Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Islamophilia by Douglas Murray

It seems to me that there are two types of opinions floating around on Islam: the haters and the slavish adoration. This book attacks the slavish adoration but doesn't veer into hater territory.

Let me state up front: this book is not attacking Islam. It's attacking the uncritical adoration of Islam by non-Muslims. The premise of the book is that society has become too uncritical because of "the combination of the desire to be nice with the knowing of very little."

Most of the book deals with how people bend-over backwards not to be critical of Islam (while being critical of everything else), but my favourite quote comes at the end of the book. It says:

"But we do not need to keep handling Islam with kid gloves. If people are ever all going to be genuinely equal and genuinely integrated it will be when the playing field is genuinely level - tilted neither one way nor the other. That includes hearing things you don't like hearing, having to defend things you don't like defending and discovering for yourself - at some point along the way - that societies in which even your deepest beliefs and feelings can be questioned and trodden upon are the only societies worth living in."

To me, I think everything is fair game for reasoned criticism. Not the "You're wrong and anyone who thinks like you is stupid" comments that are all too common, but comments that say "hold on, I don't understand this" or "wait a minute, I'm not sure I agree with this interpretation/this intent." There are lots of ways that you can disagree with something and not hate it.

And yes, when I say everything, I mean everything. Even Christianity should have to be scrutinised. The Bible does say to love the Lord your God with all your hearts, with all your soul and all your mind after all. I believe Christianity can stand up to the scrutiny.

So when we rush to coddle anything, we're not being nice, we're being rude. We're telling a whole religion that "I don't think you can take even a bit of criticism, so I'll treat you like a baby." That's just rude. I believe that everyone should be treated as an adult - with respect.

There are parts of the books I do disagree with though - For one thing, I think that after a terrorist attack, there's nothing wrong with politicians stressing that this not how all Muslims think. For me, that's less of bending backwards and more of trying to calm down an understandably nervous population. And another, I don't think there's anything wrong with a General responding to allegations of the Koran being desecrated - of course, he should do the same for the Bible, for the Veda, for any book that is held sacred by its respective religion.

On the whole though, this book does a good job at pointing out at what the author calls Islamophilia.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for a free and honest review.

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