Between Intolerable Tolerance and Islamophobia

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris, ISIL has now officially become the main global enemy. But the fight against Muslim fundamentalism isn’t a question of military superiority but ideology. To fight fundamentalism, we must first acknowledge that these fundamentalist groups, such as ISIL, are in fact Islamic. 

Currently we seem to be to be torn between political correctness and Islamophobia. Some continue to insist that Islam is a religion of peace and equality whereas others seem to believe that every Muslim embodies the radical values ISIL holds. 

It does seem that part of our society has become too afraid to criticize Islam. We fear that associating fundamentalism with Islam will pass us off as bigots when in fact it pushes us to ignore the root of the problem. Certain values of Islam, as stated in the Quran, align with ISIL’s mentality and they are in direct opposition to our modern principles. 

All over the world innocents are being slaughtered and oppressed in the name of Islam. Women are denied education along with other basic rights, homosexuals are thrown from the highest buildings, young girls of 9 are sold into marriage, and freedom of speech is seen as blasphemy.

Can we still pretend that this is a religion of peace? 

At this point we have to realize that religion isn’t a race but a collection of ideas and values. For most, it’s a sacred part of their life and it holds a voice of authority. Religion does not play a passive role in our society nor on human behavior. When a religion’s values violate our fundamental human rights, it does pose a threat. 

Fighting in the name of Allah and killing infidels isn’t a concept created by ISIL: It is in the holy scriptures of Islam. In the Quran (5:33) for “the punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be exiled.” In the Quran women are constantly subjugated and men are referred to as “the maintainers of women.” Committing blasphemy or apostasy is a crime deemed to be punishable by death or flogging. 

There is such a limited tolerance for freedom of speech and equality yet we still continue to look away and convince ourselves that nothing needs to be changed. Of course this isn’t an interpretation that most Muslims believe in, but it is the true face of Islam.

Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, ISIL, Boko Haram and countless others, embody this literal interpretation and they enforce it by oppressing anyone who stands against it. While they do have their differences, their message, laws and use of violence remains quite similar. 

While it is true that every religion has at one point or another committed atrocities, violence against “infidels” isn’t as advocated. These fundamentalist groups aren’t rogue believers; they are following, as close as possible, the words of the Quran and their prophet.

Of course we should be careful not to cross that thin line between bigotry and freedom of speech.

Saying that all Arabs hold those fundamental values would be racist. Saying that all Muslims hold those fundamental values would be Islamophobic. But criticizing certain values of Islam falls in neither category and it is a necessity if we hope to reform it. Some of the values of Islam should be made socially unacceptable in our society.

However, we should be able to make the distinction between Islam and Muslims. Most Muslims have their own interpretation of Islam, a peaceful interpretation. They don’t identify themselves with the actions of these fundamentalists which is why it is crucial to stand with them and support them. If we start excluding these moderates, we are pushing them towards extremism. They are not our enemy; they are a crucial ally in the fight against fundamentalism. We should protect them and help them instead of demonizing them and shutting our doors. 

The fight against fundamentalism should be done through two different strategies: accepting the moderates and reforming the religion. Religious freedom should never be used as an excuse to deny human rights and freedom of speech.