“On the left, people were saying that if you have any criticism against Islam, then you were a bigot against all Muslims. On the right, it was like, there are a lot of problematic things in Islamic scripture, so everyone who is Muslim must be banned, or profiled, or demonized. Both sides weren’t making that distinction between challenging ideas, which has historically moved societies forward, and demonizing human beings, which only rips societies apart.”
This isn’t accurate, but it’s a good summation of why even Leftists who are opposed to jihad terror will not discuss, will not debate, will not engage in any way with those who are perceived as “right-wing.” Leftists certainly do charge that anyone who notes that Islam has doctrines of violence and supremacism is a “bigot against all Muslims.” But it’s false that any serious analysts on the Right say that because “there are a lot of problematic things in Islamic scripture,” therefore “everyone who is Muslim must be banned, or profiled, or demonized.” Nor is there any demonization of human beings going on among conservatives; that enterprise is exclusively the Left’s, in its relentless defamation (as “Islamophobic,” “racist” and “bigoted”) of everyone who calls attention to and speaks honestly about the jihad threat.
In fact, Leftists constantly claim that I say “all Muslims are terrorists,” or “all Muslims hate us,” or some variant of those, but when I ask them to provide a quotation from me to that effect, they always go silent. This is a staple of the Leftist rap sheet on me, but it is an outright false claim, as is Ali Rizvi’s claim here that such views are held generally among conservatives.
Rizvi may be of the view held by his friends Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz, who appear to believe that it is acceptable to oppose jihad terror as long as one doesn’t want to do anything effective about it. No serious analyst wants Muslims “banned” or “profiled” out of some idea that all Muslims are terrorists, or out of racial hatred against Muslims (Islam, you may have heard me say before, is not a race). People support Trump’s travel ban because of the fact that there is no reliable way to distinguish jihadis from peaceful Muslims, and so they would prefer to keep out some harmless people rather than let in some harmful people. For the Left, even making that choice, rather than allowing in the harmful people and watching Americans get killed in jihad attacks, is racist, bigoted, and Islamophobic. What was that about “demonization” again?
“An atheist Muslim on what the left and right get wrong about Islam,” by Sean Illing, Vox, July 7, 2017:
“The left is wrong on Islam. The right is wrong on Muslims.”
These words were tweeted by Ali Rizvi, author of the new book The Atheist Muslim. Rizvi was born in Pakistan in 1975 into what he calls a “moderate to liberal Muslim family.” He was raised in Libya and later moved to Saudi Arabia, where he lived for more than a decade. He’s now a writer and physician based in Canada.
Rizvi’s book is partly a plea for secularism and partly a defense of Islam as a culture. It’s also an internal challenge to Islam as a body of doctrines. Rizvi speaks directly to agnostics, atheists, and humanists living in the Muslim world, enjoining them to embrace secular culture without abandoning their Muslim identity….
Criticizing Islam without demonizing Muslims
This is not an easy book to write. You’re exposing yourself to a lot of criticism on all sides. So why write it?
I grew up in a moderate to liberal Muslim family in three Muslim-majority countries that were culturally very different. I developed certain perspectives about the religion and the Muslim experience that most others didn’t have. I’m not just talking about Islam itself, but also the Muslim experience, which is more personal and more to do with identity rather than ideology or belief.
Like most issues, in the United States especially, the conversation around this issue — about Islam, Muslims, and terrorism — eventually diverged into the left and the right. You had the liberals with their view, and the conservatives with their view, and I felt both of them were really missing the mark. They were both conflating “Islam” the ideology and “Muslim” the identity. Islam is a religion; it’s a set of beliefs, a bunch of ideas in a book. It’s not human. Muslims are real, living, breathing people, and to me, there’s a big difference between criticizing ideas and demonizing human beings.
And your sense was that both the left and the right were failing to capture this distinction?
Neither side was making that distinction. On the left, people were saying that if you have any criticism against Islam, then you were a bigot against all Muslims. On the right, it was like, there are a lot of problematic things in Islamic scripture, so everyone who is Muslim must be banned, or profiled, or demonized. Both sides weren’t making that distinction between challenging ideas, which has historically moved societies forward, and demonizing human beings, which only rips societies apart.
How does your book split this difference?
I think all of us have the right to believe what we want, and we must respect that right, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to respect the beliefs themselves. That’s what this book is about. It’s about making that distinction between Islamic ideology and Muslim identity, and explores how we can have an honest conversation about ideas and beliefs without descending into bigotry against those who might challenge or hold them….