One of the more popular criticisms of Muslims that can be found within the atheist community takes the following form:
Sure, not all Muslims commit acts of violence; however, they do not speak out against it, because they know that the violent actors are adhering to the true nature of the religion.
The latter half is omitted as often as it is included, but the subtext of “moderate Muslims don’t speak out against violence committed in the name of Islam” does not really permit many interpretations beyond that conclusion. It is seemingly predicated on a belief that a plain-text reading of the Qur’an leads to the clear conclusion that violence against non-believers is permitted.
Never mind, of course, that the opposite is true.
Similarly untrue is the assertion that moderate Muslims do not speak out against terrorism, as Qasim Rashid explains:
But why do our brains shut down when the slightest indication exists that the culprit might maybe possibly be Muslim? No sooner did the Boston tragedy occur — and even before the slightest indication emerged regarding who perpetrated the attack — but I received dozens of emails and messages asking why “moderate Muslims” aren’t condemning the attack?
Muslims condemned 9/11, we condemned 7/7, we condemned the Fort Hood tragedy, we condemned the underwear bomber, we condemned the Times Square bomber, and now yet again we find ourselves condemning the Boston Bombers on the mere suspicion that they were “motivated by Islam.”
And this is why I am unsure if people hear Muslims when Muslims declare — in response to every violent act or attempt at violence — that Islam condemns all forms of religious violence and terrorism. Because even after condemning the Boston bombers, I receive messages that the condemnation wasn’t “loud enough” or “clear enough” or passionate enough.” ” In other words, all they heard from me was blah blah blah blah blah.
The frustration that Rashid expreses is, to my eye, similar to the one I feel whenever I am compelled to defend ‘black culture’ against all manner of purported ills: a glorification of violence; a casual approval of misogyny; a fetish for poverty and welfare spongery. Left out of these assertions is the fact that black people are regular and vocal critics of these very things (indeed, in many cases they (we) use the language of the oppressor in condemning our own). Also left out is the fact that blackness and ‘black culture’ are no more responsible than whiteness or ‘white culture’ are for the exact same types of behaviours when done by white people – when done by whites, the majority finds classist language to separate themselves from the ‘white trash’.
Similarly, as Rashid notes, Muslims are frequent critics of violence that comes from ostensible members of their community. The reason for the apparent lack of condemnation is not, as some assert, that Islam is violent and moderate Muslims secretly approve, but that members of non-Muslim groups simply haven’t been listening.
None of this is to say that moderate religious groups don’t shoulder their own share of the blame when it comes to religious extremism; only that we should be seriously suspicious of anyone who makes the claim that moderate Muslims are particularly guilty, especially with counter-evidence piled all ’round us.
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