Sorry Kareem, You’re Wrong

Sorry Kareem, You’re Wrong February 18, 2015

I’m a big fan of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. One of the greatest basketball players ever, he’s also a really thoughtful and intelligent guy who belies the stereotype of the dumb jock. But he’s flat wrong when he claims that ISIS is not Islamic like the KKK are not Christian.

Former NBA star, columnist and author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar echoed President Barack Obama’s recent remarks about the Islamic State on Monday, telling the hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that the terror group is analogous to the Crusaders and the KKK.

“You can make parallels to things that have happened here in America,” Abdul-Jabbar said of ISIL to co-host Joe Scarborough. “Like the Ku Klux Klan saying they are the Christian knights of the Ku Klux Klan.”

“They do not practice Christianity,” he added.

Of course they do. The practice one of the many different forms of Christianity, just like ISIS practices one of the many different forms of Islam. Both sides do the exact same thing, trying to define those that differ from them out of their religion. The uber-fundamentalist reactionaries want to claim that the more moderate and liberal Muslims (or Christians) aren’t True Muslims because they don’t agree with their interpretations, and the moderate and liberal Muslims (or Christians) want to claim that the uber-fundies aren’t True Muslims because they do terrible things. In reality, both are True Muslims, just different types of Muslims.

A lot of atheists make the same mistake, incidentally. Because it’s convenient to paint religious people in the worst light possible, many atheists claim that only the uber-fundies are Real Muslims (or Real Christians), while the more liberal and moderate members of that religion aren’t truly representative because they don’t “take their religion seriously.” As if taking one’s religion seriously requires that one interpret texts only in the most hyper-literalist manner.

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