by Chauncey Tinker – 13 Nov 2018
There’s a very significant divide between those in the political arena who say that Islam must be fundamentally opposed and those who feel that it’s only the “radicals” and “extremists” (the people often referred to as “Islamists“) that we need to be concerned about.
This divide was starkly apparent when Avi Yemini interviewed Nigel Farage about a month ago. It was a brief interview (only 4 minutes long) because Nigel became a little bit annoyed with the line of questioning and cut it short. Avi was asking Nigel about his views on Islam:
Is Nigel Farage Really That SCARED Of Islam?
In the interview Nigel argues against those who are opposing Islam politically and he makes the distinction between what he calls Islam and Islamism (@0:20):
We have a massive problem, right across the West, with Islamism
The vast majority of Muslims living in Western countries are settled, are integrating, then you find the ghettos where they’re not even learning English
I don’t want to dwell here on the question of what Nigel really thinks about Islam. It could be that he is merely making a political calculation, perhaps he thinks that opposing Islam is simply not a good idea strategically as it may be a vote loser (in fact he practically says as much in this interview), but that’s not what interests me here.
What I do want to focus on is Nigel’s implied argument that Christianity is just as bad as Islam in some respects and therefore by implication that we can’t condemn the Islamic religion in a fundamental way because of (what he calls) our Judeo-Christian heritage:
Avi: “Islam itself the ideology, is it compatible with Western values?”
Nigel: “Is the Old Testament compatible with Western values?”
To counter this Avi makes a comparison between the examples of the central characters in the 2 religions, Jesus and Mohammed. I would label this argument the “character of religions” argument, and I think it is a strong argument because the two religions are really not comparable at all thanks to the stark contrast between those two examples.
Finally Nigel ends the interview abruptly by saying:
“Then you would say that every Christian hates all homosexuals, thank you.”
Those who are fans of logical debate can spot that there is a fallacy in Nigel’s argument, as I understand it this is an example of a Tu Quoque fallacy (an “appeal to hypocrisy”) or something similar, the argument is that it’s hypocritical to criticize Islam because Christianity is just as bad. However, if Christianity really is just as bad then we should be opposing Christianity as well, this argument wouldn’t let Islam off the hook even if it was founded on truth.
Unfortunately we don’t live in a very logical world, and to many people this fallacious argument seems to have merit. I find it frustrating that I keep having to defend Christianity when I’m not even a Christian, and yet time and time again I find myself doing just that. Perhaps we should be more critical of Christianity in fact (there are problematic aspects for sure), but as Avi points out no Christians today are attacking people in the name of their religion, and surely Mohammed’s violent example is far more deserving of criticism.
Another key part of Nigel’s viewpoint is the idea that religions can incite violence without falling foul of the law because religions are not supposed to be interpreted literally. Try telling that to the hundreds of thousands of Pakistani Muslims who are currently out on the streets baying for Asia Bibi’s blood however, there clearly are a lot of people who think that their religion is supposed to be taken very literally indeed, even now in the 21st century.
It may be that Nigel is correct in that perhaps a majority of Muslims in the UK and the West in general are relatively moderate in their views compared with those who take the religion more literally. This idea is somewhat challenged however by the fact that a majority of Muslims in the UK today apparently think that homosexuality should be illegal, although I suppose that this is not as extreme as the point of view of the Islamic State who have thrown homosexuals to their deaths from the tops of tall buildings.
Another fact that creates a problem for Nigel’s point of view is that Muslim attitudes in the West seem to have become significantly more “conservative” over time. This is evidenced for example in the increasing sight of Muslim women in the UK wearing not only the hijab but also the much more extreme niqab and even the burqa in some instances. This seems to be part of a worldwide trend as well, turn the clock back to the 60s and you could see women even in Iran and Afghanistan wearing Western clothes and letting their hair flow freely, unencumbered by head coverings of any kind. The death penalty for blasphemy was only introduced into the legal system in Pakistan relatively recently as another example. Asia Bibi was the FIRST woman to be sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan’s history, and the sentence was passed in 2010. The question then is not just where we are today, but where we are heading, and how far this trend will go. To just blithely assume that this trend will not continue both worldwide AND in the West is surely the very height of irresponsibility.
To summarize then I see two unavoidable problems with Nigel’s point of view –
Finally I want to respond to another comment that Nigel made in the interview (@1:16):
If this descends into a battle of hatreds, history teaches us that the ending will be very bad indeed.
This may be true, but history also teaches us that appeasing those who wish to impose their beliefs on others by means of violence and intimidation tends to also end very badly indeed. It is precisely because so many Muslims today are prepared to use violence and intimidation to propagate their belief system that we should oppose Islam, frightening though it may be to do so. Failing to oppose the intimidation will merely embolden the “extremists” or “Islamists” (aka orthodox Muslims) and the consequences will be much worse in the long run.
What do you think? Please leave a comment below.