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Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 | 11 comments

“Why the good atheist should suck up to Islam” – UPDATED with apology

Update and apology.  I have been awfully remiss in not including my excellent colleague David A. Osorio S from “Avant Garde” in the company of Loud and Proud Islamophobes.  I am glad to correct that oversight forthwith. 

Or as “Temple of the Future” calls it:

“Responsible Religious Criticism: Part One – questions of power”

Just by reading the title, I know that it is going to be nonsense.  Time for a good, old-fashioned fisking:

The purpose of this post is not to “call out” any individuals or groups as Islamophobic

Awww, please, please call me out!  Do it with my colleague too!

 Rather, the purpose is to explore the question “How can the freethought movement responsibly engage in criticism of aspects of Islam (values, beliefs, practices etc.) which are inhumane without reinforcing the oppression of Muslims

You may have noticed how utterly oppressed Muslims are.  Freedom of speech curtailed, they can’t practice their religion openly, everyone gets to mock them but they are lynched if they try to reply in kind…

Oh. Wait.  Yeah.

I also hope my discussion here will be of value to those who also wish to engage in robust criticism of other religions which share a similarly disadvantaged position in US society, such as Native American religions and African Indigenous religions.

“African” huh?  Any part of Africa in particular?  Or just kinda from Africa in general?

 1. The Inherent Worth and Dignity of All Persons

Just what the hell does that mean?  Everyone has dignity automatically?  Really?  Ever seen the outside of a pub at chucking out time?  And worth?  So, let me get this straight – this guy and this guy have the same worth?

Nah, I must be reading too much into this.  No one could possibly believe anything that

I am a Humanist, and part of the Humanist creed is a commitment to the equal dignity and basic moral worth of every person

Ah.  Reminder why I am not a ‘humanist’.

Take a look at the following:

"All people have the same worth and dignity" - 'Humanism'

“All people have the same worth and dignity” – ‘Humanism’

That is one ancient goat of a Muslim man and his child bride who can’t be more than six or seven.  Humanism tells us we should respect both of these equally, they have the same worth, the same dignity.

Therefore, I am committed not just to not slandering or demeaning Muslims in any way,

Here is a little dictionary definition for our chum:

“the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to person’s reputation”.

Emphasis mine.  Extra emphasis mine.  You know, I read the big shot, loud Islamophobes – terrible haters like Dawkins, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sam Harris, Aung San Suu Kyi etc – and never once have I heard them say something false about them.

Demean: cause a severe loss in the dignity of and respect for (someone or something).

You know what a synonym for saying things that cause a loss of respect for the Islamic community is?  ”Accurate reporting”.

I remember hearing this kind of talk before now.  Where was it?  Oh, yeah.  When I was reading the neofascists talking about ‘defamation’ of Nazi Germany by the “holohauxers”.  And when I read about Chomsky describing those reporting on the Khmer Rouge’s killing fields.  And when I was listening to people attack Solzhenitsyn for describing the USSR accurately.  And when I heard what Jung Chang’s reception was for explaining what life under Mao was like.  And when I read about the reception of Kang Chol-Hwan for describing life in North Korea…

Nah, I’m going to stick with being demeaning.  Sorry

 but to actively opposing their oppression and any violence against them.

Meanwhile, back on Planet Reality, the Ummah is the source not the subject of random violence.  594 killed this week, and 583 critically injured this week alone.  I can think of multiple genocides, the Islamic slave trade, the ethnic cleansing of infidel minorities -

Oh, this is just in the United States you say?  Yeah, okay – U.S. lefty doctrine: “If it happens to furriners it don’t count”.  Odd, but when I think about Islam plus violence plus continental United States, I keep thinking of Major Hasan, the Tsarnev Brothers, 9/11 of course…

 At the same time, I am committed to opposing any ideology which promotes inhumane practices which are an affront to human dignity.

That means you are anti-Islam you nitwit.  Islam writes off the entirety of non-Muslims as lousy kaffirs.  Sub-humans.  Worse than animals.  So: either put up or shut up, but quit grandstanding.

2. The Reality of Islamophobia

The reality of my tiny leedle violin.

Islamophobia is real, and it is profoundly pernicious in America right now. Overt acts of Islamophobia include acts of violence against people because they are, or are perceived to be, Muslim

Links, please!  Because if you were to ask me about kaffirphobia, believe you me, I have those links.

witness the recent spate of attacks following the bomb at the Boston Marathon)

Recent attacks – and the only one he can mention is a Muslim jihad attack.  Teh stooopid is strong here.

slurs against such people

The devout muslim slurs all infidels five times a day.  Cry me a river.

and discrimination in the workplace and by government agencies.

When a guy can put “Soldier of Allah” on his business card, gives a powerpoint presentation on the jihad atrocity he is about to commit, and is still not kicked out – well, how bad could this be?

Islamophobia is also demonstrated more covertly (as all forms of oppression are), through persistent negative portrayals of Muslims in the media and other cultural products.

This would be the aforementioned “accurate reporting”.  Funny when the only stories to write about your group are ones of random violence and outrageous cruelty, people take that in a negative way.

Whenever I write my jihad round ups, I start with typing “Islam”, “Muslim” into google news search function.  Funny how I only see three stories: 1) Muslims killing people or each other, 2) Muslims otherwise acting barbarically, 3) Muslims complaining about negative views of Islam.

Huh.

It is not at all a stretch to say that Muslims are currently oppressed in America

Back on Planet Reality, I defy you to find any Muslim majority nation - any, take your time – that treats its infidel minorities as well as the United States treats its Muslims

their ways of being in the world are negatively affected by power structures which demean and degrade them in ways large and small.

My ways being are “negatively affected by power structures” that result from having to share the same planet as Islam.

Just go and look at what it’s like being an infidel when Muslims have the upper hand.  Go and take a look and then let’s talk about “power structures”.

 3. The Nature of Islamophobia

Islamophobia does not mean “hatred of/fear of Muslims”, just as homophobia does not mean “hatred/fear of homosexuals”

Er – that is what homophobia means you poor, drooling idiot.  You bothered to check out what real gay bashing is like?  Guys getting the crap beaten out of them or murdered just for loving someone their own sex?

Ah, but the principle providers of real homophobia today are… Muslim fanatics.  Hence the whole thing of Imams telling their congregations that, if they happen to be dentists, and a gay client comes in, the Muslim dentist should take care to cause the maximum pain.

 Rather it is a shorthand which means something akin to “structures of oppression which affect Muslims”.

I’m going to bang on about this: what about the structures of oppression against infidels?

Thus, for instance, the perpetuation of a derogatory stereotype about Muslims which encourages neither fear nor hatred (and even which was not intended to be derogatory) can be Islamophobic in the sense I use the term, just as a cartoon

What about Muslims threatening to – and actually lynching people all over the planet for a stupid cartoon?

While this definition may seem odd or over-broad, it is consistent with scholarly use of the term, and with how such terms are routinely understood by anti-oppression theorists and activists.

Translation – this is used by a collection of dimwits who have never fought real oppression in their entire lives and would sooner lop their own head off than try to do so.  Read Nelson Mandela, Jung Chang, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Martin Luther King, Primo Levi etc. and I defy you to find them talking anyway like this.

4. How Religious Adherents are Oppressed through Inaccurate and Derogatory Stereotypes and over-Generalizatons

I freely agree that the Koran’s depiction of all Christians and Jews as descendants of apes and pigs is inaccurate and derogatory.

One of the most prominent ways in which a cultural group is oppressed is through the perpetuation of misinformation about them, often in the form of derogatory generalizations in which negative characteristics (or characteristics perceived to be negative) of a subset of the group are applied, by implication, to the whole group.

By this standard you couldn’t say anything bad about Nazis without having personally met every single Nazi.

It’s not the bad examples of the jihadis that engenders the negative views of Islam, it’s the absence of sufficient counterexamples of Muslims standing up to this.  Yes, yes, “minority of extremists” and “moderate majority” – or in other words ‘Those advancing Islamic totalitarianism by bomb and by book, and those doing nothing to stop it”.

Examples include generalizations about women (“Women aren’t good at math”);

“Allah has created the woman, even if she gets a PhD, deficient. Her intellect is incomplete, deficient. She may be suffering from hormones that will make her emotional. It takes two witnesses of a woman to equal the one witness of the man.” – Abu Usamah,

generalizations about gay people (“Gay men are incapable of monogamous relationships”

“Take that homosexual and throw him off the mountain” – Abu Usama again

 generalizations about ethnic groups

You mean like this?

The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (a certain kind of tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews. (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim).Sahih Muslim, 41:6985

Or maybe you mean like this?

“You have to bomb the Indian businesses, and as for the Jews, you kill them physically.”  - Abdulah el-Faisal.

and, of course, generalizations about Muslims (“Muslims are terrorists”)

No one argues this, anymore than anyone argues “All Communists were commissars and ran gulags!” or even “All Nazis were SS!”

How’s that straw holding up for ya?

 These generalizations are pernicious because 1) they are false;

Tell it to Abu Usamah et al.  Why do I get a feeling that you won’t be that happy to do so?

2) they elide differences between individuals in order to enforce a particular view of a group, thus denying members of said group full individuality (and thus full humanity)

So – what?  If someone says they’re a Nazi, but they’ve never killed anyone, I should withhold judgement?  After all, there were good Nazis, and not just a few of them.  What about the Communists? The fact that there were heroic commies doesn’t change how many people they killed as a group.  I should forget that?

 3) they serve as justifications for “punishment” of whole groups of people on the basis that they all share the problematic characteristic

U.S. foreign policy is something we can debate – but are you seriously arguing that you can only go to war with a country if every single person in it is guilty of supporting the regime wholeheartedly?

Take a look at this:

images

 

That’s Frankfurt after WWII.  You think everyone in there was a fully fledged Nazi supporter?  That war was still necessary.

Anyway, last time I checked the U.S. was spending a fortune in blood and treasure to try to bring ‘democracy’ to the Islamic world.  97% of Afghanistan’s economy is U.S. cash.  If U.S. government policy is trying to collectively punish the Muslim world, it has a funny way of going about it.

5. Islamophobia Exists in the Atheist Community

There’ll be more by the time I’m through, you mark my words.

There is undoubtedly Islamophobia in some of the statements made by prominent atheists

Go team!

Guy doesn’t provide any links, presumably for not wanting to look even more pathetic.

6. Responsible Criticism of Islam Does Not Mean Treating Islam “The Same” as Christianity

Of course not.  Treat Christianity as rudely as you like – but Islam?  Oh, no.

As Tim Blair says:

The Pope’s a total Nazi
What’s the deal with those Hindus?
Judaism’s not so bad
Except for all the Jews

Hey, Buddha! Would it kill you
To wear a frickin’ shirt?
(I can say most anything
And I’m never getting hurt)

But let’s not mention Islam
We’ll play it safe instead
It’s hard to make religious jokes
When you don’t have a head

We continue…

This means that what constitutes responsible criticism of Islam is not the same as what constitutes responsible criticism of, for instance, Christianity. Christianity is highly privileged in the cultural discourse of America, and the effects of negative stereotypes of Christians are different to the effects of such stereotypes of Muslims.

Jeez, I thought I was joking.  But he actually is saying with a straight face: ”Be mean to the Christians but kiss Islamic arse – or you’re a mean ol’ hater!”

. Rather, the critic must recognize the different power-position Islam holds in society

No shit.  It’s the only religion that has people killed.

7. The Social Privilege of Religion and Its Effects on Culture

If you want that to change, quit flattering it.

8. The Added Complexity of Racial Considerations

Ah, the ol “being anti Islam is waaaycist line”.  Wonder whether anyone bothered to tell the people of Darfur that…

9. 1-8 Make Criticism of Religions such as Islam Very Difficult

No, your lack of spine makes criticism of Islam very difficult.

10. Yet Criticism is Essential to Responsible Membership of Society

Nice of you to notice.

Nonetheless, Islam is a profoundly important social and cultural force in the 21st Century.

It is a fucking disaster in the 21st century, is what it is.  Look at what we might soon have in Iran and Pakistan.  Seventh century minds with twenty first century weaponry.  You think that will go well?

It is the second largest of the world’s religions (more than 20% of the world’s population are Muslim),

“And if we surrender now, maybe they won’t hurt us too much!”

Atheists for Islam.  This the group that always leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Ðavid A. Osorio S

    I would have thought I have enough merit to be called “Islamophobic” along with you and No Cross No Crescent!

    It’s painful to see how you take me out of that picture. I’m going to cry now! :(

    • ThePrussian

      I’m dreadfully sorry about that unforgivable lapse. Consider it rectified above.

      • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Ðavid A. Osorio S

        It’s alright now.

        By the way, I’m “Osorio Sarmiento” (yeah, down here we tend to use two surnames), so the “S” is part of an entirely different word. Would it be too much to ask to have my last name spelled the way it is?

        Thanks a lot and have a nice day!

        • ThePrussian

          Crud, sorry that was a typo. Fixed.

          • http://de-avanzada.blogspot.com/ Ðavid A. Osorio S

            Thanks!

  • mugasofer

    “Islam writes off the entirety of non-Muslims as lousy kaffirs. Sub-humans. Worse than animals.”

    I’m … pretty sure the opposite is true. But hey, I’m no expert, and I’m open to changing my mind.

    (I’m ignoring the astoundingly stretched charitable interpretation, that some Muslims write off all non-islamic people – which is unquestionably true because Human Psychology 101.)

    Maybe my rationalist leanings are showing* but you seem alarmingly unconcerned about stereotyping and demonization – mechanisms that, in essence, your brain uses to short-circuit your morals by feeding you a false view of the world. I’m pretty sure you’re actually aware of this epistemic danger, so I’m also slightly confused – do you think that they’re SO EVIL that you can’t overestimate their depravity?

    *(I found this blog via Slate Star Codex, and was impressed enough that I’m now clicking around.)

    • ThePrussian

      I’ll freely grant you that my tone isn’t exactly measured in this one, and I would do better to be a bit more careful. Let me also say that I get where you are coming from. There was a time when I would have reacted exactly the way you are now, but with a lot less understanding. I’m grateful that you are sticking around enough to ask questions. I don’t expect this post to convince you, or my reply. I am working on another Q & A that will, I hope, explain why I think this way.

      However…. I have been reading stuff like this for years, and making arguments against it, and came across this particular post in the context of Brandeis wimping out on Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Hence my annoyance. It is because I have heard endless lines about how infidels should treat Muslims better and never have I come across one thing written asking Muslims to respond in kind. That’s why I was so vexed.

      Just to take that line that you’re pretty sure the opposite is true, Here is a list from the Ayatollah Khomeni, issued to all Shia in his ‘blue book’:
      THE UNCLEANS: 1&2. Urine and stool; 3. Semen; 4. Corpse; 5. Blood; 6&7. Dog and pig; 8. Infidel; 9. Wine; 10. Beer; 11. Sweat of an unlawful ejaculation; 12. The sweat of a camel that eats uncleans.

      That’d be you at number 8, behind “dog and pig” but ahead of “wine”. Make of that what you will.

      If you read the Koran and Hadith, I defy you not to see that the picture of infidels is completely negative. They are routinely referred to as “the worst of creatures”, “vilest of being” and so on. I could list Sheikh after Sheikh, Imam after Imam verifying that view, but the place for that isn’t here.

      Now does that mean all Muslims subscribe to this? Of course not. There are many good and decent ones. There are also many heroic ones – it was the Mosques of Rwanda that saved many Tutsi lives from the (Catholic) Interahamwe murderers. That’s a history that should be better known.

      But so what? John Rabe was a dedicated Nazi, one who personally could communicated with Hiter, and he saved a quarter million lives in the Rape of Nanking. There were many devoted Communists who helped destroy segregation in America and Apartheid in South Africa. None of that changes the nature of either Nazism or Communism, and the heroism and nobility of so many Muslims does not change the nature of Islam.

      Again, I don’t expect this to convince you, but I do hope that you’ll stick around for when my fully fledged Q & A and that at least some of this blog repays your time here.

  • Troy

    (Found your site via Slate Star Codex.) I’ll look forward to your Islam Q&A, but I think you’re being too negative here. It’s true that many Muslims do and support terrible things, and that there are important parts of the Qur’an and Islamic tradition that can be used to justify those things. But — just as you point out against racialists in your anti-racialist Q&A — the same was true of Christianity in pre-modern Europe. The Canaanite conquest narratives in Joshua and Judges recount God commanding behavior just as abhorrent as anything in Islam. Today hardly any Christian would think of using those passages to support present-day genocide, but that was not always the case. Religious traditions can and do change, and I see no reason to think that in a couple of centuries Islam couldn’t be as tolerant as Christianity is today. Problematic passages in the Qur’an can be reinterpreted, just as many Christians and Jews would take a more nuanced view of the conquest narratives today. It seems to me that rather than demonizing Islam itself, we’d be better off supporting those more moderate voices who might help transform it into something better.

    I defy you to find any Muslim majority nation – any, take your time – that treats its infidel minorities as well as the United States treats its Muslims.

    Albania. Yes, I did just look up Muslim majority countries on Wikipedia and picked the one that seemed like it would be the best; and no I don’t actually know much about religion in Albania other than what I just read on Wikipedia. Semi-serious point that this illustrates: I agree with you that most Muslim-majority countries treat religious minorities terribly. But I don’t think there’s anything historically inevitable about this or that it’s somehow inherent in Islam.

    If you read the Koran and Hadith, I defy you not to see that the picture of infidels is completely negative.

    The “people of the book” (Jews and Christians) are often portrayed more positively in the Qur’an. For example: Indeed, those who have believed [in Prophet Muhammad] and those [before Him] who were Jews or Sabeans or Christians – those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness – no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve. – Qur’an 5:69

    I’ll readily grant that the Qur’an’s treatment of other religious groups is very negative, and that its treatment of Jews and Christians is not always this positive. But the same is true of the Bible’s portrayal of non-Christian religions. Both the Old and New Testaments say some pretty negative things about pagans, even if there are other more conciliatory passages as well (Jesus and the Samaritan woman, Paul quoting a pagan philosopher when preaching on Mars Hill). I don’t see why in either case this has to lead to the kind of treatment of the religious other we find in contemporary Islam.

    • ThePrussian

      As I say, I’ll deal with this in my Islam Q & A. Just to this: ” I see no reason to think that in a couple of centuries Islam couldn’t be as tolerant as Christianity is today. ”

      We don’t have centuries, that’s the problem. And worse still, neither does Islam. Islam is facing a gigantic collision with modernity which is manifesting itself all over the place, in particular in a collapse in birthrates. That’s good news for us in the long run, but disastrous for the short (three decade) run, because when a people have nothing to lose, that’s when they can be the most dangerous. That is when they can act the most crazy. Part of the reason that Hitler was such a psychopath is he thought this was the last chance the Germans would have before their blood was mixed too much.

      • Troy

        Well, it’s not clear to me what the alternatives are. Eventually Islam will modernize. We could encourage that trend and speed it along a bit; we could attack Islam through words, maybe encourage a few people to become secular and a few others to convert to Christianity; or we could attack Islam militarily by forcibly imposing secular governments on Muslims. The second alternative, if pursued exclusively, seems to me likely to radicalize many Muslims by teaching them that Islam and modernity are not compatible. The third alternative I am sure would radicalize Muslims, and has radicalized Muslims when it’s been pursued. Forcible regime change is not in general an effective foreign policy — to say nothing of the moral problems involved.

        I’m not against reasoned discussion or criticisms of Islam, but I think if the only voices are people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s or Christopher Hitchen’s that this does a lot of harm to Muslims who might be more moderate if someone were to present them with a moderate version of Islam, but who in the face of these kinds of criticisms conclude that if they are to be faithful Muslims they have to reject Western values.

    • ThePrussian

      I freely accept that my tone isn’t measured and this one isn’t going to convince anyone. It was just that post drove me nuts.

      Thanks for sticking around until the FAQ :-)