Not all [insert group here]

While I was out with my girlfriend this Sunday, she told me about the most annoying "arguments" men's rights activists use when speaking of patriarchal issues in society: "Not all men." She means it is implied that one does not mean all men, and it doesn't mean the problems don't exist. I believe it's a good point, with which most left-wingers would probably agree. Of course not all white men are racist and sexist oppressors, but that doesn't mean there aren't any cultural problems. This kind of thinking should be extended to other areas, as welllike religion.

Most victims claimed by Islamic extremism are Muslims themselves. So obviously not all Muslims.

The conversation got me thinking about Islamophobia, or rather supposed Islamophobia. When so-called "New Atheists" criticize Islam, many left-wingers say it is bigotry, like Ben Affleck, even when progressive atheists criticize the conservative parts of the religion. But we're doing the same thing as one who rightly criticizes the issues we have in the west; the politically correct crowd is making the same mistake as those who think "not all men" is enough of a counterargument.

Of course not all Muslims are bad; that is implied, just like it is implied that not all white men are bad, even though there are systems of oppression that generally favor white men in the west. Even if only a minority of Muslims and white men are openly and obviously part of the problem, it doesn't mean there isn't a problem or that many more people contribute to it unwillingly and unwittingly; it doesn't mean there are no problems in western cultures, or Middle Eastern cultures, or Islam, or Christianity. It is the ideologies that are criticized, not the peoples.

Ancient religions will have doctrines full of antiquated morals, such as inequality for women and oppression of LGBT. It is often imbued in the very fabric of the belief that nonbelievers are inferior in some way; they can be considered bad people, or just morally inferior, because they don't blindly worship an authoritarian leader and thus have no "objective morality". These and similar elements of any ideology, even if it's a precious religion, must be criticized.

That doesn't mean believers cannot exist in the west or that their religions are entirely incompatible with western societies. Freedom of religion is, after all, a defining quality of a free nation. However, to a certain extent, religion will always be incompatible, because of the dogmatic belief in something that isn't true. But having Muslims in the west does not destroy the west, as definitely not all Muslims wish to enforce their religion on everyone else. And besides, with each generation born in the secular environment that is the west, extreme beliefs may just fade away.

I despise the truly Islamophobic people who hate Muslims as a people and especially as individuals. I despise the nationalists who value "western culture" more than the lives of immigrants. I despise those who devalue the lives of people based only on where they come from or to which invisible man they pray. Muslims are persecuted and oppressed in the west; a good example would be the attacks on Muslims that followed the attack on Charlie Hebdo; terror begets hate crime.

However, the facts that there are many Muslims who are good people and that Muslims as a group are oppressed in the west do not mean there aren't any parts of the Islamic doctrine that should be criticized. There is a problem with defining people as either oppressors or victims: even those who are oppressed by one group can contribute to the oppression of another one; even oppressed minorities can hold bigoted views.

Furthermore, Muslims are not a worldwide minority; they are the oppressive majority in the Middle East. Their cultures, heavily influenced by Islam, and the religion itself are less than ideal. Women are not equal to men; LGBT are oppressed; nonbelievers and apostates are demonized and even murdered. Of course not all Muslims commit heinous terror attacks and murders or even support them, but it is still a prevalent problem, like misogyny and homophobia in the west, very common amongst ultra-religious Christians.

Polls show that high percentages of Muslims support various things most people in the westespecially liberalswould find repugnant. The poll results vary, which indicates that this may be a cultural problem to a certain extent, though to deny that it is in large part religious when people and nations constantly profess their intentions are Islamic and when their behavior can be traced to Islamic doctrine is ignorant. Christians are also a varied group, and how prevalent extremism is depends much on the culture in which they live, but Christianity still has many major issues with homophobia and misogyny.

The majority doesn't have to be terrorists, or support it, for terrorism to be a problem caused by the ideology. The majority doesn't have to actively oppress for oppression to be a problem. It's enough that a sizable minority contributes to the problems; it's enough that many people inactively and perhaps even without thinking of it contribute to the problem. Am I a sexist or a racist? No, certainly not. Do I sometimes inadvertently contribute to the problem, because I was raised in a culture with relatively mild, though still existing systems of oppression? Yes, I probably do.

In conclusion, the "Not all [insert group here]" argument is not a good one; it's not even a valid one. The problems in the Middle East are probably not solely caused by Islam in every single case, but the religion certainly is a big part of it. Islam needs to be reformed; it needs to progress, which can only be done if it can be criticized. This is not something the west needs; this is something Muslims need, for they are the greatest victim of their own ideology and the most extreme variants of Islam.


Follow-up blog posts

Check out two follow-up blog posts (click the images), titled "An apologist for not all" and "The causes of extremism".