We will start our discussion by introducing opposing beliefs on Islam from juxtaposing positions. A lot of the western world advocates tolerance and acceptance of religious tradition. They increasingly favour these tenants, enacted by law in some cases, over cultural assimilation. The question is, do these campaigns betray the feelings of the general population? Even on a subconscious level, is there another depth of reasoning/emotion?
Secondly, Muslim moderates often portray Islam as peaceful. They themselves are generally nice, peaceful people. They have jobs and pay taxes; wives and have kids. They talk to you at the bus stop as much as anyone else would, smile inanely at you in the workplace and largely eat the same food we do. But are they really peaceful in nature?
Let’s address the former question. How do people really feel about Muslims in the West? Firstly, we may have preconceptions based on what someone looks like. Mostly, however, people do not judge on looks alone. We have learnt that they are often betraying. Therefore, when people talk about ‘Islam’ they are talking about the idea of a Muslim. Not one of their friends at work who has 3 kids and invites you over for a beer occasionally. Not someone in the street who walks past and looks vaguely Middle Eastern. But a character, in our minds, who is a series of absolutes. They are definitely Muslim, they are usually male and they strictly follow the Qur’an. Those are their only defining characteristics.
I don’t think I need to point out this abstract person can never be real. You cannot know someone’s absolute faith, gender and position without knowing other intimate details. Furthermore, people are constituted of many more character traits which shape perceptions. But, as humans, this is how we address the question of ‘Muslims’. It is a far from perfect model, but it is the only one we have when thinking objectively. Or, should I say, thinking that we are thinking objectively. The strengths of this position include rational objectivity and logic. Islam, after all, is not a person. It is a set of beliefs based on a text which largely dictate a person’s actions. However, it is only worth studying when you think of the actions which it inspires. For actions you need people.
I digress. Time to really address the question. What do people really feel when they hear about Islam? Well most people haven’t read the Qur’an. Most people watch the news for their information. The news is heavily biased. Even the most open discussion is curbed by self-censorship. Now this betrays one of the underlying feelings: Fear. The establishment, to be more accurate, fears Islam. Why wouldn’t they? Yes, you are less likely to die from a terrorist attack than being struck by lightning. But why would you sit in a tree during a lightning storm with a 20 metre metal pole in your hand? This is the choice presented and, surprise, the media takes the short road. People like Salman Rushdie had their lives ruined by the influence of a country thousands of miles away for writing a fictional book. Here is your inspiration.
So, we have already established fear. What else? Well, people are not stupid. The news may put it neatly in dissociated bundles, one story at a time, but people watching the news can make basic associations. They know that the daily – hourly terror attacks abroad happen in Islamic countries. People know that Pakistan is Islamic. People know that a lot of the countries we repeatedly cover for abuse against people are Islamic. We know that the charity ads against children marrying and against rapists being pardoned are mainly in Islamic countries. Even if they aren’t, we instantly assume this.
Now, we have a strange situation. Religious tolerance meets constant news coverage that goes against this. Fact after fact after fact. These are the two conflictions in the everyday persons mind. Maybe the occasional person looks up statistics, hoping to preserve the consistency of their beliefs. They find out that nearly all the lowest ranking countries in their treatment of women, save maybe India, are Islamic Sharia ones. They might also look up freedom of the press. Rape. Paedophilia. More and more facts and statistics, more and more ground shaking hypocrisy. Under normal conditions, people cannot live with these inconsistencies. Under normal conditions, people would investigate more. Maybe read the Qur’an. Study religious law. Fact check more and more. But they don’t. And most people don’t even bother with the statistics.
Why do you think this is? I have a basic theory. Occam’s razor, if you will, can show us the answer. What happens if you critique Islam? What are your major fears and obstacles to this dissent? Well firstly you will be largely disowned and condemned by the general media. They, as proposed before, adopt blind acceptance as it is the easiest route. Then there is the more sinister consequence. Violence. Not just against you, but your family and friends. So you think it through step by step. So you decide to be a voice of critique, but won’t get into the mainstream media. On top of this, your words may be spread across the world with the threat of violence. The only possible outcome will be negative.
So how do people act as a result of this? Well they act in the opposite of how they feel. They act like mini media conglomerates, distancing themselves from those who do dissent. Critiquing them as ‘racist’ or ‘xenophobic’ – actions which will provide them immunity from the ideological and physical threats of Islam. It is no shock that most real critique is done anonymously on the internet.
Now onto the second main question. Are Muslims in the west right in saying Islam, at its core, is peaceful? Well, yes and no. As I said before, Islam is only worth studying in relation to the actions it inspires in people. The bible, for example, is fairly innocuous nowadays. This doesn’t mean the Old Testament has no horrific atrocities in it. The Old Testament is rife with slavery, murder, incest, pseudoscience and general silliness. But we know people don’t follow it properly. Christians don’t. Amish people don’t. No one does. They pick passages which suit them. Suit their surroundings and friends and family and contemporary thought. In America it is easy to picket gay people and war veterans. It is easy to condemn races and people to a hell. It is easy to fly KKK flags and mask it with tolerance and free speech.
People in the UK don’t. There are laws against it. People have been arrested and charged, fined money and sent to prison. So British people don’t do this. We have a largely secular society which, as said before, puts ‘tolerance’ and ‘diversity’ above freedom of speech. This is a neutral point, it is a fact not an opinion. Once again, I digress to the issue. What is Islam really like? Well British Muslims are largely nice people. Their Muslims friends are largely nice people. Their Imams are, again, largely nice people. They are like you and me in 90% of circumstances. So it is natural they would derive their opinions about their religion from the same sources we do. They have the similar levels of self-imposed ethics as we do, as ethics are largely derived from the culture in which you live. They don’t go around cutting off people’s hands for stealing. This is incompatible with our culture.
So what is it about Islam in other parts of the world? Why the damning statistics and new reports? Why are they so at odds with our experience? Is it because they just follow more of their religious text to the letter than British Muslims? Is it because they are inferior people? Yes and… No. No they are not inferior. We are all people, we have the same DNA and proteins. No one is intrinsically inferior from birth. This is a xenophobic view and it is racist. Concerning adult people of this faith, it is not racist. They are people with free will and developed minds who chose a path, their path did not choose them. If these thoughts ever cross your minds, remember this. At first we regarded all black people are sub human. Property. As morality pushed back more and more, it was only ‘some’ black people who were considered to be like this. You had the cultured blacks and the slave blacks; the property of whoever ran a farm or factory. Now we reject and despise this ideology. It is clear that, despite modern institutionalised racism, black people do at least as well as white people do. Don’t fall into this same trap with people from the east. Don’t brand them as inferior based on their origins, while the ones here are instantly ok. Base your thoughts on actions and statistics.
This is, of course, based on morality. My personal morality is a mix of absolutism based on evolution and relativism. To get the best morality, you need to have a system that adapts to the situation and also has a systematic way of applying decisions/viewpoints. Selling children into sex slavery beating and raping your wives, mutilating people for stealing out of hunger, murdering people because they have juxtaposing beliefs – all wrong. All sanctioned in Islamic text. But wait, didn’t we used to do this? Didn’t we have inquisitions, burnings, religious dictatorship and theocratic ruling? Yes, we did. Hundreds of years ago, the Western world was a terrible place.
Karl Marx proposed Communism as a natural progression in our societies. In its pure form, it suggests our society will progress more and more socially as we realise it is in our best interests. This idea can be applied to many stages in history. Monarchies, theocracies, dictatorships and civil unrest, Cycle after cycle after cycle. Some predictable, a lot random – but all a learning experience. A gradual improvement on the previous state.
So yes, our society was terrible at one point. It still is in a few ways. But we are extremely lucky in that a lot of the major creases have been, and are being, ironed out. Being gay is no longer classed a mental illness. Slavery is no longer allowed, despite being sanctioned by the religion that used to rule us. Now onto the Islamic world and how this relates to it. They are going through what we went through hundreds of years ago. Constant unrest, constant civil war and genocide. Oppression of thought, speech and action. Knowledge is restricted as much as possible. Book burnings are frequent. People are hanged based on their words. Men are classed as much higher than women in society.
However horrible this is, it is comparable to our own history. And, extrapolating, it will get better. Mixed with Islam, however, we have a big problem. The Qur’an consists of many, many teachings. They talk about fighting the non-believer, physically and mentally. Using subversion to overthrow your enemies. It literally sanctions, even describing methods, of female subjugation. The object of Islamic pride, Muhammad, Is shown to rape his slaves. Take young wives. Kill people in battle over their beliefs. Condemn all those who disagree. The literal interpretation of the Qur’an is extremely clear on what to do and how to deal with other people. The culture may be young and violent, but the religion sanctions it, making it even worse. Not only do men have all the power, they have legitimate authority to claim power. They can reference the Qur’an in all their actions to justify them.
So, in summary, Islam in the west is largely fine. Muslims have legitimate reason to believe this also. Islam in Sharia countries however, mixed with young societies, provides a toxic brew of hatred, against their own people and especially the Western world. The problem is our modern weapons do nothing against this radical Islam. In fact, they further it. Legitimize it. Some Muslims in this country, through internet communication, are now being indoctrinated. We took a long time to get to the progressive society in which we live. It takes a lot of effort to maintain it. The easier and more appealing options are in the past politics. People will revert to basal systems of belief is they have sufficient religious belief and contact with others of that cause.
Our societies do not need to be ‘protected’ against multi religious, multi-culturalism. They do, however, need to be protected against the wave of simplistic, violent ideas emanating from the eastern Sharia countries. This is not a literal war, this is a thought war. This is a war of expression and rights. It needs to be fought by every member of the public. Our companies, news and government. While half rational, military action only exacerbates the problem. The day when people in this country, Whether British Muslim, White British, Asian British – the day we can critique the ideas presented in the Qur’an without fear of violence, the day we win. The day we can do this in the same way people do of the bible, we win.
This is my argument. Please comment. I hope you enjoyed it.