I usually don't have many nice things to say about Dinesh D'souza, the conservative writer and Christian apologist, known to many atheists as the frequent interlocutor to Christopher Hitchens, but he did make a good point on Real Time with Bill Maher the other week.
They were talking about the attitude liberals have towards Muslims in the West and Dinesh commented that there is a civil war going on in the minds of liberals regarding Islam. On the one hand liberals traditionally stand up for the oppressed minority, and Muslims have gotten their fair share of discrimination in the West. But on the other hand, if you look at many of the values coming out of the Islamic world, they fly in the face of many of the most cherished values your average liberal supports. Things like gender equality, equal rights for gay people, freedom of expression, freedom of speech and so forth are opposed by a disturbingly large percentage of the Islamic world. And so what's happening is that liberals find themselves defending a group of people who if they had the power, would never allow any of the things most liberals stand for.
Dinesh's assessment of the situation is spot on.
I have a confession to make. I'm a liberal. And as a liberal, I can certainly see the difficultly that dealing with Islam causes. I was once tolerant of religion, although I never thought highly of it. Perhaps it's better to say I was indifferent towards religion. But when I started doing research into religion, I became more aware of its harm, and I became convinced with the help of some of the New Atheists that it should be opposed.
I'm not a Muslim sympathizer at all. I oppose Islam as I oppose all religion. Islam embodies some of the things I hate the most about religion: It's extremely dogmatic and authoritarian; it asks you to surrender your will and critical thinking faculties to a hideous god conjured up by an illiterate pedophile; and it's antithetical to freedom of speech, expression and secularism. I can never, ever get on board with this way of thinking.
So how should liberals like myself deal with Islam when it's the enemy of so much of what we stand for and how can we convince other liberals that Islam is an enemy of liberal values?
- First, we must make a separation between Islam and Muslims. Islam is the religion, Muslims are the followers. We should criticize Islam but not necessarily Muslims. We all recognize that there are millions of kind Muslims in the world who (thankfully) do not take their religion seriously. We should embrace these liberal Muslims because they are the ones who are the most rational and persuadable. But we should never stop peacefully opposing their worldview.
- We need to convince liberals what Islam really says about their values. This can be done by educating them on Islam, and showing them the blatant human rights violations going on in the Islamic world against women, homosexuals and free thinkers, and the fact that large numbers of Muslims are against liberal values. One must have knowledge about Islam in order to do this.
- We need to encourage liberals to stand up for liberal values and oppose any and all forces that are against it, even if it is coming from an oppressed minority.
- We need to convince other liberals that it is not racist to oppose Islam. Islam is a religion, not a race. There is nothing racist with being against a religion like Islam that opposes our liberal values.
- Finally, we need to continue vigorously educating the world on atheism and what it means to be an atheist because there is still so much misunderstanding out there even among liberals.