Excerpt (with personal notes) from Ayaan Hirsi Ali's (a.k.a. Ayaan Hirsi Magan) [a Somali-Dutch activist-cum-politician] new book, "The Caged Virgin: an emancipation proclamation for women and Islam":
My parents brought me up to be a Muslim[/JW] -- a good Muslim[/JW]. Islam[/The Watchtower] dominated the lives of our family and relations down to the smallest detail. It was our ideology, our political conviction, our moral standard, our law, and our identity. We were first and foremost Muslim[/JW] and only then Somali[/YOUR NATIONALITY]. Muslims[/JWs], as we were taught the meaning of the name, are people who submit themselves to Allah's[/Jehovah's] will, which is found in the Koran[/Bible] and the Hadith[/WTS Publications], a collection of sayings ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad[/Faithful-and-Discreet-Slave]. I was taught that Islam[/JW] sets us apart from the rest of the world, the world of non-Muslims[/JWs]. We Muslims[/JWs] are chosen by God. They, the others, the kaffirs[/worldly people], the unbelievers, are antisocial, impure, barbaric, not circumcised, immoral, unscrupulous, and above all, obscene; they have no respect for women; their girls and women are whores; many of the men are homosexual; men and women have sex without being married. The unfaithful are cursed, and God will punish them most atrociously in the hereafter[/at Armageddon].
When my sister and I were small, we would occasionally make remarks about nice people who were not Muslim[/JW], but my mother and grandmother would always say, "No, they are not good people. They know about the Koran[/Bible] and the Prophet[/WTS] and Allah[/Jehovah], and yet they haven't come to see that the only thing a person can be is Muslim[/JW]. They are blind. If they were such nice and good people, they would have become [/JWs]Muslims and then Allah[/Jehovah] would protect them against evil. But it is up to them. If they become Muslims[/JWs], they will go to paradise[/Paradise]."
There are also Christians and Jews who raise their children in the belief that they are God's chosen people, but among Muslims[/JWs] the feeling that God has granted them special salvation goes further.
About twelve years ago, at age twenty-two, I arrived in Western Europe, on the run from an arranged marriage. I soon learned that God and His truth had been humanized here. For Muslims[/JWs] life on earth[/in this system-of-things] is merely a transitory stage before the hereafter[/earthly Paradise]; but here people are also allowed to invest in their lives as mortals. What is more, hell seems no longer to exist, and God is a god of love rather than a cruel ruler who metes out punishments. I began to take a more critical look at my faith and discovered three important elements of Islam[/JW] that had not particularly struck me before.
The first of these is that a Muslim's[/JW's] relationship with his God is one of fear. A Muslim's[/JW's] conception of God is absolute. Our God demands total submission. He rewards you if you follow His rules meticulously. He punishes you cruelly if you break His rules, both on earth, with illness and natural disasters[/...and disfellowshipping], and in the hereafter, with hellfire[/eternal condemnation and death].
The second element is that Islam[/JW] knows only one moral source: the Prophet Muhammad[/WTS-as-FDS]. Muhammad[/WTS-as-FDS] is infallible. You would almost believe he is himself a god, but the Koran says explicitly that Muhammad is a human being; he is a supreme human being, though, the most perfect human being. We must live our lives according to his example. What is written in the Koran[/Watchtower's exegesis of the Bible] is what God said as it was heard by Muhammad[/the FDS]. The thousands of hadiths[/articles, books, talks, conventions, tracts and brochures] -- accounts of what Muhammad[/1st-century Christians and 19th- and early 20th-century JWs] said and did, and the advice he[/they] gave, which survives in weighty books -- tell us exactly how a Muslim[/JW] was supposed to live in the seventh century[/pre-modern times]. Devout Muslims[/JWs] consult these works daily to answer questions about life in the twenty-first century.
The third element is that Islam is strongly dominated by a sexual morality derived from tribal Arab values dating from the time the Prophet received his instructions from Allah, a culture in which women were the property of their fathers, brothers, uncles, grandfathers, or guardians. The essence of a woman is reduced to her hymen. Her veil functions as a constant reminder to the outside world of this stifling morality that makes Muslim men the owners of women and obliges them to prevent their mothers, sisters, aunts, sisters-in-law, cousins, nieces, and wives from having sexual contact. And we are not just talking about cohabitation. It is an offense if a woman glances in the direction of a man, brushes past his arm, or shakes his hand. A man's reputation and honor depend entirely on the respectable, obedient behavior of the female members of his family.
These three elements explain largely why Muslim nations are lagging behind the West and, more recently, also lagging behind Asia. In order to break through the mental bars of this trinity, behind which the majority of Muslims are restrained, we must begin with a critical self-examination. But any Muslim[/JW] who asks critical questions about Islam[/The WTS] is immediately branded a "deserter."[/an "apostate"] A Muslim who advocates the exploration of sources for morality, in addition to those of the Prophet Muhammad, will be threatened with death, and a woman who withdraws from the virgins' cage is branded a whore.
Through my personal experiences, through reading a great deal and speaking to others, I have come to realize that the existence of Allah, of angels, demons, and a life after death, is at the very least disputable. If Allah exists at all, we must not regard His word as absolute, but challenge it. I once wrote about my doubts regarding my faith in the hope of starting a discussion. I was immediately confronted by zealous Muslims[/JWs], men and women who wanted to have me excommunicated[/disfellowshipped]. They even went so far as to say that I deserved to die because I had dared to call into question the absolute truth of Allah's[/the WTS-as-FDS'] word. They took me to court to prevent me from criticizing the faith I had been born into, from asking questions about the regulations and gods that Allah's messenger[/the WTS-as-FDS] has imposed upon us. An Islamic fundamentalist murdered Theo van Gogh, the Dutch filmmaker who helped me make Submission: Part I, a film about the relationship between the individual and God, in particular about the individual woman and God. And he threatened to kill me, too, a threat that others have also pledged to fulfill.
Like other thinking people, I like to tap into sources of wisdom, morality, and imagination other than religious texts -- other books besides the Koran and accounts of the Prophet -- and I would like other Muslims to tap into them, too. Just because Spinoza, Voltaire, John Stuart Mill, Kant, or Bertrand Russell are not Islamic and have no Islamic counterparts does not mean that Muslims should steer clear of these and other Western philosophers. Yet, at present, reading works by Western thinkers is regarded as disrespectful to the Prophet and Allah's[/the WTS-as-FDS] message. This is a serious misconception. Why should it not be permitted to abide by all the good things Muhammad has urged us to do (such as his advice to be charitable toward the poor and orphans), while at the same time adding to our lives and outlook the ideas of other moral philosophers? After all, the fact that the Wright brothers were not Islamic has not stopped Muslims from traveling by air. By adopting the technical inventions of the West without its courage to think independently, we perpetuate the mental stagnation in Islamic culture, passing it on from one generation to the next.
Eerily familiar, isn't it?