Questioning Islam isn’t Islamophobia

By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, November 13, 2014
Questioning Islam isn’t Islamophobia
Let’s be clear on this: Muslims are people we should love and respect.
Though I disagree deeply with Islam, it seems to me that love of neighbour requires respect for those with whom one disagrees. So kudos to the folks in Cold Lake, Alberta, who helped clean up a recently vandalized mosque.
But let’s be clear on this, too: having reasonable, evidence-based concerns about Islam—especially when adherents closely follow the violent life and teachings of Muhammad—is not an instance of Islamophobia.
Please notice I definitely am NOT saying that all Muslims are monolithic in their views, that all Muslims are supporters of ISIS or other terrorists, or that any Muslims should be treated with prejudice or in any way unjustly.
Rather, I am saying that we need to do some careful thinking.
I saw a meme circulating on the internet recently. The meme had two pictures with a caption under each. The first picture was of a meeting of several white-robed-white-hooded Ku Klux Klan members. The caption: “No-one thinks that these people are representative of Christians.”
The second picture (immediately below the first) was of a dozen black-garbed-black-masked ISIS fighters with weapons at the ready. The caption: “So why do so many people think that these people are representative of Muslims?”
The apparent implication: just as the KKK isn’t Christian, so too ISIS isn’t Islamic.
Let’s pause and think.
Most or all the Christians and Muslims I know are decent people, and, yes, we should protect them from being misrepresented. So far so good.
But the questions we should be asking are these: Does the KKK actually follow the example and teachings of Jesus? (Answer: clearly no.) Does ISIS actually follow the example and teachings of Muhammad? (Answer: very apparently yes.)
The more I learn about the life and teachings of Muhammad, the more I’m convinced that Muhammad was an extremely violent man bent on world domination by force—and he teaches others to be and do likewise. It’s interesting that the present leader of ISIS has a PhD in Islamic Studies.
Unlike Jesus, who shed his own blood for others to spread his message, Muhammad shed the blood of others to impose his message.
A phobia is typically an irrational or ungrounded fear or hatred. Consider arachnophobia, an irrational ungrounded fear or hatred of spiders. Clearly, it’s possible to have reasonable, non-phobic concerns about some spiders if the spiders display evidence of being harmful or lethal to humans.

In recent years I’ve seen too many public discussions shut down because people who raise important questions are dismissed as “phobic” when in fact they’re not. The if-you-disagree-then-you’re-phobic card is a smokescreen against truth, and it misleads popular audiences. (So I want to help nip it in the bud.)

In view of ISIS and its close affiliation with Muhammad’s violent life and teachings, the challenge before us is threefold: (1) we should encourage Muslims who do not emulate Muhammad’s violence to continue not emulating Muhammad’s violence; (2) we should question Islam (Muslims’ religion) because it elevates Muhammad as someone to be emulated; and (3) we should do 1 and 2 in such ways that show love and respect to Muslims.

Yes, this is no small challenge. It also isn’t Islamophobia.

Speaking truth and loving others can—and should—go hand in hand.

Recommended resources:
● William Kilpatrick, Christianity, Islam, and Atheism (book)
● Nabeel Qureshi, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus (book)
● Robert Spencer et al., Islam: What the West Needs to Know (online video)
● R.C. Sproul & Abdul Saleeb, The Dark Side of Islam (book)
● David Wood, Answering Muslims (website)

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College. The views in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)

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