Monday, June 8, 2015

Sarah Haider: Islam and the necessity of liberal critique

This is a superb talk, isn't it? How could anyone - other than an Islamic fundamentalist, perhaps - object to this?

As PZ Myers notes, we need to walk a tightrope:
While we aspire to oppose the idea of Islam while supporting the humanity of Muslims, there are among us people who are literally opponents of the right of Muslims to even exist. I do not want to be confused with Pamela Geller or the gun fondlers holding a “freedom of speech” rally while holding guns. We are polarized: one side wants to give people autonomy and respect their choices, even their bad ones, while the other wants to nuke Iran. It makes it even more difficult to point to the evils of the Qu’ran when doing so is cheered by militarists and anti-immigrant forces that wants to use the wickedness of religion selectively, to oppress non-Christians.

It also doesn’t help that there are people on the left, our allies, who are so concerned with defending the rights of Muslims (which I support!) that they overlook the crimes provoked by Islam, to the point that, for instance, supporting Charlie Hebdo is regarded as evidence of Islamophobia. That’s nonsense. I can condemn the murders of cartoonists, and the fact that I do not add any kind of qualifying “but” does not make me Pam Geller’s fellow traveler. It means that I reject any and all excuses for violent intolerance.

But, as Haider asks, “can we not stand against all oppressions, stand for equal rights while simultaneously working against bigoted narratives within religion?” I think we can. It’s just hard and requires walking a narrow tightrope. It does mean, of necessity, that us white Western opponents of Islamic idiocy do need to add careful qualifiers when speaking about Islam that are not necessary when discussing Catholicism or Protestantism.

That’s OK. There is an unavoidable asymmetry in our relationship to the various world religions. It should not prevent us from making that liberal critique of religions outside our shores.

I agree, though I don't see it as all that difficult. Well, it might be difficult to get our opponents on the right and the left to understand it.

I support freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I don't just tolerate those rights, I celebrate them. And I celebrate diversity. People, Muslims or otherwise, have the right to believe whatever they want. Period.

Like everyone else, they don't have the right to do anything they want, necessarily. And, like everything else, I can criticize, or even ridicule, their beliefs, if I want. As they can ridicule mine. I don't find any of that difficult.

But the devil is in the details, I guess. Like PZ Myers, I don't want to be seen as supporting Pam Geller. And intimidation is not freedom of speech. On the other hand, blasphemy is. And drawing cartoons isn't an incitement to riot, let alone murder.

Incidentally, secular bloggers are being murdered in Bangladesh and threatened in other Islamic countries. Please support the CFI Emergency Fund to help these people. It's the least we can do.

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