Obviously, just as I would react to a new blog attempting to incite action- I do notice the irony in that my ‘action’ is to start a blog. If I wore a blanket I may even break a sweat. More still, as a privileged white male I feel like I’m the guy who got drunk and shat on the floor and am crashing a party I was specifically not invited to. However, while motivated by the recent attacks against the Charlie Hebdo staff- I am certainly not going to let my opinion be muted no matter how unwelcomed it may be. Luckily, I’m safe and cuddly in the confines of an office building in Manhattan- securely draped in anonymity. Brave action would be to make up a t-shirt with the cartoons in question emblazoned on the front and strut around the park. But I don’t. Why? Because I am genuinely (though perhaps irrationally and reactionarily) afraid of the consequences, and everyone knows why.
The reason, of course, is that Islam is a religion that has warped and motivated people to commit atrocious violence. We fear what we don’t know, and while most people left to their own devices don’t kill people who mock things they hold dear, when people who truly and deeply believe they have special favor with the creator of the Universe who hates the same things they do infinitely more- we truly don’t know what we can expect in our daily interactions. Even Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Great Britain, insists that insulting the Prophet is akin to a smear against a close family member- a smear for which a person would expect a “punch on my nose.” Really? We tell children as soon as they understand language not to hit people for things they say. That violence is not an answer to civil dispute. Apparently, the convictions of the religious can only be responded to with a child-like temper tantrum. The last time I believed what I was told with the same fervor as those things I could test with experience and critical thinking, I was praying to Santa Claus for Castle Grayskull. This is why we can expect irrational repercussions, because they are not performed by people thinking rationally.
This fact, that religion strips people of even the desire to think in ways that comport with reality, is why we have warrant to demand response from moderate Islam. Vice writer and Muslim Javaria Akbar, insists she has no cause to ‘apologize’ for these terrorists, but to me it seems she deeply misses the point. We are not asking moderate Muslims to apologize- but they have some serious explaining to do. This type of explaining has already been done by liberal Christians in response to their archaic history and immoral contemporaries. Liberal Christians often explain that sure, our Bible says to kill homosexuals- that they are abominations to God. The liberal Christian response is to acknowledge that these words were written by people with very bad ideas about the nature of life, humanity, and how we should treat each other. The Old Testament writers, they admit, were wrong about a lot of stuff. The conservatives who disagree have been ostracized by the majority of media and public opinion. Liberal Christians publicly debate the conservatives on these issues, and have done so for a while because they demand that Christianity not be represented by their dubious claims. They debate because they understand that the words in their scriptures can be poison if not understood through a modern lens. That reflection and ideological revision was championed by the people who had nothing to apologize for when a fundamentalist spat on a homosexual. But they did feel compelled to actively engage the conservative thinkers who they deemed too staunch in their interpretations, and today we would not recognize a lot of the popular Christian thought on homosexuality as even remotely ‘Christian’ were we to read about it 15 years ago.
Those who don’t want to blame religion almost always identify with a mainstream religion or are irrationally committed to ideals that don’t reflect in practice the rights we value in principle. I’ll save my diatribes against religion in general, but the bulk of the argument is obvious. Religion is a collection of ideas- many, if not most, bad. Even if we are wrong about religion being the cause (which I find unlikely), we should still support those who want to blame it. It would be exactly like insisting that trickle-down economic theory should not be blamed, in any capacity, for income inequality no matter the evidence. Sure- there are larger global and local economic issues that lead to income inequality, and we can’t exactly prove that this one economic idea always leads to income inequality, but it doesn’t matter. We would never insist that, no matter what, you are not even allowed to consider that trickle-down economic theory is incapable of leading to the outcomes we are seeking. Islam is a hypothesis even less deserving of intellectual protection, and never is it in the best interest of modern values to protect a collection of ideas from scrutiny, discussion, or insult.