To criticize a religion is to critique its followers

Religion, like any belief or proposition, is just words without those to enact it. To say that one can criticize an idea without criticizing those who execute this idea is nonsensical.

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Leviticus 20:13 explicitly demands that he who sleeps with another man is to be put to death. From this, am I to criticize Christianity for its violence as Kort Driessen, the author of a recent opinion piece on Islamophobia, has demanded we do of Islam? I think not.

Few doctrines are free of such statements—those which demand the deaths of the religiously dissident. Islam is no exception. I wish to say explicitly, before moving further, that my argument is not to say that “These books say it, too. Where is the equality?” This only propagates pointless quarreling and deepens tensions. I only want to reconcile these statements with the fact that religion is peaceful, by showing how all religions can and have done so.

Religion is a personal, self-administered guide to life—this is the very definition of Sharia. Unfortunately, this word has been molested into something evil for those who, for whatever reason, want to believe Islam is a dangerous practice.

Like how Christians hold the view “hate the sin, love the sinner," Muslims, through scripture and teachings, are encouraged to love all lives. Even in times of war, Muslims are ordered to protect prisoners, escort them to safety and set them free where they can flourish again. However, I am not going to lecture on commandments, nor say that these points are enough to refute the accusations raised against Islam.

This author has insisted that we criticize Islam but not its followers. This is absurd. Religion, like any belief or proposition, is just words without those to enact it. To say that one can criticize an idea without criticizing those who execute this idea is nonsensical. I make this point not to make this conflict personal for Muslims and earn them a false sense of entitlement from attack, but rather to show the importance and inevitability of personal interpretation of faith.

The seeming contradictions in all religions regarding matters of violence (and others) go to show that a book alone teaches nothing. It may emphasize certain values, but can never expressly and sufficiently compel one to act in certain contexts, lest they live an absurd life praying for forgiveness for following orders. Islam might be taught as it is written, but this does not make a Muslim—a Muslim is one who draws on the values of teaching and governs their own life from the virtues expressed. This is not to say that there are none who believe themselves Muslims and kill non-believers. ISIS and other evils who deny the personality of faith are a symptom of that. The majority of Muslims (including scholars, leaders and historical figures like the Prophet himself, as evidenced through his teachings) would agree that these individuals have Islam wrong.

Millions of Muslims have read the Qu’ran and yet have not waged war on non-Muslims. How can this author reconcile this fact? I think he cannot, hence his contradictory claim that we only criticize the religion and not its followers.

The truth of the matter is that no religion can overpower the love one feels for their fellow beings—in fact, Islam encourages it. It is wretched experience that breeds violence, not words read in a book handed down from elders. One does with their faith what they will. Growing up in a Muslim family and community and spending time in Egypt, I know Muslims so dedicated that they never enter the bathroom with the right foot forward and never enter any other room with the left (this is a small and old Islamic teaching most Muslims do not even know of). This is their choice. Never have these people attacked others (even other Muslims who are more liberal) for breaking the moral codes they set for themselves, and never have they denied service to anyone (even those they consider most sinful) in need.

Religion will help those of reason guide their own lives—existence alone guides their actions toward others, and the 21st century has helped all faiths draw less from violent passages and encourage and acceptance still fully in compliance with their scriptures.

Society is perhaps the greatest experience which guides people to develop their faith, and society is not religion, but people. Intolerance of all forms of one’s faith, as this author has expressed in his article, is more likely to incite violence in Muslims than the Qu’ran and only empowers the issues it pretends to address. Only when an idea is fully understood can it be called into judgment and this author has shown a significant ignorance of the true nature of Islam and how its ideas come to fruition.

Adam El-Meanawy is an undergraduate student at UW-Madison majoring in biochemistry and philosophy. Do you think it's possible to criticize a religion without critiquing its followers? Send all comments or questions to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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