A couple of days ago, I wrote a blog on the stupidity of trying to outlaw Islam. I don't know if anybody noticed, but I received a couple of comments from the guy who created the site/petition that I was making fun of (on my Blogspot, not MySpace). Do check it out: http://lancecjohnson.blogspot.com/2008/03/dumb-on-variety-of-levels.html.
As you can see, all he's doing is providing more out-of-context quotes to support that Islam is a dangerous "way of life" and shouldn't be viewed solely as a religion. Okay, great. That wasn't exactly my point though. I was commenting on how completely impossible it would be to outlaw a religion. Whether I agree with his assertion regarding the faith itself is immaterial to my point.
But what about Islam? Is it a violent, dangerous religion? Is it a religion of peace? I think that questions like that are too narrow in their approach for me to simply give a yes or a no to them. I'm going to say that it's neither, and that the question is almost irrelevant.
Obviously, Islam as a faith is going through some serious problems right now. Not only that, but I think that there is a danger of us, in the interest of not repeating the mistakes of the past, coddling the extremists that are out there. For instance, there wasn't a sufficient dialogue, from what I saw, regarding the explosive reaction to the Danish cartoons that mocked Mohammed. Sure, the Muslims who wanted to protest the cartoon have every right to do that, but many of them were far more extreme in their reaction beyond a simple protest. It needs to be made clear to them that if they want to be part of a free society, then they are going to have to deal with the fact that they are going to be offended from time to time - just like the rest of us. If they want to continue to react in this way, then they cannot blame the rest of the world for viewing them as being fanatical barbarians.
I'm not going to get into the whole terrorism thing, because honestly, what can I say that hasn't already been said and would come off as blatantly obvious? Yeah, terrorism is bad. So was Hitler - how many ways you can say it? Let's just take that as an obvious problem within the Islamic community and move on from there.
The thing is, and I notice a lot of conservatives cringe when I mention this, is that if we're going to evaluate Islam as a faith, then we have to look at the entire history of it. After all, the question is about Islam itself - not "Islam today". That's another story entirely. If you're going to ask that question, then you don't get to pretend that it's some new religion. It's been around for over a thousand years, and all that must be considered. From what I can tell, the Muslims were no better or no worse than any other imperialists. Certainly, they imposed their will on others, but if they were really all about conversion or the sword, then why is Spain (amongst other places) still Catholic?
Don't get me wrong. I'm not calling them the good guys of history. I just don't see them as being any worse than the Christian imperalists. After all, there were a good many people who were killed because they didn't want to become Christians, just as there were a lot of Christians who were killed because they weren't the "right" kinds of Christians. Looking at it through the perspective of history, it seems as though any religion can be twisted by fanatics into becoming a tool of hatred and oppression. (Even the Buddhists aren't innocent of this.)
This, of course, doesn't solve what's going on right now. But the fact remains that the vast majority of Muslims out there are just regular people who are trying to live a peaceful existence. You just don't hear about them as often because "Muslim man takes his daughter out for ice cream" doesn't exactly make the most gripping headline, does it? I imagine that they don't feel any more of a connection with the terrorists that you see on TV than the average Christian has with somebody who blew up a Planned Parenthood building.
I realize now that I'm not entirely sure where I'm going with this. I guess what I'm saying is that to me, Islam is a faith just like any other. I personally don't think that the whole notion of faith is necessarily even a good thing, as I don't think it's wise to "just believe." I have no problem with the average Muslim. Shoot, I lived in Iran as a small child for sixteen months, and I was surrounded by Muslims - all of which were pretty nice to me. I've had Muslim friends. I have Muslim students. They seem to be as good or bad as anybody else.
What frightens me is fanaticism. It's true that the Christian fanatics aren't doing as much damage and harm as the Muslim fanatics are nowadays, but I know enough history to know that it could just as easily be the other way around. After all, the reasons that Jerry Falwell pointed to that caused 9/11 didn't sound much different than the reasons that Osama bin Laden pointed out.
I realize that this issue is far too broad to cover in a single blog. I could do a whole one just on comparing the Bible and the Koran. I could do another comparing the histories of both. I could even compare Jesus to Mohammed. Maybe I'll get around to that one day, but I think that I somehow managed to make a point there.