The Huffington Post has published A Conversation Between Two Atheists From Muslim Backgrounds. It would be more interesting if it weren’t full of logical fallacies — in places, it’s more of an exercise in beating up liberal straw-people.
I think 21st century westerners generally don’t appreciate what they take for granted, because somebody else fought for these rights before they were born. I have given so many speeches around the country and I have heard many statements like, "The United States is the worst country on Earth," and, "We are no better if not worse than the Middle East when it comes to women’s rights and gay rights." These laughable statements generally come from people who have not been outside the United States, let alone even left their zip code. So I think most of the lack of appreciation of the freedoms in this nation or other Western nations have come from ignorance and lack of experience.
It’s quite possible that they have heard a few comments like those quoted — both the left and right contain stupid people. But I do think those are grossly misrepresentative, as well as simply wrong.
I don’t know anyone who thinks the United States is the worst country on earth — we can point to ‘witches’ being burnt alive in Africa, to gays being oppressed and murdered just about everywhere, to women being denied even the most basic freedoms in many Islamic countries. But we can also point to the satanic ritual abuse mania, the epidemic of violence against trans people, endemic racism, and inequity here, too. That the US is not quite as bloody-minded domestically (we’re pretty bloody-minded when it comes to foreign policy, unfortunately) as, say, Afghanistan does not mean we need to shut up and not worry about cleaning our own house. It does not mean we must live in denial about the diminished career opportunities for women in America because women in Saudi Arabia are being stoned to death for adultery.
We must remain focused on injustice everywhere. We cannot excuse a lesser crime here because a greater crime occurs somewhere else.
Even if you’re focused entirely on the greatest offenses against humanity, there are good practical reasons to address them everywhere. For example: Ireland is a western democracy; I’d rather live there than in the Sudan, or Uganda, or Iran. It’s a very nice place, for the most part, with some ugly history and unfortunate relics of theocracy lurking about, like their blasphemy law and their acknowledgment of a deity in their constitution. Minor problems compared to countries that are actively and oppressively theocratic, right? But some Islamic nations love to point to the blasphemy laws in Ireland as legitimizing their own tyrannical laws.
Further, the Irish people can work to change their laws to a more enlightened state; Irish or Americans or French people can’t do much to change Iranian law, other than by setting a good example, or more unfortunately, throwing threats and bombs at them until they change (and the record shows that those tactics aren’t particularly effective).
And may I say that I find it particularly irritating for someone to say that westerners are just sitting back and coasting on the labors of their ancestors, as if Grandpa solved all of America’s problems, and there are no battles left to fight. Tell that to women, to minorities, to gays — go ahead, tell them that Stonewall was just a little party, that the Selma-to-Montgomery march was just a meaningless stroll, that the people who have been campaigning against our aggressive military or corporate abuse aren’t putting their livelihoods on the line.
How would Muslims feel if we declared that they have to shut up and stop with the pity party until North Korea is cleaned up? Because of course there is only room for one Hell on earth, and all the rest of the planet is a paradise.
Do you see that that is as much of a false dilemma as accusing the West of wasting time on their own failings?