Let me say something right off the bat.
It’s not racist or inappropriate to criticize Islam.
This fact should be obvious, I think. But it still surprises me how many otherwise-rational people can completely miss the point here.
Islam is not a person. Islam is not a genetic sequence people are born with. Islam, like every other religion, is a set of ideas, and a person can choose to adhere to those ideas or not.
The thing about ideas is, some ideas can be good. Some can be stupid. Very stupid. And some can be bad. Terribly bad.
If an idea is bad, then it’s bad. Bad ideas must be criticized. And it does no good to afford the set to which that idea belongs any special privileges or exemptions from criticism, especially when that set itself contains so many bad ideas.
Example. A man writes a book. A book. And some people who adhere to a particular set of ideals found this book offensive. A few of these demanded that the author be killed for his insulting ideas.
That’s one telltale sign of a bad idea: death threats being made on people who disagree with it.
I’m referring, of course, to the Salman Rushdie affair and the ensuing fatwa that was issued on Rushdie’s life. Many people try to point out that the ayatollah’s position was a fringe one, and did not represent the views of all Muslims. Of course there’s no evidence to support such a claim, but even if it’s true, that doesn’t make these death threats inconsistent with Islam.
I’m writing this in reaction to a fascinating article I read in Reason magazine a while ago about the late poet Allen Ginsberg, and an experience he had in a New York taxicab during the Salman Rushdie incident.
Soon after news of the fatwa broke, Ginsberg and his assistant climbed into the back seat of a taxi in Manhattan. After a glance at the cab driver’s name, Ginsberg politely inquired if he was a Muslim. When the cabbie replied that he was, Ginsberg asked him what he thought about the death sentence on Rushdie. The cabbie answered that he thought that Rushdie’s book was disrespectful of Islam, and that the Ayatollah had every right to do what he had done. At this point, according to his assistant, Ginsberg, one of the gentlest men ever to walk the planet, flew into a rage, screaming at the cabbie as he continued to drive, “Then I shit on your religion! Do you hear me? I shit on Islam! I shit on Muhammad! Do you hear? I shit on Muhammad!” Ginsberg demanded that the cabbie pull over. The cabbie complied, and, without paying the fare, Ginsberg and his assistant climbed out. He was still screaming at the cabbie as the car drove off.
Fuck. Now that’s what I call chrome-plated balls.
Coarse. Crude. Offensive. Poignant. Necessary. All of those things are true of Ginsberg’s little outburst.
It’s sad that America refuses to learn from the past and continues to buckle under the pressure placed on our culture by Muslim assholes with delicate sensibilities. And I do use the phrase “Muslim assholes” unabashedly. See, as the author of the Reason article points out, neither of these terms by themselves are responsible for the culture of submission and forced silence that’s become commonplace when we talk about Islam. There are Muslims who aren’t assholes. There are assholes who aren’t Muslims. But both these terms are equally complicit in the acts perpetrated by such people.
And, again, we are not talking about some easily-discounted fringe position here. We’re talking about something that millions of people believe.
I am sick and tired of a completely unsubstantiated set of ideas being given a free ride from criticism, just because its critics are threatened into silence by its followers. And so I’m going to take a page out of Allen Ginsberg’s book.
If millions of people believe that Islam justifies death threats on a man for writing a book, then I shit on their religion.
If millions of followers of Islam believe that no one (non-Muslims included) should be permitted to draw a picture of the prophet Muhammad, then I shit on their prophet.
If Islam says it is okay to stone women for fornicating, marry off children as young as nine, and slaughter thousands of “infidels,” then I, too, shit on Islam.
Mark Goldblatt says it best:
Since 2001, many Americans have asked how they can contribute in a direct way to the war against totalitarian Islam. Now we have an answer. If it’s legal, and likely to offend the radicals, just do it. That seems straightforward enough. But how many of us will have the nerve to stand up to a million or so Muslim dirtbags, and to scores of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of their fellow travelers and psychic enablers, and say in unison, “You want to kill the Enlightenment, you’re going to have to come through me.”
And if anyone plans on selling “I shit on Islam” t-shirts, save me an adult size small.