Consider this an update to the previous post, The Wisdom of Doubt IX. Karen Armstrong wrote an op ed for yesterday’s Guardian in which she argued that “An inability to tolerate Islam contradicts western values.” Here’s just a snip:
On both sides, however, there are double standards and the kind of contradiction evident in Khomeini’s violation of the essential principles of his mentor, Mulla Sadra. For Muslims to protest against the Danish cartoonists’ depiction of the prophet as a terrorist, while carrying placards that threatened another 7/7 atrocity on London, represented a nihilistic failure of integrity.
But equally the cartoonists and their publishers, who seemed impervious to Muslim sensibilities, failed to live up to their own liberal values, since the principle of free speech implies respect for the opinions of others. Islamophobia should be as unacceptable as any other form of prejudice. When 255,000 members of the so-called “Christian community” signed a petition to prevent the building of a large mosque in Abbey Mills, east London, they sent a grim message to the Muslim world: western freedom of worship did not, apparently, apply to Islam. There were similar protests by some in the Jewish community, who, as Seth Freedman pointed out in his Commentisfree piece, should be the first to protest against discrimination.
Naturally, the usual knee-jerk reactions commenced. Short version: Because there is Muslim terrorism, and because there are Muslims who commit unspeakable atrocities, we are justified in hating all Muslims and denying them the same degree of tolerance and respect we want them to give us.
From Marc at U.S.S. Neverdock:
Tell that to the Christians persecuted and murdered in Muslim countries. Tell that to the gays who are hung in Muslim lands. Tell that to Muslim women who are raped and killed in so called “honour” attacks. In their attempts to portray Muslims as victims, the left completely ignore Islam’s intolerance to Western values.
It’s always heartening when right-wingers embrace liberal values and express outrage at injustices perpetrated against religious minorities, gays, and women. However, I would like to point out that Jesus set a higher standard:
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. [Matthew 5:43-48, New International Version]
I looked around in Matthew for a qualifier — that it’s OK to hate and discriminate against all members of a group if some among them are really bad — but couldn’t find it. Maybe it’s in some other Gospel. Or else they’re confusing the Bible with the script of The Godfather, and they think the Golden Rule is what Sonny Corleone said: “They hit us so — we hit ’em back.”
I don’t think Jesus’ “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:39) necessarily means that a righteous person may not defend himself or others from physical assault. I think the “cheek” business is about not allowing hate to escalate. Just because someone hates you doesn’t mean you have to hate them back. You don’t even have to hate them if you must use force to defend yourself from them. Just defend yourself. Hate is superfluous and may even be a hindrance to self-defense. Any martial arts master will tell you the same thing.
What Jesus — and Karen Armstrong — are saying is that tit-for-tat hatred takes the haters down a very dark road. The righteous person, Jesus said, is the one who refuses to feed the hate cycle.
The Buddha said:
“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,” in those who harbour such thoughts hatred is not appeased.
“He abused me, he beat me, he defeated me, he robbed me,” in those who do not harbour such thoughts hatred is appeased.
Hate is not overcome by hate; by Love (Metta) alone is hate appeased. This is an eternal law. [Dhammapada 1:3-5)
I’m just sayin’ that when a couple of heavy hitters like Jesus and the Buddha agree on something, we would do well to pay attention.