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September 17, 2007

An "Anti-Propaganda" Opinion: 'Islam versus the free world'

We aren't fighting a war against terrorists to win the hearts and minds of the Middle East. We are fighting it to end the threat of terrorism. Victory can't be achieved with bullets and bombs alone. This is, at its core, an ideological war. Just as we defeated communism by defeating the communists' ideology, we need to attack and destroy that of the radical Islamists. - Jed Babbin
Only the most dim witted liberal progressives of the George Soros/MoveOn.org variety could fail to recognize that radical Islam threatens the very existence of the free world and the lives of peace-loving Muslims and non-Muslims alike. While the "hot war" against Muslim extremists rages in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in many other parts of the world, there is "another war" no less important to the survival of the West - a war of words, or as Walid Phares refers to it, a war of ideas.

This "other war" involves the battle for the hearts and minds of the Arab street and many in the Muslim world who continue to live in a mindset of the middle ages, and it also involves a battle within our own culture to overcome political correctness that would have us ignore the dire threats we face and the eroding of our freedoms by the Islamists that use our freedoms as weapons to force us into submission to their brand of Islam. In a sense, this "war of words" involves a brand of Islam that is using terror, violence, and intimidation as tools to take over the entire world.

As "Lev" frames it in his opinion piece, "Islam versus the free world," the ideology of (radical?) Islam and its followers are not progressive - they are regressive, and contradict the very fabric of a society willing to live in an age of reason and understanding. His piece isn't written from a racist or hateful perspective, and it is not a petition to replace Islam with some other ideology or belief system. It is more of a criticism of political correctness and dhimmitude, inspired by the events surrounding the printing of the Danish cartoons and the more recent Swedish cartoon (with permission):

There is a war waging all across our globe right now which affects all of us, whether we realize it or not. This war is not being fought with bullets or tanks, but words. What I speak of is the war between socially-objectionable ideas clashing against religious sensitivities. This war is not only threatening to distort the definition of "free expression", but also has the potential to warp our very understanding of what it means to hold an opinion.

While virtually every major religion has gone through stages of oppressing societies in order to protect what it holds to be sacred, there is one that stands out more than any other in modern society; Islam.

Perhaps this is simply because, in our point in history, Islam has not evolved as long as the other major leading religions. Christianity has had roughly six-hundred years longer to evolve after the reflection of contemporary societies, while both Judaism and Hinduism have had nearly two millennia longer to learn from people as time and ideas change.

For whatever the reason, while many other religions are adapting to society as society changes, Islam is different in that it attempts to adapt the society around it to itself. It would be unfair to claim that other religions do not also attempt to lock society in their grasp, but none uses such excessive force today as that of the so-called "religion of peace", Islam.

Through its indoctrinated masses, Islam appears to be on a holy quest with the entire world to ensure that what it believes to be "truth" is upheld, while all along systematically crushing the social progression the world has accomplished through generations of evolution. Not only does it seek to be regarded as the one "truth", but devotedly practices a position in which all that object shall be silenced or even punished. While it may speak of tolerance and respect to other beliefs, the actions of its followers in large continue to contradict this claim on a regular basis.

By means of lethal force and intimidation, this decayed fanaticism challenges all the liberties and freedoms that progressive civilizations hold so dear; liberties such as the notion that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and beliefs, and freedoms such as the freedom of expression, no matter how offensive or obscene. What many fundamentalists fail to realize is that freedom comes with responsibility, not with limitations. To limit freedom is to effectively abolish it, because it leaves room for interpretation, and where there is room for interpretation there will be a conflict of interests.

Even today, in many "free" states, some of these interests attempt to persuade regulatory bodies to enact laws restricting any manner or form of depicting Islam's prophet. A prophet that not all of us even believe in is proposed to be forcefully respected by all of us, whether we believe in him or not. It is blasphemy for a believer of Allah to depict their holiest of prophets; a non-believer should not be subjected to the same moral code, since we are supposed to live in a free society where we can all think for ourselves. In an effort to abolish criticism of what some hold to be sacred, many Islamic minds wish to transform free societies into shackled-down religious states. These same interests also strive to create laws forbidding the satirization of Islam and its ideology entirely.

If one were to look around at popular culture one might notice countless religious deities satirized in all ways, shapes and forms - well, virtually every religious figure. It wasn't until fairly recently that a Danish press took initiative at satirizing Islam - a route that nearly every other faith or political faction imaginable have all had to endure. Why is it anything special that Islam endures the same hardship every other religion has had to cope with? Where is Islam's outrage when a heavy metal band releases a new album with far worse imagery depicting Christians holiest of deities? Where are Islam's violent protests when Jews are stereotyped in film or the media? Where is Islam's anguish at popular culture's depictions of God, such as a chimera-like figure in the world renowned South Park series? Why are Muslims only outraged when their faith is the one that is being criticized publicly? We've been hearing that many Muslims feel that no religion should be criticized, but where is Islam when Islam is not the center of criticism?

They cry "respect" for their opinions, while vigilantly denying respect towards the different opinions of those they try to silence. What these fanatics fail to comprehend is that it is impossible to have any society in which everyone is allowed to believe what they want, but not offend another. The essence of having an opinion is all that is necessary for conflict. The very nature of perspective is what leads to disagreement. Since there are an unlimited number of ideas and opinions, it is inane to assume that somehow all of these opinions will fit perfectly together harmonically in unison. If you have an opinion, you quite simply are at risk of contradicting the opinion of someone else. This should not be shunned upon in society, but embraced for its birth of diverse ideas which helps us overcome conventional falsities. If everyone had the same train of thought, society could not progress. It is only through challenging the accepted ideas and notions that humans thrive. One should not have to feel guilty that their opinion offends another, just as one should not pressure another to refrain from holding an opinion in case it offends someone else. That is not progression - that is regression.

If I am to believe that my god came to me in a vision and commanded me to challenge the hypocrisies and corruption of all faiths and beliefs, then who are you, or anyone else, to claim that your religion reigns dominance over my own? Respect should not be confused with fascism. Respecting other ideas means that you will run the risk of offending someone with your beliefs, while you must also accept the fact that what others may believe has the potential to offend you. Respect does not mean that you can silence others whom are critical of what you believe. This is what freedom of speech and expression should mean - not that you are only able to say something if it doesn't offend someone else. That is nonsense.

Humans are curious creatures - each of us is a collection of unique thoughts and ideas shaped by the lives we've lead. Some of us are mentally weak, while some of us are strong. Some of us need guidance and some of us are natural born leaders. Our roles serve as a clear depiction of whom we are and where we've been. Many of us live our entire lives as mental prisoners of beliefs we can never shake off, while others break free through dissent from what they were taught. For many people, religion is an aide to help them live better lives, but sometimes - many times - it becomes more than just a crutch. Religion has the potential for so much good, but more often than not is used to justify so much bad. It is not only a good method of teaching values and ethics, but a great way to segregate those that are different and justify hatred and intolerance.

More than anything, religion is an identifier - something we use to associate each other with. It provides a method for many of us to group ourselves together into a mass consciousness, while sacrificing the role of an individual thinker. The problem with this sort of group mentality is not so much the matter of a loss of character, as it is the loss of rational reasoning. Instead of one personally reflecting on an issue in order to evaluate their position, a group mentality offers a quick solution - if those around me all think it, "then it must be just". Justly it so rarely is, but shrouded behind the personal agendas of a few politicians, pulling the strings of religion, it so commonly seems to be.

Part of the problem is that most western civilizations have lived freely in societies that prevent an entanglement between religion and politics, while many Muslims are raised in states where the law is dictated by religious philosophy. This seems to have lead to a recent surge of migrating Muslims feeling the necessity to mould local policy after their own religious convictions. It's quite astonishing to step back and look at how far some civilizations have progressed since our days in living in caves, and believing anything not understood to be the work of a god, to at the same time come to realize that we still have many human beings who somehow appear to be trapped back in time. Though, it should be emphasized that Islam is not the only ideology living in the past.

Sadly, traditional religions altogether seems to be an antiquated concept in relevance to modern society. Fortunately, there is hope, as one who may study religion would notice how much religion changes as time goes by. Just to think; hundreds of years ago homosexuals would be persecuted or even put to death by "holy" men - today we have homosexual churches. Nearly four-hundred years ago, Galileo discovered that the sun was the center of our solar system and not the earth as was the belief by the church, so he was put to death - today we all acknowledge this as a common fact. That is to say, as time passes the faith of Islam, like any other faith, will also change; if it manages to sustain itself by adapting, or else it runs the risk of being completely marginalized as an irrelevance.

It saddens me to see so many even debating the issue of whether or not free speech should be relevant to religion and philosophy. It is distressing for the very simple reason that it proves that too many minds cannot grasp the intent behind having such freedoms. Freedom of speech was never put in place to protect socially acceptable thinking, but the complete opposite. Freedom of speech exists for the very reason of protecting every thought and opinion, no matter how ridiculous, offensive or rude it may seem to you or me. To restrain such a freedom is nothing other than censorship, and should be frowned upon by any freedom loving individual.

By hiding behind religious sentiments, many groups, such as Islam, manage to sustain their veracity due to the fact that society today seems to place religion as a topic of taboo - something that we are all brought up to believe must be respected and should not be openly challenged. While we are free to ridicule and criticize one's interests or political association, questioning a religious practice is "treason" to many people. This is a very deadly formula because so many religions have intolerant and even hateful roots, which then leaves room for the justification of the most horrific actions hidden behind a shield we are conditioned to respect. Kill a man because he listens to different music than you and it's murder, yet kill this man because he is a member of a different political party than you and it's war, or even still kill the same man because he is a heathen and it's holy war.

The ideology of Islam, as well as many of its followers, are not progressive - they are regressive, and contradict the very fabric of a society that aims to move into an age of reason and understanding. The tension gains more with every passing day and something has got to give. Either we all choose to take a giant leap back and abolish the free and liberal ideals we have fought so hard to attain, in order to prevent anything blasphemous to the ideology of specific group, or we can openly challenge any and every philosophy that has no place in a free-thinking society. Progression and regression cannot co-exist peacefully, and in the end only one shall prevail. I truly hope that the open-minded and enlightened can join together and step forward in denouncing any religion or philosophy that seeks to repress society.


Important related piece: Radical interpretation of the Koran is caused by 19th century Wahhabi fundamentalist radicalism and 20th century political Islam. In this series, FSM Contributing Editor M. Zuhdi Jasser urges modern, peaceful Muslims to interpret the Koran themselves in order to break away from this radicalism.

Cross posted from Hyscience

Posted by Richard at September 17, 2007 3:26 PM

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