Saturday, 18 September 2010

Reflections on Islamophobia

“Islamophobia” means “fear of Islam”. If you say Islamophobia is unwarranted, you imply that nobody has any reason to fear Islam or its adherents.

Let us examine this statement for a moment. “Nobody has anything to fear from Islam or its adherents.” Hmmm. Do you have any evidence to back up your claim that nobody has anything to fear from Islam or its adherents? What objective, verifiable characteristics must a population group display in order for it to be truly said that nobody has anything to fear from its members?

Let's take a standard, I think we can all agree that nobody has anything to fear from Quakers. I think that is an uncontroversial statement. Offhand I don't recall any Quakers prominent in organized crime. Quaker terrorist organizations? I draw a blank. I am certain that if we wade through the crime statistics we will find very few violent Quaker criminals. Why am I so sure? Well, because they’re pacifists, for one. They have a strict ban on physical violence of any sort. They refuse to do military service. They don't go to bullfights. There is a clear and consistent pattern in Quaker society of avoiding violence of any kind, against any living creature. That tradition of non-violence is centuries old and has marked Quakers since their earliest beginnings.

Now let's see about Islam. What is the share of Mohammedans among people convicted of violent crimes? Is it higher or lower than the share of Quakers? I think if we could figure out that ratio it might give us some insights into the issue of whether Quakers pose a greater threat of violent crime than Moslems or not. I'll make a note of that. I could check the figure, of course, but I sort of instinctively surmise that … you know? I’ll pencil in: “Quakers win.” We can change it later if it turns out to be wrong.

So, let's see, any other magnitudes that should be measured? Yes, what are Islam’s teachings on violence? I think that across-the board bans on violence of any sort are extremely effective in discouraging violence. I can imagine if instead of broad bans you had individual prohibitions on narrowly defined, specific types of violence, there would be many loopholes left open to circumvent whatever restrictions might exist.

Once, in Miami, I asked a Pakistani cleric for cites in the Koran that ban murder. I still remember with amusement and horror reading one of the verses he referred me to. It said something like “Don't kill and eat your children, for help is on the way!” Is that a ban on murder, or an emergency call from the psych ward?

Another factor is that it seems to me that people who have an inbred culture of pacifism must have all violent reflexes bred and trained out of them. So they would have little spontaneous urge to commit acts of violence. Far less than people whose moral code is more permissive in the mayhem department. Seems to me the Quakers have an edge here.

“Permissive” in this context would apply to any cult with a history of expansion by warlike means. And in this connection, I do seem to recall some unpleasantness around the 8th century or so, when Islam conquered in less than one century a larger surface than that of the Roman Empire in its prime.

Any religious movement that is endowed with its own ritual methods of execution should likewise be suspected of violent propensities. In this connection, Islam is renowned for the variety and inventiveness of its methods of ritual execution. Puts the Mafia to shame.

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