I’ve been meaning to post about this for sometime, just to more or less get it out of the way and move on to other things (next week, for example, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on immigration and eventually welfare, both of which will be likely divided into more than one part each). So, Islam is the world’s second largest religion stretching from Senegal to Kazakhstan and Indonesia and has about 1.7 billion adherents, or about 23.4% of the world population.
Much of the controversy of the religion stems from its supposed ideological teachings of conquest, holy war, (even though the term “jihad” means struggle) and violence, mistreatment of women, etc. I am no Islamic scholar, nor do I plan to be, so I will shy away fro commenting on these things.
Neither are ideologues such as Robert Spencer (who has an M.A. in early Christian studies), Ann Coulter (who has a B.A. in history and a Juris Doctor), Andrew Bostom (who has degrees in Doctor of Medicine and Master of Surgery), and Bat Ye’or (who hasn’t even completed her master’s in Archaeology) (among others) Islamic scholars in the slightest. Those that are actual scholars that I would (personally) recommend more on the topic of Islam would be Shaykh Muhammad Al-Yaqoubi, Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, Abdur Rahman I Doi, and Jonathan Brown.
Some people have accused me of being “pro-Muslim” and “defending Muslim culture”. I wanted to break down those two arguments. I don’t get the whole “pro-Muslim” argument that people have tossed at me. All I have done is explain why the actions of these groups are not, at least in my non-scholarly view (even though I have at least read some books from Islamic scholars) Islamic, not to mention some legitimate grievances that radicals hold. After all, a broken clock tells time right twice a day.
These grievances are for another time, but suffice to say, I’ll quote Noam Chomsky on this issue when he says “if you want to deal with the threat of terrorism, you ask what its sources are and how those sources can be dealt with […] [Al-Qaeda] lists specific grievances, and the grievances are real […] and they should be dealt with quite apart fro the threat of terror, and we know that it works [he then gives the example of Northern Ireland].” The big problem that I, and many others have, is the retaliatory methods (i.e. terrorism) that these groups have.
Am I neglecting the brutality that Islamic terrorists have committed against Christians, Jews, and others? Far from the truth. I hold such brutality against anyone to be sickening, barbaric, and absolutely evil. Interestingly enough though, the 2011 National Counterterrorism Center’s Report of terrorism noted that “In cases where the religious affiliation of terrorism casualties could be determined, Muslims suffered between 82 and 97 percent of terrorism-related fatalities over the past five years. Muslim majority countries bore the greatest number of attacks involving 10 or more deaths.” Even though Muslims are the majority of Islamic terrorism victims, I still denounce all terrorism, no matter their religious (or non-religious) affiliation is.
The treatment of American-Muslims simply because they practice Islam is the other thing that I have criticism over. Indeed, Americans have held negatives attitudes towards Muslims the most. Even so, the top hate crime motivation bias since 1996 has consistently held an anti-Jewish bias (although that has decreased 46.28% between 1996 and 2014) with anti-Muslim being in second place since 2001 (and has increased 439.39% between 1996 and 2014). Mind you however that this is just hate crimes statistics.
Overall American attitude cannot really be traced pre-9/11, mostly because of our focus on the problem of nationalism rather than religious extremism. The only thing I could really find on this matter is a compendium survey from Georgetown University is a good place to start (although I really wish they made a year-by-year timeline of these polls).
Said survey notes that, just to use a single example on American attitudes towards Muslims: “A 1993 Poll conducted by the National Conference Survey on Intergroup Relations found that half of Americans agreed that “Muslims belong to a religion that condones or supports terrorism.” […] a total of three polls […] found that a majority of Americans believed that the 9/11 attacks “do not at all”, or “not very much,” represent the “true teachings of Islam.””
Now the second portion about Muslim “culture” (some say it as if it were a monolith). There is no single Muslim culture, rather, it is expansive, ranging from Africa to the Middle East to Southeast Asia, even Europe and the United States. Fewer than 15% of Muslims are Arab. By far, the largest populations of Muslims live in Southeast Asia (more than 60%) One other note, there are some who believe that Islam is a monolithic religion. But it is not. With 5 major schools of thought, dozens of different minor sects (Ya’furiyya, Kaysanites, Twelver, Sufri, Sunpadh, Maturidi, etc.), and the intersection of many cultural traditions, Islam is quite diverse in its religious theology.
Personally, I know quite a few Muslims, some on the Internet (shoutout to Nabilla and Haneen!), some in real life (mostly on school campus that I talk to during lunch or break). One of them even witnessed the expulsion of his entire village from Lydda in 1948 when he was a teenager, but that is another story that I will eventually get to sometime in the future.
In short, I respect Muslims just as I do everyone else. I fell that they should be treated no different than anyone else. If someone wants to criticize Islam, they can do whatever, so long as they do any physically harm or infringe on the rights of others. This goes for everyone else too. I’m not one of those conspiracy theorists that believe in a “Muslim agenda” to take over the world. Are there some of those that do? No doubt about it, but they only make up a very, very, small percentage of the entire Islamic population of nearly 1.7 billion.
To finish, I leave a quote from Thomas Jefferson from the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom: “that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government, nor under its jurisdiction; that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion and to restrain the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous fallacy, which at once destroys all religious liberty”.