 15 People in Shooting Spree

Last week, at a private event in New Jersey where ex-Scientologists gathered to air their grievances about the Church of Scientology, three masked gunmen burst into the room and opened fire, killing everyone present. Most newspapers have criticized the ex-Scientologists for holding the meeting. They should have kept their grievances to themselves, said MSNBC. CNN and the NY Times said the ex-Scientologists knew how offensive any kind of criticism is to the Church, so they were asking for trouble.

The headline and the above paragraph are fiction. This was a way to illustrate how ridiculous it is for any non-Muslim to criticize anyone for holding a Muhammad cartoon contest.

In Islam, it is not okay to draw Muhammad or satirize Islam. Fine. Muslims shouldn't do it. But should that rule be applied to everyone, whether they are Muslim or not?

In the same way, if it is a sin for a Scientologist to criticize Scientology (and it is) a non-Scientologist can do it if they want to. We all know this. A person who is not a member of the religion can criticize it all they want. None of us are bound by the rules of a religion of which we're not a member. Obviously. Right? It should be obvious.

It used to be a Catholic rule that Catholics were not supposed to eat meat on Friday. In some places in the world, this rule is still in effect. Fine. Non-Catholics don't care, and don't worry about whether they eat meat or not on Fridays. But what if Catholics became offended when anyone ate meat on Fridays? What if they started killing non-Catholics who were found eating meat on Fridays? Would the pundits say the meat-eaters had it coming? Would they say that by having a hamburger barbeque in their backyard, they were obviously provoking the Catholics and got what they deserved? That would be ridiculous. Right?

What if they weren't just innocently and quite-by-accident having a hamburger barbeque, but knew Catholics didn't like it, and to prove they had the right to eat what they want, they went ahead and ate the burgers anyway? And then Catholics killed them for it? Now did they get what they deserved? Should they be criticized for provoking the Catholics? No. The Catholics are the ones to be criticized, and the rule that non-Catholics should follow Catholic rules — that is what should be criticized. Obviously.

What ought to be criticized is the Islamic rule that non-Muslims must follow Islamic rules.

What Does Niceness Tell You About Someone's Goals or Plans?

One of the employees at the company where I work is a man named Muhammad. He is originally from Ghana but he speaks excellent English. He's a really nice man. He works in a different department, but we have brief interactions once in awhile. He is helpful. Kind. Always quick to say hello and smile. I've talked to him briefly a few times, but earlier today we were alone in the break room and we got to talking about a wine tasting taking place nearby. I thought this would be a good opportunity to learn more about him (he doesn't know I know anything about Islam), so I asked him, "Do you drink?"

"No, never," he said.

"Have you ever tried it?"

"No, never in my life. I'm Muslim and we don't drink." He thought for a second and then he said, "Well, some of my friends drink, but they're not supposed to. When they do, I don't do it with them."

His answer seemed to indicate that perhaps all his friends were Muslims. So, being the curious type, I asked him, "Do you have any non-Muslim friends?"

Without any seeming embarrassment or hesitation, he said, "No."

So far, this was a perfectly pleasant conversation, with no defensiveness on his part or aggression on my part. Just two people chatting.

I had to get up and go do something. When I came back, another man was talking to Muhammad, and I overheard Muhammad say, "I will do it for one of my children."

I asked him, "How many kids do you have?"

He said, "Thirteen."

I wasn't sure I heard him right, so I said, "Thirteen?!"

He looked very proud and nodded yes. He is 39 years old. It has been a very long time since I've met someone with thirteen children. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever met anyone with that many children.

Of course, all this got me to thinking. He must be somewhat devout (orthodox) if he doesn't drink and has no non-Muslim friends. Those are two clear Muslim rules (written in Islamic doctrine). I was wondering what he might be like if Muslims became the majority here in America (I was thinking of Raymond Ibrahim's Rule of Numbers). Would Muhammad stop being nice? Would he be willing to threaten me with death if I didn't convert to Islam? I don't know for certain.

Even a genuinely nice person who grew up as a Muslim might impose the choice of conversion or death, even if he and I had a cordial and pleasant relationship up to that point, because after all, if he is truly devout, he already feels quite sure I'm doomed to eternal torture in hell. But if he could force me to convert, or scare me into converting, he might think he gave me a chance to make it to paradise (which would, from his point of view, be a nice thing for him to do for me, and plus, of course, it is also a clear Muslim rule, written in Islamic doctrine that when Muslims hold the power, they should offer this choice to non-Muslims).

One of the objections in our Answers to Objections series is, "My friend is a Muslim and he's really nice." People have said this to me and I've heard from many people over the years who have heard this objection from their friends and family. The statement is usually spoken like it invalidates the facts about Islamic doctrine.

And I could say it myself: Most of the Muslims I've ever gotten to know have been very nice people. But it has also become clear to me over the years that "niceness" doesn't really mean anything. Salespeople can be very nice. Politicians are often nice. Sociopaths can be nice. A lot of people who knew Ted Bundy thought he was nice. The same was true of Adolf Hitler.

Niceness doesn't reveal anything about ideology or intent. Niceness tells us nothing about a person's goals or plans. When we are talking about the problem of Islam, niceness is literally irrelevant to the issue. Islamic doctrine says what it says, and Muslims are committed to applying that doctrine in their lives or they aren't. Some of those who are committed to applying the doctrine are nice and some are not. Niceness doesn't tell us anything of real importance.

Let's point this out to everyone who brings it up in our presence. And let's remove this barrier to seeing clearly. Once it is removed, the person you're talking to may discover that she or he really knows nothing else about Islam. And that is a great place to begin a real conversation about the problem of Islam.