(1) Islam means peace. (2) It’s not religion, it’s culture.
We hear it all too frequently.
Even whilst the buildings and the corpses are still smouldering from a terrorist attack, a friendly moderate Muslim, or a moderately friendly Muslim (which in either case usually just means a reasonably clean-shaven male in a suit, sans hook, who has received some elementary media training so that he doesn’t shout all of the time) reminds us – ignorant, uneducated, decadent, imperialist, capitalist infidels that we are – that Islam means ‘peace’.
So that settles it, does it? No, of course it doesn’t. As I mentioned here, if you feel threatened by a rabid Staffordshire bull terrier, seeing Flossy on its nametag does not relieve your stress. It merely increases it, by mocking you.
Rather than the tired old (and inaccurate) ‘religion of peace’, a more faithful description of Islam might be, ‘the religion that demands total respect in unison with total lack of criticism’. This dysfunctional, unhealthy trait is one we generally associate with murderous dictators and tyrannical regimes.
It is noteworthy that some Muslims are perfectly happy with the literalism of ‘Islam means peace,’ using considerable endeavours to remind us of this at every available opportunity (doth they protest too much, perhaps?).
Strangely, though, the same individuals often do not adopt such a literal approach when cross-examined on the violence and intolerance espoused in the Koran whenever it demonstrates, on any normal interpretation, an intent which is everything other than peaceful.
At this point the infidel is usually subjected to an immediate counter-attack of asymmetric wordplay as the natural meaning of a Koranic passage is eloquently and subtly – yet grotesquely and blatantly – contorted to give explicitly murderous theology a veneer that is benign or, what is worse, merciful and virtuous.
I call this wildly fluctuating use of the literal and the non-literal, ‘having your sheikh and eating it’. And because one pun is never enough how about, ‘facts on, facts off’.
Another ploy, often used when disarming an infidel who has the temerity to question or even discuss Sharia law, is a tangential discussion of whether something has a religious or merely cultural basis.
For example, the infidel might be told that a certain practice under criticism does not have an explicit mandate in the Koran, or even in the Hadith (Mo’s scrapbook, basically), and that it’s ‘just a cultural thing’.
Clearly, regardless of the merits of these arguments (to the extent such arguments can ever be capable of having merit, given the generously pliable nature of theology and culture), the manifest harms of attempting to anonymise and dehumanise half of humanity via a squalid legal system like Sharia law cannot be justified on the basis of mere religion or culture anyway. And if it has no connection with their beloved religion, removing the danger of divine retribution, why can’t they bring themselves to condemn the barbarity, or at least not get so offended at the charge of barbarity being levelled?
The tangent is a highly useful sideshow for the quarrelsome Islamist: attention is sucked away from the fundamental issues at hand – morality, rights of the individual, coercion – and the vacuum is instantly filled with something which can almost pass for intellectual theological discourse.
I call this chronic inability and/or unwillingness to focus on the salient points of the discussion, ‘religious and cultural diversion’.