Voluntary Islam and Other Essays
By Davi Barker
Free Press Publications
ISBN: 978-1938357022 (Paperback)
February 2, 2013
ASIN: B00BHLAQG4 (Kindle)
February 17, 2013

Voluntary Islam and Other Essays

I don’t think I’ve ever started writing an article with as much cognitive dissonance as I begin this one.

I’ll be praising, and giving my highest recommendation to, a book by a man who wrote about me three months ago (and whom I don’t recall ever meeting), “I’m no fan of Schulman. I’ve never read any of his work. I just don’t like him as a person.”

The author of the book I’ll be praising went on from his statement of how much he disliked me to write a hit piece on my movie, Alongside Night, an attack so sweepingly negative that Brad Linaweaver wrote about his review, “The only thing he forgot to criticize was the food catering.”

The web domain Davi Barker’s screed was published on is now missing in action.

So what am I supposed to do now that I discover that this same writer who despises me has penned a book so profoundly in sync with my own deepest libertarian values that by all reason we should be blood brothers in defense of them – and that the movie he attacked dramatizes those same values?

Davi Barker, the writer in question, tags himself a Muslim Agorist.

I’m by no means as well versed in the theology or even the history of Islam as I am with the other two seminal Abrahamic religions – Judaism and Christianity – and I’m by no means a scholar of any religion.

But what I thought I knew about Islam is that it reminded me more of the ancient Hebrews in practice than anything else – punishments like stoning to death or beheading for what we in the west today would consider less of an offense than jaywalking, subjugation of women, and willingness to use brutal violence against infidels and anyone else who denigrated Islam or its founder, Mohammad.

I’ve often said that one shouldn’t judge authors by their fans. In noting the atrocities committed by Jews in the name of Israel, Christians in the name of Christ, and Muslims in the name of Allah, I readily admit that most dogmatics pick and choose what parts of their theology fits their actual agenda, and one could just as readily find scriptural verses or commentary that argued the opposite.

What I am a primary source on is the subject of the second half of Davi Barker’s self-description – Agorism — since I’m considered one of its founders, along with my late mentor, Samuel Edward Konkin III.

In his 1980 New Libertarian Manifesto, Konkin defines Agorism as “libertarian in theory and free-market in practice.”

I did some exegesis on that in my 2011 article, “The Agorist Revolutionary Alternative”:

Konkin, being a scientist, approached the question logically. To his way of thinking the means and ends had to be one and the same. If the end was a society whose institutions were noncoercive and respecting of voluntary contracts and trade then the means of achieving such a society, likewise, also needed to be noncoercive and respecting of voluntary contracts and trade. These were the seeds which led Samuel Edward Konkin III (SEK3, for short) to begin exploring the strategy of counter-economics, and the philosophy of Agorism, as the libertarian means to achieve libertarian ends.

In his book Voluntary Islam and Other Essays (Free Press Publications, February 2013) Davi Barker finds the same principles in a reading of The Quran:

This sentence is only four words: La ikrah fi deen. “No compulsion in religion.” Every scholar I’ve ever heard discuss the word deen says that “religion” is a poor translation, and that it means a complete and comprehensive way of life.

Barker also finds this same principle in Gandhi:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” Muslims might express the same idea as “Your means must contain your ends.”


The principle of non-aggression is a deep and fundamental Truth in human interaction. Actions that are coerced have no moral value. A confession under torture is no real confession. Giving money to the poor at gunpoint is not real charity. The aim of Islam, and religion more broadly, is to place moral value in every action, so how can coercion be virtuous? The simplicity and profundity of the non-aggression principle is, I believe, the keystone to solving the strife in predominantly Muslim countries, and indeed the world.

Davi Barker sees the central positions of libertarian philosophy in Islam:

The primacy of achieving peace over demanding rights;

Contract law: “Do all that you agree to do.” Whether by oath or by written agreement, it is incumbent on every righteous person of any creed to live by their word;

The superiority of restorative justice over punitive justice;

And most importantly:

The Non-Aggression Principle holds that the initiation of physical force, threat, or fraud is always illegitimate, and that the use of force is only appropriate when used in defense. This is the defining lesson of this story, and the criterion for determining between the times when physical violence is legitimate and those when patient passive endurance is appropriate. Even when the terms of a treaty authorize him, and the customs of the society permit him, Muhammad does not use physical force against anyone unless they have first aggressed , or supplied an aggressor with material aid.

Davi Barker’s explanation for how Islam has strayed so far from what he sees as its core principles is

Unlike the Gospels, where a council of bishops decided which accounts of Jesus’ life they thought were authentic and destroyed those they felt were not, accounts of Muhammad’s life are all recorded in hundreds of volumes, but each narration contains a chain of custody describing in detail who gave the account. These chains are used to determine the strength of the narration. So, narrations with long chains are weaker than those with short chains. Narrations reported by many independent witnesses are stronger than those with only one witness. And sometimes the lack of credibility of a particular narrator can cast doubt on an entire chain.

Barker sees the State the way all libertarian anarchists and Agorists do: as violent in its very nature:

Senator Obama said something to the Military Times that sent me on a political odyssey the end of which I have not yet reached. “What essentially sets a nation-state apart,” he told them, “is a monopoly on violence.”

This was no political gaffe. The phrase originates from Max Weber’s definition of government: “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” Weber’s definition is widely accepted by most political scientists , and he is regarded as the principal thinker in Western statecraft. I know they tell us that honor belongs to Thomas Jefferson, but don’t kid yourself. Weber was one of the architects of the Constitution of the Weimar Republic,

Davi Barker advocates for a version of Islam that is a religion of consistent peace and freedom – and I find little in his historical examples or theological exegesis that I feel qualified to argue with. I just agree with the principles he’s advocating, whether or not other Muslims agree with him. To paraphase Ayn Rand, Barker emphasizes not what Islam is, but what it might be and ought to be.

I have to groove on his book for that.

It’s the idealized Islam that I agree God (and possibly Rand) would support, just as I have concluded that God created us by fissioning us off his own original omnipresent body as free spirits – individual souls who by having the power to reject God serve the function of providing God an escape from eternal solipsism and by offering love to God of their own free will ended his celestial loneliness.

As I wrote in my 2002 novel, Escape from Heaven:

God contemplated the new thought for what even he considered a long time. After contemplating a lot of different possibilities, and even creating and destroying a number of different universes as experiments to verify his thinking, God decided that the only thing that could possibly create the sort of dynamic he was looking for, the only thing that could build up a tension great enough for the sort of thrill he was seeking, would be to split off part of himself into a separate consciousness, independent of himself, a separate consciousness that could say to him, “No.”

With the possibility of the first “no” would also be created the possibility of the first “yes.”

Thus did the Lord trade his omnipotence, his omniscience, and his omnipresence for the possibility of finding love.

In this view I’m no doubt a heretic to mainstream Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Barker comes to a similar conclusion about God making us by a process of splitting off a part of himself:

The concept of fitra is that God has engraved upon the human soul an inborn tendency toward truth and virtue. It suggests that all human beings are born in a natural state of spiritual purity. This position contradicts both the Doctrine of Original Sin proposed by Christian theology , and the tabula rasa proposed by philosophers. Fleshing out the definition requires a look at the Arabic root, and its use in the Quran. In the Arabic language most nouns are derived from a three letter root verb. So a book, kitab, is literally a thing which is written kata-ba. Knowing the root verb often elucidates a deeper understanding of the noun. For fitra, the root verb fa-ta-ra commonly means to split, or cleave asunder.

In his jihad to make Islam a libertarian religion devoted to principles of peace and freedom Davi Barker is likely as much of a heretic as I am.

And even as Davi Barker affirms the Muslim dogma that Mohammad was God’s final prophet, he perhaps commits heresy of being a post-final-prophet by telling us of his own dream:

I stood between two giant floating heads, one in the black Ayatollah turban and the other in the red Al Azhar cap with white turban. I began asking them questions with the intention of seeking qualified scholarship, but every time, one would tell me the literal meaning of a word in Arabic and the way the ruling was implemented in the early community, and the other would tell me the original intention of the ruling and its application in the modern world. The heads always gave opposite answers, and I was left in the middle with no guidance. Frustrated, I moved past the heads, toward the ocean. I discovered a wooden stand holding the Quran, and resolved that if I wanted satisfactory answers I’d have to read it for myself— but inside the book I found the pages were not filled with words, just light pouring out. Doubly frustrated, I asked God to teach me how to read. Then a man appeared, walking up a stairwell that ascended from the ocean. He was all in white, with the same light pouring from his face, so bright that I could not see it. I asked him how to read the light and he answered, “Eat only the purest food. Drink only the purest water. And think only the purest thoughts.” It wasn’t exactly English, but more like a raw telepathic communication.

Having had prophetic experiences, myself – both while awake and while dreaming – I know a prophetic dream when I read about it. And dream prophecies, for both of us, result in a change in how we proceed in living. In Davi Barker’s case, he put into practice the principles of self-reliance:

I started a vegetable garden. I don’t have a yard, only a small apartment balcony. But it was very easy to begin growing. I started with only three rectangular pots where I planted rows of tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. As they grew I transplanted the small sprouts into larger pots and reseeded the rectangular pots with herbs. Now I have thriving cilantro and chamomile, and soon sage and mint. It is a uniquely rewarding experience to taste the fruit of your own labor. To put your hands in the soil and dig out a bite of nature. As Thomas Jefferson famously said, “Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever God had a chosen people.”

This book is essential reading for the libertarian or pacifist anarchist, especially the Agorist; and it’s even more essential reading for the statist, particularly the Muslim devoted to light and reason over the dark side of force.

I give my enemy’s book five stars out of five.

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