A Non-Muslim Answers Questions from Muslims

Why is anti-Muslim rhetoric increasing?🔗

Any rise in anti-Muslim sentiment can be understood as exasperation at the failure of moderate Muslims to distinguish and distance themselves from the militants. In the case of ISIS, as with every other militant Islamic group, the best the moderates have been able to do is to claim it is a criminal gang misusing Islam, or worse, is not Islamic at all. Both assertions are contradicted by the evidence, which only increases the suspicion non-Muslims have toward Muslims in general. Indeed, if these claims are true, why aren't vast Muslim armies pouring into ISIS territories to confront these deviant villains who pervert the peaceful teachings of Islam and dishonor its prophet, especially since most of their victims are Muslims? Of the individual Muslims who have travelled to ISIS territories, all have gone to fight for ISIS, none have gone to fight against it. That starkly illustrates both the compelling Islamic nature of the conflict, and the absence of a compelling Islamic counter-narrative.

But ISIS is a criminal gang misusing Islam!🔗

You claim that what they're doing is against Islam. They say the opposite, offer authentic scriptural support, and declare that Muslims who disagree are hypocrites or apostates. Who should we believe? Should we believe the legions of Muslims who are willing to fight to the death for their beliefs, or you?

You should believe the billion-plus Muslims who are moderate and peaceful.🔗

Peaceful Muslims are doing effectively nothing to disabuse their violent co-religionists of their supposedly corrupt interpretation of Islam. Don't the moderates believe Allah will protect or reward them while they correct those who so ostentatiously profane Muhammad and his religion? Isn't that the most important thing they should be doing? Instead, they spend their time and energy insisting to the benign that Islam is peaceful. At best, that evinces a lack of conviction in their interpretation of Islam and a lack of trust in Allah. "Surely He is more deserving of your fear, if you are true believers."

Muslims are doing this! Many have died fighting ISIS.🔗

No Muslim has travelled to ISIS territories in order to convince its followers that Islam is peaceful. Many, however, spend inexhaustible energy trying to convince non-Muslims. The Muslims who do fight ISIS rely on the same violent scriptures that ISIS uses to justify its own fighting. Moreover, the motivating force is either nationalism or the banal internecine Sunni-Shia accusations of heresy and apostasy meriting death and retaliation, not a peaceful interpretation of scripture. The Sunni-Shia schism itself is the epitome of intractable violence over irreconcilable differences within the faith.

Indeed, if ISIS was violating Islamic law, we would have expected Muslim authorities to be leading the effort to arrest and convict its members and supporters, and punish them under that law.

A civil war within Islam has waxed and waned since its inception. Peaceful Muslims ignore or excuse the violence committed against other Muslims by their brethren. Some Westerners embrace this attitude because it can be used as a cudgel against other Westerners who criticize Islam.

By their actions the militants are violating many verses in the Quran that teach peace and tolerance.🔗

The same claim can be applied to moderate Muslims who, by their inaction, are violating many verses in the Quran that command violence and intolerance.

All Muslims cannot be held responsible for the actions of a tiny minority of extremists.🔗

Identifying as Muslim is voluntary. Unlike traits such as nationality or skin color, people willingly choose to adhere to the religion. Those who do, in the face of horrific violence and chaos perpetrated by fellow Muslims in the name of the faith, have a moral and ethical responsibility to take action against their co-religionists.

After the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing in the US, militia membership plunged. Despite the fact that the crime was perpetrated by a tiny minority of extremists, the negative perception of militias caused many to dissociate themselves from these groups.

We're in the midst of an ideological guerrilla war. Distinguishing combatants from non-combatants is virtually impossible when the non-combatants refuse to distinguish themselves from the combatants.

Islamic militancy has forced the West to restrict freedom of speech and implement pervasive and onerous security and surveillance systems at enormous expense. Money that could have benefited humanity has instead been spent to protect and defend it from violent Muslims.

Moderate Muslims had many years to get serious about dealing with this problem; clearly they have no intention of actually doing so. Instead, they spend most of their time and energy wringing their hands about or inveighing against "Islamophobia". Islam, like any religion, is not congenital; it's a collection of ideas and beliefs held in the mind. The moderates and the militants alike boast of fealty to Islam. The fact that moderates defend their faith not by doing something about those who supposedly hijack it, but by complaining about those who suggest they should, speaks volumes about the faith and its adherents.

ISIS has nothing to do with Islam, so lecturing them about the true, peaceful Islam is pointless.🔗

Every ISIS member — 100% — identifies as Muslim; no other religion is represented. ISIS espouses a legitimate interpretation of Islam, owing to the abundant support for its positions both in the Quran and in the words and deeds of its founder. To say ISIS isn't Islamic is tantamount to saying Muhammad wasn't Islamic, because they're emulating him. The Quran itself exhorts Muslims to revere Muhammad as the model Muslim. On this matter, there are no qualifiers, no exceptions, no context. The claim that ISIS is taking Islam out of context acknowledges that Muhammad engaged in atrocious behavior, but implies the situation he faced justified it. ISIS says the situation today is the same and they're simply doing what Muhammad would do.

Islam is being used by these groups to achieve political objectives. It's about power and control, not religion.🔗

Islam makes no distinction between politics and religion, that's a Western dichotomy. Certainly ISIS and every other militant Islamic group voice grievances that sound political, but the basis is religious. To garner support among fellow Muslims, they paint the West as antagonistic towards Islam, oppressors, occupiers, immoral, and corrupt, and cite any action or reaction by the West as evidence. These arguments resonate with Muslims because it's the same method Muhammad used to gain followers. If ISIS is only about power and control and not religion, then so was Muhammad.

The dominant religion of a society can be blamed not only if it incites conflict and disunity, but also if it fails to remedy it. In neither case is the religion beneficial to society.

Islam rejects all forms of violence and it's invalid to say otherwise.🔗

Muhammad engaged in violence, so violence cannot be categorically wrong according to Islam. To argue otherwise is to imply that Muhammad was wrong. Thus, the only room for debate is whether the justification Muhammad claimed for his violence applies today. Many Muslims say it does. You must direct your arguments at them.

Those who disagree are not true Muslims.🔗

They say they are. What are you doing about it? Words followed by inaction ring hollow.

It is a lie to say Muhammad was violent. If he was it was only in self defense.🔗

Islamic scripture recounts many violent acts committed or sanctioned by Muhammad. To characterize his killings, surprise raids, and caravan attacks as defensive is an exercise in self-deception.

Muhammad killed people only defensively, because they attacked, betrayed, or threatened the Muslims.🔗

The Quran says, without qualification, that Muhammad is an excellent example to follow, which gives Muslims today license to commit violence if they perceive themselves to be threatened or under attack. Muhammad employed violence in many situations that he deemed defensive, affording wide latitude to Muslims throughout history to cast their violence similarly.

It seems the creator of the Quran couldn't foresee the consequences of declaring Muhammad a role model and having him engage in violence.

Debating the ideology of ISIS only serves to legitimize them.🔗

In polls, hundreds of millions of Muslims believe ISIS has at least some degree of Islamic legitimacy. Ignoring this imperils all of us.

The Quran must be read in the original Arabic to properly understand its true meaning of peace and tolerance.🔗

Plenty of Muslims who are literate in Arabic believe the texts command violence and are eager to proclaim it. What cannot be explained is why the creator of the universe would author its final, perfect message in a way that requires extensive study to understand that the intended meaning is often the opposite of the literal meaning.

ISIS members are psychopaths who use religion as an excuse for violence.🔗

The essence of the problem is that Islam offers divine sanction for violent psycopathy. One can speak endlessly about how the religion teaches tolerance and peace, but that doesn't refute the fact that the religion also teaches hatred and violence. Some people said that serial killer Ted Bundy was charming and kind, but that does nothing to deny his murderous acts.

You don't cite any Islamic scripture to support your claim.🔗

That would only serve to waste your time and distract you from focusing your outrage at the many militant Islamic groups, including ISIS and its followers, who do cite the Quran and the example of Muhammad in postings and publications. That's where you should direct your convincing refutations.

If Islam was a violent religion, why are so many Muslim societies peaceful? The murder rate is far less than the U.S.🔗

First, most Muslim societies have authoritarian governments which suppress much of the violent imperatives of the religion.

Second, Muslim societies often channel violence toward minority members of society, such as toward Shia in majority Sunni societies, or Christians in either. This behaviour is also seen where there are large numbers of Muslims in non-Muslim societies, such as France or the United Kingdom.

Experts agree that saying Islam is violent makes people less safe because it will cause more Muslims to become violent.🔗

This claim can only be made if Islam does in fact condone violence. It's axiomatic that believers in a peaceful religion wouldn't turn violent if that religion is criticized. It's telling that Muslims themselves don't protest what this claim implies about their religion.

People see their own values in any religion and interpret its scriptures accordingly.🔗

That suggests a person's values are inculcated outside the realm of religion, which is particularly unlikely in a society suffused with religion. Every religion has at least a base set of values upon which the majority of adherents agree.

But even if this claim is true, it means that a violent religion would tend to attract violent people, and a peaceful religion would tend to attract peaceful people.

ISIS followers are fanatics and will never be convinced of their wickedness.🔗

People aren't born fanatics, they learn their ideas from somewhere. Even if moderate Muslims are too fearful to confront the militants, they should be working overtime in every mosque and madrassa worldwide and online to discredit and eliminate the teachings that justify violence. The fact that this isn't happening suggests the task is impossible.

It is happening! There are many sermons in mosques and online which emphasize the peaceful teachings of Islam.🔗

Speaking only about the peaceful teachings of Islam while ignoring the teachings militants use to justify their actions does nothing to discredit them.

Imams do emphasize that passages enjoining violence refer to specific situations the early Muslims faced and no longer apply.🔗

None of the scriptures suggest that its teachings are limited to a particular group, place, or time. Muhammad engaged in violence, so the debate can never be about whether violence is justified, only when.

Most Muslims accept the Imam's facile interpretation because they want it to be true and don't want to be violent. Militants such as ISIS and its followers have no such qualms.

Worse violence is found in the Bible. Why don't you do anything about that?🔗

First, any violence found in other religious texts is irrelevant to the matter of violence engendered by Islam.

Second, the psychopathology of a religion's founder will be reflected in his followers, particularly where the scripture encourages believers to emulate that founder. Many Muslims choose to emulate only the peaceful side of Muhammad and adamantly ignore (or excuse) his violent side. That doesn't make the latter disappear; plenty of other Muslims see it and emulate it.

For violence in the name of a religion to recrudesce across centuries, the religion must have two characteristics: (a) the canonical texts sanction the use of violence by believers, and (b) the canonical texts depict the founder of the religion engaging in it. Only one major religion has both.

Finally, the violent content of scripture matters only to the extent believers act on it. When adherents to other religions start committing murder and mayhem around the world while citing their scriptures as motivation, those religions will be subject to similar criticism and scrutiny. While we're waiting for that, let's focus on the one religion where it is happening, today.

Plenty of Christians have committed horrific violence, such as Dear, Roof, Holmes, and McVeigh, not to mention Hitler! No one blames Christianity or all Christians for that.🔗

None of those individuals claimed to be acting on behalf of the teachings or traditions of Christianity or the example of Jesus, nor can any credible interpretation justify their crimes.

McVeigh in particular is often adduced for "Christian terrorism", but throughout his trial and imprisonment, he never indicated his actions were motivated by the bible or Christian teachings. In fact, his final statement before execution was Invictus, a decidedly agnostic poem. If ever there was a time to exalt the righteousness of his act in the name of Christ, this would have been it.

If there were Christian teachings being understood to condone violence, we would demand Christians refute and repudiate them in words and deeds, and we'd expect such scripturally-inspired violence to diminish and disappear. If it didn't, we'd be alarmed and seek to learn why.

All supposedly Muslim violence is actually carried out by CIA- and Mossad- controlled groups.🔗

Conspiracy theories are rampant in the Muslim world, the prevalence of which can be traced to the worldview of Islamic scripture. Islam positions itself as possessing the genuine teachings of the prior prophets, made necessary because their messages were ignored or corrupted. Implicit in that is the belief that people are capable of successfully carrying out nefarious deeds on a large scale and concealing them.

Moreover, Islam views humanity as debased, prone to immoral behavior unless compelled otherwise. Ayatollah Khomeini, the revered leader of Iran, asserted "Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword and in the shadow of the sword! People cannot be made obedient except with the sword!" Yusuf al-Qaradawi, chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars and respected Sunni theologian, in 2013 said "If they had gotten rid of the apostasy punishment [death], Islam wouldn't exist today."

The US invasion of Iraq created ISIS by removing a secular dictator and disbanding the army.🔗

The invasion of Iraq by George W. Bush turned out to be a disaster, but it succeeded in demolishing the specious claim that Muslims hate the U.S. because of its support for oppressive dictators. Not only did removal of the dictator not result in a democratic flowering and a peaceful society, it revealed the society's deep religious hatred by removing restraints on its expression.

What the invasion proved was that Muslims of different sects cannot live peacefully amongst each other without a powerful force keeping the religious imperatives in check.

All Western leaders affirm that true Islam is peaceful.🔗

There's a natural affinity between a religion that claims to be perfect and thus its followers can only blame others for every problem, and people who believe that their culture is the cause of every problem.

Western leaders are not Islamic scholars. Their pronouncements carry no weight in the Muslim world. Plenty of influential Islamic scholars laud Muslims who have employed violence in the name of the faith, and exhort other Muslims to do the same.

Whenever a Muslim commits a crime in the name of Islam, Western authorities make it a priority to deny that it had anything to do with Islam. Such a disclaimer is never made for any other religion or ideology, yet is now so common and predictable that it's become self-refuting.

Some say these Western authorities are ignorant, or cowardly, or lying, or crypto Muslims, or on the Saudi payroll. The problem with these theories is that too many leaders around the world and across the political spectrum parrot the same demonstrably false platitudes. A better explanation is that it's a strategy and a tactic.

It's a strategy of denial based on fear (perhaps more accurately, terror) of criticizing Islam:

It's a tactic to the extent that Leadership 101 teaches that statesmen should be inspiring and set forth a vision of the world as they want it to be, despite the present messy realities, even (or especially) if they have no idea how to bring it about.

Their gambit, then, is to take the path of least resistance and insist that Islam is peaceful, which is what most Muslims want to believe, and want non-Muslims to believe, too. But because it's counterfactual, at best it serves to attenuate the problem instead of solve it; Islamic scripture will not be ignored. Moreover, in order to maintain the ruse, it necessarily requires its purveyors to denounce anyone who questions it.

When confronted with a long term problem, by their nature politicians will almost always choose short term symptom relief. A problem involving over a billion people and a religion is too enormous for all but the rarest of politicians to contemplate because it will take generations to solve. The only upside to acknowledging the truth, other than the salvation of Western values, is credit by future historians for actually contributing to the solution. Unfortunately, they can't vote.

Many celebrities and intellectuals insist Muslim violence is a consequence of US foreign policy, lack of education, and poor economic opportunities.🔗

Denying that Muslim violence is rooted in Islamic scripture is akin to denying climate change. With the latter, the only conceivable remedies involve major social policy changes, economic regulation, price increases, tax increases, and even bans on private activities. This expansion of government is the real objective of left-wing climate change campaigners, so the premise on which it depends must be attacked, rejected, and replaced with a less frightening explanation of the phenomenon.

Similarly, if Islamic scripture is the motivation for violence, the only conceivable remedies involve religious profiling, widespread surveillance, immigration restrictions, and even segregation. This persecution is the real objective of right-wing Islam blamers, so the premise on which it depends must be attacked, rejected, and replaced with a less frightening explanation of the phenomenon.

Western meddling in the Middle East is responsible for ISIS as well as all the corrupt dictatorships.🔗

Certainly Western governments have supported dictators in the Middle East as a practical yet odious response to the options available. But the corrupt dictators came from the Muslim community, and to suggest they only remain in power because of Western support is counterfactual. The West is not omnipotent. Cuba rejected Western economic and social ideas, and Iran was able to rid itself of Western influence too.

The US intervened in many countries around the world that didn't turn into basket cases, or produce a theocracy or a religious entity like ISIS (or the Taliban, or Al-Qaeda, or Boko Haram, or GIA, or Abu Sayyaf, or LeT, or Al-Shabaab, and on and on). The real question is, did the interventions cause the mess, or were there dysfunctions existing within the societies which were unleashed by the intervention?

The US has invaded or intervened in e.g. Central America, the Philippines, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Grenada, Germany, and Japan without these nations collapsing into chaos. Has the nature of US intervention markedly changed, or is there something different about Muslim societies which might explain why they produced a dramatically different result?

There's no doubt intervention is the proximate cause, but the ultimate cause lies directly at the feet of the culture of those nations. A culture of grievance, of perpetual victimhood; a xenophobic and vengeful culture, informed by religion, which routinely responds to perceived injustices with rage and violence.

Indeed, the prevalence of dictatorships in Muslim countries is a consequence of the religion. Muhammad was a solitary leader who had complete authority over his people. Moreover, Islam sanctifies the use of violence to dislodge from power any government deemed by a believer to be insufficiently Islamic. Accordingly, Muslim societies constantly face the threat of violence over the legitimacy of the government. It's why those societies tend toward authoritarian police states, a defense mechanism necessary to resist the incessant undercurrent of Islamic insurrection. For no matter how Islamic a government appears, there will be Muslims who deem it inadequate. Unsurprisingly, Western societies are adopting similar security measures, a result of the increasing presence of Muslims there.

Any militancy is a response to a history of oppression and persecution visited upon Muslims by the West.🔗

The civilized response to injustice is peaceful protest, not the indiscriminate slaughter of civilians. The fact that Muslims routinely engage in the latter and rarely the former undermines the religion's claim of peacefulness.

Moreover, Islam is a collectivist ideology. The value of every person is determined by his or her group identity, a major reason for Islamic terrorism and honor culture. If one member of a group commits an offense, his or her entire group can be held responsible, which puts great social pressure on groups to sacrifice the individual in favor of the group. Intentionally attacking civilians to punish the group (tribe) to which they are peceived to belong is just another manifestation of Muhammad's "excellent" conduct. In one notorious example of collective punishment, Muhammad approved the death penalty for hundreds of pubescent boys and men of a disloyal Jewish tribe and the enslaving of its women and children, making no attempt to determine individual culpability.

What Muhammad did was customary for his era and he shouldn't be judged by modern standards.🔗

Muhammad was not an ordinary leader. He claimed to be the final prophet, chosen by the creator of the universe to deliver its perfected message to humanity, a timeless message which categorically declares Muhammad an "excellent example." Muhammad's behavior, then, isn't confined to his era. As long as people believe Islamic scripture, his actions will plague humanity.

It is indisputable that Muhammad taught compassion, mercy, and forbearance.🔗

It's also indisputable that Muhammad taught hatred, vengeance, and intolerance.

As a Muslim, I know that Islam is a religion of peace and Muhammad taught peace.🔗

Your statement is contradicted by the contents of Islam's authentic scriptures, which are more powerful and more permanent than you. Yes, at times Muhammad counseled peace but, crucially, he also counseled and engaged in violence. Your refusal to recognize that violence is sanctioned by and emanates from Islam's religious texts and teachings and the sacred example of Muhammad, ensures it will never end. Everywhere you go, you bring your immutable Quran with you containing the seed that inexorably germinates violence and death, discord and misery, as it has for over a thousand years. Untold numbers have come before you, harboring the same delusions and denials about the character of the prophet of Islam. You are a carrier, but not an innocent carrier. You have full knowledge of the scriptures which many of your co-religionists credibly understand as sanctifying violence. Your failure to confront them while continuing to propagate and defend those scriptures makes you complicit in their crimes and the crimes to come, and justifies increased suspicion and scrutiny of you.

Many Qur'anic verses require knowledge of context and scholarly tradition to properly understand. Only those who lack knowledge or have wicked intentions misunderstand and misapply them.🔗

Islamic scholars assert that Allah's revelations to earlier prophets had become corrupted or were ignored, so he sent yet another prophet, the final one, to remedy the problem. But for Allah to reveal a "final" text that is rife with ambiguities, contradictions, and undefined terms such that it forces peaceful Muslims to insist that extensive research and study is required to discern that its actual meaning differs from the literal reading demonstrates Allah's appalling negligence. Understandably, plenty of Muslims reject this contradiction and conclude the literal reading is what is intended, especially when it's supported by the actions of the messenger himself.

Attributing the motivations of the perpetrators to Islam is wrong, demonizes Muslims, and plays into the hands of ISIS.🔗

Muslims themselves attribute their motivations to Islam; it's arrogant and disrespectful not to take them at their word. Meanwhile, Muslims who fail to clearly distinguish and distance themselves from the perpetrators should expect to be treated with suspicion and skepticism. And if criticism of Islamic violence causes Muslims to embrace that violence, then even more criticism is necessary. Not only does it prove the point, but it provokes an ideological schism that Muslims refuse to create on their own, albeit in a way that's much more dangerous.

Christianity had its violent periods. Since Islam is some six centuries younger, it needs more time to reach the same place.🔗

This assertion overlooks the vast experience and knowledge the "Christian" world has accumulated in its fits and starts to reach its present state. China became an industrial powerhouse much faster than the West did because it was able to learn from what had already been done. By taking advantage of the latest knowledge, it was able to bypass unnecessary interim development stages, avoid blind alleys, and rapidly approach parity with the West.

Especially in this age of information and connectivity, there's no reason to expect an Islamic Enlightenment to take anywhere near as long. And in this age of mass casualty weapons, there's no excuse to delay.

Christians committed terrible acts throughout their history, e.g. during the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, etc. They were as misguided then as militant Muslims are today.🔗

Reflexive statements like this always surface whenever Islamic violence is discussed. It implies that violence committed by other people in the past in the name of their religion somehow excuses or explains violence committed in the name of Islam.

No one who makes such a statement follows it with an explanation of why violence in the name of Jesus is exceedingly rare, or how the lessons from the Christian world could be applied to end Islamic violence. That's because it's based on ignorance of the profound difference between Islam and Christianity: the behavior of its founder. Jesus did not sanction violence, and in every case when faced with that option, he demurred. Muhammad, however, did sanction violence, and even participated in it. Thus in Christianity, violence tends to be self-extingushing. But in Islam, it's self-perpetuating.

Jesus was violent toward the money changers in the temple!🔗

The stories of this incident describe aggression directed at furniture, not people. At worst, there was yelling and intimidation, but nobody was physically harmed.

You're more likely to die from handguns/automobiles/toddlers/dogs/appliances than Muslims, so why fixate on them?🔗

Automobiles kill more people than appliances, but that fact doesn't absolve appliance manufacturers from the responsibility to produce a product that doesn't injure or kill people. No appliance manufacturer would be allowed to ignore injuries and deaths caused by its products because automobiles are worse and the attention it's receiving is unfair.

But the key difference is that Muslims qua Muslim intend to murder. They seek to kill at random to sow terror, by taking advantage of security weaknesses and overcoming measures designed to thwart them. There's no group of toddlers intent on slaughtering adults, nor are there manufacturers intentionally making products which harm the consumer. But if there were, we'd work to uncover the driver behind such behavior in order to stop it.

Moreover, in the West, Muslims plot or commit violence at a rate much higher than their proportion of the overall population.

If Islam is violent, how can the Pope declare "authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence"?🔗

First, that statement is full of caveats. The terms "authentic" and "proper" allow him to dismiss the violent understanding as simply inauthentic or improper. The Pope knows that he needed to include such caveats in his statement because it would be false without them.

Second, Pope Francis appears to make statements that he wants to be true, believing in the power of his leadership to convince people that they are. He wants it to be true for many of the same reasons politicians make similar statements.

Consider this assertion: "Authentic Mormonism and the proper reading of its scripture are opposed to every form of polygamy". This cannot be true, because it contradicts what the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, said and did, and never repudiated. It's not possible to get more authentic or proper than the words and deeds of the founder himself. Smith practiced polygamy and taught it to his followers, who also practiced it. Although the Mormon Church officially disavows the practice today, polygamy will always exist within the community of Mormons who want to conform their lives to that of the founder as precisely as they can. Muhammad employed violence and exhorted his followers to use it, so violence will always be found within his community of followers.

The source of the problem is the Crusaders who came into our lands and never left, corrupting our people with decadent practices and immoral beliefs.🔗

It's curious how Amish communities can live within the belly of the Great Satan without becoming corrupted or convulsing with violence and rage over the decadence and immorality surrounding them. Perhaps the teachings of their religion have something to do with how they react to such provocations.

Muslims must build bridges between themselves and non-Muslims to increase mutual understanding and reduce anti-Muslim sentiments.🔗

Wanting to build bridges to places that will achieve nothing lasting is a way for Muslims to convince themselves they're doing something. But it's just another way to avoid confronting the militants, the root cause of the negative sentiment. Muslims shouldn't be building bridges, they should be tearing down bridges between themselves and the militants and their ideology.

Anti-Muslim rhetoric is bigoted and hateful.🔗

For various reasons, religion has become conflated with congenital attributes such as race, color, national origin, and gender. This confusion was even codified in civil rights legislation passed in the 1960s in the US.

The justification for such laws is sensible. No one should be subject to discrimination based upon personal attributes over which they have no control. No one chose their race, skin color, gender, or birthplace. Religion, however, is a social construct -- usually inoculated into children by parents -- and is simply a collection of ideas and beliefs held in the mind, and thus can be accepted or rejected at will.

The ability to criticize ideas and beliefs is essential to a free and open society. No idea or belief is exempt from this bedrock principle, including religion. Bigotry implies ignorance; informed criticism, including mockery, isn't bigotry. Criticizing religion is no more bigotry than criticizing political ideologies.

Indeed, because it holds immense power in the minds of people, few ideas are more important to criticize than religion. Its claims about the nature of the universe and humanity, about life and death, about good and evil, influence society in both profound and subtle ways. Religious beliefs and ideas permeate society and are reflected in its laws, its commercial interactions, and the public and private behavior of its people.

Just as important is tolerance of criticism. Criticism includes mockery.

Islam in particular must be subjected to withering criticism over its manifest propensity to inspire violence. Only criticism can make Muslims uncomfortable, even embarrassed, by Islam's claims and the behavior of its founder. And if doing so drives more Muslims to become militant, it only proves the critics correct and reinforces the need to intensify the criticism. A chasm must develop between the moderate and the militant, and criticism is the only peaceful tool we have that can carve it. If that tool is taken away by facile accusations of "hatred" and "bigotry", the consequences will be ominous.

The fight against Islamic militancy cannot be won on the battlefield. Unless the ideology is fully discredited and defeated, it will forever recrudesce. This is the battle that moderate Muslims have scarcely begun to discuss, let alone undertake.

Muslims are working to reform Islam and need all the support they can get! Don't you support them?🔗

Today, vanishingly few Muslims are attempting to reform the faith. So few, in fact, that knowledgeable people can name them.

When referring to Islam, the term "reform" is understood to mean to pacify, to reinterpret the violent teachings as no longer applicable. But reforming Islam is a Sisyphean endeavor. It has been attempted many times, yet the violence persists.

That's predictable given the nature of Islam. Muhammad positioned his religion as perfect, a reiteration of the prior prophets (Jesus, Moses, and others) whose followers Islamic tradition says either ignored the teachings or corrupted them, about which the Quran warns Muslims. Thus, Muhammad imbued Islam with a very powerful immune system to protect it from abandonment and alteration -- including another prophet. Anything that threatens to change the scriptures or the established interpretation of them, or lead believers astray or to doubt is countered by Muslim antibodies acting under color of scripture, with violence if necessary, to suppress and eliminate the contamination, and compel compliance. Unfortunately, Muslims are proud of this aspect of their religion, which they believe has kept it as pure as it was during the time of Muhammad, unweathered by time or human hands.

At best, any reform movement can only result in another sect of Islam (e.g. Ahmadiyya), because the violent scriptures and their historical interpretation will always exist, waiting to be rediscovered as the genuine teachings of the exemplary prophet.

If there were no "moderate" Muslims, only "extremists", dealing with the problem would be far easier. Muslims who insist that their faith is peaceful are the crux of problem, for they serve only to cloud both minds and battlefields.

Many Westerners say Islamophobia is a serious problem that must be addressed.🔗

The leaders of the Church of Scientology are kicking themselves over failing to coin the term Scientologophobia decades ago. They can only marvel at how effective the Islamophobia epithet has been in silencing criticism of Islam and how much grief and legal fees such a simple tactic could have saved them.

Criticism of Islam is a symptom of the malady, not the malady itself. When it's uncomfortable or impossible to address a malady, attention is directed to suppressing its symptoms. Untreated, the malady worsens and imperils its host.

Islamophobia is a form of racism.🔗

There are Muslims of every race, so negative opinions of Islam cannot be racist. When presented with compelling arguments, people can change their religion, but not their race.

For most Muslims, leaving Islam is inconceivable, not just because it's a major part of their identity, but primarily because of the ostracism former Muslims face, compounded by the spectre of Islam's canonical death penalty for apostasy. Muslims desperately want Islam to be considered a congenital attribute in order to elevate it above criticism and suppress uncomfortable truths about its baneful nature.

Islam teaches that people who willingly reject it are, at best, unworthy of equal legal and social status in Muslim societies. Muslims understand that there's a price to be paid for willfully denying the religion. They shouldn't expect to be held to a different standard.

Religion is a fundamental part of a person's identity which makes it no different than race or gender.🔗

No one is born with a religion, it's learned. Religious thought and practice is inoculated in children even before they can walk or talk, which causes those subjected to it to mistakenly equate it with congenital attributes such as race or gender. If ideas and beliefs are beyond criticism simply because they're incorporated into one's identity in childhood, one must also refrain from criticizing racial supremacism, homophobia, and misogyny.

Islam is a test of your ability to desire the hereafter over this world and submit to Allah's laws!🔗

If your creator is testing you, the actual test may be whether or not you fall for charlatans.

Islam is obviously the one true message from God. Those who deny this are close-minded, wicked, or both.🔗

No one knows for certain what the ultimate truth is, but many people know for certain what it isn't. If the message of Islam is true, the violent behavior of its exemplary messenger means the creator of the universe is either ignorant or malevolent.