Criticism of Islam Must Belong to Islam

In the following interview, a German scholar of Islam makes the case for a possible internal liberalization of Islam, in effect an Islamic “Reformation”.

If Abdel-Hakim Ourghi is not engaging in taqiyya, he must be touchingly naïve. In order to undergo a “Reformation”, Islam would have to return to its original principles, as laid down in its core scriptures. And we all know what that would mean. Why does he not know it at least as well as you and I do?

Many thanks to JLH for this translation from Politically Incorrect:

Criticism of Islam Must Belong to Islam

At the opening of the Third Cologne Festival of Philosophy, the Islam scholar Abdel-Hakim Ourghi will speak on the topic: “What did Mohammed want?” Ourghi is the head of the department for Islamic Theology and Religious Pedagogy at the Pedagogical High School of Freiburg. His areas of concentration are Koran research, Sunni fatwas, the Ibadi movement[1] in North Africa, and Islamic theology. Since 2009 he has been working on a habilitation[2] project with the working title, “The Dialogue between God and the Devil. A de-mythologizing hermeneutic.” The native Algerian is considered one of the leading Koran experts.

Tomorrow at 9 PM, Lamya Kador and Eberhard Schockenhoff will discuss “Dying for Allah. Dying for God,” moderated by Joachim Frank.

The interview with Ourghi, conducted by the General-Anzeiger Bonn follows:

Mr. Ourghi, did Mohammed want his followers to behead infidels and burn them in cages in front of running cameras?

The people you are talking about are a minority of extremists or Salafists who should not cause all Muslims to be viewed with suspicion.

And Mohammed?

He can be understood, in one sense, as the proclaimer of a religion — applying to the time from 610 to 622. After he moved from Mecca to Medina, we are dealing with a statesman, who repeatedly used force against unbelievers, Jews and Christians. It falls to Muslims to no longer mask these violent aspects. That includes seeing certain Koran verses as out-of-date.

Christianity also had its phases of intolerance, before it passed through the filter of the Enlightenment. Is Islam lacking this relativization?

Islam is lagging behind when it comes to a modern Renaissance and an Enlightenment that empowers criticism. The core of the Western Enlightenment — individual freedom — has been impounded for centuries by conservative scholars and political depots.

The Catholic Church has a Pope and councils. Is Islam lacking such authoritative agencies?

This pluralism is no disadvantage, just the opposite. We have only canonical sources, the Koran and the tradition of the Prophet, which is also controversial. There have been attempts at reform in Islam from the 8th century to the present — for which the reformers often paid with their lives. A reform in the European context requires a historical-critical reading of these sources, to scrutinize Islam’s claim to domination and revive its ethical-humanistic strength.

The previous and the present federal president have both declared that Islam belongs to Germany. What do you think of that?

Such brave words are a balm on the soul of Muslims who live here. Of course Islam has belonged in Europe since the seventh century in Spain. But an Islam without criticism of Islam does not belong in Germany, and an Islam as an ideology of power is doomed to failure in Europe.

What would have to change to make Islam compatible with Western democracies?

First, the freedom of the individual as the greatest good must be enshrined in Islam. Constructive criticism of religion must not be perceived as insult, so that Muslims no longer slip into the role of victims. And insistence on the claim of the universal truth of Islam signifies intolerance of other religions and of non-believers.

But there are countries where Islam is the state religion and used by the ruling powers as an instrument of dominance. The prospects for reform there are dismal…

In this case, we are talking about Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. We are dealing with a double standard: “Cruel Islam” and sharia apply to the poor population, but the rulers do not behave Islamically. In Germany, where Muslims are a minority, that is fundamentally different. Here, dialogue can build bridges to other religions.

Who should be having those discussions here in Germany?

I am critical of the Muslim umbrella organizations in Germany, which, like DITIB, are guided by state agencies from the countries of origin. We need a council of Muslims which accepts representatives of all types, and that began with the Muslim Forum of Germany.[3]

How optimistic are you about the necessary reform?

It can succeed if Islam no longer sees itself as a militant community, striving for mastery over the whole world. Second, Islam must be seen as an individual, spiritual connection between person and God. It is religious ethics with spiritual values.


1.   Which belongs to neither the Sunni nor the Shia.
2.   Major post-doctoral project.
3.   Formed by a group of liberal Muslims as a counterbalance to the aforementioned umbrella organizations that purport to speak for all German Muslims.

29 thoughts on “Criticism of Islam Must Belong to Islam

  1. It is 1,000 Martian years hence, and you are a Martian scholar of Earth Studies who finds this text in the ruins of the long-dead third planet. It discusses something called Islam. From this text, what can you infer about the content of Islam? Almost nothing.

    • From this text I believe such a person could infer that Islam primarily supports a form of theocratic despotism somehow and that the discussion is about how to change that through declaring certain parts of it “outdated”. But that’s about all you can tell. A Martian scholar would probably infer a greater degree of optimism about the potential success of this approach than actually existed at the time.

  2. Wishfull thinking. The very bad and terrible education of muslim kids, beginning at school, makes the islam a hopeless lost relgion now and in the furure. There is no religion which is housing so many illiterate stupid people, like visable in islam. Indeed, muslims in Europe have to change. The distance between our modern society and the primitive miserable perverted backwords teachings of islam, Koran, in reality Muhammed, are causing an unbridgeable gap of cultural deprivation in civilization and knowledge. In fact there was never a place of adaptation in Europe for muslims, because muslims won’t learn, prefer to stay in their religious mania, and support the sadistic robber captain and war criminal Muhammed, instead of hanging on the peaceful teachings of Jesus Christ. I’m an neutral observer. I’m atheist.

    The pagan religious mania islam, which all muslims prefer, is a danger for a modern society in which people believe and trust in democracy, a free mind, freedom of speech, who wish to be protected from a fascist desert second-class pagan religion from the very past.

    This inhuman religious mania plagiarism religion islam never paid royalties to the jews.

  3. This guy seems a good lad, but what he states is plain impossible. Islam cannot be reformed, otherwise that would have happened: it had more that a thousand years to evolve.

    The reason judaism has evolved is because there’s not “untouchable” book. Though there’s holy books, nothing is mandatory. Same happens with christianity. The only mandatory thing is what Jesus said, but nobody really knows what he raelly said. There’s gospels, but they’re not 100% safe (far of it, indeed), so dismissing any of them is possible for any christian. And the Old Testament are just stories, the Catholic Church dismisses most of it when it comes to doctrine.

    In Islam you have the Q’ran, which was dictated by Mohammed itself, and the Hadith, which was not, but that are far MORE reliable about Mohammed’s life than gospels are about Jesus. So you have the “untouchable” Q’ran and the “almost untouchable” Hadith. Most of pacific trends in Islam, like sufism, had to interpret the Q’ran in a way so metaphoric and creative than you could be reading instead some washing machine instructions and reach the same conclussions. Obviously, they’re (and they will be) minoritary: people like metaphors up to a point.

    He can try to reform Islam, which involves denying the Medina doctrine and Mohammed himself during this period. He should try, since there’s nothing to lose. But since he’s basically facing and disavowing the main prophet of his religion, he’s very likely to create just a very minoritary heresy.

    The big problem with Islam is that it is fixed in time. There’s no way to overrule Mohammed himself. Christianity and Judaism evolved because their sources were unreliable. And the more unreliable the sources (judaism), the more it has evolved.

    • Christians did not evolve, they/we did however, stray from time to time from the Truth. Jews did not evolve, they are God’s chosen people, but rejected his son and they are who they were then. The difference between Christianity and every other religion is the belief in the Resurrection and the primary directive to love God and love your neighbor as yourself! God is love and any faith or religious doctrine that teaches otherwise is of no consequence.

  4. Criticism of Islam must belong to Islam???? That is precisely why Islam has never had or ever will have, a reformation, because anyone who has a minimum of authority in Islam and decides to put himself in danger by uttering the many things that is inherently wrong in Islam is killed! You want to speak the truth about Islam as a Muslim? Then you may also expect a very short life! The person in this article is nothing more than a taqiyya speaker trying to spread some more of that Islamic BS through dawah, but my biggest concern is how many Westerners are willing to believe this liar and that Islam, is after all, just a ‘religion of peace’?

    • Whereas infidels might wish to read the statement as meaning “self-criticism must be a part of Islam” or “Muslims need to start looking critically at Islam,” the average Muslim would surely think it means “No non-Muslim should be permitted to criticize Islam (and of course no Muslim would criticize it either).”

  5. The Christian Reformation reformed dogma not doctrine. If the Islamic Reformation could even take place, it would have to reform doctrine. Of course, that is not going to happen. But, if it did happen, if the Koran were edited to become civilized, there would be nothing left.

    Christianity’s violence occurs when Christ’s teachings are not followed. Islamic violence occurs as a result of Mohamed’s teachings.

  6. What a fool.

    Even if they managed a Renaissance with Islam and turned it into some touchy-feely love fest of a hippie religion that didn’t hurt a flea…

    …they would never get rid of the people who stick to the fundamentals of what it is now and what it was in 622. And those same people would still do what they do: chop off heads and burn people in cages.

    When you reform something, you still have the fringe who believe the “real thing” is what it was before the reformation. (Just like when a band changes their lead singer and their whole sound, and you have all the old fans who will never consider the new stuff to be “the real thing.”)

  7. I think we have only two choices: fight them or argue with them. we probably have to do both.

    Reasons for a little optimism:
    1. We have fought them many times before and have done OK.
    2. They have had long periods of decline. E.g. from the 20’s til now. Also. after Vienna in 1683, there has been a general decline.
    3. They are structually a weak culture: they don’t have female resources, their science and engineering are poor, their education is poor, creativity null, they have no love or humor or joie de vivre.
    4. Their people have become apostates in small numbers. It IS possible. Courage is needed, however.
    5. They do listen to us sometimes. At least they try to rebut our arguments.
    6. They have tremendous internecine rivalries: Sunni vs Shia vs other factions galore.
    7. For some mysterious reasons, some of their countries do want to be western allies: Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states. former Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, Malaysia, Indonesia…,as if they are trying to grow up, dipping their toes into normalcy. Maybe this is kitman or taquiya.
    8. They probably do not like life much, and such folks make weak enemies (evidence is attitude toward death.)

    Of course, the reasons not to be sanguine are abundant also, maybe more persuasive, and these are discussed every day on GoV.

  8. Excellent comments on Bodissey’s infantile fantasy.
    Bodissey’s “Well gosh a golly, Islam needs a reformation because Christianity had a reformation” B.S. suggests that before the Enlightenment Christianity was just as bad as Islam, and Christians were cutting off heads and practicing female genital mutilation and forcing women to wear burkas and declaring jihad. It also equates Jesus and His teachings with the bloody Butcher of Mecca and his teachings.
    Bodissey needs a crash course on the New Testament, the Koran, and the lives of Saints like St. Francis, St. Anthony, St. Thomas and the lives of Christian martyrs and contrast that with the bloody history of the mullah’s in Islam.
    I know the response will be “But what about the Crusades?” The Crusades were a defensive war against the Islamic jihad that started four centuries earlier and that wiped out much of the Christian culture in the middle east and Africa, invaded Europe in the 8th century and was kept from overrunning all of Europe at the battle of Tours.
    Islam must be defeated the same way that Nazism was defeated, and then the people must be re-educated and civilized. This will be a massive undertaking, but we have no other choice.

    • Normally, a comment with this level of nasty ad-hominem verbiage would be deleted without approval. However, I’m curious: why do you call this “Bodissey’s infantile fantasy”? That is: did you think I was the author of this piece??

      If so, perhaps your ability to read for comprehension is less than it might be. I wouldn’t necessarily describe it as “infantile”, but certainly not up to scratch.

      • Also Mr Fouard should be aware that FGM dates back at least to the ancient Egyptians, whose descendants, the Coptic Christians, still practise it; some Jews used to, not sure if they still do.

    • Well, James Foard, I have long been of the opinion that the ability to distinguish between a truism and an induced perception is a defining characteristic of many of our species. Of many that is, but far from all I regret to have to point out.

      And, indeed, to those that do try it is but little more than one further tiny step on the long, difficult road that must be trodden as the evolution of the human mind painfully progresses, and it does not come easy to any of us.

      S III

    • I’m with the Baron, James. At what point in this article did you decide that it belonged to the Baron? And BTW, the Nazis’ were never defeated, only the German military machine was defeated, not the people behind the ideology that drove it.

  9. The response to the First Question says it all:

    “The people you are talking about are a minority of extremists or Salafists who should not cause all Muslims to be viewed with suspicion.”

    Notice how the subject of Mohammed is avoided? Rather than admit that Mohammed was the most evil man that ever lived, and Mohammed’s views are the root of the problem with Islam, Mr Ourghi immediately changes the subject.

    Mr Ourghi may be well intentioned (or not), but he is WRONG.

    Islam cannot be reformed unless Mohammed’s example is denied – and even Mr Ourghi is unwilling to do this.

    Ourghi’s position is delusional.

    Also, for a Koranic scholar, he seems to be completely unaware of the fact that the Koran and hadith were completely fabricated and altered after the time of Uthman (which is when Islam says the the Koran was standardized). Ourghi is either ignorant or completely lying. Given the deliberate evasion in the first question I’d say the latter.

    “An Historical Critique of Islam’s Beginnings – Jay Smith” [72 mins]

    This video destroys the Koran and the Islamic narrative. How can a “leading” Koranic scholar like Mr Oughi not be aware of the latest scholarship and archeological findings which PROVE the claims of Islam are false?

    • Moa, the phrase ‘Koranic scholar’ is somewhat of an oxymoron I’m afraid. ‘Proslelytizing Interpreter’ and peddler of the moronic ramblings of a murderous seventh century sociopathic psychopath would perhaps be more to the point I suspect.

      S III

  10. “If Abdel-Hakim Ourghi is not engaging in taqiyya, he must be touchingly naïve”

    Please; it’s 2015. Enough of this “if”. One reasonably infers from the ingredients of the case:

    Ingredient #1: Ourghi is a scholar of Islam.

    Ingredient #2: Ourghi is a Muslim himself, with years of life experience in Islam.

    Ingredient #3: We know for a fact — based upon mountains and mountains of data and oceans and oceans of dots that scream to high Heaven to be connected — that Islam is overwhelmingly diseased, evil, and deadly to all Mankind.

    Place ingredients in a bowl of rational thinking. Mix with 1/2 cup of the lard of reasonable common sense, 1 cup of the milk of human kindness for all the millions of innocent victims of Islam whose mutilated, disfigured bodies and tormented souls cry out to us across the ages, and 2 cups of the clear, clean water of elementary intelligence.

    Let stand for 14 years (since September 11, 2001). And then DON’T stand for any rhetoric that implies that any Muslim on God’s green Earth could ever possibly be trusted. Especially one with ingredients #1 and #2, for crying out loud.

  11. Death Cults do not get a pass, whether they’re started by rhesus monkey sellers like Jim Jones or pedophile maniacs like Mohammad.

    Islam deserves nothing but excoriation until it lays down the Sword- or is destroyed by its own arrogant malignancy.

  12. According to Montesquieu:

    – a despotism is supported by fear
    – a monarchy is supported by tradition
    – a republic is supported by virtue

    The only thing that Islam supports is despotism, arguably a despotic monarchy since there is tradition involved, but it is primarily a tradition of despotism based on fear of the despot Allah and his human despot slave. (And the human despot is considered the slave of the “true” despot Allah, for example king Abdullah of Jordan’s name means “slave of Allah.”)

    The virtue needed to support a republic can’t be found within Islam, as this virtue requires that people be able to handle things like the publishing of Mohammed cartoons and, more importantly, criticism of beliefs without trying to assassinate people or otherwise destroy them.

    It doesn’t even support a traditional monarchy as the traditions involved in that were never specified by Mohammad, which is what resulted in the Sunni-Shia schism. To this very day the various despots are still fighting over how to organize just a monarchy! Forget anything about republics if you can’t even figure out monarchy simply because Mohammed didn’t provide the details.

    Without reference to any outside philosophy, a revision of Islam (not a reform as we can see that “reform” in Islam means Salafi/Wahabi fundamentalism) that could support the virtue necessary for a republic would take, at the very least, 500 years and that is a generous estimate that assumes it is even possible.

    The only way such a revision could happen any sooner, assuming it even can happen, would be if 1) there is consistent Western/outside opposition to and open defiance against despotic thinking and tactics by Muslims and 2) Muslims use infidel philosophy to inform the process even if they try to pretend otherwise.

  13. “Of course Islam has belonged in Europe since the seventh century in Spain” — but Muslims don’t like to apply the same rule to religions that were being practiced in various places before the Islamic conquests. Odd, isn’t it?

  14. And this was my response to a quote from the original article:

    “Of course Islam has belonged in Europe since the seventh century in Spain. ”

    Big, thundering, resounding ‘Nope’. It came as a conqueror and got kicked out again, eventually. If we were to go by the logic of that statement, all former colonial powers would “belong” forever to every country in the world they had set foot on at one point in history. Neither the colonists’ nor the colonized’s descendants see it that way today. Why should we?

    • Yes, that statement was about as dumb as saying that a weird cult of Napoleon I belongs in Egypt just because Napoleon managed to invade Egypt at one point.

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