Islam and the Marketplace of Ideas

People love the idea of a market. We love to go out and choose the items we need or desire, and freely buy them from those we believe provide the best product at the best terms. We love this freedom so much that, at least in the West, we even sometimes view our search for meaning in life through this prism. Finding a worldview is at some level an economic decision which involves competing worldviews in the marketplace of ideas.

For this to work properly, the metaphorical marketplace has to allow for those with competing worldviews and ideas to organize and package their ideas in attractive ways and to “sell” us on them without intimidation, force, or favoritism. Every idea has to be taken on its merits and the consumer must be able to judge whether this is in fact the best item on the market.

An old chain-store has just opened up a franchise in the West, though. It is used to a monopoly and does not seem open to changing the prior terms they have enjoyed for so long elsewhere. For this reason, this shop’s rules of operation may not quite fit in with the others in our market.

The other stores are allowing shoppers to enter, pick up their Lutheranism, atheist materialism, Mormonism, nihilistic hedonism or whatever else they are peddling, and choose to buy-into it at their own discretion. If they want to return this product later, “No problem, but we do hope you’ll return.”

Islam on the other hand, has some strict rules in place. First of all, others cannot criticize their product. Pick up the paper on an average day and you will find a number of stories showing the traditional attitude of the Muslim world to receiving criticism. Higher-profile examples, like the threat of a burnt Koran or a cartoon of their founding CEO, have left the marketplace riddled with corpses, but other smaller examples get virtually ignored daily.

Criticism of their product, known as blasphemy, was strictly forbidden by their founder and to this day it is not accepted. Examples from just this week of this are the arrest of a female Christian in Pakistan for this crime, where it carries the death penalty, and the unanimous vote by the Kuwaiti parliament to impose this same penalty for blasphemy in their country. Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Sudan, and (soon) many of the newly-Islamized Arab Spring countries as well, have this anti-market principle as their rule on the street.

Imagine if Coca-Cola had this policy. If Pepsi or Dr Pepper dare say their drinks taste better, they must be killed. That’s no way to run a marketing campaign, at least if you want to be seen as a respectable company.

Not only can you not criticize their product, but once you become a customer, you must continue to patronize their shops regardless of whether you wish to check-out the other shops. If, as you wander this marketplace of ideas, you enter the Islamic shop, you are never allowed to leave. If you want to wander away and maybe poke your head in the Buddhist or Methodist shop down the street, or God forbid, Atheists-R-Us, you will see the shop-keeper angrily take his weapon from behind the counter and yell, “Where in the hell do you think you’re going?”

Islam breaks down to about 85% Sunni and 15% Shia. Each of these break down further into madhabs, or schools of thought, that decide the fiqh (Islamic laws) that make up the Shariah. The Sunnis have four madhabs (Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali and Hanafi), while the Shia almost entirely follow the Jafari madhab. It may (hopefully) shock and horrify you to find that ALL of these, even in their most recently updated Shariah manuals, require that the adult male Muslim must be put to death for leaving the store.

Females, while put-to-death by all the Sunni madhabs, are a bit better treated under the Shia Jafari madhab. They are simply put in “confinement” until they change their mind. The distinction is based on their interpretation of CEO Mohammad’s policy statement on the matter, “Any man who discards his Islamic religion, kill him.” Since all the nouns and pronouns refer to males, the Shias are kind enough not to jump to any conclusions on whether females should be put to death for shopping around. The ladies do love to shop, so let’s have a little mercy here.

A quick review of Muslim popular culture reveals that this is not the extremist minority view of just the clerics; this is accepted orthodoxy. A 2011 Pew Research poll of Egyptians, which will likely have interesting implications for their democratic experiment, shows that 84% of Muslims in that country want apostates to be put to death. Whoa, watch out shoppers! The exit is being guarded closely by the other customers!

This is from a popular Egyptian religious show discussing this issue. It’s worth watching this in it’s entirety.

This leads to an impossible quandary for the free world. Can we operate a market that includes this particular business? What are our responsibilities to the freedom of our citizens when they accidentally wander into this business and put their lives in danger? Should we allow intimidation tactics and threats from the Islamic marketing-team? We want to be fair, and to exclude such a large part of the global idea-market seems wrong. So, can we just say, “Ok, set up your shop, but you have to play by our rules.”?

History shows that once they succeed in this environment, they quickly impose the rules of their monopoly though. Also, even when they agree outwardly, recent discoveries of the inner-workings of mosques and schools, show most (around 81% of American mosques according to the Center for Security Policy) don’t really intend on honoring this promise and preach the same violent orthodoxy taught overseas.

They are not leaving us with easy decisions. Either we allow them to intimidate us into letting them open up this shop on its own terms, which would compromise the safety and freedom of our shoppers, or we have to ban a large global chain from our mall. There might be options in the middle, but they can be hard to define. Forcing them to change their theology to suit our customs is unlikely, and other than that…you tell me!

I don’t like any of the possible scenarios I can envisage but sitting on our hands would just mean allowing a Robber Baron to forcefully buy up our town. This does not seem to be a threat to the Americas right now, but Europe has immediate concerns on this topic. Fair competition in worldviews is obviously much more important than if someone was forcing customers to buy their brand of soda. Therefore we should respect the freedom of people to make their own choices here most of all. It is the sign of a free society if one can define their own existence unmurdered.

Avoiding criticism for fear of global rioting will only embolden them. Not mentioning the persecution of their local blasphemers and apostates is also a wink at the status quo. Ignoring and excusing this behavior in other nations is only a convenient delay of the choices that will have to be made when the local Muslim population grows.

None of the other shops agree on much. Atheists think all the other ones are delusional. Some Christians think the other shops’ customers are risking damnation. Buddhist, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, and Agnostics also don’t agree on much, but all have accepted the rules and are allowing the shoppers to mill freely. It’s time they agree on one thing though. The Halal shop should stop butchering and play by the rules!


Posted on April 11, 2012, in Culture, Politics, Religion. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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