Editor-in-Chief’s Note: The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author, and do not reflect the official position of The Athenaeum.
Those of you who regularly read The Athenaeum will likely remember my article “Sha…really?” published in January of this year. The basis of the article was an examination of why it is that those of the Islamic faith seem so intolerant and abusive towards certain equity groups. After Dr. Jeffrey Sachs’ lackluster response I asked the editor-in-chief at the time if he would allow me to publish a response and was told it would be akin to “beating a dead horse”. Well, I’m an editor now, and I think it’s worth a response.
There were a number of reactions to my article on Shari’a law. Since the time of publishing I’ve experienced a great deal of snide remarks and insinuations that I’m either a member of the alt-right or that I’m “publishing poisonous garbage”. Other students felt differently, I was approached by a number of colleagues who seemed quite excited that I was speaking out about the intolerance and hate that often precipitates in countries that are Muslim majority regions and/or follow Shari’a. It recently came to my attention that some members of the student community are still rather salty about it, and since it has so many knickers in a knot I thought it was about time I write on the topic again. So, in this article I’ll be responding to Dr. Sachs, and furthering my examination of what I believe to be a great example of oppression.
I have several things to say about Dr. Sachs’ response. First, a degree in Islamic studies unfortunately does not mean one can avoid using demonstrable fact to defeat an argument. Further, the aggressive cherry picking of the 2015 Pew research poll I used as a basis for one of my arguments was a gross mischaracterization of the data. He said: “But according to a 2015 survey, Muslims in the USA are fairly mainstream in their views about LGBTQ+ issues, and are actually more accepting of homosexuality (45% approve) than are many other groups, like Evangelical Christians (36%), Mormons (36%), and Jehovah’s Witnesses (16%)”. These claims are correct, but the groups you cite represent the three least tolerant groups out of the nearly 20 groups surveyed. Dr. Sachs’ response failed to meet my expectations, or as I said in my previous article “I would challenge anyone to name a religion that sees these things as crimes and would suggest the same punishments for it. Or perhaps another religion that issues fatwas which are spontaneous religious decrees. Christianity? No. Judaism? No. Catholicism? No.” So yes, Evangelical Christians, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses are less tolerant of homosexuality than Muslims, but Muslims are still incredibly more intolerant of homosexuality than almost all other religious groups (at least according to the survey). In the same survey those of the Islamic faith are also some of the most intolerant of same sex marriage. I will say that the Pew poll had a slightly flawed methodology with a margin of error larger than I would like however, Pew is often considered an excellent source and overwhelmingly illustrates that Muslims do not think highly of homosexuals, probably because it is prohibited within their religious doctrine.
Perhaps the most recent despicable example of the mistreatment of homosexuals in a Muslim majority region comes from Chechnya. In May, 2017 the headlines were reading things like “Alleged Gay ‘Concentration Camps’ In Chechnya Spark Global Outrage”. All occurring in Muslim majority areas, these attacks on members of the LGBTQ+ community are yet another glaring example of intolerance and abuse that eventually resulted in the death of three men. Dr. Sachs also seemed to brush off the fact that these abuses “are very uncommon and overwhelmingly occur in just four or five countries”. Well, in areas where Shari’a is law, which is certainly more than four or five countries and indeed is in some places seems to be a regional thing, these abuses occur yearly if not monthly. For example: in 2014, Time published an article where they discussed “Growing religious conservatism is threatening LGBT rights in Muslim-majority nations across Southeast Asia, say activists, with a new report claiming serious abuses against Malaysia’s transgender community”. The NGO, “Human Rights Watch” published a paper on the human rights abuses in Muslim majority Malaysia. The paper covers the plight of 16 wedding guests, who after being convicted of “transvestitism” by the state sponsored Shari’a court, were taken to prison for a week. Some notable quotes: “They were taken to prison and placed in a segregated cell in the male prison block, where they had their heads shaved. The judge at the Sharia court humiliated them, telling them they looked more “handsome” with shaved heads. After serving their sentences, they were released, having become the latest casualty of state sponsored discrimination on the basis of gender identity.”
It seems as though there is a significant problem in academia when discussions about tolerance are involved. Apparently its all well and good to be hyper-critical of homophobia and misogyny as long as you’re not shining the spotlight on Islam or Islamic law. I wasn’t clear enough in my article, but I would be equally critical of any other religion or group if I saw these sorts of things happening. I won’t deny that Christianity is rife with anti-gay phrases within it’s holy book and I certainly won’t pretend that Catholic priests should work at daycares, but when I see a headline that gay men are interned in concentration camps I think somebody should start talking about why. I’ve taken an interest, done my best to educate myself, and I have found a direct and almost undeniable connection between certain parts of Islamic Shari’a law and the abuse of women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. Its time that we stop shutting our eyes to hate, intolerance, and violence in the name of political correctness. What is more distressing is the willingness of a member of faculty to insinuate that a student is actively Islamophobic for speaking up. The labeling of those who dissent against the violence of Islam as “Islamophobic” is nefariously lazy politics. To speak candidly, I expected to read the response and have my standpoint destroyed. I was disappointed.
All my sources for my writing should be made available at the end of this article.
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