What’s Liberating about Islam? – by Rita Karlsen


“What’s liberating about Islam is that one is spared from having to think.”  This, essentially, is how a woman explained to me the change that had taken place in her life since her conversion to Islam.  Since then, I’ve thought about her many times, especially because at that time I didn’t know very much about Islam.  Now I’ve learned more, have gotten to know many more Muslims, and just begun to worry about her lack of thought.

When she explained what was liberating about Islam, it amounted, more or less, to the following: “There are rules for everything.  I’m spared from having to think.  I just have to learn the rules, and then act.  So I know that I’m doing the right thing.  It’s liberating.”

To me, it sounded as if she had entered her second childhood.  She was an adult, but had freed herself of responsibility for her actions.  Responsibility lay elsewhere.  Later, to be sure, her explanation caused me a good deal of unease, mainly because I have become acquainted with a number of the rules she lives by.  When she decided to become a Muslim, it was a free choice, but having made that choice she is not free to choose which Islamic rules she will follow and which she will not.

I have since mentioned her attitude to other Muslim women, and to a large extent they shared it.  But these are women who were born into Muslim families, and who thus face another “challenge,” as they call it: namely, the family.  The “family” in question, however, is not a standard-issue Western family consisting of mom, dad, and two kids, but rather an extended family that includes father and mother, their five children, plus the father’s siblings and their offspring, plus the mother’s siblings and their offspring, and, as time goes by, the spouse’s equally sprawling clan.  And then there’s the “community,” in which it isn’t necessarily people’s national origin that shapes their identity (there is, for example, a great difference between a Pakistani from a big city and one from a rural village), but rather the sheer fact that they are Muslims.

If, in such a context, you don’t follow the established rules, you have enough to fight against.  In addition, these are collectivist cultures, so the struggle that you need to undertake is not an individual one; everything you say or do involves others in the family – it affects other people than oneself.  The responsibility lies in the rules, and a violation of them, or an attempt to redefine them, will have consequences for the rules themselves.  Precisely for this reason, it is “only” the scholars who can interpret the rules.  It is only they who have sufficient authority to say how Islam should be understood and lived out.  If an individual starts making such interpretations, complete chaos may result.  Yes, the individual may begin to think for himself or herself, decide for him-or-herself what is right and wrong, and (possibly) accept the consequences of the choice.

The overwhelming majority of my Muslim friends lead lives divided between Western liberal values and Islamic rules.  But they “shop” big time.  They wear hijab or other ethnic garments for some occasions, keep a change of clothing in their purse if necessary (or in the trunk of a friend’s taxicab), they sneak drinks (but don’t eat pork), they attend mosque irregularly, they fast, celebrate Eid, have boyfriends, get plastic surgery, some submit to marriages arranged by their families but later divorce, others have their families “arrange” marriages with somebody they’ve found themselves, they give their children Muslim names and send them to Koran school for the sake of appearances. They do all this and more, all to avoid friction or conflicts with Muslims. This also explains why they marry “their own” – it’s simpler, they say.  “How would I get a non-Muslim to understand – and live with – all this two-faced stuff we have to do?” one woman asked me.

So I sit here and wonder: we are always discussing Muslims’ living conditions and rights, always fretting about religious freedom, human rights and integration, and always doing so in a context in which it is “we” (the majority) who are defined as the problem.  “We” want “them” to be like us (assimilation). But can it be that this is simply an internal matter, an issue that can only be resolved within the Muslim community itself?  Can it be that various liberal values have become so internalized in at least some Muslims that the fatwas are beginning to lose their value?  Have they led Islamic scholars to fear that they’re losing power – and thus causing those scholars to tighten their control?

Here in Norway, we saw it in our recent debate on hijab police uniforms, and will see it in our coming debate on religious head coverings for judges in the courtroom; we saw it in connection with the Danish Muhammad cartoons, in the French debate on face coverings, in the British dustup about sharia courts; and we’ll probably also see it in the debate about the Swiss ban on minarets – namely, Muslims who don’t really feel at all insulted or wounded, but who welcome these debates as opportunities to redefine Islam’s rules.

These are Muslims who have been rejected and neglected by conservative Muslims – with the aid of a media establishment that has chosen to serve as a professional mourner for this world’s 1.5 billion Muslims.  While all the media handwringing benefits some Muslims, it makes life tough for other believers who genuinely aspire to clean up the House of Islam (to at least some extent), but who are silenced by some people’s eagerness to “understand” alleged Muslim “offense.”

This piece originally appeared on the website of Human Rights Service, www.rights.no, and has been translated from the Norwegian by Bruce Bawer.

  • Robert Bernier

    Every American should see this video !

    The ambition of Islam to conquer the world.
    For centuries Islam of the militants have been on the march to conquer the world. We did not notice because we chose not to notice. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in
    1920 by Hassan al-Banna in Egypt and was in deep confrontation with the Egyptian government. The current goals for Islam to achieve global domination for a Muslim Caliphate: a world under strict Islamic “Sharia” law, pulling Muslims back to the 7th Century.

    Consult : http://xrl.us/bf66jj

  • truthywood

    Search google images with this text “Church Masque” , There is not a single Christian majority country in world where both Masque and Churches are side by side, You will find hundreds of photos from Muslim majority countries where Churches and Masques are side by side. So that means when Christian are majority they don't allow masque near their Churches. but tolerant Muslims do.

    White Christianity is totalitarian ideology, They don't tolerate any body who does not look like them , talk like them or walk like them. Red Indians were first victims of this intolerant cult, than blacks, than people in their Colonies, than Jews (WW2), Now Muslims are new target of this cult.

    You colonize other countries, steal their resources, ethnic cleanse their population, This is only your speciality.

  • shanecomeback

    Truthywood,everything you said is a LIE. Where is ONE church in Saudi Arabia?? Churches even in Bethlehem have been ravaged and closed by muslim gangs like fatah and hamas. Don't bring up Indians–what did muslims do to the people THEY conquered? Convert or die, thats how islam spread. And Jews?? The US lost tens of thousands of men fighting the people who killed the Jews–speaking of which, the iranians among others seem to want to utterly destroy. Islam is the cult–started by a moon worshipping pedophile.Please–go crawl back under your putrid rock.

  • chisco1


    Christianity is such a “totalitarian ideology” that Jesus actually offers people the chance to accept or reject Him….

    Such forceful, fearful “totalitarian”[ism] must not be tolerated!

    (As for the churches and “masque”[s] being “side by side” in muslim countries…you must be talking about “tolerant” countries like Saudi Arabia, etc…..(where it is ILLEGAL to bring a Bible into the country)…right?!

  • chisco1

    (Oh, and let's not forget the 800 Jews killed by Mohammed when they refused to convert to islam AT THE VERY BEGINNING of your “religion”…..they had a lot of “choice” from “tolerant” islam, too, didn't they?!

  • mrobs

    All of the majority muslim countries will not even allow the construction of a church – you must be one of those butt up dirt scrapers.

  • hoolad

    Islam is pure evil to the core. islam is not a religion but a political movement to achieve global dominance. Show me a churhc or a hindu temple or a jewish temple in saudia arabia. Go to Egypt and see how they deal with the Coptic Christains, the egyptians treat them like animals, burn down their chruches at every riot and they dont allow new chruches to be build, infact you have to ask permission from the president of egypt to build a church. Remind you, Egypt was a Coptic Christain Country before Islam took over with the sword.

    In Turkey, they have taken Hagia Sofia Church and turned it to a Mosque, then into a museum. Still they will not give back Hagia Sofia to be a church again. Muslims are hypocrates. Turkey has a mission to wipe off all churches and convert them into secular museums and thus will elimanate the christains populations.

    Christains are not allowed to be christains in middle-east, period. Now muslims shout. Give me a church, hindu temple, jewish temple, buddist temple or any other temple in the heart of Mecca or Medina and then I will voice my dis-taste for the swiss vote.


  • Seek

    The article was superb and yet incomplete. Freedom from thinking, love of obediance to hard and fast rules, the hyper-ritualization of everyday life, the severe punishments for those who ask too many questions — this is a fact of life of Jewish and Christian orthodoxy. I see no reason to let non-Muslims off the hook on this count. Try living in a Haredi community in Israel (especially if you're a woman) and see how long you keep your sanity. Read Erich Fromm's “Escape from Freedom”; it's an eye-opener.

  • Atlas_Collins

    Islam is an evil totalitarian ideology that is based upon hatred and intolerance, was spread through violence, coercion and war, and is only maintained through intimidation and fear.

    All muslims have abrogated their humanity by accepting and following this creed of hatred and oppression, and so become feral and subhuman rabid animals. Therefore all muslims must be exterminated as rabid dogs infesting an alley should be exterminated.

    Islam Delenda Est!

  • jsburke

    They don't have to think and non-thinking makes them free. Sounds a lot like what the left promotes: believe your elected politician, believe the entertainment elite and believe the academics; they will think for you and take care of you.

  • http://twitter.com/HereticsCrusade Heretic Crusader

    There is a strong undercurrent in the Muslim community for reform but they lack public voices to challenge the false “moderates” that dominate the discourse. Heretics of the World Unite!

  • tachyon

    is there anyone who can seriously debate or discuss? because most of your comments just show the instances of hatred and intolerance that you criticise. so where is the difference you all talk about? howcome 'christians' are 'good' with so much hatred? tell me what makes 'christians' and 'muslims' different? if all you can do is to discredit and speak ill of the other, wouldn't that make all of you the 'same'?

  • 2maxpower

    that is why they act as the rules tell them. the FT. HOOD shooter ..the 9/11 hi-jackers. it is all the same thing.

    the koran made me do it.

  • 2maxpower

    you are equating islam and christendom ..they are not equatable.

    obviously you have never had any discussion with a muslim. it is easier to just pound your balls with a rock then make sense of their duplicitous babble.

  • Timmy

    I don't know all that you are responding to but can comment on this generally. The problem that anyone who is not a Christian must appreciate regarding Islam is that while any religion may make certain claims about itself and generally all “others” – this being the core gripe that liberals have about religions, Islam specifically and in black and white terms mentions specific people places and things of Judaism and Christianity, including Jesus Christ himself, and denies their entirety in the religion of Islam. In other words, if Islam was merely another religion, that had it's own ways and beliefs, that would be one thing, but it goes beyond that to specifically rejecting the Bible and Christianity – while simultaneously lying about that and pretending to respect those, and calling for eternal war against those in this world not just the next. So in light of these FACTS any Christian who does not resent, even HATE Islam would, if they actually know their own religion and what Islam is, would have to be said to be mentally insane. That so many Christians make such an attempt to “tolerate” Islam is what is so idiotic, and especially now that Islam is being allowed to spread in the West where it will without zero doubt, destroy religious freedom and democratic rule.

  • 2maxpower

    I don't think there is any chance of reform in the muslim community, there are two camps. those that follow the teachings (the jihadists) and those that say silent (like the sunday catholics).

    why do people become muslims and why it is so difficult to leave is the key to this.

    to the father, he get the power and respect he wants. and he wants to keep it.
    the son (first born), he is next in line and he will support his father. …in this short exercise the power structure is complete.

    the women never get to first base as far as power is concerned and effectively sidelined without any support structure of their own. islam makes sure they never get any support structure by default.

    and if you want to openly leave …they will kill you. basically first century tribal life.

  • Timmy

    It would be a thousands times better to attack the ideology of Islam and not all Muslims, most of them, if they were given the chance, would give the finger to Islam and leave it, but they can't, for all the reasons mentioned in the article. Islam itself must be attacked and discredited and eventually people must be given a way to leave it. The West should set itself up as an Islam free zone, only those who reject Islam can immigrate here, the safety zone from Islam.

  • 080

    Strangely enough Hegel would agree with her. So would the socialists. Lately England has taken to issuing fatwas. They banned Michael Savage from their small island without a hearing. The same stink is being raised in this country with political correctness. Islam and the end product of modernity are not all that different. By end product I mean socialism, fascism, communism.

  • tachyon

    The BBC documentary 'The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear' is a very good source for these subjects:


  • habibt

    if you are debating about Islam read the Quran the truth will enter your heart. many of the early followers of Islam were more radically against it than any commentor here and it changed them. It will change all of you Islam is the future, hate as much as you like that fact will not change those that attack Islam will be drawn in. the haters of Islam often become its future protectors especially christians pagans and jews.

  • Timmy

    If you are a Muslim you should try Jesus. The internet is going to expose Islam. It is full of holes, the doctrine is not sound. Here is all you need to ask yourself – if Islam was true then why do they kill those who try to leave? If you love someone let them go and see if they come back to you. That is what God did. Only those who want to be with God will be there in the end. Those forced into Islam or forced to stay in Islam confuse everything and God only wants those in Heaven who want to be there with Him, and the way there is through Jesus not Muhammad.

    And don't confuse some people joining or “protecting” Islam as you say for genuine belief. Since it is a political system many go along just to get along. They don't realize that it will cost them their soul in the end.

  • habibt

    i was born to a mother that was a christian evangelist my sister is an elder reverend i christanity well i became muslim by intellectual choice because ther is only one God and jesus is merely a servant and slave of God just as muhammad is (my Allah be pleased with tem both)


  • Timmy

    With all due respect, hopefully this is just a phase you are going through. Your family must be praying for you daily. Hopefully you will come to your senses before the end of your days so that you won't lose your soul. Read the bible again and pray that the Holy Spirit will move you. Islam is wrong on so many levels, and intellectually there is nothing there. Good luck to you.

  • habibt

    May Allah bring u to the truth and make u his slave as he has me and jesus read the Quran learn about what u oppose……..


  • drungar

    “Not having to think” explains the appalling development of moral development in societies working under Islamic influences: not having to think means that one doesn't have to decide, and if one doesn't have to decide there's no reason or incentive to sort real values from apparent ones.

    If the capacity of the human mind to decide what is or is not of true value is not exercised, when it comes to making a decision such people can bring to bear only the undeveloped mind of an infant.

    This article also hints at a well-developed capacity for deception; how else to survive in such a political environment?

  • jerrodb

    habibt has truly stopped thinking she is a muslim now. a stupid muslim cow.

  • stevenw

    Why deal with all the rules of Islam? Why not just get a lobotomy? The results seem about the same.

  • xyz

    Once, when I was the subject of an attempted conversion, that was one of her main selling points: that I'd never again have to worry about the appropriate action for any situation. Lovely, a world in which all personal human interaction is replaced by judging how well one performed their Islamic dooty. There is no worry about the “meaning of life” in Islam because there is no meaning of life in Islam. It's the religion of dicks, sex and death. Women are just fields to be plowed. Find some meaning in that. The only meaning is de-meaning.

  • martha

    You have a point but the Hasidic jews are not flying jets into bldgs or chopping off anyone's head or storming hotels.
    The Catholics are'nt either and do'nt bother bringing up the Crusades, that was 900 years ago. They've moved on.
    My point is the other religious orthodoxies are not trying to rule the world and force any one to convert. Again do'nt bring up the Inquisition it was 700 years age, not last month.

  • TopAssistant

    American’s do not know our history with Islam nor our fight with them even before this nation was even founded. One of the best, well-documented and footnoted articles I have read is by David Barton, WallBuilders winter newsletter 2006 titled, A Muslim Sworn Into Congress, Google it.

    Our first war with Islamic terrorists/pirates occurred with the Barbary Powers War or in some texts, the Barbary Powers conflict. Never heard of it, not many have, but it happened. The war lasted thirty-two years and involved six years of overseas warfare against Muslim terrorists, and spanned four U.S. presidents those of George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.

    Islamic pirates/terrorists captured our merchant ships during the Revolutionary War, sold our sailors at slave auctions, and used our ships to increase their number of vessels. Congress authorized payment to four Islamic nations to keep them from hijacking our ships. The amounts vary but several sources report we paid $1 million a year for 15-years. A dollar in 1786 is the same as $390.00 today, when inflation is calculated.

    The earliest documented attack by Islamic terrorists occurred in 1625, when Moroccan corsairs captured an American merchant ship sailing from North American colonies under the English flag. We had not gained our freedom with the Revolution yet and we still owed our allegiance to England. Pirates/terrorists stole the ship and goods, while selling the sailors at slave auctions.

    When you hear someone say, the reason for terrorism is that America is in the Middle East, you know the truth. They want to conquer the world so everyone is forced to bow in the name of a 7th century pedophile.

    Go online to ACT! for America and sign, their petition to have our government fully investigate CAIR. Please read the book, Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America…..it reveals plans and documents of radical Islam through CAIR, other groups, to take over ‘North America' — 'If It Takes 100 Years.’ Go to the sources identified in the book and read the facts, especially the list of radical Muslim groups who want to take over America and the world, thus making it an Islamic world. READ THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOD PROJECT material to see how they intend to do this; just Google “The Muslim Brotherhood Project” and read the project in their own words.
    They are almost there by getting the media and politicians to look the other way…..we are walking the plank to a dhimmi nation.

  • StevenLaib

    Not only is it illegal to bring a bible into Arabia; it is illegal to wear a cross or to worship in private behind closed doors where no one can see. There is no tolerance in nations where Islam runs society,

  • StevenLaib

    The author raises an interesting point; that the authorities may be losing power and the community is going more its own way. There is a possible correspondence, I believe with the actions of the Catholic Inquisition, which was, in my opinion, a political reaction to the loss of church power after the Middle Ages. However, in some parts of the world this is not entirely the case. As long as there are people who are willing to become fanatics to the extent of killing themselves for terrorism, the erosion of authority has not progressed far enough that one can stop being concerned.

  • StevenLaib

    Islam is a false religion and condones human sacrifice. It is either the worship of a human false prophet, or of the devil. Take your pick. Either way, it is the wrong way.

  • StevenLaib

    A true god needs no slaves. This is precisely why Islam is not a true religion. By its own teachings it is false.

  • ratonis

    Tolerance in Muslim countries? That is as oxymoronic (and moronic) as you can get. Islam is “religion” of the sword ever since the days of the alleged “prophet” Mohammed exterminated his opponents and conspired in the assassination of satirical artists. Islamic tolerance. What a joke.

  • ratonis

    If you want to know the difference between Christianity and Islam look at the first three centuries of each. Christianity spread solely by proclamation (it had no armies to force anyone to do or believe anything). Islam was militaristic from the beginning and forced itself on others through war and conquest. This is simple history. If Islam were the truth of God, why is it so afraid of open dialogue, and why does it go crazy over the slightest little criticism (like ignorant, spoiled children)? It is because THOUGHT is not a part of Islam. Also, I would point out that the only “religion” in the world that STILL practices slavery is Islam.

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  • habibt

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  • Timmy

    And there is a big difference, whether it is the Inquisition (which was actually very small in numbers but HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE HUGE today in the minds of all those who love to tear down Christianity) or even the Protestant Reformation, the problems that had developed in Christendom were political and the actions could not be justified by what was in the Bible. So the general populations led by reformers were able to appeal to the actual texts of the Bible and fight it out with those in control to change things. In the case of Islam the problem is that there is no misinterpretation of the texts. Any reformers will have to reject outright vast portions of their religion Islam. As long as they want to remain Muslims they are tacitly approving of everything that religion demands.

    Also, on the idea of an inquisition, to the extent that it was ONLY the removal of Islam from Spain (though Jews were also removed and that was not right) – that saved Spain and most likely the rest of Europe from being Islamized, there was likely a very real need to determine if some were pretending to be Christian. Today, where we have Muslim interpreters in Gitmo aiding the terrorists one can imagine a need to “inquire” of them as to which side they are really on. And if the West is ever to save itself it will like Spain once did need to expel all Muslims or at least outlaw the political aspect of Islam (sharia) which is 90% of Islam and let them leave on their own. And then perhaps some sort of “inquiry” will be needed to make sure that some Muslims or ex-Muslims really don't support sharia behind the scenes. It is ugly but at some point the West is going to have to face reality, Islam WILL destroy the West and democratic freedoms if allowed to spread here.

  • ratonis

    The message printed above is about as coherent as the Qur'an itself.

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  • arman

    Christain West you have fought for Kosovo and gave their independence. Now see what they are doing to the Churches in Kosovo. All of the Churches have been demolished and Kosovar's are urinating in them in disgust. I understand what the Serbs did to Kosovo and sympatize with the Kosovo people, but is this the answer.


  • Kevin Stowell

    So that's why the Left wants to backdoor Islam–a more compliant/docile populace. They would be careful for what they ask if they weren't so irretrievably stupid. Their morally bankrupt asses will be the first to go if we Muslidiot.

  • stevefromeerie

    To answer your question, picture the following:

    a knight and his horse

    Islam is liberating in the sense that it removes cave dwellers from the cave. Heck, one man's head's blowing is another man's Hephaestus. I'm down. Somedays, I really do wish I was dead. No not killed by my own hand. I honestly know before the day begins that I do not want sleep, I want what I like to call “certain avoidance of other humans.”

    With that said, picture a knight stepping off its high horse.

    The knight is liberated from the horse yet still a knight.

    Now picture the knight taking off the armor. The knight is without armor yet still a knight!

    Now see the Arab street urchin who really forces you go to the bone so you need a skeleton with a brain that talks, only to chime in “That's a monster, not a knight!”

    Now enters America, who, in their own backwards retarded way, really did manage to sew him up, and not only is he a knight, but really, don't do that again.

    And you do that anyways, and we go through all the motions, and not only does America tell you not to do it again, the knight tells you not to do it or I kill everyone.

    And you do it again!

    And the knight kills everybody, but after he does, he gives you….

    no not another strike you idiot, SATAN! What we need to fix the MLB is what I call the “Koran rule.” Two strikes if you're Moslem. NYC concedes. We are effectively “Your Satan.” If you think you are god then try to beat the Latinos with two strikes, not one!

  • heidifromoz

    “The West should set itself up as an Islam free zone, only those who reject Islam can immigrate here, the safety zone from Islam.”

    Too late – the West is already infested beyond repair.

  • Kim Bruce

    The Muslim woman is liberated by not having to think as long as she is married. However, if her husband one day finds out that she is not the woman he was looking for and says "I divorce you" three times, suddenly she is left in the unliberating position of having to think very quickly…something she hasn't done for quite some time.
    Chances are that woman ends up begging on the streets, alone, without her children, unloved because she is no longer that virgin that Muslim men so desire.
    What then?
    So sad!