It seems everyone has an opinion about the Muslim world. Many believe that most Muslims are extremists. Some of them usually refer to stats based on a small sample of Muslims and snub other stats who show contradicting results. Either that or they use the fantabulously infallible evidences: the anecdotes; even evidences unearthed by thoroughly-executed scientific researches are nothing compared to personal experiences of individuals with filthy lenses.
Then, there’s another kind of bigots. They believe extremists are a tiny minority…which the peaceful majority are responsible for. They believe the entire Muslim world is a literal formal organisation, with subservient and well-connected members, complete with clear-cut ranks and lawful centralised authorities. What a wonderful smoking gun; now they have grounds to blame all Muslims. Conspiracies, always too good to be true, don’t they?
They refuse to admit that Muslims are, in fact, an actual religious group, consisting of distinct individual human beings that mostly aren’t affiliated with each other. We have an assortment of Islamic denominations, sub-denominations and movements which many of us refuse to join in.
We don’t acknowledge the same authorities. They can be celebrity clerics, organisations, ministers of religious affairs or even some obscure preachers who settle in some obscure mosques in obscure neighbourhoods or villages. Heck, many of us don’t even acknowledge any religious authorities at all; we are content with our private spirituality. Should I mention there are over a billion of us on earth? That would be a management catastrophe, wouldn’t it?
Those extremists are indeed venomous bad apples and ought to be taken care off. But, if you want to throw tantrums to Muslims, make sure they are actually guilty. Berate Muslims who are aware of extremism and yet do nothing about it. Berate Muslims who consciously empower its growth. There are lots of them to choose from.
But, it’s glaringly idiotic to think you can berate any random Muslims. Guilt by association is a real fallacy. If you don’t know how stupid that is, just imagine a person who blame every ingredient in the kitchen, including the sugar, for salting his food. For me, it’s less about stupidity and more about prejudice. But, that’s a topic for another time.
At this point, you probably think this article is all about Muslims. Well, to an extend, it is. But, my main concern here is more about the so-called collective guilt. For next example, I will discuss about the police. American police forces to be exact.
American right wingers are notorious for being liable of such fallacy. I do admit they are not the only culprits; even western leftists can succumb to idiocy (or prejudice). The reason why the Right infuriates me in this matter is their hypocrisy.
In the US in recent years, there is an increase in public awareness about police corruptness and brutality. Outrage is loudly expressed. Demands for accountability also increases. People don’t want legal immunity for anyone with uniforms. Then, the Right chime in to defend.
They dismiss the concern as nothing but paranoia, the dignified outrage as nothing but tantrum. They believe there’s nothing wrong with the police forces; cases of corrupt and violent officers are isolated incidents. Just a few bad apples, they say…
No, they are not just a few bad apples. Police forces are actual formal organisations with obedient members, clear-cut ranks and centralised authorities; you know, attributes that the Right unfoundedly think the entire Muslim world has. With such characteristic in place, it’s very definite that a few cases of immorality can be blamed on the entire collectives.
For every few sinful officers, there are approving colleagues, indulgent or sinful superiors, slacking internal affairs officers, inept trainers and recruiters, or a combination of any of them. They all have the legal power and duty to thwart the diseases’ growth. But then, how can function when they’re already infected? They would rather quarantine the healthy ones instead.
I know some of you (if people read my works at all) will start accusing Muslims of silence. Usually, I’d tell you lot to google first before vomiting oral excrement. But, in the end, when you do admit our lack of silence, you will always say we aren’t doing enough. How can our efforts pay off when we’re not supported?
In predominantly-Muslim countries, the authorities love to dismiss the concern of pluralist Muslims while being too lenient towards the extremist ones. Worse, they may even prosecute those pluralist Muslims instead. In the case of Central Asia, the authorities implement anti-extremism legislation so discriminatory, it would potentially affect the innocents. In the west, it is not any better.
Western Muslims are frequently ordered to report extremist individuals. When they do (and many of them will without being ordered to), their words of concern are dismissed as something of no importance. Therefore, the empowerment of extremists is also the fault of non-Muslim westerners.
I explicitly stated that Guilty by Association is a fallacy. Well, that applies to every group on earth, including the police. Unlike the entire Muslim world, it’s logically sound to condemn entire police forces. But, like individual Muslims, it’s logically unsound to berate any random police officers you encounter; their innocence and guilt cannot be assumed.
An individual is literally one person who has his/her own thoughts and feelings. A collective consists of different and contrasting individuals; in some cases, one or a few individuals may completely reign over the other members, influencing the group mentality. Individuals are not collectives and collectives are not individuals.
Frankly, I’m not surprised the American Right embrace this double standard. I mean, they are conservatives. Fearing and demonising the ‘others’ is literally one of their hobbies. They also have a fetish for people in uniforms; they commit a fallacy called Honour by Association, which is also a good topic for another time.
Yes, I just stereotyped other American conservatives. Well, fair is fair. If Muslims can be stereotyped, why can’t we stereotyped them?
Oh and before I end this article, I have to defend Roman Catholics as well.
When anti-Muslim bigots think the Muslim world is a strict formal organisation, anti-religious bigots have the same in mind about every religious group! They literally believe that every single one has deacons, bishops, priests with worshippers on the lowest rank. They seriously base their judgment on skewed understanding of Roman Catholic Church hierarchy.
First of all, Roman Catholics are literally ONE religious group; them alone cannot be used to understand the entire global religious scenes.
Second, ordinary worshippers are indeed members of the church. But, they are not included in the church’s official strata.
Third, even if you include the priests, bishops and deacons to the entire Roman Catholics collective, it would still be an informal group of people. Contrary to popular belief, religious people -including Roman Catholics- can be rebellious. There are ordinary Roman Catholics who openly detest the church’s views; even high-ranking church officials can be deemed heretical by fellow believers. From my personal lens as a Muslim, some contemporary Roman Catholics seem to have mutual and very lax relationships with their priests; I wish Muslims share the same thing with our clerics.
Oh and anti-religious sentiment is also a good topic for another time.