This may be an oxymoron because a phobia is often, though not always, seen as an irrational or disproportionate fear of something, I contest that my fear of Islam is either disproportionate or irrational. I have a fear which is, I argue, perfectly rational; empirical, even.
This case I will present will be a sort of Bayesian mathematical analysis taking newsworthy stories into account. Over the last few weeks, including last night, there have been a number of very high level incidents involving atrocities taking place in the name of Islam. I will recount but 5 of these.
1) The death of 62 people in a Kenyan shopping mall, people being allowed free if they were Muslim and executed if not. This was carried out by Al Shabaab, the Somali based Islamic fundamentalist group.
2) The massacring of 50 Nigerian agricultural college children in their sleep by Boko Haram, the Nigerian Islamic fundamentalist group. The group’s full name is The Congregation and People of Tradition for Proselytism and Jihad, better known by its Hausa name Boko Haram which means “Western education is sinful”). Words which speak for themselves.
3) The massacring of Christians in Pakistan: seven children were sent to their deaths along with 78 adults who had congregated outside the walls of Peshawar’s main Christian place of worship. The carnage inflicted here was dealt by two young men, dressed in security uniforms, who, under instruction from the Taliban, detonated suicide vests and turned a community celebration into the biggest massacre of Christians in Pakistan’s history.
4) The murdering of a British soldier on the streets of London by a pair of Islamic extremists
5) The harassment, assaults and deaths of Bangladeshi atheist bloggers over the last year.
Of course, this is a heavily abridged list of atrocities. Most extremist activity of this sort goes on under the radar on a daily basis around the world. If I hear of an ideologically driven atrocity going on in the world then the prior probability is that this atrocity is done, somehow, in the name of Islam. Given that short but representative list of events, it is important to note that in the same time period, no atheist of even Christian has done anything in the name of their worldview to the extent of any of those massacres or wrongs.
We can safely say that the prior probability of an atrocity being in the name of Islam is staggeringly high, and, further, that the probability of more such events over the next month is staggeringly high. And this is global. Where there is Islam, there is fundamentalism. Whether it be killing school children in a school in Nigeria or killing school children in a school in Thailand, the same sad tale unfolds.
I am afraid, not so much for my safety, but for the safety of men, women and children around the globe. I am afraid for people who want to be able to freely declare what they believe or don’t believe. If you have a religion to which many of its adherents ascribe punitive measures toward those who don’t adhere to it and who don’t announce belief in its tenets, then you have a problem.
I see this kind of anti-intellectual bullying as a set of memetic failsafes which ensure that that particular ideology is preserved. If you are threatened non-belief with death; if you are carrot-dangled heaven as bribery for belief, and thoughtstick-beaten hell as fear for disbelief, then such a belief system will endure.
We must fight the good fight for freethought across the globe. We must show that these punitive anti-intellectual mechanisms are the ultimate hoodwink. It is not good enough that hordes of people worldwide are simply denied the right to (publicly) critically evaluate.
Now, I don’t want to be accused of straw manning Islam here. I know there are many moderates and liberals. But they don’t seem to be doing a very good job of curtailing the actions of the fundamentalists. Which is itself a very odd term, since fundamentalists take the fundamental tenets of their religion and apply them. Should that not be what all proper adherents do? By admitting that there are a goodly number of moderates and liberals does nothing to eradicate the fact that there are also a goodly number of extremists who are doing very newsworthy things in the same name.
No, I am not being irrational or bigoted. The evidence speaks for itself. Where there are large congregations of Muslims, there is a higher chance that some of those people will harbour problematic ideologies. Whether it is a misinterpretation of the Qu’ran is irrelevant. The No True Scotsman fallacy will have no traction with me here.
Would it be more accurate to call me Islamicextremistaphobic? Probably, but that is unnecessary. We don’t special plead every atrocity committed by a Christian in the name of Christianity as being somehow non-Christian, or compartmentalising it to the point of being individualistic. Generalisations are useful. And the generalisation here is that the probability of Muslims committing an atrocity in the name of Allah over the next week is high. Perhaps if we got to hear if other religions did this, we would change our minds, but this information is not forthcoming.
Am I afraid if Islam? Yes. Can I defend this fear rationally? Yes, I think that I can.
[EDIT: I want to just make it as clear as possible, particularly for those readers who do not know me or my writing that I do not espouse a sort of bigoted anti-Islam as espoused by, say, the likes of the Daily Mail etc. I am fully cognisant of the reality of a spectrum of views within Islam and that many feel that these extremists should not be and are not representative of Islam as a whole. But this is the issue. If such a text and developed worldview is more probable and disposed to inspire and encourage non-democratic theocracies as well as entrenched and embedded sub-cultures of extremism, then the religion and holy text must be critically evaluated as a whole in this light. If we came across a cult who adherents were predisposed, empirically though examples of real life violence, to worldview derived violence and atrocity, we would come down like a tonne of bricks on such a movement. Just because of the size and historical heritage of the Islamic movement does not make it immune to such a reaction. I am not rationally bigoted toward each and every Muslim whom I might meet. However, I am rightfully dubious, wary, of such a movement. Just as I would have been very cautious in declaring my atheism to an Inquisition period priest in their church, I am just as wary declaring it to an imam in their mosque, just on probability. For a holy book to countenance death to apostates, whether it be misinterpreted by liberals or extremists, must mean that one must be wary of its more fervent adherents.]