22 November 2015

Islamophobia? Excuse me?

I don't know how to begin this post. What I do know is that there are plenty of thoughts that have been brewing in my head recently, and I need to write it down to get it off my head. Where do I begin? Right, let me begin with Paris.

November 13, I was lying down in bed in a hotel room in Vilnius, Lithuania. I was browsing the news with my phone when headlines about the Paris attacks showed up. I spent a few minutes reading what was going on, and tried processing that. I think I would remember where I was that night for the years to come, just as I vividly remember where I was and what I was doing when the September 11 attacks happened 14 years earlier.

Before Paris there was Beirut, and before Beirut there was the Metrojet crash due to a bomb. And as I write this, there is a hostage situation currently unfolding in Bamako, with the attackers shouting "God is great!"

Right, God is great indeed. What kind of god is this, really? Can someone tell me the answer to that question? It seems the religion of peace is quite busy these past few days, engaging in non-peaceful activities.

This obviously made me think. Am I being Islamophobic? What does that term even mean? I find it unfortunate that the term phobia has been attached to this concept, because phobia suggests that it is some sort of irrational fear or prejudice against Muslims. Pretty much like xenophobia, no?

I have to say, however, that I have nothing against the people who practice this faith. I do recognize the positive effects of religion. But I also have to say that there are so many other negative effects of religion that it is bringing to the table. Sure, one can say that the Paris and Beirut attacks had nothing to do with Islam, but has everything to do with extremism. However, if every time these attacks happen, you see who the attackers were, and every time you see that they get these extremist motives from Islamic teachings, then it is pure idiocy to claim that it has nothing to do with Islam. You might as well have claimed that the Crusades in the Middle Ages and the European Colonial expansion that happened afterwards have nothing to do with Christianity.

No. It has everything to do with Islam, as well as other religions.

Religion is at fault here, because religion, in its most fundamental sense, lends well to fanaticism. The fact that there is a set of dogma, that one must obey, just because a holy set of writings has said so, is the perfect breeding ground for fanaticism. I asked a few months ago whether religious people can be liberal at the same time, and I lean toward saying no. That is, if you really take to heart your religious teachings, then that would mean that it is never okay for someone to not follow the teachings you adhere to. Sure, there are plenty of people around you that don't have the same beliefs as you do, and if you are a religious person, then in one form or another, you will believe that this unbeliever is somewhat below you, that this unbeliever is going to perish in Armageddon and will not survive unlike you, or that this unbeliever deserves to be killed.

Now, if this is what religion does, if this is what Islam does, am I still not allowed to be afraid of Islam? Am I still not allowed to criticize its belief system? Am I still not allowed to be wary whenever I see believers of this faith, because otherwise I am branded as Islamophobic?

If criticizing religion (among them, Islam, Christianity, and others) because of the negative effects it brings to society brands me as Islamophobic, then so be it. Truth be told, however, in my view I am not Islamophobic, but an anti-Islamofascist. I am against any belief system that is too closed-minded to accept that there is plenty of diversity in humankind, whether it is Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, what have you. Human beings are diverse, and it is okay for others to be different from you. That diversity of course involves religious beliefs; you don't have to share my opinion, but there is a limit to this. As much as I appreciate diversity in opinion, all opinion is relative and not absolute. If your opinion or religious belief dictates that you must kill people who don't hold these religious beliefs, then that is where I draw the line.

I should note, that while there are plenty of terrorist attacks that have been attributed to Islamic extremism, I am not singling out Islam here. There are numerous extremists from other religions as counter-examples. Just look at Anders Breivik, or the Buddhist monks in Myanmar. No, I criticize something bigger than that.

Alas, as much as I want to eradicate religion and all its forms from the face of the earth, this is quite impossible to do. I just hope that reason will prevail in the end. I find it sad that the current events are being used by various political parties in various parts of the world to advance their own political agenda, instead of directly addressing the problem and trying to find a solution to it. Oh well, what else can I expect?


  1. I disagree with you on this one... I think so, anyway, because the issue is so complex. As you already know, like you, I don't believe in a higher power. I see Islam as both a culture and a religion, and I truly think those behind ISIS and all these attacks are not Muslims but serial killer.

    1. Zhu,

      Haha yes, I know you disagree with me on this point. :)

      Fair enough, let's assume that they are indeed serial killers. Sure, but serial killers all have motives. Whether it's an internal motive like mental illness or obsession, or an external motive like religion. I won't argue against positing that they are serial killers, they definitely are, but what I want to do here is remove the source of their motives. Religion, as I have said many times, have positive and negative effects, and I think the negative effects outweigh the positive ones. Unfortunately, one of its negative effects is provide a motive for these serial killers.