Sunday, August 28, 2011

Is Islam a Cult? - pt 2

Yesterday I posted the famous definition of a cult by Janja Lalich, Ph.D.and Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.: Characteristics Associated with Cultic Groups.
Today I'd like to take the first few points in the list enumerated by Lalich and Langone and see if they are applicable to Islam.

1. The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader and (whether he is alive or dead) regards his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law. 
There is no doubt that Islam (like many religions...) encourages what might be fairly termed excessive and unquestioning devotion, as evidenced in this hadith from Bukari:
The Prophet said "None of you will have faith till he loves me more than his father, his children and all mankind." (Sahih Bukhari 1:2:14

2. Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
This, I think, is one of the most worrying aspects of Islam in that its adherents seem to lose all critical faculties - perhaps because of the infamous injunction in the Qur'an:
"O ye who believe! Ask not questions about things which, if made plain to you, may cause you trouble. But if ye ask about things when the Qur'an is being revealed, they will be made plain to you, Allah will forgive those: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Forbearing. Some people before you did ask such questions, and on that account lost their faith." (Qur'an 5:101-102)
We should also remember that apostasy (leaving the religion) in Islam is considered a heinous enough crime for the punishment to be death, according to some interpretations.

3. Mind-altering practices (such as meditation, chanting, speaking in tongues, denunciation sessions, and debilitating work routines) are used in excess and serve to suppress doubts about the group and its leader(s)
Prayers five times a day? Fasting for a month? Madrassas where young children are encouraged to do nothing but learn the Qur'an off by heart by means of repetitive chanting, even when they have little or no idea what it is they are repeating? I think we can call these mind-altering practices.

4. The leadership dictates, sometimes in great detail, how members should think, act, and feel (for example, members must get permission to date, change jobs, marry or leaders prescribe what types of clothes to wear, where to live, whether or not to have children, how to discipline children, and so forth).
How many times have we been told that Islam "is a way of life"? What other religion dictates the minutiae of the behaviour of its followers to such mind-numbing level as Islam? Here is a link to an Islamic Q&A site where Muslims can ask an Imman for a ruling (fatwah) on any number of personal things. As an example, there are eight fatwahs on the etiquette of sneezing... (I kid you not)

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