There are attempts by many Muslims, many "liberals" and deranged liberals to turn criticism of Islam into a thought crime.  The term Islamaphobia pathologises any fears or concerns about Islam or Muslims.  They are even deliberately equated with racism!  Islam is not a race but a religion and not just a religion but a political construct.  Why is Islam so protected while other faiths can be maligned or refuted with impunity?  Why is there no tolerance for the critic?  Why does the critic have to be dismissed as having a mental or psychological problem and not the Islamist?   Part of the reason is that liberal politicians need minorities to have a victim narrative so that they can support them and get votes.  There is a lot of money involved for as soon as a group claims to be abused and under threat from violence quangos to "protect" them soon rise up.  The other problem is how the media needs victim stories to sell papers and all sorts of lies about persecution make the headlines.  There is a problem of persecution and sectarianism but it does not justify damning anybody who finds that there are real problems with supporting the group in any sense for it does harm.  No acceptance of Muslims justifies pretending that their God in his holy book does not command or glory in violence.  Nobody has the right to honour and revere such a book and to call it God's word.  It is that simple.  Only educating Muslims can solve the problem for you cannot force anybody to think what they should think.

Atheist Sam Harris has a lot to say about Islam.  He points out, "On the topic of perceived versus genuine grievances, religion plays a decidedly unhelpful role.  For instance, what do you make of the fact that there are more protests in Muslim communities over Israel than over the Islamic State? Even more preposterous is the fact that if a pastor in Florida burns a copy of the Qur’an—or merely threatens to do so—it reliably produces more outrage in dozens of Muslim societies than the atrocities committed daily by Sunnis against Shia ever will."

My comment here is that Sunni Muslims largely do not care that the other Islam, the Shiites, suffers sectarianism despite being essentially the same as them in faith.  That says a lot and raises the question of whether or not religion is just an excuse for a division or an "us not them" view.  Human nature tends towards exclusivity not inclusivity.  Everybody excludes people on some level or some way.  If religion is intrinsically an excuse for division cherry-picking justice will definitely ensue.  Selective justice is in no way acceptable.

If religions have too close of a match with their moral codes and holiness codes and taboos with everything else they feel their identities are blurring and don't matter much.  Every religion needs things that are not really bad in themselves to be turned into its own distinctive outrages and abominations.  Religion and the culture around the religion create taboos and the people come down hard on those who are perceived to violate the taboos.  A Catholic who complains about their own religion and knows its dangerous may still attack somebody from another faith who has no time for Catholic clergy and says so.  The Catholic stands up for the priest not for religious but for cultural reasons.  To rewrite something Harris said, "A religionist will often rally to the cause of co-religionists or perceived co-religionists no matter how bad they are simply for the sake of sharing the same religious label or the same religious culture."

Harris is having a discussion with Nawaz who admits something interesting: "Yes, a peculiar trait of holding certain symbols as sacred and intimately tied to one’s own identity is that they can often become more important than human life. No grievance, real or perceived, is ever seen except through the lens of dogma. Why is it, for example, that an Islamist will not be as moved by an atrocity committed by Muslims against non-Muslims, yet when Sunni Muslims are the perceived victims there is uproar? If we are truly concerned about human rights and injustice, we would be moved equally by all human rights crimes, and would act in a systematic way to deal with them as best we can. So I take the point you just made. What I would add is that dogma is a lens through which grievances are filtered. Another factor worth mentioning at this stage, my second, is the identity crisis. It is very easy, even for non-Islamist Muslims, to become incredibly tribal in their interpretation of the above mentioned grievances. So, along with dogma, tribal identity leads many Muslims to speak out only in defense of “our” people, because that’s the extent of any emotional energy we have. Either lens through which grievances are interpreted—dogma or tribalism—must be addressed head-on. I challenge both..."

My comment is that even if religious people become virtually secular but keep the religious label they can still be sectarian.  It is inherently sectarian and an abuse of religion to care that much about a label. Every religion says people must be true to their own conscience and that means following the religion which to your mind is most likely to be true and caring about truth by default has to make things better to some degree. Is religion an excuse for a label? YES! Even if religion is not an excuse if too many turn it into one then religion is not a good thing.  Knives are not good if knife crime rises to epidemic rates.  Claims that religion is good are bad in themselves for they are about blinding yourself just like you might with the knives.  Claims that religion is neutral and it is what you do with it that is good and bad suggests that religion is harmful in the way something neither good or bad is.  What is neither good or bad is also both good and bad.

Harris says, "In English, the term “fundamentalist” has been inherited from a specific strand of American Christianity. In that context, it means someone who believes in the divine origin and inerrancy of scripture. When we use this term with reference to Islam, we may lead people to believe that mainstream Muslims do not consider the Qur’an to be the literal word of the creator of the universe. I want to ask you about this, because my understanding is that basically all “moderate” Muslims—that is, those who aren’t remotely like Islamists, or even especially conservative, in their social attitudes—are nevertheless fundamentalists by the Christian standard, because they believe the Qur’an to be the literal and inerrant word of God."

All I can say to that is, "Say it again Sam!"  The Muslim who sees his holy book as the actual word of God in wartime will be in a position to consider acting on the violent commands in it.  A moderate Muslim only describes a Muslim who is not faced with that choice.  That is not a moderate Muslim at all.  There is no such thing.  Muhammad and the Qur'an set the objective standard of what makes a Muslim and no imam or scholar or opinion or feeling can alter that.  A moderate Muslim cannot exist- what you have is a slack or ignorant Muslim.

Harris speaks in the book about the "appeal of literalism."  "Human beings reflexively demand it in almost every area of their lives." 

That is a very good point.  It is not just about religion.  The believer needs religion to be simple and will literally take texts as being the same as written by God and their contents as final and clear and simply true.

Harris says, "When you say that no religion is intrinsically peaceful or warlike, and that every scripture must be interpreted, I think you run into problems, because many of these texts aren’t all that elastic. They aren’t susceptible to just any interpretation, and they commit their adherents to specific beliefs and practices. You can’t say, for instance, that Islam recommends eating bacon and drinking alcohol. And even if you could find some way of reading the Qur’an that would permit those things, you can’t say that its central message is that a devout Muslim should consume as much bacon and alcohol as humanly possible. Nor can one say that the central message of Islam is pacifism. (However, one can say that about Jainism. All religions are not the same.) One simply cannot say that the central message of the Qur’an is respect for women as the moral and political equals of men. To the contrary, one can say that under Islam, the central message is that women are second-class citizens and the property of the men in their lives."

People would read their violent scriptures and pretend, "God says the adulteress must be stoned to death" is only saying, "Accompany and help the woman to move her away from this terrible sin."  That is not interpretation but mental disturbance.  If you truly hate violence you will not use such interpretations but admit what is there: the violence.  There is no getting away from violent texts from God - whitewash them or obey them you still harbour something dark inside because of them. 

Calling a religion an excuse for violence is implicitly saying that those who wage violence in its name should get the violent treatment even in self-defence.  That is evil for you are not going to admit that these people are being honest when they say they are just being obedient and trust this God of theirs who uses evil in his good plan.  You go down to their level.

Harris has this to say about the false hope of Islamic reform: "It comes down to our starting point: If one were to assume that a correct, unchanging reading of Islamic scripture never existed and that, from inception to now, it has always been in the spirit of its times, then the reform approach would be the intellectually consistent one. Indeed, we would expect it to be the majority view today. This approach stands in opposition to that of the very organized, vocal, and violent minority that has been shouting everyone else down. If, on the other hand, we start from the premise that the vacuous reading was the original approach to scripture, then the reform view stands little chance of success. There may be no answer here. I don’t think this question has been resolved when it comes to interpreting the US Constitution, or Shakespeare, or indeed any religious scripture."

My comment here is, if texts are hard to interpret there is an interpretation though we may not be sure.  There is a definite interpretation - it is whatever the author meant.  Thus to dumb down violent texts as not meaning what they say means you have to admit, "This is my accepted interpretation. I may be wrong but maybe the violent understanding is the correct one."  You make it about what you want to think.  But it is not about you and you are tacitly claiming to be better than the scripture or the religion.  That is subtle intolerance.  And while you promote this peaceful text somebody is going to think differently and with good reason so you are still to blame if they go and blow themselves up to go to Heaven.  Get it?  When you promote your interpretation it is really and ultimately the text you are promoting.  You are advertising what may be a violent text.  

Nothing changes the fact that the reader of the texts knows fine well the original reading is the one to take seriously.  Otherwise you are doing to the text what you do not do to other texts of the time.  You let their times tell you what they mean.  It is like the word gay meaning something other than homosexual in a hundred years time.  It is like when people in the future see the world in old records and you tell them it means something else.

Then we read about interpreting the Qur'an, "What is said in Arabic and Islamic terminology is: This is nothing but your ijtihad. This is nothing but your interpretation of the texts as a whole. There was a historical debate about whether or not the doors of ijtihad were closed. It concluded that they cannot be closed, because Sunni Muslims have no clergy. Anyone can interpret scripture if she is sufficiently learned in that scripture, which means that even extremists may interpret scripture. The best way to undermine extremists’ insistence that truth is on their side is to argue that theirs is merely one way of looking at things. The only truth is that there is no correct way to interpret scripture."

To this I wish to say that the Qur'an claims to be perfect as it is and so good that men and even paranormal beings such as Jinn cannot produce anything like it.  So why are there so many verses that seem to be disconnected from their context?  Some of these are violent commands.  The only answer that respects Qur'an as the word of God and perfect is to say that the commands do not need a context - the violence is just right.

To allow an interpretation that is not in the text at all is to "radically reduce the stakes and undermine the claim that the Islamists are in possession of God’s words."  It would mean the scripture can mean what you want it to mean and thus it is not a scripture or a revelation or God's word at all.

The assertion that extremists can be undermined by being reminded there are other ways to apply and interpret the texts is bizarre.  To tell a Nazi that genocidal eugenics is one way of thinking about mending the human race is permitting him to liquidate the other races. To tell terrorists not to listen to the killing texts in scripture will not work for it amounts to asking them to think the word of God is not the word of God but just a prop you can bend like putty.

Other subjects include how moderate Muslims treat the fear of Muslims, "Islamophobia", as a bigger problem than literalist Islam.  They worry more about anybody saying jihad means real war than about Muslims doing jihads of their own and killing people.  Harris points out that Islamic State did not hide its evil and sadism and made videos which "have become a highly successful recruiting tool."  That the recruits came from all over the world and from all kinds of backgrounds makes it even more disturbing.

Finally, Islam and its enablers have succeed quite well in destroying tolerance in the name of inclusivity.  The paradox is that Islam is NOT inclusive - a priest will not be allowed to use the Mosque to say Mass in.  It does not allow women to have more than one husband but a man can marry more than one wife.  Serial monogamy is even allowed as well!  No religion can function if it is doctrinally inclusive.  That is to say, it cannot regard heretics as proper members or members even.  Immorality is different.   A religion can embrace sinners for its purpose is to teach them with the doctrine.  So religion may not exclude bad people but it has to exclude the doctrinally aberrant when it knows of their heresy.  Catholicism cannot last if it allows an imam to become pope and teach the Church.

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