The Problem With Islam

OK, that’s a slightly misleading title. It should be “One Of The Problems With Islam.” Or “My Problem With Islam.” Or, “One Of My Problems With Islam.” But I pride myself on snazzy titles, and the more accurate versions just ain’t got that swing.

Anyway…

I’ve said many a time that I am an agnostic. Although raised Methodist, I do not consider myself a Christian (an opinion shared by quite a few Christians who’ve known me). I find most religions and their belief systems somewhat silly, and have no problems laughing at them when I feel like it. (My favorite example: every Mormon I’ve ever met has been a fine, upstanding, honorable, decent, respectable sort, but they INSIST on sending out teenagers with name tags calling them “Elders.” I just can’t take seriously a barely-post-pubescent less than half my age who goes by that title.) Of all the belief systems I’ve been exposed to or looked into, the only one that I came close to accepting was Deism — and even they seem a little kooky to me.

Anyway, back to Islam. When it comes to freedom of religion, I consider myself an absolutist — whatever one wishes to practice, fine, as long as it doesn’t intrude on the rights of others. I believe that the First Amendment, which explicitly guarantees the freedom OF religion, also implies a freedom FROM religion. If someone doesn’t wish to practice a certain faith (or any faith at all), that is legally protected as well. And no religion has the right to have the government enforce its tenets.

At our beginning, though, the presumption was that this was a predominantly Christian nation, and that colored the early interpretations. We still have some legacies kicking around today — Sunday being a “day of rest,” Christmas as a legal holiday, “blue laws” restricting certain forms of commerce on Sundays, and the like.

I’d like to see the “Blue Laws” go away permanently, but for most of the rest, I can live with them. Christmas has evolved beyond a purely Christian holiday (witness all the furor every year about “the reason for the season” and “put Christ back in Christmas” and the like — a lot of Christians recognize it’s become a largely secular holiday, and don’t like it), and it’s a good time of the year for a big day off. Plus, with it being so close to New Year’s, it’s a nice way to polish of the year — in what’s generally a crappy time weather-wise.

And Sundays? We need a day off. Why not Sunday? It’s worked out well so far. And we’ve added Saturdays (thank you, Jews and labor unions) for “the weekend.” Let it ride.

A lot of our laws have some basis in religion, especially the Judeo-Christian tradition. Heck, of the Ten Commandments, four are commonly enforced by civil law. (Using the Anglican, Reformed, and other Christian breakdown listed there.) I’ve already mentioned the Sabbath Day; laws against murdering, stealing, and bearing false witness are also very common.

Of the rest, “adultery” is generally bad for a society as a whole. It tends to wreck the family dynamic, and that is one of the keystones for society. The same goes for “honoring” your parents. “Coveting” is a “gateway sin;” it tends to lead toward breaking other commandments and laws, and is a good thing to avoid. So while I don’t think they should be enforced by laws, they’re pretty good advice.

That leaves just the first two — “have no other gods before me” and “no graven images.” To me, those are simply laying groundwork for the rest. That is where the authority for all the rest derives from. “Why shouldn’t I boink my neighbor’s wife, if she’s willing, too?” “Because I’m God, and I say don’t.”

So of the Ten Commandments, those fundamental laws that underpin Judaism and Christianity (and, allegedly, Islam, but they’re pretty damned sloppy about a few of those points — a subject for a whole ‘nother posting, if I feel like it), almost half of them are enshrined in law (exactly half, if you count those states that still have anti-adultery laws on the books). So, does that make the US a Christian (or Judeo-Christian) nation?

(A quick aside: whenever I see or hear “Judeo-Christian,” I want to start impersonating Harry Belafonte: “Ju-DAY-o! Ju-DAY-AY-AY-o! Judeo-Christian, what de hell is dat?”)

No. It means that, as a society, we have looked into the past for inspiration on how to set up our society, drawn from a variety of sources, and found that some of the rules of the Ten Commandments make a hell of a lot of sense, and adopted them — after stripping them of their theological trappings.

That’s how you make a secular society. Not a Christian society, not a Jewish society, not a Judeo-Christian society (“Christ, he come back, and he gonna be pissed!”), and not an atheistic society.

(OK, no more Harry Belafonte riffs. At least here. But now I’m thinking of making a full-blown “Banana Boat Song” parody now…)

Most religions can not only survive, but thrive in a secular society. While some might covet (there’s that word again…) the power that comes with having official state sanction, with their tenets having the force of law, it’s a two-edged sword: there’s no guarantee that some day a Henry VIII might come along and upset the apple cart. No, it’s safer for all parties to keep a modicum of distance between the sacred and the secular.

OK, that’s over 900 words to lay the groundwork for the whole point of this thesis: the problem is that Islam isn’t simply a religion.

Oh, it’s a religion all right. But it’s also a form of government and an entire society as well. (It might also be a floor wax and a desert topping as well — I’ll leave that up to the real experts to answer.) Islam is the answer to all things — and must reign supreme in all matters.

That is utterly antithetical to a secular society.

I have no problems with Muslims practicing their faith. I reserve the right to snicker at them when I feel like it (like I do all other faiths — oh, Jews, thank you for leaving more bacon for the rest of us! Bacon is indeed proof that God loves Gentiles, too!), but I feel no great need to ban their religion.

But I do have problems with the expression of aspects of their faith as it infringes on others. Such as how it demands that all people — even non-Muslims — obey Sharia law. For example:

  • The banning of interest on loans.
  • The requirement of two male Muslim witnesses to obtain a conviction of rape.
  • A Muslim man’s word is given twice legal standing than a Muslim woman’s — and non-Muslims may be excluded entirely.
  • The “Jizya” tax paid by non-Muslims for the privilege of living under Muslim law.
  • The complete and utter subjugation of women.
  • The death penalty for homosexuals.
  • The penalties — up to and including death — for things like apostasy and heresy and “insulting Islam.”

That’s the fundamental problem with Islam — in its purest form, it simply will not tolerate any challenges to its authority. It must be held above all other considerations, systems, authorities, governing bodies, institutions, or belief systems.

To deny that supremacy is to insult Islam — and that is a capital offense under Islam.

What Islam needs, above all, is a “reformation” like Christianity and Judaism underwent. Unfortunately, the Christian parallel fails, because there the reformers went back to their source material and found just how far the Catholic Church had strayed from its roots. With Islam, the dominant forces — the militant Islamists — are actually being exceptionally faithful to their source material.

That is the fundamental cause of the War On Terror — it really is better described as “the War Resisting Militant Islam.” For some, it’s a religious calling — their own faith requires them to stand against it. For some, their way of life would be drastically affected, and they won’t stand for it. For some, the aggressions of militant Islam demand answering (see 9/11 for but one of many examples). There are even some who see this as a racial matter. And some fit into more than one category. But they have one thing in common.

There’s a saying among Islamic apologists that “Islam means peace.” As nice as that sounds, “Islam” does not mean “peace.” It means “submission.” Submission to Allah, and all his laws.

We will not submit.

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