Americans: Really Not Fans of Islam

According to a YouGov poll, even Democrats are more than half again as likely to dislike Islam. Only 17% have a positive view (~2% are themselves Muslims).

I've been thinking about this for a few days, occasioned by the most recent controversy. It seems to me that Islam has both structural and doctrinal commitments that are going to make it problematic for a modern state like the United States, Russia, or any European nation. That's not to say that there are no versions of Islam that are compatible with modern states, to be sure. I mean to say only that it's a harder religion for a modern state to digest.

Structurally, Judaism is universal in the sense that it aims to regulate every aspect of your life. Not every Jew practices it that way (or even close to that way), but if you are ultra-Orthodox, your relationship with God according to the Law will govern everything from what you wear to what you eat to how you pray. Islam is also universal in this way.

But Judaism does not expect non-Jews to live according to the Law: the Law as it envisions it is a part of the special relationship between their nation and the Lord. That others do not do these things is, if anything, a source of pride. Islam does not agree. Legally its stricter forms hold that a few religions (including Judaism) may be tolerated in a subordinate status, provided they accept their submission and pay a tax. Other religions, including animist religions like those common to Africa, or Japanese Shinto, are to be completely suppressed whenever possible.

Structurally, Christianity is universal in the sense that it considers itself to be the one true faith. Islam is like this as well. But Christianity accepts the existence of a secular sphere -- Jesus himself said, "Render unto Caesar" -- and the modern state falls easily into the role he assigned to the Roman empire. Rome can protect the religious liberty of other faiths, and can occupy a space in which many questions are settled otherwise than religiously where religions dispute the proper outcome.

Islam is universal in both the Jewish and the Christian sense. That makes it hard to digest if its adherents take it seriously. In a way, that's a strength of the faith: both Judaism and Christianity have seen many of their mores digested and eliminated by secular Western states. In another way, it's a problem for a modern society. You can't have freedom of conscience if people are free to convert to Islam but not from it on pain of death. You can't have freedom of expression if people are unfree to criticize the faith's leading figures or their doctrines. You can't have a free press that lives in terror of blasphemy laws (again, on pain of death -- not just according to radicals, but apparently according to the inherited law).

These radical interpretations of Islam are not implausible. Indeed, the interpretations given even by nonviolent radical groups -- Hizb-ut Tahrir, say, which claims to be nonviolent but nevertheless finds in Islam a necessary commitment to overthrowing secular states and replacing them with sha'riah -- are not only plausible but obvious. In many cases they are giving the most obvious reading of the tradition.

That it is the most obvious reading doesn't make it the best reading, to say nothing of the only reading. We have the Bible, but also the Summa Theologica. We have a huge tradition of Christian philosophy on how to understand and interpret the Bible. We have the Catechism to help bring those lessons forward in a more understandable way. In Judaism, they have the Torah but also a vast tradition of Rabbinical scholarship. They have a deep, dense, fascinating literature on how to interpret Torah and make it a part of your life.

Islam has a similar road open to it. Indeed, it once had a much more active philosophical tradition. One of the most regularly cited sources in the aforementioned Summa Theologica is Averroes, whom Aquinas calls "the Commentator." It's possible to get there, but the structural and doctrinal issues make it a harder road.

Still, remember these guys. It's a cherry-picked set of examples, sure. But in terms of their numbers, they're no less representative than the radicals are.

America has a right to ask some things of Islam insofar as Muslims would be Americans. Some of those most-obvious interpretations are simply not compatible with the American project. In return, though, a United States Marine with eight tours of duty under his belt has a right to ask some things of America, too.


raven said...

no less representative? 00.27% of the military? When some 50% of Muslims say they would support the implementation of Sharia, I am not sure that is correct.

Grim said...

You can do the math in several ways, I suppose. .27% of the total military from a population that is ~2% is quite high -- I believe the figure for the general population is only around ~1.5%.

If you want to pull the hard numbers on servicemembers v. terrorist shooters/bombers, you'll find that servicemembers come out way on top both in real numbers and as a percentage of American Muslims.

As for 50% supporting the implementation of sha'riah, I'm not clear on where that figure is coming from or to what it applies -- Muslims worldwide? Syrian refugees? American Muslims? Is this support for living in accord with sha'riah within the American system (e.g., to not drink alcohol and try to sign business contracts that will be adjudicated in sha'riah court)? Or is it support for replacing the Constitution with sha'riah?

Grim said...

Oh, I see it now -- you're citing the poll Trump was using. The numbers are being questioned by a lot of people, but Byron York has a good piece on Pew numbers that make it look like 51% may not be out of sight of reality. If a clean majority of American Muslims are immigrants from countries with much higher percentages of support for sha'riah, getting to around fifty percent is not impossible.

On the other hand, the poll was really unclear about what was meant. For one thing, it asked if they supported 'Muslims having a choice' to live under sha'riah if they wanted to do so. You'll get a lot higher 'yes' answers if you ask if people should have a choice on X if they want than if you ask if people should have to do X. That's human nature.

The other thing is that 'having a choice' could mean a lot of different things. It could mean 'a choice to ignore US law and be bound only by sha'riah,' which would be a huge problem. Or it could mean 'setting aside the Constitution in favor of sha'riah' which is an even bigger problem. But it could also mean 'having a choice to have business deals arbitrated in a sha'riah court,' or 'having the choice to opt to have family law matters handled in a sha'riah court,' which might be less problematic. Choice of law is pretty standard as a feature of American contracts, and some religious people have long opted to have arbitration by local religious leaders they trust.

In fact, you can see why that might seem like a good decision in some places. Would you rather go downtown to the Chicago court run by a judge appointed by the local machine -- or agree that, if there's a dispute, you and your partner will let Father Tom settle it, a guy you both know and trust, and whom you think will arbitrate anything with an eye towards being fair to everyone?

It might be a bigger problem in family law, though -- sha'riah can allow a man a divorce literally on demand in some readings, whereas a woman gets no choice at all. I don't see how the United States or any of the several states could accept that kind of legal disparity.

Ymar Sakar said...

Demoncrats are hypocrites, it would tend to follow that they would accuse others of Islamophobia, when they themselves are the ones most shaking in fear.

Ymar Sakar said...

It might be a bigger problem in family law, though -- sha'riah can allow a man a divorce literally on demand in some readings, whereas a woman gets no choice at all. I don't see how the United States or any of the several states could accept that kind of legal disparity.

They already do for Planned Profit's ethnic cleansing.

It's not like there isn't a premise or prior law promoting the tradition.

People like to think the law will make them fair and just. In fact, the opposite tends to happen. The Law corrupts and much of its energies are used to fight its own corruption.