Islam: Relax, It’s Just A Religion

On May 20, the article ‘Draw Muhammad Day: Censorship, Sabotage, Threats and Murder‘, elicited hundreds of passionate responses. Some were reasonable and well considered, but, unfortunately, many were not. Charges of racism and ethnocentricity, by Muslims, because people drew pictures of Muhammad, as well as some comments that actually were racist and ethnocentric, littered the comment section.

To charge someone who speaks against Islam with being a racist, or ethnocentric, is the same as considering someone who speaks against Christianity, as anti-white, or anti-American. Both of these religions have adherents from every race, nationality, and ethnicity. Conversely, no ethnicity, race, or nationality, is composed of a population with anything close to 100% agreement on theology, philosophy or ideology. Even in a society claiming 90% Christian or Muslim adherents, within that 90%, the sectarian differences are often as disparate as those between a sect of one religion, and a denomination of the other.

These religions and ideologies, along with their accompanying dogma and political prescriptions, are choices. They are not inherent, or unchangeable, qualities of a being. To claim adherence to a religion is done regardless of ones physical traits, race, or ethnicity; and, to criticize a religion, should be done with the same disregard for those factors. To scrutinize, and criticize, the writings of Muhammad, is no more an attack on Arabic people than criticizing Christianity, or Buddhism, should be misconstrued as an attack against Americans, or the Nepalese.

Even when a country imposes a state religion, it cannot mandate or define the beliefs of every individual that lives within it’s borders; try though it may. The individual retains the power to choose to comply, agree, deny or rebel. It is impossible to legislate, or otherwise demand, the religious, or ideological, conscience of another. People will only believe what they choose to believe.

To assert that Muhammad was a travelling salesman, who created a cult to gain power, and committed heinous crimes against humanity, is simply one individuals interpretation of the available facts, or perhaps, is just their opinion. It is of no real effect to anyone who chooses to believe otherwise, and makes no derogatory statements of anyone based on their particular race, nationality, or ethnicity. Likewise, to assert that Jesus is a constructed figure, based on an anti-establishment socialist, and merged with the astrologically based mythology of Horus, in no way equates to an insult against any nationality, ethnicity, or race.

Religion is not culture. Religion exists within a culture. Insulting a religion is not the same as insulting a culture.

To criticize Islam, or Christianity, is not an indictment, or insult, against an entire culture. A Pakistani person, born, raised, and educated, in Pakistan, who chooses to believe in Christianity, Buddhism, or Hinduism, is just as much a Pakistani person, culturally, as the Pakistani Muslim. Therefore, respectfully using Pakistan as an example, to question the teachings of Islam should not be considered an attack on Pakistan, or the Pakistani culture. Likewise, to argue against Christianity should in no way be considered an insult against Americans.

Faith is not a quality of being. There are many people in the world unable to have faith in what they consider indefensible claims. These people come from every country, race, and ethnicity on the planet. Faith requires the acceptance of something as truth, despite lack of evidence, and in the case of religion, often in the face of contrary evidence. As Mark Twain once said, “Faith is the act of believing what you know ain’t so.” For many people, this proposition is not simply insulting, but impossible.

An individual has the right to objectively consider, analyze, critique, or even disrespect, an idea, or belief. Ideas are advanced through criticism and debate. Progress is born out of conflict, as much as it is out of cooperation. The conflict of ideas, causes the analyses that brings understanding. To deny challenge is to preclude rational discourse and progress.

To be the adherent to a religion such as Christianity, or Islam, and mock the tenets of the other faith based religion, is a feat of mental gymnastics, difficult to comprehend. To be the adherent of either religion, and mock the other, not only on it’s tenets, but based on the ethnicity or race one associates with that religion, displays a form of psychological self-stimulation that benefits nothing.

A religion may be shared by a large group of people, of a certain ethnicity or nationality, yet this does not make it an inherent quality of that ethnicity or religion. A religion may be shared by a large group of people of a certain race, yet this does not make it an inherent quality of that race. Religion is a personal choice. It is not a quality of being.

Draw Muhammad Day was about freedom of speech, and an individuals right to challenge the idea of a god without being threatened, or forced, into compliance with another person’s ideology. It was not about race, ethnicity or nationality. It was about ideas, and the freedom to have them, and express them.

None of us has the right to not be offended. To be offended is to make a personal choice; a subjective judgement. We decide if something offends us. If an idea offends us, we can choose to dismiss it, debate it, counter it, ignore it, or ridicule it. We can not silence it by threatening or harming its proponents.

For someone to criticize Muhammad, or Christ, is not the same as criticizing a person that chooses to have faith in them. One may find it offensive that another criticizes what one cares so much about, but it is very different than someone criticizing an individual, a culture, an ethnic group, or a race.

To be impacted by another person’s new, or differing, idea, is not the same as being impacted by another person’s fist, blade, or bullet. Contradictory ideas, or beliefs, are not assaults against a person and cannot be responded to with violence. Reacting violently to an idea, image, text, or any other medium of peaceful, yet perhaps offensive to some, expression of an idea, is a choice. It is the choice of the person who acted violently, not of the person who expressed an idea that someone else deemed offensive. Violence is not the appropriate response to peace.

To draw Muhammad was not an idea created to insult Muslims, let alone anyone of a certain ethnicity, nationality, or race. The goal was to express support for the rights of free speech, and freedom of expression, regardless of who may be offended. The goal was not to offend. The goal was to make a statement, irrespective of who may choose to be offended by it. To draw Muhammad was a statement by individuals that will not allow their freedom of speech, or their freedom to express and challenge ideas, to be censored, or silenced.

Drawing Muhammad was a peaceful protest against the threats, violence, and murder of those who have expressed their ideas peacefully. A violent reaction to a peaceful expression is not appropriate. A violent reaction to a peaceful protest, about a violent reaction to a peaceful expression, is absolutely ridiculous.

Islam is an idea. It is a theology. It is been used to develop a political system. Islam is not an ethnicity, race or nationality. Islam is a choice. Islam is just a religion.


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