I don't need to mention what happened in Paris regarding Charlie Hebdo. You already know the story.
What I want to talk about today is more than just terrorism. I want to talk about why islamic terrorism is only the tip of the iceberg for Islam, and why this religion has other problems.
How many Muslims ignore the true problems
First of all, some of the reactions by muslims to the attacks are very telling. One guy on facebook immediately jumped to the conclusion that the terrorists must be members of the Israeli secret service, Mossad, on a mission to make Islam look bad.
This is a conspiracy theory. I'm not saying that all conspiracy theories are made up and have no basis, but when you look at a situation from a distance, in terms of probability, it's not wise to always jump to a convenient theory that eliminates you having to deal with black sheep in your religion.
And this is one of the ways in which Islam has a major problem. This problem deals not with terrorism, but something more general: The inability to deal with conflicts within the religion or with ciriticism from the outside.
What caricatures are for
I am not a big fan of the caricatures that were made against Islam. However, I personally defend the right of the cartoonists to come up with whatever bullshit they want to come up with (even Nazi caricatures against Germans like me, if they like). Freedom of speech in this way is important, not because it allows us to bash other people, but it helps to bring problems to people's conscience who would not be moved or impressed simply by written reports of, let's say, human rights violations. Because such a report can be a boring read!
Most muslims also don't understand what caricatures are for. They think they serve only the purpose to make something look bad. But when you look at the caricatures, you will always have either a hidden meaning, a hidden truth or at least a hidden message. Something debatable.
In this is where serious problems arise.
How religious people justify immoral religious content
See, muslims, like all religious people, including christians, are perfect at reverse engineering. What I mean with this? The art of thinking backwards from a given statement in order to justify it.
The normal world: If a man who is 54 years old has sex with a 9 year old, you don't question the background. You simply say he is sick and a pedophile and belongs in jail. This is a great example of how our moral senses alert us without us having to think too hard. It's a gut feeling!
In Islam: The prophet Mohammed was 54 years old when he had sex with Aisha, who was 9 years old. This is an accepted fact for muslims. What they now do is that they take this fact, which they cannot change, and reverse engineer themselves out of the moral dilemma BECAUSE anything that the prophet did MUST have been morally right. Here are some explanations they come up with:
- It was normal at the time, everyone did it
- Mohammed only married Aisha because he wanted to protect her
- Aisha was totally okay with it (seriously?)
Now don't get me wrong on one thing: I would even be willing to give the prophet the benefit of the doubt if Aisha had been, let's say, 15 years old. I mean, age limits like 18 years or 21 years are just arbitrary. But a 9 year old? Any of you who has a younger sister or a daughter knows how a 9 year old compares to a man who is more than 50 years old.
If you can't imagine what a 9 year old compared to an adult male looks like, check out the size comparison and the other text in this article.
You can also think the other way around: We know that Mohammed was not in favour of homosexuals. We know that islamic clerics have all kinds of theories and explanations why homosexuality is wrong. But you can bet your ass that muslims would be among the foremost front of throwing gay parties, marching on parades and defending gay rights IF ONLY the prophet Mohammed had said that being gay was okay.
The logic of muslims
The sexual relationship between Mohammed and Aisha is not the only morally difficult situation Islam has to deal with (but doesn't). You have to acknowledge that the Quran was written in a time when things were still different from now: Slavery, even in the bible, was still okay, women were seen as not quite as worthy as men (one male witness is worth as much as - and in case of doubt even more than - two female witnesses), and it was okay to use violence to spread a religion.
As an objective person, and even as a person defending the Islamic history, you could now argue that it may sound horrible today, but then, standards were different. However, this is not what Islam does. It's simply what Christianity does, because Christians decided that many of the things in the bible aren't so good after all and that women deserve the right to vote, to be taken seriously, and to pursue a career, for example.
The problem in Islam is that it has this absolutistic "once right, always right" attitude. Because muslims believe that the Quran was not made up by men, but by a god that is all-knowing, all-powerful and has "written" these texts not in spite of future times, but in FULL knowledge of what the world would look like in 2015.
So whatever has been said about women, about gay people and about everything else still holds true to this day.
A modern conflict: Human rights versus the truth of God
This is where another issue comes in. Many people, from both sides, don't understand how westeners and muslims think different. People in the west have a very individualistic approach: Anyone can be right, anyone can be wrong, there is no way to know the truth, so let everybody go about their own ways.
In Islam, the thinking is very different, especially in countries where Islam is the national religion. Since Islam is so powerful there, people believe they already know the truth, and it's coming from God. So when someone shows homosexual behaviour, it's clear this deserves the death penalty, because God has made the rules clear.
Muslims can't think in abstract terms like "what if the other person is as passionate about their religion as I am about mine?". They never learnt that because of indoctrination, and it goes not only for muslims but also christians, only with the difference that some lucid minds actually established societies where there is room for another opinion besides the one of God.
The problem is that human rights are often perceived to be correct and good, and even many muslims thankfully embrace human rights. However, things often just don't fit so well. The freedom of expression and the right to live without having to fear violence can clash dramatically with Islam.
There are even human rights issues where the violation of a right is borderline present. You can sense that bad things could happen, so the psychological pressure might make a muslim individual NOT do something that they would do if muslims wouldn't be standing behind one's back.
Here are a couple of examples:
- Muslims wanting to leave the religion of Islam but won't because it's better just to pretend to be a muslim (this is one reason why Islam calls itself the fastest growing religion)
- Muslim women wanting to marry a man outside the religion, with the man being "forced" to convert (allwoing violation of freedom of religion in favor of keeping the family peace together)
- Not questioning or openly critizising inner-islamic problems because of fear that they will be called "doubtful" or "against Islam" or "influenced by the devil".
I believe that there are many muslims in this world who can see the moral issues that Islam has in a very modern society. However, they are facing so much resistance that they would rather not speak up, or step in one of the mentioned landmines, in order to avoid harsh consequences, involving even death in some countries (not only islamic countries - honour killings are common in Germany and they ARE often religiously motivated).
Another thing that really hurts our fight against barbaric acts of violence is that the media and many politicians now jump on the "political correctness" train. Terrorism is bad while Islam is perfectly peaceful. That's too easy and too black and white. Islam does have its problems and just excluding terrorism from Islam doesn't make the whole of Islam look astonishingly good and beautiful. Most people don't get fooled. Also, there would be less islamophobic movement going on now if we actually FACED these problems instead of outsourcing terrorism into the world of madness and pretending that everything else about Islam was modern and in accordance with human rights. Islam is not in accordance with human rights!
You disagree with me? Look at this chain of logic:
Muslim girl wants to marry Christian guy. Christian guy does not want to convert. Muslim girl still loves him.
- If Muslim girl marries him, she deserves to die for marrying outside the religion
- If she leaves Islam to rid herself of the rules, she also deserves to die (apostasy)
- If the guy converts against his will only to keep the peace, it's a violation of his freedom of religion
- Advising both persons simply not to get married is not only a cruel suggestion, but a violation against article 16 of the human rights.
Some people will argue that the man, by actually converting, is not acting against his will. However, facing possible fanatism by the parents in law and the possibility they might take things serious enough to kill her, one might rethink that. Also, many men will refrain from "causing" their wives misery as the woman would most certainly lose contact with her family forever and become expulsed from the family.
Alas, many muslims won't bother with this logic simply for the reason that they know God hates interfaith marriages. There can only be one truth, right?
What should muslims do?
One thing they already did, and they did it quite well: Unlike what happened in 9/11 days, there are already muslims who PROTEST against islamic terrorism. This is a humble but powerful beginning. It's good that muslims show their true colours and fight for a society where everyone can live freely.
Another step would be for muslims to actually REFORM Islam. I know it sounds bad at first, because Islam is supposedly right and needs no changes. But I'm not saying you should CHANGE Islam, just look at it and think about how to interpret it. Because there are people in this world who want you to think that there is no interpreting involved. This is wrong. Many of these people are very powerful and afraid that you will take away their power that they derive from so-called "religious authority". Who says they should tell YOU what is right and wrong when only God can do this?
It's up to you what you want to believe. Listen to your inner voice and ask yourself what you PERSONALLY believe in regards to women's rights, violence, freedom of choice in so many ways. Then ask yourself if your God must have really meant what most people think was said in the Quran.
I'm not very hopeful, and that's because people rarely think for themselves and simply defend what they were indoctrinated with. If you're born in Indonesia, you're most likely to be a muslim. If you're born in the USA, you're most likely a christian. If you're born in Israel, you're most likely a jew.
If only THAT people would understand, they might understand that everyone's facing the same situation: they all love what they were taught from their parents. And there is no way for them to tell which religion is right but from what they personally perceive as convincing "evidence".