We're told that Islam is a religion of peace, but I'm starting to doubt the party line. While I believe a majority of Muslims are indeed peaceful, it's time we stop the parsing and confront reality. A significant minority of practicing Muslims are determined to impose their religion on the rest of the world, by any means necessary. This isn't about America, Iraq, Israel or any of the other standard predicates, but rather the encroaching tyranny of radical fundamentalism.
It's evident once again in this harrowing account of a British imam's daughter who fears for her life because she converted to Christianity. Within the story it's revealed that, according to a recent study, 36 percent of British Muslims between 16 and 24 believe those who convert to another religion should be punished by death.
We're not talking Sudan here. Check out what the imam's daughter faced after her father learned she had been baptized:
Her father arrived at her home with 40 men and threatened to kill her for betraying Islam.
"I saw my uncle and around 40 men storming up the street clutching axes, hammers, knives and bits of wood," she said.
"My dad was shouting through the letter box, "I'm going to kill you", while the others smashed on the window and beat the door.
"They were shouting, 'We're going to kill you' and 'Traitor'.
"It was terrifying. I was convinced I was going to either die, but suddenly after about ten minutes the noise stopped and the men suddenly went away."
Such savage behavior shouldn't warrant a pass just because it's attached to religious dogma.
I suppose some might feel compelled to brand me a bigot now (the standard defamation issued by knee-jerk apologists). I can take it, but those who tolerate intolerance should be held to account. We owe it to victims like the imam's daughter. If her story is verified, British authorities should either incarcerate her father or deport him back to Pakistan or some other place where he can get away with terrorizing women.
There's nothing jingoistic about secular cultures wanting to protect modernity. Those who can't abide should, at the very least, be made to feel unwelcome.
Dissent is fine, even if it's ugly, uninformed and hateful. Violence is not. Pat Robertson can call me a disease-ridden fag all he wants. But if he were to advocate -- and accommodate -- the murder of all disease-ridden fags, then he's become a terrorist. Admittedly, such distinctions can get murky (one reason I oppose hate crimes legislation).
Some would have you believe that all religious fundamentalists are of like mind and motivation, but as Bill Maher once noted, Jerry Falwell never flew a plane into the World Trade Center. That's not intended as a defense, or dismissal, of the Christian right. No doubt many within that movement would welcome a theocracy in America, but to compare them with radical Islamists strains credulity. I can survive without getting married. In much of the Muslim world, I couldn't survive, period, as a gay man. Ask the family of Makwan Moloudzadeh.
Understanding why so many Muslims have embraced extremism is instructive, but rationalizing their behavior is not.
This is uncomfortable territory for me. Honestly, I'd rather continue parroting the party line. It makes me feel better, and I want to believe it. But polls such as the one noted above represent a lamentable trend, one which seems to infer that up to one-third of the Muslim population worldwide wants me, and most likely you, dead (as I have no plans to convert).
So how do we respond? Certainly we shouldn't stigmatize Muslims. But we should stigmatize the fanatics among them. The imam's daughter has it right:
Last night the woman said: "I'm determined to live my life the way I want to because I should have that freedom in this country.
"If you make the choice to come to this country, as my parents did from Pakistan, you have to abide by the laws of this country and that means respecting the freedoms of other people."