I have a few questions, none of which are meant to be rhetorical:
It took Christianity the better portion of the two millennia it has been around to grow up to the point where it learned to shed at least some of the imperious practices which continue to see parallels in Islam in this time. The problem is that over that time, human rights have become a far more acute issue and focal point than they may have been during the Crusades or the Inquisition. While Christianity still has a fair measure to go as regards human rights, Islam labors under a considerably greater distance and demonstrates considerable resistance to such progress. When Islamic protesters are seen carrying signs saying, “We don’t care about human rights! All we want is Islam!” it becomes clear that there is a degree of intransigence between Islam and the principles of western civilization which cannot be resolved without one side or the other giving ground.
The United States and indeed most western democracies are built on the concept of inviolable individual rights. Fundamentalist Islam in many ways reminds me of Soviet communism, where the individual was supposed to serve “The State” and supposedly be served in return. My problem I suppose is that I don’t see that service, unless it is in letting their leaders think for them, rather than thinking for themselves. In this regard, they have abrogated the rights I spoke of above for a system which keeps them ignorant and enslaved and benefits far more from their effort than any recompense they may get from it. They are roughly in the same position that the average Catholic was 500 years ago when the church was at the peak of its power.
The world has been slow to acknowledge the value of individual rights, yet that recognition is coming, and perhaps now faster than ever. The eruption of the “Arab Spring” is ample testimony to the desire of ordinary people to be free of the autocratic governments they’ve labored under for so long. The question must be raised though: can they see the parallel despotism of the religion they subscribe to? Many of those in Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt and elsewhere may find themselves trading a governmental dictator for a religious one, though in Egypt, there is also the continuing and ubiquitous influence of their military, a pernicious problem all by itself.
Note also that I said, “Islam” and not “Muslims.” If Muslims were the problem all by themselves, I would expect to see problems in the US equivalent to what is going on in the UK and Europe, yet that situation does not obtain. There are Muslims who have adopted the more civilized tenets of their faith as surely as there are those who cling to jihad and passages such as Surah 2:191 and others like it. I am far less interested in the symptoms of the problem than I am in the root cause. The root cause is Islam itself in general, its confused and self-contradictory “holy book,” the Quran and associated texts such as the Hadith, in particular. Until that is addressed, none of the issues which stem from that source have any hope of being resolved.
It has taken a while for individual rights to rise to its current level of importance in the world, and though the balance between the exercise of rights and the concurrent recognition of responsibilities remains an ongoing challenge, humankind deserves the chance to pursue both without interference … and I can think of no source of such meddling more dangerous in the here and now than Islam … so I ask again:
Why should we tolerate Islam?