Face Reality: Is Islam a force for good or bad?

The idea that Islam is neither good nor bad, that it’s just a ‘religion’ or an ‘ideology’ with some good aspects and some bad aspects, is lazy, dishonest and disingenuous. Likewise, slogans like Islam is peace or Islam is evil aren’t helpful.

Most of us have no issue agreeing that science, overall, benefits humanity, even though it has led to atomic bombs and can be used for nefarious political and social agendas. We should therefore be able to say with even more conviction whether religion is good or bad. After all, it speaks for itself and has scriptures which are based upon fundamentals.

Any honest reader of Islamic scriptures will agree that the faith’s key principles are about being good to people, no matter who they are, being charitable, honest, and, most importantly, connecting to God.

For me it’s quite simple: Islam arose from a barbaric, pre-modern society, in which tribalism, misogyny and war were glorified and normalised. Much of Islam is therefore a product of the world in which it emerged. So whatever violent or intolerant readings one may find, are not essential to it; they are particulars, not universals, they are subsidiary, relative and borne out of particular milieu. They must be contextualised.

We judge a thing by what it fundamentally is, its primary message and goal, not by a handful of verses that were a reaction to a specific cultural context. Just as science isn’t evil because of the things which science can create, neither is religion because of what some people do.

The way religion manifests in human culture is not indicative of the religion. Even if the majority of Muslims across the world were to join ISIS tomorrow, this doesn’t mean Islam is evil. Their understanding is a reflection of today’s world. Societies change, evolve, advance and regress, this tells us little to nothing about a religion. Muslims, during Europe’s dark ages, were the most enlightened and advanced people on earth; and Muslims for centuries have been people of tolerance, decency, uprightness and mercy. Are we to look back and say that Islam was a good religion but no longer is? It’s nonsense.

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