Saturday, April 05, 2008

no agnosticism on racism

Below are some key excerpts from a 1953 interview with Bertrand Russell. He speaks with great clarity and conciseness, yet in a very accessible conversational style. I've chosen these excerpts because they touch on the issue of how to evaluate Islam today.

When, in a recent book, I said that what the world needs is "love, Christian love, or compassion," many people thought this showed some changes in my views, although in fact, I might have said the same thing at any time. If you mean by a "Christian" a man who loves his neighbor, who has wide sympathy with suffering, and who ardently desires a world freed from the cruelties and abominations which at present disfigure it, then, certainly, you will be justified in calling me a Christian. And, in this sense, I think you will find more "Christians" among agnostics than among the orthodox. But, for my part, I cannot accept such a definition. Apart from other objections to it, it seems rude to Jews, Buddhists, Mohammedans, and other non-Christians, who, so far as history shows, have been at least as apt as Christians to practice the virtues which some modern Christians arrogantly claim as distinctive of their own religion.


Of the great religions of history, I prefer Buddhism, especially in its earliest forms, because it has had the smallest element of persecution.

source: Bertrand Russell: What is an Agnostic? (1953)

What Russell says of Muslims or "Mohammedans" is that they can behave as well or as badly as people of any other religion and this is hard to argue with. Christianity, especially, has a very very bad history in matters of persecution and in its failure to reign in emperial brutality as inherited from Rome.

However, Russell doesn't compare the core teachings in their fixed written forms. These are the ongoing legacy of the various religions, pretty much untouched by time and circumstance. It's true that interpretations and evaluations change over time - people "read" or understand the texts differently - but the words themselves have remained fairly stable despite being transmitted for much of their history through manual and not automatic means.

In my own estimation, the Bible remains as a valuable literary work and Jesus remains as a valuable moral leader. I have not found the Buddhist texts accessible, entertaining, or enlightening. I do find the Islamic texts - the Koran itself in conjunction with the traditions and life of Mohammad - to be problematic. I see no moral leadership there, no spiritual instruction, just practical guidance on how to manage political situations and conduct wars. Muslim dogma is not exploited so much in the interests of persecution as in the interests of supremacism through the sword, world domination on all levels: cultural, spiritual, geographical, genetic. On the last point, there is a very apparent Arab racial dominance element to Islam. It is chiefly expressed through the "right" of the conqueror to rape and enslave the women of the conquered. The cultural dominance is chiefly expressed through an insistence that the Koran - the word of God - is untranslatable so that it can only be properly accessed through the Arab language.

The racial element of Islamic supremacism is rarely talked about but its presence is felt most strongly when Muslims project their own racism onto all those who view Islam critically. The "racist" card is pulled out from their own sleeves and no one seems to be noticing this, let alone pointing it out.

So here goes, even if it is a lone voice in the wilderness:

Islam is a racist ideology and the Koran is a racist manifesto.

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