The BBC produce a range of Bitesize revision notes for GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) pupils in Britain. This set on Islam consistently presents the apparently benign side of Islam uncritically and ignores or minimises the cruel, domineering side which is to be found abundantly throughout the Koran and Hadiths.
For instance, HERE is one of the several verses sanctioning sex-slavery of captured non-Muslim women:
“Prophet, We have made lawful to you the wives to whom you have granted dowries and the slave girls whom God has given you as booty.” Qur’an 33:50
However the surrounding text does its best to dilute the verse’s import. Firstly it claims that the verse only “appears to suggest” what is actually crystal clear. Then it implies that it does not reflect the “true meaning of the Qur’an” since scholars have been struggling to explain such “difficulties”.
And HERE the text simply uses a false reference to support the idea of racial equality in Islam. The following quote is usually claimed to be part of the Final Sermon (that is the one in which Mohammed says “Treat women well for they are as domestic animals with you”, by the way):
“No Arab is superior to a non-Arab, no coloured person to a white person, nor a white person to a coloured person except by Taqwa (piety).” Al-Tirmidhi
Here it is attributed to Al-Tirmidhi but in fact it comes from neither Al-Tirmidhi nor the real source of the Final Sermon, Al-Tabari. It is a totally modern invention dating back no further than 1987.
And HERE the singer Cat Stevens, who converted to become Yusuf Ali, is presented as “a famous Muslim working to promote peace and tolerance” with his charity work and Islamic songs. But there is another side to Yusuf Ali which the BBC do not consider it necessary to tell pupils about.
Regarding tolerance, HERE he is calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie.
And regarding peace, HERE he is (at 2:00) praying to Allah to “give us victory over the kuffar”, revealing the perennial hostility toward non-Muslims at the heart of Islam. Yusuf Ali did not compose the line. It comes from verse 2:286 in the Koran and is widely used as a ritual prayer in mosques throughout the world.
For those who do not know, “kuffar” is a derogatory term for all non-Muslims, including even British GCSE students.
But we will concentrate on the section about war and peace, since that is what concerns non-Muslims most about Islam, and respond to statements in the text:
Item 4 – What does Islam teach about war and peace?
“The word Islam means submission and peace.”
Anyone who knows the first thing about Islam should know that this is untrue. Islam means submission, and submission alone. The two words just share a common root. The author is simply misleading students, the only question being whether it is knowingly or in ignorance.
“The Qur’an teaches that Allah wants Muslims to control their aggression and approach others with peace.”
“Do not let your hatred of people incite you to aggression.” Qur’an 5:3
It is actually 5:2 but the relevant bit says “let not the hatred of some people in (once) shutting you out of the Sacred Mosque lead you to transgression (and hostility on your part)”.
It refers to a specific episode in Mohammed’s military conflict with the Meccans but its use here illustrates an invariable principle of Islamic apologetics. Relatively benign sounding quotes are always presented as universal principles whereas cruel and violent ones always refer only to specific circumstances.
Moreover, according to orthodox Islamic tradition, 5:2 has been abrogated (superseded) by the ferocious 9:5, as shown HERE (just hover over the “(abr 9:5)”. It would be only fair to point this out to pupils.
Item 5 – What is Jihad?
“Jihad means ‘to struggle in the way of Allah’, and refers at least as much to an inner or personal spiritual struggle as it does to war and fighting.”
Jihad certainly means “to struggle in the way of Allah” but is used overwhelmingly in the Koran and Hadiths to mean spreading Allah’s dominion by non-violent or violent means as necessary.
“Most Muslim scholars agree there are two levels of jihad, and that of these, greater jihad is the more important.”
It is not true that most Muslim scholars agree on this. As Professor David Cook writes in his book Understanding Jihad:
“In reading Muslim literature — both contemporary and classical — one can see that the evidence for the primacy of spiritual jihad is negligible. Today it is certain that no Muslim, writing in a non-Western language (such as Arabic, Persian, Urdu), would ever make claims that jihad is primarily nonviolent or has been superseded by the spiritual jihad. Such claims are made solely by Western scholars, primarily those who study Sufism and/or work in interfaith dialogue, and by Muslim apologists who are trying to present Islam in the most innocuous manner possible.”
The concept of inner struggle, known as the greater jihad, has spread around the world and is widely assumed to be a genuine part of Mohammed’s original Islam. However, it is a much later idea originating in a hadith, generally regarded as weak or fabricated, from the 11th century.
“Most Muslims are not pacifists, and believe it is justifiable to struggle to defend Islam, for justice, or in self-defence, and to use force if necessary. If all peaceful means fail, a Muslim should be ready to fight to defend the ummah against aggression, to defend the oppressed, or to combat injustice. This is lesser jihad.”
A pupil might be justified in asking “If this is jihad then what is the bombing, shooting, beheading and mowing people down with motor vehicles that we see taking place on a daily basis to the cry of ‘Allahu akbar’ ”?
“According to traditional teachings, war is acceptable as long as:
 the war has a justified cause
 the war is a last resort
 the war is to protect Allah’s creation
 the war aims to restore peace
 the war is controlled by a religious leader
 the war is not fought as an act of aggression
 the war is not fought to gain territory
A war cannot be described as jihad if:
 the war is for political reasons
 the purpose of the war is to force people to convert to Islam
 the war puts women and children at risk
 the war involves destruction of homes or places of worship
 the war is likely to destroy trees, crops and animals”
This is a very odd list. It has little overlap with the rules of war of Abu-Bakr, the first Caliph or those of the Sharia (see The Reliance of the Traveller section o9.10-15) or even the archived Bitesize version
so what tradition does it actually reflect?
Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are so vague as to be meaningless (when was an aggressor ever short of a justification?)
Number 5 is incorrect. It is not just a religious leader required but the religious leader, the Caliph.
Mohammed certainly contravened numbers 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 (unless Arabia simply fell into his hands, and enslavement and rape do not count as harm).
Item 7 – What does pacifism mean in Islam?
“Peace is central to Islam.”
Peace between Muslims may be central to Islam but in the Islamic scriptures and tradition there is no concept of peace between Muslims and non-Muslims other than that based on Muslim domination and non-Muslim subjugation.
Mohammed expressed his view on the matter thus: “Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves.” (48:29)
“If the enemy inclines towards peace, then you should also incline towards peace and trust in Allah, for He is the One that hears and knows all.” Qur’an 8:61
Once again, this verse refers to a specific phase of Mohammed’s military campaign against the Meccans. If it is to be claimed as a universal principle then the same could equally apply to this:
“Therefore do not falter or sue for peace when you have gained the upper hand. Allah is on your side and will not grudge you the recompense of your labours.” (47:35)
“Islam teaches that prejudice and discrimination of any kind are wrong, because we are all creations of Allah and are therefore equal.”
This is nonsense. Islam is founded on a radical discrimination between believers (“the best of peoples” 3:110) and unbelievers (“the worst of creatures” 98:6). The BBC should explain why, if Allah regards all his creations as equal, he intends to torture for eternity all those of them who do not believe in him.
Item 8 – How do Muslims work for peace?
In a world ablaze with jihad violence (nearly 30,000 deadly attacks since 9/11) the text asks not “What is it about Islam that inspires such bloodshed?” but “How do Muslims work for peace?” In answer it cites a disaster relief charity Muslim Aid, reminding us that:
“Muslims have an obligation to give a percentage of their income to charity. This is known as zakah, one of the Five Pillars of Islam.”
“The mission of this organisation is based on the teachings of Islam.”
However this presents a problem. Zakah (or zakat) is the Islamic religious tax intended for charity but it is prohibited in Sharia law that non-Muslims should be recipients (see The Reliance of the Traveller section h8.24.
Muslim Aid claim to provide aid without discriminating on religious grounds. Good for them, but if they do so then it should be pointed out that their work is, at least in part, not based on the teachings of Islam but in contravention of them.
[Update – In October 2016 the UK Charity Commission appointed an interim manager to Muslim Aid because of financial irregularities and governance issues]
But the author saves the best till last, the most misrepresented Koranic quote of all, employed ignorantly or mendaciously by politicians and proselytising imams everywhere:
“Whoever saved a life; it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.” Qur’an 5:32
An honest use of this quote would present the whole of 5:32 plus the following verse 5:33 with an attempt to put them in context:
For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth. (5:32)
The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom. (5:33)
To explain, in 5:32 Allah is not presenting a universal principle but merely chiding the Jews for failing to follow the instruction he originally gave them. Taken in conjunction with 5:33 the two verses constitute a blood chilling warning to anyone, particularly Jews, who plan to commit corruption in the land (ie cross Mohammed/Allah).
Poor kids – with half truths and untruths like these presented to them as facts, what chance have they got to come to a realistic understanding of Islam? None, and that appears to be the BBC’s intention.