London was “attacked” again last night. We don’t yet know whether or not those who did it affiliated themselves with ISIS and we may never know. At the time of writing ISIS have not claimed responsibility for it. Earlier this week there was a bombing in Baghdad, during Ramadan, Manchester a couple of weeks ago and…well, the list goes on.
Before I get to my point allow me to establish a few things I would like regarded as accepted truths. You may not like or agree with them, but I have researched these carefully and you can do the same.
- The Koran contains passages that encourage fighting disbelief and disbelievers, (2:191-193) (3:151) (4:89) (8:12) (8:39) among others, and while much is made of how these can be taken out of context, it’s absurd to pretend they’re not there or that they don’t mean what we think they mean. “We” (non-Muslims) are not stupid.
- While the above is true, that does not mean that all Muslims are raised with the sole purpose of being agents of violence, even though the Koran encourages fighting until there is no more fitna (which could mean disorder, disbelief or persecution – such ambiguity is typical of Religious doctrine and affords believers a degree of wriggle room when defending their faith).
- Muslims are not, by definition, terrorists. Obviously.
- Islam is not, by definition, a terrorist Religion. Obviously.
- Islam, like all Religions, can be misinterpreted (see 2) intentionally or unintentionally and it is the responsibility of leaders of the faith to ensure that does not happen.
- I have yet to meet a Muslim with what I could describe as “extreme” views, although I have met Muslims who drink, think women should be kept at home once they’ve finished their GCSEs and judge non-Muslims as inferior. They sound just like Christians to me. Those I know (and work with) seem constantly burdened by the actions of the few who make their honest and peaceful lives all the more difficult and force them to justify who they are every time there’s a terrorist incident.
While I could do something very similar for the Bible and its followers, and doubtless will, that’s not what this post is about.
There seems to be a growing belief that to even suggest that Islam encourages terrorism makes one islamophobic. For hard-line Islamists, this is exactly how they want it. Blasphemy laws are encouraged in Islamic countries and even Europe has them. The notion that we cannot question, investigate or insult a Religion (for its obviously out-dated ideology if nothing else) is absurd – nothing is beyond ridicule or criticism and to bow to special pleading on the part of any Religion is a denial of one’s freedom of speech. I should be allowed to say, publically, I cannot abide the treatment of women in Islam? No matter what the apologists say it is only a blinkered mind that could accept that women are treated equally. Do women get 72 male virgins when they get to paradise? Can women drive in Saudi Arabia? I could go on but that would be a digression. What matters is that no Religion should have special rights in a supposedly free society and blasphemy laws are a return to the dark ages. Nothing and nobody is above criticism or rebuke. I’m sorry if you feel your Religion has been offended but that’s your problem, not mine. You want to criticise atheists? Go ahead, we’re used to it but we don’t march angrily through the streets or set off car bombs because of it. Criticism, when constructive, leads to reform and nothing and nobody is above it.
There is a widespread acceptance that ISIS terrorists are somehow “not” Muslims and to suggest that they are will lead to condemnation. Well condemn me, because no matter how skewed their interpretation of the Koran might be, THEY think they’re Muslims. It doesn’t matter one bit what we think they are. They act in the name of Islam. I accept that may be uncomfortable for you, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. ISIS claim openly they do everything they do in the name of “true” Islam. They could be wrong, they may well be wrong, but that does not mean they don’t think they represent “true” Islam, and if you want proof of that please note they kill more Muslims than they do people of any other faith. The Baghdad bombings this week, during Ramadan of all months, were an attack against people they don’t consider to be “true” Muslims. It is nonsense to suggest that ISIS are not Muslims or don’t act in the name of Islam. It’s an uncomfortable truth we all need to accept in order to move beyond #notinmyname hashtags and the fear of criticising Islam. For those of you who think I should be punished for suggesting such a thing, please refer back to points 2,3,4 and 5 above, in particular.
For the record, I don’t think for a second that ISIS represent the beliefs of the vast majority of Muslims around the world, especially those who have settled in the west and enjoy liberties they simply would not be able to in Muslim-governed countries. While we in the west fear “letting in” potential terrorists there is a far greater threat from home-grown radicalisation as it’s invisible – these people hide in plain sight and even when British Muslims report people (that they suspect may have been radicalised) to the Police they are not always taken seriously, as the Manchester attack a couple of weeks ago is proof of. We do know, however, that there are Mosques in England that accommodate what most would consider “hate preaching” and usually the same people are the first to raise their voices when anyone makes even the merest suggestion that Islam is flawed. You’ll have seen the protest signs…”Behead those who insult Islam”. No, fuck you, I’ll insult it all I want and you get to insult me back, but we don’t get to silence one another because we don’t like what the other is saying. I think you’re a moral and religious thug if you truly believe someone should be killed for criticising your Religion and you are an extremist who should be kept away from the society YOU SHARE with others. I don’t want to see Sharia Law imposed not because it’s Islamic, but because it’s Religious and we’re 1500-2000 years on from those bronze-age claims and still there’s no evidence to support them as the word of any God, so while I respect your right to believe whatever you want I will oppose any attempt to force those beliefs on others. You wouldn’t wish for Christianity to be imposed on you (again…let’s face it, the Christians have blood on their hands too) if you’re a Muslim and you would speak out against it…thus revealing the double-standard based solely on “we’re right / you’re wrong”.
We’re going to struggle to beat this problem until we acknowledge the elephant in the room. In the same way it’s difficult for many Americans to accept that the KKK are a Christian organisation, we have to accept ISIS are an Islamic organisation. Religions generally want us to live by ancient and out-dated rules and we’ve grown beyond that. Whatever you may think the “cause” of ISIS/Taliban Islamism is, it goes back well before the first Iraq war and to allow ourselves to be side-tracked by “you started it” arguments will do us no good. There is a clear link between Religious regimes and humanitarian crimes and there is a permanent link between ISIS and Islam. Accept these things and we can move forward, reform and deal with the problems we have. Wallowing in age-old arguments about supposed truth will do us no good. This does not mean accepting a Trump-like stance (not all Muslims are terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims) because in America you’re far more likely to die at the hands of a Christian extremist than anyone else, but we absolutely have to accept the link between fundamentalist religion and terror, even if it makes us uncomfortable to do so.
So can we please stop saying “they’re not Muslims” whenever ISIS commit an atrocity? They think they are, they act in the name of the Islam they understand to be true and they’ll kill other Muslims to make that point. They bring shame on the Religion, but they get their ideology from it. It’s not insulting to suggest that, it’s the glaringly fucking obvious truth that too many people don’t want to accept. This is the discussion that needs to be had, so we can finally admit where the problem is in order to work towards reform. If, at that point, we learn there is no willingness to reform, then we have a new set of problems of course, but can we at least start making some progress by admitting what we know is true but find too uncomfortable to talk due to the fear of being labelled a bigot.
Someone once told me that the thing I fear the most is the thing I have to deal with next and they were right; in that instance I had to admit I had a problem I had been in denial about and so couldn’t fix. The first part of resolving the problem was admitting I had a problem in the first place…