When in the past I have argued in the past that Islam is not simply just one religion like any other, and it needs fundamental reforms to be accepted as part of a civil society, I have earned the wrath of my fellow atheists. In order to defend my assertion, in this post I am going to list a number of things that are done in the name of Islam-and Islam only-in Britain; I will argue that in each and every one of these areas, Islam is different from other religions; and lastly, why I do not believe Islamic moderation is a realistic hope for the foreseeable future.
It is easy to run down the (by no means exhaustive) list of, say, “odd” (and unpleasant) things done in the name of Islam, and in a non-Muslim majority country to boot: attempts to silence freedom of speech, (potentially deadly) child “marriages”, enforcing a non-democratic and misogynistic set of rules, committing random acts of violence against people for simply not following the religion’s rules, and, last but not least, avenging their brethren in faith through armed assaults on military service people.
I can already hear the cries of “it is not the religion, it is the people”, and “people are going to do bad things, whatever the religion”, followed by “Islamophobia!”. Yet any objective person would have to agree that when all these incidents are taken into consideration, a pattern emerges: Islam makes people do bad things, in a way other religions don’t. Of course this doesn’t make all Muslims violent, but it does show that in a significant number of its followers, Islam is the motivator for bad behavior, without which it could not happen, and the issue is not simply “human nature”. I challenge anyone who disagrees with this statement to come up with an instance of any of those actions in this particular manner having been carried out by followers of other faiths in the last 50 years. And hence, I reassert my original point: Islam is different.
So the real question is: can Islam adapt to the modern world? Is true moderation even in the realm of the possible?
I genuinely wish I could answer yes. As it happens though, I really have no idea, and there are reasons not to be optimistic. Here is one:
Maajid Nawaz, a prospective Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, tweeted a picture of one of the Jesus and Mo T-shirts, after the cartoons came up in a discussion on the BBC’s Big Questions. Nawaz, a Muslim and a co-founder of the think tank Quilliam, which is dedicated to combating religious extremism, said that he did not find the innocuous content of the T-shirts offensive. “I’m sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it,” he said, reasonably.
Promptly, Nawaz received numerous death threats [“I would be glad to cut your neck off, so your kufr [unbeliever] friends won’t be amused by your humour. In sha Allah [if Allah is willing] may my dua [act of worship] get accepted”], and Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, Muslim commentator Mo Ansar and George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bradford, all called for him to be dropped as a PPC.
To say a “graven image” need not be offensive? How offensive!
While being a Muslim is by no means contradictory to moderation, bringing moderation to Islam is a tricky, and possibly dangerous, business. Even in the Western world. And hence, I am not holding my breath to see genuine Islamic reforms any time soon.