Anyone who’s ever debated with a Pakistani will understand my frustration: it’s like arguing with somebody who doesn’t live in reality. But it’s not just Pakistan, Muslims all around the world seem to live in a mind prison that contributes to their inability to use reason, think critically, or tolerate non-Muslims. While not exhaustive by any means, here are some of the ways Muslims end up in this Islamic thought prison:
Muslims Can’t Read
It sounds blunt, but it’s the honest truth: half of all Muslims are illiterate, particularly women. Not that it matters so much, because most Muslims don’t speak Arabic anyway, which is the only way most of them even learn any of the Qur’an. Even among those that can read, however, they’re likely to only read one book in their lives (hint: it’s not anything by the Dalai Lama); it’s a well-known fact that the Arab world has translated fewer books in all of history than Spain translated every year. The point of Muslim illiteracy could be seen as either a blessing or a curse, however, because while a mass of illiterate fanatics is no good, the educated Muslims are the biggest problem. The majority of terrorists have been well-educated, college graduates, and the imam’s who speak Arabic are more likely to be radical. Contrary to the popular myth that poverty breeds extremism and education could change the Muslim world, it would almost seem preferable to keep them in ignorance.
Muslims Don’t Know any Non-Muslims
Apologists always like to point out how most of the Muslims in the world aren’t terrorists. Of course, this doesn’t take into consideration that the majority of Muslims have no reason to be terrorists. 880 million Muslims, or roughly more than half of all Muslims in the world, live in countries that are 90-100% Muslim (not even counting Indonesia’s 200 Million Muslims since they have a “diverse” population of 88% Muslim). While there’s still no shortage of persecuting minority sects, whether they be Sunni, Shi’a, or the universally reviled peace-loving Ahmadiyya, the majority of Muslims will probably never even see a non-Muslim in their lifetime. Muslims don’t really know tolerance because they don’t really have to, and the lack of conflict is simply the lack of anybody to persecute.
Muslims Only Know What the Qur’an Says about Other Religions
Going hand in hand with their illiteracy and isolation, Muslims usually only get their information about adherents of other religions from the Qur’an, which is often less-than-flattering and more often incorrect. Aside from blatant errors like saying Miriam the sister of Moses is Mary the mother of Jesus, that Mary is part of the Trinity (Qur’an 5:116, 4:171), or that the Jews consider Ezra the Son of God, the Qur’an gives a distorted, judgmental view of all other religions, and ignorant Muslims who don’t know any better (how can you when you can’t even buy a Bible in Saudi Arabia?) base their prejudices and hatred on this text that they believe to be infallible simply because they’ve never evaluated its claims.
Islam Encourages Group Think
Even if Muslims wanted to know what other religions actually teach, most of them wouldn’t want to have their views challenged or corrected. It’s not necessarily out of fear that the Qur’an might be wrong, but simply the peer pressure of agreeing with the herd in every way. Islam is so totalitarian that Muslims fear being in the dissenting side of any argument, communities try to share all ideas and beliefs in common, not just religious ones. This is why the Muslim stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict is so universal. Disagreeing in any way from the prevailing orthodoxy or political opinion makes one an outsider, which compromises one’s trust in the eyes of the community. The biggest problem with this is that the peer pressure almost always trends radical, and never the other way around. Entire countries can become extremists overnight in the Arab Spring, and the only way to remain an insider is to join in the passion and violence of the extremists.
Muslims Value Religious Obligation over Morality
A week ago, a Muslim nurse in the UK let his patient die while he prayed in the other room. It seems no matter how bigoted, oppressive, or intolerant the theocracy in Saudi Arabia becomes, Muslims will never be willing to boycott their obligatory pilgrimage to make a point. It’s a surprising fact to people in the West, but Islam isn’t about doing the right thing, which is why Muslims so rarely do it. Given the choice between doing the right thing and doing the Islamic thing, Muslims will always choose the latter (which is often the wrong thing). Thomas Jefferson showed that one can appreciate the moral teachings of Christ even if one rejected the miracles and religious aspect. Trying to compile a “Jefferson Qur’an”, on the other hand, would not produce a book anywhere nearly as large or as moral. When you distill it down to the basic teachings, Islam is a self-centered religion focused primarily on the believer performing religious obligations for their own salvation. Islam knows nothing about self-less sacrifice or the virtues that make Christianity so universal. The saddest thing is, most Muslims have no idea how morally deficient the religion of Muhammad actually is, because they’ve never compared any other religion to it. Islam hasn’t made most of its followers terrorists, but has produced a disturbing number of terrible people.