Lately, I’ve been coming across astounding venom against Islam, not from the usual suspects such as Tea Party yahoos and right-wingers, but from allegedly intelligent people such as atheists, Christians duty-bound to be compassionate and tolerant and supposedly enlightened Westerners.
There are three avenues of the demonization of Islam.
Atheists claim that Islam is evil—yes, “evil”—because it is a religion and all religious people get into or cause conflicts. This presupposes that atheists are all sterling pacifists fit to lead a Quaker meeting, a claim just slightly demolished by the 100 million deaths tolled by one Iosif Vissarionovich Stalin and one Mao Zedong, both atheists. And no, the Inquisition, Spanish or English (the Inquisition functioned in Britain, too), didn't even come close in 600 years of existence.
Another typical argument views Islam as the religion of Al Qaeda. Or of the Palestinian “terrorists”—for more on how much the overused T-word bothers me, click here. This is where the atheist criticism of Christianity makes (some) sense, as does (some) Arab criticism of Israel. Quite a few historical figures and institutions have abused the faith in the Prince of Peace, or the God of Abraham, for decidedly nefarious purposes (e.g., the Inquisition, noted above, and Israel's behavior under militarist conservatives).
A third line of attack blames Islam for the Arab world’s decidedly oppressive social attitudes toward women—which, we enlightened Westerners have not completely chucked (witness U.S. Republican Party stalwarts on the subject of “legitimate rape” in that distant galaxy during the 2008 election eons ago).
Sure, Osama bin Laden and pals invoked one similar version of Islam,by definition, a religion of peace. And sure, there are many conflicts in which belligerents invoke God. Finally, sure, the Arab world is very different from ours and I, personally, wouldn’t choose their customs.
But, if you are so rationalist, atheists, shouldn’t you be able to think your way to distinguish between hate-filled extremists and mainstream adherents to a faith?
Also, fellow American, if you are so hell-bent on decrying Islam on “terror,” what's our excuse, given our Jeffersonian and Wilsonian ideals, for the uniquely dehumanizing institution of Southern slavery or the recurrent denial of self-determination to nations such as Vietnam, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Nicaragua, just to name a few?
Finally, Westerners, where is your enlightened thought when it comes to realizing that all cultural attitudes, customs and traditions—yes, even ours—are not exactly absolute philosophical truths (which have yet to be proven to be in anyone’s possession), so that what we find shocking isn’t ipso facto wrongheaded?
Dig for answers in your brains, your consciences and your anthropological understanding.