Liberalism and Islam

A Brief History of Liberalism

I must start this with declaring political independence; I sit on neither the right nor left side of the fence and if I had to describe my political stance to those who see in black and white I would say I was a right-wing liberal which may sound like an oxymoron to some, but I like to think of it as the best of both worlds. For example I am against monarchies, be they absolute or constitutional, and I’m all for responsible gun ownership, but I am also for same sex-marriage and I am pro-choice. I use the American form of politics in this article because it is the most recognised and talked about and also American liberals are the main perpetrators of this article’s point, but I do include the whole left side of politics in this.

A great deal, but not all, atheists tend to be liberal-minded, I think this is something deep in liberalism that views liberty as pre-social rather than republicanism that sees true liberty as the product of society. Republicans, despite being anti-big government, tend to feel more comfortable under heavy rules and tradition preferring to stick as close to the constitution as humanly possible, rather than seeing it as a more flexible living model that can be altered to fit modern life. Which also explains why a large amount of Republicans identify themselves as religious, many of which go further to call themselves devout, as the bible is at its core a set of rules.

The man who fathered liberalism and also made significant contributions to classical republicanism was called John Locke; a man who sought equality and freedom for all…except atheists. Oddly enough Mr Locke saw atheists as a menace and that the denial of God might lead to the breakdown of society which seems a bit hypocritical to me. Often people quote John Locke as some revolutionary thinker, which of course he was, and the world is better after he lived in it but I think a man who cries for tolerance for “everyone except…” perhaps should have his values reevaluated. Many liberals have taken John Locke’s mentality unfortunately and have taken a disliking to a certain group. John Locke didn’t like atheists and liberals don’t seem to like critics of Islam many of which are also atheists, so not much has changed in the liberal perspective in the last three-hundred years. 

Anyway that’s enough about history. On to my provocative point…

An Example of Liberal Bias

Last year in Russia a law was passed that can basically be called an anti-homosexual law, a dreadful piece of foolery that limits the rights of the LGBT community. Now when this came into light the left exploded; we saw boycotts, marches, celebrity outcry, twitter rants, Facebook campaigns, documentaries and even political pressure. All, and rightly so, for a vague homosexual propaganda law. I couldn’t help but become rather puzzled; I was under the impression that no-one cared about cultures outside their own nation because Islamic theocracies had been doing a lot worse for a lot longer.

In most Islamic nations homosexuality is not tolerated at all. I am not talking about some ambiguous bill here I am talking about “thou shalt not fuck another man” clear as day. Of all the Muslim majority nations only a few have legalised same-sex relations while the rest have outright condemned homosexuality as a criminal act. The following countries even punish homosexuality with the death penalty; Afghanistan, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and the UAE.

One might have thought the ever tolerance-seeking liberals might have objected to this, after such a strong reaction to Russia, but no. I try to find criticism of it from the left but all I find in response is cultural relativism, something apparently not afforded to the Russians. Can you not see the hypocrisy here? I have no idea why they feel so comfortable speaking out against Russia for doing less than what Islamic theocracies have been doing for ages. When Uganda proposed its anti-homosexuality bills the world turned its back on it, Obama threatened to cut funding for goodness sake. Why is Christian madness a less taboo thing to tackle? Literally thousands of LGBT people have been killed in Iran alone since 1979, but oddly enough that does not make MSNBC.

Why Do Liberals Defend Islam?

I have no idea.

Short answer I know, but I could not tell you why this occurs; perhaps it is colonial guilt? Maybe it is just an “I’m more tolerant than you” game, but whatever it is I don’t know the source of it. I can tell you that one of the great thinkers and speakers of our time, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was refused an honour at Brandeis University in Michigan. The university offered Ali the opportunity to visit them but cancelled on her saying that they could not overlook her past comments regarding Islam as they go against the university’s core values. I would have thought a university would have done their research on Ali before offering her an honorary degree; she is best known for her criticism of Islam but the university must have missed that when they invited her over. As I’ve often said; free speech isn’t free if it comes with a hefty bill.

Liberals seem to want to go out of their way to appear tolerant of other cultures, which is admittedly the core principle of liberalism, but in doing so they ignorantly defend something that at this moment and time needs reformation, not defending. They use hollow arguments like “the vast majority of Muslims are non-violent law abiding people,” which is true but we atheists are not attacking individual Muslims, we are attacking an ideology.

Another dull battle-cry of the left is to accuse critics of Islam of racism; this is highly effective because Islam was born, and is overwhelming practiced in, the Middle East so this tactic works well in deafening the easily satisfied masses. This accusation is of course completely ridiculous because not only is Islam not a race, it is an ideology and is therefore open to criticism. There is, especially nowadays, plenty of variation on both sides of the argument; there are many western Muslims and Middle Eastern critics of Islam. But it does make me wonder when and where this race card can be played; if I start criticising Buddhism for the wackier aspects in that religion, would that make me a racist too? You know, because Buddhism was born in Asia and the majority of followers are South East Asian. So if I started dismantling Buddhism on things like karma, would that make me a racist? I’m just not sure how to play this game and what is racist and what isn’t.

Always surprising to me that most liberals don’t quite realise that the exact, and I mean the complete polar opposite, of a liberal nation, is an Islamic theocracy. Saudi Arabia is a liberal’s nightmare; women aren’t allowed to drive or vote, homosexuals are murdered by the state, Saudi Arabia has the seventh highest number of guns per capita in the world, and there is no freedom of religion. If you asked a liberal to describe his version of a hellish country, he would unwittingly describe the birth nation of Islam, Saudi Arabia.

Cultural Relativism

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Despite popular belief the Qur’an is no more violent than the bible, some might say it is even less violent in places, but Islam today is going through what Christianity did 700 years ago. Europeans used to kill people for homosexuality too; they used to castrate, dismember and burn them. But that was in the thirteenth century and our morality has since evolved. It is true that various nations still persecute homosexuals in some way, but we aren’t bludgeoning them to death with big fucking rocks while being supported by our governments, so I think we can claim the moral high ground here.

Yes homophobia is a global problem but only in Muslim theocracies is it met with execution sanctioned by the government. In their strong desire to see every culture as equal, some liberals have missed the fact that a culture that throws stones at women who have an affair is not equal to one that doesn’t. It is not racist to say so; it is simply logical and I call into question the morality of anyone who defends such an act. The only liberal argument to counter this is “only a few countries practice this…” as if that somehow acquits the argument. It does not, by the way, nor is it just a few countries.

For the record I am not talking about every liberal. Many liberals are very quick to point at all injustice, people like Bill Maher for example. I don’t agree with everything he says; in fact he sometimes infuriates me but at least he is consistent. He knows what liberalism means and he supports it even to the boos of his own audience. Speaking of Bill Maher, he got into trouble a while back by seemingly showing support for Israel with people calling him a Zionist, apparently ignorant of his well-known critical and mocking stance of Judaism. The war between Israel and Palestine attracts such attention because it’s essentially a heavyweight boxer (Israel) taking on a 140lb belligerent ballet dancer (Palestine), so I can see why some people react with frowns and wagging fingers when Israel reacts to the pitiful attempts with heavy, bone-crushing blows. But I heard an expression on this that I think suits it very well and it is this…

“If you take away Palestine’s guns there would be no war but if you took away Israel’s guns there would be no Israel”

I think this is fairly accurate and no I am not a Zionist. Judaism is just as fucking ridiculous as the others. But liberals condemn this Israeli-Palestine conflict with such zeal, stating that since 29/10/2000 around 9000 Palestinians have been killed. It is true and I condemn it but the only thing killing more Muslims than Israel and its allies is other Muslims. Islamic civil war is commonplace in many countries; there are wars going on now that have lost favour with the Western media and so are not being shown save a few juicy bits occasionally but are still raging costing ten times the lives lost seen in Palestine.

In the case of the Somali civil war, Al-Shabaab have committed atrocities in that region with over 500,000 casualties since it began in 1991. The Islamic insurgency in Nigeria has claimed 22,000+ lives since its beginnings in 1999 but I can’t for the life of me find any protest marches or media blow-up. Only snippets of these events make it to news with such campaigns as the “Bring back our girls,” which was very popular for a while though ultimately did not achieve anything at all other than to provide a convenient slogan for President Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election.

Most of the world’s ongoing conflicts, except for the Mexican Drug war and this Ukrainian situation, have Islam on one side of the opposition but no-one seems to want to recognise that. We westerners get involved in these conflicts but we do not start them. The Sunni-Shia conflict started over a thousand years before the United States was even born so this “blame the west” mentality is getting very tiresome. I am not saying that we in the west are goody-two shoes because of course we aren’t; we have slaughtered and enslaved and we have benefited from the misfortunes of poorer nations but we are not solely responsible for what goes on in the Middle East and Africa.

They need to take some responsibility for their actions and stop looking to the west as the big bad rich man who turns brother against brother for his own greedy purposes. Do we supply certain nations with weapons? Yes we do but if someone buys me a hammer for Christmas and I go out and bludgeon someone to death with it should they be charged as well? I am not saying that Islam is the sole cause of the violence as all humans are inherently tribal and violent, but Islam certainly does not live up to its name of the religion of peace. With twenty-five of the forty-three currently on-going conflicts involving Islam I find it difficult to equate Islam with peace.

I Will Now Defend Islam As it Should be Defended

Islam was not always like this; the Golden Age of Islam achieved more in its 600 years than Islam today could even dream of. Quotes like "the ink of a scholar is more holy than the blood of a martyr" represented the ideology of many Muslims back then. Men like Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri, a blind atheist poet and personal hero of mine, were revered and people flocked to him to learn and debate, but nowadays he would be hounded and killed like what they tried to do with Salman Rusdhie; which was proven when a jihadist group beheaded Al-Ma ‘arri’s statue in Syria.

The Arabians advanced science far beyond anything we had here in the west; without men like Alhazen and Avicenna we would not have the technology or the scientific understanding we have today. The Guinness World Records recognizes the University of Al Karaouine (in Morocco) founded in 859, as the world's oldest degree-granting university. But Richard Dawkins was right, as controversial as it was, there are more Nobel Prize winners from Trinity College than there are Muslim recipients. Though I have to believe if the Nobel Prize was around in the year 800 we would see an all-Muslim lineup.

I find it very easy to sing the praises of Islam in the Middle Ages but I cannot, and will not, defend Islam as it is today. Islam today is a swarm of anti-intellectual, anti-free speech, anti-human rights and, much to the chagrin of the great men who lived during the Golden Age, anti-progression and anti-science. It doesn’t deserve defending, just like Christianity didn’t deserve anyone defending it during the Crusades or the Inquisition; it needs to modernise and adapt as other religions have. It is not truly the beliefs but the believers that determine a religion’s threat; Islam is no more vicious than Christianity but today’s believers interpret the violent passages as literal and so carry out this violence without critical thought. Admittedly passages like “kill the unbelievers where you find them” do not leave much to the imagination and if I had my way the whole damn book would be kindling for a new age without the constraints of religion but unfortunately for me Islam is not going anywhere any time soon, so the best I can do is pry the least violent response that I can until man is done with it. Most holy books are violent because they were written in violent times but it is how we interpret them that decides their societal value and at the moment Islam needs to change its tune.

I leave you with a poem from Al-Ma ‘arri which if he said today would be met with a prison sentence:

The Prophets, too, among us come to teach,
Are one with those who from the pulpit preach;
They pray, and slay, and pass away, and yet
Our ills are as the pebbles on the beach.
Islam does not have a monopoly on truth

Al-Ma'arri

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