Posted by: Harold Knight | 10/03/2010

The SELF-Deception of the Hatred/Fear of Islam

Death of Socrates, Jacques Louis David

Death of Socrates, Jacques Louis David

“. . . . and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:32, NRSV).

In an article about the similarities between the last teachings Socrates and The Buddha, Matthew Dillon of the Loyola Marymount University Department of Classics writes, “The truth meant freedom from delusion and fear toward a state of pure goodness” (1).

Socrates, The Buddha, and Jesus each posited a direct connection between “truth” and “freedom.” They speak of a kind of freedom that is more basic and less political than the standard American understanding of the word. Their meaning might work itself out something like, “The land of the free, and the home of those who seek truth.”

According to Dillon, the truth Socrates and The Buddha want their disciples to understand is the truth about death and the kind of life one must lead in order to come to death without fear. The freedom Jesus offers through the truth is freedom from sin and from the details of the “law” of the covenant.  This is the freedom that St. Paul treats of in his letter to the Romans. Freedom is a spiritual matter, not a political one. So speaking of truth in the sense I intend to do is admittedly a confusion of meanings of “truth.” The truth is not the correctness of a bunch of facts. However, the willful distortion of factual information for political ends must certainly be a distortion of “the truth” and a danger to one’s freedom.

When it comes to factual truth, a certain percentage of Americans would rather not. Come to the truth, that is. President Barack Obama they might say, for example, is a Muslim. Fortunately no one I know believes that (they wouldn’t say so because anyone who knows me would know I agree with John A. Farrell). Those who believe this utter nonsense deceive only themselves—they must believe the lie in order to protect themselves because they believe their “adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Their belief deceives no one except themselves. This particular self-deception is easy to debunk (except among those who believe it).

Two of my close friends believe that Muslims are evil. Period. They will not be dissuaded. Both are highly educated, one a dentist, the other an MBA from a Texas university. Irrational hatred of Muslims is not the purview of the ignorant. Both of these men are (and I say this without judgment or irony—I have the utmost respect for their beliefs and their sincerity) dedicated Christians. Irrational hatred of Muslims is not the purview of the unprincipled.

My friend the dentist told me just a couple of days ago (September 30, 2010) that Muslims are dedicated to chopping off the heads of “Infidels.”

The United States Department of State reports that in Egypt

The Constitution provides for freedom of belief and the practice of religious rites. . . Islam is the official state religion and Shari’a (Islamic law) is the primary source of legislation; religious practices that conflict with the Government’s interpretation of Shari’a are prohibited. Members of non-Muslim religious minorities officially recognized by the Government generally worship without harassment and maintain links with coreligionists in other countries. . . . (2)

The State Department reports further that this country where Islam is the official state religion has

“. . . .a population of 79 million, of whom almost 90 percent were estimated to be Sunni Muslims. Shi’a Muslims constitute less than 1 percent of the population. Estimates of the percentage of Christians ranged from 8 to 12 percent, or between 6 and 10 million, the majority of whom belonged to the Coptic Orthodox Church. (3)

By the absolute unshakable belief of my friend the dentist, we should at any moment expect an Egyptian blood bath. Between six and ten million Egyptians are apparently biding their time before their decapitations (4).

Of course, my mere asserting that possibility is absurd. And if you are still reading, you are most likely thinking that my making such a statement is grotesque. Is it any more grotesque than the belief that Muslims are dedicated to the decapitation of all infidels? Or that President Obama is a Muslim? Irrationally downplaying evidence of the truth of small details obviously prevents one from understanding truth.

My other friend told me about two weeks ago that he could accept Muslims as part of American society if only their leaders would renounce terrorism and violence. This belief is self-deceptive at two levels. First, it assumes that Islam, like christianity, has a hierarchy of leadership—that someone in Islam holds a position comparable to the Pope or to the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Islam has no such structure. To hold a belief that one can easily discover to be untrue is self-deception.

The second level of self-deception is to believe that Muslim leaders—that is, the community of academics and Imams—have not spoken out against terrorism both publicly and in their communities (and do not do so regularly). This is simply to ignore readily available information, that is, to deceive oneself.

The first important anti-terror statement by Muslim organizations came ten days after 9/11 on September 21, 2001. Fifteen American Islamic associations stated emphatically that

Holding to the ideals both of our religion and our country, we condemn all forms of terrorism, and confirm the need for perpetrators of any such acts of violence to be brought to justice, including those who carried out the attacks of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. (5)

On July 28, 2005, the Fiqh Committee of the Islamic Society of North America (the group that gives guidance on the application of sharia law to mosques and individuals throughout North America), with 344 Muslim organizations, mosques, and imams signing in support, issued a Fatwa on Terrorism. (6) A Fatwa, of course, does not have the force of religious “law,” but it presents an interpretation of the Qur’an and the Traditions of Islam as a moral and practical guide for Muslims. The Fatwa begins

Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians’ life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram – or forbidden – and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not “martyrs.” (7)

To hold as one’s reason for condemning Muslims the belief that Muslim leaders have not condemned terrorism and violence is to willfully deceive oneself. Mike W. Martin of the Department of Philosophy at Chapman University asserts that self-deception is

. . . .(1) motivated irrationality in the form of biased beliefs and attitudes that clash with available evidence. . . and (2) purposeful evasion in the form of willful ignorance, self-pretense, selectively highlighting and downplaying evidence according to what we want to believe, and relying on others to support our hopes and favored self image. (8)

Logic—and the interpretation of the precepts of Islam by the leading Muslim scholars—precludes the belief that Muslims are dedicated to murdering infidels in grotesque ways. Cursory research reveals that Muslim leaders have denounced terrorism and violence. Biased beliefs contrary to evidence and purposeful evasions may perhaps be simple incorrect knowledge of small “truths.” But this “willful ignorance” and “downplaying evidence” must surely lead one away from “the truth” and, therefore, away from freedom.
_________
(1) Dillon, Matthew. “Dialogues with Death: the Last Days of Socrates and The Buddha.” Philosophy East and West 50.4 (2000): 548.
(2) U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. “Egypt.” International Religious Freedom Report Annual 2007: 506+.
(3) idem.
(4) The same kinds of statistics apply in most predominantly Muslim countries. In Syria, for example, while it does not have an official state religion, 87 percent of the population is Muslim, 3 percent various religions, and 10 percent are Christians. That means that 1.9 million heads (of a population of 19 million) could be chopped off at any moment in Syria. U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. “Syria.” International Religious Freedom Report Annual 2007: 2052+.
(5) The text of this declaration is at many websites. For example, http://www.whyislam.org/SocialOrder/Jihad/WhyarentMuslimsCondemning/tabid/117/Default.aspx
(6) Goodstein, Laurie. “From Muslims in America, A New Fatwa On Terrorism.” New York Times. nytimes.com.  Jul 28, 2005. Web. 1 Oct 2010.
(7) For the text of the Fatwa and the list of the signers see http://www.discoverislam.com/fatwajuly2005.pdf It is interesting to note that, while the New York Times and National Public Radio and most other news organizations gave major coverage to the publication of the Fatwa, Fox News placed an Associated Press story about it on its web page but did not cover it in its live news reporting that day. Willful “downplaying of evidence?”
(8) Martin, Mike W. “Happily Self-Deceived.” Social Theory & Practice 35.1 (2009): 29-44.

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