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Blackstar

Atheism and Islam(ophobia)

30 posts in this topic

Not that I'm really a part of this community anymore, but as the only Muslim on theboreds, I guess I'll comment.

 

Atheist Islamophobia

The rise of atheist Islamophobia (which I think is putting it mildly - it's flat out unabashed, unbridled bigotry) is kind of sad for me to witness, especially because I think American conservatives and Europeans supply more than enough anti-Muslim bigotry for the world. 

 

I suppose I was never dark or ethnic-looking enough to experience any kind of prejudice in the months and years following 9/11, but at the time I really appreciated three communities in particular:  the LGBT community, the Jewish community, and the Atheists.  When conservatives - especially White Christian conservatives - were going to town hating Muslims and Islam, I noticed that those were the three groups that stood with us and came to our defense.  It always made me feel good and very thankful. 

 

The Atheists tended to be more liberal, more critical of Western imperialism, US foreign policy and its effects on the Muslim world, and just generally speaking, didn't hate Muslims and weren't prejudiced towards them.   I knew that Atheists weren't particularly fond of Islam, and found it as fraudulent as Christianity, or any other world religion.  But that's what I liked - they didn't dislike Islam in particular, they disliked all religions equally.  That, and, I liked that many of them thought intellectually and seriously about religion, and I learned a lot from the Atheists on this messageboard over the years. 

 

Islamophobia Generally

 

This new anti-Islam fervor is peculiar, and for me it calls to mind the biblical passage: why do you look at the speck of sawsdust in your brother's eye and ignore the plank in your own eye?   Many people, not just the new Islamophobic Atheists, look at an act of violence like the shooting in Newtown, and declare it the act of a lone crazy person. 

Were people calling for all adolescent and adult White males to be required to pass through metal detectors at all schools and movie theaters?  No.  But then an act of violence by a person who happens to be a Muslim suddenly becomes an expression of the collective consciousness of the entire Muslim population, and of the religion itself. 

 

I also see endemic problems like persistent sexism, domestic abuse (which overwhelmingly affects women), and sexual abuse in the US military, something that makes headlines on a regular basis, and these things go largely ignored by your everyday American.  But then a story will come out about a rape in a Muslim-majority country, or about the lack of personal freedom for women in Saudi Arabia, and these events and occurrences become the face of the Muslim world.   These events and acts are treated as though they are not only accepted and condoned, but expected and encouraged.  

 

We ignore the fact that many of these acts 1) are opposed by many (often most) of the people within these very countries, 2) occur in developing, conflict-ridden countries, 3) are perpetrated and supported by frequently impoverished, undereducated people, and 4) do not represent the overwhelming history of Islam, and Muslim interaction with the rest of the world (not all of which was sunshine and rainbows, but much of which was good and positive).   The decline of the Muslim world is a relatively recent phenomenon, which started less than a century ago. 

We also ignore the fact that many of the problems found in the Muslim world are not unique to the Muslim world, nor are these problems more prevalent in Muslim-majority countries.   Two countries which have battled for the title of "rape capital of the world" (South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo) are both Christian-majority countries. 

 

The idea of Islam being especially dangerous also doesn't make sense to me, since the beliefs and teachings are very similar with the teachings of Judaism in particular.  There are more Muslims in the world, so naturally there will be more crazies who happen to be Muslim.  And the majority of Muslims do not understand Islam to endorse violence as a means to an end.  I know that this country has been subjected to politically-motivated attacks in the past decade or two, often using Islam as their justification, but I would argue that 1) these extremists do not represent the Muslim community or Islam, but rather a small but loud minority, and 2) they are only more prevalent because of ease of travel and flow of information.

 

Really, there's little I can say here that wasn't touched on in the Greenwald article Blackstar posted. 

It's valuable to know about problems and human rights abuses that occur throughout the world so that we can correct them, and certainly you'll be hard pressed to find Muslims here who aren't incredibly critical of the state of many of the Muslim-majority countries.  But I think the way Islam and Muslims are subjected to extra scrutiny is unfair, and frankly smacks of xenophobia and racism to me, since Muslims are generally perceived as being a dark-skinned, foreign other.  People won't expressly admit these types of things, of course.  After all, modern racism is much more insidious than the racism of the Civil Rights Era in America.

 

I mean you can demonize Muslims and Islam, but to what end?  What do these people hope to gain?  The destruction of Islam?  Islam isn't an ideology; it can't be destroyed.  The destruction of the Muslim people?  Shall we round ourselves up in death camps?  Or perhaps we should all be shipped and banished to an island encased in barbed wire?  You'll lose many notable scholars, scientists, actors, musicians, athletes, comedians, business people (including the co-founder of Youtube) and artists in the process, but maybe it's a price worth paying.

 

It seems to me like acknowledging and working with the overwhelmingly moderate Muslims to increase access to education, improve academic rigor, and help develop a robust middle class in the Muslim-majority countries would be a more fruitful approach.  Maybe focus more on the moderate Muslim voices that continually and very vocally condemn acts of terrorism, or violence against non-Muslims, or draconian laws. 

I don't think it's fair or productive to pass judgment on all of Islam and all Muslims because of a dark period in Islam's history.

 

 

Muslim views on apostasy

 

I find it curious that such a large percentage of Muslims in some of those countries (and it is only some, since the percentages were much lower in other Muslim-majority countries) favor death as the punishment for apostasy.  Islam does not prescribe a punishment for apostasy, much less death (though of course ultra-conservative and extremist Muslims will disagree with me on that point).  The Qur'an is clear when it states that "there is no compulsion in religion."   Again, all but the most conservative (or extreme) Muslim scholars will corroborate that conclusion. 

Even if I were to accept that Islam condones the killing of apostates (and I don't), it is rarely enforced. 

 

I would also note that the traditional punishments for apostasy in both Christianity and Judaism were death by stoning - see Deuteronomy.

 

 

Fellside's Jury anecdote

 

Fellside's jury anecdote seems to come from a man who either really wanted to get out of jury duty (the explanation I'm leaning towards), or someone who is simply mistaken.  The Qur'an doesn't prescribe a punishment for rape, or other sexual crimes.  It does prescribe a punishment for adultery (lashes), but the punishment is only carried out 1) if there are witnesses (I'm not sure if this has been modified to include circumstantial evidence), and 2) if the parties come forward publicly (something they aren't required to do).  The circumstances are such that you're encouraged to repent privately (have fun finding witnesses), since most people won't want voluntarily subject themselves to the public humiliation of being whipped, and of outing yourself as an adulteror.  That and, a person can forego the prescribed punishment by repenting. 

 

All that seems fairly tame when compared with the traditional punishment for adultery in Judaism  - death by stoning.  Though, I doubt this was enforced very often, and I'm sure Jewish interpretation of the underlying texts has evolved over the years. 

 

 

 

I'll always have more to say on this topic, but I don't think my audience of three or four people will be persuaded one way or another, or even need to be persuaded - assuming any of you even read all of that. 

That and, I have to get back to studying for the Bar exam.

Edited by Jainn

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It just seemed more like he was concerned with refusing to let the US off the hook for instigating imperialist wars and such, which is not to be ignored.

 

 

 

he claims that the U.S. is "the country who has generated more violence and militarism in the world over the last 60 years than any other", which is a ludicrous charge by any realistic metric. U.S. foreign policy is fundamentally practical; we engage in realpolitik more often than not. but to say that it's killed more people than, say, the Khmer Rouge (1.8 million people systematically rounded up and murdered), Iraq (1.5 million casualties on both sides from Iran-Iraq War, maybe 500,000 dead at the hands of the state), or Rwanda (Rwandan Genocide, approx 600,000 people massacred in 100 days) is not laughable but sad.

 

but again, Greenwald is a creature of current affairs and consistently conflates the larger point attempting to be made by both Harris and Maher about the violence of Islam in the modern world being linked to it's tenets as a religion with (for some reason) the actions of the U.S. government's foreign policy. that simply isn't the comparison. he could attempt to compare it to modern Christianity, of course, but perhaps he doesn't (and there's fellside's intellectual dishonesty) because he knows Islam would fare pretty badly by such a comparison. which is of course Harris and Maher's point.

 

i think this point could be made pretty easily by asking Glenn, as a gay man, what do most countries who outlaw homosexuality (often punishable by death) have in common?

 

 

I also see endemic problems like persistent sexism, domestic abuse (which overwhelmingly affects women), and sexual abuse in the US military, something that makes headlines on a regular basis, and these things go largely ignored by your everyday American.  But then a story will come out about a rape in a Muslim-majority country, or about the lack of personal freedom for women in Saudi Arabia, and these events and occurrences become the face of the Muslim world.   These events and acts are treated as though they are not only accepted and condoned, but expected and encouraged. 

 

i do however wholeheartedly agree that the perception of these things as they are portrayed in the media is colored by serious cultural bias. for instance there's no way we should imply that the rapes in India, horrible as they were/are, are somehow worse than the rapes which happen with just as much regularity in the U.S. military (or Catholic Church). we should abhor them all equally.

 

but concurrently i think that should drive us to attempt to bring around attitudes about women in Muslim countries that are, simply, medieval and abhorrent. we should be able to admit that there is a difference between a culture which permits a woman to drive to the store, apply for a job herself and ask a guy out to dinner and a culture in which all of those things are punishable by whipping; and in that aspect the former culture is better.

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i wonder if Glenn Greenwald has anything to say about this.

 

:edit: evidently he does. once again, Glenn conflates deadly religious and ideological zealotry with the actions of the U.S. government. i'd urge everyone following the story to watch the video of the man who committed murder in broad daylight, just after the attack. he stands there, covered in blood, a meat cleaver in his hand, agitated but totally rational in his attempt to justify what he'd just done. he links his killing, as Glenn does funnily enough, to the actions of Western governments but foremost in his rationale is the freedom to practice sharia law and the "defense" of Muslims around the world, in Allah's name.

 

but once again Glenn glosses over the role of religion and religiously-motivated ideology to focus on the actions of the U.S. and UK governments.

Edited by Blackstar

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Was going to come here to post that.  I've only known about the guy for a couple months but he's becoming very predictable.  Regardless what worldview you hold, if you evaluate all news the exact same way you're probably trying too hard to make a point rather than comment on what's going on.

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