As an estranged Muslim and reluctant agnostic (I don’t have the confidence to say anything with certainty, least of all the absence of a higher power, though I often wish I had ) I am constantly searching for common threads that foster understanding through familiarity. Despite the insistence of right wingers the world over, we really aren’t that different in terms of spirituality and where we seek it, looking upwards towards the heavens with our hands usually splayed in front of us or else pressed together in supplication, even among the idolaters who focus their prayers towards an inanimate object, perhaps to make it less abstract and more accessible for people who view the world through a different lens.
Although I do not practice it, I was indoctrinated into the Muslim faith. As a star pupil, by the age of 10, I had read the Quran cover to cover 3 times and was set to memorise it, earning myself the title of Hafiz, the name given to those who know the Quran off by heart. I would have done too had it not been for the low key sexual assault I was subjected to from age 8 onwards. It was always over my clothes but it made me afraid, and frankly, disgusted by men, especially those who presented themselves as men of God, tasked with keeping the rest of us (mostly women) in line.
It was easy enough to join the existing chorus of opposition to the Muslim faith, I wanted to be considered English or British and opposed restrictions on what I could eat and drink and wear, which seemed to me a contradiction of my God given free will. I only really started to question my position as a budding atheist when my unbelieving peers expressed the sort of intolerance I’d previously concluded could only ever be inspired by religious zealotry. I came to realise religion wasn’t the problem, people were.
It is egotism that drives religious institutions and doctrines. Even within religions there are further factions, split along political allegiances and community lines. In all religions there is a right and a left wing, a spectrum of ideology that encompasses the best and worst of all faiths. The right wing of any religion places itself as the ultimate word in the expression of faith and condemns all other religions and peoples to the hellfire. You are either a Muslim or a ‘dozakhi’ (one for the hellfire) according to certain Islamist sects. This type of Muslim is widely recognised the world over as being the only kind of Muslim there is because western propaganda depends on this narrative in order to maintain its power. If Muslims were anything less than a threat to our way of life, they wouldn’t be so easy to target.
It bothers me that this narrative relies on the erasure or denial of extremism in other religions. We don’t seem to be condemning right wing Buddhists for the genocide enacted against the Rohingya or the fascist Hindutva for the murder squads they deployed in Kashmir.
More recently the Catholic church has condemned Pope Francis for making a statement in which he, to my understanding, promoted equality of faith and recognised we all pray to the same God, ultimately. His intention, I believe, was to humanise the church and establish ties with other faith groups in celebration of the ‘human fraternity’.
The right wing of the Catholic church has condemned this because it does not believe in the validity of any other religion or worship. It states that idol worship is satanic and a sin because it violates the first commandment and the Blessed Trinity, according to St Paul. By that token, literally every other religion in the world and even some sects in Christianity are reduced to devil worship by the egotistic followers of the ‘true religion’. This intolerance is unacceptable, especially when we are so intolerant of Muslims who claim they are the true believers of the one true religion and God. It is nothing less than racist to treat Islam (alone) as though it is a threat to the human race, and it is racism when the Catholic establishment is whiter than the driven snow and Muslims are mostly black and brown.
For 3000 years men have waged their wars, proselytising as they swallowed up whole nations in the name of the prophet of their choice. So much wealth hoarded by these humble and pious soldiers of God they could solve world hunger so many times over and yet they ignore the basic teachings of any religion, to feed the poor and love one another, choosing instead to assert their superior ways over others.
I condemn the condemners for their gargantuan male egos (the worst ego of all though you wouldn’t know it in a world that despises women) and for the hypocrisy that emanates from all right wing believers of a higher power.
Get over yourselves. God has.