Remembering the Link between Doctrine and Behavior

In a year when ISIS and their brutality is at the forefront of America’s mind, it is an unfortunately common latent effect to hear of those that hold a negative generalization towards all Muslim people. Western Islamophobia and its like seems to rise synchronously with news stories and videos of Islamist extremism, and sadly so. It is always important to remain conscious of the distinction between a peaceful and moderate Islam, and the version of brutality and slaughter that we so often see in the news. Certainly, in a religion of 1.5 billion people, the second largest religion of the world, a near fourth of all humans living, it is intellectual laziness to brush a negative generalization of so many for the actions of so few.

However, it is also important to remain able to recognize bad ideas and ways of thinking that are observably damage producing. In a reaction to this rise of Islamophobia, there has been a strong and convincing liberal push to eliminate any dialogue of criticism of Islam (or any religion) as a hope to protect the moderates that are often stereotyped. While these moderates do deserve protection, and it is necessary to remain vigilant of the difference between moderate and vicious Islam, it is not effectual to ignore the link between doctrine and behavior. True reform can only come through informative discussion and clear understanding. Though there are many peaceful Muslims around the world that can and do condemn ISIS and their actions, there remain many core beliefs and ideologies in even modest Islam that are troubling. Here is some recent polling done by Pew Research Center of Muslim opinions in a wide list of countries. It is necessary to note that this survey could not include Iran or Saudi Arabia because, “political sensitivities or security concerns prevented opinion research among Muslims”.

The data speaks for itself. With every Muslim country polled reporting strong anti-gay and anti-women sentiments, 86% of Malaysian Muslims in favor of adopting Sharia Law,  and among those for Sharia Law, nearly half of Indonesian Muslims stand in support of stoning adulterers, one can begin to observe a clear connection between doctrine and behavior. This exact topic was recently discussed on Bill Maher’s show Real Time, and though unfortunately little productive dialogue was achieved, it is still worth the watch. Try focusing on Sam Harris’ thoughts; though he gets a little over-talked in the debate I believe his input is beneficial.
With the rise of extreme Islamist brutality we are again reminded of the large ideological room for improvement that we have in this world. Though there are many peaceful and moderate Muslims that would be deplored by the actions of ISIS and those like them, it is important to remain aware of the links between religious doctrine and violent action that often gets neglected in a search for acceptance. Destructive thoughts are destructive thoughts and should be recognized as such.  Peaceful reform will not come through being intellectually dishonest about the reality of the consequences of the belief systems of those around the world, but rather through expanding sincere knowledge, true understanding, and accurate discourse of the problems we face.

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