In today’s climate, Islam is the most politicized religion in the world. There are Islamist parties and uprisings worldwide. There have been countless terrorist attacks in the western world where the attacker was a lone wolf terrorist “self radicalized” into the Islamist ideology. Every time a drawing or mockery of Muhammed becomes widely circulated, Muslims all get offended and the extremist Muslims become really violent.
Muslim minorities of western societies are often unfairly blamed and victimized. As a result of this, the Western left wing is protective of Muslim minorities. So protective, they even go as far as deflecting criticism from Islam’s doctrines. If you criticize Islam, you are seen as “belittling brown cultures” and are slandered with the charge of “Islamophobia”. This stain on reputation in a culture that holds political correctness is quite powerful.
In Muslim majority countries, if you criticize Islam, you are charged as a blasphemer and are under threat of violence or legal persecution (prison time, capital punishment etc.) In Bangladesh Atheist bloggers who criticize Islam are hacked to death by Islamists. In Saudi Arabia, critics of Islam like Raif Badawi are imprisoned and are associated with terrorism because they are a perceived threat against the state (just for criticizing religion.)
In the east, an Islam critic faces legal persecution/death threats, in the West, an Islam critic gets labeled a bigot and their reputation slandered.
It is very clear that suppressing criticisms of Islam becomes an issue of the freedom of speech, conscience, and even religion. One of the great battles of free speech today revolves around this religion.
People from the Western Right wing take this conflict to heart. They go far as to tweet #banislam and #freespeech together; as if banning Islam would improve free speech.
Let’s take a look at a few samples:
In all of these tweets, there is some form of mention of free speech. Among the hashtags is #banIslam, implying that Islam should be banned in the West if free speech were to thrive.
Islam is a religion; a set of ideas; a form of religious expression. If you want to ban a specific kind of religious expression to empower free speech, you just undermined that achievement. Why? Because you want a specific kind of a free speech.
“I like free speech but…”
Yeah just as some may add reference to offensive material after that “but”, these people will add that they want to ban Islam after that “but”. In other words: they’re not really advocating for free speech for all. They just want the right to ridicule Islam without allowing Muslims any right to express religious devotion, apologia etc.
Islam Is No Monolith
“But Islam is a Death Cult. People follow Islam and are inspired to be terrorists”
That may be the next step in debunking me. While there is some truth to that, it is not the entire truth. Islamism as an ideology does derive inspiration by the expansionism, tribalism, and militancy expressed in the holy texts.
However, not all Muslims are Islamists. There are many who read the same scriptures Islamists do, or have it explained to them by an apologist, and genuinely believe that: Islam is a religion of peace, Muhammed was the ultimate pacifist, and some even believe Islam founded feminism. They see jihad as merely a form of inner spiritual struggle and self defense for Muslims.
Yes, these beliefs require dishonest readings of scripture, but they still exist. I do criticize these readings of scriptures quite often. But they are not to be mixed up with Islamism, which is implementing a literal reading of the holy texts.
These “moderate Muslims” are no threat. They believe their religion tells them to be in peace and harmony with their community, albeit some restrictions.
So when you “ban Islam” you are not just banning Islamism, but the countless other Islams with different interpretations. Islam is not a monolith.
The Muslim Victim Narrative(s)
When you “ban Islam” you are perpetuating the victim narrative of Islamists. If you think “Leftist SJW Muslims” play bad identity politics, you’re in surprise with Islamists do.
The “Left-Wing Social Justice Warrior” Muslim says “I’m Muslim, woman, in a hijab, Puerto Rican, dark skinned, and I identify with Shia Islam. So I’m oppressed in many ways. Listen to me because I’m so oppressed. I read the Quran for myself because that’s my way of reclaiming it.”
The Islamist says “These kuffar (disbeliever) oppressors are ruining the Islamic way of life. They banned Allah’s deen and we are under threat as Muslims. We need to fight for Sharia through (warfare/politics/protests). ”
If you ban Islam, and corner Muslims into an extreme victim narrative, Islamism will inevitably creep into their thought process. They will feel threatened by disbelievers as the Islamists will tell them. The “moderate Muslims” I described earlier who see Jihad as a form of self defense may see this as “the necessary self defense”.
The martyrdom narrative will never seem more ripe than this scenario. Islam as a whole will be a martyr in their eyes, in need of revival.
Don’t legitimize the Islamist narrative. Don’t fight extreme with extreme, fire with fire. It won’t go well. Trust me.
Challenge Doctrine With Free Speech, Not Banning
If Islam is banned, the entire religion will gain martyrdom in the fight for free speech instead of the oppressive ideology against free speech that fuels the narrative. Let Muslims believe in Islam and practice it. Let Islam’s diverse expressions flow in society. This amount of freedom allows critics the wiggle room to criticize the doctrine, and engage in debate with faithful Muslims.
Through open debate and exchange of ideas, there will be a very slow and gradual shift in public discourse. Reformist/Liberal/Secular Muslims and Ex-Muslims will grow in population. Criticizing Islam’s tenets will be normalized as Christianity’s is, and your goal of achieving free speech will be realized. Islamism will be delegitimized because scriptural infallibility is tested in the public inquiry.
Banning Islam is far too abrupt and sudden. Slow and steady wins the race.
If you ban Islam, you’re banning a form of religious expression. You are the anti-free speech authoritarians you so claim you want to defeat. Potential allies in the Muslim world who can also challenge Islamism will become your enemy because you are an oppressor to them, rather than liberal ally.
Banning Islam isn’t pro free speech, but very much against it. The way to challenge dogma is to debunk it for mass audiences, rather than suppress it.
To sum it up: banning Islam is a bad idea.
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