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Islamophobia or upholding Western values? Are there limits to criticism of Islam?

Sim

Registered Member
We had this debate here before, which is why I'd like to post an essay I wrote for another debate forum, regarding the question if there is, and if yes, where there is the line between islamophobic bigotry and justified criticism of Islam.

Here it is:
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First of all, I would appreciate it if this thread didn't become another thread about the evils of Islam, or knee-jerk condemnation of islamophobia. I'm interested in another question: Where do you draw the line between justified upholding of Western values against radical opinions of Muslims, and xenophobic stereotyping that fosters hatred against Muslims?

For the record, I want to say this, and I hope nobody will suggest I didn't say it: I do believe that organized political Islam is a threat to Western societies, so are certain attitudes and opinions held by Muslims in the West, may they stem from religion, tradition, or both. There are Muslims who are very authoritarian, are in favor of restricting freedom of speech, gender equality and some may even want to introduce Sharia law, or support terrorism. It goes without saying that such groups, political, religious or both, are a problem and deserve attention, in some cases prosecution.

But how large is that number? In Germany, there are ca. 4 million Muslims on a population of 80 million. Half of them are German citizens. In a poll among them, 79% said their faith is compatible with the German constitution, 21% said no. That makes roughly 500,000 Muslims in Germany who believe their faith is not compatible with the Constitution (which explicitly defines freedom of speech, of religion and even gender equality). The number of those who actually engage in violence, or violent organizations may even be much lower.

So the problem exists, but it is limited. Neo-Nazism is a problem too: In the 2009 national election, 01.5% of the voters voted for the neo-Nazi party NPD -- assuming ca. 50 million went to vote, that makes a number of ca. 750,000 neo-Nazi sympathizers. The number of active, potentially violent neo-Nazis is estimated at ca. 30,000 in Germany, IIRC.

So far, Muslims have not even formed a political party that articulates their interests and bundles their opinions for the political process. Let alone the more radical Muslims. Radical islam not politically organized on that scale, they have not even reached this level yet.

So while both threats are indeed a problem, it's still a limited problem, and only concerns the fringes. According groups, both islamist or neo-Nazi, need to be observed and prosecuted, if necessary, IMO.

But it seems to me that 90% of the alleged "Islam criticism" completely overshoots the mark, is not limited to pointing to this threat and dealing with it as it is, but completely blows this problem out of proportion. And I think that's because by far more people are not just considering radical opinions among Muslims a problem, along other extremist opinions like neo-Nazism or violent leftism, but they are deep into chauvinist territory, xenophobia, racism, blind hatred.

Blatant anti-Semitism is no longer considered acceptable (not counting in fringe groups), at least in the mainstream. What's bothering me much more is that so many people fail to apply this lesson to other kinds of chauvinism. They have not taken the lesson that broad generalization, stereotyping and singling out ethnic minorities is the core of the problem, but just that singling out Jews is bad.

When you read many of the rants against Muslims these days, you can see many of them could pass easily as anti-Semite Nazi propaganda, if you just changed "Muslim" for "Jews". Anti-Semitism was bad, because "the Jews did nothing of the kind they were accused of, but Muslims do all these horrible things", Islam critics then say.

Now of course I agree that criticism of certain religious and traditional opinions and attitudes is justified, especially when it comes to Islam: Radical islamism is definitely a threat for freedom, just like other fringe opinions like neo-Nazism or violent leftism is. Muslim political organizations of that kind, or hate preachers should be prosecuted accordingly, along with neo-Nazis or violent leftism.

But this criticism overshoots the mark 90% of the time. Especially when the threat by islamism is completely blown out of proportion, considered an essential threat to Europe/the West, rather than a fringe problem?

"They'll breed us out", "take over to establish a califate", "introduce Sharia law"? When they make not even 5% of the population, 80% of which even believe their faith is compatible with our constitution? WTF? Which world are they living in?

As explained, violent neo-Nazis are ca. 30,000 out of 80 million, their sympathizers maybe up to 750,000. And why would people feel inclined to invest so much attention and emotion into writing hateful rants and conspiracy theories about them, as do many about Muslims? Neither of them has the capacity to pose an existential threat to our political system and way of life so far.

It seems hating Muslims has become a fetish for many.

And it's not unlike the rabid paranoia and persecution complex that was behind anti-Semitism among the Nazis back then. Reminds me of that one passage from "Mein Kampf", when Hitler writes how he walks through the streets and keeps seeing "Jews" everywhere, as if "Jewishness" was an invisible force manifesting in all kind of harmless phenomena -- if there was not the according historical context, it would read like satire, the confessions of a deeply disturbed man ridden with paranoia and severe psychological issues. The explanations of certain islamophobes ("My street doesn't look anymore as if I was in Germany, it looks like little Istanbul!") read almost the same.

90% of the "Islam criticism" these days seems to be driven by the same mechanisms and issues: It's not about enlightenment and defending Western values, it's about petty hatred of the alien, just like the anti-Semitism of the neo-Nazi fringe, or "traditional" racism. It's just as shrill, paranoid and regularly blows the threat out of proportion. And most of the time, it's just venting hatred, not offering constructive ideas, and thus no valuable contribution to debate, but hateful incitement to rally up lynch mobs at best.

There have been several arson attacks against mosques last year in Berlin already. I believe that's just the tip of the iceberg of islamophobia, the everyday xenophobia is probably much higher. I blame the fact that so many people blow the threat by radical Islam out of proportion, and that islamophobic hatred has become acceptable even in the mainstream.

When neo-Nazis run around beating up African immigrants, or radical Muslims ran around attacking cartoonists, journalists or Jewish people, that's bad enough. We don't need to add native islamophobes to that mix, who ran around beating Muslims or setting mosques on fire. IMHO.

Thoughts?
 

fractal

Eye see what you did ther
There have been several arson attacks against mosques last year in Berlin already. I believe that's just the tip of the iceberg of islamophobia, the everyday xenophobia is probably much higher. I blame the fact that so many people blow the threat by radical Islam out of proportion, and that islamophobic hatred has become acceptable even in the mainstream.

When neo-Nazis run around beating up African immigrants, or radical Muslims ran around attacking cartoonists, journalists or Jewish people, that's bad enough. We don't need to add native islamophobes to that mix, who ran around beating Muslims or setting mosques on fire. IMHO.

Thoughts?
The mentality of the people is pretty simple actually: You blow up my buildings and I blow up yours.

The attack on the US was done in the name of religion. Their religion openly states that women are inferior apart from several other extreme opinions. Anyone who says that he follows every part of Islam by the book is in obviously violation of the country's constitution. And what about the veil? Is the person behind the veil always a religious woman? It's perfectly all right to think that Islam is a troublesome religion.

However there are those who follow the good principles of Islam and weed out the bad ones. But they can't say that in public or they'll be accused of being untrue to their religion. Islamophobia is unfair to these people who are most likely the majority. But you can't blame someone for being wary toward Muslims.
 
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NeoCaesar

Registered Member
Islamophobia, even under the guise of 'upholding our own ideals', has to be some of the most dangerous thinking in the west. The last great ideological butting of heads resulted in many countries arming themselves (or trying to) with nuclear weapons. Diplomacy won the day then and it must now or perhaps this struggle will result in one of them being used?
 
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JaneSmith

Registered Member
Islamophobia, even under the guise of 'upholding our own ideals', has to be some of the most dangerous thinking in the west. The last great ideological butting of heads resulted in many countries arming themselves (or trying to) with nuclear weapons. Diplomacy won the day then and it must now or perhaps this struggle will result in one of them being used?
There is no such thing as Islamophobia. The term was invented by Muslims as a tactic of taqiyya. To suggest that the cause of violent behavior is a result of some reaction is illogical.
Violent behavior is learned when young Muslims celebrate holidays where they have to slice off the head of a goat and when imams preach to kill Jews and Christians as infidels.
To make it seem like Muslims have been bullied by the West is illogical. In most instances it's the action of claiming to be the victim that causes "Islamophobia" to be used. It's a tactic.
I would say that most people in the West are nor scared (phobia) of Muslims. Instead we are undereducated about Islam.

The most dangerous thinking of Westerners is to think that Muslims are like us. They are not, they don't want to be, and they will fight to have us under Sharia. That's the law in their minds.
Understanding dar ul Islam and dar ul Harb is one step to ending this nonsense and false terms like Islamophobia.
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However there are those who follow the good principles of Islam and weed out the bad ones. .
See, the problem with this concept is that there is no way to tell "moderate" Muslims from Islamists, right?
And you see the majority of peaceful Taliban farmers, and 18 million Cairo peaceful protestors in the streets turning violent. So the tipping point of "moderate" Muslims cannot be known.

The old philosophy that man is good in his heart is probably true but that comes with conditions. The conditions in Islam is that it is the Law to convert or kill those who aren't Muslims because those people aren't considered good.
 
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Sim

Registered Member
There is no such thing as Islamophobia. The term was invented by Muslims as a tactic of taqiyya. To suggest that the cause of violent behavior is a result of some reaction is illogical.
Violent behavior is learned when young Muslims celebrate holidays where they have to slice off the head of a goat and when imams preach to kill Jews and Christians as infidels.
To make it seem like Muslims have been bullied by the West is illogical. In most instances it's the action of claiming to be the victim that causes "Islamophobia" to be used. It's a tactic.
I would say that most people in the West are nor scared (phobia) of Muslims. Instead we are undereducated about Islam.

The most dangerous thinking of Westerners is to think that Muslims are like us. They are not, they don't want to be, and they will fight to have us under Sharia. That's the law in their minds.
Understanding dar ul Islam and dar ul Harb is one step to ending this nonsense and false terms like Islamophobia.
Quod erat demonstrandum.

Hello Jane!

Good to see you around. I know arguments won't get us anywhere, which is why I just want to give you the friendly advice to get your head out of this Muslim thing for a while, and snap a little fresh air. I am sure it will do wonders! =)

What I'm telling now, I am not telling to convince you of anything. I am telling that for other people here who read this.

Among my friends and acquiantances, there are maybe half a dozen Muslims. None of them wants us under Sharia law, none of them supports violence in the name of Islam, all of them condemned the 9/11 attacks and other such islamist acts of terror.

You say "they are not like us". You are dehumanizing them. You suggest they are not human beings, gifted with the same blessings and ridden with the same flaws we all are. I think that is rude, to say the least.

Let me tell you some more about my Muslim friends. Maybe you get an idea they are human like you and me as well.

One good friend of mine is a daughter of Turkish immigrants (a second generation immigrant). Her parents wanted her to marry a cousin from Turkey when she was 17, so she escaped from home, embraced Western lifestyle, partied hard, had lots of premarital sex and finally married an atheist German man. Needless to say her parents were outraged, trapped in traditions as they were, and were bitterly enraged because of the "shame" she had brought upon her family. For a few years, they didn't speak with each other. But eventually, her parents and brother came to accept her choices, they slowly began talking again more and more, and today, her parents have swallowed it. She still says she is Muslim, but "not very religious". In fact, her story reminds me and her very much of that many homosexuals will tell you -- they had very similar troubles with their families after their outing.

Another buddy is a former co-worker of mine. He is a cook. He, or at least his parents, came from Turkey, but he grew up and went to school in Germany. He is a very mild character, always friendly, never loud, and always looks like a dog you've kicked in the face, when his boss, the chief cook, yells at him. Sometimes, he brought his three year old daughter and played happily with her, as warm and cheerful as you don't often see fathers playing with their kids. Islam is very important for him, he said. But when I asked him about certain verses from Quran, or rules in Islam, he said he doesn't really know so much about it, he rather asks his wife, who is more into it. But he often prays, he doesn't drink alcohol or eats pork, and sometimes added the typical phrases after mentioning God or Mohammed ("Mohammed -- blessings upon him! - once said ...", or "we will meet tomorrow, so God will!"), which often caused amusement at the workplace. The other co-workers sometimes made fun of this habit, and he didn't take any offense, just smiled and laughed with them. He is probably one of the mildest men I have ever met. When there was the debate about the Danish Mohammed cartoons, he was very sad, and participated in a protest with the motto "for freedom of speech, against disrespectful speech", explaining he believes it shouldn't be illegal such cartoons are published, but he believes cartoonists should voluntarily restrain from offending Muslims.

Another guy is a Turkish Muslim I met at college. He had been serving in the German military for 7 years, before he started going to college. He often emphasized the story that his officer just called him "my Osman Prussian!", because he was so fond of his discipline. Despite considering himself a Muslim, he doesn't really play by the rules. He drinks, he eats pork and he doesn't feast during Ramadan. But he has a bit wacky sexual morals -- hypocitical, you can say, because he has no problem with premarital sex himself, but looks down on girls who do that. And he is quite a bit macho. Apart from that, he seems to be a nice guy.

Another good friend of mine is an Egyptian girl living in Cairo. We often talk online. She is in her late 20s and lesbian. Our contact started, when she contacted me online, asking me to translate a confession of love into German for her German girlfriend. Of course, due to the anonymity, I assumed she was a guy, because I expected a lesbian girl not in a Muslim country of all places. We talked a few times for several weeks, until this "misunderstanding" was finally discovered -- we both had a good laugh! Since then, she has visited Germany twice. She is a pretty shy, but determined young woman. Her parents died when she was young, works as a graphic designer, and hides her love for other women in public. She still has a girlfriend in Germany. When I asked her about her religious feelings and its stance on homosexuality, she said she often prays, and hopes God will forgive her -- but she will not change who she is. She insists nobody should tell her how to live, it's between her and God.

So much for examples of people who "are not like you and me", who are fundamentally "different", who are not human -- who are brainwashed to allegedly hate Jews and Christians, who conspire to blame righteous Westeners for "islamophobia" and to introduce Sharia Law.

Jane, I ask you this: Can you come with me to visit them, and tell them right into their faces what you wrote above?
 

fractal

Eye see what you did ther
Jane, I ask you this: Can you come with me to visit them, and tell them right into their faces what you wrote above?
I know you asked Jane, but I could tell them what she wrote. There is no easy way to identify peaceful Musilms. Even though the ones you mentioned are not the orthodox ones, I could invite them to present a way to distinguish them from the extremists. I can say that if you claim to follow a religion that supports violence, there is no way for me to know which parts of it you follow and which parts you don't. And for me to be on the safe side, I'll assume that you follow every part of it given the bias I have after seeing the religion major terrorists name as the cause for their actions.
 
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CaptainObvious

Embrace the Suck
V.I.P.
The problem I have is the term Islamaphobia is thrown around way too much whenever Western values are trying to be upheld.

For example, in many office buildings Muslims are wanting prayer rooms and the opportunity to pray 5 times a day during the workday. Anyone objecting to that is an labeled an Islamaphobe (I agree with Jane somewhat that there really is no such thing but I digress). I object to it not because I don't want to see Muslims praying, but because special considerations should not be given for any religion. If you want to pray 5 times a day, stay home or work somewhere else. My faith requests that I pray the Divine Chaplet every day at 3:00. Guess what? If I'm not at the courthouse I'm in a deposition or at a mediation and it isn't possible that I follow it every day. Tough shit for me, I don't ask for anything extra because of my faith. I'm paid to do a job and be productive. If I want to pray every day at 3:00 I'll quit and stay home and pray all I want in my own house.

I think the conclusion of this "hatred for Muslims" is way off base and is not supported by any stretch of the definition of credible evidence.
 
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NeoCaesar

Registered Member
@JaneSmith & Fractal- To imply that Islamophobia is Islamic propaganda is quite ridiculous. We are seeing evidence of it in this very thread (have we been listening to Muslims?) in the suggestion that moderate and extremist Islamistics are one and the same. There is a sliding scale of depravity in every human regardless of religion, race or creed. How can you stereotype an entire belief system on the behaviour of its extreme elements. Do do so is actually pretty bigoted
 

JaneSmith

Registered Member
Jane, I ask you this: Can you come with me to visit them, and tell them right into their faces what you wrote above?
Them? Who is them?
And if you talk about individuals rather than the ideology then you will never learn anything. just sayin.
I would, and do, speak directly to Muslims and they speak directly back to me. Maybe you can ask "them" what their beliefs are, they will tell you. Or you can look at CNN, google the Muslims Brotherhood and you can see it with your own eyes. dar ul Islam and dar ul Harb are very basic terms in Islam. Probably a good start to understanding Islam rather than knowing a couple of people.
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@JaneSmith & Fractal- To imply that Islamophobia is Islamic propaganda is quite ridiculous. We are seeing evidence of it in this very thread (have we been listening to Muslims?) in the suggestion that moderate and extremist Islamistics are one and the same. There is a sliding scale of depravity in every human regardless of religion, race or creed. How can you stereotype an entire belief system on the behaviour of its extreme elements. Do do so is actually pretty bigoted
I've practiced Islam. So what are you calling me?
Do you know anything about Islam? Have you read the Quran?
Really, I've had better conversations with people who have a grip on World Politics, International Studies, Political Science, Counter-terrorism, Military Strategy.
The old "bigot" thing.... is really.... really.... boring.
 
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NeoCaesar

Registered Member
What's funny is that I study Business and IR so I do feel qualified to comment. I'm no expert and neither do I claim to be. I stand by what I said one hundred percent. We live in a time of liberalised secularised versions of religion. To tar all followers of a faith with the same brush is bigoted regardless of your personal experience.
 
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