As many people are probably aware, Bill Maher hosted a “TV brawl” between Sam Harris and Ben Affleck (with Bill Maher being about as biased a host as you can be). The discussion was of “Islamophobia”, and it is an important discussion to have. The argument was one of Sam Harris citing polls where Muslims, from Muslim-dominated parts of the world, believe in quite literal and uncensored interpretations of the Koran and Hadith–believing in the stoning of infidels and murder of apostates and other things we deem horrific. Ben Affleck deemed it racist, and the people who backed him up, oddly, agreed more with Sam Harris than with Ben Affleck.
Sam Harris described the Muslim world as being approximately 20% Jihadists and Islamists. Respectively, these are Muslims who want to kill infidels through their own suicide to gain a place in paradise, and people who want an Islamic state (please notice I didn’t capitalise the word “state” because I’m not talking about the terrorists group) and to use litigious means punish those who oppose an Islamic state. These are people with “deeply troubling” (Harris) views on homosexuals and women. 80% of Islam is, then, composed of people who can honestly say that the Islamic State (IS. Now I have capitalised it and am talking about the terrorist group) do not represent them or the world that 80% wants to live in. No one is more at risk from Islam that Muslims: homosexual, women, outspoken moderates and freethinkers of Muslim countries need a voice and being a part of the criticising Islam. And pointing to Albania, Penang and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Indonesia as posterchildren of Islam at peace does nothing to address the actual content of Islam.
In an attempt to defend Islam, Michael Steele wanted to give a voice to the Muslims who have voiced opposition to IS and similar groups. To lend them a voice, because the media has quite reprehensibly not done it, Steele points out that these Muslims who are speaking out against Jihadists like IS are facing credible threats against their life; surely that proves the nobility of Islam. Well, no. That proves the nobility of a lot of people who are Muslims. But Islam is still the collection of ideas that demands the execution of apostates and adulterers, and poses the credible threat against the life of those who speak out against it.
As Harris has said many times, real beliefs lead to actions. I would very much doubt that Jihadists are Jihadists because of the socio-economic background of certain countries. The only other modern culture to produce suicide bombers was Japanese Kamikaze Bombers. But that, too, was based on a dogmatic idea. In fact, the ideas of honour and loyalty to death echo (if somewhat mildly) the same ideas of honour we get from Islam. Not all Japanese people are Kamikaze bombers, but the dogmatic idea that it was better to die with honour than to live with shame was a real idea with real consequences.
Similarly, Christianity does not make mention of death through martyrdom, and not even the mentally ill Christians become suicide bombers. And, I’m talking about historically; Christianity has been through its maturation curve.
Christianity boasts different beliefs. Although the Christians may not agree today (I wonder what the religious route to that knowledge is!), the religion itself teaches to kill non-Christians (Deut 13: 7-12; Deut 17:12; 2 Chron 15:12-13) and, historically, the belief that this is a good idea has lead to actions in accordance: the Inquisitions. Even the Witch Hunts were propagated not on the fear of the people, but the belief in the explicit wish of the Creator of the universe (Exodus 22:17). Again: real beliefs result in actions. And so the ideas deserve criticism.
The modern religion that poses threats of this nature is Islam. Is this Islamophobia? Phobia, by its definition, is an irrational fear. Given that the teachings of Islam directly create Jihadists, is the fear of dogma of this nature really irrational? I am not suggesting that all Muslims are Islamists (although, Sam Harris cites an NOP poll commissioned by Channel 4, claiming that 78% of British Muslims wanted the Danish cartoonists prosecuted for an unpublished cartoon of Mohammed) or Jihadists. Nominal Muslims seem to make up a large number of the Muslims I meet. But they have a method by which they ignore the calls to violence against nonbelievers, but by secular routes.
Muslims are not to be feared; Muslims are people and each one I have met is as charitable and humane as any other. Islam is a terrifying dogma. It is only because Muslims are capable of truly critiquing Islam that it is not even more terrifying than it already is.
How to deal with groups like IS is a difficult question. A lot of the answer spans from whether you accept the premise that the terrorists and Jihadists really believe they are going to Paradise. If you don’t accept that claim, then the behaviour of those terrorists may parallel that of an acting-out, attention seeking child or dog. In which case, our response should be to ignore them. Every time IS claim a victim the media channels should be celebrating the life of that person and not talking about IS a lot. As long as you believe IS is feeding from our attention, starve it. But I don’t believe IS are attention hungry, and I don’t believe you believe that either. I believe they really believe they are doing God’s work, like the Inquisitors did. Christianity’s maturation curve happened over centuries as it battled with secular discussions. Islam’s maturation must happen faster than that. Do you know that quote about science progressing by the death of people who believe the outdated theory, and the new generation coming forward with the better theory? That is the power of criticism and clashing an idea against reality is that bad ideas can die in a generation. To protect the oppressed, is it not necessary?