A Muslim’s Way Out of Islam
04 Mar, 2008
From Frontpage Magazine on March 03, 2008:
- Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Hossain Salahuddin, a
poet, essayist and an ex-Muslim who is the author of several
books. He is the editor of the magazine Maverick, which promotes
literature, freethinking and rationalism.
FP: Hossain Salahuddin, welcome to FrontPage interview.
HS: Thanks very much for having me. It’s a real pleasure to be
FP: Tell us about your childhood and your upbringing within
HS: I was born in 1984, into a Muslim family in Bangladesh . My
family was rather orthodox and they made sure I learn the Quran
properly even before they enrolled me in a school. I had a home
tutor Mullah, who taught me reciting Quran in Arabic- and I was
actually good at it. I remember completing the whole Arabic Quran
three times before I turned 12 without even understanding a word of
it. If I try to remember, I can feel that it was pretty suffocating
with all sorts of do’s and don’t. You can’t do this, you can’t do
that, and there was that constant reminder- “You are a Muslim, you
should act like one.”
So, yeah, my childhood was not something that I am really proud
of. There were all sorts of religious restraints around my neck and
that actually affected my relationship with my family members. But,
I should say I was still a believer back then; only there was a
slight discomfort in me with the practicing form of Islam. I admit
that I had a rather troubled childhood but I didn’t turn into a
rebel just yet.
FP: What caused your second thought and your ultimate abandoning
HS: Well, when I was around 13 or 14, I developed a great
interest in creative writing, especially in poetry and I started to
spend a lot of time reading books and writing poetry. I remember
borrowing up to ten books at a time and reading them in a row.
History, Science, Philosophy, Religion, Literature name it, all
sorts of books. It was a fascinating time I can tell you that. I
guess I was mentally a bit matured than my actual age, and I really
cherish that part of my life as a period of illumination.
I think books taught me to think and judge things rationally, to
escape from the world of prejudice and irrational beliefs. Books
were my true liberator, it’s the best companion I ever had. But, it
wasn’t always fun. My family didn’t take it lightly as they were
noticing some change in me and also my teachers at school. In fact
it was the teachers who gave me all sorts of trouble. Unfortunately,
most of my teachers were very orthodox Muslims and they didn’t like
my writings. They even banned my writings from the school magazine
which really upset me given that I was probably the only student who
could write creative things. And they were constantly reminding me
that Islam doesn’t approve poetry, music, painting, mixing with
non-Muslims or reading texts of other religion and it really
There was only one way to find out: by reading Quran and Hadith
in my mother tongue. I read the Quran over and over again and
couldn’t believe what I was reading. I started to mark the
questionable verses and wrote comments beside them. I wondered, are
these versus full of hate being spread and preached everyday in all
corners of my town? I was completely dumbstruck. Initially, I
thought it was the translation that was to be blamed. But I
collected many different translations of the Quran and very reputed
Islamic scholars translated some of them. You can say I was really
shocked and I spent almost two years of my year 9 and 10 searching
At year 10, my first book of poems was published and by year 11,
I was convinced that Islam itself was a very violent belief. By
reading the Quran or any other Islamic text in your mother tongue, there
can be two effects on you: you could either turn into a violent,
brainwashed Muslim ready to eliminate anything that opposes you, or
you could abandon Islam altogether and become a free man. I choose
the latter path and at a very young age.
FP: Did you face the threat of violence for leaving Islam? Are
you still in danger today?
HS: Well, leaving Islam was not an instant decision; it was
rather a gradual process. I think by the time I reached 12, I
consciously abandoned Islam altogether. And some of my closest
friends knew about my views on Islam. I think some of them were
really shocked. So, leaving Islam was a private matter at the
beginning, I didn’t share it with lot of people initially.
Obviously there was the fear of making a majority of Muslims
upset. So, what I did was, I started to question a lot to spread my
message. I learned it from the life of Socrates, that’s what he used
to do, and it can be very effective sometimes. I started to question
Islamic beliefs and traditions in a lot in my writing and that put
me in trouble. Although I had some like-minded friends and we used
to call ourselves Freethinkers, I made some nasty enemies as well
and I was aware that they were watching my every step. But, you know
I was young and careless—so I kept going.
Finally, the waiting game was over and they physically attacked
me one night- I was very lucky to escape only with some sharp cuts
and bruises. After that incident I slowed down a bit, stopped going
outside and tried to concentrate on writing at home. I think it was
in 2002, when an Islamist organization published a book and declared
me a Nastik-Murtad or “Apostate-Infidel”. So, I didn’t really have
to declare leaving Islam publicly, they did the honor for me.
After that I decided to leave the country and in 2003 I came to Australia as a student. And if you are asking whether I am still in danger today, well all I can say is that I never underestimate their reach. It’s not just me, anyone who is non-Muslim, or a born-Muslim who doesn’t care about Islam much -- anyone who is different from them is in danger today and it’s the sad reality.
FP: What are your thoughts on Arab imperialism and Islamic
colonialism? And how does a non-Arab convert’s mind work in this
HS: What always struck me the most was that Islam is another form
of Arab colonialism in disguise. In South-east Asia you will see
people constantly cry about the British Colonialism and how they are
still a victim of it. However, no one ever talks about the Arab
colonialism which is very active in every single non-Arab Muslim
country. Islam is in its origin an Arab religion, and it is not a
religion of conscience, private belief or spirituality; it is very
political and imperial. Its holy places are in Arab lands, its
sacred language is Arabic, and its historical figures are all native
Arab. So what happens to a non-Arab convert’s mind is very
A convert starts to dislike his own culture as non-Islamic and he
becomes fascinated by the Arab influence and wants to be a part of
the Arab story; ironically, he starts to praise the Arab Warrior who
conquered his land. And to do that the first thing he does is to
turn away from everything that is ethnically his and he lives in a
world of fundamentalist fantasy to purify his non-Islamic culture.
You can see this neurosis and nihilism in the mindset of converts
and you can say it is an incurable mental disease which has been
affecting them and disturbing the societies for thousands of years.
Arab colonialism is both political and cultural and I think it is
the longest surviving form of colonialism. You see it is now a
fashion to blame European Imperialism and colonialism, west and
Israel in general - for every ill in this planet; Muslims are never
ashamed to join this blame game. But, when it comes to Arab
imperialism or Islamic colonialism, Muslims feel proud and they
admire the warriors who once came from the Arab world and conquered
their forefathers’ land.
This way, Islamic colonialism and Arab imperialism together have
conquered and destroyed many advanced and ancient civilizations and
brought catastrophic changes in the cultures of the conquered lands.
You can say Arabs were the most successful imperialists of all time,
because the faithful converts love to be conquered by the legendary
“Holy Warriors” of the “ Holy land ” – it is some sort of salvation
for the converts.
FP: Your interpretation of Islam’s holy war?
HS: Islam has always been associated with political expansion and
that’s where Jihad or holy war comes into affect. Quran and Hadith
repeatedly say that nothing is greater, so far as goodness goes,
than Jihad in the name of Allah. Some apologists will try to tell
you that Islam is a religion of peace, Jihad is allegorical, and it
does not mean violence etc. But the bloody history of Islam tells us
a very different story. And the Quran is actually supposed to be
taken literally. Muhammad repeatedly said that the Quran is not
poetry or allegory; it is the clear voice of Allah himself so that
everyone can understand and take it seriously; it is actually
blasphemous even to think the Quran as an allegory.
In Hadith, the collection of traditions, Muhammad asked his
followers to stop any un-Islamic practice by force many times. As a
religion, Islam has a long tradition of deep rooted hatred towards
unbelievers. In the Quran, Allah repeatedly commanded Muslims to
engage in Holy war and promised unlimited reward in the afterlife if
one becomes a martyr in the war for the glory of Allah.
If you ask a Turkish Sufi Dervish who does that beautiful
swirling dance, you won’t get the literal picture of Islam. You will
rather get a pleasant humanitarian view of the Mystic Sufi
philosophy. But, unfortunately, Mainstream Islam considers Sufis
heretics and they were regularly persecuted by orthodox Muslims
To find out the true meaning of Jihad, you have to look at the
life of Muhammad, his companions and the later rulers and thinkers
of Islam. You will get an extremely violent picture. Even Muhammad’s
immediate successors used the term Jihad to refer to the conquest of
new territory, so I don’t see much scope for misunderstanding here.
No matter what apologists try to tell you about the meaning of
Jihad, to most Muslims it simply means Expansion of Allah’s Kingdom
in the command of Allah himself. If they die in the pursuit they are
a martyr or Sahid, someone who is guaranteed by Allah to go to
heaven straightway without facing the trial in the judgment day.
Islamic scholars like Taqi al din ibn Taymiyyah, Mohammad ibn
abdul Wahhab, Sayyid Qutb, Abdullah Mawdudi, Hasan al Turabi have a
lot to answer for in this matter. Modern Jihadists frequently cite
these scholars as their source of inspiration. They argued that
Muslims are in a cosmic battle against the force of darkness. These
forces of darkness should not be tolerated, and although Allah is
ultimately responsible for the destruction of darkness, Muslims are
required to fight it. That’s why as of today no famous Muslim cleric
or Muslim country condemned terrorism. You see, almost everything of
the western way of life contradicts Islamic belief - the West
automatically becomes the target, hence, Islamic scholars divided
the whole world into two different spheres: Islamic World or Land of
Peace and Un-Islamic World or Land of warfare.
FP: So Islamic terrorists are not misinterpreting Islam?
HS: No, terrorists are not misinterpreting Islam; in fact they
are interpreting Islam very correctly. Theologically, it is a
Muslim’s holy duty to fight until the whole world turns to one Allah
because there can not be any other God. Allah is pretty autocratic
among the Gods and he doesn’t like to co-exist with any other deity.
It sounds funny but its true; how many Muslim countries practice
democracy? Liberalism, individual privacy and freedom, freedom of
speech and freedom of belief - all of this and any other component
of modernity you can think of directly contradicts Islamic belief.
No matter what apologists say, “Islam” and “freedom” are two
opposite words with opposite meanings. You see, unlike Christianity
and Buddhism Islam is not a personal religion; Islam is very
practical, social, highly political, and unspiritual and its goal is
to win the world empire. Islam penetrates even very personal aspects
of human life and dictates. Islamic law or Sharia is considered
divine legislation and it dictates every single aspects of human
life, from using toothpicks to how to perform sex; from slaughtering
animals to what verse you should recite when you are in a toilet
etc. Anything you can think of.
FP: What are your views on Muhammad and his worshippers?
HS: To me, Muhammad is undoubtedly one of the most influential
characters of human history in the sense that billions of Muslims
are still ready to die for him, and it is unique given the extent of
his influence. However, one of Muhammad’s few likable
characteristics was that he never claimed himself to be perfect
although billions of Muslims think so today.
I think Muhammad was always aware of his human shortcomings and
he did everything to ensure that he is not worshipped instead of
God. But, to Muslims Muhammad is sinless, the most perfect and
greatest man who ever lived in this planet, and he is even the
greatest of all prophets. Every Muslim worships Muhammad, knowingly
or unknowingly and reacts with unprecedented violence if he is
defamed by a cartoonist or a novelists or anyone in that matter.
However, if you follow Muhammad biography recorded by famous
Muslim scholars such as Bukhari, Ibn Ishaq, Al tabari you will find
many incidences of Muhammad being far from a perfect, sinless man.
His cruelty towards Jews, Meccan Pagans and his rivals is well
recorded by Muslim historians. He massacred three entire Jewish
tribes - Banu Nadir, Banu Qurayaza and Banu Qaynuqa; killed the
prince of Khaibar and made his wife captive to his tent: there are
numerous examples; you just have to read the Muslim biographers in
any translation you wish.
Apologists of Islam will try to justify these actions with there
hollow logics; but if you are a prophet you should have a better
moral outlook than the average human. Muhammad married 12 or 13
times -- which contradicts his own preaching of a maximum four
marriages, but what I find most disturbing is, Muhammad married his
closest friend Abubakkar’s 6 year old daughter Ayesha. Now if you do
that in a modern civilized world, you will be disgraced as a
pedophile and spend the rest of your life in prison.
In another disturbing incident, Muhammad was attracted to his
adopted son’s wife Zayanab and later even married her. As a leader,
he failed to announce his successor which led to the bloody Shia-Sunni
division in Islam and you see the second, third and fourth Caliphs
of Islam all were assassinated as a result of this power struggle.
These are just a few of the incidents of a very eventful life of a
very influential man. But, as far as I am concerned, Muhammad was no
saint. No doubt he is extremely influential, but I don’t see a
perfect-sinless man in him as Muslims try to idolize.
FP: Let’s talk a bit more about Islam as a totalitarian belief
system – as you discussed earlier.
HS: As I said earlier, Islam is in a cosmic battle against the
un-Islamic world. I think - apart from the mystical Sufi sects, who
are mostly branded as heretics by mainstream Muslims - the rest of
the Islamic world and its belief systems are undoubtedly
totalitarian in nature.
You see, followers of no other religion try to create
international associations of nation-states that are based on
religion. Only Muslims do and they call it ummah or followers of
Muhammad, very similar with socialists and communist
In personal label, Islam tries to penetrate every phase of life;
the sole purpose of Sharia law is to control religious, social and
political life of mankind in all of its aspects. Jihad and Sharia
are two ultimate tools of Islam’s control mechanism. Muhammad’s life
reflects the very nature of a totalitarian system. There was no
separation of church and state; not just a prophet Muhammad
performed as a statesman, lawmaker, judge, community leader and in
many other roles.
So, you can clearly see the beginning was totalitarian in nature.
Muslims are required to follow the Quran, the Hadith (deeds and
words of Muhammad) and the verdict of Islamic scholars in case the
answer is not found in the scriptures. Interestingly, while all
other law is human and constantly evolving, Sharia is divine and
immutable - human intelligence cannot criticize it, it must be
accepted without any doubts and questions.
So, you can see a very tightly controlled society here without
any hope of individual freedom. Sharia contains all sorts of crazy
principles, such as, intolerance towards pagans and Jews, inequality
between man and woman, religious, social and financial restrictions
for non-Muslims citizens, acceptance of slavery and polygamy,
barbaric punishments like chopping hands and feats from opposite
sides to pulling out eyes and beheading -- all sorts of things.
These laws were handed down over a thousand year ago and they
didn’t evolve since then. Clearly Sharia is out of touch and not
compatible in our twenty-first century. In the last thousand years
we have progressed a lot, but the Islamic law and its worldview is
stuck in the medieval desert, for generations Muslims are stuck with
it as well and they need rescue. No surprise, there is hardly any
intellectual progress in Muslim societies. How can there be progress
if they regard the Quran as eternal truth and the final solution for
all the problems? Progress requires change, Islam is unchangeable.
This is why Islam is not just a religion, it is a totalitarian
belief system and Muslims are the first victims of it -- but very
few of them realize that.
FP: How about those Muslim reformers who are trying to bring
Islam into the democratic and modern world? Is there any hope for
their efforts? If they asked you for help, what advice would you
HS: Look, I don’t think you can be a Muslim and a reformer at the
same time; it’s a paradox and contradictory in terms. Islam forbids
reformation, and Muslims feel proud boasting that unlike the Bible,
the Quran didn’t go through different editions and versions; it is
pure, holy and untouched.
Muhammad insisted throughout his life that the Quran is the
literal word of God - the truth once and for all, that’s it. So how
can you bring reformation and remain a true Muslim? That’s a
puzzling contradiction and I think it is misleading too. These
reformers will keep telling you that Islam is the religion of peace
and real Islam doesn’t approve the actions of the Talibans, Islam
has nothing to do with Jihadists etc. You will eventually get tired
of that. This denial is pathetic, you don’t have to go that far to
see if real Islam has anything to do with these barbaric acts or
not. Just read the Quran, Hadith, Sharia - Islamic texts and they
are everywhere. That’s why it is so important to permit debate and
criticism about Islam across the globe. Honest and sharp
intellectual engagement is very crucial to create a democratic and
FP: What advice would you advise to those who want to save
western civilization? How best can we fight our enemy in the total
HS: London , New York , Sydney - all these big cities have one
thing in common: most Muslims go there to improve their economic
condition - big cities are like beauty queens- used by all and loved
Most Muslims have already made it very clear that they have no
intention of being assimilated into the host society; instead they
are repeatedly asking to implement Sharia Law in Canada , UK , and
Australia -- as if it is up to the host society to change instead.
To a Muslim mind, Islam is a universal religion and he hopes some
day the whole of humanity will embrace Islam. So, there is an
element of expansion mentality in them, because Islam is not limited
to home and personal relationship. To Muslims, Islam is a complete
code of life and society must adhere to that code. So, you see, the
world view of Islam is very totalitarian and you have to fight it
intellectually, not just militarily. It is also a war of ideologies,
we must not forget.
Unfortunately, some western societies continue to turn a blind
eye when there is a Muslim-on-Muslim violence: such as, teenagers
forced by migrant parents to follow Islamic codes. Some western
societies are too politically correct to take any action when a
freethinker is attacked for his unbelief, scared of losing the
popular Muslim vote or political support. I believe that the West
must always adhere to its secular principles and take prompt actions
when there is violence against women or somebody is forced to follow
Islamic codes. This will send a very clear message to Islamists and
potential jihadists. There are an increasing number of Islamic
schools in western countries, this is another way to brainwash
children at a very early age and isolate them from the mainstream
society by implying that We are Muslims, they are Christians; we are
different. They eat pig, we don’t; we are different, by forcing
girls to wear hijab sends a clear message: we are sacred, they are
not, and they are whorelike.
So, it is very dangerous to turn a blind eye in such incidences
in the name of promoting multiculturalism. Respect for other
cultures, other values is important and a crucial component of
secularism and democracy; but, if these other values are here to
destroy our own civilization and modernity - then we have fight them
vigorously- with reason, argument, criticism, legal and military
means if it turns into violence- so that our values of civilization
Religious belief is fine; but the practices, literal submission
to scriptures; religious institutions should not be tolerated. By
saying that, a Muslim should have absolute freedom to his personal
religion; but if he jumps up and demands the death penalty of a
writer or preaches hatred in a community he should be disciplined
accordingly by law.
As I said, the West must adhere to its secular principle and
defend its democratic right and freedom at all costs and politicians
should stop being too politically correct and they should be
unapologetic when it comes to defending the core values of
However, we should remember it is not necessarily a battle
between the west and Islam -- as some like to portray it to fulfill
there own agenda. As I said before, Jihadists divide the whole world
into two spheres - Islamic world and un-Islamic world. I won’t do
that. To me, it is the ultimate battle between those who value
freedom, peace and humanity and those who do not, and we must
triumph at all cost for the sake of our own existence.
FP: Hossain Salahuddin, thank you for joining Frontpage
Interview. Thank you for your bravery and your fight for freedom and
HS: It’s an honor. Thanks.