This article was originally published in Banter M, our weekly long form digital magazine.
For whatever reason, my politics are growing closer to Bill Maher's. I don't imagine I'll ever agree with the HBO host and standup comic on everything, and I'm no one's disciple. But there it is. Maybe it's that I'm getting older and more cynical. The likely explanation is the same one I've always given for why I believe what I believe: my views generally emerge from what I observe to be a rational evaluation of each issue based on things like math, reality and factual consensus. In this regard, I'll never consider myself an ideologue -- my lack of unthinking loyalty to liberal dogma is, unfortunately, an aspect of my writing and podcasting that often irritates liberals who might otherwise follow my work. And, honestly, I don't care.
One of the areas where I simply can't go along with the views of my fellow leftists also happens to coincide with Maher's views, along with those of author and religion expert Sam Harris, generally speaking. Not so much by design, but mostly by coincidence. Specifically, as much as I've tried, I still can't grasp how the left can so easily castigate Christian dogma, including the crimes of the Catholic Church and the politics of evangelicalism, while insisting that any criticism of Islam is not just intolerant but downright racist, worthy of viral social media floggings.
It ought to be a given that I'm not talking about actual intolerance in the form of epithets and hate crimes. This, of course, is behavior that has no place in American society or otherwise. I'm talking about fact-based criticisms of a religion -- a religion that absolutely deserves to be condemned with the same gusto as other organized forms of theistic zealotry.
I've certainly engaged in my fair share of outrage over Christian radicalism here and elsewhere throughout my twelve years of political writing/blogging, and I stand by most of it. Consequently, as far as self-evaluation is concerned, I don't feel like I need to pull punches when it comes to Islam. It's a matter of consistency and, again, an objective view of the facts. For as long as I've been doing this, I've followed other top-shelf liberal bloggers who routinely bash Christian fundamentalism (and not-so-fundamentalist worshipers, for that matter) as well as the militarism of Israel, but who also provide special latitude to Islamic fundamentalism. In terms of extremes, the lines of battle ought to be reversed, with far more criticism launched in the direction of Islamic fundamentalism than at Christian radicals who, at the end of the day, don't retain a national government mandate to execute or permanently mutilate gays, women and apostates.
For whatever reason, it's okay for the left to circulate Flying Spaghetti Monster memes while bashing Christian extremists like the Duggars or the Christian evangelicalism of the Republican Party. But when Maher and Harris, or The Daily Banter's Luciano and Pazienza, for that matter, likewise target similar yet deadlier forms of Islam, they're labeled as racists or xenophobes, as if Islam has earned a special dispensation for some reason. (I hasten to qualify with the mandatory caveat: non-practicing and/or peaceful Muslims are obviously a not insignificant exception, but rarely is criticism of Islam aimed at them anyway.)
Generally speaking, most critics of Islam, on the left, at least, are critics of religion across-the-board, and seldom do we find those critics defending radical Christians except as a means of drawing the obvious contrast: Christian theocracy in the modern world doesn't impose the same oppression and capital punishment on its people as Sharia law happens to impose. That's not to say Christianity is comparatively innocent of crimes against humanity -- it's not. It's just less horrendous than Islamic law.
Regarding that, it's important to underline that we're not just talking about jihadists here. Sure, they're the most visible purveyors of Islamic extremism. And, by the way, some members of the left have downplayed the terrorist threat -- including me. My downplaying of Islamic terrorism, however, isn't about suggesting it doesn't exist, but rather as a matter of degrees. The true threat isn't so much a gaggle of masked radicals waving ISIS flags. While I'm deeply concerned about the Islamic State acquiring fissile material, I'm far more concerned with the prevalence of Sharia as the rule of law in too many nations. This is usually where other liberals tend to bleed from the ears due to the cognitive dissonance evident in both opposing Christian theocratic movements here and ignoring Islamic theocracy when those who impose it reside in the Middle East and Africa.
While theocrats in the United States are busily trying to strike down legal same-sex marriage, homosexuality is still a punishable crime in 73 countries. Among them, same-sex intercourse is punishable by the death penalty in the Islamic states of Saudi Arabia (our partners in peace), Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan and parts of Syria. Prison sentences, often involving torture, are mandatory in Pakistan, India, Ethiopia, Somalia, the UAE and Kuwait.
In one-in-ten Islamic nations it's illegal to leave Islam. and 22 percent of all nations have bans on blasphemy. Many of the punishments include death. According to Pew:
We found that laws restricting apostasy and blasphemy are most common in the Middle East and North Africa, where 14 of the 20 countries (70%) criminalize blasphemy and 12 of the 20 countries (60%) criminalize apostasy. While apostasy laws exist in only two other regions of the world – Asia-Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa – blasphemy laws can be found in all regions, including Europe (in 16% of countries) and the Americas (31%).
Too many of these same nations also impose misogynistic laws that include lapidation for women who commit adultery, but merely caning for the men who do the same. The stonings usually involve women being buried up to their necks, with Sharia rules imposed for the minimum sizes of the rocks hurled at their heads until their bludgeoned to death. (While we're here, female genital mutilation is practiced in too many Islamic cultures, though it's not sanctioned by the Quran.)
Do Muslim people generally support Sharia, or is it imposed upon them by dictators? According to polls, yes they do.
- 32% of Muslims in America believe that Sharia should be the supreme law of the land.
- 40% of British Muslims want Sharia in the UK
- 58% of Muslim-Americans believe criticism of Islam or Muhammad is not protected free speech under the First Amendment.
- 82% of Egyptian Muslims favor stoning adulterers
- 70% of Jordanian Muslims favor stoning adulterers
- 42% of Indonesian Muslims favor stoning adulterers
- 82% of Pakistanis favor stoning adulterers
- 56% of Nigerian Muslims favor stoning adulterers
- 68% of Palestinian Muslims say suicide attacks against civilians in defense of Islam are justified.
- 43% of Nigerian Muslims say suicide attacks against civilians in defense of Islam are justified.
- 38% of Lebanese Muslims say suicide attacks against civilians in defense of Islam are justified.
- 15% of Egyptian Muslims say suicide attacks against civilians in defense of Islam are justified.
- 26% of younger Muslims in America believe suicide bombings are justified.
- 35% of young Muslims in Britain believe suicide bombings are justified (24% overall).
- 42% of young Muslims in France believe suicide bombings are justified (35% overall).
- 22% of young Muslims in Germany believe suicide bombings are justified.(13% overall).
- 29% of young Muslims in Spain believe suicide bombings are justified.(25% overall).
Yes, I get it. They attack us, we attack back, they retaliate and so forth. That's not the point. Brutality in the name of religion is, indeed, a larger and more dangerous feature of Islam than the left is willing to acknowledge for some reason. Despite it, the left seems more than happy to lampoon Christian fanatics like Mike Huckabee or Kim Davis or even the late Fred Phelps -- each of whom deserve as much scorn and ridicule as anyone. But why, then, are the repulsively horrifying aspects of Islamic law, whether it bastardizes the Quran or not, given a free pass by the left, or, at most, paid lip-service then rapidly accompanied by cries of racism against anyone who brings up polls or national laws overseas?
I have no idea. You tell me.
To be perfectly clear, this is really more about hypocrisy than the specifics of Sharia. When we're busily crucifying, say, the Catholic Church for allowing serial pedophilia, while we also crucify anyone who dares to point out the heart-wrenching penalties carried out in the name of Muhammad, I can't help but to wonder about these flagrantly conflicting views. By the way, we don't need to line up with Donald Trump's ridiculously unconstitutional Muslim ban to simply recognize that all religions are, to some degree, toxic. Islam in the modern world is easily the most poisonous of the batch, and saying so is merely a result of objective analysis -- not necessarily racism.
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