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Yes, Virginia, There Really Is Islamophobia

I’ve not waded into the recent back and forth between Glenn Greenwald, Sam Harris and a few others over accusations of Islamophobia. I haven’t had the time to look up different statements used as evidence of Islamophobia on the part of Harris, Hitchens and Dawkins, and without doing that I don’t think I have any basis for taking a position on it one way or the other.

But I do want to respond to an argument I’ve heard many times, the claim that there is no such thing as Islamophobia, that this is merely a means of preventing people from criticizing Islam. To that I say: Bullshit. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. My friend Gretchen Koch pretty much nails it:

I also know, for that matter, what real Islamophobia is.

Real Islamophobia is a distortion of reality which makes Muslims inherently lesser by virtue of being Muslim. Real Islamophobia constructs conspiracies of what Muslims believe and do and shrieks about those, rather than things Muslims actually believe and do. Real Islamophobia is “creeping Sharia” in Oklahoma. It’s “Obama is secretly a Muslim.” It’s “Muslims don’t have the same rights as we do because Islam is not a religion; it’s a political agenda– so let’s ban the construction of a Muslim worship center anywhere near Ground Zero.” It’s “We should forbid Muslims from immigrating to our country, because they will take it over and ruin it.” It’s differentiating Muslims from “us” in the first place. It’s rampant in the US and the EU alike, and it’s disgusting. It is bigotry. It is wrong.

And she is right that criticism of Islam is not Islamophobic. There is much there to criticize. But the examples above, all standard rhetoric from the American right, is not mere criticism; rather, it is demonization. Is it, quite literally, Islamophobia, an irrational fear that Muslims are on their way to taking over the United States and/or Europe and imposing Sharia law on all of us.

We can, we should, we must criticize the barbarism of reactionary Islam. The treatment of women, LGBT people, Christians, Jews, atheists and apostates of all kinds by Islamic fundamentalists is disgusting. We also can, should and must make distinctions between different types of Muslims and not paint them all with the same broad brush. Not only is there no contradiction between those things, they are the only way to be coherent and rational rather than tribal and irrational.

Comments

  1. Dunc says

    I’d like to add a few to the list:

    Real Islamophobia is setting fire to mosques.
    Real Islamophobia is beating people up just because they’re Muslim.
    Real Islamophobia is beating up a Sikh because you’re too dumb to tell the difference between a Sikh and a Muslim.
    Real Islamophobia is claiming that violence is the only thing that “they” understand, and that “they” value life less than “we” do.
    Real Islamophobia is thinking we should nuke Mecca to show “them” who’s boss.

  2. says

    “We also can, should and must make distinctions between different types of Muslims and not paint them all with the same broad brush.”

    Oh, this is just great! That’s exactly what the muslins want! Way to take another step towards totalitarian Sharia law, Ed Brayton! First, you let them in to your country, now you’re painting them all with multiple broad brushes!

  3. slc1 says

    Antisemitic Israel bashing self hating JINO Glenn Greenwald used to be a Muslim basher himself. The kettle calling the pot black. If Greenwald, who is gay and is living with his life partner in Brazil at the moment, were to visit any Muslim country he would be fortunate if he was only denied entrance. Otherwise, he might end up leaving feet first.

    http://blogs.jpost.com/content/glenn-greenwald-and-islamists

  4. says

    Real Islamophobia is immediately blaming Middle Easterners for the Boston Marathon bombing based on nothing more than the fact that police questioned a Saudi national, one among hundreds who were hurt in the bombing and then questioned about it afterwards.

    I agree, it is a thing. If I ever start doubting, I just wait for the next terrorist incident and watch the @YesYoureRacist twitter feed.

  5. says

    So what, exactly, do moderate Muslims believe?

    I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that addressed in a clear and concise manner.

    Maybe I just live under a rock, but humour me here.

  6. says

    Unfortunately because I live in eastern Massachusetts I’ve been directly witnessing Islamophobia for the past two days since the marathon bombing. The arguments are typically of the form, only Islam promotes violence therefore the terrorist must be Muslim. Yesterday as the authorities were stating clearly that the Saudi national who was questioned was a spectator/victim not a suspect, I was hearing from people I know that the Saudi must have done it because he’s a Muslim. It’s likely a bit worse where I live now in the Blackstone Valley bible belt area than in the areas along the marathon route where I lived previously. Here in the valley I too often get to see Obama pictures with Hitler mustaches and signs for crazy fundamentalist churches e. g. Church of the End Times.

  7. says

    And even worse yet, REAL Islamophobia, as described in Ed’s and Gretchen’s examples above and in Harris’ ignorant ravings, doesn’t help us fight the real injustices that Islam enables. In fact, it helps to entrench and perpetuate them, by relentlessly alienating Muslims who would otherwise join with us to fight the dangerous bigots in “their” “camp.” Seriously, once you’ve adopted the extremists’ line that the Taliban are the only “true” Muslims (as Harris did), and testerically agreed that the Christian fascists speak with more “moral clarity” than liberals do (as Harris did), how can you expect an immigrant looking to get free of extremism to reach out to you or listen to you?

    Islamophobes like Harris are doing both atheists and liberals more harm than good.

  8. abb3w says

    Possibly of interest, “Differentiating Islamophobia: Introducing a New Scale to Measure Islamoprejudice and Secular Islam Critique” (doi:10.1111/j.1467-9221.2012.00911.x)

    Since 2001 there has been a steadily increasing awareness of discrimination against Muslims based on their religion. Despite the widespread use of the neologism Islamophobia to refer to this phenomenon, this term has been harshly criticized for confounding prejudiced views of Muslims with a legitimate critique of Muslim practices based on secular grounds. In the current research a scale was developed to differentiate Islamoprejudice (based on the influential Islamophobia definition of the British Runnymede Trust) and Secular Critique of Islam. Across two studies, Islamoprejudice was related to explicit and implicit prejudice, right-wing authoritarianism, and social dominance orientation whereas Secular Critique was unrelated to any forms of prejudice but negatively related to religiosity and authoritarianism. The two scales were mostly independent or only moderately related. Importantly, the new Islamoprejudice scale outperformed all other scales in predicting actual opposition versus support for a heatedly debated, newly built mosque. These results demonstrate the necessity to differentiate between Islamoprejudice and Secular Critique in future research on attitudes towards Islam.

  9. erichoug says

    I remember watching one of Hitchens’ videos on YouTube in which he warned of people using the word “Islamophobic” to silence criticism of Islam. And I think it is not unreasonable to say that this hasn’t happened.

    When you have people criticizing the violence surrounding the Mohammed cartoons or that stupid youtube video on about Mohammed or even people criticizing Islam’s more reactionary elements, those people are not being Islamophobic, they are rightly calling out bigoted assholes that need to be called out.

    I think it is important to differentiate between people who have a real and valid gripe against a person’s religion and people who are just treating someone like shit because of that person’s religion.

  10. Dennis N says

    And within 3, this about Israel . . .

    Conflating criticism of Islam with Islamophobia is the same as conflating criticism of Judaism with anti-Semitism. Honest criticism and paranoid delusional bigotry are not that hard to tell apart, it usually takes bad faith to conflate the two.

  11. says

    So what, exactly, do moderate Muslims believe? I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that addressed in a clear and concise manner.

    That’s the charge that always gets levelled at moderates of every stripe: the extremists and simpletons are always more clear and concise than the sensible moderates, because their worldview is so much simpler; that enables them to pretend that moderates are “weak” and “wishy-washy” and “vacillating.” And when you ask for a “clear and concise” description of how a diverse bunch of people handle a complex reality, you’re buying into that fascist con-game.

  12. Dunc says

    So what, exactly, do moderate Muslims believe?

    All kinds of different things, just like moderate Christians and moderate Jews.

  13. says

    When you have people criticizing the violence surrounding the Mohammed cartoons or that stupid youtube video on about Mohammed or even people criticizing Islam’s more reactionary elements, those people are not being Islamophobic…

    No, but when you make a big deal out of dumbass Mohammed cartoons, in order to incite violence that you can then make fun of (with zero regard to other things tehy may be reacting to), instead of saying SENSIBLE and RELEVANT things about Islam, you ARE being Islamophobic.

  14. says

    Having just got my blood pressure & temper going reading Hemant Mehta’s dismissive brushing aside of criticisms of Sam Harris (because a cartoon, funny as it is, is totally an adequate substitute for argument – not), this was a welcome antidote.

    As far as I can see Muslim-dominated societies & polities are not exceptionally worse than others simply on account of being dominated by Muslims (*); any criticism of the behaviour of specific Muslims which incorporates the assumption that they somehow are is going to be shaded with bigotry. There’s no rule saying you can’t agree with a specific criticism of indefensible behaviour (e.g. throwing acid in schoolgirls’ faces in Afghanistan, say, or maintaining legal systems mandating capital punishment for apostasy) while calling out bigotry embedded therein.

    (*) Consider the matter of genocide/mass murder: I can think of two incidents of mass murder in the last 100 years which Muslim-dominant societies are responsible for – the Armenian & Darfur genocides. Whereas societies controlled by non-Muslims have a few more under their belt (Rwanda, former Yugoslavia, Cambodia, USSR, People’s Republic of China, the ongoing famine in North Korea, the Japanese occupation of Korea & China, the Nazi Holocaust, and a number of other incidents of mass murder in Europe during the first half of the 20th century). Doubtless one could conduct a similar analysis for other markers of violence & oppression.

  15. Chiroptera says

    erichoug, #9: When you have people criticizing the violence surrounding the Mohammed cartoons or that stupid youtube video on about Mohammed or even people criticizing Islam’s more reactionary elements, those people are not being Islamophobic, they are rightly calling out bigoted assholes that need to be called out.

    That may very well be true. On the other hand, pointing out that people who deliberately attempt to provoke extremists to violence in order to get a political advantage out it are a far greater threat to our safety and libertyin the West than riots on the other side of the world isn’t “burka loving liberalism” either.

    In fact, a refusal to acknowledge the danger posed by “our” own extremists provoking other extremists to violence may be a sign of Islamophobia.

  16. says

    You know what else is Islamophobia? Erasing decades and even centuries of history, and any and all modern context, in order to support the notion that Muslims are just “naturally violent” and that all the violence occurs for absolutely no reason other than “those people are barbarians.” The Middle East has legitimate grievances against the West and America in particular, and it is one thing to stand against terrorism and a whole other thing to pretend those grievances don’t exist at all.

  17. erichoug says

    @Raging bee,

    Really? I was the one who brought up the cartoons to incite violence? Are you sure it wasn’t a group of local Imam’s? The fact that several reputable news organizations refused to publish them for (legitimate) fear of violent attacks is not something we should be sensitive and caring about it is something we should find absolutely un-acceptable. Whether it is Christian or Muslim extremists, we should never countenance violence or terrorist threats. And I don’t give a fuck about the greater geo-political situation. What the US government does in Iraq or the Israeli government does in the occupied territories does not give you license to commit acts of violence.

    How about the murder of Theo VanGogh? Am I OK to criticize that? Or should I be more sensitive to the feelings of the religious lunatic who stabbed him to death?

  18. erichoug says

    @Chioptera

    I really don’t understand your point. To the best of my recollection the big protests were mainly stoked by local religious leaders. Even if there were some larger political game being played, it does not excuse the violence and terrorist threats made by religious fanatics.

    I know that the bulk of Muslims simply protested, some of them loudly, angrily and vociferously. And I am absolutely 100% A-OK with that. But, it does not mean that I should not be able to publish those cartoons, make fun of Mohammed or insult Islam. Both they and I have the right to freedom of speech. But neither of us has the right to not be offended by what the other says.

    You seem to be saying that my rights should be curtailed so that I do not offend sensitive religious fanatics. And I can’t say I agree.

  19. says

    Janiceintoronto

    So what, exactly, do moderate Muslims believe?

    Typically the same sort of vague “God is love, but he wants us to do a particular subset of stupid rituals anyway. If you don’t, he;ll be peeved at you, but not too peeved, ’cause love. He’ll only torture you forever if you’re really bad.’ as you get from moderate chirstians, IME.

  20. says

    IJoe

    Erasing decades and even centuries of history, and any and all modern context, in order to support the notion that Muslims are just “naturally violent” and that all the violence occurs for absolutely no reason other than “those people are barbarians.”

    Especially coming from Americans, a disturbing percentage of whom speak and act like…well, like barbarians who don’t understand anything but violence, really.

  21. says

    I really don’t understand your point. To the best of my recollection the big protests were mainly stoked by local religious leaders. Even if there were some larger political game being played, it does not excuse the violence and terrorist threats made by religious fanatics.

    Chriopetra never said any such thing. So no, you really don’t understand her point.

    The fact that several reputable news organizations refused to publish them for (legitimate) fear of violent attacks is not something we should be sensitive and caring about it is something we should find absolutely un-acceptable.

    What if several reputable news organizations refuse to use the N-word or publish some idiot’s racist rants for fear of insulting black people? Should we find that unacceptable too?

  22. says

    I just got done reading about white privilege in relation to the Boston bombing. When a white person or a group of white people do something wrong, criminal, or outright evil, the general consensus is “isolated incident” or “lone wolf” or “fringe group” and white people in general don’t come under any examination whatsoever. When any non-white person does something, everyone who shares their religion or skin-color comes under heavy scrutiny, and it reflects on the whole group rather than just the individual. There seems to be a new mass shooting by an angry white guy every week or two… has anyone seen much of anything from major news sources discussing the “white man violence problem” or asking “why is white culture so violent and broken?”

  23. says

    But neither of us has the right to not be offended by what the other says.

    That’s another bit of BS routinely used by Islamophobes and other bullies that we need to kick to the curb. I don’t hear anyone saying black people have “no right not to be offended” by insulting epithets and other hate speech. Nor do I hear anyone (outside the Slymepit) saying women have “no right not to be offended” by gendered insults or jokes about their figures. Is this a right that only Muslims don’t have?

    And yes, you have a right to free speech — NO ONE questions that, and you know it. We’re just saying we have a moral duty to use our freedom of speech to say sensible and useful things, especially when people’s lives and freedoms are at stake.

  24. erichoug says

    What if several reputable news organizations refuse to use the N-word or publish some idiot’s racist rants for fear of insulting black people? Should we find that unacceptable too?

    So, in your mind refusing to publish racism or lunacy is exactly the same as not publishing legitimate criticism of a religious group because that groups says that if you do they will blow up your office and then come to your house and shoot you and your family in the head.

    Those are completely comparable.

  25. says

    …has anyone seen much of anything from major news sources discussing the “white man violence problem” or asking “why is white culture so violent and broken?”

    From the “sources” who made their money stoking this culture of intolerance and violent fantasies? Not bloody likely.

  26. says

    So, in your mind refusing to publish racism or lunacy is exactly the same as not publishing legitimate criticism of a religious group because that groups says that if you do they will blow up your office and then come to your house and shoot you and your family in the head.

    Are you responding to the real me, or the me in your head?

  27. says

    Real Islamaphobia generally involves seeign Muslims as some sort of team and if one Muslim anywhere does somethign bad, everyone on team Muslim must support them.

  28. erichoug says

    @Raging bee.

    I am responding to the version of you that seems to think that my right to freedom of speech should be curtailed to prevent from “incit[ing]” violent religious extremists to blow up my office and/or kill my family.

    I have the right to say whatever I like. The government has no right to limit my speech except in certain, specific instances. But drawing a cartoon of a religious figure is not one of them.

    Are you saying that I should not be allowed to draw a cartoon of Mohammed because if I do some religious fanatic might blow up a bus? I would think the person with the bomb is whom you should concentrate on, not the guy with the sharpie.

  29. laurentweppe says

    I’ll also add some to the list:

    Real Islamophobia is immediately claiming that the Utoya massacre was done by islamists
    Real Islamophobia is pretending that every Muslim is a potential Mohamed Merah while calling Anders Breivik a hero behind closed doors.

    ***

    So what, exactly, do moderate Muslims believe?

    Moderate Muslims believe the same thing as moderate christians, moderate jews, moderate hindues, moderate atheists…:
    Don’t fuck with your neighbours and expect them to not fuck with you in return

    ***

    REAL Islamophobia [...] doesn’t help us fight the real injustices that Islam enables

    Real Islamophobes do not want, never wanted, and Will-NEVER-Want to fight the injustices done in the name of Islam: these injustices are way too convenient, they allow one to disguise his intent to oppress a minority in the drags of the staunchly held principles.

  30. says

    I am responding to the version of you that seems to think that my right to freedom of speech should be curtailed to prevent from “incit[ing]” violent religious extremists to blow up my office and/or kill my family.

    I talk about speaking sensibly and responsibily, and you interpret it as “my right to freedom of speech should be curtailed.” That may not be Islamophobic, but it sure is babyish. This is a grownup conversation, and it’s not all about you. Do try to keep up, won’t you?

  31. says

    Are you saying that I should not be allowed to draw a cartoon of Mohammed because if I do some religious fanatic might blow up a bus?

    Am I saying that? Can you quote me actually saying that? If not then the answer, obviously, is no.

    Read for comprehension: I’m saying you should stop pretending that drawing Mohammed cartoons just to get a reaction from someone is anything other than a tired, pointless, childish, unoriginal joke. And yes, acting childish toward Muslims, when you’d never be so obnoxious to blakcs, Jews or Hispanics, is kinda Islamophobic.

  32. gingerbaker says

    So what, exactly, do moderate Muslims believe?

    All kinds of different things, just like moderate Christians and moderate Jews.

    But this is misleading.

    Moderate Islam is NOT “just like” moderate Christianity and Judaism. Islam is a lot more radical. Poll after poll after poll demonstrate this. We simply can not extrapolate our experiences and expectations of Judaism and Christianity onto Islam.

    Ed said:

    The treatment of women, LGBT people, Christians, Jews, atheists and apostates of all kinds by Islamic fundamentalists is disgusting.

    Of course, that is true. But what is also true is that “the treatment of women, LGBT people, Christians, Jews, atheists and apostates” by Islamic moderates can be pretty shocking too.

    We also can, should and must make distinctions between different types of Muslims and not paint them all with the same broad brush.

    We should remember that cuts both ways.

  33. says

    Moderate Islam is NOT “just like” moderate Christianity and Judaism. Islam is a lot more radical. Poll after poll after poll demonstrate this.

    Citation after citation after citation needed.

  34. says

    Moderate Islam is NOT “just like” moderate Christianity and Judaism. Islam is a lot more radical. Poll after poll after poll demonstrate this. We simply can not extrapolate our experiences and expectations of Judaism and Christianity onto Islam.

    Please, Gingerbaker, explain what is fundamentally more radical about Islam than either of the other two Abrahamic faiths. Explain why if I got a group of moderate Muslims, Jews, and Christians together I should expect to see any startling moral differences between the three.

    I haven’t lived in a community of moderate Jews, but I have lived amongst moderate Muslims and moderate Christians and frankly the only general differences I’ve seen have been in traditions and skin color.

  35. Taz says

    We also can, should and must make distinctions between different types of Muslims and not paint them all with the same broad brush.

    I can paint them all with a broad brush. I can state categorically that in my opinion they all believe in superstitious nonsense, just like Christians.

    The non-separation of government and religion (including Islam) is a tool of oppression in the world. It’s blind ignorance to pretend otherwise.

  36. Taz says

    I should add that if Islam is “worse” than any other religion in terms of oppression it’s to the extent that it’s more welded to government power.

  37. says

    I can paint them all with a broad brush. I can state categorically that in my opinion they all believe in superstitious nonsense, just like Christians.

    Which is just as pointless as saying they all walk on two feet. Yes, they all “believe in superstitious nonsense,” but if they don’t all BEHAVE the same as a result of said beliefs, then your categorization is meaningless.

    So what do es your generalization lead to? That people who “believe in superstitious nonsense” should all be treated the same? Would you treat all “mentally ill” people the same? People who actually understand mentall illness wouldn’t.

  38. says

    I can paint them all with a broad brush. I can state categorically that in my opinion they all believe in superstitious nonsense, just like Christians.

    Fine.

    And what will you do after that? Aside from continuing to dislike religion generally and trying to be the best darn skeptical atheist you can be?

  39. Taz says

    Raging Bee – I never said they BEHAVE the same way. As an atheist I think there’s value in combating the default position of belief in god. By the way, how many posts of yours refer to “Christians” with no distinctions?

    Gretchen – That’s exactly what I’ll do. The point of objecting to the term “Islamophobia” is that Islam is an ideology, not just a collection of people. Any ideology can be subject to criticism. I’m not talking about the violent acts of some Muslims, which I agree should not be used to smear all Muslims.

  40. erichoug says

    @Raging bee.

    So it seems that what you are saying is that you feel that I should be sensitive to the religious mores of my Muslim neighbors as well as being prudent in my speech and not trying to unnecessarily offend my religious neighbors. Would that be correct?

    IF so, I can partly agree. I am not going to stand in front of a funeral with a “God Hates Fags” sign. And I am not going to offer my Jewish or Muslim neighbors nor am I going to treat a man who walks into my business in a thobe differently than I might treat the same man in cargo shorts though I might give him, salaam instead of a a hey.

    But, if you are saying that I should not criticize the bigotry, misogyny, homophobia and religious zealotry and violence of a particular religion then I respectfully disagree. It is exactly these things that we should be talking about and criticizing.

    Theo VanGogh is a great example. He was stabbed to death as a result of releasing a film that exposed the abuse of women in Islam. I haven’t seen the film and I can’t say whether it was an insightful and erudite exposition on the plight of women or a hatchet job meant to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment. But, the one thing I know for 100% sure is that no matter what the movie was, it absolutely was NOT a valid reason to murder a man in cold blood on a public street.

    Saying you though Theo’s film was a horrible piece of garbage that insulted Islam and should be pulled from theaters is free speech. Saying that Theo VanGogh’s murder was a cowardly, worthless act by an insane religious fanatic is not Islamophobia, it is both accurate and a valid criticism.

  41. says

    I never said they BEHAVE the same way.

    Then what’s the point of saying they’re “just like” each other, despite observable differences in behavior?

    As an atheist I think there’s value in combating the default position of belief in god.

    “As an atheist,” do you really think that’s the only thing of value you can contribute?

    By the way, how many posts of yours refer to “Christians” with no distinctions?

    I don’t remember. Is there one in particular that you wish to dispute?

    Gretchen – That’s exactly what I’ll do. The point of objecting to the term “Islamophobia” is that Islam is an ideology, not just a collection of people.

    That’s a non-sequitur: calling Islam an “ideology” does not make ignorant and/or dishonest statements about it, or its followers, any less ignorant or dishonest. Communism is an ideology too, but calling it that didn’t make McCarthyism any less objectionable than it was.

    Any ideology can be subject to criticism. I’m not talking about the violent acts of some Muslims, which I agree should not be used to smear all Muslims.

    How can you criticize the “ideology” in the abstract, without indiscriminately smearing all of the people who subscribe to the ideology to varying degrees? The only way you can avoid doing that, is by talking about ACTIONS and attacking only the perpetrators of those actions.

  42. says

    But, if you are saying that I should not criticize the bigotry, misogyny, homophobia and religious zealotry and violence of a particular religion…

    Where did I say anything even close to that?

    (Oh, and what do lame and unoriginal cartoons, reprinted over and over when most of them weren’t even funny the first time, have to do with actual criticism of anything? I figured I’d ask you that, since you were the first one to mention cartoons here.)

  43. great1american1satan says

    drawing Mohammed cartoons just to get a reaction from someone is anything other than a tired, pointless, childish, unoriginal joke

    I did a rather vile draw mohammed entry a little while back, and I admit I’m currently undertaking some effort to walk back from a bad edge of islamophobia in myself. Being an atheist doesn’t help because I don’t think I can be convinced that any religion is worth the harm they do. The thoughtless platitudes of the moderates, the security blanket that helps them feel less scared of the world, is the same thing used to justify killing my people in Bangladesh.

    For the raging bee, I just wanted to say my reason for drawing mohammed isn’t to get a reaction per se. Ditto my tattoo (just an idea at this point, I haven’t gotten the work done yet) “There is no god” in Arabic. I don’t personally know any moslems since the last time I was laid off, and I doubt anything I could do would reach media attention or be read by them. When I was wearing “FUCK BUSH” in sharpie on the back of my coat for two years, I got a reaction, but it wasn’t my intent there either.

    My reason for expressing my rage is because it helps me feel better about it. I can feel like I said my piece. I might be powerless to change the evils of the world, but I can say “THAT SHIT IS FUCKED UP” and feel like, I don’t know, I worked some kind of magic. I did my spell, put my will into physical form, and the world can take it or leave it, but at least it isn’t eating me up. It’s slacktivism, but very deeply felt.

    Blasphemy feels really good to me. It just feels right, honest, correct, true, and powerful – more so for every person killed over it. “Religious offense” offends me so badly that if my human compassion was subverted by a religion, I’d be out rioting over it. If someone killed me for saying “Fuck God,” I’d feel like I died well. Or rather, while I was dying I’d feel like that, because I know that being dead is ceasing to exist or feel anything.

    I’m not saying that’s right. I’m trying to be better now and I have a lot of work to do. But I just thought maybe you’d like to understand the motive behind the madness a little better. I really hate religion. The thing that’s got me looking for a better way to be is the overwhelming evidence that the Slyme & Harris & Dawkins etc. have provided lately that atheism attracts huge assholes like the clergy attracts baby rapers, and so must have something wrong with it. That stings. I have some brain work to do on this.

  44. erichoug says

    @Raging Bee

    You’re kinda boring.

    It’s funny to hear you say “Did I say that? Can you show me a quote?” over and over again while never once clarifying what you actually mean. Something I actually did.

    So, what are you saying? You sure haven’t clarified it at all and I still don’t have any idea.

    My only point is that my freedom of speech should not be abridged by someone else’s religious sensibilities and that threat’s of violence (or actual violence) in response to speech are NEVER acceptable. Feel free to exercise your 1st amendment rights right back at me if you like but the minute you threaten or attack me, you’re wrong.

    Feel free to have the last word as you like, I will probably even read it but you are really tedious so don’t necessarily expect any response.

    P.S. like the way you dodged all questions on Theo VanGogh, BTW.

  45. Taz says

    As an atheist I think there’s value in combating the default position of belief in god.

    “As an atheist,” do you really think that’s the only thing of value you can contribute?

    Of course not. Do you really think those statements are equivalent?

    That’s a non-sequitur: calling Islam an “ideology” does not make ignorant and/or dishonest statements about it, or its followers, any less ignorant or dishonest. Communism is an ideology too, but calling it that didn’t make McCarthyism any less objectionable than it was.

    But not every statement about it is ignorant or dishonest. Do you really think there’s no difference between criticizing communism and McCarthyism?

  46. says

    I did my spell, put my will into physical form, and the world can take it or leave it, but at least it isn’t eating me up. It’s slacktivism, but very deeply felt.

    I respect that feeling, and the need to express raw emotions from time to time. And I also respect you for admitting that’s all you were doing. That at least makes you more honest than the more privileged people who try to pretend that isulting people (with none of the direct provocation you seem to have had), and then mocking them from a safe distance when they react, is some kind of Bold Brave Statement, when it sounds more and more like the kind of childish taunting I used to hear (and inflict) when I was a child.

    Furthermore, I suspect you understand that there are people on the “other” side — the poor sods reacting to the cartoons and their imams’ incitements — who are in a very similar position to yours: they’re poor, maybe not well informed, frustrated by the total fucked-upness of their society, deprived of good reliable information, totally powerless to actually fix anything, and desperately needing at least some outlet for their longstanding feelings. They can’t protest their imams, they can’t protest their governments (which don’t exactly follow our Constitution), they can’t argue over Koran verses with guys with guns…so what’s left for them other than having a big cathartic rally against some foreigners’ stupid cartoons? The people we see at such rallies aren’t the enemy, they’re victims of what we’re trying to debunk.

    The thing that’s got me looking for a better way to be is the overwhelming evidence that the Slyme & Harris & Dawkins etc. have provided lately that atheism attracts huge assholes like the clergy attracts baby rapers, and so must have something wrong with it. That stings.

    Yeah, some people are atheists because they think it’s the right thing to do, and others are atheists because it’s a “cool” identity badge they can wear to feel superior to the rest of Humanity without actually doing anything strenuous. People like Dawkins and Harris pander to the latter set just to sell books and pretend they’re “leaders,” and they’re crippling the atheist movement and making atheists look like clueless wankers. If you want a better view of atheists/skeptics/humanists, ignore those dolts and cruise the FtB-verse instead.

  47. great1american1satan says

    I just signed up for Atheism+ forums. I’m liking what I’m seeing there, so far.

  48. says

    So, what are you saying? You sure haven’t clarified it at all and I still don’t have any idea.

    I write stuff for a living, and I’ve been doing so since 1993. Lots of people disagree with what I write, but very few “don’t have any idea” what I mean. So, in my (admittedly biased) opinion, I think the problem here is you, not me.

    Do you really think there’s no difference between criticizing communism and McCarthyism?

    Most criticism of communism tended to focus on the actions of communist regimes and parties.

  49. says

    P.S. like the way you dodged all questions on Theo VanGogh, BTW.

    How can I “dodge” something that isn’t in my path in the first place? If you like that, you’ll LOVE how I dodge Westminster Abbey while driving from DC to Baltimore.

  50. Taz says

    Most criticism of communism tended to focus on the actions of communist regimes and parties.

    Maybe, but criticism (or praise for that matter) of the ideology itself is fair game. I’m not claiming there’s no such thing as Islamophobia. (It would probably be better termed “Muslimophobia”, as awkward as that word may be.) But there is a danger in putting an ideology above criticism.

  51. Chiroptera says

    erichoug, #19: But, it does not mean that I should not be able to publish those cartoons, make fun of Mohammed or insult Islam

    But it does mean that if I am publishing cartoons of Mohammed in order to deliberately provoke a violent outburst and violent riots so that I can then use the public reaction against the violence to further my own political agenda, then you should call me out on it and point out to the public that, regardless of the Muslims’ faults, I am an asshole and that enacting the policies that I advocate are probably not in anyone’s best interest.

    You seem to be saying that my rights should be curtailed so that I do not offend sensitive religious fanatics.

    No, I did not seem to say any such thing.

  52. erichoug says

    @Raging Bee * Chioptera.

    I have to say, you are two peas in a pod.

    You are both saying that my right to freedom of speech should be restricted by the sensibilities of fanatics and religious terrorists and you are both attempting to pretend that it is not what you are saying. That is why you both keep saying ‘I’m not saying that. You absolutely ARE saying that, you just want to pretend that you are not.

    Bee takes the patronizing and racist colonial overload approach that those poor, oppressed, un-educated people can only expect to react with violence when you do something so horrific as publish a drawing of their Prophet. Let’s ignore that in the case of the Danish cartoons the Muslim’s in question lived in a western, educated, liberal democracy. No, according to BEE. They are poor and down-trodden, ignorant victims who are too un-educated to react any other way.

    In the case of Chipotera, Because some asshat politician makes hay with the violent attacks that resulted from the publication of the Danish cartoons my free speech should be curtailed. Let’s forget that in the face of violent religious riots, terrorist threats and actual murders, I WANT POLITICIANS TO REACT! What I don’t want them to do though is to look at the victims and say, “Well, you were asking for it so here’s your law preventing you from doing that again.”

    Forget that the implicit threat of terrorists and fanatics is a direct attack on my freedom of speech and forget that by saying “Well, you’re only saying/writing/drawing it to provoke them” you both enable and excuse them. It must have been Theo’s fault that he was murdered. It was the Jyllands postens fault for publishing satirical cartoons.

    It doesn’t matter that some asshole is is using it to further a political end. Being an asshole isn’t illegal, opportunism is (usually, though not in all cases) not illegal. Murder is illegal!, Making a terrorist threat is illegal. Your rationale for doing so is immaterial.

  53. says

    Eric Houg, your conflation of “Use your free speech responsibly” with “You should be banned by the government from saying X” is dishonest and, frankly, boring, given how common this basic mistake/fabrication is. Please stop.

    (Note: me asking you to stop does not mean that I endorse giving government agents the power to stop you against your will on pain of fines or imprisonment. You get that, right? If so, what’s your excuse for the previous blunder?)

  54. Chiroptera says

    erichoug, #53: You are both saying that my right to freedom of speech should be restricted by the sensibilities of fanatics and religious terrorists…

    I won’t speak for Bee, but as for me, that is not what I’m saying at all.

    …and you are both attempting to pretend that it is not what you are saying.

    Me, I’m not pretending anything at all. All the comments I wrote are still on this thread. Anyone at all can read what I actually wrote. Use control-F on your browser and type “chiroptera”. The find feature will lead you to the comments that I wrote.

  55. says

    Eric Houg,

    You are spot on. You are right to resist common and basic mistake that some people should, for no good reason, be granted a special protection from being offended.

  56. gingerbaker says

    Please, Gingerbaker, explain what is fundamentally more radical about Islam than either of the other two Abrahamic faiths.

    Multiple polls done by reputable firms, like Pew, have interviewed many thousands of Muslims from many countries around the world, and published the results about the attitudes of Muslims on all sorts of topics.

    In many places around the world, majorities of polled Muslims believe in the propriety of actions that in no way shape or form would be acceptable to moderate Christians or Jews.

    A Pew poll from Pakistan: (http://pewglobal.org/files/pdf/265.pdf)

    The new poll finds broad support for harsh punishments: 78% favor death for those who leave Islam; 80% favor whippings and cutting off hands for crimes like theft and robbery; and 83% favor stoning adulterers.”

    ____

    From http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/08/14/opinion/main1893879.shtml&date=2011-04-06:

    68% of British Muslims support the arrest and prosecution of anyone who insults Islam;

    _____

    From http://www.macdonaldlaurier.ca/much-good-news-and-some-worrying-results-in-new-study-of-muslim-public-opinion-in-canada/ :

    62% of Muslims want Sharia in Canada

    and, from (http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/feb09/STARTII_Feb09_rpt.pdf):

    81% of Egyptians want strict Sharia imposed in every Islamic country
    76% of Pakistanis want strict Sharia imposed in every Islamic country
    49% (plurality) of Indonesians want strict Sharia imposed in every Islamic country
    76% of Moroccans want strict Sharia imposed in every Islamic country

    _____

    49% of Al-Jazeera readers support Osama Bin laden (http://terrorism.about.com/b/2006/09/11/al-jazeeras-readers-on-911-499-support-bin-laden.htm)

    _____

    From: (http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/feb09/STARTII_Feb09_rpt.pdf) :

    61% of Egyptians approve of attacks on Americans
    83% of Palestinians approve of some or most groups that attack Americans
    62% of Jordanians approve of some or most groups that attack Americans
    A minority of Muslims disagreed entirely with terror attacks on Americans
    _____

    Are these the sort of things one would expect of moderates?

    Islamism is pretty darned popular around the world and it is a movement that is growing. Is that not also a pretty darned stark difference in radicalism between Islam on the one hand, and Christianity and Judaism on the other?

  57. slc1 says

    Re Raging Bee @ #7

    And even worse yet, REAL Islamophobia, as described in Ed’s and Gretchen’s examples above and in Harris’ ignorant ravings, doesn’t help us fight the real injustices that Islam enables.

    You know Bee, there are two ex-Muslims who blog here that are a lot tougher on Islam then Sam Harris is. Do you think that their posts consist of ignorant ravings?

  58. says

    How to tell if what you’re spouting falls in the realm of criticism (okay) rather than bigotry (not okay):
    1) It’s true, and
    2) It doesn’t involve treating a group of people as sub-human because they’re different from you in some way.

    The end.
    It’s really not that difficult.

  59. says

    Gretchen,

    1) It’s true, and

    2) It doesn’t involve treating a group of people as sub-human because they’re different from you in some way.

    Rule 1, It’s true is not, I think, the right way to put this. First of all, if you are criticizing religion you probably believe the whole kit and caboodle is not true–so your rule paints the critic into a corner. I would propose your rule 1 should be something like It (the criticism) is faithful. That is, you are criticizing something the religion actually teaches.

    But even that is too restrictive, because I think you can mock, a la the Mohammed cartoons, without being a bigot.

    Come to think of it I don’t think you need Rule 1 at all–I think Rule 2 suffices.

  60. says

    Actually, heddle, I was seriously tempted to stop at 1. Mainly because a) the main problem with Islamophobia is that it’s based on bullshit, and 2. it’s true that people aren’t sub-human simply for being different– in any way. So rule 2 is effectively redundant.

  61. says

    And, of course, there’s no shortage of people willing to accuse you of treating them as sub-human simply for criticizing their ideology.

  62. says

    You are both saying that my right to freedom of speech should be restricted by the sensibilities of fanatics and religious terrorists and you are both attempting to pretend that it is not what you are saying.

    No, dumbfuck, we’re not talking about your rights AT ALL. We’re talking about the difference between sensible criticism and childish bigotry. Making this all about yourself and your rights, when you know damn well you rights aren’t being questioned, kinda puts you on the wrong side of that divide.

    (Trick question: if I choose not to use certain epithets to avoid insulting people and sounding like an asshole, does that mean I’m letting my right to free speech be restricted? Or is that just acting like a grownup? Or am I being too tedious for you again?)

    You know Bee, there are two ex-Muslims who blog here that are a lot tougher on Islam then Sam Harris is. Do you think that their posts consist of ignorant ravings?

    No, because they’re more credible than Harris, their knowledge is first- or second-hand, and AFAIK so far, they haven’t said anything as transparently stupid as Harris has.

    You are right to resist common and basic mistake that some people should, for no good reason, be granted a special protection from being offended.

    What’s so “special” about choosing not to needlessly insult people? I think it’s stupid and childish and counterproductive to use the N-word, and I think the same about equally childish behavior toward Muslims. This is something I advocate doing for EVERYONE. So once again, a right-wing Christian mistakes equal treatment for “special rights.”

    @Raging Bee You’re kinda boring.

    Making this about you again, Eric?

  63. laurentweppe says

    @gingerbaker

    These kinds of polls are deliberate rhetorical traps. European Muslims are used to see far-right would-be dictators disguising their intent to oppress them behind a thin veneer of pretend-criticism. The result is that part of the “68% of British Muslims” who “support the arrest and prosecution of anyone who insults Islam” are actually talking about the fascists for whom “criticizing Islam” is nothing more than coded messages they use to call for the disenfranchisement of Muslims,
    .
    Same thing with Sharia: Sharia means nothing more than “Moral values”: for some upholding moral values means helping old ladies to cross the streets or feeding homeless people; for others, it means establishing the rule of self-appointed umpires and preserving it through wanton violence.

    X% of Muslims want Sharia” is no different from “Y% of Christians want the State to uphold their moral values“: problem is, which ones?.

  64. iangould says

    ‘Antisemitic Israel bashing self hating JINO…” – SLC1

    High praise indeed considering the source.

  65. says

    laurentweppe: your points about those polls are valid. There’s a lot of outright bigotry directed at Muslim immigrants in Western Europe these days, and a god bit of it isn’t even disguised as “valid criticism of Islam;” and I’m pretty sure that’s what those Muslims had in mind when they were asked about “insulting Islam.” Offhand, I figure only 68% support for punishment of “insults” is GOOD news.

    Also, when a foreign pollster is asking Muslims questions inside Muslim-ruled countries like Jordan or Pakistan, the sample population aren’t necessarily sure who is really asking, or who might ultimately get wind of an “incorrect” answer. It’s hard to assure people that their answers are “anonymous” after you’ve either seen their faces, come to their homes, or reached them by phone; and it’s even harder to assure them that you’d never reveal their names to either government or religious thugs, when said thugs are clearly in control of nearly everything else in their lives.

  66. J B says

    “Real Islamophobia is a distortion of reality which [presumes or portrays] Muslims [to be] inherently less[-than] by [mere] virtue of [their] being Muslim.”
    _______
    I’ve adjusted the quote to what I believe its author meant to say. In this way, one might replace “Islamophobia” and “Muslim(s)” with “Homophobia and “Gay(s)/Lesbian(s)” to see a relevant comparison; which is specifically to define “the other” as “bad”. We already have a word for that: Xenophobia. And it’s precisely by this definition that I believe all legitimate comparison ends.
    _______
    “Real Islamophobia constructs conspiracies of what Muslims believe and do and shrieks about those, rather than things Muslims actually believe and do.”
    _______
    Not quite, as Muslims regularly do awful things; both ‘in the name of’ and ‘as a direct result of’ Islamic beliefs. It is logically consequential to raise concerns over the direct connections between beliefs, believers, and the actions of those believers. Not least importantly because such beliefs and actions negatively impact the believers with a disproportionate degree of harm.
    _______
    “Real Islamophobia is ‘creeping Sharia’ in Oklahoma.”
    _______
    Again, if there weren’t numerous real-world precedents for the spreading of this truly inhumane code of ‘traditional’ practices throughout the world, then to fear it might be considered irrational. Alas, you simply can’t pretend there’s no logical or ethical consequence for blindly accepting brutality (albeit posing as ‘spiritual law’) in the name of multiculturalism.
    _______
    “It’s ‘Obama is secretly a Muslim.'”
    _______
    Perhaps. But, again notice that’s more precisely racism (against Obama for being black, no doubt) mixed with Xenophobia.
    _______
    “It’s ‘Muslims [ought not] have the same rights as we do because Islam is not a religion; it’s a political agenda—so let’s ban the construction of a Muslim worship center anywhere near Ground Zero.”
    _______
    That’s multiple straw men. First, because both Islamic fundamentalists and their Western/liberal apologists frame the ‘cultural narrative’ as a political power dynamic (Islam-versus-Western-Imperialism). And even if those who wanted to build that mosque hadn’t explicitly admitted their motives were both religious and political (which they did); their right to build it still wouldn’t automatically pin the scarlet letter of irrational hatred onto those who (for quite varying reasons) exercised their right to protest its being built.
    _______
    “It’s ‘We should forbid Muslims from immigrating to our country, because they will take it over and ruin it.'”
    _______
    Same has been said of nearly every other racial/ethnic/cultural group; and ought to be condemned for what it is: Xenophobia.
    _______
    “It’s differentiating Muslims from ‘us’ in the first place.”
    _______
    This is just nonsensical. Religious groups pride themselves on their divisiveness and exclusivity. Islam is no exception, unless you note how particularly horribly it condemns apostates (those who dare leave) and infidels (those who simply don’t believe). That’s a real-world difference in the present-tense, to a degree that should command the attention of ethically-minded people; not least of all Muslims.

  67. says

    Again, if there weren’t numerous real-world precedents for the spreading of this truly inhumane code of ‘traditional’ practices throughout the world, then to fear it might be considered irrational.

    Such fears are rightly considered irrational because in many cases, they’re based on flat-out misrepresentations of events. Your failure to acknowledge this doesn’t help your credibility.

    And even if those who wanted to build that mosque hadn’t explicitly admitted their motives were both religious and political (which they did); their right to build it still wouldn’t automatically pin the scarlet letter of irrational hatred onto those who (for quite varying reasons) exercised their right to protest its being built.

    Yes, it would, because those protesters are: a) trying to deny others a right they claim for themselves, to build and use places of congregation and worship; and b) advocating action that has nothing at all to do with stopping or preventing any real injustice. Seriously, how does any of that hysterical silliness free anyone from religious oppression?

  68. J B says

    “Such fears are rightly considered irrational because in many cases, they’re based on flat-out misrepresentations of events. Your failure to acknowledge this doesn’t help your credibility.”
    ___

    I hardly thought one could be involved in this conversation yet unaware of the injurious real world effects of Sharia, the harm of which falls predominantly upon Muslims. If you don’t think that’s anything to be concerned about, then I grant you wouldn’t find any argument against Sharia credible. However, the argument that “many” misunderstand or exaggerate the details, nuances, or subtle complexities of Sharia certainly still doesn’t refute the very observable real world harms for which Sharia is responsible.
    ___

    “[...]Seriously, how does any of that hysterical silliness free anyone from religious oppression?”
    ___

    The right to protest is important for any democratic society, as is freedom of speech, press, etc. Such liberties only exist so long as we allow (and fight, if need be) for these rights to be shared by all, even those who we think silly, wrong, or offensive. People had various reasons for taking part in the protests of a mosque/Islamic center near the WTC site; and even if we grant that among those reasons were misunderstanding and irrational anger, that doesn’t mean there weren’t legitimate reasons, too. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the act of protestation denied anyone else’s rights.

  69. says

    The right to protest is important for any democratic society…

    No one is questioning anyone’s right to protest, and you know it. Your lame-assed attempt to pretend otherwise pretty much proves you’ve lost the argument. And that’s not even touching on the timing issue…

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