There is a problem with Islam.
Islam as a whole is very very bad at taking criticism. There is a fairly sizeable and vocal opposition to dialogue and discourse. It is outside the west a terrible faith of oppressive ideas particularly towards women. In Islamic countries one regularly sees a creeping installation of fundamentalists as the role models of “Islam” resulting in totalitarian regimes and barbarous rules.
Let’s take Bangladesh for instance. A creeping islamicisation of society has resulted in open attacks on atheists resulting in deaths. And rather than be shocked at this, the government wishes to jail atheists to appease the fundamentalists. The message provided is one of appeasement.
In any theocracy, the fundamentalist is king. The man who sticks the most to the Koran is the most religious and therefore the most likely person to lead. Never mind the fact that you need other things to run a country.
However Atheism has it’s problems with the critique of Islam.
Let’s take into account Sam Harris.
“The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.”
That’s not a good thing to hear.
Let’s take into account another famous atheist.
Pat Condell’s anti-islamic spiel has verged on anti-muslim and he has repeatedly stated right wing/neo-nazi talking points particularly against multiculturalism.
Now here in lies the problem.
There is a notion that Islam is harmless. It’s in fact probably more harmful currently than Christianity is. But remember LOCALITY LOCALITY LOCALITY. Hinduism is a bigger problem in India than Islam and Christianity. Because of the Hindu majority. It’s the same argument between the Nation of Islam and the Tea Party. The Tea Party may believe in less dangerous things than the Nation of Islam but their size makes them more more likely to be taken seriously.
However in areas where Islam has been shown to be dominant, there is a major problem with fundamentalism and the usage of Islam as a tool to oppress through violence and fear. Now here is the thing.
We can and should learn to differentiate between Islam and Muslims. Let us not forget that Islam mainly oppresses Muslims.
See, our issue is that the anti-Islam arguments that we currently have are so interlaced with right wing and neo-nazi demagoguery that we cannot differentiate the two things. It actually harms ex-Muslim atheists because neo-nazis hate them equally and what comes out of the mouths of atheists looks like the same stuff.
And it’s actually kind of hard since there is sadly a modicum of truth. Islamic terrorism is widely seen and it’s scale and organisation is on a much more global reach than any other group. The LTTE may have had suicide bombers but they weren’t running a campaign of assassinations outside Sri Lanka. The Hindus may have gone crazy and killed thousands of muslims (and vice versa) in Inter-religious warfare but they again stuck to India. Such religious violence is seen as exclusive to specific areas.
With Islam though? The USA, UK, Europe, India have all seen the scourge of Islamic terrorism. The scale and goal of such terror is a lot more widespread and more alien and nebulous than that of other groups. The LTTE like the IRA fight for a homeland. The Islamic fundamentalists often believe in a variety of conspiracy theories and rhetoric that makes it hard to argue and debate.
First let’s deal with Islamophobia.
Islamophobia is the unnecessary and pointless criticism of Islam. So to say “Islam plans to fuck us out of Europe, just look at the number of children being born to them!” is Islamophobia.
Saying Islam treats women badly using the Burkha and Hijab and the control of society to disempower women and to strip them of any power and agency that they may have is not Islamophobic. It is the truth. We can look at the treatment of women in Islamic communities across the globe and even in such enlightened nations such as the UK and repeatedly come to the conclusion that Islam fucking sucks at treating women as human beings. And it gets worse. The major problem is that the very seat of Islam is in the hands of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A place of phenomenal wealth from oil and whose whose government in order to maintain power appeased wahabbists creating a society of lavish excess if you are a man and a caged existence if you are a woman. And woe betide anyone being accused of breaking a law. To call the KSA’s sharia law barbaric and stupid wouldn’t be wrong.
There is a massive elephant in the room and that elephant is that the moderate and liberal muslims have no onus and no voice to stand up and simply cut out the cancer that is fundamentalist Islam. When they do we repeatedly ignore them or simply don’t care.
When we say that there are “Some” Muslim individuals doing heinous things we forget that there is a scale of culture which forces muslims to not speak out against those who do heinous things lest they raise their ire. To not support these oxygen thieves is to not be a good Muslim. So while there are local drives to certain behaviours (Eg. Palestine’s support for it’s fundies is due to it’s fundies being the only ones to stand up for Palestinians. That if we actually gave Palestinians what they wanted and indeed deserved they wouldn’t have done any of these things. Instead our idiocy created a situation that is frankly untenable)
The problem is what portion of Islamic society has to be sufficiently fucked up before you declare it a problem? The boat is sinking, the rats have fled. If you honestly think Islamic society isn’t simply collapsing into a barbarous dark age then you are blind. We have seen the rot at the heart of Islam in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Egypt, Syria… All these are just different symptoms of the same problem. Pakistan and Bangladesh. Even Indonesia and Turkey, two nations considered to be moderates when it comes to Islam have shown reverses in stances and even India whose large muslim population has generally been law abiding has started demonstrating things such as honour killing.
Let’s get this straight. I started on this topic after reading the Guardian’s article on Sam Harris and I have to disagree with one bit.
While the only nuclear weapons to have ever been used were by the mainly Christian USA, one has to remember that the Nuclear Weapon probably saved more lives. Let’s put this into perspective. The Empire of the RIsing Sun waged a horrific war. In many cases still fighting to the death. Across the entire pacific the Japanese mainly fought to the death with very few POWs being captured. Often wounded soldiers would booby trap themselves to kill allied soldiers. Let’s just say this made it a better prospect to shoot POWs out of hand. The captured POW camps from the Japanese didn’t really help the allied attitude towards surrendered POWs either.
To anyone in that war, the war would only end with the destruction of Japan’s entire infrastructure. Even forced back and starved, the Japanese army was still talking trash like Kim Jong Un after a few pints. The choices were to Invade Japan and suffer tens of thousands to even hundreds of thousands of casualties vs. a population of people who were near suicidal in their drive to kill and now defend their homeland and indeed “god” while inflicting millions of casualties.
Or demonstrate that we didn’t have to Invade them. That we had a weapon so terrifying that nothing could stand before it. While in hindsight we had let the genie out of the bottle, at the time when everyone was just so very tired of killing we wanted a quick way out.
The nuclear weapons gave us that. To say Islamic nations haven’t used nuclear weapons is to be extremely daft about it. Pakistan has nuclear weapons and hasn’t used them mainly because India has them and in an exchange of nukes the country with the most people is likely to win. There is however no question about it.
If the jihadis of Pakistan had their way they would have used a nuclear weapon. The only thing that kept the warmongers in check was sheer luck. Should Pakistan collapse, one hopes that the people who take them don’t use them. But considering the abject lack of self preservation and willingness to oppress their own, the average Jihadi with access to them would use them in a heart beat to strike in the name of their god. They don’t know why they shouldn’t use them. They do not care about the lives they waste.
They are a death cult and Islam’s fetishisation of martyrdom means the Jihadi has absolutely no qualms about sacrificing the lives of others because to him those lives mean nothing on this planet. The Jihadi preys on the desperate and the ignorant. It’s no wonder that the Taliban destroy schools because education erodes fanaticism.
And the problem with Islam as a canonical faith is that Islam cannot exist side by with any education that threatens it’s reality. Islam today is the same as the Roman Catholic church during the era of Galileo. And this pushes the fundies to the fore. And muslims pay that price daily. It’s a vicious cycle. Just look at Bangladesh. Many moderate Muslims agree with the Fundamentalists because to not want a Islamic State is to place yourself on the side of the Atheists and that’s just asking to be stabbed or beheaded or worse.
To be a bad muslim. Don’t wear a Burkha? You Bad Muslim. Learn evolution? Bad Muslim. Eventually you end up with things like the entire identity of being “A Muslim” synonymous from being “A Jihadi” and that’s synonymous with being a wanker.
Not all New Atheists are Sam Harris. We aren’t an organisation, we don’t all believe the same things. If I told my “followers” to “kill all the Dutch” they would tell me to “Go fuck myself”. And while some of us have fanatical followers, the vast majority of us lack a virulent fan base.
And yes against the Islamicists we are fighting a unequal war.
Sam Harris and indeed Christopher Hitchens are not sacred cows (SEE HINDU REFERENCE!) to be given free reign. They can and will be criticised. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And while we may have begun our war on “Islamic Terror” on that note, we have forgotten that what that entails is toeing “the line“. The War on Terror changed us by forcing us to do ever more morally questionable things in pursuit of a goal. A goal that we believed in because we were struck at the heart of what we believed in. Our fundies and politicians and our greedy took advantage of our fears and our desire to be heroes and we slowly become the things we feared the most. Monsters in our own rights. While we wept over the deaths of those we killed we always justified it with “It’s the price that needs to be payed for their freedom”. We saw ourselves initially as heroes. To fight a war like our grandfathers and to change the world for the better. Osama Bin Laden had no power yet he existed because what we couldn’t accept that what we had done in Iraq was for nothing. We needed someone to blame so we created the visage of a terrifying mastermind pulling the strings behind various attacks. Half Lex Luthor, Half Ming The Merciless? In the end he died. All coward and allegedly surrounded by the pornography his followers claimed to despise, cowering behind an innocent woman who died for him. A pointless man. Yes, I think we could have done real good in Afghanistan if not for our desire to be heroes, short attention span and our frankly moronic choice of allies.
Sam Harris believes in some daft things. He stood for torture because of the above reason. He stood for Israel because he cannot conceive a world where Palestine doesn’t commit acts of terrorism because he cannot understand that Palestinian terrorism is driven by the fact that they have no other options. The very existence of Richard Reid (the Shoe bomber and arguably the most successful terrorist ever considering he killed zero people yet managed to increase the total cost of flying by a sizeable amount thanks to extra security checks) shows that traditional profiling does not work. He even spoke out against the so called “Ground Zero Mosque” which was more like “Somewhere near Ground Zero and a Community Centre”.
Liberals may not be “Soft on terrorism” but a lot of people have said some frankly idiotic things that support some of the worst practices of Islam. My particular favourite is “Hijab Day” where a few western feminists spoke out in favour of the Hijab forgetting that they wear it out of fashion choice while the average muslim woman wears it because of a cultural and religious oppression of women.
And while people think Dawkins and indeed Hitchens spend all their time worrying about condemning the actions of distant people, one only has to read their writing to realise that they are most virulent against Christianity due to it’s immediate local effects. In fact there is a massive out cry amongst western ex-Muslim atheists about a LACK of direction with regards to the problems and evils of Islam. The few representatives they have had to claw their way through the ranks and they are often still ignored.
To claim that we shouldn’t take on and mock Islam and the actions of the Muslims who do believe in it is daft. It’s not racist to point out that Islam is bat shit crazy and has fostered an environment that creates fundamentalists and that it is our job as atheists to try and help those atheists from those cultures fight against the progressive dark age we find modern Islam in.
Let us once again go back to Afghanistan. Afghanistan is a beast of our creation. In our war against the Soviets, we created the Mujahadeen and maintained the tribalism which eventually fragmented into the Taliban that we know today. It became one of the primary exporters of terrorism across the planet. From Indian to Russia to the USA and the UK to Africa, the mark of the Jihadi’s camps from Afghanistan is well known. India’s been harping on about it for nearly 20 fucking years and indeed pointing out Pakistan’s complicit nature in it.
What would you do? Development will not occur with the Taliban at the heart of it. You will have no overthrow of a rule of theocrats who do not care if you live or die. To bring improvements the Taliban must be destroyed. The attacks on Malala, MSF and the Red Cross have made it crystal clear that no improvements can occur without the destruction of the Pashtun culture of vendetta and of the Taliban.
The argument about Islamophobia is because it’s often used to bludgeon genuine criticism of Islam into the ground and to force genuine arguments against Islam to falter unless the arguer is willing to be lumped in with the BNP or Ann Coulter. People like Maryam Namazie and Taslima Nasrin have been called Islamophobes because they spoke out against violence against women. Any attack on Islam no matter how valid has been regarded as Islamophobic.
While there are bigger threats than Islam, there is no bigger threat to Muslims across the world than Islam. Let’s look at different things for example. Indonesia with it’s secular islamic society has seen radicalisation with many Sharia courts slowly forcing all women to wear the Hijab. Bangladesh has spoken out against Atheists rather than the fundamentalists and is sliding towards a society with less free speech. India’s Muslims while relatively moderate have shown an ugly side during the whole Vishwaroopam debacle (because portraying Jihadis as wankers is insulting to Islam? I am more miffed in their portrayal of Oncologists!), Pakistan’s pretty much a civil warzone with daily attacks from fundamentalists. Iran’s “iran”. And the Middle East ranges from places like the UAE where the relative moderate society belies deeper issues such as the racism and the near enslavement of poor people from South Asia/South East Asia to places such as Iraq where Inter-Faith violence abounds to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Yemen whose governments make them terrible places to live in. Egypt is going down that route and Saudi Arabia too. A lot of the Northern Coast of Africa while moderate can go down that route and even Turkey has seen some changes from it’s purely secular stance. Somalia’s rise of Islamicism has made it a “Second Afghanistan” with it’s export of terror in Africa. And this is without the spectres of the mistreatment of women, honour killing, disenfranchisement of women and female genital mutilation that are hard to fight due to these issues being so entrenched in Islam.
Just look at Nigeria? Where the efforts of healthcare workers have fallen flat at eradicating Polio due to the influence of Islam.
To claim this is some magically small percentage of Muslims is just daft as fuck. 9% according to the Guardian Article. I fear that the number of supporters is far higher. The problem being that many Muslims either don’t realise they are supporting the activities of such people or do so out of a misguided sense of duty.
Or indeed the price of sponsoring and protecting what lurks in their midst.