I have recently reread The Koran. Before I post commentary on the book itself, I wanted to write something regarding some trends that are relevant to the worldwide conversation regarding Islam.
The main point of this entry is to discuss how folks who attempt to have any intelligent public conversation about anything involving Islam are caught between two irrational forces.
First, there is anti-Muslim bigotry and violence directed at Muslims. For years, there has been hate and violence aimed at people of the Islamic faith. In the United States, this situation has been exacerbated by the results of the recent Presidential election. At this stage, Trump and his surrogates are talking about Muslim bans and Muslim registries. Mosques are being vandalized, and women wearing Hijabs are being attacked all over the United States (There cases where reports of anti - Muslim violence that have been proven to be hoaxes. However, many more instances appear to be genuine). Even before recent developments, those expressing prejudice against Muslims have used legitimate criticism of Koranic text, oppressive Islamist laws, etc. to paint all Muslims in a negative light. This very much complicates genuine conversation and criticism.
On the other side is a movement originating out of the far Left that demands no criticism of Islam or The Koran in any way. At its worst, this movement has accused the victims of Islamist murder, such as the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, of bigotry. They have also set their sites on people who are campaigning for human rights in the Islamic world. Amazingly, some folks who are Muslims themselves have been called bigots for campaigning against honor killings, guardianship laws, forced Islamic veiling, etc. In some cases, it can be argued that some extreme Leftist voices have allied themselves with Islamists who have murdered and threatened critics. Though inconsequential in light of the big picture, I have been called a bigot (and a Trump supporter!) for what has been respectful criticism of text in the Koran, as well as when I criticized oppressive practices imposed by the Saudi and Iranian regimes. I only mention my own experiences to help build a picture of what I am referring to.
Another important point is that this is a not a one-sided argument. Bigots have latched on to all aspects of this issue and often try to insert themselves into real discussions. Some, who critique the Koran and Islam, while not racist, engage in scathing commentary that naturally incites strong responses. Not all emotional responses to criticism are folks trying to impose de facto blasphemy rules, some of the pushback against critics of Islam is just vigorous disagreement in of itself. Many critics, while not bigots, generalize a lot about Islam, which is in my opinion makes no sense directed at such a varied and diverse faith. There is plenty of room for reasonable disagreement on many of these issues.
Unfortunately, rational and decent folks, as well as human rights advocates and reformers, are caught in the middle between these groups. This issue is relevant both to people talking about human rights in Islamic societies and enclaves as well as to general discussions about Islam and Islamic texts.
There is also a lesser version of this trend that is not nasty and uncivil and does not automatically label all criticism of Islam as bigotry. Instead it is a tendency to excuse or minimize harm done by Islamists and deny that there is anything negative contained in The Koran. Some just do not want any Islam and/or any religious beliefs critiqued but argue their case without name-calling. Though I do not agree with this line of reasoning, I consider this as an intellectual disagreement and I welcome conversation on this topic.
I should note that, in my opinion, those who disagree with particular criticisms of Islam are not part of the above. It is those who are irresponsibly throwing out the term bigot or Islamophobe that I am referring to. A vigorous, productive and intelligent discussion of various aspects of Islam invariably will involve those who criticize and those who disagree with that criticism. In fact, I often disagree with the criticism of Islam that I read.
For those who want further reading on this topic, I have compiled a list of sources and evidence regarding this trend here . In regards to my feelings on criticizing religion in general, my post on the subject is here: Religion and Its Critics.
The question arises as to what is the motivation and causes of what I can only describe as a hyper-defensiveness towards Islam. I will speculate based on conversations that I have had as well as on opinion pieces and blogs that I have read. First, there is an understandable reaction to the anti-Muslim Bigotry and violence aimed at Muslims. This has become even more of a concern with recent developments in the United States.
Second, there is a streak of cultural relativism that is popular in some elements of the far Left. This leads to the belief that that non-European cultures and belief systems should be immune from moral and ethical standards and even the standards of logic and reason. I may explore cultural relativism in another post.
Finally, there seems to be an extreme form of critical race theory operating. There are those who believe all oppression that exists in the world to be perpetuated by white men and colonialism and that any criticism of culture or acts of non-white men is invalid.
Readers of this blog know that my criticism of religion tends to be directed at specific aspects of it. I rarely, if ever criticize an entire faith. I find all the major religions to be too diverse to generalize about. I try to be respectful and try to listen and consider other people’s view. I also tend to praise certain aspects to religion in my commentary. I generally to do the same thing on other social media, particularly Twitter. My commentary on the Koran will not be a scathing attacking on the text. It will not be all negative, nor it will not be all positive. I will not hesitate to express my opinions of ideas found in the Koran that I find reprehensible.
As I have recently reread the book, I will be putting up at least one more blog on the Koran. As per the above I will include a combination of positive and negative things about the work. I believe that bigots will not likely be able to use it as a tool. As for folks on the other side, I am not exaggerating that there are some, who will label any talk of Islam or the Koran that is not One – Hundred percent positive as bigotry. Regardless of the terrible atmosphere out there, I will share my thoughts. I hope my readers find them interesting and that they spark some stimulating and lively conversations.