Islam and Muslims

I just wrapped up an extended Twitter “discussion” on Muslims and Islam. I didn’t even bring them up, someone jumped in with an attack on Muslims while I was getting scolded for being too intolerant of intolerance.

And then this happened:

islam

(Not sure why, but the original tweet seems to have been deleted.)

So let’s talk about this, shall we?

I do not support,condone or defend Islam. I don’t like any organized religions, but I’d have to place Islam at the bottom of the list among major world religions. It’s extremely patriarchal and oppressive toward women, and even though it’s true a strong majority of Muslims don’t condone it, has been used to justify a great deal of violence in the modern world.

However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to countenance persecution of or discrimination against Muslims just based on them being Muslims. That is both morally wrong and unwise. Attitudes among Muslims run on a spectrum, and vary greatly country to country and region to region. For example:

Attitudes toward Islamic law vary significantly by region. Support for making sharia the law of the land is highest in South Asia (median of 84%). Medians of at least six-in-ten Muslims in sub-Saharan Africa (64%), the Middle East-North Africa region (74%) and Southeast Asia (77%) also favor enshrining sharia as official law. But in two regions, far fewer Muslims say Islamic law should be endorsed by their governments: Southern and Eastern Europe (18%) and Central Asia (12%).

[I]n some countries where Muslims make up more than 90% of the population, relatively few want their government to codify Islamic law; this is the case in Tajikistan (27%), Turkey (12%) and Azerbaijan (8%).

Distinct legal and political cultures may help to explain the differing levels of support for sharia. Many of the countries surveyed in Central Asia and Southern and Eastern Europe share a history of separating religion and the state. The policies of modern Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, for example, emphasized the creation of a secular government; other countries in these two regions experienced decades of secularization under communist rule. By contrast, governments in many of the countries surveyed in South Asia and the Middle East-North Africa region have officially embraced Islam.

By the way, Sharia sounds scary (and it definitely can be) but of course it’s more complex than many people realize. Severe punishments (beating, stoning for adultery, execution for apostasy, etc.–which I condemn, in case there is any doubt) are only part of it, and again support for them varies greatly throughout the Muslim world.

Even though I don’t follow any religion myself, our country was founded on religious freedom, and that means I’m free to be atheist as much as Mary is free to be a Christian and Ahmad is free to be a Muslim. Freedom of religion is freedom of religion, as long as your beliefs aren’t harming others. That means we absolutely want to keep violent extremists out of our country, and combat violent extremism around the world…which by the way, Muslims are helping us do.

We also want to let in those who are fleeing extreme violence, like in Syria. And we want to welcome those who choose to be part of a secular nation like the United States, where no religion is dominant over others. We’re not going to eradicate Islam; it’s preposterous to try. What we want is to encourage progressive Islam and welcome its adherents. Those who believe women deserve equal rights, that killing gays is wrong and unprovoked violence in the name of their God is evil.

By painting all Muslims (yes, I’m #NotAllMuslims ‘ing this) with a broad brush, and assuming they all want to do us harm, we’re only making it easier for extremism to thrive, and harder for the religion to modernize and moderate. It just doesn’t make sense.