|Values Morals Ethics and Me. Here: critical thinking question on Islamophobia. What is Islamophobia? Islamophobia in the world. Islamophobia and Middle East religions.|
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Values Morals Ethics and Me. This time:
Values Morals Ethics and Islamophobia in the World. Values Morals Ethics and Middle East religions.
WESTERN TOLERANCE and ISLAM
The West, Islam ... and Me
I've been writing about the West and Islam for a couple of years now. Nothing steady, but a thought here and there, a piece here and there.
Now I've pulled those pieces together, and written about the journey, and still I'm left with another big question: how do I introduce all this? Especially, not everything I say about either the West or Islam is positive. About the West, though I criticize lots about the West, there's no problem - the West is open to criticism. You may not get much listening, but you can say pretty much whatever you like.
But I also see major flaws in behavior by many of those within the Muslim religion. My interest is behavior/action, rather than the reality and/or interpretations of religious texts. So I say little about such texts - Koran, Quran, Bible, etc. - though at one point I do give a few sources for those who want to go further in the exploration of Muslim religious texts.
About Islam as about the West, my values morals ethics beliefs all fit together: explore, think well, speak out, listen, discuss, explore some more.
And because I do speak out about what I see as flaws in Muslim behavior, I go: will I be charged with Islamophobia?
A bigger question: am I Islamophobic?
My answer is simple and clear: no.
I have a colleague - I'm a college prof - who agrees with my viewpoints but doesn't dare discuss, in class, any of those ideas. He admires those who dare to speak out. He doesn't, himself, dare to.
I would say he's Islamophobic - he has tremendous fear and dread of the Islamic world, that someone from within it may come and kill him if he dares speak out. Phobia: excessive fear - like claustrophobia: irrational fear and dread of enclosed spaces; like arachnophobia, fear and dread of spiders, unrelated to the behavior of spiders. (I like spiders, watching them, though I do not particularly like them crawling on me.) And so on.
So, in daring to say, in public - in writing, on the web, in my classes - what I am thinking, I am being anything but Islamophobic. I believe there is the possibility of speech and being heard, the possibility of discussion. So my values morals ethics beliefs are nicely in congruence. I'm also fortunate in that I live in Canada, which has so far been relatively outside the zones of Muslim violence.
I may of course be wrong - I may have too little fear and dread of Islam. Many people have good reason to be afraid - suicide bombers, murder plots, murders, genital mutilation. However I see that around me, worldwide, many people do speak out, including on the web. People in many countries. And millions of people search out these sites.
The more of us who speak out, the better. It's like in the movie, V for Vendetta. At the end, with everyone wearing the same mask as V, not only is he safe, but everyone is safe.
On the importance of speaking. I think of a German bishop who lived during Hitler's rule. He didn't agree with Hitler's policies, but he didn't speak out. Later he was rounded up, and spent a long time in prison. He survived to the end of the war. His comment (from my memory): "They came for the Communists. But I was not a Communist, so I said nothing. They came for Jews, but I was not a Jew so I said nothing. They came for the mentally handicapped, the physically handicapped, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the homosexuals - but I was not in any of those groups, so I said nothing. Then they came for me. I called out, but no one came. I learned: The freedom of no one is assured, until the freedom of all is assured."
I think of his comments also as I'm not Muslim, and so some may say, why are you commenting when it isn't about you? It is, in fact. Here in Canada, I have heard Muslims claim that no one may say or do anything that offends their religion. I believe in not only the right, but the need, for freedom of speech (unless this is used to promote unwarranted hatred). My values morals ethics beliefs: all people need to be encouraged to look as accurately as possible, and also need the knowledge that they are free to discuss and criticize what they see.
I've discussed my perceptions of, for example, the widespread Muslim response to the Danish cartoon in class. (I have students from all kinds of religious backgrounds in my classes.) Recently, one student said it would be better to say nothing - like in the Quiet Revolution in Quebec, to just let things blow over.
I want to thank him, because his comment got me thinking.
Here in Quebec, Canada, in the 1960s and 1970s, there was a huge change, called the Quiet Revolution. Quiet: there was one mailbox detonated, blown to smithereens in the middle of the night. And there was one murder - Pierre Laporte, a Quebec cabinet minister kidnapped and strangled. He was not supposed to be killed, or so his kidnappers claim, but he ended up dead, strangled.
The cause: the separation of Quebec from Canada, desired by those who kidnapped him.
There was huge outrage at the murder of Pierre Laporte. Not only were the people who wanted Quebec to stay within Canada outraged, but the vast majority of the people who wanted separation were likewise outraged. There was no general support in any part of the population for the killing (or for the blowing up of more mailboxes).
But there was no quiet when it came to speech.
So the Quiet Revolution: a complex situation, not all worked out in any ideal way, but virtually entirely non-violent. Hugely different from what is happening in the Muslim world. I'm in favor of a quiet revolution, as it's happened here in Quebec - far from perfect, much to do - but not a revolution where I needed to fear physical violence.
I'm not in favor of being quiet because others demand people keep quiet or else. It goes against my values morals ethics.
So in terms of talking about what I see happening within Islam, I think that nothing could be better than a Quiet Revolution. And what I have been against is how violence has been done in the name of religion - and also how Muslims, both non-moderate and moderate, have protested most loudly against a small Danish cartoon, rather than the massive amounts of violence done by Muslims is the name of the Muslim religion.
I believe in thinking clearly. And while trying to think clearly, I thought about the importance of having good priorities. Some things are more important than others. So a student who wants to pass a semester and also go to parties may have to consider: what are the priorities? what is more important?
I will list some things:
- Muslims murdering other Muslims, often in huge numbers, often by death squads formed to kill huge numbers of other Muslims.
- Muslims committing suicide while murdering as many other people as possible, most often other Muslims, sometimes non-Muslims.
- Muslims mutilating the external genitalia of Muslim females (with supposedly 75,000,000 Muslim women worldwide having had their genitals mutilated, again with this being done in the name of the Muslim religion).
- a cartoonist publishing a cartoon of the Muslim prophet with his turban turned into a bomb (which can readily be seen as a visual representation of the way Muslim death squads and suicide bombers have killed people in the name of the Muslim religion - in other words, these people have turned the Muslim religion into a vehicle of death, and are committing massive amounts of violence in the name of the Muslim prophet)
Which of these things is most worth protesting? What is the highest priority?
I come to any of the above except the cartoon.
And I also look at reality. Which of those things have been most protested by Muslims? The cartoon.
This makes no sense at all, if one cares about justice, respect for life - if one uses standards which care in the least bit about human safety. Instead, babies blown to bits, babies with their heads smashed against walls, the 2 towers of the World Trade Center smashed into and thousands dead - none of this counts as much as a cartoon.
I do not believe I am Islamophobic to consider that there is something seriously wrong in branches of the Muslim religion - and IN EVERY MUSLIM WHO HAS PROTESTED AGAINST THE CARTOON - BUT DID NOT PROTEST AT LEAST AS LOUDLY AGAINST THE THINGS I HAVE LISTED.
Instead I consider myself deeply non-phobic.
I believe in speaking out, and call on all Muslim moderates to have similar values murals ethics - to speak out loudly, strongly, to protest, to give their names for the higher priority items.
Moderate Muslims - who are these? Muslims who do not condone violence in the name of religion, and who also do not condone violence against women in the name of religion (such as the violence of genital mutilation, and also including the violence of fingers chopped off some women found wearing nail polish in some areas governed by people calling themselves Muslim). I call on Muslims to protest loudly, strongly against the largest offenses.
I also call on Muslims to ask themselves: what is going on with their branch of their religion, whatever it is, that there have been no huge protests against suicide bombings, genital mutilation, etc., but there have been massive protests against the Danish cartoon? In other words, what are - as shown through action - the values morals ethics of their branch of the Muslim religion. (If any Muslim or non-Muslim considers murder and mutilation less important than the cartoon, I do not consider such a person as having an adequate moral sense.)
There is a second way some may be tempted to consider me Islamophobic. They may want to believe I think all Muslims are alike - equally condone the violence, etc. Clearly, from what I have said, I do not believe all Muslims are alike, just as I do not believe all Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, etc., are alike.
Why am I bothering to address this potential charge of Islamophobia?
At present, this charge is leveled readily at anyone who is not uncritically accepting of Islam - because it has often proved to be an effective weapon. So if on the one hand one has to be at least somewhat cautious because of Muslims who threaten - and do - violence to those who don't abide by Muslim rules re their religion, then on the other hand one has to be wary of charges of Islamophobia.
It's April 7th, 2007. I've just seen Fitna the Movie, Geert Wilders' film about the Quran - just released a few days ago, and banned from YouTube (or so I was told) because of Muslim protests. I see nothing controversial about the film. It shows the views of many within the Muslim world. What's controversial about that? If you want, you can check the film out for yourself. Click here for a current link.
If you don't like what it shows, my suggestion: don't shoot the messenger. Geert Wilders is just delivering the message. He's not making up the footage - notably of imams preaching in favor of imposing a Muslim state, believing their religion will take over the world.
Values morals ethics. Mine include facing reality. One can't deal with something until one has recognized it. My hope: we face reality as fully as possible, and manage to create an environment where the values morals ethics of good thinking, empathy, tolerance (unless it causes harm) are accepted not because they are rules blindly accepted, but because they have been thought through and make deep sense to people.
My journey is an ongoing one. Why is this happening? Why did that happen? I remember those questions from childhood, and now in adulthood I sometimes come across answers, and sometimes even figure some out. Questions and more questions, and some answers.
Welcome to the ongoing exploration.
I wish you good thinking.
copyright Elsa Schieder, 2008, 2011, all rights reserved
I will close with much from another section, the section on Muslim moderates:
I call on Muslims, particularly moderate Muslims, to ask themselves a question. Many have protested about ways Muslims are victims of Western prejudice. I want to suggest another question: I suggest they ask themselves if they are victims of representatives of their religion - for example of imams who have encouraged them to protest a small cartoon, to feel offended by a small cartoon, but have not encouraged them to be hugely offended by Muslim violence done in the name of the Muslim religion, who have not encouraged them to speak out en masse against genital mutilation, against inequality between women and men, and so on and so forth. What are the values morals ethics of these imams? I could go further: to what extent has their religion, with its values morals ethics, its widespread emphasis on learning obedience to authority and to following rules, worked against them, so that they would actually feel offended by the cartoon at the same time as they may actually not even feel offended by Muslim violence done in the name of the Muslim religion.
In other words, I would like Muslims to ask themselves a critical thinking question I have not often heard debated: if and how they are victims, not of the West (far less repressive, including against Muslims, than most regimes in Muslim countries), but of representatives of their religion?
I also suggest they ask themselves another critical thinking question: why there was such pressure to protest against a cartoon and none to take to the streets protesting the huge amounts of Muslim violence done in the name of religion.
Protesting about a cartoon instead of horrific violence is the equivalent of someone with a heavy dose of cancer protesting violently about a pimple.
An aside: as I make clear in a number of sections, I also consider many Westerners victims of their societies - in this case, I see the mental walls against thinking as coming directly from an educational system that, for the most part, does not encourage good thinking, but instead instills in most students unthinking acceptance of beliefs such as that all opinions are equal, one does not have the right to judge, etc.
A second aside: I consider that any religion which does not foster freedom of thought and critical thinking, which encourages believers not to develop to their full potential but follow teachings and rule, is inadequate. Traditional Christianity - no birth control, you will go to hell if you have premarital sex, people not within this religion go to hell, etc - certainly falls within this category.
But to go back to my wish for Muslim moderates: I wish Muslims moderates would mobilize against Muslim violence done in the name of their religion.
If Muslims marched in the streets all around the world every time a suicide bomber detonated him or herself, this would likely have a huge impact. If Muslims doing violence in the name of their religion were confronted on every side by evidence that what they were doing was considered evil by the vast majority of Muslims, if they heard coming from masses of Muslim voices that, far from going to paradise and being welcomed by virgins, they would never get near heaven, that would also likely have an impact. Questions at least might be formed in the minds of those on the route to deciding to blow themselves up in the belief that they were doing right, with a sure ticket to paradise. More and more people might hesitate: what if those other voices were right?
My hope: that through whatever route it happens, we do reach a world without violence done in the name of religion, and even more, a world where people think and talk, and where every revolution is a Quiet Revolution.
For a listing of all the articles, both on Islam and a major weakness of the West,
Welcome to the ongoing exploration.
I wish you good thinking.
copyright Elsa Schieder, 2008, 2011, all rights reserved
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