New Yorkers Against Religion-Based Bigotry will oppose both Islamism (the political ideology of Sharia supremacy) and bigotry against Muslims, as stated here (as well as opposing bigotry against people of various other religions too).
As I now envision our activism, it will include, among other things, both (1) participating in political actions against torture and in favor of indicting Bush, Cheney, et al for war crimes, and (2) attempts to reason with anti-Muslim bigots, who often seem to be motivated by valid concerns about Islamism.
In trying to reason with anti-Muslim bigots, I’m inclined to argue from a pragmatic point of view, rather than an abstract moral point of view. Specifically, I think a good approach might be to empathize with their concerns about Islamism (which I share) and point out that there are many Muslim reformers and Muslim moderates who are not just different from Islamists but also our natural allies against Islamism and against the more repressive and retrograde forms of Islam.
These past several days, I’ve been giving this approach a trial run here on WordPress.com.
For my first attempt, see my post More about Islam & Islamism: Response to “Islamoscope” and the subsequent comment thread.
I also posted comments on a blog called The American Infidels, specifically on pages titled Nice religion you got there, Muhammad and The definitive list of Islamic strategies. No response there either, which surprises me.
If the folks at “American Infidels” ever do respond, I should try to engage them some more on the issue of “fake moderates.” My first response was to agree that there are a lot of fake moderates, but that this doesn’t prove that real moderates don’t exist too. However, the issue is really more complex than that. Although “fake moderates” do exist, I’ve also seen accusations of “fake moderation” which, in my opinion, simply reflect an inability, on the accuser’s part, to deal with subtlety and complexity.
“The Apostate,” an ex-Muslim, has been more responsive. See my post Islamism vs. Muslim reformers and moderates: Response to “The Apostate”
I also posted several comments on a blog called Stop The Madrassa, a blog by a local political group which opposes what they say is a taxpayer-funded New York City public school with an Islamist agenda. If indeed this allegation is true, then the group has a valid church-state separation issue. They may also have a valid complaint about a lack of transparency in the city bureaucracy. I have not yet independently investigated the issue to determine whether their complaints are true.
But they complain that they’ve been dimissed as bigots, and indeed their blog does come across as generally bigoted. But I figured that perhaps they might be educable, at least by someone who shares their stated concerns.
I posted four comments there, of which two have not been moderated yet, and the other two have been deleted. In my comments, I bent over backwards to give them the benefit of the doubt, predicating my comments on the admittedly very questionable assumption that their stated church/state separation concerns are sincere. Below, I will post copies of the two still-pending comments.
On the About page, I wrote:
Hi! I would like to call your attention to the existence of Muslim reformers, most of whom would probably agree with your opposition to the establishment of an Islamist-oriented school with taxpayer funds. If you were to form an alliance with at least some of these Muslim reformers, you would be less vulnerable to charges of anti-Muslim bigotry.
For a list of Muslim reformers and their websites, see the post Islam and religion-based bigotry on my blog. I would especially recommend that you contact Irshad Manji, who teaches at NYU.
In response to a post titled Tarek Ibn Ziyad Academy- A response to a comment, I wrote:
A madrassa is a school that teaches the Arabic language and culture.
Islam is a religion, whereas Arabs are an ethnicity. The two are quite distinct. There exist plenty of non-Muslim Arabs (e.g. Arab Christians), and there also exist plenty of non-Arab Muslims (Iranians, Pakistanis, etc.), although the Arabic language does have a special place in Islam, being the language of the Quran.
I’ve only recently become aware of the controversy surrounding the KG school. I haven’t studied the issue enough to take a definite position on it yet, but, if indeed the KG school is using taxpayer funds to promote a religion (or, even worse, to promote a religiously intolerant ideology like Islamism), then I would agree with you that this is a matter of serious concern. It is vitally important to defend separation of Church and State.
The above two comments, which I posted yesterday, are still pending. I also posted two other comments which have been deleted. I remember only one of them.
I posted a reply saying that I don’t see any problem with the parade, given that New York City has long had parades for many different groups, starting with the St. Patrick’s Day parade for the Irish. On the other hand, if indeed a public school is being used to promote a religious belief, then that is a matter of real and serious concern.
That comment of mine has been deleted. The original comment, objecting to the parade, is still there.
Alas, it does not appear that these people are very open to constructive criticism.
(P.S., 4/28/2008: Looking into this matter some more, I am more and more inclined to believe that this group’s actual main aim is to simply to stir up hatrad of Arabs and Muslims, and that they are crying wolf on the alleged church-state separation issues. More about this later.)
Today, on an ex-Muslim’s blog, Basharee Murtadd, I wrote the following, in reply to a post titled Fight Islam because it’s Intolerant, Not because it’s False:
Hi! First off, it’s good to see people leaving Islam, and it’s great to see ex-Muslims taking a stand together on the Internet.
However, to oppose the barbaric political ideology of Islamism effectively, it seems to me that it will be necessary to do more than just convince Muslims to leave Islam. As we can see from the history of Christianity in the West these past few centuries, especially here in the U.S.A., people who leave their religion altogether are relatively rare, whereas reformers and moderates are much more commonplace. Most likely the same will be true of Islam. Therefore, to fight against Islamism effectively, it will be necessary to encourage both ex-Muslims and Muslim reformers.
What do you think of alliances between ex-Muslims and Muslim reformers, such as Secular Islam?
What do you think of the efforts of some Muslim reformers to defend the rights of apostates, e.g. Supporting Islam’s apostates by Ali Eteraz?
My comment there has not been moderated yet.
Anyhow, a recurring issue on many anti-Muslim blogs is an insistence that the reformers are “dishonest,” due their downplaying of the nastier stuff in the Qur’an and Hadith. To this, I would say the following:
The Qur’an, like the Bible, says many different things and can be intepreted in many different ways. For example, the Qur’an really does contain that famous verse about “no compulsion in religion” (Surah 2:256), and there are also other similar admonitions in the Qur’an and Hadith, despite contrary teachings that can also be found in the Qur’an and Hadith. Different Muslim scholars have developed different systems of intepretation, emphasizing different aspects of the Qur’an and Hadith.