So in the aftermath of the recent Islamic terrorism events that happened in France last week that shook the world, people ought to be calm and revisit the importance of tolerance (religious or otherwise). A lot of liberals, in their typical peacenik fashion, are trumpeting the idea that if only people learned to understand and respect one another, the situation would work itself out. Actually, that does sound very appealing. It kind of gives us the Kumbaya warm feeling that everyone can really coexist if we just try to understand our differences and practice tolerance. Great! Now I suppose we can start reaching out to our Muslim brothers and understand their beliefs over a nice cold beer at a local gay bar in Mecca, right?
The thing that liberal peaceniks fail to understand is that very much like the prospect of a booming gay bar industry in Saudi Arabia, the thought that a simple dialogue with Muslims and tolerance of their different beliefs will make things right, is pie in the sky! How do you discuss tolerance with people who are open in their disgust with gays, Jews, atheists, and pretty much any other religion that isn’t theirs? Would liberals be willing to accept the notion of tolerance being a one way street as you have folks demanding tolerance for their intolerant beliefs? Now there’s the rub!
I do understand the liberal peacenik mindset. Liberals, as a rule, value flexibility a great deal. Morality doesn’t escape this rule – to them morality is relative and flexible (or at least it ought to be). There really is no need to label or identify who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. It’s not the people who are bad but the mindset and in this particular case, it would be the fundamentalist mindset. Yes, liberals loathe fundamentalism (e.g. Islamic, Christian, or otherwise). Religious fundamentalism embraces the belief in a hard set of rules based on doctrines and dogmas. Nothing irks a liberal more than a judgmental person. They don’t like absolutes. In contrast, conservatives and fundamentalists embrace unchanging intellectual and moral yardsticks. Fundamentalists recognize that there are solid lines out there that separate right from wrong. Liberals don’t like that because if unchanging intellectual and moral yardsticks exist, then things can be measured! We know where that leads to, right? Ranking and inequality! Oh perish the thought that someone can be assessed as better than another person. Equality is the “end all, be all” for liberals.
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So if you are a liberal, you probably subscribe to the idea that it’s not really Islam in itself to blame but the nutjobs amongst its fold who cling to the literal interpretations of their holy scriptures. If the majority of the peace-loving Muslims would only police the nutjobs amongst its fold, then terrorism would stop. But here is where the argument falls apart. Judeo-Christianity has its share of fundamentalists as well. Liberal atheists love to point out homophobic passages in the Bible such as Leviticus 20:13. But in our present time we won’t hear any priest or pastor or rabbi who will call for a death decree on a homosexual. We may hear them cite holy passages in support of their opposition to gay marriage, for instance, but there won’t be any death decrees. Islam is different as many of its imams still issue fatwas for sins like homosexuality and apostasy as much as cops issue parking tickets. The problem seems to be in the religion itself. Fatal literalism has pretty much been thrown out the door in Judeo-Christianity (as it went through reformations in its faith) but not so in Islam. Perhaps the answer to the various intolerance problems within the Islamic world is the much needed reformation of its faith just like what Judeo-Christianity has gone through.
Okay, perhaps death decrees for homosexuality are a bit extreme. Surely there are Muslim fundamentalist practices that are harmless enough that can be tolerated, right? How about the requirement of women to wear a head cover for the sake of modesty (Sura 33:59)? That sounds pretty harmless enough. Well, on March 2002, fifteen girls died during a fire at a school in Mecca. The reason? The religious police prevented the firefighters to rescue the girls from burning to death. Why? It was because it is “sinful” to approach the girls as they were not wearing their proper Islamic headscarves and black robes.
So if we think about it, blaming fundamentalism itself as oppose to just Islamic fundamentalism, is rather weak. Comparing Judeo-Christian fundamentalism with Islamic fundamentalism is a red herring that merely aims to shift the conversation on what is so wrong with Islam. But what about the argument that not all Muslims are terrorists and bad people and that only a small percentage of it’s lot are nuts? Why should we be concerned or so paranoid about a religious belief that merely has a miniscule percentage of nutjobs amongst its adherents? Yeah, good question! I suppose we shouldn’t be worried about the health impacts of smoking as it merely accounts to a very small percentage of human mortality. Heck, in America alone the mortality rate from smoking is so small in relation to America’s population so what’s with all this campaign against smoking all about? Drunk driving? Who cares? That’s merely 32 thousand deaths in a population of around 316 million people in America!
But let me end this by giving credit to where credit is due. I suppose that’s the least I can do after offending the sensitivities of liberals in this article. Liberals are indeed a useful bunch. Not only do they give a counter-position in the epic tension between liberty and equality (conservatives being big on liberty while liberals being more hot on equality), they offer a flattering warm reassurance that regardless of the evil things people do, they are still nice people. So, hugs for thugs at your local Muslim gay bar, anyone?
Calling a spade, a spade…