Monday, December 17, 2007

Make Me a Muslim

Cranmer has posted on this programme, aired last night on Channel 4. It was Big Brother meets The Retreat, but worse. The programme makers had selected a group of people who were as un-Muslim as you could get (the beer-swilling taxi driver who has bacon sandwiches for breakfast and sits alone at Harrogates only pole-dancing club; the soft porn model with 2 small children; the alcoholic homosexual cross-dresser), and then giving a local mosque 3 weeks to make good Muslims out of them.

The programme illustrated all sorts of things. Some of the Muslims clearly didn't realise that they were being set up for ridicule - the guy in the Arab scarf walking round the town talking to women in the hope of finding wife for the gay man just looked silly. The imam himself came across very well - he was unfazed by what he found out about the participants, but still very clear on what Sharia law said about things, as he carted of crates of booze, pornography, skimpy clothes and bacon from their houses.

The 3 things that struck me most forcibly were

1. that the programme showed what a depraved society we've become. Soft porn, or pop videos to give it another name, is accepted front page material in newsagents and on the screen. This programme was even pre-watershed, for goodness sake. As well as obvious stuff like drink and sex, the Brits were foul-mouthed, intolerant, proud, argumentative, and unable to accept that they might possibly have something to learn.

2. What a major culture clash there is between Islam and what's become accepted Western values. Islam itself is of course much more strongly cultural than Christianity, being bound up with the Arab tongue in the Koran, and having a conversion model that is much more about assimilation into a particular culture, rather than breaking down cultural and race barriers.

3. How much Christians have bailed out from presenting a discipleship of everyday life. Seeing the imam talk about clothes and how what we wear affects our spirits brought me up short, because the church has abandoned teaching on the small things of everyday life: clothing, food, spending, what we read, what we watch, mobile phones, punctuality, etc. So if people want a faith that makes spiritual sense of, and incorporates, the nitty gritty things, we have left the field wide open for others. That's not to say we need lots of laws, heaven forbid, but we need perhaps to do a bit more work on what a distintively Christian lifestyle looks like.


  1. Many people talk about the need to reform Islam. Now you can stop talking and start helping.

    With the help of our readers we went through the Koran and removed every verse that we believe did not come from Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate. However, it is possible that we missed something, and we could use your help. If you find verses in the reformed version of the Koran that promote violence, divisiveness, religious or gender superiority, bigotry, or discrimination, please let us know the number of the verse and the reason why it should be removed. Please email your suggestions to

    When we finish editing process, we would like to publish Reform Koran in as many languages as possible. If you could help with translation or distribution of the Reform Koran, please email us at If you could provide financial support, please visit our support page.

    In Memoriam of Aqsa Parvez.

  2. That's a very interesting idea. What is striking is how many verses in the Koran these criteria cover.

    There is a bigger question here, which is about how we know what God is like. If you believe that God doesn't promote bigotry, violence, gender superiority, the killing of converts to other faiths etc., then on what basis? If it's other verses in the Koran, then on what basis are these made more significant than the more objectionable ones?

    In the end it's difficult to do this without having to appeal to a standard beyond the Koran for your view of God. And once you've done that, the Koran becomes a radically different document from what Muslims say it is.

    Christians had this problem with Marcion in the 2nd century, a heretic who wanted to edit the Bible down to the bits he agreed with. In the end his source of authority wasn't the Bible itself, but Gnostic ideas which came from other belief systems.

  3. "If you believe that God doesn't promote bigotry, violence, gender superiority, the killing of converts to other faiths etc., then on what basis?"

    The basis is that God is the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.

  4. Fine, but that doesn't really answer my point. If you are going to select particular verses from the Koran and not others, you have to be able to say why, or else it just looks like you're cherry-picking texts to fit your particular view of God.

    Christians, unfortunately, have been doing this with the Bible for years. For most of them, they had a picture of God which came from the culture around them, and then dissected the Bible according to their unbiblical criteria. To gain support among Muslims for what you're doing, you need to demonstrate either a) that what you're doing is consistent with the Koran or b) that the Koran isn't the ultimate authority for Muslims.

  5. "If you are going to select particular verses from the Koran and not others, you have to be able to say why"

    We DO say why. The verses that we removed either contradict other verses or contradict the notion that God is Compassionate.

    "what you're doing is consistent with the Koran"

    What's the better way than is to remove inconsistencies from the Koran?