Islam is Forcing Us to Resolve an Important Ethical Conflict


I saw a video (which you can see here) where a man and a woman were walking together in a public park, and he slaps her face. Bystanders immediately stopped him.

Then she dresses in a hijab and they do the same thing: They walk along talking, this time in Arabic, and then he stops and slaps her. You could see that other people in the park were disturbed by it, but only one man eventually intervened. Everyone else looked on, didn't like it, but didn't do anything or even say anything.

The creators of the video implied that this meant the non-Muslims didn't care as much about Muslim women as they do about non-Muslim women. But I think that conclusion is off-base.

The video illustrates a deep conflict in our culture. And our increasing contact with Muslims is bringing this conflict more and more to the forefront. We will have to resolve it. We have rarely had to confront this conflict in the past, but Islam is exceedingly good at putting non-Muslims in double binds.

This ability to put us in double binds is, I believe, one of their most effective strategic ploys, and they are exploiting it wherever they can.

In case you didn't know exactly what a double bind was, I looked up a good definition to add the link above, but I also found this telling statement in the explanation: "Double binds are often utilized as a form of control without open coercion — the use of confusion makes them both difficult to respond to as well as to resist."

Islam is not strong enough and Muslims in most non-Muslim countries are not numerous enough to control non-Muslims through open coercion as they would in a Muslim country. So they use double binds to exert control.

What is the conflict illustrated in the video? One the one hand we want to be open, tolerant people. We don't want to be bigoted or narrow-minded. We don't want to be arrogant and insulting toward another's culture just because it's different. This is basic etiquette and manners, and for most of us, it is an important part of who we are.

On the other hand, what if the other culture is actually morally wrong? What if the other culture harms people? What if it interferes with others' freedoms?

Most cultural differences are very easy for us to accept. If someone wants to put a mark on their forehead or wear a cross or dress in a traditional dress from the old country or eat salted mackerel or pray in some way you are unfamiliar with, most of us don't think, "Look at those freaky foreigners. They are strange and therefore wrong and bad." We think, "That's their culture, and they have every right to live the way they want to."

The co-creator of the movie, Borat, (Dan Mazer) said he found most Americans "incredibly polite," even when the Borat character pushed them far beyond the limits of tolerance. We are the great melting pot. And one of the main reasons that people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds interact and work together with very little friction is that for the most part, we accept each other's differences. Some even embrace and celebrate those differences.

But the cultural-difference-acceptance ethic described above is being challenged more than Borat ever dreamed of. Islam puts our desire to accept cultural differences in direct conflict with our own humanity. In the video I mentioned above, the woman was slapped by a man. But when she dressed and talked like a Muslim, this created a conflict for onlookers. She was clearly a Muslim and a husband hitting a wife is a fairly common practice in Muslim culture (because the practice is encouraged in these Islamic doctrines).

For the onlookers, which ethical principle overrides which? It's wrong for a man to hit a woman. And it's wrong to condemn the practices of a different culture. We don't normally have to choose between them. But Islam is forcing us to choose, and doing their best to convince us to choose cultural acceptance.

What about FGM? Some girls have had this done to them in America. Should we accept this cultural difference, or impose our own morals on people with different cultural beliefs? What about segregation of men and women? What about nurses washing their hands? What about wearing a burka for a drivers licence photo? What about polygamy?

Orthodox Muslims keep putting us to the test. And they aren't doing it passively or accidentally. One of the core principles of Islamic doctrine is that Islam is a better political system and a better religion than any other, and that Muslims are better people than any other, and that ultimately the Islamic system of rules and law should override and supersede all others on earth. It is a pushy, domineering, assertive religion. It keeps pushing us into our double binds and most people don't know what to do about it. And to make matters worse, orthodox Muslims keep trying to prevent non-Muslims from even talking about Islam, so we're having a difficult time working it out and resolving it among ourselves. The issue is getting more and more tense and uncomfortable.

We will have to decide. When the principle of cultural inclusion and acceptance comes into conflict with the principles of women's rights, human rights, safety, freedom of speech, etc., which do we choose?


Four Apramanas 8:10 AM  

Excellent article, making important points. In Islamic cultures examples of the 'Stockholm syndrome' (as Bill Warner framed it) exist, such as Muslims under Allah-conceived-as-a-cruel-despot, Muslim women under their men, debasing treatment of non-Muslims. I think the ball starts rolling with children succumbing to pressure from adults who tell them what 'Allah wants' -- the child thinks this big person must know best despite their own hearts feeling it is a mistake, so they cave in to self-doubt, fear about themselves, and even self-directed attack and cruelty for being so wrong. This sort of thing can happen in any culture, but ipse dixit dogmatic approaches such as exist in Islam, with its apostasy and blasphemy laws, are a direct sustained attack on an individual's 'inner light'.

I read an interesting article on the rise of Arab atheism...
"The issue most often cited by Arabs as their first step on the road to disbelief was the apparent unfairness of divine justice. The picture they had acquired was of an irascible and sometimes irrational deity who behaves in much the same way as an Arab dictator or an old-fashioned family patriarch – an anthropomorphic figure who makes arbitrary decisions and seems eager to punish people at the slightest opportunity." (

Another quote from that article...
"Husseini put his questions to a teacher at school. 'The teacher said it’s haram [forbidden] to ask about that,' he recalled. 'I didn’t have an answer so I went to an imam in Qalqilya and I got the same reply.' This kind of response is familiar in authoritarian societies and is described by many other Arabs who have abandoned religion."

If people understand that some outer aspects of Islam -- such as oppression of women -- result from its coercive inner requirement that people refrain from inner enquiry and honesty (to blind themselves) and yield to judgement said to originate from its hating and cruel conception-of-deity, they might have less compunction about speaking out against malign 'cultural expressions', as what they would be opposing is equivalence toward cultivating, and pushing others to cultivate, inner attitudes of self-blinding/dulling, enmity and cruelty (including self-directed or internalised).

Twana Blevins 9:01 AM  

This is a very necessary subject. I help a niece with her homework in college business classes. Every assignment always contains in several places the need to accept other cultural differences and to not try to change them to do business with them. I always think most cultural differences in Western Countries and even some Eastern countries that is easy enough to do, but when it comes to Islam, I can't go along with it. We can't accept Islamic cultural evils as a culture norm and look the other way. It must be addressed or like you said, that one evil when looked over will just become the stepping stone to the next evil one. One time a man told me he thought Islam was a peaceful religion because he had a muslim friend who he thought was a good man. I asked him several questions and one of his answers was, the muslim man is brutal to his wife for even minor things we would think nothing of, like supper not tasting like he expected it to so he beat his wife. I remember thinking, how can someone think him a good man if he treats his wife so brutal.

Zackery Martel 3:13 PM  

The current refugee crisis is another good example of a double bind. On the one hand, there are innocent people fleeing a war-torn region. On the other hand, there are orthodox Muslims hell bent on fulfilling Allah's command to make war on the unbeliever taking advantage of the openness and kindness of Western nations to enter our countries and kill people or at least advance the political goals of Islamic doctrine.

It is not only an ethical conflict within each of us, it is also dividing us.

Anonymous 8:07 PM  

Very glad for the existence of Citizen Warrior. It fills a critical niche -- no other Islam-critical site is like it. We'd be further along toward our goals if all the other Islam-critical sites employed your strategies and followed your example.

One note -- another reason people might not intervene against Muslim men slapping women -- fear that insane violence might ensue, or that the matter might become public and they'd have to live with fear of Islamic violence afterwards.

Citizen Warrior 2:46 AM  

That's a good point.

And thank you for your kind words about our work here. We appreciate that.

Anonymous 4:42 PM  

the rising of radical muslim concern me. it makes me scared amd depressed. i am atheist muslim (born in muslim society by muslim parent)
i really worried and want people to banned all of them. put them all in jail. i'm burqa-phobic and proud (i know islam more than western islam apologist, don't tell me to tolerate. shut up you. i have quran hadits and More harm mad biography in real version before the prince of arab whitewash it)


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