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+3 votes
While rejection of religion is practically unanimously agreed to be a vital aspect of anarchism, in the case of Islam I can't help but feel squeamish whenever I enter into discussions about the issues with the religion, because most of the common criticisms of Islam are so interwoven with racism, orientalism, imperialism, and nationalism. Is it possible, as an anarchist, to make a thorough critical analysis of Islam without falling in line with bigoted rhetoric? And as Anarchists from Europe and the United States, how can we be sure that our own understanding of Islam (and non-Christian religion in general) isn't colored by social biases or orientalist throught?
by (340 points)
Just surfed in here due to looking something up in Google.

As an anarchist, shouldn't you be thinking for yourself and not worrying about groupthink political correctness imposed by social engineers and the sheep who obey their diktats of what is or is not acceptable to to say or think? Seriously, express what you think and let the chips fall where they may. It will give you tremendous self respect.

Islam is not a race and there is nothing racist in criticizing or outright attacking it. It doesn't matter what it's intertwined with (correctly or incorrectly). Hell, even if it were exclusive to a race race , so what?  Do Jews who claim to be a race, but are not, make you ckeck yourself when critiicizing Israel or Judaism? That's what they want. Antisemite, Islamaphobe, homophobe, racist, nativist, Nazi, commie, yada yada yada are all weapons of the thought police to shut down freedom of speech and thought which any self respecting anarchist should claim as an absolute right. If whatever you express is due to flawed information, it is only through honest and open communication that will develop new opinions (we are free to change our minds). If you are right, all the better.

Don't fall for the mind control. Fuck the thought police. You think what you think so express yourself. It's your right.
you are certainly speaking for one pole of an argument that can get very heated. and your premise is easy to accept in a vacuum (welcome to the internet! ;) ).

but i will offer a flawed and limited counter example, one about france banning head scarves for muslim women, which is just secular nationalism striking against religion; and not a situation where either side is defensible by anarchists.

the point is that we (all of us, anarchists very much included) act out of stereotypes and assumptions as often as (sometimes more than) anything else, and that is especially true when we have been encouraged by many things, consciously and unconsciously, to believe that we are right (as racism encourages us, and sexism encourages us, and religions of various sorts encourage us, etc).

in other words, i support the squeamishness of the questioner, although whether that means that things should not be said or done would depend on specific circumstances and relationships.

2 Answers

+8 votes
Consistent anarchist thought is secular, and precludes adherence to any form of organized religion. You avoid the pitfalls of orientalism (and anti-imperialism) by making your criticisms as generic as possible; the specific problems of particular cosmologies is irrelevant. All religions have a certain degree of colonialism in them; they seek to spread their influence over people who are unaffiliated (or lapsed), and most often that is attached to a territorial imperative exercised through the state. In addition, the circumscribed cosmologies of religions take away the ability of individuals to determine their own lives on their own terms. Don't let the possibility of being called a racist paralyze you from remembering the fundamental anarchist rejection of institutionalized hierarchies.
by (550 points)
very well said.
lawrence has concrete experience with this; he walked the talk with regards to his last sentence (recall all the shit some months ago about his public comment on churches - including black churches), and i give him props for that.

thing is, trying to get past the bullshit with identity ideologues is a loser's game, in my experience. so one needs to be very aware of the context in which they say things that critique identity politics, OR be prepared for the fallout.
P1: Any conclusion based on an incorrect premise should be rejected.

P2: Gods are an incorrect premise.

P3: Islam makes conclusions based on gods.

C: Islam should be rejected.

The religion in P3 and C is arbitrary. It works equally with Hinduism and Shinto and the Great Pumpkin and, of course, Christianity and Judaism.

When I say it "works equally well," I mean that people who accept P2 will see this as trivially true, and people who reject P2 will dismiss it out of hand regardless of logic.
+3 votes
In a way, Lawrence has given the obvious correct answer. Here's another one, though...

It's certainly possible to make a critical analysis of any religion without being racist. However, it seems like that the people who are best positioned  to do this in a useful and convincing way are usually the people who have a connection to it. If you've grown up around a religion, you'll probably have more reason to think about it critically, and more of an ability to engage with its particulars (which are not simply questions of doctrine, cosmology, etc., since religions also operate in practical ways in this or that place).

On the other hand, people with little to no interactions with e.g. Islam, might be at a greater risk of issuing condemnations from afar, for reasons of "principle" and "consistency", which is not my way of doing things.
by (7.9k points)
i see what your saying, but it's equally true that being affiliated with it will make you feel more indifferent to it as well, as if it's a plant or a tree, that it's INEVITABLE, like the attitude most americans have about bosses

or, in the case of a repressive religion, being affiliated with it would make you not want to speak about it for obvious reasons.

Islam is pretty much the same as christianity, so i think anyone who has experience with christianity is entitled to the right to hate islam
asker, i think i agree with you, even more in principle than in this particular application.

as i see it the principle is for tending our own gardens before weeding those of other people. (can be taken too far, of course, but doesn't seem like your comment does that.)
Dot, I think tending one's own garden could be a good principle, but I'm not sure it's the one I had in mind here.  

To elaborate slightly, it seems to me that a really good critique of Christianity has to involve a serious engagement with what its ideas actually are. Nietzsche and Derrida for example studied Christian texts a lot. The so-called new atheist critics like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, et al, don't really attend to what's specific and compelling about particular religions, so they make critiques that are on the one hand racist, and on the other hand wildly incomplete.