Sunday, March 8, 2015

Is·lam·o·pho·bi·a — Some Thoughts

I felt like I'm long over due for a blog post about Islamophobia. It's is nooo secret on this blog that I am deeply critical of Islam. I think that Islam is the most dangerous religion in the world today and the greatest religious threat to liberalism and Western Values. This can be thought of two different ways. The first way is that I think the ideology and morality within Islam is more violent than most religions. As far as I can tell, only the Old Testament rivals the Koran in brutality. The second is that I think Muslims today are committing more violence in the name of their religion than any other religion's adherents. And I think this is due, in large part, because the principles of Islam are more violent than most other religions.

When you compare Islam and Christianity for example, when you put the two of them side by side and compare their moral values, I will be totally honest with you, I think Christianity starts looking pretty damn good compared to Islam. (And anyone who knows me or who's read this blog knows I'm not at all a Christian sympathizer). Just about everything bad that Christianity has, Islam also has, and then Islam just adds more bad shit on top of that. And it is in no way "Islamophobic" or "racist" to say say this, or point it out.

It has become a thing now to label all people critical of Islam Islamophobic, or even racist. The racist accusation is obviously nonsense. Islam is a religion and a religion is not a race. There are Muslims of every color around the world. The Islamophobic accusation though, has a racist implication to it. There is, it seems, an implicit assumption that "Islamophobic" can mean the same thing as anti-Asian, or anti-Middle Eastern, or even anti-Muslim. These are often conflated, but they are not the same.

Let's look at a few definitions of Islamophobia. Wikipedia says, "Anti-Islamic sentiment or Islamophobia is a term for prejudice against, hatred towards, or fear of the religion of Islam, Muslims, or of ethnic groups perceived to be Muslim." According to UC Berkely's Center for Race & Gender, a 1991 Runnymede Trust Report defined Islamophobia as "unfounded hostility towards Muslims, and therefore fear or dislike of all or most Muslims." These are two interesting definitions. Wiki's definition focuses more on the religion of Islam, and CR&G's definition focuses more on the followers of Islam. Therein lies an important distinction. Now, I'm not going to fuss over definitions here — that's not the point. The points I want to focus on regard the problems I see with the term Islamophobia and its usage.

First I want to acknowledge that Islamophobia, under certain definitions, is a real thing, and that is bad. There are people out there who really are racist against Middle Eastern and Asian peoples. There are people who hate anyone who even looks Middle Eastern or Asian. As a liberal, and as an unapologetic one at that, this is contrary to my values. I don't stand for racism of any kind. People should not be negatively judged, discriminated against, hated, assaulted, or killed, merely for their race/ethnicity. I don't stand for violence of any kind except in self defense or in certain situations where it is to stop violence.

I do however, reserve the right to judge people based on what they believe. This doesn't mean that I think it's right to discriminate against all Muslims. Definitely not. You can treat a persona equally in social and business situations, while still disagreeing with their beliefs. Although I disagree with many of the principles, morals, and metaphysics of the Islamic religion, that doesn't mean I should discriminate against its followers — in the same way that I disagree with Ayn Rand's economic views, I don't discriminate against people who adhere to her views.

"Discriminate" is a complex word. We all discriminate against people we don't like. We avoid them, we don't make friends with them, we don't invite them to parties, we don't date them, etc. I do not support socially discriminating against people merely for their religious beliefs, unless they are a certain kind of fundamentalist, like an ISIS sympathizer, or an admirer of the Westboro Baptist Church. I have Christian friends, I have Jewish friends, I've had Muslim friends, and friends of all kinds of spiritual/pantheistic ontologies. There is more to a friendship than merely seeing eye to eye on metaphysics. And socially discriminating against people based on what religion they believe in is a staple of many religious sects, and I think it is unnecessarily divisive. But I'm mainly talking about the kind of discrimination laws are written to prevent: Equal hiring for jobs, access to benefits from the government, ability to rent or buy a home where ever you want, buy services from businesses that cater to the general public, etc. No one should be discriminated in these ways due to their religion.

Second, I want to go over the "unfounded hostility towards Muslims" part. Most of the world's Muslims do not adhere to the violent ideology of groups like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, or the Taliban. However, there are very large numbers of Muslims worldwide who do support the same principles many of these groups do, like death for apostasy and adultery, making Islamic law the law of the land (even if it only applies to Muslims), etc. And the reasons why most of these Muslims hold these values is because they are found in the Islamic scriptures. Beliefs have consequences. What a shocking revelation. I'm reminded of what Sam Harris wrote on the subject last year:

In any conversation on this topic, one must continually deploy a firewall of caveats and concessions to irrelevancy: Of course, U.S. foreign policy has problems. Yes, we really must get off oil. No, I did not support the war in Iraq. Sure, I’ve read Chomsky. No doubt, the Bible contains equally terrible passages. Yes, I heard about that abortion clinic bombing in 1984. No, I’m sorry to say that Hitler and Stalin were not motivated by atheism. The Tamil Tigers? Of course, I’ve heard of them. Now can we honestly talk about the link between belief and behavior?

I don't support violence against Muslims of any kind based on their religious beliefs, and I take "unfounded hostility" to include that. I do however, support and encourage criticism of all religious belief systems, like Islam, and think that doing so is perfectly justified. No ideology, whether religious or secular should be immune from criticism.

Islam can be seen as a religious ideology, just like Christianity. What I'd like to ask people to do is try to completely detach Islam from the ethnicity of its adherents and its founder and of the geography and culture of its origins for one moment and just critically analyze it morally and ideologically. This is important because I think far too many people are unable to divorce the history and treatment of Muslims by Westerners and the race of most Muslims from the religion of Islam itself when they form views on it. Political correction, often aided by white liberal guilt, prevents us from critically examining Islam in ways that wouldn't apply to other religions or ideologies. I don't care where Islam (or Christianity) came from, and I don't care if their founders or adherents were white, black, yellow or brown. What matters to me are the morals, principles, beliefs, and goals from within the religion, not the race or ethnicity or historical treatment of their adherents. It's about beliefs and values, not about race and history. I cannot stress that enough.

To help illustrate this, consider that modern communism was started by a European Jew, Karl Marx, and communists have faced severe forms of discrimination in the West for many decades. Is it anti-Semitic to criticize communism? No! It isn't anymore anti-Semitic than it would be anti-Russian or anti-Chinese, or anti-Cuban. There have been communist governments in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America. Soviet-style communism, particularly under Stalin, was absolutely horrible, and completely antithetical to the liberal values that I hold. Many of the principles found within Islam and other religions are also antithetical to the liberal values that I hold. Islam can be completely separated from the followers of Islam, just as communism can be completely separated from the followers of communism. One can still espouse the common liberal values that I hold, like equality, fairness, freedom of speech, the dignity of all peoples regardless of their ethnicity, race, or origin, and still criticize Islam and communism.

I hope that I have carved out a distinction here regarding the Islamophobia label. First, it is in no way racist to criticize Islam. Second, one can be highly critical of Islam without socially discriminating against Muslims and while still treating them equally under the law without any violent hostility towards them. And third, fear or concern about Islam and some of its adherents is not unjustified given what the religion says and the statistics on what many Muslims believe due to their religion.

Since the label "Islamophobic" is thrown around so loosely today, especially by those on the left, I'd like to ask any Muslim or non-Muslim how one can criticize Islam without being labeled Islamophobic. Anyone care to provide an answer?

Oh well. Maybe Hitchens had it right:

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...