During a break today from the Ask An Atheist Booth I paid a visit to the Ask a Muslim booth, which sets up every Saturday in Balboa Park, just a short walk from our booth.
As you see from the photos, their booth is professionally designed with messaging clearly visible from all sides. Inside the booth there are about 20 professionally printed publications ready to hand out.
Many visitors to the atheist booth pass by the Muslim booth first, and I’ve been told that people have stopped to ask them questions, but instead of answering questions they keep changing the subject and going into long sermons that have nothing to do with the question asked. This seems to be a common problem when speaking to representatives of all religions… just like politicians.
I entered the booth and picked up a brochure titled “Atheism from the Islamic Perspective”. The person behind the counter began his sermon — Allah is the one and only God. The only truth is the word of Allah. The Quoran is the only true book. Allah will soon control the world, and when that happens I had better be on my knees worshiping Allah. The usually self-aggrandizing nonsense that we get from the Christians.
I let him do his 2 minute sermon and started with my questions.
“Do you have any proof that Allah is real?”
“Yes, it is described in the holy book, the Quoran.”
“How do you know the Quoran is real”.
“Because it says so in the Quoran”.
Ok, we’ve completed the basic circular argument.
Since part of his spiel was a claim that Allah is all knowing and all powerful, I asked why there are so many other religions. If an omnipotent being has total power, then all he has to do is communicate directly to each person as to the true message that he wants to give, rather than play games with thousands of religions.
He gave the same rant we hear from Christians, claiming that Allah is ‘testing everyone’, to be sure they are ‘worthy’. I told him that makes no sense, unless Allah is evil, because Allah would know everything about everyone, the test would be a cruel game.
He repeated the same rant, word for word, so I said, “Then you agree with me — that Allah is evil and just likes to play games with people”.
He said, “As a Muslim, I cannot say that Allah is evil”, then repeated the same script about the test again, ignoring the fact that I pointed out that the test is pointless and evil. But I’m a big struck by his wording — does it mean that he understands and agrees that his story of Allah is evil, but is not allowed to say it?”
At this point, he tells me “We are not here to discuss the philosophy of Islam. We are here to present Islam. Islam is perfect, it has not changed in hundreds of years. The Quoran is perfect and has no contradictions.
I pondered reminding him that he’s standing under a sign that says “Ask a Muslim”, but decided to just continue with the questions. He’s looking more and more uncomfortable, but I continue.
Next I asked, “What happens if I try Islam, find it to not be for me, and want to leave. I have read that I will be killed by other Muslims. Is that true?”
This is where some stuttering began and I noticed he didn’t want to keep eye contact. First he said “Islam is not like Walmart. You go to Walmart and buy a TV and return it the next day – we do not want anyone to play with Islam. Islam is not like Walmart.”
“Fine – what if I goes into Islam for 1 year and leave. Will I be killed?”
“If you leave Islam there will be a [meeting of the elders]* and you will be given a chance to change your mind. You will be given a chance to do the right thing. You will be given a chance to return to Islam. Allah does not make a judgement on you, the [meeting of the elders]* will decide.”
“Are you talking about Sharia Law?”
He would not answer this — he repeated the last statement again, word for word. But I’m persistent.
“Will I be killed”?
“Yes, if you do not return to Islam, a judgment will be made that you are to be killed. And when you die you will be punished forever.”
“So fear is a big part of Islam?”
“Yes, it is. I’m not going to sugar-coat it for you. Fear is a part of it.”
“Well thank you for being honest about that. The Christians make the same threat, yet deny they are using fear.”
With that, I departed and headed back to the atheist booth, Islamic brochures in hand, failing to feel even the slightest bit of fear.
* – he used a phrase that I did not understand, but seem to mean a meeting of elders.