On Twitter, a moderate Muslim activist took on a white supremacist in an act of what he called “collateral education”. No, he did not expect to change the mind of the white supremacist, who promptly called him a domestic terrorist and said that America was a white country, but he hoped that others would learn from the exchange.
I came upon this because, to prove that America (or, as I interpreted it, North America) was diverse, the Muslim activist asked that his statement saying so be retweeted. It wasn’t long before he had over ten thousand retweets, and numerous replies in support. I felt it was my obligation to join the retweet, and the replies of support were nice to read.
But one individual did speak up and challenged his assertion that “Islam teaches peace”, saying (paraphrased), “I’m sorry, but I’ve read the Quran twice, and it’s full of violence, just like the Bible.” It’s the last part of the sentence I want to talk about.
Let’s brush aside the fact that this sort of argument assumes that the Quran is Islam, and that the Bible is Christianity. They’re not. Yes, they are the most important books in our respective religions, but they are not Ikea assembly manuals. Regular Muslim groups, like regular Christian groups, require the application of free will, and some decent common sense when taking the passages of both books and interpreting them. We all know that crazies can take passages of both books out of context and use them for horrible purposes. Just look at the Westboro Baptist Church, or the Lord’s Resistance Army, or the militant portions of the IRA and the UDA before cooler heads prevailed. And just as terrorists can twist any passage of scripture to justify their horrible ends, so too can individuals who want to engage in unfair criticism of both faiths.
The phrase “just like the Bible” is an attempt to soften the unfairness of this criticism by suggesting they’re not playing sides, here. They’re applying their condemnation of passages taken out-of-context equally to bolster what they would argue is an atheistic viewpoint rather than an Islamophobic one. “I’m not Islamophobic, I’m cultophobic!” they might say.
And, fair enough: I’ll give them credit for not being a hypocrite. However, this is where my white and Christian privilege kicks in.
Suggestions that I might be no different from, or at least on a spectrum with the Westboro Baptist Church or the Lord’s Resistance Army might be hurtful or unfair, but that’s about as far as they go. They don’t contribute to a dark societal sentiment that might see me detained at airports for no good reason, shouted at or attacked on the street, or deported. I can choose to engage these criticisms or I can choose to roll my eyes and walk away with no risk to my personal safety.
That’s not a privilege accorded to those Muslims who have experienced the amount of hate they experienced for these past few years and especially these past few months since Trump was elected. That’s not a privilege accorded to the Muslims in my community whose perfectly sensible request to change an industrial site into a small prayer centre was met with coded complaints from a handful of residents saying that the prayer centre would, among other things, see “higher sewage use compared to that of normal faiths.”
This is the difference between being unfair to somebody on the mainstream, and attacking a marginalized group. The act causes significantly more damage to the latter group than to the former. That’s my Christian privilege, and that’s wrong.