We have played into the hands of clerical bullying for too long, with every religious group demanding special attention because its feelings are hurt. We, in Western democracies, are quick to ape mewling mothers and suckle them to our breast of quiet platitude, so that they might feast on our milk of tolerance. But tolerance of people does not extend to their ideas and, in what is indeed a great enlightenment value, our toleration has become our own demise.
The tawdry lies and clerical bullying, so long dominating our society, must now cease to hold our lives in their clutches. Whilst the rest of the world would reach for the light of reason, mullahs would usher in a new dark age. They would rather fool themselves with ghosts in the darkness and call it god than banish such shadows into the memories of our species, where it belongs.
Many great modern writers are attempting to find bridging gaps between Islam and modern thought; yet no one sees the double-standards of not doing the same for the ancient Norse, Greek or Sumerian religions. People like Irshad Manji, who wrote The Trouble with Islam Today, and Reza Aslan, the author of No god but God, are attempting just such mental gymnastics. The sinuous undergrowth of tortuous theological pap obscures any form of rationality; it is an undergrowth so mangled, one can almost see these writers bending over backwards to somehow reconcile universal values of happiness and equality with mullah-mindsets of a backward past. Indeed, if their minds were bodies, Manji and Aslan would look like mangled corpses after a tornado.
I do however understand such importance in bridging gaps. People like Manji and Aslan would be those parachute-instructors who gradually raise the bar, allowing the students to slowly reach a greater height and thus not be afraid when told to let go.
I see no such time for small steps, comforting noises and the occasional nod to Islamic history as somehow apropos to its legitimacy now. I would rather we square up and ask a simple question: Is Islam ready for today’s heightened secularism and universal humanism? Is it appropriate for running a society, lives and interactions? Is it really necessary for children to learn the entire Quran to be better people in the future? Is it entirely necessary for average Muslims to develop neuroses over whether its OK to perform simple actions, like touching a dog after praying, with their only solution to write long letters to their local imam?
The answer is NO.
Islam – and all religions – should no longer have a dominating place in this world. They are childish, impromptu explanations of things we knew little about in the infancy of our species. We need to take a stronger stand against the rising tide of dogmatism.
If you don’t believe that clerical bullying, Islamic stupidity (which is the application of Islam to cohere with secular, enlightened values), and blunted minds can effect you, have a look at the recent developements of the UN. If even the largest body of human rights is being poisoned by the mullah-mindsets, what hope do we have?
It will take the actions of ordinary but passionate people to lower the bar of tolerance. Yes, lower. Because we are tolerating too much: We have taken toleration so far that we tolerate ideas and see them as, somehow, “sacred”. But we should not respect ideas. As Johann Hari indicated, we can respect each other so much as human beings that we won’t respect our bad ideas.
Any idea taken too far, from tolerance to equality, can be disastrous. If tolerance is taken too far, we have many religions squaring their shoulders in our tolerant society, demanding that their own rights supersede those of the civil society in which they dwell. If equality and respect are taken too far, we have cultural relativism, and no standards by which to judge whether genital mutilation on Muslim girls is just “another view of happiness”. We can not impose if that is what brings their families happiness, that is simply arrogant. But, that view too is extreme and extremely wrong! If we don’t work in absolutes, then even the notion of “there are no absolutes” (i.e.: the premise of cultural relativism) becomes bizarre, since it is an absolute statement. As Karl Popper said: “a theory that explains everything, explains nothing.”
We need to have some notion of right, wrong, happiness. And the idea that everyone should be treated equally, without regard to race, creed, culture or country and judged according to this blindness of human attributes, is so far the best form of governance we have. That does not make it perfect or right. But all counterarguments and ideas thrown against it, have withered under the light of reason.
Yes, we might be wrong. But so far we haven’t been. Equality and respect for people work: equality and respect for their ideas does not. Muslims need to understand this. They do not need to respect it but certainly they need to point out how their ideas – treating women like cattle, preventing the stunning of animals so that more pain is caused and therefore they can perform their Bronze-Aged ritual, and so on – is better than the current standards of science and secularism.
They will and do find it does not. That is why they must kill and threaten to make their points; they understand that the Quran does not hold up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and created their own (governed of course by the rather bizarre shari’ah).
Life is incredibly beautiful. We need to grasp it and remove it from the hands of gods, mullahs and others who claim to have a hot-line to god. Like puppets with all these millions of strings tethered to shifting celestial fingers, if we severe them, we can see the beauty of the sky, the horizon and the endless wonder of human existence.
We require no permission to do this. It is our right as human beings. We will be bullied no more into thinking and respecting. Ideas are won by their strength alone and not the impacts of bullets and the loudness of voices. Once we all learn that, we can be stronger in our defence of reason against the mullah-minds and Islamist-insanity quivering in the shadows of ancient gods.