Monday, 25 July 2011

Why the Left has to stop defending Islam.

Perhaps it wasn't all that surprising that within a few minutes of hearing about the awful attacks in Norway, many people assumed it to be the work of Islamic terrorists. Of course, it has now transpired to be no such thing - indeed the culprit appears to be Islamophobic. What was interesting though was the response to those who had voiced such suspicions. There seemed to be a clamour to condemn people for thinking such things and most of that clamour came from the Left.

This isn't new. Whenever there is an attack (in the written or verbal sense) on Islam in any general terms, whether it be the religion as a whole or the extreme parts of it, you can be sure of a spirited defence from the left wing. Sometimes this defence is needed, and justified (say when people condemn all Muslims as terrorists). Mostly, I'm afraid, it isn't.

In can be said without exception that people across the political spectrum condemn Islamic terrorism outright so lets please at least acknowledge that there is a wider issue with Islam itself because there clearly is.

A little bit of brutal honesty is needed when it comes to Islam, I'm afraid: it is a highly corrupted force in the world. This is usually the part where people acknowledge that the vast majority of Muslims live in peace, respect other religions and wish no ill on others. Sorry, I won't do that. The vast majority of Muslims still believe homosexuality to be a terrible, awful sin. The vast majority still treat women as inferior people. They do this with the full protection of the law in many countries. I will not defend a faith such as this.

I would not, and do not, defend Christianity for much the same reason, though it should be noted that in countries where Christianity is the dominant religion there is nearly always express separation of church and state so at least they're doing something right.

Of course, there are many Muslims who simply don't care enough about their religion to adhere to these most abhorrent ideals but they present no kind of influence in Islam. Their view, once it conflicts with Islam, is irrelevant. They can make no headway in teaching other Muslims that their views are warped. It would be natural to localise this issue and reference all I'm writing to British Muslims but that's not what I'm doing.

I aim this piece at the Muslim states. The states that educate their children strictly in line with Muslim teachings, thus preventing free thought and perpetuating the oppression of gay people and women. States where questioning the validity of the proscribed religion is a crime. These states represent a danger to us all, regardless of our economic relationships with them. The idea that fellow left wingers can even begin to leap to the defence of a religion so inherently corrupted is beyond me.

I will defend the right of people to practice their religion but I won't do it unconditionally. When it starts to negatively impact on other peoples lives, then your religion will be opposed and I will have no part of it's defence.


  1. I don't think you should single out Islam here. Religion itself has proven beyound doubt that it is an archaic, corrupt concept that has brought us war, division, hatred, child-abuse, denial of free-will, brainwashing and insanity.

    You say Islam is protected but think of the protection given to the Christian church. Any other organisation with a history of vile goings-on such as what we have witnessed from the Churches in Ireland/Northern Ireland would quite simply be shut down and outlawed.

  2. Like most major religions, Islam originally developed as a force for peace, a civilising movement. It may be thought of today as sexist, but at the time of its birth it was revolutionary in arguing that women should be cared for and that men should take account of their needs and desires. It took a similar approach to many other areas of soicial justice.

    As civilisation develops, religions need to develop too. This need not be problematic if we look to the spirit of a religion rather than the letter of its laws. If we see Mohammed, for instance, as a promoter of social justice and civil rights, we can reasonable imagine how he would respond to the different ethical issues facing us today.

    There are major strands within Islam (and Christianity, and other religions) that favour this way of thinking. They are indeed influential, but have the usual problem faced by moderate views in that they are by their nature less visible than extreme ones. By supporting this approach and those who adhere to it, as, for instance, Humza Yousef MSP has recently suggested, we can work towards marginalising those whose views are less compatible with modern society.

    The biggest problem with Islsmophobia is that it often manifests as a hatred of all muslims. This is damaging to society in its entirety, and it does not help us move toward equality or peace. If we are to attain those goals, we must strive to do so together.

  3. Livingstone, I only single out Islam in this piece because a)it was in response to things I had read over the weekend (at some point I'll get round to giving Christianity a digging) and b)because at this moment in time, Gay people and Women suffer most at the hands of Islam more than any other mainstream religion.

  4. Well said, Ed. I agree with Livingstone that the malign influences of other religions need also be talked about.
    The irony about Islamophobes, most of whom support the EDL and/or read the Mail or one of the many right-wing tabloids is that they have much more in common with Islam than those on the left or in the centre. Many who do read the Mail or the Sun are as homophobic and often as sexist as the Qur'an.

    It's important not to let these bigots portray Islam as the world's main evil when their views are often worse themselves (e.g. Glenn Beck) but I do agree that lots of us on the left aren't hard enough on the religion that has led to discrimination against homosexuals and persecution of women on a huge scale for centuries.

    While Christianity is barely any better with regard to this, you at least have the odd liberal, pro-LGBT rights and women priests bishop.

  5. Baroness Warsi has some very level-headed views on all of this. Check out what she says. I believe that the Prevent strand of UK counter-terro policy has been influence by the likes of her. She points out several reasons why people tend to generalise Muslims in Britain.

    Most of what you said Ed is spot-on, but we need to be careful when tackling extremism - we need to treat all extremists as the same whether Irish, Muslim of White-Christian.

  6. And what I mean by 'the same' is that they are all inspired by a terrorist ideology, so we need to be careful not to stigmatise all within a certain religion as potential terrorists.