A week ago I wrote a column titled “European governments’ censure of Islamism problematic,” and inadvertently started a mild war of religions among Daily Bruin readers and online commenters.
Needless to say, this was not my intention. The column sought to condemn a divisive action but somehow became one instead.
Among the thrust of the hate mail I received was outrage at my apparent omission of evils committed in predominantly Muslim nations such as Saudi Arabia.
To be clear, my “omission” came on account of my belief that it is so glaringly obvious that Saudi Arabia is not a free state that it would be base and redundant to point that out.
The column centered on two recent acts of legislation: a Swiss ban on minaret construction and a proposed French bill to make the burqa illegal. (The latter was a follow-up law to one that already passed banning any open display of one’s religious affiliation.)
Some readers took my condemnation of these bills as clearly anti-Islamic and thus inherently prejudicial to somehow include a claim that thus these European, mostly Christian countries were guilty of “worse” crimes than those perpetrated in the Middle East or other Muslim countries such as Malaysia.
One particular commenter, “Popeye,” got straight to the point when taking me to task: “While you take France and Switzerland and the Western world to task, are we in the West supposed to ignore Islam’s track record of treating all non-Muslims like dirt?”
I should say that I intended to include an apology in this article. But the more I thought about it, the more repelled and disgusted I became.
What some of the commenters on the article and perhaps the Swiss and French governments fail to understand is that it does not matter which nations are “worse.”
As an American, I was shocked to find what I assume to be some of my peers in the UCLA community demanding such a relativistic notion of tyranny and repression. Why should a column focused on the evils of one regime include a paragraph or two that serve no purpose but to point out that it’s “worse” in other areas of the world?
I wrote in my column that the “transition ““ from liberty to uniformity ““ is arguably the first step of any tyrannical state.” But I was wrong. Perhaps the first step toward tyranny is not the move to force uniformity but to believe that it is OK to take blatantly prejudicial actions so long as they are not the worst in the world.
By defending France and Switzerland’s treatment of Muslims by pointing out Saudi Arabia’s and Egypt’s treatment of Christians, those making this argument only enable seemingly “free” nations such as France and Switzerland to enjoy their descent into a similar backwardness unchecked.
Yes, it is worse in Saudi Arabia. Yes, honor killings occur in Afghanistan. Yes, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups parade around as Muslims.
What is more surprising is that in today’s day and age, American college students or intellectuals would find it appropriate to defend bigotry.
Another tired but still troublesome approach those who contacted me or commented with derogatory comments about Islam was to use “representative” quotes from the Quran to demonstrate that Islam is a “violent religion.”
A cursory glance at history shows both Islam and Christianity to be apt mediums for those who wish to wage wars of untold destruction of life and property.
And if one is to use quotes from the founding texts of these religions, suffice it to say that both texts are rife with bloodshed. Let us not forget that the promise of saving grace in Christianity comes from a murder.
It is true that one can find quotations that advocate violence in the Quran. In the interest of objectivity, however, consider the following:
“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
The passage from the New Testament is John 3:36.
Nor can Judaism claim a nonviolent spiritual history. Consider 1 Samuel 15:3, in which God tells Saul, “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys” .
What honest distinction can a rational, objective mind make between the “wrath of God” promised to non-Christians, and the hell that terrorists are wishing on non-Muslims?
I only raise these quotations to demonstrate that defending anti-Islamism by contrasting it with a “worse” anti-Christian or anti-Western actions ignores two facts: All three religions come from a similar sentiment, and all three visit harm upon whomever they term to be “the other.”
Pointing out solely the mistakes of one or another’s faith is a bad defense for matters of public policy. It is indisputable that many of the world’s major religions face difficult questions when held to an objective standard, and this is the standard by which our governments must abide.
This is precisely the problem with France and Switzerland’s decisions. If they were intended to stave off Islamic extremism in their own nation, then rest assured they will fail. What better fuel is there than oppression to conjure hate in the minds of the oppressed?
In short, the world deserves a better standard than the violence and hatred of our fathers.