Atheist FAQ: Islam: Misunderstood Or Unduly Demonized?

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Everywhere I turn there is someone defending Islam, claiming it’s being unfairly picked on, claiming people saying bad things about Islam is like [insert strawman/false equivalence argument] or could lead to [insert a slippery slope argument].

I am  sick of people turning this whole criticism of Islam-as-a-garbage-religion into a cricitism about arabs and subsequently calling it racism. Opposing religion  – any religion – is, first of all, not racism. Islam is not a freaking race. And secondly, well shit, Islam does deserve the criticism – as a religion.

What has come out of Islamic countries over the past 50 years beside oppression, terrorism and subjugation? These are realities we cannot deny for the sake of political correctness. That is not to say garbage hasn’t come out of Christian countires but this is not a zero sum game where criticising Islam means you condone Christian oppression and/or supremacy or are barred from criticizing Christianity. Atheists are just as concerned about Christian supremacy as they are of Islamic supremacy and a bunch of religions in between.

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I am also tired of the same old excuse about how one cannot judge a culture or religion by what it outputs. Well guess what, you can and you should.

When most of the things coming from religion for hundreds of years – shit, for thousands of years – have been atrocities, oppression and subjugation you cannot state with a clear conscience that religion had nothing to do with it. That is where you step back, make use of your mental faculties and rational mind as a human being and recognize religion for what it is, saying to yourself “Gee, maybe there is a connection between religion and [insert bigot action of your choice].”

People always talk about how religion is misunderstood and especially Islam, but it isn’t. When 100% or even 80% of the crap coming out of Islam is what we see around us, then there is no misunderstanding and it was about high time we sat down and connected the dots and saw this religion (like all religions) for what they are instead of sitting here watching another atrocity be committed in the name of Islam and politely nodding out of a false sense of decorum, kidding ourselves into believing that hey, that doesn’t mean it is Islam’s fault after all , “it is just gravely misunderstood.”

So once and for all: Islam is not misunderstood. No religion is. The crap you see coming out of Islam and countires where Islam is the forced state religion is what you get. There is no grey area, no misunderstood anything, no shades of grey, no in between. Islam is what it is: a hateful, intolerant, violent and militant religion asking subservience and obedience by its followers under penalty and by employing scare tactics.

Any abused individual will tell you that “obeying” someone out of fear is not love, it is fear. And there is nothing warm, divine, enticing, great and peaceful about fear and about coercing people by induction of fear.

Now this is not to say that there are no kind Muslims or non-violent ones who do not condone this kind of behavior, but as a movement Islam is pretty obvious. Of course not every single person is a violent zealot.  Most Muslims themselves are, more than likely, the victims of their own regimes and its oppression – constantly under the yolk of the state and its perceived divine backing, held in ignorance and controlled by fear and terror.

And this is also not so much a criticism of people practicing Islam.  They can practice Santa Clausism as far as I am concerned.

However  this is about religion inciting hate and violence and the notion that other ideas are so dangerous and frightening that we have to destroy those who think or utter them.

When your religion is in the habit of treating an entire segment of the population like second class human beings, such as women, or killing those who disagree with you, don’t tell me that isn’t so and that your religion is misunderstood. When your religion is in the habit of exerting control over people regarding every aspect of their lives: from what they wear, what they listen to, what they watch, what they say and heck even what they think, you cannot state without a trace of irony that your religion is a peaceful one that is gravely misunderstood.

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Having no choice and being controlled are hardly peace conducing things. Atheists despise all religion and it just so happens that sometimes the discussion is about Islam, while sometimes about Christianity and sometimes about Judaism.

As the dust on the horrific Boston bombings by the Tsarnaev brothers has yet to settle, Muslims have already felt the impact of their association with Islam.  Some scholars are observing a rise in what they call Islamophobia in popular media and blogosphere.

While Muslim-bating rhetoric and explicitly racist legislation, police surveillance, witch-trials and discriminatory policies towards Muslims in North America and abroad cannot be denied,  from the stand point of the atheist such volatility and aggression perpetuated by Islamic countries is expected and nothing surprising. What is surprising is calling criticism of Islam Islamophobia and in some cases even racism.

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One Huffington Post contributor even went so far as to refer to outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins as a “xenophobe” because he tweeted that “Islam [is the] greatest force for evil today”. Said contributor even went so far as to suggest racism, because “the vast majority of the world’s Muslims are non-white“, ipso facto criticising Islam is criticizing a non-White person which supposedly then constitutes racism.

Uh-huh…

Islamophobia is not the correct term to refer to criticism or critics of Islam. That just makes it sound like the critics are afraid of something they don’t understand and that is not true.

I (and most atheists) understand Islam and Christianity, Mormonism and Scientology and Quaker-rism, and Shaker-rism and Judaism perfectly well and atheists are only afraid of them in so far as the power they have to make people engage in all sorts of atrocities and lies, bigotry and hatred on its behalf.

Secondly, the notion that we have to stop “picking on” Islam because most Muslims are non-white and it could lead to something like racism is ludicrous. The notion that criticizing an act committed by non-whites constitutes or could be construed as racism is beyond flase.

I am tired of giving credence to the imaginary friends of religious people and a god who can create entire universes but is also endlessly interested in my personal thoughts. 

Moreover, xenophobia, which means extreme fear of foreigners, is definitely not the accurate way to describe Dawkins. The man has been just as outspoken against Christianity and people in the West and all religions for that matter as against Islam. It is just that right now – given the immense oppression that is at the heart of the Muslim world – he has chosen to talk about Islam.

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Dawkins has very valid reasons for criticizing religion, the practice of which has lead to the marginalization, persecution, and oppression of women and others because they do not adhere to the ridiculous tenets of such a faith. There is no grey area. Islam is very clear in what it promotes.

Finally, Dawkins is not unhealthy marginalizing a minority group. This group people are so wholeheartedly defending, just like any other religion, is – if left unchecked – the cause of a lot of misery, death and marginalization of people – even their own people.

Religion has many ugly parts and often it does not matter what that religion is. Just look at what the Zionist regime of Israel is doing to the Palestinians whose land they stole. They treat them no better than the Nazis treated the Jews some 80 years ago.  Save for concentration camps (that we know of) Israel is maybe just a notch better than the Nazis and their systematic and inhumane way of annihilating a peoples. And why? Because Jews think they are god’s chosen people (based on a book they themselves wrote) and thus have divine backing of their atrocities.

When you think you hold a privileged position in society vis a vis other human beings and when such a belief is “backed” by some holy divine book,  then the doom of the entities at your mercy is sealed. How do you argue with and rationally have debates with entities who think they are better than the rest of human kind and have divine backing of all their actions, no less?

When people criticize atheists for Islamophobia, it is often out of ignorance about what Atheism is. If you understand what Atheism is and what informs an Atheist, you don’t go running around saying they are Islamophobes. Atheism dislikes all religion. I have just as many critical things to say about Islam as I have about judaism, Mormonism, Catholicism or whatever other religions are out there.

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  1. #1 by A muslim woman on January 16, 2014 - 9:14 PM

    his is the biggest misconception in Islam, no doubt resulting from the constant stereotyping and bashing the media gives Islam. When a gunman attacks a mosque in the name of Judaism, a Catholic IRA guerrilla sets off a bomb in an urban area, or Serbian Orthodox militiamen rape and kill innocent Muslim civilians, these acts are not used to stereotype an entire faith. Never are these acts attributed to the religion of the perpetrators. Yet how many times have we heard the words ‘Islamic, Muslim fundamentalist. etc.’ linked with violence.

    Politics in so called “Muslim countries” may or may not have any Islamic basis. Often dictators and politicians will use the name of Islam for their own purposes. One should remember to go to the source of Islam and separate what the true religion of Islam says from what is portrayed in the media. Islam literally means ‘submission to God’ and is derived from a root word meaning ‘peace’.

    Islam may seem exotic or even extreme in the modern world. Perhaps this is because religion doesn’t dominate everyday life in the West, whereas Islam is considered a ‘way of life’ for Muslims and they make no division between secular and sacred in their lives. Like

    Christianity, Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict rules of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock.

    NOWHERE DOES ISLAM ENJOIN THE KILLING OF INNOCENTS.. The Quran says: ”Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors.“ (Quran 2:190)

    “If they seek peace, then seek you peace. And trust in God for He is the One that heareth and knoweth all things.” (Quran 8:61) War, therefore, is the last resort, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law. The term ‘jihad‘ literally means ‘struggle’. Muslims believe that there are two kinds of jihad. The other ‘jihad‘ is the inner struggle of the soul which everyone wages against egotistic desires for the sake of attaining inner peace.

  2. #2 by Un Maaman on August 16, 2013 - 9:00 PM

    lol… interesting how you twist your criticism of Islam equating it to practices emanating from “Islamic” countries. That’s similar to blaming Christianity for Adolf Hitler (sounding ridiculous now)… Most practices now in “Islamic” countries are very contrary to Islamic teachings…. Take Saudi Arabia for example, the rulership is a Kingdom, completely contrary to the preachings and practices of the prophet. Arabs are generally coarse by nature (that’s racist) but without Islam, would be barbaric.
    The media is creating a big fuss about Islam… look at the publicity the guy who chopped up by the two hoons got, and compare it to the publicity (not given) to loading up loads of troops on battleships and sending them to slaughter hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq over trumped up WMD charges…

    • #3 by popreflection on August 16, 2013 - 11:59 PM

      Whoa, whoa, whoa…there is a lot of different narratives and strawmen going on here. My criticism of Islam is just that: a criticism of Islam – which highly influences – as well as being an integral part of – a peoples’ culture. The culture, social norms as well as the legal system of Islamic countries are starkly influenced by Islam, the religion. They are not a separate thing that only some people there practice – it’s the law of the land and closely based on the very teaching of the Koran. Therefore, it is perfectly valid that a criticism of Islam includes and incorporates criticism of a culture and with it peoples and society that are highly influenced by such beliefs and based on it.

      Moreover, your analogy to Hitler and Christianity is an invalid and flawed one because unlike Islamic countries whose leaders, social norms and law are a direct result of the teachings in the Koran, that was not case with Hitler (with the Bible, that is). In other words, Hitler did not do what he did citing the Bible or else making references ot faith. He did not have the Bible by his side when determining the laws of the land and whom to kill. Islamic countires, on the other hand, do constantly justify and base their policies and practices and legal system on the Koran and thus Islam.

      What you just did is the same false analogy and “argument” theists use ijn an attempt to discredit atheists: they say “oh Stalin was an atheist, ispo facto atheism supports genocide” – which is nonsense because Stalin did not, unlike Muslims, say “gee, I am an atheist so I am going to commit genocide because of it.” Atheism did not inform Stalin’s action, but Islam does influence the actions of Islamic leaders.

      Islamic countires and their leaders constantly make references to, as well as directly taking from, the Koran – basing their policies on what is said in the Koran. They literally DO walk around thinking “gee, I am a muslim, ipso facto I am going to justify xyz policies based on my religion.”

      And no, most practices now in “Islamic” countries are NOT very contrary to Islamic teachings. As this passage of the Koran states” “. . . As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly). . .” (4:34) . There are numerous examples of such atrocious things in the Koran and they are very clear. Nothing misunderstood about it.

      A culture that protects women’s rights by law is better than a culture in which a man can lawfully (based on the Koran) have four wives at once and women are denied alimony and half their inheritance. A culture that appoints women to its supreme court is better than a culture that declares that the testimony of a woman is worth half that of a man and so forth.

      Sharia laws are also very clear as what to do with “infidels” and women. The koran is big on killing and taking revenge on people for not being obedient or believing in god. I mean, a blogger in Saudi Arabia was just sentenced to 7 yrs in jail & 600 lashes for insulting Islam.

      The media is not creating a big fuss about islam. Islam and its barbaric, inhumane practices create a big fuss about Islam.

      At any rate, the point is that what is happening in Islamic countries is not just something that happens in a void. The practices that in turn create a culture, are clearly related and can be traced back to Islam. There is no misunderstanding. But apparently there is denial as your comment clearly shows.

      Finally, your assertion (and with it strawman) that no one gave a damn about Iraq being attacked under false pretenses is again a failed one (and untrue) and has nothing to do with criticism of Islam. Just because I, or people in general, criticize Islam does not mean we condone the fraudulent war the US waged in Iraq or drone attacks. Those are two totally separate issues. One has nothing to do with the other. I condemn drone attacks and US policies in the middle east all the time, but that doesnt make Islam a wonderful and peaceful religion that is merely misunderstood.

    • #4 by A muslim woman on January 16, 2014 - 9:15 PM

      This is the biggest misconception in Islam, no doubt resulting from the constant stereotyping and bashing the media gives Islam. When a gunman attacks a mosque in the name of Judaism, a Catholic IRA guerrilla sets off a bomb in an urban area, or Serbian Orthodox militiamen rape and kill innocent Muslim civilians, these acts are not used to stereotype an entire faith. Never are these acts attributed to the religion of the perpetrators. Yet how many times have we heard the words ‘Islamic, Muslim fundamentalist. etc.’ linked with violence.

      Politics in so called “Muslim countries” may or may not have any Islamic basis. Often dictators and politicians will use the name of Islam for their own purposes. One should remember to go to the source of Islam and separate what the true religion of Islam says from what is portrayed in the media. Islam literally means ‘submission to God’ and is derived from a root word meaning ‘peace’.

      Islam may seem exotic or even extreme in the modern world. Perhaps this is because religion doesn’t dominate everyday life in the West, whereas Islam is considered a ‘way of life’ for Muslims and they make no division between secular and sacred in their lives. Like

      Christianity, Islam permits fighting in self-defense, in defense of religion, or on the part of those who have been expelled forcibly from their homes. It lays down strict rules of combat which include prohibitions against harming civilians and against destroying crops, trees and livestock.

      NOWHERE DOES ISLAM ENJOIN THE KILLING OF INNOCENTS.. The Quran says: ”Fight in the cause of God against those who fight you, but do not transgress limits. God does not love transgressors.“ (Quran 2:190)

      “If they seek peace, then seek you peace. And trust in God for He is the One that heareth and knoweth all things.” (Quran 8:61) War, therefore, is the last resort, and is subject to the rigorous conditions laid down by the sacred law. The term ‘jihad‘ literally means ‘struggle’. Muslims believe that there are two kinds of jihad. The other ‘jihad‘ is the inner struggle of the soul which everyone wages against egotistic desires for the sake of attaining inner peace.

      • #5 by popreflection on January 17, 2014 - 10:05 AM

        I think it is painfully obvious that it is you who is in utter denial about the realities and actions of your faith and what it has done in and to people in Middle Eastern countries. And politics in Islamic countries have their basis entirely in Islam and the Koran. Period. To deny that is a flat out lie. I mean Iran is called the Islamic Republic of Iran, for example. There is not one middle eastern country whose laws are not based entirely on the Koran and thus where the Koran itself is not law of the land with all the liabilities thereof. Liabilities that have been documented extensively and which you seem to think is no big deal or just a small misunderstood part.

        Secondly, Islam is a violent-endorsing, violence sanctioning religion. The Koran is filled with tales of vengeance and every other line is about how to go take vengeance on those who wronged you or said bad things about you or your god and how to properly fuck them over. Muhammed himself constantly murdered people left and right, in the name of god or because they looked at him the wrong way. Forgiveness is not something that is widely advocated in Islam. “Eye for an eye” is the mentality, not “hold the other cheek.”

        I am tired of hearing religious people (not just Muslims) whine on and on about how their faith is misunderstood and misinterpreted despite all evidence to the contrary. Thing is, when your religion repeatedly does harm, not once, or twice, or ten times or a hundred times but every single time and for several thousand years, then it is not misunderstood; it is doing exactly what it purports to do. Islam is not misunderstood, just as Christianity is not misunderstood and as long as the countires in the middle east base their laws on the Koran, nothing will change in the way the world views them. Note that while religion is an important aspect of a lot of peoples’ lives, in most civilized, democratic western countires – unlike in Islamic countries – religion is not law of the land. Those are all secular societies with constitutions that in fact separate religion and state. Sure, in the US there exist a lot of right -wing, christian fundamentalists but the law of the lad is not the Holy Bible and justice is not dispensed by quoting the Bible and laws are not made quoting the Bible – unlike in Islamic countries. This bad-apple analogy (and strawman) you are employing about how every religion has bad things doesn’t apply in this discussion because that is hardly the point.

  3. #6 by makagutu on May 11, 2013 - 4:41 AM

    Excellent post.
    How one manages to link critique of religion to that of race is still beyond me. I hope someday I will get to understand it.

  4. #7 by My Heathen Heart on May 10, 2013 - 8:02 PM

    An excellent post. The day all religion dies a natural death on our beautiful earth, will be the day the world begins to heal.

  5. #8 by Pervertically Virtuous on May 10, 2013 - 7:12 PM

    All religions are bad. Although some are worse than others: Currently Islam seems to be a particularly nasty one; back in the Middle Ages, that title belonged to Christianity.

    But they’re all bad. If it were up to me, they would all be eradicated from the face of the Earth.

  6. #9 by Sara Kjeldsen on May 10, 2013 - 6:32 PM

    This is an excellent read!

    Religion is wrong not only because it propagates violence, but it dictates silly rules (i.e. Women cannot teach in front of me, men are the leaders of the woman, women are to cover up their bodies/faces so that men won’t be tempted by them, etc.) I have yet to see religion you mentioned above where women are not degraded.

    Kudos on a good article!

  7. #10 by myatheistlife on May 10, 2013 - 5:03 PM

    Reblogged this on myatheistlife and commented:
    Walking Upright Citizen has a couple of things to say about Islamophobia … and Islam too. I’m having real trouble finding any reason to disagree completely with her take on the situation.
    Give her some love and go visit….

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