Should We Fear Muslims?by jason on Oct. 26, 2011, under Art & Culture, Christian Self-Righteous Arrogance, Conservatism vs. Liberalism, Ethics, Faith, Fundamentalism, Gay Marriage, God & Bible, Government, Guns, Islam, Libertarianism, Logic, Reason, Religion, Sanity, Separation of Church & State, Terrorism
I got an interesting private response to Monday’s blog post, Must We Tolerate Intolerance? A long time reader of the blog contacted me with genuine concern for my safety because I had written about muslims. They suggested that I should be careful about how strenuously I criticize muslims. A different person wrote a public comment on that same article, stating that it wasn’t just radical muslims who would contemplate murdering someone who criticized their ideas, but the majority.
I must admit that I don’t know a great deal about the religion of islam. I have never been a muslim, I don’t have any family members or friends who are muslims, and I haven’t studied their beliefs in much detail. And no, I didn’t interview any current or past muslims for this article. By the way, if it seems like I talk about christians a lot it’s simply because I do know a lot about them. I used to be a zealous christian, most of my extended familiy members still are christians (some are members of the clergy), I have friends who are christians, and I’ve read the christian bible cover to cover. I never went to seminary or anything, but nevertheless I know more than most people about the Jesus cult.
But I digress. What I have heard about islam isn’t generally positive. I’ve heard muslims believe in the same basic god as christians, they just call him by a different name. I have no indication that their beliefs about their god are any more or less nutty than christians’. From news reports of other countries, they seem to oppress women to an even greater degree than christians, and gays too. On top of that, at least some of them still use their religion as an explicit excuse to torture and murder innocent people. The christians mostly gave that up when they stopped burning witches and heretics at the stake a few centuries ago. And it’s not just that the 9/11 hijackers were muslims, but they cited their faith as justification for their horrendous acts. I’ve also heard of muslim religious leaders calling for the death of writers and cartoonists for blasphemy. The muslims also seem to want to mix government and religion even more than christians do, as evidenced by the number of muslim states ruled by strict religious law rather than secular law. It all adds up to a picture that’s not very pretty. Maybe it’s a distorted picture, or maybe the reality is even worse.
I do rarely hear about what sounds like moderate muslims. A recent article describes some muslims who are battling for gay rights. That’s great, but I wouldn’t presume to know how many muslims have beliefs that fall into this “moderate” category versus how many believe things like it’s OK to murder of people for blasphemy or simply because they’re on an airplane in a country of “infidels”.
But should I really be afraid to criticize islam on this blog, as my concerned emailer suggested? I say, “no.”
I never seek to provoke a physical confrontation with anyone; on the contrary I will avoid it if at all possible. I do try to provoke vigorous discussion of ideas, so that bad ideas can be discarded and good ideas can be made better.
If I have to self-censor my speech out of fear of any religious group, that means they’ve won a key victory. That would mean they could silence dissent and criticism simply by being evil and criminal enough to get their critics to cower in fear. They need not compete in the realm of ideas, because they’ve overruled it with the threat of a fist, a club, a knife, a gun, or a bomb. That’s something that I, and all Americans regardless of religious belief, cannot ever allow to happen. A right such as free speech is ultimately only as good as our individual and collective will to use it and to defend it.
Unlike some of my athiest friends on this blog I tend to lean libertarian rather than leftist/democrat. One of the implications of libertarian thinking is a recognition that the most immediate responsibility for the defense of my life and my family’s lives rests with me, not with a government police officer half a mile away who must first be summoned by a call to 911. I have nothing against police – my brother is an officer - but he also knows first hand that police cannot actually protect people from most crimes. The police spend the majority of their time responding to incidents that have already happened. For that reason, I fully support and practice the fundamental human right of keeping and bearing arms, as does my wife. I’m not some macho guy looking for a fight, and I don’t take my responsibility at all lightly. Living in physical fear of speaking your mind is no way to live as a free human being.
Fortunately, despite the knowledge that evil exists in the world and that I must be prepared to personally defend my life against it if that ever becomes necessary, I also know that the vast majority of human beings are good people who wouldn’t actually physically harm someone for disagreeing with them. I know of no reason not to extend that positive presumption to muslims. Most christians believe in the power of prayer to heal, but as we’ve discussed on this blog when the chips are down the vast majority of christians won’t forego modern medicine to put their claimed beliefs into practice. So even if as has been suggested the majority of muslims believe in physically punishing blasphemers, I don’t think that any readers of this blog are actually going to attempt physical retaliation over anything that’s said here.
So whenever I have something relevant to say about islam or any other religion, I’m going to say it. And I encourage all of my readers to do likewise.