An Islamophobia has been whipped up in several parts of the world, and there are many persons who have severely condemned Islam e,g. Christopher Hitchens, Douglas Murray, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, etc.
Among these critics of Islam is Tasleema Nasreen, the Bangladeshi doctor who had to flee from Bangladesh into India due to fatwas against her and death threats from religious extremists. Even in India she was given threats in West Bengal and attacked in Hyderabad. She then lived in Sweden for some years and now lives in an undisclosed place in Delhi. I have spoken with her a few times on telephone.
Tasleema Nasreen is a brave woman, and in her novel ‘Lajja’ she condemned the attacks on the Hindu minority in Bangladesh following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992. I regard the threats, fatwas and attacks against her as deplorable.
However, her wholesale condemnation of Islam seems to be subjective, stemming probably from her bitter personal experiences, rather than a scientific understanding of religion in general, and a deep study of Islam in particular.
Like Tasleema, I too am an atheist, want abolition of sharia and its replacement by a uniform civil code, and condemn suppression of women.
But there our agreements end.
Tasleema condemns religion totally. I too regard all religions as superstitions, and believe that the truth lies in science, which is never final, but is constantly developing.
However, I also recognise that at this stage of history most people are religious. The poor people ( who constitute the majority in the world ) are religious because their lives are so miserable that without religion many would go mad, and religion provides them a psychological support. Even many of the better off people are religious since the chance factor is still powerful in our lives, so they believe they must propitiate some supernatural being to ward of evils and get benefits.
Religion will no doubt disappear one day, but that will be after a long period of time ( maybe a hundred years ) when science has developed enormously so that we are no longer dependent on the chance factor, and can control our lives.
Religion cannot be abolished. It will disappear when the social basis of religion, i.e. poverty and the exploitation of man by man, will disappear.
Now coming to Islam in particular.
Islam spread from Spain to Indonesia because of its great message of equality, which gave social emancipation to the depressed sections of society, e.g. the lower castes in India.
Also, it inculcated a feeling of brotherhood. Thus, in his short novel ‘Palli Samaj’ ( also called ‘Gramin Samaj’ ) the great Bengali writer Sharad Chandra Chattopadhyaya mentions that the Muslims in Bengal help each other in any misfortune like illness, financial distress, etc, a quality which he did not find among Hindus.
The Prophet’s dictum ” for knowledge go even to China ” ( i.e. seek knowledge everywhere ) bred a spirit of rationality and enquiry, due to which there was at one time great progress in science in the Arab countries.
All this Tasleema Nasreen does not seem to understand, and she only equates Islam with terrorism, killing of non believers, suppression of women, etc. Her understanding is therefore unscientific.
No doubt there are extremists among the Muslims ( as there are in other religions too ), like those who attacked the Twin Towers in New York in 2001, the Mumbai attack in 2008, and the Charlie Hebdo attack in 2015. But these are fringe elements. Most Muslims are peace loving and decent people, as is my own personal experience too.