May 1, 2011

The Right Kind of Islam

Some of my posts are inspired by hours - even days - of introspection and reflection. Others are sparked by mere seconds of exposure to something interesting. This is one of the latter, prompted by a brief snippet of a discussion on BBC radio I heard this morning.

A Muslim woman was commenting about how someone "practiced the right kind of Islam." Because it was so brief, I don't have any context for this statement. Nevertheless, it stuck with me. Is there a "right kind of Islam?"

Islam

Intuitively, I knew exactly what the speaker was referencing. It is exactly the same sort of thing we've all heard from liberal Christians when they want to distinguish between one of them and their extremist brethren. Someone who practices "the right kind of Christianity" is someone who practices the sort of Christianity with which the speaker agrees.

The Muslim speaker went on to say something about how the person she was referring to practiced a "peaceful Islam." This solidified my interpretation of the previous reference. To the Muslim speaker, there was indeed a "right kind of Islam," and it is a peaceful version (Note: Even the "peaceful" version sounds pretty damn oppressive). But that doesn't make it right, not when it is still based on delusion.

And yet, I suspect we all make distinctions like this woman was making - even those of us who are atheists. I suspect that I'd have far more in common with a politically progressive Christian than I would with a conservative atheist for whom Fox "News" served as a primary source of information about the world. And I could imagine myself saying something like, "Well, at least he or she is the right kind of Christian."

There is not a "right kind" of Islam or a "right kind" of Christianity. However, there are certainly forms of these religions that are more palatable to most of us than their extremist versions. The challenge, of course, is figuring out how much responsibility these more palatable forms should bear for the continued survival of the extremist versions.

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