September 29, 2014

Liberals Giving Islam a Pass

English: Bill Maher attending a ceremony to re...
Bill Maher attending a ceremony to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What is it called when we routinely criticize one group of people for objectionable behavior while virtually ignoring the same behavior when committed by another group? Perhaps there is a more precise name for this sort of thing, but the one that most readily springs to mind for me is hypocrisy.

Yes, we usually think of hypocrisy as condemning someone else for doing what we ourselves are doing (e.g., "It's okay when we do it!"). But condemning the behavior of one group while giving another a pass for doing the same thing - or even worse things - certainly strikes me as hypocritical. At the very least, it is the sort of thing we should seek to avoid.

Bill Maher (HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher) recently scolded liberals for giving Islam a pass on all sorts of human rights violations. I think he's right that this is a problem, and it is one of a handful of things that has come to irk me about my fellow liberals. Yes, I am still a liberal. And no, that does not mean I have found it necessary to drink the kool-aid that prevents me from thinking critically about liberalism and its more problematic aspects. I suppose one could say that I'm a freethinker before I'm a liberal.

Michael Stone (Progressive Secular Humanist) summarized the issue well in a recent post by saying:
It is no secret that liberals are often happy to point out the moral and intellectual failures of Christianity while remaining suspiciously silent on the moral and intellectual failures of Islam.
He's right. Many liberals seem so terrified at the prospect of being called racist (Islam is not a race) or culturally insensitive (Islam is not a culture) that they are far too reluctant to criticize Islam. For some reason, being called intolerant of religion is okay, as long as the accusations come from Christians. But if similar criticism is encountered from Muslims, suddenly that is perceived as problematic.

I suspect that this boils down to the reluctance many liberals have to acknowledge that some aspects of some cultures are actually better than others. Multiculturalism says we aren't supposed to do this. It smacks of cultural superiority, and that makes us nervous. We have witnessed too many attempts by one culture to impose its will on another. I get that. And yet, we liberals seem to have no reservations about heaping scorn and criticism upon Christian fundamentalists. It is good that we can do that because it is certainly warranted. But we are making a mistake by giving Islam a pass.

Maher noted:
...cultures are different. It’s OK to judge that rule of law isn’t just different than theocracy, it’s better. If you don’t see that, you’re either a religious fanatic or a masochist, but one thing you are certainly not is a liberal.
If the Republican war on women is a problem, how is female genital mutilation not an even bigger problem? If the theocratic striving by Christian fundamentalists are a problem, how are entirely theocratic societies in the Muslim world okay? If the manner in which LGBT persons are treated by conservative Christians is unacceptable, how can we turn a blind eye to how conservative Muslims treat them? If we are quick to outrage when a conservative pundit says something we find offensive, why are we not offended by the persistently appalling statements regularly made by prominent Muslims (e.g., death threats, condoning honor killings, physical abuse, etc.)? Why are we so willing to ignore the serious atrocities perpetrated by Muslims?

This isn't about "Dear Muslima" at all. We do not need to conclude that the behavior of Christian extremists should be ignored while we focus only on Islam. That isn't the point here. The fact that Islam is a problem does not mean that the plight of women living in thoroughly Christian societies is any less important. This also isn't about us declaring cultural superiority and setting out to impose our will on others through military force.

This is about being fair and consistent in our criticism. We are right to point out the many problems with Christianity; we are right to do the same with Islam. This is about standing up for our values. Turning a blind eye because of our indoctrination in multiculturalism is a mistake.
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