Tag Archive: Islam


Islamophobia

Much has been said lately about attempts to legislate against hate speech.

ISIS and its odious compatriots are pushing a particularly narrow and violet version of fundamentalist Islam. Whether by accident or design, their atrocities tend to associate decent, law abiding Muslims in the west with the horrors we hear of perpetrated in the name of Allah.

The politically correct rush in to tell these people that we don’t blame them, and in that I feel they show a real generosity in spirit. But they overshoot, clamping down on any legitimate criticism of Islam.

Therein lies the real danger: this attempt to silence critics pushes people into corners. It attacks the very heart of what we are, creating a “them vs us” mentality as people with legitimate fears have their voice removed.

There’s a real irony here. Just as some tend to label all Muslims negatively due to the actions of a few, so do others lump the critics of Islam into a single, monolithic group of haters. This is neither fair nor wise.

Hate speech laws don’t change hearts. They just push the discord deeper down, where it can fester. And even those who have a reasonable objection are marginalized as their voice is being legislated away (as an aside, I think this accounts for much of Donald Trump’s recent election as President. A creeping sense of political correctness has inclined many to push back the polls).

This is not what liberal democracy is about. Freedom of speech goes hand in hand with freedom of religion and conscience. Everything must be open to critique, and those examined have the right to response. It is neither unreasonable nor Islamophobic to ask Muslims who have come to live among us to give assurances that they now share our values.

Aristotle told us a city is a unity of unlikes. True diversity must allow for differences of opinion: and that is what I feel is threatened by hate speech laws. They negatively affect other, more fundamental constitutional rights. Yes, some feelings may get hurt; freedom is messy. That’s the price we pay for living in the west.

As a Christian, I believe Jesus is the way to God, but freedom to choose or reject Christ is implicit in that belief. As a citizen, I must support Muslims’ right to practice their faith peacefully, even if I disagree with its view of God. We’re supposed to be civilized about our differences, and ours is an age where common courtesy is in short supply. People need to exercise good manners and do careful investigation before criticizing.

The freedom to critically examine creeds and lifestyles must be maintained, as does the right to respond in civilized discourse. Labelling a critic an Islamophobe, homophobe, Christianophobe or any other label is just name calling and does far more harm than good. It splinters the freedoms we cherish, and in the end nobody wins.

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A real concern in the present crisis is whether those fleeing the violence will embrace our western values of tolerance and freedom of conscience. Hopefully, they all will, but militant Islamists realize that for their more moderate Muslim cousins to do so means giving tacit approval to our Christian roots. They reject that.

Ironically, much modern thought would do the same. Religion of all sorts is lumped together and orthodox Christians especially are vilified as part of the problem; “fundamentalist” has become a handy put-down for anything that suggests real devotion, regardless of its object.┬áIndeed, much of what passes for conventional wisdom in our day says that religion of any sort is the cause of much of the bloodshed and strife in the world today.

But they forget the Christian emphasis on the individual conscience is what laid the foundation for our modern concept of human rights. So when we speak of fundamentalist religion, we must bear in mind what the fundamentals of a particular religion are.

Martin Luther King Jr. found the moral basis of his human rights movement by appealing to our Christian heritage, rather than denying it. He insisted the problem was that society was not taking Christ’s words seriously enough when people allowed the oppression of the African American.

And he triumphed, because he had the right fundamentals: service, love, the real dignity of all people as those made in God’s image.

Islam, ISIS and the West

In his book Inventing the Individual, Larry Seidentop shows how our concepts of human rights and freedom of belief are a Christian construct, and that they form the very basis of modern liberal thought. By emphasizing individual responsibility and justification by faith as a personal choice, Christianity asserted the equality of individuals, subverting the stratified society of the time. This eventually formed the underpinning crucial to the concept of human rights that we enjoy today.

But the politically correct seem more open to non-western thought (anything but Christianity), deconstructing the basis of the society that puts a premium on individual rights and liberty – while actually opening the gates to terror. We are literally cutting off the branch we’re sitting on.

The real enemy is relativism and the moral ambiguity that results; we now have no articulated worldview from which to resist. It’s easier to be pushed to extremes. And ISIS wants that; to polarize, to create a “them vs us” mentality. In fact, it’s not much of a stretch to suggest the atrocity of their acts is calculated to do so: the worse, the better. And we react. We hate back. We vow revenge. And we play into their hands.

What’s the answer to terror? In the long run, society must embrace again that which created the freedoms we enjoy. Let the immigrants come: but don’t muzzle those who would share the Gospel of Christ in reasoned discourse. Let them be changed by a society that understands how we became free.