The liberal love affair with Islam is perplexing. While liberals tend to hate traditional Christianity for its more socially conservative worldview, they insist on vigorously defending Islam and its adherents. From Jon Stewart’s moralizing, to Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg’s outrage at Bill O’Reilly, to President Obama’s recent droning about the “spirit of tolerance” in the Indonesian Constitution (in spite of Indonesia’s laws prohibiting speech offensive to Islam), we are forever sermonized that there is a gulf between Islamist extremism and the “vast majority” of normal Muslims, whom we would apparently love to have as neighbors and run into at Whole Foods.
Well, I contend that we would not want to run into a lot of Muslims at Whole Foods. True, we probably wouldn’t mind running into most American Muslims, who don’t go for certain more widespread interpretations of Sharia law. But it remains true that huge swathes of the Islamic world hold views and have enacted legal regimes that would shock the average American, and which ought to shock liberals and media elites far more than, say, Roman Catholicism does. And it’s not like this is a “false” Islam, while the more peaceful, American interpretations are “true” Islam. Unlike Catholicism, there is no central magisterial authority in Islam; its nature is determined by how different schools interpret Sharia law and the Koran, and large numbers of Muslims interpret them in a fundamentalist, bizarre fashion.
Liberals deride Christianity and Catholicism in particular for its strict approach towards sexuality, claiming that prohibitions against abortion, contraception, homosexual sex, and premarital sex are simply oppressive forms of prudish patriarchy. But Islam is every bit as traditional on these matters; indeed, Muslim nations are the best allies the Vatican has at the U.N. in fighting against funding for third-world family planning initiatives. You can’t reasonably deride one while accepting the other.
Furthermore, Islam goes way beyond Christianity by embracing doctrines that actually are oppressive, demeaning to women, and tyrannical. Throughout the Middle East, there is widespread acceptance of polygamy, of giving adolescent girls in marriage, of female genital mutilation, of harsh criminal sanctions against fornication and homosexuality (a capital offense in some countries), all of which is done in accordance with interpretations of Sharia law that are accepted by significant percentages of the Muslim world. While liberals rightly revile American polygamists, they fail to acknowledge that every major Muslim country (with the exception of Turkey and a few smaller countries) legally provides for this disgusting practice.
(I always find it odd that liberals get outraged at polygamists — it’s the only sexual sin they still acknowledge between of-age, consenting individuals. Homosexual unions can be “marriage,” but not polygamous ones? Since when do liberals care about a strict limitation on the definition of “marriage?” Ultimately, I think it’s because homosexuals vote Democrat and drive Priuses, and polygamists don’t.)
Further, let’s look at how Islam treats religious and other minorities. In Darfur, Sudan, black Africans are being killed in a race- and religion-fueled vendetta of violence by Muslim militias, which have slaughtered more than 200,000 people. In Armenia, tens of thousands of Armenian Christians were slaughtered by the Turkish government at the turn of the 20th century; the Turkish government still won’t even acknowledge that the genocide happened. Sharia makes all sorts of provisions that non-Muslims in Muslim lands have to pay higher taxes and be subject to oppressive policies.
In another example of persecution of religious minorities, Islamist terrorist attacks have devastated the Christian community in Iraq, which has shrunk to half its pre-war population after fleeing from terrorism directed against them. On October 31st, terrorists attacked the Syrian Catholic cathedral in Baghdad, killing some 50 worshippers. The media, presumably concerned about campaigns of violence against minorities, responded with 464 stories mentioning the attack in the last month, according to a Google News search.
However, they seemed to be focused more on a supposed campaign of oppression against homosexuals in America, as evidenced by the 1,100 stories in the last month reporting on the death of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers student who committed suicide two months ago after his roommate posted a video of him having homosexual relations on YouTube.
Now, I certainly mourn this young man’s death, and I think that this invasion of his privacy was despicable and wrong. However, according to this study and others, American homosexuals experience hate crimes at nearly the same level as do Americans of Jewish origin, perhaps at a slightly lesser rate. I acknowledge that many homosexuals experience unfair discrimination and some are the object of violence and hate; this kind of intolerance is wrong and hurtful. But there hasn’t been a campaign of terrorist bombings in gay neighborhoods that forces half of them to leave the country in fear for their lives. That scenario is taking place for Christians in Iraq, and the media seems completely uninterested in it. For some reason, a hatred possibly stemming from the residue of historically negative Christian attitudes towards homosexuality is a bigger issue for the American media than actual Muslim hatred for Christians.
So yes, I think Islam is perverse, weird, and evil in many of its broadly accepted interpretations worldwide. The media elite would look a lot less stupid if they would actually acknowledge the fact, and quit chasing after Christian bogeymen.
John Gerardi is a student at Notre Dame Law School. He writes on topics relating to religion and society.