The recent Jihadist attack on the Charlie Hebdo office in France exposes three ways that Islam is broken and two ways that denial makes it worse.
Here are the three revealed ways that Islam is broken:
- First, Islam tends to build triumphalist utopian expectations that it cannot meet. Those attackers were likely at least partly driven by frustrations over unmet expectations. They were acting to correct a situation that they thought should have been different, and their religion inspired them.
- Second, Islam often manifests itself in attempts to impose standards of Sharia law on non-Muslim populations. That the majority of Muslims think Sharia standards should be spread peacefully, doesn't stop a violent minority from being a problem for Islam.
- Third, Islam often fails to help followers process cultural diversity in civil ways. Secular caricatures of religious books, prophets, and symbols offend me too, but I don't rampage over cartoons and holy-book ashes as millions of Muslims do world wide. Jesus lived at a time and place of great cultural diversity. Rome had colonized Jesus' Hebrew homeland, and it was being overrun by Syrians and Greeks. Muslims should learn to emulate Jesus rather than Muhammad when dealing with cultural insults.
And here are the two ways that denial makes the situation worse:
- First, the narrative that Islam itself is not the problem is actually part of the problem. It undermines incentive for Muslims to take responsibility and fix their own religion. And ultimately, only Muslims themselves can fix it.
- Second, it leads non-Muslims to deeper fear of Muslims. Everybody knows that something is wrong. Terrorism in the name of Islam inspires – well – terror! If Islam itself is not to be feared, then the next logical thing to fear is Muslim people themselves. Fearing Muslims rather than the oppressive ideological system that traps them makes it more difficult to hold Islam accountable. That difficulty arrises because holding Islam accountable might offend Muslims. If non-Muslims are more afraid of Muslims than they are of Islam, then they'll be more afraid of offending Muslims than they will be of overlooking the problems in Islam. The denial narrative starts a spiral that ironically intensifies the very fear it's expected to alleviate.
Current events reveal that Islam is broken. Its expressions are broken in at least three ways. They are often utopian, intolerant, and uncivil. Only Muslims can fix these broken expressions. Rhetoric that Islam is benign undermines incentive to fix the problems. And that rhetoric of denial actually intensifies the fear of Muslims it's intended to reduce. If Islam can't be fixed, then Muslims need to abandon Islam.