In Part 1 of this essay, Islamophobia, I recounted some facts about terrorism that seems linked to Islam and I made some hypotheses about how Muslims in general array themselves with respect to this terrorism. In this second and last part, I divulge some of the bases of my worst suspicions regarding moderate Muslims.
I wish someone with credentials would help me disentangle who is what and in what proportions among Muslims in connection with the varying degrees of rejection of violent jihad described above. In the meantime, I feel intellectually free to speculate within reason and on the basis of other information I have, factual information, that is, not hearsay.
The first helpful element in my speculation is that, of course, I understand violent Muslim fanatics well. Anyone reasonably well versed in European history would, My ancestors used to be just like them. I never tire of repeating on this blog and elsewhere that the First Crusade (1099) massacred everyone there after taking Jerusalem. That massacre followed acts of cannibalism during the siege. And more recently, it’s clear that tens of thousands of witches were burned at the stake in Europe. (Note: The figure of millions advanced by feminists is silly propaganda bullshit.) Violent jihadists and other fanatics hold not mystery to me because I used to be they. Used to be.
The last witch burning in Europe took place before 1700. After that, we had the Enlightenment which made tolerance respectable. (I am mindful of the 13 year horror setback of the Third Reich.) I think the Muslim world in general has had no such experience. The official punishment for apostasy in several Muslim countries today remains death. It’s probably not applied often but I am sure it would have a chilling effect on any propensity to explore other religions.
I disapprove of this completely. There is no ground for reconciliation there. I don’t want people who hold this belief to be my neighbors or to vote for those who govern me. Yet, I have never heard or read an American Muslim condemning this use of the death penalty against apostates. I may be misinformed, or under-informed although I am paying more attention to such matters than the average person and I read in three languages. I would be happy to publish any corrections regarding my suspicion that Muslims don’t care, or approve. In the meantime, if my intolerance of deadly intolerance is Islamophobia, then I am Islamophobic.
Muslim theologians and other Islamic (“mic”) apologists don’t help me getting rid of my “prejudice” when they insist that Islam, whose main moral/legal foundation was laid out in the 7th century, is a blueprint for today‘s good and just society. For one thing, separation of religion from government is central to my view of a good society. Of course, that’s because I am aware of the horrors of the Crusades, of the bloody European wars of religion, and of the monstrous experience of the secular religion of communism. I am completely intolerant of anyone who even shows sympathy for religious rule. If that’s Islamophobic, then I am Islamophobic.
The second element helping my speculative interpretation of the concentric Muslim circles I imagine is my awareness of contemporary atrocities. I refer to atrocities in predominantly Muslim countries that Muslim moral authorities fail to denounce, or do not denounce often enough, or loudly enough. Note the careful wording: I don’t blame Islam for the atrocities in question. Instead, I express my distaste for moral leaders who keep quiet in their presence. It suggests to me that they don’t mind all that much or that they have something more important in mind.
The atrocities I am thinking about are the mass sexual mutilations of little girls across parts of the Muslim world, forced marriage of female children, and the prescribed stoning of “adulterous” women. The first concerns millions; the second, I don’t know, but more than a handful. The latter is rare but it plays a disproportionate symbolic role in Muslim societies. It serves to terrify women, specifically. If that were not the case, the stoning of adulterous men would also be practiced.
Here is how I use this information: People who accept these kinds of barbarisms and who accept their moral leaders’ quiet acquiescence of same live in a moral and mental world radically different from mine. It’s a mental world that is not only different but unacceptable to me. I am sure of this because it so resembles that of my own ancestors before they became civilized. (I am less sure of myself when it comes to cannibalism for example because I have no frame of reference there.) If this rejection makes me Islamophobic, then, I am Islamophobic.
The next logical step is almost unavoidable: Is it likely that people who are in favor of such atrocities, or morally indifferent to them, or morally passive before them, are also, in favor of, morally indifferent to, or passive before, violent jihadism?
Here is a metaphor about the accusation of Islamophobia:
Suppose I live in the desert close to scorpions. Most are inoffensive, others are mildly dangerous, a few are deadly, I know for a fact. All three categories of scorpions look the same and they behave more or less the same. No friendly scorpion ever lifts a dart against one of his deadly brethren. In that situation, does not reason itself require that I be arthrophobic?
And no, I did not say Muslims were scorpions, or like scorpions. This is a metaphor. If you don’t understand this, you are a moron, not smart enough to read this blog. Please, move on.
I am the first one to say that this whole edifice is fragile. Kick a leg or two of it by showing I am in error and it will collapse wholesale. The way to kick it is with facts that contradict what I think are facts but are not. Pointing out logical errors would work too. Incidentally, I hope the edifice will collapse. The whole thing distresses me. I hope to be wrong.
Three more points:
- First, what I am taking apart above is not “prejudice,” pre-judgment in the absence of fact. I am reasonably sure my facts are facts. If they are not, I offer to correct myself publicly, on this blog and anywhere else I am required to do so. If this happens, I will admit that my position was one of prejudice.
- Second, it’s possible, even likely, that my examination is overindulgent because I have known Muslims all my life and liked most of them, almost all of them, in fact. It’s difficult to avoid letting a dozen individuals you know well carry more weight than a dozen books and one hundred articles. Bearers of bad news I don’t know are easier to dismiss than carriers of sunshine I know. I have an inescapable pro-Muslim bias. (The only moral maxim posted in my house is said to be a quote from the Koran. It says in English and in elegant Arabic script,“Ignorance is a sin.”)
- Third, a prediction: To the extent that any Muslim takes the trouble to contradict me rationally, his/her arguments will be mostly besides the point, changing the subject, disputing statements I have not made, etc. Here too, I hope I am wrong.
PS In 8/28/10 Wall Street Journal, a British Muslim activist for peace named Maajid Nawaz wrote a column titled: “Islamism is not Islam” [Editor’s note: see also, Islam versus Islamism on this blog]. I am glad he did but it’s not enough for me. He does not answer my most troubling questions. Perhaps that’s because it’s difficult to assess what matters to those who live far away. Worse, he makes a major factual mistake: Arguing in favor of the relative political innocuousness of Islamists, he asserts that they never came close to power anywhere in the Muslim world. That is not true. The violent Islamist FIS actually won free elections in Algeria in 1990 and 1991. (The military stopped them from taking over the government.) And there is the growing issue of the real nature of the elected Turkish government. All the same, I appreciate Mr Nawaz’s intervention. I hope there will be more like his. He is a brave man. We need more like him, Americans preferably.