I’ve seen many column inches dedicated to the Charlie Hebdo killings, and a common theme that keeps coming up is that CH’s criticisms of Islam are racist, and that privileged white people slapping down the underprivileged Muslims from on high is unnecessarily provocative.
I want to put that to bed right now: Islam is not a race, and criticising Islam is not racism. Here’s why:
Skin colour is a type of race. For the most part, you are born with dark skin, or light skin, or red hair, or blue eyes, or whatever. You might be born in a specific place, or have a physical or genetic difference. If someone starts making fun of a group of people because of something they did not choose and cannot realistically change about themselves, that’s a *-ism, like racism or sexism.
Islam is an idea. It is a belief. It is a concept. It is a choice that people can make, and a set of rituals that people follow by choice. Making light of, or ridiculing a choice that a group of people make is not racism, sexism, or any other *-ism. It might be irreverent. It might be rude. It might not be socially appropriate in some situations, but it certainly is not racism.
Throwing down the racism card regarding criticism of any religion is disingenuous. By likening it to racism, the apologists are actually trying to stifle fair commentary and free speech – they want to make it culturally unacceptable to criticize a religion by abusing our own cultural rules (the one that says “you don’t hassle people because of your perception of their race”).
If you’re a Muslim, and you don’t like criticism of your beliefs, as I see it, you have three choices:
Two of those choices are reasonable approaches for a civilized world. The third is barbarism, the people who choose it are barbarians, and should be treated as such.