Is The Koran Beyond Criticism Simply Because Muslims Exempt It From Criticism?

Author Sebastian Faulks recently made derogatory remarks about the Koran saying that it lacked an “ethical dimension” and that it did not stack up favorably to the Christian tradition (which is his own):

“Jesus, unlike Muhammad, had interesting things to say. Muhammad had nothing to say to the world other than, ‘If you don’t believe in God you will burn for ever’. … It’s a depressing book. It really is. It’s just the rantings of a schizophrenic. It’s very one-dimensional, and people talk about the beauty of the Arabic and so on, but the English translation I read was, from a literary point of view, very disappointing.”

Now, having been warned about the threat of “Muslim fury,” he is profusely retracting, claiming that the context was not adequately presented by the reporter in the interview and, reasonably enough asserting that a powerful ruler such as Muhammad could not have been schizophrenic.  That’s all fine by me.  But this part of his apology is what I found chilling:

While we Judaeo-Christians can take a lot of verbal rough-and-tumble about our human-written scriptures, I know that to Muslims the Koran is different; it is by definition beyond criticism. And if anything I said or was quoted as saying (not always the same thing) offended any Muslim sensibility, I do apologise – and without reservation.

So, we can only criticize based on how those whose beliefs are criticized view the subject at hand? Since the Muslims even further overestimate their texts than Christians and Jews do, even non-Muslims must pretend they are deserving of that level of respect?  Or is it just that the Muslim overestimation of their texts must be placated for the rest of time even as we know better than that they deserve such kid gloves?  This is rewarding the more irrational believers.  Ironically the more fanatical and out of touch with rational criticism you put your religious text, the more respect you can be entitled to!  Is this seriously our plan for the next decade or century or (even) millenium—to tiptoe around the global house making sure no one let’s our crazy cousins know the truth that their sacred texts are as full of crap as our own lest they throw a temper tantrum?  And that sort of condescension to their irrationalism is supposed to be respect for them?  Treating the billion adherents of a religion as incapable of taking criticisms from outsiders without a petulant response is respecting them?  No, it’s not, it’s fearing them as crazy. Respect would be to confront the Muslim world with reason as though they, you know, were people with brains who could actually reject dogmas.

I mean, seriously, is this how 21st Century Westerners really envision the future of 21st and 22nd and 23rd Century human global affairs—a situation in which a billion people belong to a religion that keeps them intellectually in the 7th Century?  I’m REALLY waiting for some Westerners to actually confront the Islamic world with unashamed reason, rather than cowtow to its delusions and treat the delusions rather than the people’s intelligence as deserving of respect.

(via New Humanist Blog)

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • George

    “While we Judaeo-Christians can take a lot of verbal rough-and-tumble about our human-written scriptures, I know that to Muslims the Koran is different; it is by definition beyond criticism. And if anything I said or was quoted as saying (not always the same thing) offended any Muslim sensibility, I do apologise – and without reservation.”-Sebastian Faulks

    What I find ironic is that Mr. Faulks honestly believes that Christians have any semblance of a thick skin in response to “verbal rough-and-tumble” over biblical supremacy. This has not been my observations at all. Just because a Muslim Cleric publicly cries out for a “fatwa” does not make it better or worse a reaction than when I go to church and hear the vitriol of the preacher decrying the comments to fire up the congregation, waiting for the more activist members to mail or call death threats in to the offender. Other than the Church and the religion can wash its hands of the “odd wingnut” in the flock, the effect is the same, but more subversive. There are plenty of rational Muslims out there, just as there are Christians. The difference between institutionalized and socialized hatred is subtle.


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