Living in Australia, when you turn on the morning news and you see the words ‘hostage situation’ or ‘gunman’ or ‘terror attack’ floating across the screen the usual response would be to sigh and lament “Oh America, get your shit together…” As we all know, this was not the case yesterday morning. On Monday December 15th we Aussies were rocked with out own terror scare when a lone gunman took hostages in Sydney’s Martin Place in the central business district.
The incident, which was labelled #SydneySiege by the internet lasted from the morning and through the night and ended with most of the 17 hostages being released, however, two innocent lives were lost and along with the life of the gun man, now identified as Man Haron Monis.
So much has already been said in the past 24 hours. A deluge of articles from all directions have surfaced, some promoting tolerance, some defending their intolerance, and others simply begging for calm. The most amazing development has been the show of solidarity within the Australian community in the form of the #illridewithyou tag which shows non-Muslim Australians offering to ride with and stand up for Muslim Australians. It has been an amazing and inspiring display of humanism.
The tag has a dark side to it with many people criticizing #illridewithyou due to their flawed understanding of what it stands for. Many people assume that offering protection and understanding to a fellow human being is somehow showing support for religion, specifically Islam. It’s really not.
I personally support the movement and I hate religion, all religion. I can’t help but think that yesterday’s event may have been totally avoided if Monis did not consider himself under divine guidance. Monis was there for Allah, acting in his name, through directions offered in the Qur’an. If these things did not exist, where would his motivation come from? Perhaps somewhere else if he truly was a lunatic, but if in fact his actions were guided entirely by his faith-based beliefs, it’s safe to say this probably wouldn’t have happened. The families who lost loved ones yesterday would not be grieving and would not have presents under the tree that will never be unwrapped.
In much of the world there is a double standard when it comes to criticism of religion. When we read about a Christian pastor who has raped yet another child, or a Christian mother who lets her child die because she chose to rely on prayer rather than medicine, we condemn Christianity, we call it harmful. We call it out on its bullshit. We question our Christian friends about their beliefs and how they can follow a religion where this sort of thing is a common occurrence and when they explain to us “those people aren’t true Christians, that’s not what Christianity is about” we accuse them of implementing a ‘no true Scotsman fallacy’….
…But when a Muslim man terrorizes and murders innocent people in the name of Islam, the same people goading Christians are the ones (along with Muslims themselves of course) saying things like “the Muslims who do this are extremists, this is not what Islam is about!”
I don’t understand it. How does the same fallacy not apply?
Don’t get me wrong, I do understand offering protection and support to people in the Muslim community who feel vulnerable due to the actions of their extremist counterparts, I think that response is perfect. #Illridewithoyu is perfect. What isn’t so perfect is the notion that we can’t be as critical of the religion that is responsible for this event as we are with Christianity when people harm others in the name of that religion. And nobody can explain to me why.
Why can’t I offer to protect my fellow human being, but still be critical of their faith-based beliefs that can result in terrorism and murder? Yes I know the Muslim woman on the train has no intentions of harming anybody because of her beliefs, but she reads the same book and believes in the same god as those who do. Just as Christians who rape children and murder homosexuals read the same bible as those who don’t.
When it comes to Christianity, we’re inclined to say, “fuck your sensitivities, we will not stand for the harm your beliefs cause” and we understand that without the bible guiding the hateful actions of many of its participants the world might be a better place. Meanwhile, we tiptoe around Islam and any violence perpetrated in the name of its god.
Does me believing that Islam is a dangerous belief system mean that I would not protect and stand up for a fellow Australian who identifies as Muslim if I saw them being harassed? Oh fuck no. Like most Aussies, I’d be in there in a heartbeat. That’s what rules about humanism; the only prerequisite for being taken care of is being a person.
We don’t have to be ok with religion in order to be kind to people. We don’t have to pretend that Islam is safe to protect those to adhere to its doctrines. And we certainly don’t have to pretend that it wasn’t Islam that caused the loss of innocent lives, because it was. Again, this does not mean we’re holding these events against every Muslim on the planet, just as we don’t punish every Christian we know because their pastor was thrown in jail for stealing from the church, or harming children.
As with Christianity, we need to learn to distinguish between being critical of Islamic faith-based beliefs and showing compassion to people who follow those beliefs. We understand that not all Christians harm others, but we also understand that the bible can be used to justify harming others. Can we not move this understanding across to Islam? Yes we know not all Muslims are gun-toting terrorists, but can we also understand that the Quran is used to justify the actions of those who are?
Like with the bible, we should view the Quran as a tool that can be used to hurt others. It can be understood in a way that gives permission certain people reading its words to harm their fellow man. It can be understood in a way that causes its adherents to believe that by murdering innocent people they are doing the right thing. That is not OK. Why are so many people pretending it is?
Can someone please explain it to me?
Part of me thinks the double standard in reactions to Christian Harm VS Islamic Harm are rooted in the idea that Australians are considered racist both here and abroad. We don’t particularly enjoy the label. Many Australians seem unable to recognize that Islam is not a race and ignorantly claim that being anti-Islam is racist. Race has nothing to do with it. People who truly rally against religion because we understand the harm it causes really couldn’t give a hoot about the skin, hair, eye, whatever color of the person who is causing the harm.
Yesterday’s siege could have been perpetuated by a blonde haired, blue eyed, surfer from Bondi, it doesn’t matter and that person’s motivations and justifications for causing this harm should be examined and criticized, and the motivations and justifications that incited these events, are rooted in religious beliefs, specifically the faith-based belief system called Islam. Race is irrelevant, or at least it should be.
We are not racist because we see the flaws in this religious system, as we do with its Abrahamic counterpart, Christianity. We are not racist if we criticize this religious system because of the harm it causes, as we do with Christianity.
There is a huge difference between opposing religious doctrine that can lead people to cause harm and hateful shit like this christian guy posted…
That right there is not OK.
That right there is an attack on human beings because of their religion rather than the religion itself. People who respond with gross comments like that are the ones who make reasonable people afraid of expressing their distaste of Islam in the same way they do when it comes to Christianity. Somehow, ANY negative comment relating to islam is being equated to the comment above and other hateful sentiments, what bullshit!
Imagine if yesterday’s hostage taker had been motivated by Christian beliefs. Would the community response be the same? Possibly, but I doubt it. The generic perception of the Christian community doesn’t play on our self-conscious sensitivities that we are nation of racist assholes when we criticize it. We see Muslims as foreigners, usually brown people, and saying anything against them makes us feel racist.
But there is nothing racist about objecting to a system of beliefs that can lead people to terrorize others. Australians though, are so desperate to shed this ‘racist’ image they encourage tolerance for the religious belief system, which was the catalyst for these murders, rather than just their fellow human beings. Again, you do not have to offer tolerance or protection for Islam to offer tolerance and protection to Muslims.
We don’t tar the Christian community with the same brush, but we do object to Christianity and it’s hateful beliefs. Can we not apply this to Islam? Can we not be supportive to Aussie Muslims while still being objective and critical of their religious doctrines? And if not, why not? We do this to Christianity every day.
For the most part, I am so proud and inspired by the reactions of Australians to this horrific event. The #illridewithyou campaign is truly beautiful and has created a sense of community and love during this fucked up 24 hours. On the flip side, the Christianity orientated #prayforsydney tag achieved absolutely nothing (is saying that racist? If not, why not?) As always prayers (for the hostages safety) went unanswered. A result that has people, as usual, calling out the Christian community on their actions, and I can’t help but burn with irony.
Christianity is being criticized for something peaceful, while Islam is being wrapped in cotton wool when its hand in these events guided the deaths of two innocent people. At the end of it all, the one positive that has come from this, the #illridewithyou movement, is of course unmotivated by any religion and is a completely humanist orientated gesture. It simply offers protection for people, by people. Religion is left out of it, and the movement serves as fantastic demonstration of humanist principles in action and the value they provide. I can’t help but think that if religion were less present in our society, we would see a whole lot more of these awesome humanist responses.