Islam and Liberalism, friends or foes?

Given what one can find in the news and on social media, many progressive minded individuals are under the impression that Islam is a forward-thinking and tolerant religion, or at the very least, no more of a social ill than any other.

Many of them consistently reject the possibility of any link between the religion of Islam and misogyny, terrorism, bigotry against homosexuals, and so on. Anyone who argues the existence of such a link is often shouted down as a bigot, a racist, or an islamophobe, as if one is a moral monster merely for criticizing this set of ideas. 

Now, surely, there is bigotry and discrimination against Muslims as people. Muslims are not a monolith, and to negatively generalize them or mistreat them just because they are Muslim is well-deserving of social condemnation. All people should be judged and treated as individuals, to do otherwise is illiberal and, in the author’s view, immoral.

Importantly, it is worth pointing out that the progressives are correct, to a certain extent. There are an enormous amount of Muslims who believe in all the things Western culture holds dear, such as freedom of speech and religion, democracy, women’s rights, etc. These individuals are arguably more liberal in their beliefs and character than many of their far-right critics, and the difference between them and the average Westerner are so small as to be irrelevant.

With these qualifications in mind, it is also important to note that the left-wing, politically correct understanding of Islam as a religion of peace of which only a handful of extremists are a part of is nothing more than (presumably unintentional) misinformation.

Surely, there are varying interpretations of the religion of Islam, and surely there are less than one percent of Muslims worldwide actually go so far as to pick up and AK-47 and start executing religious minorities. But the sheer number of Muslims worldwide that hold extremist and illiberal beliefs is quite staggering, and this arguably gives us some insight as to inherent nature of the religion itself.

Consider this, an analysis of Pew Research showed that in the Muslim countries of Egypt, Jordan; Afghanistan, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Algeria, and Malaysia, 50% or more of the total resident population are in favor or strong favor of the death penalty for Muslims who renounce their religion.

88 percent in Egypt and 73 percent in Pakistan support death for apostates. That means that, as noted by David French, “From these [two] countries alone, there are more than 200 million Muslims who support capital punishment for basic free speech and freedom of conscience.”

Muslim countries are also much more likely to have laws restricting freedom of religion. According to Pew Research, “laws restricting apostasy and blasphemy are most common in the Middle East and North Africa, where 18 of the region’s 20 countries (90%) criminalize blasphemy and 14 (70%) criminalize apostasy. While apostasy laws exist in only two other regions of the world – Asia-Pacific and sub-Saharan Africa – blasphemy laws can be found in all regions, including Europe (in 16% of countries) and the Americas (29%).”

Additionally, using data from the ‘World Values Survey‘ scholars from UC, Irvene found that Muslims consistently held more ‘patriarchal’ beliefs than non-Muslims. The authors conclude that, “The tendency of Muslims to support patriarchal values more strongly than Non-Muslims of the same category is a remarkably robust tendency.” Scholars from Sogang University and Innsbruck University also report that:

“…although some praiseworthy Muslim publics in some countries around the globe are less inclined than their non-Muslim counterparts to accept male domestic violence against women, our evaluation of the “World Values Survey” data shows that more than a third and, in some countries, more than half of the entire Muslim population accepts male domestic violence against women (India; Thailand; Iraq; Rwanda; Mali; Egypt; Bahrain; Algeria; Lebanon; Ghana; Burkina Faso; Philippines; Malaysia; Nigeria; Russia; Singapore; Uzbekistan; Kuwait; Palestinian Territories; Germany; Yemen; Kazakhstan; Kyrgyzstan; Morocco; and China).”

Even in a developed country like Britain, “more than half of Muslims (52%) think homosexuality should not be legal, and nearly half (47%) think it is not appropriate for gay people to teach in schools,” according to CNN reporting on survey data.

In short, this is not some infinitely small tiny minority of Muslims who hold extremist beliefs. Rather, considerable portions of Muslim populations around the world support what could only be described as radically illiberal beliefs, and to an extent not found among adherents of other major religions.

Though one can not say definitively, these realities suggest that the source material of the religion of Islam, namely the Quran and the Hadith, are regressive by nature. If so, the spread of Islam may very well be detrimental rather than beneficial to the preservation of liberalism.



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