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Criticism of Islam is not equal to intolerance, Madam Editor

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Fri Feb 20, 2015

Editor: In an interview aired recently in SVGTV’s Evening News, one member of the local Muslim community called on Vincentians to investigate the religion of Islam. This is a fair and reasonable request, as persons who speak on any matter should do so based on well researched facts.{{more}}

Unfortunately, a problem arises for some persons when research is done and the unpalatable, but factual findings are presented for public consideration. Muslims and their sympathizers tend to quickly brand the advocates of truth using taboos like “intolerance” and “fanatics.” These taboos distract from the facts presented and are sometimes deliberately used to hide the horrors of a religion from the public’s eye.

When a newspaper’s editor seems to take the position that recent exposures of the evils of Islam are examples of religious intolerance, we have reason to be concerned. In last Friday’s SEARCHLIGHT’s editorial, called ‘Religious intolerance should not be encouraged in our midst,’ the editor suggested that a backlash against Islam and its followers is “rearing its ugly head” in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The editor said that the backlash is “manifesting itself in religious intolerance and prejudice against local Muslims.”

What exactly is that editorial referring to as ‘religious intolerance and prejudice against local Muslims’? Is the SEARCHLIGHT aware of any acts done to local Muslims to prevent them from practising their religion lawfully, as they pay homage to Allah and his messenger? That, I submit, will be intolerance – a serious violation of the Muslim’s religious liberty rights. To simply criticize the religion, however, regardless of how strongly the criticisms are, should not attract such erroneous branding.

The editor seems to think that Vincentians are to accept the “truth” about Islam from the local devotees to this religion. The editorial stated: “…local Muslims are trying to put the truth before us, but are we listening?” Clearly, this editor thinks that Vincentians are not listening to the local Muslims’ explanations. However, Vincentians should not merely listen, but should do so critically. For example, while the locals claim that Mohammad is a prophet, a critical listener will research who Mohammad was and the life he lived. A critically thinking Vincentian will not accept “the truth” about Islam without proper enquiry.

We need to also understand that strong criticism of a religion (or any other aspect of human activity) is not equal to intolerance towards its adherents. To brand critics of Islam as ” “Christian religious fanatics” and “prejudiced” is quite extreme. If after presenting solid research, a Christian encourages persons to accept Christianity and to reject Islam, how is that equal to rejecting Muslims? Rejecting a person’s views is not the same as rejecting a person or being intolerant towards him. When a person takes the Quran and the Hadith (Muslim’s holy books), shows violence-inciting verses and points out the contradictions of local Muslims, how is that person denying the Muslim the right to hold his religious views? People criticize political views, economic theories, etc. Will the editor brand these critics as “fanatic” or “intolerant”? These are all realms of human activity. Religion is no exception. In fact, critical analysis of religious doctrines is important to help to curb many of the atrocities done in the name of religion.

Madam Editor rightly stated that “slave-traders and slave-owners falsely use Christianity to justify their evil deeds.” We also remember well what happened in the the Dark Ages. The Papacy, uniting with kings, murdered millions (whom they called ‘heretics’) for rejecting the religion of the popes. However, when we carefully read the Bible and examine the life of Jesus Christ, we can easily see that those murderers had no biblical support whatsoever for their crimes against humanity. Can we say the same when we study the Quran and the life of Muhammad?

The local Muslims ought to know that not everyone would be naïve and sympathetic to their religion. I would not be fooled by any ‘smoothing-up’ of the religion by local followers and I ask Vincentians, including the editor of the SEARCHLIGHT, to take a more informed and critical stance. The press does the society well when it encourages that kind of critical analysis. Through investigative journalism and pressing people to give an account for their position, it would help to prevent a sponge-like mentality. It would take the citizens beyond the surface and deepen critical thinking among our people. However, if it tends to equate constructive and vigorous criticism to intolerance, then it may eventually stifle free speech in the name of tolerance.

Ann-Marie Ballantyne

svgpatriot@hotmail.com

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