The impetus for this article is derived from a Facebook discussion about Islamic Terrorism – specifically the Manchester Bombing.
The contention of the person who posted a comment was that terrorists are not people of religion; not believers in God. (Apparently the Delai Lama holds to the same belief – or so I just read in an online comment).
The contention was that these people are simply violent and/or politically motivated and/or mentally retarded. What was not stated but which was implied, was that Islamic terrorists are not representative of believers in and practitioners of Islam. This person’s concept appears to be rational. It can well be rationally argued that they are right. However, I here posit that rationality is subjective.
In teaching English to Chinese students in Mainland China, I find it necessary to make them understand the difference between ‘opinion’ and ‘fact’ and to that end I ask them if it is true that the Sun rises in the east every morning. And so I ask you the reader, ‘Does the Sun rise in the east every day and does it set in the west every day?’
Most people automatically reply that it does. But that is a subjective perception for as we know; the Sun does not rise or set. There is a difference between what can be proven to be true and what we perceive to be true. (Except maybe in a court of law!)
So the next step is to ask: ‘If it were true that it is the Sun which moves in relation to the earth, would it still be true to say that every day the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west?’ Most people would say ‘yes! That is correct!‘ But it too would be a subjective perception because as anyone at the north and south poles would tell you, there are long periods in which the Sun neither rises nor sets. There is no specific night and day.
Perception of reality therefore is both subjective and relative to situations in which we find ourselves.
There are many Christians today who will tell you that Jesus does still heal people of terminal diseases. Because they believe that, they see miracles where the rest of the population sees rational explanations. But which is ultimately true? The fact of the matter is that our belief systems are subjective and it takes a brave man or woman to openly and honestly investigate or consider a belief system that is alien to their own absolutely adhered to system of belief.
Some years back a Chinese friend explained to me that when a relative with a terminal disease was near death, the whole family fervently prayed to the ancestors to heal this person. Within days the person was well and the doctors could not explain it. Christians might of course say it was the devil that healed her. But what of those who do not believe in any connection between prayer and healing or simply do not believe in miracles? How can they explain it? The best one can do is to honestly say, ‘I don’t understand it!’ But if they were to jump up and down and say ‘This person is not healed. This person is terminally ill. I don’t care what anyone says, I will not accept what all the evidence says!’, then that person would be anything but rational.
I have many times been accused of being some type of ‘phobic’ and some type of ‘—ist,’ but such terms themselves are subjective rationalities. Take the word homophobic. Because I do not support gay marriage, I am deemed homophobic. BUT I have NO PHOBIA in relation to homosexuals. I do have a phobia in relation to snakes and sharks. Those two phobias however are not irrational because anyone who has had the numerous close encounters that I have had would consider it crazy NOT TO BE AFRAID. How I am still alive after all the times I have unwittingly been beside and almost touched a venomous snake with my hands is a mystery to me – unless of course God was protecting me. But that too is a subjective rationality.
(The word subjective relates a personal position relative to a particular situation. That does not of course mean that the subjective perception is ABSOLUTELY / ULTIMATELY incorrect. It may well be correct – the ultimately provable fact of the matter.)
People who have been raised to believe that any opposition to or failure to support a given ideological construct demonstrates that the opposer is ‘phobic’ or some type of ‘—ist’ have a rational reason to believe what they do, but the rationality is subjective in that it relates to a specific system of belief. Those who don’t believe in gay marriage also have a rational belief system, based as it is in religion and/or tradition and/or culture. Both systems of belief are based in subjective rationale.
Any Christian will tell you that abortion is sinful. Most Catholics SHOULD tell you that you will go to hell. Some percentage of (if not all) Jews will not condemn you to hell because as they know, there is no hell. But as everyone else knows, the law of the land does not declare it illegal to have an abortion, so abortion is not wrong (therefore not sinful).
The Christian or Jewish response to the next posit is predictable since their beliefs are rooted in their religion, but I wonder what response would be forthcoming from those who do not believe in God, or sin, or eternal punishment. (This is a question of Absolute versus Relative Values). Here is the posit.
‘If the law of the land did not make it illegal to have sexual relations with a child 12 years of age, would you still call a twenty year old man/woman, a thirty year old man/woman or a sixty year old man/woman a pedophile if they had sex with the child?’
If the law says it is okay, they what would be the objection? (Remember that if there is no God, then our culture and law is merely a social construct – a social compact/contract).
Now back to the original topic, that of the practice or otherwise of Islam and a Muslim terrorist’s belief or otherwise in God.
The posit that Islamic terrorists are not representative of believers in and practitioners of Islam is totally subjective. For a Muslim to posit that comment, they can only be offering their own personal and perhaps particular community’s viewpoint. Are their beliefs truly representative of the 1.8 billion Muslims in the world? Like Christianity, Islam has a variety of sects/denominations and interpretations of the holy book and what it says. It is no more true to state that the Pope in Rome speaks for all Christians than it is to say that ISIS espouses the views of all Islam. It is not even a question of what percentage of the total population of Islam for whom ISIS allegedly speaks.
The real question as posited in the beginning of this article is whether or not Islamic Terrorists are actual practitioners of Islam and whether or not they truly believe in Allah.
(Allah’s opinion of them does not enter the equation. People have been known to ask me if I believe in Jesus and my usual response is ‘The question is not whether or not I believe in Jesus but whether or not he believes in me!’ — Matthew 7:21-23.)
As for a non-Muslim who posits that Islamic Terrorists do not truly practice Islam or truly believe in Allah, they are speaking either from complete ignorance, or subjective rationale relative to whatever it is that they have been told, or heard, or read. The only way in which they could truly judge the Islamic Terrorist is if they have firsthand experience of the practices and beliefs of those terrorists.
There was a time when Roman Catholics went to hell for eating meat on Friday. (Poor sods. Have they ever been forgiven by the church? Are they still rotting in hell?) Those same Catholics paid money to the church in order to be forgiven of their sins. Was their religion real? Did they not practice what they believed? Did they not truly believe in God? Your theological judgment of them and their doctrines does not negate the reality that they did believe!
So when people say that Islamic Terrorists are not REAL MUSLIMS and do not TRULY BELIEVE in Allah, upon what basis do they make their judgment? Surely it is a subjective judgment based in subjective rationale relative to situations which stand counter to the beliefs of the Terrorists. But that doesn’t make the terrorist’s faith any less real or irrational, because rationality is a subjective perception.
In 2016 I published an article titled Useful Idiots and Islam in which I did my best to explain how apologists for Islam are not only doing our western societies harm, but harming ordinary, non-radical Muslims. It is my fervent belief that WE (people) need to UNDERSTAND the beliefs, religions, politics and culture of OTHERS (people) and come to understand that our perceptions of reality are not necessarily those of others and even stand in opposition to the beliefs of others. In that case, is it rational to ditch our (national) perceptions in favor of the OTHER?
When even one percent of OTHERS have a hateful and destructive agenda designed to wipe us out, we need to be careful to refrain from dismissing their effect, for example, one percent of the Muslim population of Australia is around ten thousand people. Can we afford to ignore their (potential) presence and effect?
Of course, this is just my subjective rationale. You are entitled in a democratic environment to have your own perception.