Is the World Suffering From Baseless Hatred for Islam?

The third-most popular article today in the Washington Post religion section caught my attention. Not so much for its content, but because I could not help but question its underlying principle.
Journalist Selcan Hacaoglu reported some of the speech given by Ali Bardakoglu, head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Ministry, to a Muslim conference in preparation of the Pope’s upcoming visit to Turkey. Among the things Bardakoglu said was that criticism of Islam is, in and of itself, an obstacle to world peace:

A leading Turkish cleric called criticism of Islam a serious threat to world peace, speaking Wednesday as Turkey prepared for a controversial visit by Pope Benedict XVI later in the month. Benedict visits Turkey…two months after provoking widespread anger by quoting an emperor who characterized the Prophet Muhammad’s teachings as “evil and inhuman.”
Ali Bardakoglu, head of the country’s religious affairs, said “it was saddening” to see Islam being criticized while the religion’s contribution to civilization is ignored.
“This attitude, which fuels division and lack of mutual trust, is seriously threatening world peace,” Bardakoglu told a conference in Istanbul attended by several African Muslim leaders.

I must say that I am inclined to agree with Bardakoglu. Not only is criticism of Islam an obstacle to world peace, but criticism of Islam takes the attention away from the pathology of terrorism and unduly draws attention away from non-Muslim terrorists.
During any of the Catholic priest sex abuse scandals, when archdiocese after archdiocese saw itself mired in a slew of phone calls and investigations, when the Pope himself had to comment, did anyone say anything to the effect of, “Wherever you find Thomas Aquinas creating anything new, there you will find things only evil and inhuman”? Even with the quick juxtaposition and clarification the Pope followed his quote up with?
For some reason, even in the Arabic-speaking media, such a contention was not even a thought. However, Islam has been subject to website after website decrying it as the problem. Not only does this serve to partially indemnify terrorists, as one has placed blame on a centuries-old ideology and not a human being with explosives attached to them, but it also is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
By dissing the religion espoused by one-sixth of the human population of the planet, one sets oneself up to be hated. By a lot of people. Why isn’t, for instance, nationalist violence (committed largely by Christians and atheists) in Europe paralleled by a series of cartoons of Christian personalities vilifying enough to make Andres Serrano’s historic Piss Christ look like The Little Mermaid? Why was shari’a allowed to be flagrantly disrespected in the media through the Muhammad cartoons by non-Muslims — which infuriated me, for one, if only as a religious individual (I can’t imagine how insulted the Muslims who protested must have felt) — but blue laws were allowed to be on the books until 2002 in Massachusetts without a peep?
I think we are seeing the proliferation of a baseless hatred for Islam. Perhaps rooted in European colonialism and pan-European racism, perhaps rooted in pan-Americanism and general neocon vociferousness, but definitely there. Islam takes criticism no one subjects other ideologies to. The Washington Post article made me question: why would you even think to criticize Islam, the ideology?
Criticize the imam who denounces Jews. Criticize the sheikh who calls for violence. Criticize the suicide bomber. But to not examine these things as what they are — violations of Qur’an, not the “following of Islam”, and certainly not “mainstream Islam” itself — places the blame on hundreds of millions of innocent people and removes blame from the hundreds (perhaps) of actual criminals. Criticism of Islam does prevent world peace from becoming a reality.
It takes our attention away from the real hindrances to peace.

12 thoughts on “Is the World Suffering From Baseless Hatred for Islam?

  1. It’s really cute how one will see the sickness in their own culture only through another. When the pope first said what he said, I could of sworn it was a sublimated attack on historical Christianity, not Islam.
    But what we’re really afraid of his how the virtues and powers of Islam as a cohesive system/group/empire parrallel that of the Christian West, America in particular, and when we’re anti-Islam, we’re really anti what-we-did-to-get-where-we-are-coming-back-to-get-us.
    because all the advancements in society, progress in terms of liberalisms and “rights” only came out of a peace created by violence and domination of the populace: and we fear that that will be used by others on us, which, god forbid, will happen soon, and is a little bit inevitable.

  2. So we shouldn’t say “islam is the problem” instead we should say “muslims are the problem”.
    Not ” the qur’an is the problem” instead, “people who read it are the problem”.
    How exactly is this going to solve things?

  3. formermuslim
    this would be advocating saying “SOME muslims are the problem” and “SOME readings of the Quran are the problem”
    how will this fix things? well it won’t fix everything. but baseless hatred always makes things worse, makes otherwise good people angry and defensive. By avoiding/ limiting that response, the real problems can be addressed.

  4. I do think you bring up a valid point. It is better interests of world relations to simply state what is the truth. The truth is that a misapplication of ANY of the scriptures, results in the crap we are seeing today.
    Misread the Torah, it’s ok to kill anyone who is a non-believer.
    Misread the Bible, it’s ok to kill anyone who is a non-believer.
    Misread the Qur’an, it’s ok to kill anyone who is a non-believer.
    I mean, it is not like there is no clear pattern here.
    There are definitely a few “muslims” I would love to give a piece of my mind to.
    When you get a person, taking these scriptures out of context, misapplying them, and then having others who rally around them, it creates this powder keg that we are now sitting on.
    Whereas I do not have a ready solution, other than Muslims returning to a state of proper submission, and using their Qur’an as something more than a top shelf place holder, would be a start, but as to an end…

  5. I think the problem is a general battle between the traditionalism and some sort of freaky ‘modernism’. The islam of today is perhaps the most traditional out of what is mainly practiced of other faiths – more of it is orthodox (old-skool) than most of any other faith – and thats why it sticks out like a sore thumb. Whereas other ideologies in general (not talking about the preserved orthodox parts but in general) seem to have ‘adapted to the times’ (not implying that this is necessarily a good thing) islam in its practices and ideology has remained constant since its inception – and this is pretty much uniform around the world. In recent times, crazy people calling themselves followers are blowing stuff up – so have drawn attention to the faith – which people compare to their ‘modern views’ and sometimes they don’t get it – if it was any other faith it perhaps wouldn’t polarize things as much as it is now.
    In several ‘muslim majority’ lands upon colonisalisation the orthodox method (based on islamic teachings) of govt, education, politics etc were corrupted or de-established. When the imperialists left, it was left in a mess. They subsequently developed in a ‘mixed-system’ kinda way – this screwed up some central things. The reaction to imperialist de-establishment of institutions like that of education caused some ‘conservative’ reactions i.e. the saudi ‘wahabbi’ system which is not in harmony with traditional islamic thought – hence weak. Also some liberal reactions i.e. turkey (a ‘secularised islam’ – not too different from current practice of christianity). This weakness in such ‘reactionary’ movements was not existent in traditional islamic societies, one manifestation of such weakness is poor scholarship (known better as ‘dodgy imams/clerics’ who may incite or perform terrorism). This particular manifestation, interestingly enough is not only in ‘conservative’ (by conservative i mean ‘wrong’ but in the direction of ‘literalism’ whereas the ‘right stuff’ was balanced) reactions but equally in liberal/secular reactions to colonialism. Also it is not only the fault of colonialism – that was maybe a big ‘happening’ that did stuff, but society was in decline (islamically speaking) in many of these places where colonialism took place.
    Basically, let us not simplify things – that just feeds our desires and helps us (wrongly/immaturely) to quickly classify people/religion/acts/events but doesn’t solve anything -neither does it lead to eventual comfort in mind

  6. let’s say better: land control is the problem, people’s traditional ways of life and structure being shaken up, even shattered, without consent or consideration, and some muslims/Americans confusion over what to do about that is the problem.
    Or better: systems that claim to liberate people,but instead enslave them to jobs and masters that don’t care about them is the problem. Corruption through wealth is the problem. etc, etc.

  7. Thanks Y Love. I feel closer to religious Muslims (of the liberal tolerant kind) than atheist Jews. Islam has a lot to offer, intellectually, theologically, and spiritually. While I find much happiness in Judaism, it feels so right to open up inside towards the best that other traditions have to offer. Not some fake ‘tolerance’ but shared religious experiences…. I’m so grateful for folks like Eliyahu McLean, or Arthur Waskow for laying a Jewish groundwork for that.

  8. rebecca m:”but baseless hatred always makes things worse, makes otherwise good people angry and defensive”
    This attitude about “you shouln’t say that, it will lead to baseless hatred” is seriously undermining the quality of debate in Jewish circles. It’s the Jewish version of political correctness. Some things should simply be said out loud. You know what they say: The truth hurts.
    And I can guarantee you, as a former-muslim, Islam is the problem. Unfortunately I am not sure most of you have had a scientific education. Which means that when I generalize, you will always find that one person who proves to be the exception to the rule. You know: “I have plenty of muslim friends. They are great people”

  9. I have met very few former muslims. But they all suck. ‘Self hating muslim’ anyone? So much for scientific method…
    Am I the only one disturbed by anti-muslim bigotry here? Isn’t that sort of lashon hara, on a mass scale?

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