By Andrew L. Urban.
In these tumultuous times of intense, fanatical religious fervour on the part of extremist Muslims, we in Australia have been publicly debating if and how to show respect to their faith (holus bolus) in public speech when admonishing or analysing terrorist actions, especially by politicians and other authority figures. That it was of such voluminous public comment in the lead up to Christmas (2015) is an irony only history can underline for emphasis.
But as I contemplated our newly decorated little token Christmas tree, sitting in our living room under a cuckoo clock, it reminded me that I was looking at a symbol which even I – an atheist – accept and celebrate. While I do not believe in the existence of god, any god, and I am rather antipathetic to organised religions, all religions, the basic tenets of what that man we know as Jesus – whose birth Christmas celebrates – taught his disciples and followers are pretty much aligned with my personal moral codes. None more so than the single, all embracing commendation to ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’.
The Prophet Mohammed is not automatically and universally identified with similarly positive, humanitarian sentiments.
And so it was that my thoughts turned to the hot topic of the day: we must speak of Islam with respect. Respect the religion of the Muslims. Don’t say things that may suggest disrespect … and so on. The motive of these admonitions, from the Prime Minister sideways and down, was explained as a need to avoid offending Muslims as a whole, thus endangering the intelligence gathering process where some Australian Muslims are being helpful. And to avoid inflaming some Muslims into violence. And also to stop giving verbal ammunition to terrorists who can use such disrespectful utterances as recruiting tools, whipping up the hate of ignorant youth of their faith against non-believers. And because the religion of Islam deserves the same respect as do all religions. I beg to differ.
I look at our Christmas tree and contemplate how the Judeo-Christian culture of the West is built (despite some terrible past deviations) on those teachings of tolerance and love that Jesus was so keen to nurture in people. We can all celebrate Christmas, and respect the faith built on ‘love thy neighbour’ that it represents. Its central icons are the dove of peace, the crown of thorns on the heart symbol of love and the suffering figure on a crucifix, who died for the love of mankind (as the scriptures tell us). He even forgave those who crucified him.
By contrast, Islamic culture is built on not turning the other cheek but slashing it, of beheading those who do not surrender to Islam, not praying for their conversion; instead of forgiveness, it is the sword of righteous retribution that drives the faith.
It is an obnoxious culture that seeks world domination by the sword. Why are we expected to respect an Islam that strives for our destruction?
Islam’s unforgiveable subjugation of women is enough to demonstrate the absence of humanity at its core. All religions are man made, but not all religions are so overbearingly and violently misogynistic.
What’s to respect?
The fundamental (as it were) difference between these two belief systems is as vast as the difference between peace and war, love and hate, dignity and corrosion.
Respect for a religion cannot be morally blind; we cannot be expected to respect a moral code that is immoral in our view.
Respect cannot be genuine if the recipient is morally un-respect-able; respect for a religion can only be justifiably extended if the religion connects with the notions of human decency that propel an enlightened and tolerant world. We don’t respect the version of Christianity that brought forth the inquisition, for example. Nor do we expect our leaders to urge respect for religions that are nothing but manipulative cults, some of whose members have had to flee for their lives, as another example.
It is the irony of ironies that the religion of Islam demand respect when it is only because Islam is tolerated amongst non-Muslim nations that its adherents are able to so demand.
What about the claim that security agencies will find it harder to harness the help of the Muslim community if the media carries critical commentary on Islam? What does that say about those Muslims who would withdraw their help? Aren’t they providing their assistance because they agree that terrorism must be extinguished? Are they not those Muslims we call moderates, who abhor the violence unleashed by the monster within Islam? They, we can and do respect. I don’t think our leaders have given them enough credit.