Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Liberals and Islam

I occasionally hear the question, "Why don't liberals hate Islam?"  After all, Islam, at least in many of its common forms, is about as different from liberalism as you can get.  Freedom of thought?  Gender equality?  Self-determination?  Islam isn't known for these things.  Yet it's always conservatives you hear condemning it, while liberals say things like "not all Muslims" or "it's a religion of peace."

The answers I hear given to the question above are often really stupid, or rely on assuming that liberals are stupid.  For instance, it is said that liberals just don't know anything about Islam.  That might be true for some, but surely there are liberals who know a bit about Islam and how it is concretely practiced.  Another answer is, liberals exoticize the other and therefore they love Musliims just because they are so different.  That seems to suggest that liberals aren't capable of rational thought.

I've been reading some ex-Muslim blog posts lately and I have to admit, it can be kind of shocking.  While I agree that not all Muslims practice their religion so harshly, some certainly do, especially in parts of the Middle East.  The result is like Christian fundamentalism on steroids.  So it's safe to say, I don't love Islam.  As religions go, I consider it mostly bad news.

However, I think the liberal way, being focused as it is on non-zero sum solutions and peaceful resolution to differences, naturally is not going to be to say that Islam is evil.  Not because liberals love Islam, but because they are actually putting their money where their mouth is about how you fix problems.  You don't fix them by demonizing groups of people, alienating them, and showing your readiness to fight them.  You fix them by finding common ground, demonstrating your readiness to accept and work together, and accepting people before demanding they change.

So when a liberal American says, "I want Muslims to be able to immigrate to the US, and I want them to be able to keep their religion and culture," they are not saying, "What we need in this country are more burqas and child marriage!"  What they are saying is, "I am willing to accept immigrants to this country in good faith, and while I hope they accept American values (or certain core ones) I want them to know that they won't be forced into a hard choice between religion and freedom."  It's a way of trying to introduce liberal values into Islam, rather than expecting that anyone will ditch Islam for liberal values in one moment.

Another reason that liberals don't hate Muslims is simply an ethical question.  Most people in Muslim countries, especially the most repressive ones, are victims.  Even if they support their government, they are being deceived into that support because it clearly harms them.  And when you see a victim, your first thought should be to help, not to attack, even if you disagree with them on basic values.  It's the liberal tendency to view humanity as a whole, not as an ingroup defending itself from an outgroup.  If you'd rescue a baby from a burning building, you'd rescue a Syrian baby from a warzone.  It's just that simple.  Might either choice be dangerous?  Sure!  But the potential harm is worse and more likely in the case of the victim, so you are obligated to help.

But, you might say, liberals aren't all nice and squishy when it comes to fundamentalist Christians!  They say much harsher things!  I think there are two reasons for this.  First, greater familiarity means more likely to have emotional, rather than principled, responses.  One gets mad and rants and raves, even if logically one knows it's not helpful.  And the second reason is that fundamentalist Christians just aren't as dangerous.  While liberals all know the danger of saying or doing things that might radicalize Muslims and turn them into terrorists who will literally kill them, they know that fundamentalist Christians aren't literally going to kill them.  Or at least, they are very unlikely to.  So they aren't being as careful with Christians as they are with Muslims.  They are treating them with an assumption that they do accept some basic "liberal" values like hashing out differences verbally rather than by bombs, and so they feel safer saying directly how much they disapprove.

Well, that's my opinion anyway, as a somewhat-liberal person who doesn't love Islam.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...