Sunday, 10 June 2012

Should intelligent people fear Islamism?

This was written by @plasma_engineer of the Something Surprising blog for a guest appearance on the Australian blog, Attempting to Make Sense, by Martin Pribble.

The culture of Islam is ever-more obvious in Western societies, and it is often thought that one of the strengths of these societies is the tolerance of beliefs held by other people.  Not all countries have constitutional rights to the freedom of expression of our views, but even in those, like UK, that lack a formal constitution, most people pride themselves that they welcome all cultures into a cosmopolitan melting-pot where we will all benefit from each others' strengths.  I have never had the opportunity to visit Australia, but I suspect that our countries both face similar challenges from the encroachment of Islam and I would like to examine a range of views on the subject and encourage you to question your own opinions critically - as I have done with mine.

Within these cultures, a small minority of people fail to recognise any of the potential benefits to society.  These people are typically labelled as being on the far right from a political point of view.  Their views are often based around thinly disguised racism.  According to them, all immigrants are bad by definition, they take our jobs and they live on state benefits.  Any tolerance of other cultures is seen as an invasion of the local traditions.  For these fascistic factions, no good can come of it.

I am glad to say that most rational, intelligent, 'thinking', people would strongly decline to associate themselves with this intolerant attitude.  We pride ourselves in our inclusiveness and even if we do not wish to get involved in other cultures, at least we recognise other approaches to life as being part of 'the big picture'.  We congratulate ourselves on our multi-cultural values and criticise anyone who speaks out against them.  Islamophobia we cry!  Live and let live!  Don't be such a racist bigot!

However, I think it would be intellectually honest to question our readiness to jump to this conclusion.  Is it good for society to act without thinking, to label people as right-wing activists without thought?  We can find ourselves swept onto the band-wagon of disapproval of intolerance.  Once on board, there is little doubt that we rightly fear the opinions of our politically-correct friends and neighbours if we try to get off again.

Just for the sake of discussion I am going to lean off the band-wagon and put one foot (hesitantly) back on the ground.  I will try to explore the rationality of the subject, starting with a few observations that I have made over the last few years since I became an atheist.  I understand the risks of making that statement too, but let's start anyway, being absolutely clear that the following discussion is NOT about race but about a religion.  To set a context, we should also note that several European nations have already enacted laws that are seen to be anti-Islamic and their societies demonstrate divisions on the subject.  So far these discussions have not spread as prolifically to the English-speaking countries of the world, but perhaps it is time to begin.

If my observations are reliable, (and they might not be!), I think most religious people would probably respect Islam - at least to an extent.  The ability of all religions to regard other totally incompatible faiths as being more honourable than a total lack of faith in any deity is one of the great mysteries of life (for me at least).  I think lack of faith is seen as a huge danger by anyone who professes a faith, and that they carry this to the extent that believers will always trust other believers before they trust atheists.  The inconsistency of this attitude is one of the cornerstones of my atheism, but it brings a level of sympathy and support from society at large to what is supposed to be an oppressed minority.

Beautiful Islamic art - image from here
 Even by voicing any concerns about the situation I know that there is a risk of being branded as a right-wing reactionary.  The problem is that I feel a little bit frightened of Islam.  I have spent a couple of years reading around the subject, and the more I read, the worse it gets.  More to the point I am becoming alarmed by increasing Islamism and all that it represents.  That is not the same as a fear of Muslims, and indeed I have Muslim friends and sometimes debate with them.  But I am left with a lingering concern about the extent to which moderate Islam enables and protects global Islamism.

It would be easy to get carried away with this line of thinking.  Last year I asked a well known lady in the atheist community about her views of the contribution of Pat Condell, whose Youtube video channel regularly points out the dangers of Islamisation, in very graphic detail.  Although I was unable to say exactly why, I was concerned about believing his rhetoric.  I had a suspicion that he was making a valid point but I felt a little nervous about the way he expresses his views, and would be reluctant to support his campaign publicly for fear of being branded a bigot.  My friend confirmed that she did not like his 'frothing-at-the-mouth hatred'.  To an extent I agreed with her.

A year on, with much more knowledge of Islam and a great wariness of conspiracy theories in general, I wonder whether I am being rational in those views.  If Condell is telling us the truth - and I have little reason to doubt that - then I wonder why the rest of society is burying its collective head in the sand and pretending that there is no threat.  Still feeling nervous of supporting his approach, I wonder whether there is any evidence that we can trust?

If you look around the internet you can soon find rational-sounding campaigns that present the 'evils' of Islam in gory detail.  Their abundance is not a measure of their veracity, but if you try to find counter-arguments you realise that the quality of the pro-Islamic view is very much inferior from a logical point of view.  It is like arguing with creationists and proponents of Intelligent Design.  Their plentiful arguments sound plausible until you scratch the surface and find that science and reason usually provide better explanations, even if they are not perfect.  Let's consider a few of the most common perceived threats from Islam.

Radical preachers are allowed to propagate hate-speech - spitting hatred in their campaigns against the infidels.  They say one thing in Arabic and another in English - and famous leaders like Arafat were often caught out in this deception.  We read about radicalised youths in inner-city mosques, Al-Qaeda training camps, and the oppression of women who are forced to wear black sacks to disguise their femininity.  We read of 'honour killings' and female genital mutilation, and that the word of a man is worth the same as that of two women.  We read of barbaric stonings in Islamic countries, often for relatively minor offences.  We know that animals are slaughtered in inhumane iron-age rituals and it seems that much of the 'spare' meat finds its way to retail outlets, unlabelled but surely illegal.  We know that our legal systems are often powerless to deal with any of these immoralities and criminal acts, even in our own countries, because the Islamic community closes ranks to protect the righteous-guilty.  We hear that virtually no prosecutions are ever brought to court.  Then we read that Sharia courts are being set up in our cities, in parallel with our 'real' legal systems and we might wonder why they are necessary.  This has all led to the existence of campaigns like 'One Law for All', led by the indefatigable Mariam Namazie.

Conspiracy theories and scare stories abound, and maybe that is all they are!  Surely you should set your mind at rest and should not be worried about them!  Or are they based on a kernel of truth? 

At this point I will just digress to quote George Bernard Shaw, who said "The power of accurate observation is commonly called cynicism by those who have not got it".  Sadly, I am one of the people accused of this cynicism, and although my own logic is often flawed, I do seem to notice things that are happening around me in my own simplistic but observant way. 

Adopting that approach, I would hope that Islam itself could bring me an answer.

Faced with all those allegations, you would think that moderate Islam could unite to issue a sustained (and it must be sustained) public formal denial of all that is seen to be dangerous about the 'religion of peace'.  The only problem is that it has not happened.  Naturally this is made more difficult because Islam has no equivalent of a Pope or Archbishop of Canterbury who is empowered to speak on behalf of the whole faith, but it has rarely been reported that moderate Islam fully supports the rule of the law, except in a few rare and specific cases which can be explained shortly. 

It seems that Islamic leaders must not be seen to criticise other Muslims, whether they are criminals or not.  (Let us note a similarity to the activities of the Vatican, but leave this point for another discussion.)  Islam might be split into factions, and those factions might be prepared to indulge in war against each other, but Sunni, Sufi and Wahabbi are definitely united against the infidels.  Each of these traditions, particularly Saudi Arabian Wahabbi Islam, seem to be supporting efforts to spread their nonsense around the whole world with huge amounts of money.  There are Islamic schools in UK which teach the children the 'science of the Qu'ran' - for example that salt water and fresh water do not mix, and that the Theory of Evolution is an infidel lie.  In the 21st century this is surely not acceptable in a civilised world.  It is not fair on the children who still have human rights - whatever their parents' religion.

We also have to contend with two concepts that we might find distasteful in non-Islamic society.  It is well attested that Islam allows Muslims to lie in certain specific situations, without those lies being counted against the perpetrators.  There are at least two forms.

Taqiyya - mainly lying to further the causes of Islam or to save the life of a Muslim.  Techniques of distraction and accusations of Islamophobia are easy to spot when you have had a little practice.  Quoting Islamic scripture while neglecting to mention that about half of the Qu'ran's verses are 'abrogated' is another. I have noticed that Muslim friends are very well practised at taqiyyah, with or without realising it.

Kitman - more a case of lying by omission, for example neglecting to mention that the Islamic community quietly resists secular government and law.

Armed with these hints about taqiyya and kitman, we are left with a further dilemma.  We are dealing with a religion of more than 1 billion adherents who believe that it is their mission to indulge in jihad - holy war - in its various forms - to take over the world.  Lying to the infidels in order to achieve domination is considered to be honourable.  When the whole world has been taken over, Islam really will be the religion of peace.  Islamic leaders rarely deny this except by using the techniques of taqiyyah and kitman, and now we are left in an argument of ever-decreasing circles, and two very big questions.

Can we trust Islam?  Is creeping Islamism really a threat to the free world?

The answers are not obvious, but it is perfectly clear that we owe it to ourselves at least to consider the problem with all seriousness. Being aware of the risk of being labelled as an islamophobe, or being accused of 'prejudice', I would point out that a phobia is an 'irrational fear' and I feel that my fear is very rational.

As for prejudice - we are all prejudiced one way or another.  I feel that prejudiced views are likely to be founded - at least to an extent - on the actions of others rather than a notion that is formed purely with our own minds but we have to be wary of our cognitive biases.

Drawing to a conclusion, I think you will infer that I have formed an opinion that the spreading of Islam must be resisted, peacefully but strongly.  I hope that this discussion has give pause for thought.  I suggest that the very least we should require in the countries that are not yet Islamic, is that all the people in all the communities should obey one law - namely the law of the land - not one religious law.

To quote Maryam Namazie:

"Open dialogue is the key to a healthy, cohesive society, but some fear the disruptive, dangerous potential of truly free speech."

Surely Maryam has a point and I think I agree with virtually everything she says.  Free speech might be the one thing that keeps our societies the way they are.  Without free speech we are destined to return to the Dark Ages whether due to Islam or another global threat.  Or will the increasing flow of information through the internet undermine all religious systems to be point where they collapse from within, before it's too late?

While we still have freedom of speech we should question moderate Islam directly with closed questions that must be answered with a direct Yes or No.  Whenever you get the opportunity to ask direct questions I advise you to do so.  Watch out for duplicitous replies and do not allow yourself to be diverted to a different question that is more easily fudged.  That is perhaps the only way to avoid being misled by lies for Allah.

Relying solely on hope might not be enough.

1 comment:

RosaRubicondior said...

As Robert Frost was saying in Mending Walls", walls are built from both sides.

From a memetic evolutionary view-point, setting up barriers to hybridization is an evolutionary strategy which suits both alleles of the same meme.

I sometimes wonder at the people who, whilst proclaiming pride in their culture, as though any evolved culture can be superior to any other, seem afraid that their culture will be destroyed by exposure to competing ideas. How can one have pride in something so weak and puny that it might crumble at a whiff of competition?