Uncoupling the Islam/Muslims Dichotomy

Freshly off listening to the Sam Harris, Yasmine Mohammed podcast, my mind filled with thoughts on how to contribute meaningful input to this complicated discussion.

Many people often deride or mock liberals, myself included, for their utter failure on the topic of Islam.

Until today, it hadn’t dawned on me that the problem is not actually simple to decouple.

Having grown up in Alexandria, Egypt until the age of 16, I have a unique perspective on this problem, that often gets lost in the screaming matches, between liberals and those willing to criticize Islam.

The problem at the heart of this, is I think liberals are unable to compute how peaceful people that they know personally (Muslims,) can follow an inherently bad ideology (Islam.)

This leads them to incorrectly conclude that the ideology is benign. It’s the only way they know how to square the two contradictory things.

The answer isn’t so simple however.

To insert a personal anecdote into the discussion; growing up, I had many Muslim friends; indeed my very best friend was “Muslim.” Of course at the time, he had nothing to do with the religion, but Muslim by name only; we were kids, who cared mainly about having fun.

Extrapolating from my personal example, there are probably millions of “Muslims,” who were simply born baring that name. They are independent, secular people, just like many others in the world. 1.5 billion people is a very large number.

This leaves us with the ideology of Islam itself. Where is the truth exactly? The whole thing is so shrouded in mystery, it can be incredibly difficult to come out with any sense of objective truth about it.

Is it the Quran? Is it the Hadith? Is it the surah? Are the terrorists misinterpreting a peaceful doctrine, or are they following it to the letter? Who was Mohammed? Did he exist? Was he a good person?

These answers can be indeed difficult to trace down objectively; and I’m by no means a religious scholar.

I am however a logician. I’ve always enjoyed logic, always gravitated towards it. It’s a beautiful tool to make sense of the world around you, without anyone dictating to you how things should be.

The truth is, Islam is special. It is overly intrusive, and by design. This is hard for western liberals to understand, but having grown up in that culture as a child, I got a sense of just how much the ideology intrudes into everyday life.

It can be hard to express just how much.

Think of the loud call to prayer, waking you up at 5am, when you have an exam the next day. Think of crucial soccer games, interrupted repeatedly to broadcast “prayer,” on national TV. Think of Fridays when you’re walking in the street and people are overspilling from a mosque that you have to walk around them, because of an ideology you don’t subscribe to.

Think of walking in the open air market during eid, with the streets colored red of slaughtered animals’ blood. I can keep going.

I’ve written before on a different post on how Islam was not designed for the margins of life. And how the design elements of are much more explicitly pronounced.

The clearest example of this, is the mandate to pray 5 times a day. This is something clearly meant to dominate someone’s life.

Islam is not a religion; but rather a way of life. I grew up with Christian teachings, so I have a sense of what the notion of religion is. And Islam is certainly not that.

Islam is totalitarian. Part of the reason of its appeal, is that you aren’t supposed to need anything else. It regulates law, sex, diet, bathroom habits and much more.

To the liberals who are seemingly struggling with this; your trepidation is laudable. But you also have to acknowledge reality.

The clearest distinction that sets Islam apart, is the reason to cartoons of Mohamed or mockery of Islam.

Muslims simply regard Islam in higher place than any other followers of any other religion.

The 3 clearest examples of this are:

• Charlie Hebdo

• The Danish cartoons controversy

• Theo Van Gogh

In the cases of Charlie Hebdo and Theo Van Gogh, these weren’t random acts of terrorism by depraved terrorists; they targeted attacked because of perceived slights to Islam or Mohammed.

This type of behavior is simply and utterly absent from any other religion.

To try to gloss over this, is to simply traffic in wishful delusions.

My hope in writing some of these posts is to reach people form both sides of the issue; I don’t think much will be achieved by mocking liberals, nor will much be achieved by being bigoted for no reason towards people who were just born into a particular religion.