Monday, December 15, 2008

Wrestling with Religion, Rationalism and a Cloying Neologism

Gareth Chantler, "I Am Islamophobic," Western Standard, Dec. 9, 2008 --

I am Islamophobic because I think people who believe the violent passages of the Koran to be the word of God are a detriment to peace and to society. Worse are those who don’t just believe, but actually carry out the commands of said violent passages. Historically, Muslims used to do so with great effectiveness; they conquered a vast territory and carved out a large empire. Recall that some Muslims have carried out such commands this century.

The debate over whether Islam is a ‘religion of peace’ or a ‘violent religion’ is too much of a simplification, because both are true. The great majority of those who call themselves Muslims follow a religion of peace, because they don’t obey the Koran, but instead obey a framework of ethics and partake in a tradition of religious ceremonies and customs that have no tolerance for violence towards others. I don’t know the perfect term for these Muslims; ‘secular Muslims’ or maybe ‘rational Muslims’ come to mind.


Mark Steyn thinks people should be able to criticize an ideology that believes that, “Those that deny Our revelation We will burn in a fire. No sooner will their skins be consumed than We shall give them other skins, so that they may truly taste the scourge. God is mighty and wise” (4:55-56). Steyn simply pontificates in the article, whether correctly or not, what the ramifications are of this ideology’s demographic swell. We shouldn’t have laws against hate speech in this, a free country, but for those who think that we should, what do you think qualifies as hate speech? Will any definition you concoct not classify the preceding quote from the Koran as such?

Of course, there are other types of people who are Islamophobic: they are put off by hijabs and Ramadan, because they are reactionary and xenophobic. That kind of discrimination is obviously silly and superficial. There is nothing wrong with anyone wearing a hijab – along with the right to free speech, we have the right to free fashion. But the Osgoode Hall Law School students who sought to convict Mark Steyn of human rights violations (after Maclean’s refused to publish their ‘side of the story’), in freedom of fashion equivalency, simply don’t like Steyn’s shirt. In a free society, the freedom of speech extends to things nobody likes to hear. Again, what is unfortunate is that Steyn isn’t even worried about the type of Muslims (secular Muslims) the Osgood Hall students are. And no one needs to be especially worried about them.

The rest of the piece is a thoughtful, and quite engaging discourse -- the kind that starts a discussion rather than ending one.

As much as I've come to loathe relativistic identity-politics neologisms, "Islamophobia" being just the latest example, I think I can cut Mr. Chantler some slack here. He is currently a student at Queen's University, a place where such neologisms are not only confected but prescribed, and then enforced.

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