This post is fairly contextual, so I guess I should start with some context:
It all started when a group at Yale invited Ayaan Hirsi Ali to speak on Islam. Ms. Hirsi Ali was raised as a Muslim in Somalia, which, somewhat predictably, has led her to have some pretty harsh words for Islam on the subject of women’s rights. There’s a whole lot more to her life, but in this abridged biography, let’s just say that some of her comments have been strong enough to get her banned from a number of US institutions for being “Islamophobic” (more on that word later).
The Muslim Students’ Association (along with a veritable alphabet soup of other campus groups) got upset and wrote this letter. Yale responded by allowing her to make a speech on campus. And then Bill Maher weighed in on the debate, drawing national attention with his comments on Muslim theocracies. Ben Affleck went on Maher’s show and called both Maher and fellow guest Sam Harris “racist” for their comments about Islam. Reza Aslan went on CNN to criticize Maher’s “facile” views on Islam. And then a couple of ex-Muslims wrote an article explaining why Aslan is an extremely disingenuous debater when it comes to matters of Muslim faith.
Phew. That was a lot. Feel free to peruse those articles as you like. If you’re not in the mood to read a lot, the last article kind of sums everything up, as it’s the most recent one of the bunch.
But anyway, now that we’ve caught up to today, the overwhelming issue here is that liberals in America need to grow the fuck up when it comes to Islam. I get that most Muslims in America are going to vote Democrat when given the choice, but that doesn’t mean that Islam is untouchable. It especially doesn’t mean that criticism of an extremely problematic religion is racist, much less “Islamophobic”, which is possibly the most idiotically overused term in this whole debate.
The general attitude of American liberals toward talking about Islam in any kind of critical terms can be summed up in a paraphrased tweet that has been mentioned again and again by Muslim apologists. In a nutshell, Americans can’t criticize Islam for the actions of a few fundamentalists, because we don’t judge Christianity based on the actions of groups like the Westboro Baptist Church.
Well, first of all, we do that all the fucking time. American liberals are more than happy to call out the Christian Right on their bullshit, and they should be doing it more often. Taking a soft line on Christian fundamentalism has reintroduced creationism in science classrooms across America. Three cheers for a completely distorted definition of tolerance!
But speaking of a distorted definition of tolerance, that same group of people who will scream bloody murder over the Hobby Lobby decision (which, again, they should) are astonishingly silent about the medieval mentalities exhibited in a disturbingly large portion of the Muslim world. Worse than that, they attack people who dare mention these issues as symptomatic of larger problems with Islam as a religion. And why? Because apparently when you can get Americans to view you religion as a racial group, you gain protected status.
Now, let’s be very clear here. I am absolutely a critic of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, [insert faith-based religion here], because I strongly believe that these belief systems have been a force for evil in the world rather than good. Feel free to debate me on that, but please also do me the courtesy of not calling me a bigot for criticizing people’s freely chosen beliefs.
Note: I am fully aware that there are actual bigots who will twist their uneducated views on Islam in to racial bias against all people with darker skin. But let’s be frank: those people are just looking for a reason to hate people with darker skin. They just have an easier time using the word “Islamic” than they do “not-black-but-still-dark-enough-to-scare-me”.
However, there are certain religious beliefs that are more outlandish or more harmful than others. We can somewhat objectively say that Mormon beliefs regarding the settling of America by white, Jewish Egyptians are more ridiculous than Catholic beliefs regarding Mary, which are in turn more ridiculous than the Buddhist adherence to the Eightfold Path. Similarly, I can say that Christian beliefs that seek to dehumanize LGBT people are more harmful than Christian beliefs to love thy neighbor (Weird that those two philosophies come from the same faith, huh?).
So that’s why I feel comfortable saying that Islam is a religion that promotes violence and oppression. The Qu’ran (pick your English spelling) has hundreds of passages devoted to the slaying of infidels in the pursuit of establishing the House of Islam the whole world over. And it has plenty of passages deliberately allowing for or promoting the subjugation of women. Now, just like halfway-intelligent Christians can understand that some of the more unsavory parts of the Bible should be taken as historical insights rather than divine commands, halfway-intelligent Muslims can do the same thing with problematic passages in the Qu’ran. The issue is that plenty of people don’t. And the bigger issue is that plenty of those people are in charge of governments.
So again, let me just stress that I don’t find these beliefs any less problematic than Biblical notions of (oh, just for example) womanhood, slavery, violence, etc. I do, however, find their modern-day implementation much more problematic. Believe me, if there are any Christian theocracies getting to this level (Uganda’s getting close), I have some strong words for them. But as these atrocities are happening in the Muslim world, that’s where my concern and anger are directed.
See, because I don’t live in the Middle Ages, I find the stoning of women to be barbaric. I find killing infidels to be barbaric. I find formally-declared religious death threats against cartoonists to be barbaric. I find any “holy” text that would not only sanction, but encourage these kinds of actions to be unacceptable in any kind of civilized global society.
And let’s be even more clear: people are dying. Lots of people are dying. People are being oppressed in ways that make American complaints about racial profiling and sexual harassment seem like pebbles next to boulders. Not that those issues aren’t important, but I think we can agree that risking death to attend school is a tiny bit more serious than having your ass grabbed.
And the fact that not all Muslims adhere to these kinds of fundamentalists beliefs is not enough. Clearly, enough Muslims do that they have nations centered around these horrific practices. One might as well respond to all these arguments with a #notallMuslims hashtag. Yes, it’s that ridiculous.
These comments are not “Islamophobic”, any more than any of my other comments are “Christophobic”. And yet people are being shouted down for daring to criticize the antiquated and backward belief system of millions of people, and that’s being hailed as brave.
Rational people across the world have a moral duty to fight against oppression and violence, especially when that oppression is inspired by adherence to an old book. Excluding Islam from religious criticism due to fears of being labeled as racist or bigoted is cowardice. No religion gets special protections when it comes to committing atrocities.
And if anyone wants to declare a fatwa on me, you can find me at the following address: 3701 SW 12th St, Topeka, KS 66604. Happy hunting!