This is a response to the Freethoughtblogs blogger Avicenna, who is not particularly happy with my ‘invoking’ his name in my open letter. I don’t particularly blame him for not having much of my stuff, I just wish he’d extend me the same courtesy. That said, nothing in his response makes me reconsider my view of him as producing anything other than standard US lefty boilerplate.
I know that description wounds him. He makes a great deal of his racial background – describing himself as ‘a person of colour’, the importance of being from a Hindu background etc. I generally think it is a bad thing to dwell too much on race, since it may lead you to a certain unwarranted confidence.
Case in point, in his reply he accuses me of lacking in a nuanced understanding of Islam, and proceeds to inform me that the Yazidi of Iraq are Muslims too, and says that Turkey was modernised by ‘Mohammed Attaturk. He also makes a few howlers about my own position – for example he declares that the atheist movement is changing because it is ” beginning to include more women and more minority atheists.” and somehow misses the fact that I cite people like Ibn Warraq, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Wafa Sultan etc. Of course, that’s not what ‘minority’ or ‘person of colour’ means. It means ‘any non-white willing to string along with the platitudes of the US left’. Hence the term ‘minority’ – where I grew up, it was whites who were the minority.
(And, yes, it is the US left. Michael Nugent’s point, that the atheist movement is strongly dominated by the US, is extremely valid).
Avicenna doesn’t really address my points. He doesn’t answer why, exactly, I should care about a movement that turns its back on me and mine, nor does he justify or defend the attempts to turf Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali etc. out of the movement – indeed, he seems to argue that that no such attempt is ongoing. I can appreciate not wanting to wade through his fellow FtB bloggers, but I assure you, from those of us looking in from outside, that’s clear.
Nor does he address my point that 1) searching for perfect consistence is a fool’s errand, or 2) what applying those standards to his own colleagues would mean. He doesn’t even seem to mention any of the morally questionable statements or actions of his side. This isn’t double standards – it is an impossible standard for the one, and a complete lack of standards for the other.
Just to take the following minor example, he writes:
If Muslims wish to meet in a quiet room at school that isn’t being used and pray during lunch times then that’s fine by me. Muslims have prayers for when they are busy.
I rest my case. If it was Christians wanting to pray in school, the whole FtB crowd would start shouting from the rooftops that this was unacceptable. If the matter is a cheesy shirt worn by a scientist, Avicenna will huff and puff with outrage. But Muslims holding prayer in public, taxpayer funded schools, and segregating not just boys from girls, but telling menstruating girls they shouldn’t participate because they are unclean? Avicenna is fine with that.
In addressing my argument that Dawkins and Harris do a hell of a lot more for the resistance to Islam and jihad than certain types, he writes:
This isn’t a zero sum game.
It kinda is. The people who get all hurt and huffy that Sam Harris botched a joke, say, are also the type that have been at best useless when it comes to facing the menace of Islam and jihad. I’m not even going to get into PZ Myers’ infamous scuttling to safety the one time there was a real threat. Avicenna protests that he is capable of both defending Muslims and criticising Islam, and to prove it, he links to two blog posts where he defends a year’s jail sentence for the crime of hurting Muslim feelings, and argues that Islam only went bad with the rise of Wahhabism.
So, in short, his ‘nuanced’ understanding of Islam boils down to the old Tiny Minority Of Extremists argument – that because only a TMOE are actually engaged in killing, the majority of Islam is no problem.
By this logic, there was never any problem with racism in the US Deep South because only a TMOE actually lynched blacks. Come to think of it, there hasn’t been a lynching in the US in forever, so I assume Avicenna will be arguing that racism in the United States is long dead, too?
That is, in fact, how things really break down. In Islam there is a hard core of jihadists, the people who actually go out and kill, analogous to the KKK and the lynchers in the US deep south. Around them is a shell of totalitarians, those who do not kill but share their aim of enforcing Shariah on everyone. Around them is a shell of bigots – those who may not share all the totalitarian impulses, but who still preach hatred and bigotry towards kafirs such as myself. These are analogous to the Southern racists. Around them is another, still larger shell of whiners – those who don’t necessarily go along with the inner shells, but certainly don’t speak up against murder, totalitarianism and bigotry, but can indeed be counted on to whine and moan whenever an infidel, a kafir, speaks up. I’ll leave you to work out the apposite Southern parallel. And, finally, around them is a shell of Muslims who are effectively ballast – they don’t speak for or against anything, they just try to live their lives and go along with whatever the line of the day is.
Set against that is a real TMOE who actually speak up and criticise Islam – people like Maajid Nawaz, Irshad Manji etc.
How big are these shells? I’ll cover it in more detail later, but for the moment please note that every reputable polls finds truly huge numbers of support for murdering apostates etc. and the recent finding in ‘The Times’ that something like one in seven young Britons feels sympathetic to Isis. Since I think it is safe to say that few infidels have much sympathy there, look at the current British Muslim population percentage, and draw your own conclusions.
Of course, I suspect Avicenna would put this under the heading of ‘Orientalist stereotypes’. Funny, I have yet to see anyone complain about the endless Occidentalist stereotypes put out by Islam, or, more to the point, it’s kafir-stereotypes. And while ‘Orientalist stereotypes’ are apparently damaging in some nonspecified way, I can point to the Islamophillic stereotypes being damaging in a highly specific way. It is the whitewashing of Islam – of precisely the kind I was referring to in the original post – that lead to nothing being done about Muslim sex grooming gangs, the spread of the most violent anti-Infidel intolerance, and all the rest of it. But more to the point…
Imagine arguing that you should only judge the US Republican Party by how it is viewed by committed and registered Republicans. Everyone can see the problem here. Complaints about ‘Orientalist stereotypes’ about Islam are a plea that Islam be only judged by the appraisal by devout Muslims. This is why Edward Said was torn apart by Ibn Warraq (whose works I cannot recommend too highly).
Speaking of Occidentalist stereotypes, Avicenna writes:
Throughout western history there is an ignorance of “other cultures” and their thinkers and achievements.
In reality, thinkers from Christian Europe actively sought out knowledge about other cultures and other achievements, indeed including writers like Avicenna, Averroes and al-Khwarizmi. Adelard of Bath, just to take one example, traveled throughout Asia minor and North Africa, deliberately making translations from the Arabic. The prime symbol of this is that Dante placed Avicenna, Averroes and even Saladin among the virtuous pagans, alongside Virgil, Homer and Aristotle. That openness and curiosity about other cultures dates right back through Western history, back at least to Plato’s boast that the Greeks invented nothing, but improved everything. I cannot think of a comparably generosity from the Islamic world towards the Infidel – indeed, I can’t think of a single Muslim historian who admits that al-Khwarizmi’s work is effectively based on that of Brahmahupta.
Incidentally, since he likes to trumpet his ‘Hindu’ background, and FtB bloggers like to throw around the term ‘uncle tom’ for any ‘person of colour’ who doesn’t toe the line, he seems singularly uninterested in the fact that the largest genocide in history – of eighty million people – was of Hindus at the hands of the Muslim imperialists, something that is still going on. I append no comment.
And while he hectors me that I should care about whatever the latest whine from the feminist side is and how I don’t get to dismiss it, he takes it on himself to tell Europeans that we shouldn’t get upset about Islam in the continent – that we shouldn’t care about the ongoing ethnic cleansing of jews from our cities, or about the attacks on Yazidi, or about the spread of rape and grooming… Well, nuts to that. As I say, if you turn your back on me and mine, I will turn it mine on you.
To the point then – why I blog. I don’t advertise my activities beyond this blog as assiduously as Avicenna does, and there’s a reason for that. All I can do with a blog is try to influence the conversation. I think it is vitally important that there actually are secular and atheist voices speaking out against Islamic barbarism. And by speaking out I don’t mean the attitude of FtB that they might, conceivably, possibly think about wagging a finger at the more barbaric practices of Islam before returning to pissing and moaning about a scientists shirt.
The reason that this matters is that, in the same way that anyone who is turned off a career in science by a shirt would never have been worth squat anyway, it is perfectly obvious that those reduced to indignant jellies by Sam Harris’ tweets will never be worth squat against a real menace. What you end up with is this person:
I’ll quote myself at length here:
I doubt the A+ ranks largely are capable of much, but there is one thing that they could do: they could succeed in poisoning the case for atheism. In the same way as the modern feminists are poisoning the struggle for women’s rights at the time we need it most, and the identity politics racketeers are poisoning the anti-racist struggle, the A+ may make atheism effectively “unmarketable”.
This involves a visit to a place the A+ers may have heard of, known as “the Real World”. In that distant realm, religious fanaticism has returned in a terrifying form. All across Europe we’re seeing the rehabilitation of the sort of parties we thought we got rid of at Nuremberg. Further east, the Russian Orthodox Church is the clerical arm of the Putin autocracy (and there is a significant amount of the opposition to Putin that thinks him just too liberal and bleeding heart), and in India we’ve seen Hindu fascism that may yet give us a nuclear war. Overshadowing all of these is the terrible menace of jihad, tens of millions strong, a movement that has notched up three genocides in my lifetime alone, which may soon have nuclear weapons. In this background, advocates of Reason will have a stiff fight to have any voice whatsoever.
Yet the Myers tendency is determined to make this impossible. Put yourself in the shoes of a student who listens to Myers rousing call for solidarity, and in consequence decides to stand up to Islamic intimidation. And when she is arrested, accused of racism, and threatened with expulsion by her University, she looks to him for solidarity and finds him not merely failing to provide it, but actively piling on – what view will she likely have of organised atheism?
I’m occasionally reproached for being ‘extremist’. It’s not that people disagree with what I say, it’s that they think I make my points too hard, and that there needs to be more moderate voices in this. I have news for you: I’m the moderate. I’m as good as it’ll get.
On the other side of me there are guys like this and that’s the only alternative you’ll get. I assure you, all those ‘moderate’ voices who fret about ‘Islamophobia’ – they will shut up like clams if we ever get to the point where Muslims are being rounded up and taken away to camps. Why do I say that? Because that is what happened the last time around. Go look at the media record from the Milosevic years. You’ll find all the same people who whine that we’re just being too mean to the Taliban (or whatever) were adamant that we should do nada about Bosnia. You’ll find them taking the same stance over Crimea right now.