Depending on who you read or listen to, either Islamophobia simply isn’t real, or it’s not as pervasive as people think it is, or sometimes it’s a legitimate criticism, but it’s often used incorrectly to shut down someone legitimately criticising Islam, or else it’s just some word (without any legitimate meaning) that people use to shut down conversations. To which I say: bullshit. I have to grant, of course, that there is possibly some people out there do these things, but I have to admit that I haven’t actually seen any of them. Even in articles where these claims are made, no evidence is provided.
Most often, people who haven’t ‘picked sides’ in this particular debate are left wondering what this term means, exactly. So I’m going to sketch out what I think it means, and how I see it used (which are, oddly enough, the same thing). Note that ‘what the term means’ isn’t the same as ‘what the word is defined as’.
The term is primarily used to call out bigoted behaviour, and not necessarily restricted to bigotry against Muslims: there is splash damage that goes beyond the targeted group. For example, the murder of Sunando Sen (an Indian, who was targeted because his murderer believed him to be either “a Muslim or a Hindu”) is a clear cut case of Islamophobia Here is a guy who wasn’t a Muslim, and shared no characteristics with the majority of Muslims, and yet was killed because… He was brown.
And that’s really the crux of it. When you ask people to describe “a Muslim”, they’ll typically give you a description of someone who is either Arab or Persian (or, more vaguely, brown), male, bearded, and speaks Arabic. If they get past their gender-bias, they might describe a woman covered from head to toe in cloth showing only their eyes. And straight off, this image is generally false. Why? Because the largest single ethnic/nationality of Muslims don’t live in the Middle East: they live in Indonesia (13% of all Muslims). Yet, in Europe and North America, “Muslim” and “brown person” have become somewhat synonymous, such that even when people are making an effort to be as politically correct and dress up bigoted statements in vague and non-specific language, their policy ideas invariably target brown people.
So the problem here is that when one makes claims about “Muslims”, 1) those claims aren’t necessarily true about Muslims (generally), and 2) there’s a whole bunch of non-Muslims being caught up in this.
Exhibit A is, of course, Sam Harris. I don’t want to make this about Harris; I’m just using his comments as exemplars, so I’m not interested in rehashing ‘what he really meant’ in the comments.
I do also realise that Harris is low-hanging fruit, but he illustrates my point and yet he (along with many others) is often defended as simply being anti-Islam, and not Islamophobic, Allow me to disabuse you of that notion. Harris says
“We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.”
And attempts to clarify that with
“When I speak of profiling “Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim,” I am not narrowly focused on people with dark skin. In fact, I included myself in the description of the type of person I think should be profiled (twice).”
So in that case, who exactly does Harris think “looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim”? By including himself, he’s essentially arguing that ‘anyone’ could “look Muslim”, which largely defeats the argument he was attempting to make. Which is unsurprising, given that it’s Harris, but it’s hard to say that “he’s lying” is a more charitable interpretation. I’ll leave that to ye to judge. Moreover: where in these statements is he being “anti-Islam”? I can see where he’s being anti-Muslim, but the anti-Islam part eludes me (and no, these are not the same thing).
The bottom line here is, to take data from the recent Pew survey, that Muslims span the globe. Pew interviewed people from 39 different countries, and had to run interviews in 80 different languages. “What’s that?” I hear ye say, “Couldn’t they just interview everyone in Arabic?” And thus does the spectre of Islamophobia raise its head.
Islamophobia is bigotry, and bigotry is (at its root) the application of blanket beliefs about what kind of a person is represented by a certain word, and how we believe that kind of person to be. Nevermind the fact that Farsi is the primary language in Iran, or that Pakistan is home to 60 languages (and Arabic is far from the dominant language), we make the (completely wrong) connections between “Arabic” and “Muslim” that make only slightly more sense than connecting “Latin” with “Catholic”. Yet if we go back a generation: my father learned Latin in high school in Ireland, and found as much use for it as (I suspect) the majority of Muslims find for Arabic. Getting people kicked off of an airplane because you don’t understand what they are saying…? Yeah, that’d be Islamophobia too.
In the Middle East, alone, the generalisations about Muslims don’t hold even for Middle-Eastern Muslims. This is a many and varied group.
So I think (and hope) that these should be somewhat obvious cases of Islamaphobia. I’m going to move into one that’s likely to be a little more contentious: a response to the Pew Survey. Please note that I’m not generalising this on to ‘atheists in general’; I’m not attributing this response to any particular group of people, I’m saying that this particular response is an expression of Islamaphobia. Of course, the person I’m going to quote on this is Harris. On May 1st, Harris tweeted (and was retweeted into my timeline):
“85 percent of Egyptians support capital punishment for those who leave the faith: http://econ.st/ZSxbYl Must be the fault of the West.”
Now given that this was retweeted 165 times, and favourited 65 times (at the time of this writing), he’s not alone in thinking this.
“But Brian,” I hear ye ask, “This is a factually correct statement. What’s the problem? And please get to the point without this ridiculous 3rd person crap.”
Geez, you guys are pushy… Anyway, the point here is the immediate leap to the stats for Egypt. The Economist has a good graphical breakdown of these stats and it can be seen that 1) Egypt is clearly the worst-case scenario, and 2) there is a massive variation in what percentage of Muslims believe that apostasy (leaving the faith) is a crime deserving of execution. So taking the stats for Egypt to make proclamations is just off-base. Bigotry? Perhaps. Harris’s tweet, in fairness, is too short and thus too vague for me to start making claims about what he was thinking.
Also, factually correct? In Egypt, the sample size was 2000 people, of whom 1,798 were Muslim (from page 39 of the Pew study). Bearing in mind that Egypt has a population of over 79 million people, a sample of 2,000 people is a tiny drop in that ocean. The margins for error, in any case, are given on page 150.
But let’s, for the sake of argument, accept that this survey is represents the populations surveyed extremely well. Then you must take seriously the other claims presented, such as (from page 68):
“In nearly every country surveyed in these regions, at least half of Muslims say they are very concerned or somewhat concerned about extremist groups. In Indonesia, nearly eight-in-ten Muslims say they are worried about religious extremism (78%), including more than half (53%) who are worried about Islamic extremists.”
From the graphic on that page, 67% of Egyptians surveyed are somewhat or very concerned about religious extremism (Christian, or Muslim, or both). Are there contradictions here, where clearly many of that group don’t see ‘execute people for apostasy’ as ‘religious extremism’? Absolutely. And many American Christians are in favour of the death penalty. People be complicated, and hold inconsistent beliefs simultaneously. Also this just in: water is wet.
Ultimately, what’s Harris’s point? What did 165 people think was so insightful that it deserved retweeting? Sure, I fully agree that apostasy should not be considered a capital crime. Just as I believe that owning a bible written in the vernacular shouldn’t be considered a capital crime either. This does not appear to me to be an issue with Islam, per se, but how various religions attempt social control. Additionally, Harris is (again) not being “Anti-Islam”; in this particular case, he’s being anti-Egyptian.
Let’s look at this another way: blasphemy laws. I think that the odds are that the vast majority of readers of this blog are anti-[blasphemy laws]. Yet look at how these one issue is dealt with: when people talk about blasphemy laws in Ireland, it’s an Irish thing (even though the country is over-overwhelmingly Catholic). When people talk about blasphemy laws in Pakistan, it’s suddenly a Muslim thing. Why the double-standard?
(Sidenote: I find this switch to be quite bizarre. Whenever a bomb goes off, news articles from North America can’t emphasize the [non-existent] religious affiliations of the IRA and the UVF enough. Talking about blasphemy laws (something clearly fucking religious)? It’s like Ireland was always a secular state. I am confused by your inconsistencies, North America)
The bottom line is that once you start taking the actions and/or attributes of a few members of a particular group and start making claims about the group as a whole (or even generally) based on those few, you’ve wandered into Doing Bigotry territory.
When you criticise the position that these particular Muslims hold you are not criticising Islam, you are criticising these particular Muslims. When you then generalise the beliefs of these particular Muslims and criticise Muslims-in-general… Well, like the song almost says: that’s Islamophobia.
The standard pushback here is to proclaim that “we should be free to criticise Islam without being called racist“: by all means, please criticise Islam (and Armin’s post does exactly that, while completely missing the boat when it comes to the Islamophobia criticism). But the moment you start holding up individual Muslims for what they have done, and then going “See? Freaking Islam!”, then all you have done is is cherry-pick a particular Muslim acting badly, and claim that that one individual is (somehow) representative of Muslims generally. Yet the bulk of the Muslim population *wasn’t* doing what that individual did.
Is Islam homophobic? Sure. Does it advocate the abuse of women? Without a doubt. Is it hypocritical and self-contradictory? Of course it bloody well is.
Is homophobia interwoven throughout Muslim communities? Sure. More than Christian communities? I have no idea (and I don’t know how we’d even begin to quantify that). Are Muslim communities very anti-woman? Sure. More than Christian communities? I’m not sure (I’m inclined to say ‘yes’, but I’m just working off of my media-infused prejudices here).
Are “Muslim communities” and “Islam” synonymous? Fuck no. Take a look at Christianity: it hasn’t changed a whit in the last thousand years, but how the adherents interpret it and implement it into law has.
To claim that Islam is worse than Christianity, or the greatest force for evil today… I mean, *really*? There’s quite a lot of ‘awful’ out there, and I really have no idea how one quantifies Islam as worse than the institutionalized rape of children. Seriously, Dawkins, this shit is embarrassing.
Anywho. This is how I see Islamophobia being used: to call out people who imprecisely generalise traits-specific-to-cultural-subgroups-that-have-Muslim-members to Muslims-in-general, and reading non-Muslims-who-are-part-of-cultural-subgroups-that-have-Muslim-members as Muslims.
This be Islamophobia.
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[This was originally posted on The Crommunist Manifesto]
66 responses to “Islamophobia, a discussion”
people who imprecisely generalise traits-specific-to-cultural-subgroups-that-have-Muslim-members to Muslims-in-general, and reading non-Muslims-who-are-part-of-cultural-subgroups-that-have-Muslim-members as Muslims.
That’s an excellent definition of exactly what I mean when I use the term. Thanks.
… the largest single ethnic/nationality of Muslims don’t live in the Middle East: they live in Indonesia (13% of all Muslims). Yet, in Europe and North America, “Muslim” and “brown person” have become somewhat synonymous…
Last I checked, the vast majority of Indonesians qualify handily as “brown persons”; ditto Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Indian Muslims, and most other Muslim-majority nations. The palest bunch, aside from a handful of Euro/US converts, live in Central Asia (Afghanistan and ‘stans to the north).
So, the generalization that Muslim=brown-person has some legitimacy, though not both ways – a trip to, say, Colorado or points south of same will show you lots of well-tanned non-Muslims.
Meh … whenever an article starts with an outright lie (“The term is primarily used to call out bigoted behaviour, and not necessarily restricted to bigotry against Muslim”), you know you’re in for a round full of silly marxist apologetics. Sad, sad,sad.
Another angle of this that is not necessarily Islamophobia as it is defined here, but is certainly bigoted, is presuming that the way that Western white people would “solve” the problems of Islam, in Islamic countries, is the “right” way. It’s “White Makes Right” writ large, and it’s certainly easy for someone like me, who is removed from the situation and unfamiliar with much of it, to say what Muslim women or Muslim men should and shouldn’t do to mitigate the particular harm caused by extremists of this particular religion.
That doesn’t make me right. Actually, it just makes me ill-informed and presumptuous.
You mean your vague comment with little to no specifics, no counter-argument and accusations of Marxism?
What did marxism have to do with any of this? O.o
Because even if 100% of muslims were in favour of the death penalty it still means that 100 non-Muslims agreed with that, too….
When the Home secretary thinks about starting a register for people who convert to Islam, that’s Islamophobia
When the dialogue with the muslim community is hosted by the Home Secretary and focuses on security and extremism, that’s Islamophobia
When people make assumptions about a woman with a hijab without ever having talked to her, that’s Islamophobia, too.
Yet again I think Muslimophobia would be a far better term than Islamophobia. Just like I have way more of a problem with Christianity than Christians, I have way more of a problem with Islam than Muslim(a)s.
One way to tell the difference is to look at real-world examples of ways that Muslims are treated and discussed, versus the way members of other religions are treated and discussed. For instance, here in America whenever there’s something that MIGHT be terrorism people immediately call for extra scrutiny of and harmful treatment towards any and all Muslims anywhere in the world, and quick condemnation of Islam as a whole. When it is an abortion clinic, or the bomber turns out to be a Christian, there are immediate calls to stop looking at the groups the bomber belongs to and start looking for ways to explain away the behavior as ONLY belonging to that person. We avoid discussing the underlying cultural causes for extreme violence committed by “regular” Americans (meaning white and usually Christian) while insisting on cultural causes for any wrongdoing by a Muslim.
And most damning, the Western world talks about Islam as a monolithic violent threat to all of civilization, while ignoring the fact that the vast majority of military strength is in the hands of majority-Christian countries, with the really overly evangelical American military leading the way. Don’t tell me “violent culture” from the #1 military power in the world.
It’s worth pointing out that the statistics from The Economist that Harris linked to (and that you linked to) show that 85% _of those who approve of sharia law_ support executing those who leave the faith. Look closely at the graph’s legend. So, chances are that the non-Muslim Egyptians who answered the poll are not represented in that number at all, and it’s also fair to assume that a large number of the Muslim participants are also not represented, considering how far down the list Egypt is on their rankings of support for sharia law.
To break it down, 1,798 out of 2,000 responders were Muslims. Of these, approximately 75% supported sharia law (about 1,349 people). Of these 1,349, about 85% support executing those who leave the faith (1,147). So, out of all the study’s participants in Egypt, less than 60% actually supported executing people who leave Islam (less than 1,200 out of 2,000)
Even if the sample is representational, which is hard to believe with only 2,000 participants in a country of 79 million, the results are not what they’re being made out to be.
BTW, the Reasonable Doubts folks discussed the Pew survey results at some length in their usual inimitable style in their last podcast. Worth a listen IMO.
Does Islamophobia exist! Personally I’m shocked by the number of private conversations I’ve had and stuff I’ve seen here and there in the media and on the internet advocating violence against Muslims (whether the potential agressors can recognise them is another matter) or the withdrawal of rights and privileges which the rest of us enjoy. This is really serious stuff and I’m concerned that it’s escalating to the point where some people think “you can’t be Islamophobic because nothing you could say about Islam (or Muslims) could possibly be bad enough.” Check the history books, everyone, and see where that sort of thing leads.
Given this climate, I think it’s irresponsible to criticise Islam without explicitly taking some distance from those reprehensible ideas, without knowing what we’re talking about (ignorance can be a neutral thing, but not in a situation where it could have serious consequences), without being specific (as opposed to over-generalising as Brian says) and without doing everything possible to avoid dehumanising the people whose beliefs and customs we’re choosing to criticise. I call it irresponsible and I’m kind of slow to use the word Islamophobic, but I’m sure it contributes to Islamophobia.
P.S. I don’t know why we use a term meaning ‘fear of Islam’ to describe attitudes which any reasonable Muslim should be pretty seriously worried about.
In more Christianized portions of the US homeschooling movement, I have been led to understand that women and girls occasionally wear long denim jumpers.
Granting that this practice is not as universal as, say, the various forms of covering up women in Muslim-dominated societies, it certainly seems to come out of similar motivations.
@3 What the FUCK does this have to do with Marxism? Even if Brian is a Marxist (mildly possible, we’re all a bunch of dirty leftist commies ’round here, though I’m inclined to think he’s probably a social democrat), this has nothing to do with class conflict.
@2: you appear to be unfamiliar with how the term ‘brown person’ is used.
@11: that was an excellent podcast, though I feel that their statements of “fear” were somewhat overblown. I think it’s worth bearing in mind that the things that seem most dangerous seem to correlate inversely with how secular the state the believer lives in. Which, oddly enough, seems to match up with Christians (and other religious believers too).
Trolls aside, I appreciate everyone’s responses. 🙂
Indeed, and in other Christian sects, pants are forbidden as are skirts which cut above the knee and anything shorter than 3/4 sleeves. Me, I was instructed to wear below the knee skirts or culottes (with knee socks or tights and flat shoes, no hose or heels) no fewer than four days a week once I neared puberty because my parents worried that the frequent wearing of pants would lead me to “unfeminine” attitudes and behaviors, thereby putting my “purity” and “submissive godliness” at risk. Thankfully our time period spent in that particular sect under those particular beliefs was only a few years, but it was long enough to do its damage. My point (and I do believe, yours) is that hyper policing of the appearance of women and girls for religious purposes is not exclusive to fundamentalist sects of Islam, yet Islam is the one religion which seems to be wholesale equated with female oppression while we’re quite careful to specify which denomination and sects we’re talking about when it comes to, say, Christianity and Judaism.
A sample size of 2,000, actually, isn’t so bad — presidential polls in this country routinely involve about as many respondents and they are pretty reliable in aggregate. (See: Nate Silver, who has noted many times that ~2000-3000 people is usually enough for a reasonable estimate).
BUT. Let’s look at the context a bit. If you asked a bunch of really religious Americans if they approve of jail or death for gay people, you might get similar answers. Does that mean that gay marriage is doomed? Gawd, no! The problem is the sample of people you pick. Since you’ve selected an exceptionally religious group to start with — akin to polling Hasidic Jews — you are going to get answers that are at variance with reality.
Let’s be clear: The Muslim Brotherhood wasn’t elected with a majority. (A plurality, really). And in most Muslim countries the authorities are ostensibly secular. Even the Brotherhood, while it ha a lot of right wing elements, isn’t anywhere near as extreme as some parties in say, Pakistan, or even some Christian Dominionists here.
This doesn’t mean “no religious influence,” but FFS, the number of outright theocracies is small. Iran qualifies, and you could include Saudi Arabia. But the ecclesiastical authorities have no civil, legal power anywhere in North Africa, or in Syria, or in Jordan, or Central Asia, and even the Saudi Monarchy are not religious authorities, per se. Describing Saudi Arabia as a theocracy — well, you’d have to include England under Henry VIII in that definition too and possibly a lot of Europe in the 19th century.
Point is, the way religion is processed in daily life differs a lot from country to country. Albania, for example, is one of three Muslim majority nations in Europe. (Or four, if you count Kosovo). Religion sits lightly there. (Albania also has the odd distinction of being the only Muslim country to operate under Stalinism and stick with it even after Stalin was dead). The situation is different in Iran, and differs again in Oman and in northern Nigeria.
This discussion is always prickly for me. I listen to Sam Harris and his responses to criticisms. I certainly hold opinions different than his, but I worry he’s needlessly becoming a bogeyman for atheists who prefer the left of the political spectrum. I find his clarifications and elaborations sufficient to explain some of the more inflammatory things he’s said. As with much of life, discussions of this sort require linguistic clarity, much like Brian pointing out conflating Pakistani problems with Muslim problems is fallacious. Spot on. Harris does that for me personally. he makes sure we the audience knows exactly what he’s saying, and I find his clarifications satisfactory.
So no excuses for bigotry, but general statements can carry truth.
For example, your criticism of his tweet about Egypt… that perhaps 2000 surveyed out of a country of so many millions… sorry, but that’s weak. Yes, I suppose its possible that those polled persons happen to be the only 2000 bigots/right wing assholes in all of Egypt… but if that’s what we should assume about polls, then why should anyone poll anyone ever? That kind of inaccuracy is exactly why it takes entire institutions to conduct polls. They work on that stuff. At least, I trust they do (not a member of a polling institution myself, I’m afraid). I think it is more likely (and accurate to say) that Egypt has deep flaws in their society (for whatever historical reasons… the West I’m sure has some blame to bear here, too, despite Sam’s snark) that skews their opinions toward backwardness and closed-mindedness. Poverty and (yes, obviously) religiosity in a society will do that.
Some assumptions can be exported to the larger Islamic picture, however. Just like individual christians doing horrible things in the name of christianity (which is not an indictment of christians in total, but certainly a valid illumination of the kind of things a socio-economically/mentally unstable christian is wont to do, given the christian rhetoric and culture and all that jazz he/she’s been indoctrinated with), the consistent jihad-style us-vs.-the-world stuff touted by the most extreme elements of islam cannot be used to indict all muslims, but does offer us a look at how sick things can get in the minds of those deeply indoctrinated into islam. Is that a valid criticism of Islam, that it can foster this kind of perversion in a minority of its followers? Absolutely, just as much as it speaks to faults and problems in christianity whenever someone bombs an abortion clinic for jesus.
And yes, Ireland also has a religion problem.
The old racism apologetics comes to mind: “I don’t discriminate, I hate all of you(r religions) equally.”
@5/14: I’m sorry, I should’ve been more precise:
Of course I meant “cultural marxism”, not marxism in its original economic context.
What I lament, and I will be short on this, is easy to understand:
Establishing neologisms and pseudo constructs like “xyz-phobia” in the western leftists’ vocabulary serves only 1 purpose: Psychologising any political/ideological opposition (as a mental derangement) in order to discredit any form of (legitimate) criticism.
I despise such propagandistic practices and I pity those who blindly adapt to them without knowing what harm they cause to public discourse.
In terms of Islam, a LOT of things could be said and even more about the naivity of authors like Brian Lynchehaun.
I cannot comprehend how anyone can say something like “I really have no idea how one quantifies Islam as worse than the institutionalized rape of children” and still be taken seriously by an audience that claims to appreciate the critical evaluation of facts.
The above statement, in the context of the article, is extremely bizarre…
(1) Dawkins was very specific in his comparison of different grades of child abuse, the damage done by it and the damage done by religious indoctrination. And he is undoubtly correct. There are different grades of child abuse and some of them are not as damaging as some vile parts of religious indoctrination. I know that discriminating is very hard for cultural marxists but that’s how reality actually is. It is not black and white and not everything is the same as everything else. Grow up.
(2) In opposite to christian teachings, where child abuse is seen as a serious transgression (and not a part of the religious teachings or tradition), it IS actually part of islamic religious tradition. Ooooops?
As long as Mohammed is considered the specimen example for all people to follow, the best of all men that ever lived, a hell lot of muslims all over the world DO actually follow his example and sell their pre-pubescent daughters away to horny old perverts, aka soon-to-be-husbands.
Child rape is not only a vital part of this “religious” tradition, it’s even considered “best practice”.
And what worries me the most, are not these perverted practices (among a 100 others which I cannot be bothered to list here), it’s the screaming silence from western lefties and moderate muslims alike, completely ignoring the barbarism that is practiced every single day under the mantle of “religious freedom”, often enough euphemised as a “cultural difference”.
And if it weren’t for people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and other refugees who had to flee from Islam to save their own lives, we wouldn’t be hearing about any of these cruelties against children, and especially girls and young women AT ALL. At least not from authors like Brian Lynchehaun.
In the end, it’s your choice – you can either continue participating in dishonest and irrelevant ideological masturbation about what “islamophobia” is, or you can start calling a spade a spade and draw the consequences.
There are many people that overgeneralize the majority of Muslims as violent. There are many others who try to portray their racism as intellectual criticism. These people are bigots. Yet, there are also many other people who are concerned with the teachings of Islam as depicted in the Quran and Hadith. These concerns are not targeted towards an entire group of people that belong to a certain ideology; they are targeted towards the nature of the teachings themselves. This concern is not bigotry, and its validity is strengthened by the fact that many of the minority group of Muslims that do practice the teachings of Islam are in the position of power. These people have been able to limit the freedom of criticism by exercising their authority. Most of them have attained their authority by enforcing these dogmatic belief systems and would do anything to stop whoever tries to question their validity. Some of us who are fortunate enough not to live under such oppressive regimes exercise our freedom of speech to try and speak out for those that cannot speak for themselves. Islamic regimes can’t threaten those of us who don’t live under their rule. So, they try to use other means. Similar to the bigots mentioned above, people loyal to regimes depict their desire for limiting freedom of expression as intellectual criticism. I myself cannot count the many times that I was branded as a racist for simply reciting a violent verse in the Quran.
I used to be a devout Muslim. When I lost my faith, I felt very liberated, but I also felt betrayed. I was manipulated by my schools and government in order to serve their purpose. So many hours were wasted studying and preaching the Quran and Hadith. For so many years, I felt ashamed of my natural urges; so many nights, I stayed awake, begging God to reveal what he wants from me. Many people I knew were far more indoctrinated that I was and continue to be. The victims of Islam include the fundamentalists who have been robbed of their lives. I should have been exposed more to alternative viewpoints, but since I was not, I will try to reach out to as many people as I can that are being used as I was.
There are two battles that need to be fought. Some choose to fight bigotry, others fight oppression. Unfortunately, too many times, these two groups’ arguments are used against each other instead of the bigots and the oppressors who use these valid arguments to mask their own bigotry or attempt to limit freedom of expression. Using the term Islamophobia has played right into this game. While many are correct to point out that, too often, Muslims are discriminated against for merely being or “looking like” Muslims, using Islamophobia as a way to describe this discrimination suggests that the ideology itself should be immune from criticism, and, too often, the term is used as such. (Perhaps Muslimophobia would have been a more accurate way of describing overgeneralization and demonization of the Muslim community.) It is, therefore, the responsibility of the proponents of this argument not play into the hands of bigots and autocrats by diligently working to clarify what constitutes bigotry and what is legitimate criticism of a dogmatic ideology.
Haven’t read Deuteronomy, have you?
And as to the facts, here’s one: The Catholic Church took steps to prevent the prosecution of child molesters, full stop. There is no equivalent Islamic authority that could move imams around the way the Church does. (That’s because Islam doesn’t have a pope, or any similar authority).
And the practice of marrying off young girls exists as a big part of fundamentalist Christian tradition too. The legal age for marriage in some states (with parental approval) is as young as 13 (New Hampshire,and South Carolina are two).
Claiming that Islam is uniquely bad runs into all kinds of problems. And the issue is that Dawkins et al don’t refer to Christianity in the same way. And the whole discussion often just ignores that the situation for Muslims in say, Algeria is very different from what it is in Germany or the US.
Much of the time the people who ail about Islam sound an awful lot like the ones who said that there were “fundamental differences” between Japanese culture and ours that of course, justified locking people like George Takei in concentration camps. Because, of course, you ever could trust those Asians, with their incomprehensible language and all that. Heck, they had all sorts of traditions that didn’t look Christian, too. Better not take any chances right?
Sam Harris would have a hell of a time around here; he’d be calling the FBI every time he got a sandwich from the food cart guy. Because hey, he might be plotting something between making those felafel wraps.
Here’s a way to tell if you are being bigoted: cross out “Muslim” and put “black” or “Japanese” or something else in there. If it sounds racist, you hit bigotry bingo and need to re-think.
Putting “cultural” in front of the claim doesn’t make it any more correct.
Specious BS is still specious.
@2: you appear to be unfamiliar with how the term ‘brown person’ is used.
While I agree with your overall point, at least where I’m from, the usage of “brown person” that I am familiar with – the one describing a category of people likely to be “profiled” – definitely covers Indonesians and South Asians. Is this some local-culture difference?
Additionally, Harris is (again) not being “Anti-Islam”; in this particular case, he’s being anti-Egyptian.
It looks like you are missing the thrust of the tweet – which is a response to some people (rightly or wrongly) blaming American/Western imperialism for everything that’s wrong with the Islamic world.
I’m with you right up until the end, when you say that, for example, “Islam is homophobic”, I wonder what precisely you mean and how you justify that statement. It seems to me you might want to extend your laudable desire for precision and non-generalization to this sort of statement too.
Wow, really? The last time I’d seen this sort of unsophistication with regard to polling data, it was from people that wanted to pretend that Presidential polling is meaningless. A sample of 2,000 gives tight enough error margins to tell you quite a bit.
Ah. So when you said “marxism” you meant “anything vaguely leftist, progressive or liberal, but I’ll use the word “marxist” because that makes it sound scary”.
Sorry, blockquote fail@28. Reposting:
Ah. So when you said “marxism” you meant “anything vaguely leftist, progressive or liberal, but I’ll use the word “marxist” because that makes it sound scary”.
You’re a barefaced liar. Neither “islamophobia” nor “homophobia” nor “transphobia” is in general used to suggest “mental derangement” – in fact, I can’t think of any example of that I have come across. They do suggest an irrational attitude, but if irrationality implied mental derangement, we’d have to conclude that all religious believers, and most atheists, are mentally deranged. You’re obviously too far up your own arse to have noticed this, but the very same people who use these terms are also likely to object to attributing bigotry to “mental derangement” because that is in itself a form of bigotry against those suffering psychiatric illness.
Now, to address the OP: on at least two occasions recently, I’ve seen something similar to this post from PZ Myers, whom in general I much admire, where some egregious crime, intolerance or stupidity committed by a Muslim or Muslims is described, and the writer then ends with an ironic declaration that objecting to it is or would be Islamophobic. Next time you see one of these, try googling the word “Islamophobia” along with some word or phrase that summarizes the topic at issue (in the linked case, I used “Imad Iddine Habib”). On the occasions I have done this, the first two pages have never actually turned up a single example of anyone non-ironically describing such criticism as Islamophobic. Instead, what turns up are multiple examples of people making exactly the same claim: that anyone criticising the crime, intolerance or stupidity in question will be accused of Islamophobia.
Possibly so: but in the world as it actually is, the word for the phenomenon is “Islamophobia”. And as Improbable Joe points out@9, Islamophobes (actually he says “the west”, which is an overgeneralisation), talk about Islam as if it was a hugely powerful monolith, which is threatening to overwhelm “us”. That is indeed a phobia – an irrational fear* – of Islam, so for this aspect of the phenomenon, the term “Islamophobia” is perfactly apt.
*Perhaps the Islamophobe’s favourite “gotcha” is the claim that a “phobia” is an irrational fear, and it’s quite rational to fear Islam, so nyah nyah nyah. But it is quite possible to have a phobia of dogs, of fire, of heights, of crowds, of snakes – all of which can be very dangerous. A phobia is a fear – or repulsion – of an irrational intensity.
@20 / Amin
“There are many people that overgeneralize the majority of Muslims as violent. There are many others who try to portray their racism as intellectual criticism”
I’m afraid you’re fooling yourself here to quite an extent.
The reason why muslim populations of certain countries are looked upon with suspicion, is not that people believe that an actual entirety (or even majority) of the country IS actually violent (although in some countries, the number of people who support religious violence is immensely high), nope.
It’s the realisation that it does not require an entirey, not even a majority of extremists to hijack, enslave and utilise an entire society. If you haven’t learned that lesson from all the -isms of the 20th century, you haven’t learned anything at all.
– If you believe that Nazi-Germany was populated by 80 million Nazis, you’re a fool. In reality, the number of germans who shared the actual beliefs of their leadership was tiny.
– And still, if you were a jew in these days and thought you were “safe” in germany because almost noone really believed in racial supremacism, world domination and all the other bunk, you were an even greater fool.
– And the greatest fools of all were appeasers like Neville Chamberlain who thought that germany wasn’t that much of a danger for the rest of the world, because germans were nice and reasonable people after all.
And these insane social dynamics have repeated themselves in several societies, no matter how “diverse” (or as islam apologists would say : “non-monolithic”) a society was.
Those who stood by idly back then could’ve prevented lots of misery, had they called a spade a spade and acted upon it, before the whole situation exploded. Please realise, that a growing number of people, consciously or unconsciously, remember that lesson and are unwilling to make this dire mistake a 2nd time. This is the 21st century and we’re not having it again.
And yes, maybe we (I am one of these “islamophobes”) are wrong – maybe are we overreacting, maybe Islam only looks like a global fascist ideology that wages war against its opponents and kills people every single day.
I would simply ask you : What and how much of it are you willing to bet on it ?
There are many others who try to portray their racism as intellectual criticismWell, that line of non-thought baffles me. Not because of its obvious propagandistic value (after all, smearing someone with “racism” is an established way of silencing opponents of cultural marxism) but because it’s so obviously false.
Yes, I’m absolutely sure there are lots of people who translate “muslim” with “just another bunch of brown desert people” and these folks probably dislike “brown desert people” in general.
But these folks are not your average “islamophobes”, are they ?
Take a long hard look at the most prominent “islamophobes”, from the late Hitchens, Sam Harris, over Aayan Hirsi Ali over to Robert Spencer and all across the ocean to people like Geert Wilders, if you like.
You can claim to believe that it’s their dislike of “brown people” that drives them to condemn Islam as harshly and broadly as they do, as a quasi placeholder because they can’t openly attack the “brown race”, but if you do, I can safely say that your belief contradicts everything we know about these people and is therefor highly irrational and probably driven by liberal bias; and certainly more irrational than these peoples’ alleged “islamophobia”.
@28 / Nick Gotts (formerly KG)
Ah. So when you said “marxism” you meant “anything vaguely leftist, progressive or liberal, but I’ll use the word “marxist” because that makes it sound scary”No, I mean specifically that part of cultural marxism that leads to cultural and moral relativism, leaving its victims unable to differentiate between superior and inferior forms of cultural traits and behavioural schemes.
You’re a barefaced liar. Neither “islamophobia” nor “homophobia” nor “transphobia” is in general used to suggest “mental derangement”
Before “-phobias” were used in political propaganda, they were an exclusive vocabulary used in psychology and clinical psychiatry, describing irrational, exxagerated or malformed fears of archetypal origin; a psychological disorder.
That’s the exact reason why phobias became so attractive to political propagandists. If you label someone as “phobic”, it’s that well known connotation of “crazy” that is supposed to discredit that person’s opinions. And interestingly enough, these phobia labels are exclusively used by leftist propagandists.
Oh by the way, your prayers have been heard 🙂
Behind your backs, “islamophobia” has been re-defined. It now doesn’t mean “irrational fear of Islam”, it now means “prejudice against, hatred towards, or irrational fear of Muslims”, making it factually impossible to criticise Islam without automatically being accused of attacking all muslims … if THAT sort of propaganda foul play doesn’t make you laugh, nothing will.
Mr. Crommunist, I’m afraid you’ve just perpetrated your stance with something you accuse Harris of doing all the time. 85 percent of Egyptians support capital punishment for those who leave the faith: – “the sample size was 2000 people, of whom 1,798 were Muslim.” – as if this makes the poll less credible. From what I understand coming out of Harris’ point of view, you’ve just supported his argument. We could restate this poll as saying “85% of Muslim Egyptians support capital punishment” based off of the fact that a majority questioned were Muslim. So I think it’s not only fair but ethical to notice how outrageous this point of view is and to hold the people believing these things accountable to there reasons. What are their reasons? The holy book they adhere. I don’t understand why people try to use Harris as an example of someone being racist. You obviously are missing the entire point of his argument. This blog post is being held hostage by political correctness.
I’m just going to leave this here for everyone to enjoy. The level of irony here borders on the profound.
@22 / jesse
Sorry, overlooked your post.
Haven’t read Deuteronomy, have you? […]
And as to the facts, here’s one: The Catholic Church took steps to prevent the prosecution of child molestersI have. And had to laugh a lot. But that or what the cath church does is relevant to what I said.
As long as you cannot point to a vast amount of christians who openly defend f*cking 9y old girls (or something equivalent) as not only justifiable, but as an example which everyone should follow and actually act upon it in the year 2013, you haven’t scored the ghost of a point.
It’s one of these precious moments when cultural relativism shows how utterly dumb and empty it is.
Claiming that Islam is uniquely bad runs into all kinds of problems. And the issue is that Dawkins et al don’t refer to Christianity in the same way.Whoops? Strawman alert? Noone says that Islam is the only bad religion/ideology on this planet. Noone. But as certain as nothing else, it’s the one religious ideology that causes the most real life problems – or to be precise – which kills the most people on any given day of this age.
And Dawkins et al don’t see Islam as they see Christianity is because they’re simply not the same.
Again, as a cultural relativist, you will think that these 2 religions are basically the same, without acknowledging the importance of all the differences between them (if you can see them at all).
Heck, they had all sorts of traditions that didn’t look Christian, too. Better not take any chances right?Haha. Same question as for point 1: How many “cultures” or “traditions” can you point to who have openly declared war on ours ? Sorry to break it to you but one man’s terrorist is not another man’s freedom fighter.
Here’s a way to tell if you are being bigoted: cross out “Muslim” and put “black” or “Japanese” or something else in there. If it sounds racist, you hit bigotry bingo and need to re-think.Here’s a way to tell if you’re a naive appeaser : Replace “muslim” with “stalinist, nazist, maoist”. If it sounds dangerous, you might want to rethink and consider killing them all…
Can you really not see how utterly dumb such word games are?
Insofar as the Qu’ran explicitly condemns homosexuality, Islam is homophobic. Ditto Christianity, and anything else that does likewise. I’m certainly not claiming that it is any more homophobic than Christianity, nor am I asserting that “Muslims are homophobic”.
I didn’t realise I was saying something that was, in any way, contentious.
@24: The way you are coming at this is the exact opposite of the way that I’m coming at it.
Yes, of course, when looking at a person from Indonesia, if we ask the question “is that person brown?” then the answer is “yes”. Ditto for Irish people who have been in the sun for a sufficient period of time.
What I’m aiming at is the concept that people are referencing when they refer to “a brown person”. Indonesians, Chinese people, and the Japanese are not typically first on the list. Usually, this is used to reference people from Western Asia, not Eastern Asia.
Erh.. ouf, can’t you offer some standard tags for formatting text x,x ?
@33 / Brian Lynchehaun
Maybe you want to reconsider your attitude towards answering peoples’ comments.
And are you sure you know what “irony” means ?
@36 / Brian Lynchehaun @ all others
I have to ask this :
Is “brown person” a term you actually use in real life ? And may I ask under what circumstances you do that ???
@37: The “standard tags” you can use are listed underneath the comment box.
I’m quite satisfied with my “highlight the troll’s ridiculousness, but otherwise ignore them” policy.
When you offer something substantive, rather than a vast swathe of assertions and characterisations of other commenters (both of which are) entirely unsupported without any evidence), I’ll probably respond differently. Until then, I’ll continue to ignore your noise.
@39 / Brian Lynchehaun
Except they’re not standard and they don’t work as expected. The site’s engine renders a different output on different browsers. While the email notifications contain your full posts, good parts of them are invisible under FF/PM html output. And the login procedure doesn’t work under FF/PM either; I have to login over pharyngula in order to post anything on this blog…technically fubar.
Rüley? The same old “troll” smear to cover up your own lazyness ? You’re not a member of atheism+ by any chance, are you ?
In all seriousness:
The article you wrote was amateurish and your attitude towards commentary is equally poor.
You might want to step up your game or it will be the last time we see any of your writings on this blog (did I hear someone gasp “thank god”?)…
@40: You repeated use of the Poisoning of the Well Fallacy is not a substantive argument. Constantly declaring something to be a “Marxist” reframing is nothing more than a dismissal, and (given the context of general understanding of Marxism) a disparaging dismissal at that.
It doesn’t address anything. It’s not substantive.
Merely using a label to disparagingly dismiss an essay while at the same time declaring “(after all, smearing someone with “racism” is an established way of silencing opponents of cultural marxism)” is ironic: given that your apparent understanding of how Poisoning the Well works, one would expect you to avoid doing so. You didn’t. Thus your statement is ironic.
Moreover, if you bothered to dig into this blog further, you’d come to understand that “that act is a racist act” is not a smear: it’s descriptive in a highly specific way.
You are more than welcome to troll elsewhere. What you are providing isn’t “commentary”. Short of (and I do hate to repeat myself) a substantive response on your part to the original post, I won’t be responding to you further.
Don’t play dumb. You know very well what cultural marxism is; after all, you are a cultural marxist. And for all those who don’t know, a sufficiently comprehensive explanation is, as always, only 1 click away CLICK
Cultural marxism is not my argument. It’s a sidenote, an observation of some peoples’ self-inflicted blindness towards otherwise obvious discrepancies. My core arguments on the other hand, are seperated from that and laid out properly. If you want to ignore them, that’s your choice entirely.
Are you sure that the same technical flaws that hid half of your posts from me didn’t also hide half of my posts from you ? As I said: On the technical side, this block is pretty fcked up.
Just popping in to address this. I, and I alone, make the call about who posts here. And while your level of self-regard is well-established, I do wish to make clear that your opinion of Brian’s writing and ‘attitude’ is pretty much meaningless to me. But I guess that’s the cultural marxism talking.
Also, would you prefer to skip ahead to the part where I ban you and you go crow to your buddies about how ‘atheism+’ is robbing you of your ‘free speech’? If we could do that without having to go through the part where you endlessly and obsessively rant in a rapidly-expanding series of grand proclamations and unsupported assertions, that would save me a lot of time and eye-rolling.
See, Brian ? THAT’s some self-confident humor.
The image of Crommunist rolling his eyes… that’s proper slapstick. It’s his wit that makes him cute.
@43 / Crommunist
Yes, of course it’s your choice who posts articles here.
And you don’t need to protect him from what I am writing – you need to protect yourself from what he is writing.
His article was blatant shit. And you know it. And in the end, you will be the one unsubscribing from the idea of him ever posting an article on your blog again because judging from your usual habits, you actually DO care how well written and well argued the articles on your blog are. I’m just describing the foreseeable future.
And no – Of course I don’t mind you banning my account.
We both know it’s a completely meaningless gesture since noone and nothing could keep me from coming back and commenting on a public wordpress blog if I felt like it. But since you expressed your will to be free of my presence – consider your wish fulfilled.
Let’s talk reality for a few seconds:
Folks like me don’t pass by and write comments because we really care – we do that because we consider it to be a sort of “community service”, giving you the feeling of being heard and recognised, ripping off a few pieces of insulation material from the little echo chamber you guys are sitting in etc… so if you’re unnecessarily harsh on people like me, you’re just hurting yourself. As a blogger on a dying network, you know very well that even seemingly unpleasant company is better than being alone.
Power to the people.
Someone remind me of the definition of trolling? Because I’m pretty sure that’s it.
Asserting that conventional HTML tags that have been in use for years are “not standard” is nonsense.
It appears to be par for the course for your so-called “contributions” to this thread, of course.
Wouldn’t you have to be a person with a little more originality than someone who chirps “echo chamber” at every startling noise to perform a service like that?
Props for working the echo chamber metaphor with the bit about insulation material, but echo chambers aren’t much association with insulation. Insulation fucks with echoes. You’ve likely confused them with anechoic chambers, which are, funnily enough, specifically designed and insulated to reduce echoes.
Pro-tip: for variety, consider substituting ‘hive mind’ for ‘echo chamber’ on occasion. If you really want to blow some minds, toss in ‘sheeple’. It’s an NIST-certified term, accepted as an internet standard, and so you won’t run the risk of fucking up the metaphor because you’re simply repeating terms you don’t comprehend but read elsewhere and thought cool.
One wonders where, exactly, tiberiusbeauregard gets the quantification to back up this statement.
Which differs from the Torah and Talmud, or the Bible, in what significant ways? In places where extreme adherents to those books have power, you see exactly the same sorts of problems.
I’d like to point out that when Sam Harris says that *he* should be included in a profile of “someone who looks like they could be Muslim”, he is NOT saying that anyone could look like a potential Islamic extremist. He’s saying that young-to-middle-aged men of any race might be, which is perfectly true. The context is important; in the piece on profiling, he’s arguing about how ridiculous it is that ‘random’ screens cause little kids and old people to get patted down, instead of focusing on young (or young-ish) men.
I’m not saying I agree with profiling as a way to improve security, but Brian’s dismissal of Harris’ point is a bit too flippant here.
Does one? (I know you’re being somewhat rhetorical here, composer99.) It’s one of the Talking Points™ a certain group of persons passes around to each other like mono at a high school smoking area. They’re not much different than the nearly 4 in 10 people who think Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history but don’t actually have any idea of where Benghazi is.
Echo chamber indeed.
If that’s what he was saying, then his references to himself and Ben Stiller are strange and gratuitous:
It’s pretty implausible that he meant “young-to-middle-aged men of any race”. If he did, then he’s even worse a writer than previously thought. (I’m neither a Jew nor Arab, but I know what groups I most superficially resemble, and I’d be cognizant that using myself as an example in such an argument would not lead people to think “everyman” but “swarthy, hirsute Middle-Eastern type”.)
Further, in his addendum to his piece, he writes:
That’s kind of a novel twist on an old argument: “I can’t be racist; some of my best friends are me!”
But, just in case one is tempted to think he’s actually walking back the “people who look like me or Ben Stiller” gambit, he’s got a slap ready for you anti-racist hippies:
So let’s stop pretending he’s talking about ‘any race’ here. That’s exactly what he’s talking about.
One wonders where, exactly, tiberiusbeauregard gets the quantification to back up this statement.
I’m going to go with “perirectal transubstantiation”.
I disagreed with the main thrust of the post also, but I certainly support your right to lend voice to whoever you want, whatever their opinion (within reason, natch). If nothing but for the sake of challenging our own positions and making us justify our own positions (to ourselves and to others), reading things we disagree with, I find, is far better for us than just wallowing in opinios similar to our own (avoiding use of the term “echo chamber” here as its been thoroughly mangled already).
I’ll subscribe twice for anyone who unsubscribes over this silliness.
keep up the good work!
Hey Crom, thanks for this post. Posted it to reddit.com/r/atheismplus.
I really liked most of it … but isn’t the end exactly the same as what you are fighting against?
“Is homophobia interwoven throughout Muslim communities? Sure. More than Christian communities? I have no idea (and I don’t know how we’d even begin to quantify that). Are Muslim communities very anti-woman? Sure. More than Christian communities? I’m not sure (I’m inclined to say ‘yes’, but I’m just working off of my media-infused prejudices here).”
I think you really mean “Are *some* Muslim communities very anti-woman?” You just generalised throughout that paragraph.
Re: the end point of that paragraph (suspecting some stereotypical Christian community is better re: women than some Muslim one) you have to remember when we think of Christian communities we think of western ones (wealthy and somewhat educated), but when we think of Muslim communities we think of Pakistan and Bangladesh. That is such an unfair comparison.
Wanna go Bangladesh? Compare it to Swaziland or Uganda. Pakistan? You might get a decent comparison with Cote d’Ivoire. USA? Maybe Brunei or Malaysia at a stretch.
We have to be careful, because poverty and lack of education have huge correlation with violence, and strict gender roles, and other forms of bigotry.
I tried to put together some basic evidence re: Islam vs Christianity on the subreddit http://www.reddit.com/r/atheismplus/comments/1c9upj/resource_gapminder_is_awesome_equality_data_by/
I appreciate your suggestion, however there is no logical difference between “Are some Muslim communities very anti-woman?” and “are Muslim communities very anti-woman?”. They’re both equivalent, and “some” is a generalisation.
I completely agree.
The problem is with equating one section of the Qu’ran with “Islam”. These are clearly two separable concepts which should, in the name of optimal clarity, be separated. “Islam” and “the Qu’ran” are not the same thing, and it is simply inaccurate to equate them, just as it is inaccurate to equate “Islamists” with “Muslims” (for instance).
I have written on this topic at length at the following links:
Islam calls for the death of apostates. Do you think this affects Egyptians attitude toward the punishment for apostasy?
This is what Sam Harris tries to get at constantly. Beliefs do actually affect people’s behavior. So to call for a complete separation between criticism of Islam and criticism of Muslims forces you to have an incomplete picture of the problem.
Sam Harris should be able to talk about problems like that without being called racist. It’s just ridiculous. As for the racial profiling thing, that discussion got incredibly involved, and your criticism was specifically addressed with his argument with Bruce Schneier (and Bruce Schneier totally won that). That discussion in general lowered my opinion of Sam Harris in terms of his rationality.
And Christianity calls people to love each other and turn the other cheek. Yet “We shall know them by their love” is a fucking joke.
Sure. But thoughtful discussion of this requires acknowledging that “Written in one’s holy book” =/= “What one actually believes.”
Sure. But he shouldn’t get a pass when he actually says racist things, which he seems to quite often, and clearly did in his Defense of Profiling piece.
Totally apologize Mr. Crommunist. I need to pay better attention to whom I am referring to with my comments and who actually wrote the article. Although, I’m assuming you may agree with Brian so I guess I’m some what directing towards you as well.
First off, whenever I have seen criticism of Irish blasphemy laws on blogs around the secular community, the Catholic majority from which appears to flow the majority of support for these laws is clearly noted. It’s not an Irish thing or a Catholic thing – it’s an Irish Catholic thing, and even then, I suspect that there are members of this group (or people who call themselves members but who are severely “lapsed”) that disagree with this type of social control policy. So I don’t see how this is any different from Pakistan or Bangladesh.
Like you say, people are complicated and cannot normally be pigeon-holed into narrow categories. But religion (or more broadly, dogmatism and authoritarianism) appears to be the rationale for some of the most abhorrent behavior we’ve seen recently and in the more distant past. Thus, why is a critique of a religion at risk for calls of bigotry? Critiquing religion is “New” Atheism’s bread and butter. And as you admit, adherents of the religion of Islam are currently causing more suffering to more people than any other religion’s adherents, possibly across the board, but if not, at least in certain domains like the treatment of women, apostates and atheists, and in the legal sphere, where Islamic Law is the law of the land in far too many countries, all of whom have non-Muslim populations left to deal with Sharia. There are vestiges of Christianity in many countries’ legal systems, and sometimes they have teeth, but there are hundreds of millions of Muslims who want to see Sharia in their country (if it’s not already there); Christian Dominionists really don’t hold a candle to this.
Harris is an incoherent dingbat on this subject (exceptionally low-hanging fruit), prone to irrationality. How can one identify, with accuracy and precision, every Muslim? At best, racial and behavioral cues can point one to a subset of devout, Arabic Muslims; so terrorists start recruiting Caucasians (like Chechnyans) or South Asian Muslims (Malaysians, perhaps). Stupid idea. But he is absolutely correct in his assertion that we should be more concerned, as atheists, with Islam, while still holding all other irrational dogmas to the flame. When half a million Bangladeshi Muslims call for our summary execution (or at least that of our Bangladeshi brethren), the comments of lunatic American evangelicals on the very fringe of their religion who hold the same beliefs are perhaps to be taken as less threatening (though no less idiotic, abhorrent and insane).
There is real Islamophobia. Truth be told, every single one of the Muslims I have met has been polite, hardworking, and congenial. And yet many have suffered at the hands of Caucasians who assume they hold beliefs they do not, who have a stereotypical idea of what a Muslim is and who hate all who fall under that umbrella. I even know a Lebanese Christian who gets hurt by Islamophobia, much like the Indian you mention who was persecuted and eventually murdered because he “was a Muslim or a Hindu” (because there’s really no difference, right?). But we need to co-exist in this world with people who are using their (interpretation of their) religion to justify calling for our deaths, raping girls who don’t dress how they say they should, or who aspire to step beyond their station, and at the extreme, blowing themselves up in a martyr’s death, killing innocents. Removing religion’s control over all societies is one of the steps that must be taken as globalisation increases.
So yes, I basically agree with what you have written, Brian. But especially, I agree with your “people are complicated” assertion. We must be careful to distinguish between those who demonstrably hold ideas we are fighting against, from the nameless masses who pollsters assert a segment of whom (for example, 85% in the apostasy death penalty question) also say they hold those ideas. The former we can attack with all the gusto we can manage, but for the latter, we should be careful only to attack the specific subgroups within the wider, diverse community that hold those ideas. Stereotyping is bad, m’kay?
Sorry Brian, for directing my earlier comment to Crom and thanks again for the piece.
I will still have to disagree. “Muslim communities are anti-woman” is not only a generalisation that ignores subsets, but it is a factually incorrect statement.
There are Muslim communities that are not anti-woman. Therefore the statement is false. The same applies for being anti-LGBT for example.
“Some Muslim communties are anti-woman” is at least a true statement, albeit not very useful. It elides an assessment to whether this is above any baseline standard level of anti-woman in the relevant society. I offered the statement because clearly you wanted to say something, but personally I would still not use it.
“Islamic theocracies tend to be repressive to women” is also probably true, and more justifiable and specific, but again elides a comparison between theocracies. Christian theocracies tend to do pretty badly also (it is a terrible comparison, but the most obvious Christian theocracy, the Vatican, has under 50 women residents. It is hard to find out if they are citizens, but that means less than 10% of the population are women. And none in positions of power. How is that for anti-woman?).
There are somewhat theocratic Christian nations in sub-Saharan Africa and in Eastern Europe. The Lord’s Resistance Army immediately springs to mind as a particularly heinous brand of Christianity that is militaristic and theocratic (Kony is the voice of God, apparently), as well as terrible for women.
It gets even harder though as the description of “theocracy” includes things like “practices religious law”. This is custom made for Islam, because Sharia is considered religious law, where common law which is built on Christian principles over generations is not. Plenty of countries outlaw adultery, or abortion, or divorce, all from a Christian perspective. But because we call it “the law” rather than “Christian law”, apparently it is not theocratic.
Anyway, just trying to express the difficulty of those blanket statements. Even specific statements about limited groups of Muslims often suggest that it is worse than for other non-Muslim groups, particularly to Westerners as we are primed by our media representations to expect the worst from Islamic people.
As you say in your own piece, you don’t know enough information to imply they are worse. Without the information, such generalisations are exactly what your piece is against, IMO.
You know, something I think is worth pointing out.
Ask yourself this: all these fundamentalist terrorists we talk about, where and why do they appear? It isn’t like they magically sprung up from nowhere.
Religious fundamentalism is not, for either Muslims or Christians, an old phenomenon — certainly not the religious fundamentalism that Christian Dominionists or their counterparts in Islam subscribe to. Much of it is a reaction to modernity, but the point is it’s a relatively recent phenomenon. Religious fundamentalists were simply not an issue in the Muslim world (politically speaking) until the 50s and 60s at least. Just look at who was running the show in Egypt, or Jordan, or Algeria, or Iran, or anywhere else besides the Saudi kingdom and the Gulf states.
What happened? Let’s be clear: many of these groups took root as a direct result of policies in the US that were specifically designed to make damned sure that the oil kept flowing and that there would never be any hope that these countries would be democratically governed.
Don’t believe this? Let’s look at who was on the “enemies list” and the “friends list” of the US. Libya, Iraq and Syria, while ruled by dictators, were the most advanced in terms of the position of women, for instance. So was Lebanon. Meanwhile, where does the aid money go? To Saudi Arabia. How long does anyone here think the Saudi monarchy would have lasted without millions in military aid? The Saudi military isn’t for fighting other people, it’s for keeping their own population under control. The same is true of the other Gulf states.
In Iran, the US installed a dictator who destroyed the non-religious political opposition. Well, gee willickers, what the hell do you expect to happen when people get tired of him? The religious parties were the only game in town. The Shah wasn’t magically whisked into power, and neither was the Ayatollah.
This pattern gets repeated again and again. Every single time a democratic government has threatened to appear, OUR tax dollars and sometimes OUR soldiers are there to make sure it doesn’t happen.
The US gave aid to Mubarak for decades, and didn’t abandon him until he was almost taken off by a mob and given the Mussolini treatment. And when it was clear that Mubarak was done our government — relatively quietly this time — took steps to ensure that it was the Muslim Brotherhood who came out on top. The leaders of the movement to out Mubarak came from the textile workers unions, but they were sidelined. Funny, that.
When the choice has been between supporting a democratic government and supporting right-wing dictators — who make religious extremists possible– the US government has chosen the latter every goddamned time. Musharraf in Pakistan was the same thing: our BFF was going after secular opposition. He went after the trade unions.
Why do this? Because the religious extremists aren’t an existential threat. They just aren’t. There is simply no possibility that acts of terrorism are going to cause the US to collapse. I live in New York City and love the place, but you could put a hydrogen bomb in Manhattan, destroy the city, and the US would still recover. And there is no possibility whatsoever that a bunch of religiously minded Muslim troops are going to occupy the country or bomb every US city the way we did the Iraqis.
On the other hand, secular parties that question the US economic hegemony are a threat to powerful people here. Religious extremist dictators — heck any dictator — can be bought. It’s a lot harder to do that with a democratic government in place.
It’s easy to make a narrow criticism of religion, but let’s take a wee bit of responsibility for visiting a chain of horrors on many regions where religious extremists appear. Because we — not the Saudis, not the Russians, not the Chinese — created the conditions that allow them to thrive, or even supported those movements (Mujahedin, anyone?)
In fact, let’s look at Afghanistan ca. 1970: a society in which women had the ability to enter professions, literacy was rising, and a country that was i reasonable shape. Who did we support? A bunch of guys who thought women are property. Then the Taliban’s rise to power is treated as some mysterious “Islamic” phenomenon. Oh yeah, the country was destroyed in the process.
All this is to say that when talking about whether Islam is uniquely bad, well, it’s like saying that conditions in Afghanistan or Iraq, say, have nothing to do with the fact that we bombed them. “Hey, those people can’t seem to set up non-extremist governments” well holy crap, we managed to drive into exile or kill a big chunk of their intellectuals and political class. But that can’t possibly have anything to do with it. We destroyed their industrial base, and sold what was left to American and British companies. But no, it’s messed up because, Islam! Ancient hatreds!
Try a little alternate history: what if we’d let Mossadegh alone, and let the Iranians keep some of the oil profits? What if we’d opted to not install the Hashemite kings as rulers of Jordan, the Saudis as rulers of Arabia, and keep Mubarak afloat? What if we’d decided that maybe, indirectly supporting the Christian Phalangists in Lebanon wasn’t such a good idea? Maybe not taking steps to destroy the democratic government of Pakistan in the 60s and 70s or said Musharraf was the Best Guy Ever? Allowed the results of the elections in Algeria to stand?
I submit that most of the major Islamic fundamentalist movements would have had little political traction. When there are more options to oppose the staus quo that don’t involve a mosque, then duh, people will go there, since most folks aren’t religious extremists. (That’s why we call them extremists).
One last thing: the biggest irony of discussions like this is that one guy who called for democratic elections in Saudi Arabia was none other than Osama bin Laden. Really. That’s who was demanding more democracy.
This kind of discussion is common even in secular treatments of the history of Christianity. If I said that Christian Dominionist movements’ rise had nothing to do with economic conditions and policies in the South and Midwest (farm subsidy policy, for instance, or the efforts of right-wing folks like the Koch brothers, or backlash against the Civil Rights Act) you’d all say I was an idiot. It would be equally stupid i I said that Sarah Palin was elected because Christians are just like that and quoted something from the Bible to make the point. But Sarah Palin and right-wing political philosophy aren’t necessarily fundamental to Christianity.
Or: if the Russians said “why are the Chechens attacking theaters in Moscow, what did we ever do to them? There must be some fundamental problem with Chechen culture” everyone here would laugh and say, “You can’t be serious.”
Yet many atheists won’t take the same tack with discussing Islam viz. the US — it’s this magical mystery tour where everything springs out of inscrutable nowhere. It treats the Qu’ran as some kind of magical code book, as though religion were the absolute defining characteristic of people’s lives. Um, I’ve been to Turkey, to Jordan, to Morocco. Had a few conversations with Berbers, Druze, Circassians and Bedouins. That just isn’t the way they live.
Sorry for the rant. It’s just been bugging me for a long while.
It really pisses me off when white dudes with “white-savior complex” who have never experience theocracy, dictatorship, and Islamic terror and subjugation write crap like this.
I have to grant, of course, that there is possibly some people out there do these things, but I have to admit that I haven’t actually seen any of them.
Since clearly you have not done your homework, you can start off here.
The term is primarily used to call out bigoted behaviour, and not necessarily restricted to bigotry against Muslims
That is one of the few valid uses of the term. However, it has also been used a lot to silence critics of Islam. Something you yourself will be doing in this very same article.
Exhibit A is, of course, Sam Harris.
Great. So you are one of those white people who gets offense on behalf of us brown people. No but no thanks, specially,
if you read Sam Harris it is pretty damn obvious what he actually meant. His whole point was that there are people out there
who obviously are not terrorists, they don’t look like terrorists and they don’t at all fit the profile of a terrorist. You might disagree but let’s grant that. He then argues that since the threat of terrorism is strongly correlated with being a
muslim fundamentalist, then why not adjust the probability of “random searches” with this probability. Now, I disagree with him because as his debate with that security expert showed on Sam Harris’s blog, it is in fact, more expensive in terms of
costs to do that kind of adjustments to random searches.
we make the (completely wrong) connections between “Arabic” and “Muslim” that make only slightly more sense than connecting
Right. Maybe some ignorant Americans make that connection but believe me, most reasonable critics of Islam that I know, know their basics.
So I think (and hope) that these should be somewhat obvious cases of Islamaphobia
Yeah and I agree. But that’s a very trivial point isn’t it? I mean, you can’t serioulsy be thinking that “Don’t kill someone just because he/she is Muslim!” will be hailed as leap in morality. Or do you honestly believe that Sam Harris supports twarting the rights of Muslims? Or he agrees with the murder of random Muslims by random strangers? Don’t fucking kid yourself. The only somewhat “prominant” atheist who is an Islamophobe is Pat Condell.
Now, it is undeniable that Muslims in America/Europe are among the most oppressed minorities. I have expereienced it personally many times. But the whole point is that people like you lack the backbone to criticise Islam and to use strong language against its crimes because you don’t want to be an Islamophone. Even worst, you apparently have no problem with calling Dawkins an Islamophobe.
And the rest of your shitty article makes me so fucking angry.
Sam Harris tweets 85% of Egyptians support killing someone like me. Or my dad. Or my mom. Or my sister. In your response, you go nitty picky with “sample size” and say that “Awww, come on, other muslim countries are not so bad!” FUCK YOU.
The problem with us apostates is that we are stuck between two idiots. First are these extreme rightists who would assault and maim anyone with a middle-eastern look. And the others are people like you who are lacking a FUCKING backbone to condemn even the most heinous crimes against morality and humanity and instead focus on people like Sam Harris. Yeah, fuck you again.
And now while my other comment is in moderation, I would like to plug another blog over here at FTB that covered this ridiculous Islamophobia canard:
Maryam Namazi writes:
Andrew Brown of the Guardian accuses Richard Dawkins of “anti-Muslim tweets” for criticising the absurd beliefs of journalist Mehdi Hasan.
Now I know the likes of Andrew Brown and Mehdi Hasan have made playing the victim card into a business wherever Islam or Islamism are concerned but in the real world, a criticism of one’s religious beliefs are not bigotry. Full stop.
Now whilst Dawkins says Mehdi Hasan’s views should not prevent him from publishing in the New Statesman, I am not so forgiving. Not because Hasan is a “Muslim” but because he is a proponent of Islamism – a far-Right movement.
I know he comes across all innocent as many Islamists do but here is more information on Mehdi Hasan for those who have been duped into thinking he is a “Muslim journalist”.
And then she quotes some of Hasan’s ridiculous statements.
I like the willingness to take a look at the facts in particular instances, but I still somehow feel like this misses the forest for the trees sometimes. To quote myself (wow, that sounds seriously narcissistic and I am sorry, haha):
Given that I find all religion intellectually dangerous, what reason should there be to single out Islam for emphasis? In light of the current state of the world, Islam seems ripe for intellectual dissection. While international events may be a consequence of the long-ago-sown seeds of Western imperialism, Western capitalism, or the creeping encroachment of Western cultural norms into new areas, the nations of the world that are predominantly Muslim are also those that are undergoing the most profound changes. The Arab Spring, worldwide jihadi military networks, Islamic terrorism: these are all things that are heavily influenced and informed by Islamic beliefs and teachings. To deny this would be to deny the history and cultures of these nations. I can attest to how fervently many Christians in America value and espouse their religious ideology. What reason would I have to say Islam elsewhere is not as motivating as Christianity here at home? With well over a billion adherents, it seems Islam is doing something right in terms of gaining and keeping members. If Muslims truly hold to the tenets of Islam, then it seems that they would be influenced by its teachings…
In light of this, I think Islam deserves more attention based on problems that are demonstrably large and particularly relevant in the world as it is today. One cannot argue that many of the great conflicts, political upheavals, and cultural clashes are taking place in countries that are heavily dominated by Islam. Every day brings news of sectarian clashes in Iraq, protests against the Islamist regimes in Egypt and Tunisia, Taliban attacks on school children in Afghanistan, and so on. While there are certainly many factors that feed into these events, you cannot deny that Islam and its teachings are playing an important role.
The plus side for Muslims is that whether Islam should be singled out is effectively an empirical question. If it’s shown Islam isn’t especially harmful, or that another religion is a greater threat to human well-being, then it makes sense not to single out Islam after this has been brought to light. Islam-apologists have the capability to defend their faith against intellectual criticisms, but I believe that the onus is on them to do so given the current state of our world. If this is the case, Islamophobia is a meaningless charge unless it can be demonstrated that the assault is driven by intellectually dishonest motives, such as racism, Western imperialism, ethnicism, and the like. For those who decry the negative impact religion has on the world, Islam seems to be a particularly large and pertinent target and I suspect our focus on it will continue for some time.
Anyway, those are my two cents on the matter, though I wonder sometimes if I’m overvaluing them!