I can’t remember ever seeing anyone explain that they hate fascism but have nothing against individual fascists. However it’s a fairly common distinction made by people talking about Islam – they are keen to distinguish the ideology from the followers. How far is this truly possible or logical?
To me the answer depends on what one means by ‘Islam’. Thinking apostates deserve death is such an evil idea that it seems perverse not to hate those who follow this teaching as well as the idea itself.
However many Muslims don’t believe in any form of hudud punishment. So I agree with the concerns Shiraz Maher expressed here, responding to Tommy Robinson’s latest ‘anti-Islam’ campaign.
One counter-argument you may sometimes hear is that Islam is truly vile but that many Muslims are nice because they are lukewarm or ignorant in the way they follow their faith.
Of course it’s true that many Muslims, like many Christians, fall into one or both of those categories. But this is not the only way in which Muslims can be ‘moderate’. Muslims can be both pious and well-informed, yet still hold secular and broadly liberal views. Usama Hasan is a good example.
A very reasonable concern, voiced by ex-Muslims and others, is that some Islamic apologists try to whitewash the problems out of existence, and thus ignore the very real impact on people’s lives. They refuse to acknowledge the huge problems with some quite plausible/widespread interpretations of Islam, and instead seek to defend their faith from criticism at all cost.
The idea/followers distinction is complex. In a recent discussion on Twitter someone observed that he loved his Catholic grandmother but thought Catholicism was a bad religion. I instinctively found this less problematic than similar statements about hating Islam but not Muslims – here are two possible reasons.
First, Catholicism’s current impact on people’s lives is less extreme than Islam’s. So you can think it’s ‘bad’ – but it’s hardly ISIS. There are serious concerns with regard to women’s reproductive rights – but no Spanish Inquisition. My Twitter contact’s comment was perhaps analogous to a socialist saying he hated Conservatism but liked individual Tories.
(Similarly, it would seem quite possible to thoroughly dislike the hijab, and think it a symbol of patriarchal oppression, without feeling ill will towards individual hijabis.)
Secondly, because of Islam’s flat authority structure it is much harder to pin down what Islam ‘is’ than to define Catholic beliefs.
Earlier this week I posted on the disgraceful treatment Namazie received from Goldsmiths ISOC. As many will have already seen, this prompted surreal solidarity messages from Goldsmiths’ LGBT and feminist societies. Surreal, because the solidarity was for the ISOC not for Namazie.
Goldsmiths ISOC’s treatment of Maryam Namazie was deplorable, but it’s possible to understand why she may sometimes alienate even liberal Muslims who sympathise with the concerns of ex-Muslims and other dissident voices.
Back in 2005, for example, Maryam Namazie referred to ‘a futile and ongoing support for a “moderate” Islam’. This seems a little unfair given the existence of genuinely liberal groups, such as Muslims for Progressive Values and British Muslims for Secular Democracy. Yet it’s true that many Muslims purport to be moderate – but are no such thing. And it’s telling that her statement about the lack of a moderate Islam attracted a ticking off from Bob Pitt who has feted Qaradawi as a ‘reformist’.
You can now see the whole Goldsmiths event online. It puts possible criticisms of Namazie into perspective.
Watch Islamists laugh when Namazie refers to Bangladeshi bloggers being hacked to death. (11.35)
Watch from 14:40 as they try to shout her down.
Watch from 22.30 as she describes how Muslim women and men are amongst those defying Islamism, sometimes losing their lives in the process.
[I’m not quite sure why she seems to be associating multiculturalism with being a neo-con though – 28:50)
Watch one of the thugs switch off the projector in order to impose blasphemy codes (35:20) causing other Muslims in the audience to apologise.
Watch her describing how Muslims are amongst those standing up for ex-Muslims (40)
Finally, Harry Matz has written a great post exposing the utter hypocrisy of some of those involved in the campaign to ostracise Namazie. Do read it.