Dealing with Islam Policy
Dealing with Islam
A core policy concern of AAI is to secure secular government from the superstitions, prejudices and dogma of religion. In the United States, most threats to the wall of separation between church and state come from Christianity, but worldwide, Islam is a far greater threat. It presents diverse problems for secular government that require specific analysis.
After the destruction of the World Trade Center, the U.S. government declared a vaguely defined and badly misnamed “War on Terror.” We are at war not against a tactic of violence, but against a global network of paramilitary cells driven by hatred of Israel, the United States and modern culture, but inspired by a fundamentalist form of Islam.
Many countries had been victims of terrorist attacks by this network before September 11, 2001, so support for the United States was uniquely deep and broad. The response by the United States focused on military action, which is inadequate to eliminate a religious threat.
Religious insurrection can never be defeated by bullets, because there will always be more of the faithful ready to take up arms. Paramilitary groups can only exist when they have support in their communities. Victory in this war depends much less on the action of armies than the contest of beliefs and values. Armies can never win the clash of cultures, though they will have occasional, limited roles. We cannot make enemies of 1.2 billion people, and expect to subjugate them militarily.
we must not act as if Muslims are a monolithic enemy out to destroy us. Treating them as such will only exacerbate the conflict. If we treat them all as Jihadis whom we must subjugate at the point of a gun, they will respond in kind.
In nations where Islam is the established religion and law is dictated by Sharia we find severe human rights violations (particularly against women;) legal suppression of non-believers (including criminalizing apostasy;) and religious indoctrination that masquerades as education. This clearly demonstrates that secular government leads to a higher quality of life.
We have to strengthen the world’s commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Especially we have to confront the effort of the Organization of the Islamic Conference to have defamation of religion recognized as an international crime. Another concern in these countries is that public outbursts of anti-Western violence can be incited by government and by religious leaders.
Countries with Minority Muslim Populations
European nations with large populations of Muslim immigrants, who are not integrating smoothly with the culture of their new home, face an acute clash of cultures. A sense of victimization in the Muslim communities has led to violent riots over equal access to jobs and housing, but also in response to perceived insults to their religion. The response to these problems must be not only in police actions, but also in cultural outreach.
It is crucial that the West never compromise its secular values. We cannot abandon our commitment to equality and justice, condone religious discrimination, and not be recognized as hypocrites. Nor can we yield on freedom of speech and freedom of the press. We must not succumb to the self-censorship that plagues Europe and silences legitimate criticism of Islam for fear of violent retaliation.
Free Exercise in the US
The Atheist Alliance supports a strict application of the First Amendment to religion, not only the Establishment Clause but also the Free Exercise Clause. We should not abandon this principled stand by enacting special laws directed against Muslims, such as an immigration exclusion. On the other hand, police investigation of terrorists should of course devote particular attention to Muslim communities, as this is where terrorist cells form and flourish. Restrictions on police “profiling” should not impede investigations that are necessary for public safety. Nor should compelling state interests be abridged in order to accommodate free exercise claims.
In the United States, although there are immigrant Muslims communities, terrorist cells have had few successes. Cultural conflict has been at a low level compared to many European nations. The most important objective has to be winning the battle of ideas and values. We must be sure that the opportunities and civil rights of liberal society are within the reach and expectation of Muslim immigrants. Our most potent weapon is the quality of life in secular society.