Liberal Kuwaiti activist Nasser Dashti gave an interview on Sky News Arabia, in which he said that "when religion is presented as an ideological platform, it is more dangerous than a nuclear weapon." Dashti, a member of the Tanweer Center for Culture, said that in order to make progress, a nation needs to criticize its history and confront its old notions and ideas, but that the Islamic nation "to this day, employs rhetoric of veneration and glorification of what happened 1,400 years ago." He further said that he was not surprised by the violence of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and the Popular Mobilization Units. "All ISIS did was to take a camera and point it at our heritage," said Dashti, adding that "ISIS is a product of our own culture," not of the West. The interview aired on January 12.
Following is a transcript:
Nasser Dashti: In the course of history, most religions played a role in controlling their societies. But following wars and conflicts, they reached the realization that the mundane and the spiritual must be kept distinct. The only exception is Islam. To this day, the believers in Islam insist on presenting their religion as an all-encompassing platform for all matters of state and daily life.
Host: Whereas you view it differently…
Nasser Dashti: I view Islam as a spiritual religion, which is no different from any other religion. The followers of Islam have the right to practice their beliefs. The problem, however, lies with those followers who wish to present Islam as an ideological platform. As I’ve said before, when religion is presented as an ideological platform, it is more dangerous than a nuclear weapon.
Host: How come?
Nasser Dashti: Because religion is based on the principle that the rights of God take precedence over the rights of the individual. Therefore, Muslim believers, even honorable ones, perpetrate some acts of evil in the name of religion, because they believe that their religion commands them to accuse people of heresy, to kill, discriminate against, defile, or scorn anyone who subscribes to a different faith. They do this in order to accommodate the “rights” of their God.
It is in their culture to make excuses for the perpetrator at the expense of the victim. If, for example, a man rapes a woman, they say that the man should not be held accountable, because the woman “was not covered up and inflamed his urges”.
I find it peculiar that this culture expects a person to respect a faith that accuses him of heresy, likens him to a dog or a donkey, defiles him, scorns him, dismisses him, and denies him his rights. Despite all this, they expect him to respect the rights of others. Respect should be accorded to an individual, not to an ideology or a faith. Any ideology or faith that is not worthy of respect should not be respected. This is my opinion. According to their logic, we should respect the ideology of the Fascists, of Hitler, of the Nazis, and of ISIS.
The problem of the Muslims is that they are the only nation that is unwilling to employ criticism when it comes to their own history. They act as if their history is overflowing with positive things, and as if it promotes only what is good and shuns the negative. This makes no sense. All nations and all civilizations had good things and bad things. All the nations that made progress and flourished did so when they criticized their history and confronted their old notions and ideas. Not so the Islamic nation, which to this day, employs rhetoric of veneration and glorification of what happened 1,400 years ago, claiming that it was a golden age and that people enjoyed rights back then. I strongly disagree with them on this matter. We cannot adhere to the traditions of our grandparents, fifty years ago, so how can we be expected to adhere to the traditions of 1,400 years ago, and base ourselves on the absurd culture of the oral transmission of past events?
Host: Were you surprised by the violence of ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and the so-called PMU?
Nasser Dashti: No, I wasn’t. On the contrary. All ISIS did was to take a camera and point it at our heritage.
Host: You see this as a reflection of our heritage?
Nasser Dashti: Yes. There is no contradiction between our religious heritage and what ISIS has done. ISIS is not a western product. It is the product of our own culture. Take a look at our school curricula. The Quranic verses that are quoted in the curricula are based on rejecting and ostracizing the other. All of this leads to this culture striking roots.