A Non-Trivial Question Regarding a Non-Trivial Religion

I have a few questions, none of which are meant to be rhetorical:

  • If Islam demands the death penalty for apostasy, why should we tolerate Islam?
  • If Islam says that women must be veiled, why should we tolerate Islam?
  • If Islam cannot value women as equals to men, why should we tolerate Islam?
  • If Islam cannot tolerate the practice of freedom of speech, why should we tolerate Islam?
  • If Islam is determined to dominate the world, why should we tolerate Islam?
  • If Islam cannot tolerate free inquiry or scrutiny, why should we tolerate Islam?
  • If Islam thinks that individual rights should be sacrificed for submission to Allah, why should we tolerate Islam?
  • If Islam is unwilling to grow up, why should we tolerate Islam?

 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?

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Comment by sk8eycat on February 16, 2015 at 4:52pm

I think that historically xianity was forced to tone down its torture and killing because people began to realize they could run away from it.  Or, as Frederick Douglass said, they "voted/prayed with their feet."  Unfortunately, there's nowhere left to run to, unless we start developing large space habitats and bases on the moon, which the greedy corporations will not allow us to do.  Yet. 

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, but people who want to be free could sit up there and throw big rocks at the Vatican, Mecca, and Medina for a long, long time....until the believers are either dead or cry "Uncle!"  I have been hoping for 50 years that we would be farther along with that project than we are, but Tricky Dick did his best to kill off NASA....

Comment by Loren Miller on February 16, 2015 at 2:09pm

@Bertold You make a point.  There are christians and muslims both who want to run the whole show and secularism stands in their way.  In places, religion has been civilized, in other places, not so much.  Who was it that said that constant vigilance is the price of freedom?

As to what speech has what rights, I don't know - I'm an engineer, not a lawyer, but I do know this: words only have the power to hurt where they have PERMISSION to hurt.  This is something I know very personally, and indeed, I've spoken about that issue elsewhere on A|N.  If religions can't stand words which question them, dissect them or mock them, then they must be pretty weak in the knees (if religions ever had knees [shrug]).

The old maxim about "sticks and stones" holds here if nowhere else, as far as I'm concerned ... and as it comes to irrational thought expressed as belief in non-existent deities, I have no intention of holding my tongue.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on February 16, 2015 at 2:02pm

History shows that to you, ha Spud?

Comment by Bertold Brautigan on February 16, 2015 at 11:47am

I'm not so sure that christianity actually "outgrew" its penchant for not only bad mouthing, but torturing and murdering anyone and everyone who disagreed with one little insane tidbit of its fairy tale ontology. Maybe Western civilization just caught up with it and inhibited its practices a bit, something which hasn't happened in the Middle East. There are plenty of them who would still be burning us if they could only get away with it. Pius XII did a pretty effective job of enabling Hitler and Mussolini even in our enlightened times.

I have no good position on the freedom of speech question. The problem isn't so much that people say ignorant shit as that they believe ignorant shit, and that's pretty much down to the potent mix of religion and stupidity, something even decent education may not be able to cure.

Comment by sk8eycat on February 16, 2015 at 11:42am

There is also the issue of shouting "Fire" when there really IS a fire.

IMO the basic tenets of Islam are worse than shouting fire, and they deserve no more respect than Xian dogma.  Which equals NONE.

One of my favorite books is Robert Ingersoll's Some Mistakes of Moses, where he tears up the silly-ass, vicious "laws" (and murders) of the Old Testicle. 

Comment by Idaho Spud on February 16, 2015 at 10:51am

I've not thought a lot about freedom of speech, but so far it appears to me that there is no need to outlaw nazi speech because there are plenty of people that will rebut it and dilute it's effectiveness.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on February 16, 2015 at 10:44am

So under your analysis it appears to me that you do look at the target. Children and theater goers are entitled to protection in the balancing of interests. Shouters of "fire" and advocates of kiddy porn lose out.

On the other hand Jews and racial minorities have to endure open season on racist speech no matter the degree of unconscionable distortion or virulent racist speech and  whatever the inimical consequences,  so be it?  Even in countries that carried out the holocaust? Lobbyists will be a defense against violence begotten of anti-Semitism?  Because offenders get to offend...unless they are offending minors who have laws to protect them from pornographers and molesters (the lobbyists having influenced the law givers) with or without the kiddy porn.

The things you say about speech as it applies to religion, we agree. I just don't think you have thought this thing through.

Comment by Loren Miller on February 16, 2015 at 10:20am

@Glen Certainly there are degrees of speech and protection thereof. The classic business of shouting "FIRE" in a crowded theater is usually the first example to come to mind. As it comes to child porno, that is speech which impinges on minors, who legally can't assent to the actions being foisted on them and thus also prohibited. I'm talking about adults dealing with adults here, though the relative maturity of said adults may be in question.

Jews have lobbyists, the last I looked, and any time the issue of anti-Semitism comes up, I have no doubt but that their people will scream bloody murder in response. If some idiot with a chip and/or a swastika on his shoulder wants to cop an attitude, he's free to do so. He's also free to pay a price for his stupidity, at least here in the States. At the same time, if someone wants to point out that the Pentateuch is a ridiculous document for its laws and putative morality, is he being anti-Semitic or is he making statements of fact based on easily obtained evidence? If similar observations are made regarding Christianity or Islam, the same rules should apply.

I have made this statement repeatedly:

No one has the right not to be offended.

All the evidence I've seen to date tells me that there are significant elements of Islam which is loathe to have this statement apply to them. They want their beliefs to be apart from criticism, "sacred," if you will, and are willing to kill to achieve that end. Half a millennia ago, I have no doubt but that Christianity would have claimed much the same kind of exemption. They have since managed to outgrow their imperious attitude. Islam has not and currently remains in its apparently troubled adolescence.

It's up to those of us who value free speech to stand in loco parentis.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on February 16, 2015 at 9:40am

@Loren That is a standard and typical recapitulation of the liberal position. Same thing Allen Dershowitz says. But it is a mistake.

Under our constitution in the USA the Supremes tell us that there are various levels of protection given to speech depending on the classification. And some speech gets no protection. If the definition of child pornography applies there is no protection for such speech. Political speech on the other hand is more highly valued and the government has a higher standard to meet before able to abridge such speech. (All free speech issues have state action requirement meaning the government must be the actor or the citizen's 1st amendment rights are not invoked)

The analogy using our government as the object of ridicule instead of Islam is relevant. When we allow gigantic institutions to be free of lampooning and criticism we encourage the emergence of a dictatorship and all of the abuse that entails. Post-critical speech the giant institution still gonna do its thing. But it  might be a bit more circumspect having been chastened or knowing eyes are upon it.

When we contemplate the long history of anti-Semitism and posit the ongoing extent of anti-Semitism throughout the world we ought to pause. An enormous survey by the anti-defamation league found that world-wide  27 percent of the population hold anti-Semitic views. And in many regions 85-90 percent do. The lies continue. The scapegoating of Jews continues. Anti-Semitism is on the rise in Europe once again.

Constitutional law is essentially a balancing of interests. What interests are advanced in permitting the speech versus what interests are harmed in denying protection.

In the matter of holocaust denial we are advancing anti-Semitism. The holocaust is well-documented and factually irrefutable. Those who would deny it have an agenda and nothing good can come from their denial. (If you say or think that a chilling affect on other forms of speech will be in evidence then you have to tell me how that is so.) Again, as indicated above and contrary to popular opinion speech is not uniformly protected and being offensive is not automatically a get out of jail card. The tendency of racists to spew hatred attracts other racists to the myth and stirs the cauldron. In a very real sense the likelihood of racism in living color is enhanced when we give carte blanche to holocaust denial. Furthermore when the government actually stands behind its battered minorities it sends a positive message.

So what is the harm in disallowing holocaust denial? aaahm...crickets....wait for it....the lowest of low lifes are frustrated in their attempt to perpetuate the myths and lies. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion gets dusty...

It is sad that any speech ought to be limited or banned but human nature is not a shining example in the cosmos for other civilizations or lets hope the fuck not.

Comment by Loren Miller on February 16, 2015 at 7:56am

@Glen Free speech in the final analysis means allowing speech that we don't like.  Personally, I'm not fond of Nazis, MRAs, or apologists of any stripe or religion.  Hell, a couple weeks ago, Ben Affleck made me want to throw up with his bullshit, but that doesn't change the fact that he as a right to speak, as surely as Sam Harris had a right to rebut his speech and demonstrate his badly flawed thinking.

Now me, I'm about as liberal as you get.  I think gays and Lesbians have the right to marry, I'm utterly indifferent to legalizing marijuana, though I think laws regulating its sale and use would probably be wise, and I think that "if ye do no harm, do as thou willst" should indeed be, if not the whole of the law, a healthy part of it.  I am NOT, however about to tolerate intolerance or its practice as evinced by ISIS or the killers of the editors at Charlie Hebdo ... because I also believe that your right to swing your fist about ends at my nose.

Fists aimed at my nose will be blocked, and if necessary, countered.  Period, end of discussion.

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