There’s a lot of upsetting stuff online about Islam and Muslims. The other day I was with my family trying to find out if Target carried any halal meat brands like Open Nature. Try Googling “target halal meat” and imagine how you’d feel as an American who happens to be Muslim.
Today I read a comment on a badly titled BBC article. The commenter made Islamophobic remarks. Muslims engaged with him (always a mistake). But this guy claimed to know that his hateful words were facts because he “read the Quran.”
Here’s my response.
I begin by expressing my disappointment at the BBC: shame on the BBC for using such a sensationalist title as this to gain a few more clicks and engagements for a recent article: Saudi Arabia launches girls’ council - without any girls.
I encountered this article in my Facebook newsfeed earlier today. I couldn’t help but notice that it had garnered over seven thousand comments. I began to scan them. I wasn’t surprised to find that people were reacting to the title of the article without having read it. I wasn’t surprised that there were a lot of Islamophobic comments. What did surprise me, however, was one commenter’s insistence on his authority over all things Islam because he had “read the Quran”. After having read it, his finding about Islam was that it’s “a garbage religion”.
It’s not the sentiment that bothers me - I, like many Muslims, have grown used to the unceasing stream of vitriol directed at Islam, Muslims, our scripture, and our prophet. What got to me was the audacity of this individual. This white man who claims to hate Islam (”and all religions” - a Bill-Maher-like cop out to hide behind when all of his actual derision is singularly pointed at Islam). How did he arrive at this conclusion? He claims to have read the Quran and now believes himself qualified to cast judgement on a whole religion, all of its followers, and all of the scholarship from, within, and about this tradition.
I wrote a rather long comment on the article in response to the BBC’s disappointing, but typical, treatment of a sensitive and complex matter, and to everyone who left Islamophobic messages with one person in particular in mind. I’d like to share the bulk of my post (I’ve added spacing and sub-headings for readability and added a couple points) because it applies to anyone who hates Islam:
...shame on the hateful people who wrote terrible, bigoted comments about Islam and Muslims without reading the article. The council is composed of and led by women.
We Can’t Reduce Complexity to Absurd Simplicity
If you hate something, keep it to yourself. Talk to a therapist. Don’t fool yourself into thinking Islam is fair game - hate is hate and it’s always wrong. Equating Islam, a religion, with ISIS, a terrorist organization that targets Muslims more than any other group, and everything it does is offensive and simply, factually wrong. It’s entirely incoherent, actually. It’s as absurd as saying “the KKK is Christianity” or “the Lord’s Army is Christianity” or “colonialism is Christianity”, “slavery is Christianity”, “the holocaust is Christianity”, etc. People’s claims to a faith tradition are not sufficient grounds for validation - all claims must be verified and ISIS’s claims to Islam do not check out. Every Islamic council, jurist, judge, and scholar, and Imam I’ve ever encountered has denounced ISIS’s actions as against Islam and abominable.
If you find yourself saying you “hate Islam” and/or Muslims, and trying to justify that hate by claiming Islam is a “political ideology” or “an idea” rather than a religion, not only are you dramatically and emphatically wrong on all accounts, but you’re also reconstituting the exact same arguments that were used to dehumanize and then abuse and kill other minority groups in the past. Everything you’re saying about Islam and/or Muslims, literally everything, was said about Jews and Black people in the recent past. That hate was used to fuel and justify slavery and the holocaust. Europeans also attempted a genocide on Albanian Muslims in the 90s. What do you want to happen when you say these nasty things about Islam and Muslims?
You can’t possibly think that you’re right about Islam, can you? Of course you’re wrong. You have to know that deep down inside.
Islam is a 14-centuries-old religion with 1.7 billion adherents and is the majority faith of over 57 countries (out of some 160), with significant populations in 92 countries. It’s also the fastest growing religion. It’s legal traditions and writings fill thousands of libraries and the pages of millions of books. The founders of the US based the system of precedence in our law on Islamic legal tradition. A stone bust of the Prophet Muhammad sits in the US Supreme Court building to honor him for being a great lawgiver.
You read the Quran? Which one? How many commentaries did you read with it? From which of the 77 [or more] schools of thought? Which contextualizing compendia of history did you read with them? Which of the top tier programs in Islamic Studies at Harvard, Oxford, Georgetown, and Cambridge did you earn your Ph.D.(s) in?
I know the answer to all of these questions is none. I know because of your naive, callow, foolish, insulting, inept, reductionist, entirely uninformed and feckless remarks.
Reading the Quran Does Not An Expert on Islam Make
Reading the Quran is not even comparable to learning the first letter of the vast alphabet of Islamic learning.
If you think it makes you a scholar, be aware that you, in fact, know less than nothing because you think you know a great deal. That’s a bit of Socratic logic - maybe something else you should read before engaging in the discourses on Islamic studies is The Republic.
You think you can talk derisively about a faith with such arrogant authority and unwarranted animosity because you read a translation of scripture? Not only do you possess no authority on the text or the tradition, but you are nothing more than a bully. A shallow, heartless bully. You don’t care that your insipid words lead to innocent loved ones being killed. That - unlike the vacuous, specious accusations you sling at Islam and Muslims - is a fact. You degrade others and put Muslims into an impossible double bind the same way that ISIS does. For ISIS, there are either Muslims who join them or there are Muslims who are inauthentic. Their argument is transparently self-serving and has no basis in any Islamic tradition. You anti-Muslim internet bullies, like the professional network of paid Islamophobic extortionists, operate on the same illogic: Muslims are either part of ISIS or they’re lying. A “moderate Muslim” is a secular one who doesn’t practice the faith and renounces the scripture and the law.
Less than 1/1000th of 1% of Muslims ever get involved in militarism. Given the history of the (Re)conquista, the Inquisition, the Crusades, colonization, and the Global War on Terror, which has itself killed 1.3 million innocent civilians, it would be a wonder how more Muslims aren’t militants. But it is not a wonder. It is not because, if you knew the first thing about Islam, which you don’t, you’d credit Muslims’ incredible faith for their perseverance and commitment to peace in the face of relentless, savage, demoralizing violence and hatred from charlatans and trolls like you, not to mention belligerent and pernicious foreign policies that increasingly resort to violence rather than work through diplomatic channels and other non-violent means to influence and incentivize.
You Read the Quran and You Think you Know Everything About Islam and Muslims?
The fact is you don’t know anything about either. You’re pathetic. Your hate consumes and blinds you.
Have some humility. Show some respect. You could read about the Islamic tradition for a hundred lifetimes and you wouldn’t be a fraction of the way through.
And even if you read every word, you still wouldn’t have enough information to begin to understand what is happening in the world today. Think about that.
If I were you, I’d apologize, and then I’d shut up and start reading.