Inspired by one of Tomndeb’s posts in another thread.
Aaaahh… now THAT is an interesting question, and not just with regard to Rotherham, nor just with regard to Muslims.
Whenever we discuss what we perceive as religious wars, religious conflicts, religious crimes and religious scandals, it’s worth asking several things:
IS religion truly at the heart of the problem?
Are the devoutly religious more likely to be part of the problem than the tepidly or nominally religious?
IF we say religion is at the heart of the problem, why wasn’t the problem a lot worse, say, a century ago, when people were generally far more devout?
Is religion the whole problem? Most of the problem? Incidental to the problem? Convenient shorthand for some OTHER problem that’s not religious in nature?
But these questions are always worth asking, ESPECIALLY when we hear people shaking their heads and saying with sadness and false wisdom,“Those people have hated each other and killed each other for hundreds of years in the name of religion.”
Because a casual glance at real history usually shows that is NOT the case! To take a few examples(including some that are NOT related to Islam):
- Many people (Richard Dawkins, for one) like to point to “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland and observe sagely, 'Catholics and Protestants have been killing each other there for centuries."
Uh, well, no. In fact, hell no.
First, remember that England conquered the Irish when BOTH nations were still Catholic, and Catholic Irishmen didn’t love the Catholic English tyrants who ruled them any more than they loved subsequent Protestant tyrants.
Second, if “The Troubles” were truly religious in nature… why weren’t Catholics setting off bombs in Belfast in 1850, when religious fervor was much higher and the Irish were truly suffering under British rule? Why no Catholic terrorist bombing in 1920, or 1940, or 1960? Why did “The Troubles” begin in the 1970s, long after most of Ireland was free, and long after most Irish Catholics AND Protestants had ceased being particularly religious?
- Many people think that (Orthodox) Serbs, (Catholic) Croatians and Bosnian Muslims have been cutting each others’ throats since time immemorial.
Again, no. My old neighborhood in Queens was filled with Yugoslavian immigrants (enough to require our parish o offer a Croatian Mass each Sunday). When ethnic cleansing and ethnic warfare began in the Balkans, wanna know how my Croatian neighbors reacted? NOT, surprisingly, with anger, but with confusion! Most told me, “We all had Serbian and Muslim friends and neighbors. Sure, there were religious differences, but we all hung out together, drank together, went to each others’ houses and churches, married each other… I don’t understand what the hell happened over there?”
I’m no expert on the Balkans, but history shows that Serbs, Croatians and Muslims generally got along pretty well until the 1990s, by which point all three groups were pretty secular (PJ O’Rourke used to joke that if you wanted to tell the warring sides in the Balkans apart, here’s the secret: The Croatians are the ones who never go to Mass, the Srbs are the ones who never go to Orthodox services, and the Muslims are the ones who, five times a day, DON’T face Mecca and pray).
- TODAY, a huge and disproportionate amount of world terrorism is being committed by Muslims. I myself have been arguing here that it’s foolish and destructive to deny this or to downplay the Islamic nature of much terrorism.
But… anyone who’s tempted to say, “Muslims are animals, they hold all outsiders in contempt, and they’ve always slaughtered non-Muslims, and they’ll never be happy in any society they don’t control” is way off the mark. There are many nations in which Muslims have lived peacefully with non-Muslim neighbors for centuries. TODAY, anti-semitism runs rampant in many Islamic nations, but there have been many periods in history when Jews being oppressed by Christians found safety and acceptance in Islamic nations. TODAY, Muslims commit a huge percentage of the world’s terrorism, but as recently as my childhood in the Sixties, nobody outside Israel worried about Muslim terrorism. Heck, a thousand years ago, did fervently Muslim Arabs stab Jewish passersby on the street for no reason! Of COURSE not!
So, we KNOW that many “religious” conflicts are not ancient but quite recent. We also know that many “religious” conflicts are waged by people who are not particularly observant.
So, despite my many arguments against political correctness, against fudging the truth to spare the feelings of innocent people, against downplaying the role Islam plays in terrorism, I have no trouble seeing and saying that…
There’s nothing organic about Islam that requires violence or terrorism.
Muslims not only CAN get along with infidels, they HAVE and the DO, in most times and places. I’ve worked and socialized with with loads of them, and none has ever tried to convert me, let alone kill me.
The most dangerous Muslims AREN’T necessarily the most religious. They aren’t necessarily religious at all (it’s hilarious how often friends and neighbors will say of a dead Muslim terrorist, “Abdul? But… he wasn’t religious. He NEVER went to the mosque? He was a loser who spent most of his time smoking weed and looking at porn!”). In the same way, many “Catholic” IRA bomb makers haven’t darkened the doorway of a church since they were little kids, and couldn’t remember the words to the Hail Mary if their lives depended on it.
All this is worth remembering when we’re judging any seemingly religious conflict or religious crime from the outside.