Friday, November 13, 2009

The 'Islam=Terror" Meme

I have seen lots of dull people trying to push the 'Islam=terror" meme and here we go again. It is a simplistic argument; they say - 'hey look, this terrible thing happened and the person who did it was a Muslim, so Islam must somehow be an evil thing.' It's related to the comments of Berlusconi that somehow Western Civilisation is the best and we do things in the right way and those crazy Muslims go around using violence to make their point yada yada yada.

So in Germany there was this guy who refused to move of a swing in a park to let a little kid on it. A row ensued and the guy (born in Russia, now German) racially abused her (screaming "terrorist" and "Islamist whore" at her). How did she respond? She used the very civilised means on taking him to court for defamation. His response? Stab her 18 times in the court room and kill her.

Does that mean Russians and/or Germans and/or Christians are inherently evil? No - the actions of a minority do not define the majority. Religions go though phases - sometimes violent and sometimes not, just like the other creations of humanity, they are nothing more than a reflection of the culture that creates them. Nothing inherently magic and/or evil in that.

First off you can't tar 'Islam' with the same brush of being 'backward'. Yes it's a few hundred years younger than Christianity (look where that was 400 years ago; religious wars-a-g-go) but it also comes on lots of shapes and sizes; some moderate and some not. In the main it is an expression of the cultural background of the faith. There is good research proving that all religious go though phases of tolerance and intolerance and it all depends on the political and social context. There is a excellent presentation on this evidence here: Wanna change to context? Let's get a just solution to the Israel/Palestine situation that guarantees human rights to all in the region. That will take the wind out of the extremist sails....

Second surveys of Muslims in Europe have shown them, on average, to have the same attitudes to things like democracy as the rest of the population. Sure nutters exist who want to ban alcohol and corporal punishment - but we also find Christian versions of the same. Witness the explosion of child-murders in Africa driven by fear of witch-children cursing people - and this is all against a Christian backdrop.

Third in Jason Burke's excellent book about Al Qaeda, he notes that the best defence against radical Islam is moderate Islam. Tell all Muslims, including the moderates that part of their cultural identity is 'backwards' just pushes them into the hands of extremists.

Now I'm an atheist - I think all religion is bunkum, and fundamentalist Islam is a horrible poison. But the tactics of pushing polarisation onto the debate, trying to fight extremism with extremism. Bad idea all round. You fight fundamentalist Islam with the values of tolerance, freedom and fair-play.


Anonymous said...

Watch and read mohammed T-shirt art from Sweden at,

Anonymous said...

Ha ha thats really funny! They should do a redneck American Christian one too

Anonymous said...

The Islam=Terror meme belongs in the middle ages, just like most religions.

Can we not just ban all religions from public life? No more faith schools. No more blasphemy laws. No more stupid debates on R4, no more pandering Guardian articles (its the 21st century FFS...)