The Sly Accusation of Islamophobia

COE SquareI think we’re all making a big mistake in defining “Islamophobia” as “hates Muslims.”

OF COURSE it’s wrong to hate people. But it’s not wrong to have serious reservations about a religion, a philosophy or a culture. It’s not wrong to judge IDEAS, and to find them wanting.

Because there really are inferior cultures and beliefs, cultures that deserve to be hated and stamped out. I grew up in one of them — a racist Southern culture which insisted that skin color should be the decider for acceptability, and which wasn’t above using extreme violence and terroristic threats to make the point.

Islam, in my view, is an inferior culture. For the way it treats its women. For the way it creates a one-way door — you can step into Islam, but you can’t leave it. For the way it brainwashes its people, stifling creativity and innovation. For the way it reacts violently to harmless humor.

Muslims themselves are victims of that culture. Most of them are trapped permanently within it — lacking the freedom to marry whom they want, to wear what they want, to observe or not observe their traditions. Lacking the freedom to LEAVE.
Having reservations about Islam — even hating it — is not the same thing as stomping down on some group of poor, downtrodden people who only want to live and love like everybody else.

And yet we’re being taught, every darned day, that it is. On some level, I’m pretty sure this is deliberate. To the extent that we unquestioningly accept this, I think we’re losing an important argument — allowing our natural compassion to be used against us. In an avid desire not to be seen as haters, we back away from inspecting Islam with open eyes, fairly judging it, and we end up welcoming it in, allowing it to invade our own culture with its lesser ideas and philosophies.

As for myself, I’m actually in favor of accepting — of WELCOMING — the Syrian refugees. Aside from anything else, the United States helped destabilize the Middle East.

But I’m not going to blindly assume that everything they’re bringing over with them is good. If they’re coming here, I expect them to have first allegiance to America, and not to Islam, or to Syria. I expect them to fit in with US, rather than insisting that we have to adapt to THEIR beliefs and traditions, or that they can permanently maintain a separate culture. And yes, I expect them and their children to learn English.

For the rest of us, you wouldn’t buy a horse or a car without the chance to look at it, to judge for yourself whether it was something you wanted to welcome into your life. And you definitely would judge it. Treat Islam — which is not a group of downtrodden, helpless victims but an IDEA, a philosophy, a religion and culture fully equipped to defend itself — with the same clear-eyed honesty.

Finally, it’s not enough to say, as some are, that the extremists in Islam are no different than Christianity’s KKK. When’s the last time the KKK openly rioted and burned and shot people? If the KKK burns down a black church here in the U.S., we have no doubt that the people who do it are criminals and racists who deserve to be caught, prosecuted, and treated harshly. Not one honest Christian would celebrate the burning of a black church. Our extremists are on their own – with no support from moderates.

On the other hand, the Islamic murder of staffers at Charlie Hebdo, the French humor magazine, came in the midst of violent demonstrations all over the Muslim world. People were assaulted and killed, churches and schools were looted and burned, death threats were made. All out in the open – as if the people involved had every right to be doing it – with no white hoods or secrecy in sight. And eventually, a couple of guys walked into the Charlie Hebdo offices and shot 11 people dead. Because of cartoons.

Never let anyone make that comparison. The KKK and Islamic extremists are in no way equivalent. Even if they were, we stopped tolerating the KKK more than 50 years ago. They wear those hoods because even their own neighbors would reject them if they showed their faces.

We should no more tolerate the threats of Islamic extremists than we do violence – or the threat of it – by anybody.

And we should JUDGE Islam for its content, for the acts carried out in its name, and for the effect it has both on the people caught within it and those forced to live with it in the larger world.

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