The Fine Balance Between Criticizing Islam and Demonizing Muslims
There is a theme that comes up from time to time that former Muslims (exmuslims) who criticize Islam are anti-Muslim bigots. Here is one such comment that accuses me of profiting off anti-Muslim hatred:
There is some truth to this in that some who criticize Islam go too far and end up promoting bigotry towards Muslims in the process. But there is a difference between the two. It is possible to criticize religions without being bigots.
One of the best examples of this is my friend Sohail Ahmad (Reason On Faith) who makes it very clear right on his Twitter profile and very prominently on his blog. He writes:
There will be an emphasis on critiquing Islam generally, as well as the Ahmadiyya denomination specifically. This is done from the perspective of loving all people, whilst respectfully challenging doctrinal ideas and claims. I don’t support anti-Muslim bigotry, and neither should you. (Reasononfaith.org)
If you are allowed to love Islam, I am allowed to hate it.
Religions are ideas, and ideas good or bad can rightfully be criticized. If we do not allow the criticism of ideas, we will stagnate as a society. The only way to progress is to allow the free expression of ideas. Some bad ideas are found in religion. Some are found in culture. Sometimes it’s a mix. Humanity cannot move forward if we create a special class of ideas that cannot be criticized. That will hold us back and allow injustice to occur. This is how we got out of the dark ages and into the new world. We didn’t stop at “The Bible says the world is flat so it must be” or “Slavery is okay since the Bible and Quran allows it.” You may not agree with my statements about the Bible and Quran, but I have every right to make them
Not to mention, there are other systems that are not religious such as communism or capitalism that nobody would disagree can be criticized. What is the difference here? Is criticizing communism bigotry against communists? Of course not.
Progress comes with criticism
Humanity has progressed morally throughout the ages. We have progressed as humans to no longer accept violence against women. For the equality and rights for all no matter what their race religion or sex. The universal declaration of human rights authored after World War 2 is an example of this.
The United Nations Charter “reaffirmed faith in fundamental human rights, and dignity and worth of the human person,” and committed all member states to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”
The distinction between attacking believers vs. attacking religions
Despite what I stated above, I think this distinction is important. Believers, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu, and even disbelievers have rights that we need to maintain. Secularism creates a separation between state and religion and should ensure the rights to private practice and observance of religious ritual and belief. And this is what I have consistently said from the very beginning.
My track record
Those who know me know that I have always gone out of my way to ensure that I do not promote bigotry or hatred for Muslims but rather criticize the worst parts of Islam that deserve criticism.
1. Facebook/Twitter posts in support of Muslims
In no particular order here are some of the posts I was able to find from the last few years. This is not an exhaustive list but merely some of the ones I was able to find:
- “Fuck you — I have nothing to do with your hate!” (Oct 2016)
- Muslims are wonderful people (March 2017)
- Should you be afraid of your Muslim neighbours now? (June 2017)
- “Do you pretend to care about Muslims?” (July 2017)
- Regarding hateful comments in the last few days targetted towards theists (January 2018)
- “Punish a Muslim day flyer” — Muslims and non-Muslims should stand together against terrorism (April 2018)
- Tommy Robinson is demonizing and attacking Muslims (March 2019)
- Exmuslims have a special responsibility (March 2019)
- Abdullah Gondal’s statement about the New Zealand attack (March 2019)
- I support the rights of believers. (March 2019)
- “You can’t trust moderate Muslims” is code for “Don’t trust any Muslims.” (March 2019)
- We cannot be bigoted, discriminate, or over-generalize Muslims. (April 2019)
2. Videos I made in support of Muslims
One of the overriding messages in my activism is this support of Muslims. I take this responsibility seriously and use my platform to show people that even I, as a critic of Islam, who has faced abuse and even been financially threatened by my activism will not fearmonger against Muslims.
See my playlist: “Abdullah Sameer defending Muslims”
One of the most common tropes used against Muslims is this ‘taqiyyah’ card. In this video I discuss why using this criticism towards Muslims is unfair. I also have videos where I support a young woman who was disqualified from a race simply for wearing hijab, a Muslim business owner who was harassed simply because he was Muslim, reflections on the Quebec hijab ban (which I am against), the increase in the number of hate attacks against Muslims and other videos. I also speak about the maltreatment of China towards their Muslim Uighur minority in one of the videos. As you can see, I definitely do not enable bigotry in my videos.
In conclusion, it is possible to attack Islam, the religion, the scripture, the culture surrounding it, and the actions of some Muslims without being bigoted and unfairly throwing the rest of them under the bus. It is also possible to be against Islam while supporting their right to freedom of religion. There is no contradiction there. That is what secularism is all about.
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