Lest this be perceived as what my detractors might call “Islamophobic,” let me state at the outset that my mother is of Syrian ancestry, so I have an abiding interest in that predominately Muslim country. Let me also be clear that I have nothing against Muslim people – my Muslim colleagues are some of the best people I know. I don’t see Muslims as a monolith, nor do I think all Muslims support violence in the name of their religion.
My issue is that it has become dangerous in America – and career-suicide, if you are an academic – to say anything even remotely critical of Islam, even though Islamic terrorists have killed thousands of innocent Americans, and even though Islamist terror plots (thankfully foiled due to U.S. intelligence agencies) have sought to kill even more. Given this context, one might expect that Americans would welcome thoughtful discussions about why there are so many terrorist attacks in the name of Islam. Yet, in American universities, if you say anything critical of Islam, the dominant liberal extremists automatically label you “Islamophobic” or “racist” (strange, because Islam is not a race). The end goal is to completely shut down any critique – no matter how respectful, civil, or rational – of Islam.
Study after study has documented a decline of respect for freedom of speech in Western democracies. According to a study by Pew Research Forum, 4 in 10 millennials think that it is acceptable to limit free speech offensive to minorities. Because Muslims are a minority in America, does that mean that one is not allowed to say anything that is critical of their religion?
This is the road we are going down in America. And the silencing of speech is worse for our northern neighbors. In Canada, Federal Liberals support Motion 103, tabled by Liberal MP Iqra Khalid, which calls on the government to condemn Islamophobia” and study the best ways to quell an “increasing public climate of hate and fear.” This motion has sparked divisions among Conservatives and raised the ire of those who argue its adoption could have a chilling effect on free speech. I strongly disagree with this motion, and I strongly oppose all efforts to prevent others from any critique of Islam because they find their speech “offensive.” This happens all the time on college campuses. Students frequently cancel speakers just because they don’t agree with their views.
One of the cornerstones of Western civilization is the right to freedom of expression, even – and especially – if it offends. Yet liberal extremists only accept free expression if it agrees with their ideology, and they are increasingly using violence to silence other viewpoints, as illustrated by the recent liberal extremists who used violence against Trump supporters at UC-Berkeley and at New York University. The liberal bias in academia has been well documented and has become so extreme that academics have begun considering strategies to increase viewpoint diversity on campuses nationwide.
While liberal extremists have thankfully not yet killed anyone, their tactics in silencing speech that they disagree with bear more than a passing resemblance to Islamic extremists who have protested – and killed people – for publishing cartoons in Denmark and Paris they felt were “insulting.” Yet, every single day, throughout the world, people write terrible things about Jesus, including that he was a “gay prostitute” – yet how many offended Christians attacked the offices of The Onion and killed the people who wrote that article?
Liberal extremists launch a common counter-argument against anyone who ventures concern about Islamic terrorism. They will tell you that all religions have terrorists, and that there are Christian terrorists. When asked what they mean by this, they will most likely tell you about how Christian anti-abortion activists have killed doctors who performed abortions. Of course, any violence against anyone should always be condemned. But how many people have been killed by Christian anti-abortion terrorists? According to the National Abortion Federation, there have been 11 murders due to anti-abortion violence, in history. In contrast 28,328 people were killed by Islamic terrorists, in 2015. Oh, but my detractors will say, there is a lot of terrorism by right-wing groups. Yet, the research indicates that right-wing extremists do not kill more than Islamic terrorists.
Of course, most Muslims are never going to hurt anyone because of their faith. But this does not negate the need for conversations about what will happen to Western civilization if the West allows mass migration from Islamic countries. Shockingly, even to state that there are differences between Islamic civilization and Western civilization – which Muslims themselves have discussed at length – often causes one to be viciously attacked by liberal extremists. Thinking critically about Islam and its relationship to the West has nothing to do with hating Muslims and everything to do with having an honest conversation about whether devout Muslims want to be ruled under Western legal structures. We must understand if Muslims want to assimilate into the West – or if they will change the West in ways that will make it not Western. Although liberal extremists often despise their own civilization, it cannot be denied that there is a body of values, codified in laws, that we live under, that can be called Western civilization, and there are certain aspects of this civilization that are different from those of Islamic civilization. Most of us who live in Western countries believe that our civilization – in spite of its flaws – is worth maintaining, protecting, and defending.
Our civilization will die if we do not defend it.
Here are some questions that need to asked and answered about Islam and Western countries – questions that deserve – and, in fact, necessitate – nuanced dialogue:
• If liberals care about minorities, then why aren’t they demanding that Muslim-majority countries allow Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and atheist immigration? Why aren’t they demanding that Muslim-majority countries reform their political systems to accommodate religious minorities?
• What percentage of Muslims prefer to live under Sharia law? Studies show that the overwhelming majority of Muslims throughout the world prefer to be governed under Sharia law: 84% of South Asian Muslims, 77% of Southeast Asian Muslims, 74% of Middle Eastern and North African Muslims, and 64% of Sub-Saharan African Muslims. The only exception is Muslims from two regions – 18% of Southern-Eastern European Muslims and 12% of Central Asian Muslims prefer Sharia law.
• Given that the majority of Muslims in the world prefer to be governed under Shaira law, what is entailed in Sharia law? This legal system is terrible for women, as Women Living Under Muslims Laws have documented. We could also consider the testimonies of many Muslims who have left the faith – at risk to their lives – and who have bravely come out with critiques of Islam. Ayaan Hirisi Ali is an excellent example, and there are many more.
• Is Sharia law compatible with Western legal systems? Issam Michael Saliba – the recognized expert on Islamic law and the laws of Middle Eastern and North African countries at the Law Library of Congress – observes that there are some elements of Sharia law that are incompatible with Western legal systems. For example, in Western legal systems, solemnized marital relationships with more than one partner at a time are prohibited and entail criminal liability, while non-solemnized sexual relations are not subject to any legal restrictions. Under Sharia law, the opposite is true. A husband is permitted to have solemnized sexual relationships with up to four wives at the same time, while any non-solemnized sexual relations would subject him to severe criminal punishment. Additional provisions of Sharia law are difficult to reconcile with Western concepts of personal freedom and equality between the sexes. A husband, for example, has the right to discipline his wife, prevent her from leaving the house without his permission, and divorce her at will.
• Since, as Saliba’s analysis shows, Sharia law is not compatible with the values of progressive liberals – specifically the liberal allowance of premarital sex, abortion, gay marriage, and transgender rights – then why are progressive liberals forming alliances with Muslims?
• Of the Muslims who wish to come to the United States, what percentage will accept the U.S. Constitution as the law of the land? Which percentage will advocate to be ruled under Sharia law? Muslims across the West have already successfully advocated for the implementation of Sharia courts. Is this a situation we would like to have in the United States? If people have a right to defend the values of their Islamic civilization, then so too do people have a right to defend the values of their Western civilization.
These critically important questions must be asked and answered, but honest conversations about Islam cannot be held when people who have nothing against Islam or Muslim people are being attacked, demonized, and silence by the charge of “Islamophobia.”