Islamophobia is Not Inherently Bad

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Wed, Dec 30 - 5:15 pm EDT | 3 years ago by
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Islamophobia not bad

My name is Liz, and I am agnostic.

When it comes to topics of god’s existence, I acknowledge that I have no way of knowing. There is no evidence of god’s existence, although absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. I have found myself drawing the ire, regularly, of the religious and atheists alike, as I am a no more than a “fence sitter” to them. How can I not have a strict, passionate, unwavering opinion on such a big topic? Except, I do. In discussions of what many refer to as “organized religion,” I reject all theories. If there is a god, capable of creating all we see and much more that we don’t, would it not be presumptuous of me, as the science project of an all-powerful deity, to believe that I could ever fully understand this being’s existence, form, motivations, and wishes? Our minds have proven to be great tools of discovery, but also gardens of ignorance. We are incapable of understanding much of what is in front of us at this very moment. How could we possibly fully understand that which has never appeared to us?

I can say all of this freely, although not without debate or criticism, because I live in the United States of America. I can say that Christianity is hypocritical, for example. I can remind you that Jesus’ death probably did not negate the Old Testament, because you still complain about anyone removing Decalogue – the 10 Commandments, which were introduced in, yes, the Old Testament – from government buildings. I’m free to say that and more, with any amount of snark that I desire, because this is America. And yet, it appears to end there.

While religions are indisputably ideology, they have also become synonymous with certain demographics of people. A lazy correlation, no doubt, but a correlation that has been established nonetheless. In truth, no religion is a race, ethnicity, or gender. Religion is an idea. And we’re supposed to be allowed to challenge ideas. But everyone is so scared of what some of us might say, they think that they need to preemptively”defend” others’ ideas against ours.

Most common today in the US is the defense against Islamophobia. “Islamophobia” is defined as the “dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.” Although the exact phrasing varies across different publications, the existence of “politics” is nearly  always  present. When discussing Islam, most people fail to differentiate between religious Islam and political Islam. The right, in their criticism, focus almost exclusively on the political aspect. The left, in their defense, focus almost exclusively on the religion, as well as the assumed race of the believers, when stating that any criticism of the ideology is Islamophobic. However, the definition of Islamophobia accounts for both: Islam as a religion and/or Islam as a political force.

Political Islam is the marriage of political systems, religious beliefs, and cultures, where secular institutions are inferior to religious ones. Religious authority dominates governing institutions. Instead of a religious belief – which can be, and typically is, amended to suit each individual believer’s specific interpretation of an ancient text – political Islam is religious law, where a government invokes ancient text in order to enforce strict adherence to the outdated customs, expectations, and teachings of a “supreme authority,” with any deviation resulting in shockingly violent consequences. In Western countries, our laws as secular societies are not dictated to us by the invocations of an almighty god of questionable existence, but rather by the common sense (sometimes) of man and the evolution of society over many, many years.

Arifa Bibi was stoned to death in 2013 for the crime of possessing a cell phone. Ashraf Fayadh was sentenced to death this year for the crime of renouncing Islam. 13-year-old Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was stoned to death in 2008 for the crime of being raped. Do you hate this? Congratulations, you are Islamophobic.

With political Islam, faith is used as a substitute for reason, and punishments are handed out based on that faith. For this reason, political Islam is not able to be reformed sufficiently for Western integration, and never will be.

And now, in saying all that I’ve said, I too have met the criteria for being labeled “Islamophobic.”

Aside from the political aspects, Islam is the second largest religion in the world at this exact moment. If current trends continue, it will equal Christianity by about 2050, and surpass it by about 2070. And you’re not allowed to dislike it. Even if politics were to be entirely removed from consideration tomorrow, there is still a shocking limitation on the ability to question, criticize, and dislike one of the most prominent religions in the world without being branded a bigot, or even be punished for voicing your opinions.

Recently, The Muslim Student Association at San Diego State University joined a growing number of student groups, which span across nearly 80 colleges and universities, by issuing their own demand list. The list, which includes eight total demands of the school’s administration, students, and even US leaders, includes the introduction of “a zero tolerance policy,” which would explicitly forbid “Islamophobic speech and actions.” Similar demands have become common among protests within higher learning institutions.

This doesn’t end on campus, either. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has been called “Islamophobic,” despite being a vocal critic of not only Islam, but also other major religions. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who was born into a Muslim family in Somalia and, as a young child, was subjected to female genital mutilation, has also been labeled “Islamophobic” for pointing to the violent practices present in Islam and daring to suggest that Islam needs reformation. Salon even suggested that her speech was “dangerous” and her thoughts “twisted.” Numerous former Muslims united under the hashtag #ExMuslimBecause on Twitter, sharing their reasons for leaving the religion, and were promptly labeled “problematic,” “hateful,” and yes, “Islamophobic.”

Politicians, the media, and social justice advocates have pledged their allegiance to the “fight Islamophobia” camp. But fighting “Islamophobia” means fighting thoughts, speech, discussion, debate, and healthy dissent. It means fighting progress and growth. It means fighting understanding and disagreement. Many, myself included, believe that Islam as a religion needs reformation in order to be able to coexist with our society. How is it to be reformed if no one is allowed to point to the areas in which change is needed for fear of having their speech silenced or risk being publicly branded a bigot? Criticism of Islam as a religion is no different from criticism of Christianity. Criticism of Islam as a political force is no different from criticism of Dictatorships.

The immediate correlation between the criticism and dislike of Islam and the term “Islamophobia” suggests that people, particularly in the West, are not mature enough to handle others questioning their chosen beliefs. In removing the ability to openly criticize and question violent aspects of Islam, as both a religion and a political system, the religion itself is reduced to archaic texts and practices in the minds of critics. If critics of Islam are somehow wrong, they will never know it. Closing off the conversation closes off both questions and answers.

Acting in violence, or attempting to get others to act in violence, is bad. But disliking something is pretty much the most American practice that a person can participate in.

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Liz Finnegan is a soulless ginger with no political leanings. Pun enthusiast. Self-proclaimed “World’s Okayest Person.” Retro gaming contributor for The Escapist.

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  • fartel engelbert

    Well said.

  • Lars Anderson

    Bravo. I’m an Islamophobe because well, common sense.

  • astrofrog

    Islamophobia, literally translated (from two different languages, making it another of those bastardized words like ‘polyamory’ … but I digress), would be “fear of submission”. Since when is fear of submission a character flaw?

  • INH5

    Great article. Like many of the various “isms,” “islamophobia” has become almost meaningless due to its use to silence critics. What’s worse is that there are genuine anti-Muslim bigots out there, but the aforementioned problem makes it difficult to effectively call them out.

    There are also very serious problems in the Muslim world, as anyone turning on the news can plainly see. But these silencing tactics prevent any serious discussion on what is causing them and how to solve them.

    For the record, I don’t know what the solution is, but here’s a decent primer on the cause:

    TLDR: It’s a combination of massive fundamentalist religious outreach programs funded by Saudi Arabia’s oil revenues and a series of short sighted foreign policy decisions by the US government and other countries starting in the 1980s. There are other factors, but those are the two most important ones.

  • Aaron Tucker

    Ummmm did you copy some of your verbiage from Religious Islam VS Political Islam blog?? ?

  • paul

    Can’t say I blame you for referencing Christianity and the Bible instead of the Koran.
    Whether or not one is an agnostic, theist or atheist your writing illustrates one of the key differences between Christianity and Islam.
    Individuals can opt out of Christianity of their own free will at any time without fear of consequence and Islam is a life long submission period…..or else!

    I happen to like the freedom to choose for myself and my choice is Christianity. ;)

    • Steven Schwartz

      Individuals can opt out of Christianity of their own free will at any time without fear of consequence

      Well, aside from being theoretically condemned to Hell, shunned by their community (depending on which church they came from), etc. And, of course, in times past when religion *was* a matter defined by the state, it was not a matter of no consequence.

      Patting Christianity on the back because it’s gotten better is OK, but give credit to the secularization that *led* to that improvement.

    • paul

      You omitted talking about trash about Islam.
      Why is that?

  • McChuck

    Well said, and deserving to be said.

    I will disagree with the proposition that Islam can be separated into ‘political’ and ‘religious’ branches. Why do I disagree? Because Islam itself disagrees. Islam is submission in all ways, in all things. Islam is a religion and a way of life. Islam is inherently political, by design.

    I understand the author’s confusion. We here in Christendom have been systematically been lied to for most of our lifetimes. It is all we have been told, and most of us have nothing better to base our decisions and opinions on that what we have heard. I had to experience Islam firsthand, by living in the Middle East, to learn the truth from the faithful. They see no separation between mosque and state. Islam is everything for without God, there is nothing. The true ‘Muslim Radical’ is the one who denies that God is everything, that Islam should be everything and the only thing in the lives of the people. The ‘Radical’ is the reformer. And the reformer has the life expectancy of ice chips on a hot griddle in the Middle East.

    Do I fear Islam and Muslims? Yes, I do. I do because they have said repeatedly that they want to kill me and destroy my culture utterly. And I believe them, because they are speaking from their hearts, with full faith and conviction. They do not believe in coexistence. Their term for non-Muslim lands translates as “The House of War.” This tells you everything you really need to know about their ability to ‘just get along.’

  • Jason P

    Why can’t one dislike Islam? After all we can dislike other religions and philosophies. What makes Islam off bounds to critical examination?

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