I know this is now long overdue, but I have a confession to make: There was a time–about a decade ago–when I was at my most gullible. Ten years ago, I became a member of a group in Vancouver, which is ostensibly anti-war, known as Mobilization Against War and Occupation (MAWO for short). I joined this particular group because I thought doing so would allow me to make a difference. I got out of that a few years ago (when I was roughly 33 years old), after realizing I was wrong about what is now a major point of contention between myself and MAWO: That is, religion. In particular, Islam.
MAWO’s take on religion is that it’s merely a smokescreen, obscuring what they consider to be the real issues, all of them surrounding war and occupation. While it’s true that the only time the mainstream media says anything critical about religion is when it discusses Islam (while giving Christianity a pass for just about everything–or trying to, anyhow), I’ve come to the conclusion that the majority of MAWO’s members–including those in positions of leadership within that group–as Sam Harris once put it, have no clue what it’s like to truly believe in God–of any type or stripe. For instance, when the Danish newspaper Jyllens-Posten published some cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed, MAWO staged a rally, in conjunction with local representatives of the Muslim community, to decry the cartoons (this was before I joined, by the way), claiming the cartoons helped spread Islamophobia, and thus supported war and occupation in what they deemed oppressed nations, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. No mention was made of the more violent reactions on the part of Islamists to the cartoons, or of Islamic religious leaders in Denmark including pictures that weren’t a part of the collection published by Jyllens-Posten; the point was to decry the cartoons as part of an alleged attempt to separate ordinary people in developed nations from their counterparts in the Muslim communities in those nations and in the Middle East and Afghanistan (which is, for those who don’t know, in Central Asia). Afterwards, when Somalia substituted its Union of Islamic Courts government with a transitional government, and the United Nations talked about stepping into Sudan, MAWO formed a group dealing with issues regarding possible interventions in African nations (which I was–albeit a small–part of), to protest any interventions in any African nations from developed nations; MAWO and this group (whose name escapes me) even went so far as to accuse Doctors Without Borders of paving the way towards war and occupation in Sudan. In short, MAWO ignores, either by negligence, design, or a combination, the heinous crimes and threats that Islamists make in the name of Islam, while giving Islam and its most hardcore adherents a pass for everything–hell, in the world according to MAWO, 9-11 was the fault of imperialism, and had nothing to do with Islamism or Islam. Also, they tout George Galloway as something akin to a hero, as he echoes what they believe. On top of all of this, they, as well as companion groups Iranian Community Against War (ICAW) and Indigenous Rights and Action Project (IRAP) liken the actions of groups such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other Islamist groups to struggles of students and working people in developed nations, and those of Indigenous people in the Americas. And I fell for all of this, and more, hook, line, and sinker. Given their history, I think I know their take on the situation regarding Charlie Hebdo, though I don’t know if they’ve ever talked about it.
Now, I know better. I realize, in participating in MAWO’s mental masturbation, both in public and private, I’ve actually done more harm than good–especially in convincing people to ignore the heinous acts committed in the name of Islam–and I can only hope that whatever work I do to promote secular humanism, and any and all other work I do to truly make the world a better place, will make even a tiny dent in the damage I’ve done during my time with MAWO and its companion groups.
Please understand I have nothing against people who happen to have been raised to believe in Islam, and still identify as Muslim, especially out of fear of what will happen to them if they leave the faith. I do have a problem with promoting the idea that Islam is special and should thus be above criticism, satire, parody, and ridicule; Islamists and the most hardcore Muslims will just, like all religious people of all degrees of devotion, have to grow up and realize the world doesn’t revolve around them, and try to tolerate us infidels doing things they don’t like, as long as we don’t break any laws of the lands we happen to live in, or harm or inconvenience anyone else. I don’t condone inflicting any harm on, or actually discriminating against, people just because of things such as religious beliefs, but no one should receive special consideration and preferential treatment–and that includes Muslims. And I realize that entities such as ISIS, the Taliban, al-Qaeda, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other Islamist groups do what they do out of a sense of, not injustice or inequality, but entitlement.
To all victims of Islam and the heinous acts carried out in its name–Muslim, ex-Muslim, and beyond–I offer my sincerest apologies for my thoughtlessness from a decade ago, and the last few years–simply because I didn’t follow my Grade Nine history teacher’s admonishment to do my bloody homework.