Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Suspecting Islam

In his blog post "How Not To Report a National Bombing Attack," my classmate and blog editor Josh Swanner argued that the New York Post's rush to file reports on the bombing attack at the Boston Marathon panders to Islamophobia and engenders violence against Muslims in America by making grossly speculative claims of Islamic involvement. According to Swanner, the Post's reporting allows "hate mongers to spew their hate, and continue to contribute to a false, ignorant fear of the other."

We’ve heard claims such as Swanner's many times before. Is it really arbitrary to suspect Islam when a violent act occurs? It is really wrong to disagree with those who claim that Islam is synonymous with peace?

Bosch Fawstin is an example of someone who argues that it is proper to hold Islam in contempt. Fawstin is an Eisner Award-nominated cartoonist and author of The Infidel, a graphic novel about twin brothers whose Muslim background comes to the forefront of their lives on 9/11. Raised a Muslim, Fawstin now rejects it, arguing that Islam—not any alleged deviant or "extreme" form of it—means brute force and tyranny.

In a recent talk, hosted by the University of Baltimore campus chapter of the Federalist Society, Fawstin spoke in defense of freedom of speech and conscience, rights that he says Islam denies him as both an artist and an apostate. "Islam—not any alleged deviant form of it—means misogyny, censorship, Jew-hatred, homophobia, wife-beatings, beheadings, honor killings, pedophilia/child marriages, murdering infidels, etc."

"This is evil," said Fawstin, "and Islam sanctions every bit of it."

But in one of the most riveting acts I have ever seen on an academic stage, Fawstin did something that I find truly courageous. He drew a drawing of the Prophet Muhammad.

Why did Fawstin draw an image of Muhammad? Because he says Islam forbids it—and Islam holds no sway in Fawstin’s life. And why was Fawstin’s act courageous? Because everyone knows—or ought to know—that Islamic belief calls for Muslims to strike people like Fawstin dead.

Some proponents of Islam argue that not every Muslim would actually attempt to murder Fawstin for his apostasy or his drawing of Muhammad. As Fawstin himself put it, “most Muslims are morally better than the prophet they claim to follow.”

But Fawstin makes a larger, more trenchant point. He argues that nothing in Islam qua Islam protects him as an Islamic apostate and blasphemer. He argues that the Koran itself  calls for loyal Muslims to kill him. "But if they turn renegades, seize them and slay them wherever ye find them; and (in any case) take no friends or helpers from their ranks."

"For more than a billion Muslims," says Fawstin, "the Koran is the sacred word of Allah, eternal and flawless, delivered to the prophet Muhammad—Islam's ideal man. The world is demanded to submit accordingly." Fawstin argues that as long as Muslims adhere to the Koran and seek to emulate Muhammad's life, Muslims will continue to shed innocent blood.

I agree with Fawstin's assessment of Islam. Moreover, I reject the ridiculous claim that one cannot disagree with Islam without being blindly racist or undeservedly hateful. Lest we forget, the shoebomber, the underwear bomber, the Times Square bomber, the Fort Hood shooter, the London Tube bombers, the Madrid bombers, the USS Cole bombers, the embassy bombers, the Beslan child murderers, the first World Trade Center attackers, and the September 11 attackers, all share adherence to Islam in common.

Now we are confronted with the alleged bombers of the 2nd Boston Massacre. Can we really claim surprise when it is revealed that these men also share adherence to Islam?    

I am sorry, but the real offensive picture is not the so-called "fear of the other" merely because it is different, but of something far more grave: a crippling self-censorship that says that we must not suspect Islam simply because because Islam’s adherents hold to their creed as an act of faith. We are rightfully protective of our freedom of religion and conscience, but when a creed makes itself the enemy of that very freedom, we are under no obligation to tolerate it.


  1. Hey Provenzo: kinda odd that you talk about a picture of Muhammad, but then don't show the picture. Are you a coward? Islam got you running scared?