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How to critique religion without being a racist dick

The left and right both have very different problems with Islam. One is afraid to touch it and the other is too quick on the draw to blame it.

Jamie Kilstein Montreal QC

Social media is where hope goes to die.

I asked a question about the left turning a blind eye to the more radical elements of Islam.

The first response I got was: Hm, think I made a mistake to like your page. Bye.

Rational discourse wins again.

Luckily I asked the same question on my podcast and had an eye-opening conversation with Yasmine Mohammed, an ex-Muslim who was abused by her family and forcefully married off to a terrorist.

Who among us hasn’t been there?

She was willing to have a conversation that balanced left and right wing talking points. She was willing to talk about her painful life experience in order to help other girls. She was willing to concede points that the left had made about over-militarization in the Middle East and racist policies that attack innocent people of colour. She could do this while also attacking the rampant sexism and homophobia we see in parts of the Middle East.

The white trust fund kids, however, the ones who shit on anyone who wants to ask these hard questions, refuse.

I get it. It’s probably cause they are cranky from a long day of co-op shopping and yoga. They are fueled by kale and pretending to have read Noam Chomsky. It’s a hard life to be an online warrior. But hey, being married off to a terrorist is almost as tragic as dealing with the price of organic chia seeds going up. Struggle is struggle is struggle.

I’m a hypocrite. I’ve done the same thing. If I saw something I disagreed with I would usually call you a Nazi instead of digging deeper, then see how many likes I got and call it a day. A hard day’s work in the books! I’m just like a coal miner!

But this time I simply asked a question: Is the left letting the worst aspects of Islam off the hook? I didn’t give my opinion. I didn’t say it as a statement. I wanted to start a conversation. I wanted my followers from the left and right to engage in a polite debate and hopefully find some middle ground.

Instead this person took time out of their day to essentially write, “I won’t look at pages that ask questions where I might not like the answer.” William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal would be proud.

Nobody owes anyone anything, especially on social media. But to take time to make that statement I think sums up where we are as a culture.

We don’t defend our position. We don’t research our opposition. We are told who the enemy is and we either shout them down or take our toys and go home. I wish he had taken that time to defend himself. Maybe I could have learned something.

Luckily because I have thinned out my audience like someone who is allergic to money, there ended up being a really great conversation. Really thoughtful, funny, and well-informed answers from both sides.

Most issues have gray area, but we are so determined to defend our team blindly that we never evolve our positions.

So here is what I learned.

The left and right both have very different problems with the radical fringes of Islam. One is afraid to touch it and the other is too quick on the draw to blame it.

There is legit Islamophobia on the right. We expect every person with brown skin to denounce terrorism every time there is an attack. Yet whenever there is a white shooter, we don’t demand that Kenny G or the guy from Limp Bizkit denounce them. If the shooter is brown he is ISIS, if he is white he is just a lone wolf trying to find himself.

Profiling innocent Muslims, insisting that everyone who prays to Allah wants Sharia law, seeing a Mexican kid and blaming him for 9/11 because you thought he was Muslim, all of these things are clearly very bad.

It doesn’t help anyone but the terrorists who want to paint the entire west as backwards imperialist assholes.

We also need to look at what causes extremism. It might have to do with us bombing the shit out of every country we can’t spell. You can’t have Muslim moderates if you kill all the moderates.

Look at the crime rates in America. It’s often the poorest communities with the highest rates of unemployment where people turn to crime. It’s the same over there. A lot of terrorism is caused by lack of opportunities, desperation and wars. Religion just solidifies it.

And now the problem with the left—a lot of us pretend like radical Islam isn’t tied to some of the most horrific sexism and homophobia that you have ever seen. If you ask me what is more urgent, censoring problematic song lyrics or stopping thousands of girls from getting mutilated in a barbaric ritual that makes the Old Testament read like Shel Silverstein, I’m letting “Baby it’s Cold Outside” off the hook.

We are so privileged in America that there are articles complaining about Pete Buttigieg not being the right kind of gay! Meanwhile, gay people are being fucking tortured and murdered in parts of the Middle East. Guess which side reported actual hate crimes and which side complained that Mayor Pete wasn’t gay enough…

Both sides should be able to call out horrific practices carried out in the name of radical Islam, but also any horrible bigotry being carried out in the name of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

If the left could call out the legit problems with radical Islam maybe the right wouldn’t be so trigger happy going after them. Conversely, if the right didn’t only go after radical Islam, while blindly defending radical Christianity then maybe the left wouldn’t be so hell bent to defend everything radical Islamists do, even when it’s pure fucking evil.

These are not easy conversations to have. This article will get me shit from both sides. But I hope it makes you ask yourself some questions. Examine your why. Read someone you disagree with. Ask someone who has more experience than you. Log off of Twitter and engage in real conversation with real people in the real world.

I promise no matter what side of this argument you fall on you will become more enlightened for it.

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