Thursday, January 29, 2015

It's Time To Stop Pussyfooting About Islam

Thomas Friedman is right; so is Bill Maher and Sam Harris. There's something within the religion of Islam that runs counter to the values of a pluralistic society and is inimical to the very freedoms liberals claim to champion most and it's high time for them to wake up and stop being hypocrites.

This is what Friedman recently wrote in The New York Times:

"When you don’t call things by their real name, you always get in trouble. And this [Obama] administration, so fearful of being accused of Islamaphobia, is refusing to make any link to radical Islam from the recent explosions of violence against civilians (most of them Muslims) by Boko Haram in Nigeria, by the Taliban in Pakistan, by Al Qaeda in Paris and by jihadists in Yemen and Iraq. We’ve entered the theater of the absurd."

On Bill Maher's Real Time show on HBO, Maher and author Sam Stein got into a fierce back and forth with Ben Affleck over the faith with Stein calling Islam "the mother load of bad ideas."

"The crucial point of confusion is that we have been sold this meme of Islamaphobia where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people and that is intellectually ridiculous."

It's also intellectually dishonest. Let's cut to the chase. Progressives can't have it both ways. We can't vehemently defend the right of women to earn equal pay for equal work and to have control of their own bodies while at the same time turning a blind eye to the atrocities that are committed against them on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis in the Islamic world. It isn't just hypocritical; it's obscene. We can't defend the right of free speech yet ignore the very sad and salient point that those who criticize the prophet Muhammad are considered heretics who must be put to death. It has been more than twenty-five years since Salman Rushdie wrote The Satanic Verses and to this day the fatwa on his life remains in place. In a 2005 oped piece in The Times, he wrote:

"What is needed is a move beyond tradition, nothing less than a reform movement to bring the core concepts of Islam into the modern age, a Muslim Reformation to combat not only the jihadist ideologues but also the dusty, stifling seminaries of the traditionalists, throwing open the windows to let in much-needed fresh air. (…) It is high time, for starters, that Muslims were able to study the revelation of their religion as an event inside history, not supernaturally above it. (…) Broad-mindedness is related to tolerance; open-mindedness is the sibling of peace."

Islam's basic problem is not unlike the one that both Judaism and Christianity went through in their early days. Those who challenged the established orthodoxy of either faith took their lives into their own hands. A woman cold be stoned for the "crime" of being an adulteress. Indeed the crucifixion of Jesus came about because he was perceived to be a heretic by the religious leaders of his time. The Spanish Inquisition, one could argue, was simply the precursor to the current practice in many Islamic countries. Those who did not convert to Christianity were put to death.

Today few if any Jews take seriously the book of Leviticus. And Christianity, since the days of the Protestant Reformation, has become a far more tolerant and far less insular religion. Scholars are free to argue various points on scripture without the threat of reprisal. And while many conservative Christians continue to hold ignorant and unbiblical views, to the best of my knowledge none of them have flown a plane into a skyscraper or attacked a shopping mall.

At my own Bible study, I have often butted heads with some of my fellow believers, most notably on whether certain verses in the Bible - particularly those in Genesis that deal with how old the Earth is - should be taken literally. While the discussion has been passionate, not once have I ever left the group fearing for my life.

This is simply not the case throughout most of the Islamic world. To the vast majority of Muslims, the Koran is the divine revelation of God to his prophet Muhammad. The consequences for those who question any part of it are considerable. In Pakistan, for instance, a judge was forced to flee the country after he sentenced a man to death for the crime of murdering someone who had publicly questioned the country's blasphemy law. In Saudi Arabia, a blogger was sentenced to ten years in prison and one thousand lashes for simply promoting the concept of free speech.

Some would argue that these examples are the exception to the rule. I beg to differ. Yes, I agree that not all Muslims are violent or support atrocities like the terrorist attack recently carried out in Paris. And I'll also stipulate that the vast majority of them were appalled by the 9/11 attacks. But the 800 pound gorilla in the room that most of the faith's apologists - namely liberals - refuse to acknowledge is that the very precepts of Islam require its adherents to hold the kind of extremist views that are at the very heart of the problem and have become the springboard for groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda.

It is not Islamophobic to criticize Islam, nor is criticizing it analogous to calling a Jew shifty or an African American lazy as Ben Affleck alluded to. There is no truth in the assertion that Jews are shifty or that blacks are lazy and to infer as much is the very definition of racism. There is, however, much truth to the assertion that Islam, in its present form, is an extremely volatile and insular religion that posses a serious threat to the security of most of the free world.

It is the height of naivety to dismiss the events unfolding in the Middle East as simply the byproduct of a few rotten apples. As Bill Maher aptly put it, “When there’s this many bad apples, there’s something wrong with the orchard.”

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Forced mandatory compliance is never a good thing.

Freedom. Its what I treasure most about America. I have the Constitutionally guaranteed right to choose not to belong to your group.

Its clearly true - there are places in the Muslim world where choosing not to belong can result in violence. And that is a tragedy.

But there are forces currently at work in America working to legislate compliance with (mainly Evangelical Christian) religious beliefs. Those force must be stopped - the Constitution must be protected. And we don't want our American religious extremists to grow into violent movements.

Anonymous said...

Boko Haram in Nigeria? I wonder if they'll perform "A Whiter Shade of Pale" :-/

Steve said...

Well, personally, I think it would be more fair and constructive for Maher to explore (1) the dangers of fundamentalism in general. Fundamentalism across all religions and even political ideologies gives rise to intolerance and a disrespect for human life. As Dylan sang, "You don't count the bodies when God's on your side." And (2) instead of just attacking religion, which is his own form of intolerance, I wish Maher would focus on how these jihadist attacks, however unjustifiable, are blowback from the US's failed policies, violent interventions, and support for oppressive regimes in the Muslim world. It's not like our poop doesn't stink. Getting rid of Islam will not solve the problem, especially when much of the problem is us. Thanks for letting me butt in.