In this day of not just political correctness, but an atmosphere of severe and perpetual outrage, most of us are finding it difficult to broach certain subjects. Islam is definitely one of them, so how can we have the conversations we want and need to have without losing friends or being locked out of our social media accounts?

The first step is to separate beliefs from actions.

Being Muslim means that a person believes in Allah and the prophet. That’s essentially all that it strictly means, or needs to mean. As with any other ideology, people will put it into actual practice in different ways, and to different degrees. Mormons are not supposed to drink, but some of them do. Jews are not supposed to eat non-Kosher food, yet many of them do.

In any other ideology, we are able to separate faith from actions, so Islam should be no exception. It should also be just as available for questions or criticisms as any other ideology. Either we have free speech and can talk about anything, or we do not.

I’ve known several Muslims from Iran here in California over the years. They wore western clothes, enjoyed a drink, liked to dance, and in all ways, lived a typical western/American kind of life. Perhaps, they were more “Culturally” Muslim in much the same way you might be culturally Christian, yet not attend church every Sunday. In any event, if you asked their religion, they would identify as Muslims.

I’m not sure if they would be more offended or amused if I asked them if they were in favor of sharia law, or the practices that fall under it such as a man being allowed four wives, or a woman’s testimony being worth half a man’s in court, but clearly, they would not be in favor of these things.

Indeed, people in Iran right now are protesting these very laws, along with the corruption of their government.

Iran fell to sharia law when the revolution took place, which is the reason you see many of the human rights abuses occurring now. This is not to say there were never abuses before this period, but they are now not just sanctioned by law, they are the law itself.

Some examples of sharia law in practice in Iran and the other 12 countries ruled by it:

Women can’t really divorce a man under most circumstances, and only with difficulty when granted.

A thief can be sentenced to having their hand cut off, and they have actual guillotines just for this.

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A hand-chopping guillotine in Iran. He stole sheep.

Men may be granted the right to have up to four wives (practice varies)

Girls (well) under the age of 18 can be married, often through no choice of their own.

Women can be sentenced to public flogging for violating modesty laws

Men can be sentenced to public flogging for breaking certain laws, such as drinking.

No one is free to speak against the government.

So, there is no need to even use words like “Islam” or “Muslim” when you wish to talk about the violation of women’s rights or human rights in general. All we need to do is attack the ideas and practices beneath that system of religious laws. Without them, Islam is just a belief, and beliefs by themselves can’t actually hurt anyone. Actions do.

Westernized Muslim people by and large are not advocating for or practicing any of the above, nor would they wish to live under laws that allowed them which probably had something to do with their decision to move to the west in the first place.

That said, not everyone in the west is westernized. As we’ve seen there are a lot of people who simply end up in the west due to economic migration or genuine refugee status, and so these are not people who would necessarily approve of western ways or have any desire to find themselves living among people who practice them. In this case, clearly while we are expected to be considerate of others’ differences, it is only fair to expect that they will return our tolerance and accept that they are no longer in their home country, but somewhere that is far different.

Not everyone is this reasonable, however and so people are beginning to feel very concerned that they are the ones being censored, restricted and having to bend more and more to accommodate people who don’t wish to assimilate.

With a growing migrant population in the U.K. for example, the police are cracking down on social media posts and even jailing people for criticizing Islam under ever-broadening ‘hate speech’ laws- which some would say are really Islamic blasphemy laws in thin disguise.

Some Muslim people come to western countries and get angry that people are drinking alcohol in public, or walking dogs, or kissing their spouse out in the open. They may object to night clubs, short skirts, non-halal food in schools and so on.

Unfortunately, governments spend more time coddling this kind of intolerance than in educating incoming immigrants about life in the west, thus feeding into these conflicts.

They fail to protect in many cases, the victims of crime committed by immigrants such as with the recent rape scandals in the U.K., which hardly fosters feelings of hospitality on the part of the natives.

If there is any chance of living peacefully in multicultural societies, then no group should be protected or prioritized over the other. Equality has to mean that we demand tolerance for all groups, and treat them all equally under the law. If a person can go to jail for harassing someone based on their religion, then surely a person should also be jailed for harassing a couple who is holding hands or walking a Poodle on the street, in other words, being victimized for their own beliefs, customs, and values.

In a fair world, there would be no difference under the law, but we don’t live there yet.

It is the fear of seeing our western way of life vanish over time that is at the crux of this entire issue, and freedoms being chipped away at least in the west, and I think it’s a perfectly valid fear when free speech is squashed in favor of more and more accommodation. The U.K. doesn’t have hard and fast free speech rights as we do here, but censorship is already overriding the constitution, if only by making people afraid to say anything lest they be called some ‘ist’ or ‘ism.’

Obviously, I am not advocating for hate speech, racism or any form of extremism, because while it would be both morally wrong and unfair, it would also serve only to drown out the valid concerns people are having.

We continue to think that sharia will never happen in the west, but only recently, Germany allowed a man to legally bring over his second wife, essentially condoning bigamy, which normally would be illegal in Germany. We’ve seen the very cruel live export of animals to western countries with larger Muslim communities because of Halal requirements. Something, in many of our opinions, that is exceedingly inhumane and should not ever be allowed in the civilized world with all of our regulations protections and general standards not only in food production, but the treatment of animals.

We have every right to speak up against practices with which we disagree, and we should do so. If you stick to criticizing sharia law, or things people do, rather than what people are, you are then able to open a door you’d otherwise want to glue shut and stack furniture against for fear of offending someone, or landing yourself into hot water with the PC patrol.

Just leave beliefs out of it, because no one was ever hurt by something a person believed, only by something a person did.

Here’s to having that conversation and still being able to login to Twitter the next day.

-Rachel

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