At some point in history, the liberals in the West decided that Christianity, particularly Catholicism, was no longer beyond reproach. Since then, the religion has endured (not unreasonably so) a constant barrage of verbal and literary assaults.
And they succeeded. They dethroned Christianity and brought in, to our collective elation, the secular values that they now hold dear.
But the same must not happen in the Islamic world. When people like Richard Dawkins attempt to catalyze the rationalist uprising in the Muslim-majority countries, people like Nathan Lean insist that it’s racist. It was okay for them to pound on Christianity and rid themselves of its yoke, but we just have to find a way to get along with our Islamic oppressors.
Living as a minority in what is a quintessentially Islamic country (about 97% of the population of Pakistan is Muslim, and all laws are subject to approval by Islamic experts), I must impress on how little Nathan Lean knows what he’s talking about. The idea proposed by modernized Muslims and Western liberals is that Islam is a diverse religion, and not all Muslims believe in the same set of principles…which is absolutely true!
Here’s the thing though: if Islam is not represented by those who circumcise girls, kill unbelievers, murder my fellow “apostates”, stone and lash people to death, and allow wife-beating….
…then Islam is also not represented by the peace-loving, modernized Muslims. For them to claim that their benign version of the religion is more authentic than the Islam of the Taliban, Al-Qaeeda and garden-variety kufar-haters, would mean for them to deny the religion’s diverse nature which they always talk about.
What we do instead is look at the bigger picture; of what it has contributed to the world, and what it has stolen from it. Compared to a control group, we consider its propensity to generate intolerance, bigotry and chaos. Compared to any other literature, we consider the scripture’s susceptibility to violent interpretations. Not all its followers, not even a majority, are malevolent. But we do note the tendency of this belief system to inspire hate and malice at a rate higher than what could normally be expected.
Old Testament too has more than its fair share of abominably violent dicta, and Christianity has dealt a massive blow to science and humanity. However, it is ludicrous for liberals in the Western countries to excuse Islam’s present influence by alluding to what the Catholics did hundreds of years ago: the crusades, inquisition, witch-burning and so on. To do so, is like me telling an adult, “It’s okay if you can’t count to 20. I couldn’t do that either 23 years ago (when I was an infant).”
Many years ago, Pakistani professor, Pervez Hoodhboy, wrote an outstanding book called, “Islam and Science: Religious Orthodoxy and the Battle for Rationality”. In it, he put forth the same “racist” and “bigoted” ideas that Lean attacks Dawkins for. It’s tragic when facts do not coincide with Mr. Leans’ sense of political correctness, but that’s really how the cookie crumbles.
In the book, he acknowledged Muslims’ (some of them were actually atheists/agnostics under Muslim rule) contribution to science back in the middle-ages….as did Dawkins in the second part of his controversial tweet, but that is largely ignored by pot-stirrers whose livelihood depends on mining quotes and presenting them in an inflammatory fashion. But more importantly, Hoodbhoy discussed in detail the crisis of scientific thinking in the Muslim world and pointed to Islam, as gently as he possibly could as a citizen of a country where blasphemy laws exist, as a hindrance to our progress.
Obviously, there are more factors at play here than just religion. Socioeconomic instability, illiteracy and political uncertainty all hinder progress, scientific or otherwise. But is Islam at least a major contributor to this problem?
Consider this: Not too long ago in Pakistani Parliament, a domestic violence bill was blocked mainly because parties like Jamat-e-Ulema-i-Islami (JUI-F) claimed that it violated Quranic law. The Quran , in one of its surahs, allows a husband to beat a wife. Moderate Muslims interpret it differently (I have no idea how, because the verse 4:34 is extremely clear about it), but the truth remains that religion was a major reason why Pakistani husbands were allowed to continue legally thrashing their wives that day.
I wonder what Lean would’ve said had something similar happened in Washington DC; if a domestic violence bill had been stalemated because of bible-thumpers? Knowing that Mr. Lean is no hypocrite, I reckon he would’ve published a tirade against the angry liberals questioning Christianity’s role in this injustice, and called them all “bigoted”.
Nathan Lean, we request you to stop.
We, the minorities/liberals/free-thinking who are hiding/suffering/dying under Islamic rule, are fed up of liberals in the West being apologists for an ideology that is inspiring so much intolerance and hate towards us.
So here’s a simple solution to help you deal with what I, as a doctor, have provisionally diagnosed as munchausen-by-proxy syndrome – the compulsion to fake symptoms of poor health in a patient, in order to get attention for yourself as the patient’s guardian.
I don’t think Islam is the greatest evil in the world, as Mr.Dawkins’s somewhat hyperbolic tweet claimed (I think it was an intentional exaggeration). But as a Pakistani liberal and freethinker, I can say with certitude that I would’ve personally been using a much smaller dosage of anti-depressants had religion not been in my picture.
If you feel Muslims are being victimized because of someone tweeting facts (and that too, as a response to Muslims who boast how much science owes to them, because someone in the Islamic empire invented sulphuric acid a thousand years ago), you really haven’t been paying to what goes on in the name of Islam around the world. I implore you that you do.