Here’s an interesting account of someone’s experiment wearing a veil which covered her hair, and the shift in attitudes she experienced when people assumed she was a Muslim. It’s a troubling tale of prejudice and discompassion.
Here’s a clip of Sam Harris, one of my heroes, talking about Islam, asserting among other things that Osama bin Laden’s interpretation of the religion is an entirely reasonable one.
Does one of them have to be wrong?
No, they really, really don’t.
Holding two distinct ideas in your head isn’t always a sign of cognitive dissonance. They have to be directly conflicting for that to be the case; otherwise it’s just a matter of appreciating nuance and complexity. Hell, sometimes it’s no more complicated than understanding basic object permanence, which most humans get the hang of by the age of 12 months.
Islam is a dangerous religion which lends itself to murderous fanaticism. Its primary text advocates theocracy, murder, and slavery, and millions of its adherents use their faith to justify numerous barbaric, primitive, morally indefensible behaviours.
And yet, at the same time as all that being true, you should simultaneously not act like a douchebag to a woman you don’t know who’s wearing a veil to cover her hair.
I mean, who does that anyway? Deciding you know all about someone and how they deserve to be treated with less respect based on your assessment of the way they look? Well, I guess a lot of people do. No doubt I do too, to some extent, but I at least make an effort to watch out for it.
Knowing some facts about Islam is not the same thing as being racist (or rather, prejudiced against individuals because of your generalisations about their religion – I don’t think we have as snappy a word for that, though). Nor does it inevitably lead to it. Islam is shit, but people still deserve to be treated like people, at least, until they actually do something which proves them no longer worthy of that courtesy. And then a bit further than that, too.
If you’re going to say anything especially damning about the religion, it’s worth taking the time to clarify that you’re not seeking to disparage all individuals who follow it, because some people will still misunderstand you even then. Criticism of ideas can often look like bigotry and prejudice, particularly to people who aren’t really paying attention, and never in the history of our species has there been a shortage of those.
But these things can still be said, and sometimes it’s important that they are.
Am I repeating myself tiresomely yet? Hate all religion, love all the people. Same old story.