Originally a comment by Hj Hornbeck on Yes, there should be rivalry in victimhood.
[Trigger Warning: Domestic and Sexual Assault. Also, BIG comment with many a footnote.]
Here’s an angle I haven’t seen mentioned yet: there’s more than some hidden racism in Dawkin’s focus on Islam, which he exploits to distract from real global problems. The quoted portion in the OP is my starting point:
The greatest threats to women, in his view, are Islamism and jihadism — and his concern over that sometimes leads him to speak off-the-cuff.
“I concentrate my attention on that menace and I confess I occasionally get a little impatient with American women who complain of being inappropriately touched by the water cooler or invited for coffee or something which I think is, by comparison, relatively trivial,” he said.
That’s demonstrably false. Consider, for instance, a 2006 WHO study on domestic violence. It surveyed fifteen sites worldwide, and found that the highest lifetime rate of physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner was 71% in the Ethiopian countryside and 69% in the Peruvian… both of which are Catholic-majority states. Third place is rural Muslim Bangladesh (62%), fourth is rural half Christian, half Muslim Tanzania (56%), fifth was urban Muslim Bangladesh (53%), and so on.
The percentage of women who think being beaten is an acceptable punishment for not completing their housework? About 65% in rural Ethiopia, 45% in rural Peru, 30% in rural Tanzania, 25% in urban Tanzania, and so on. Interestingly, urban Bangladesh women are in the middle of the pack when it comes to saying they should not be beaten (rural Bangladesh… not so much).
How about sexual violence against women that aren’t intimate partners? A staggering 55% of assaulted women in Samoa were attacked by non-partners… and Samoa is majority Christian. In Brazil (majority Christian) that’s 40%, in urban Tanzania it’s 34%, urban Peru it’s 31%, and so on.
The prevalence of injury among ever-abused women ranged from 19% in Ethiopia to 55% in provincial Peru. Injuries were associated with severe physical violence. In Brazil, provincial Peru, Samoa, Serbia [Christian] and Montenegro [Christian], and Thailand [Buddhist] over 20% of ever-injured women reported that they had been injured more than five times.
Although the majority of injuries were classed as minor (bruises, abrasions, cuts, punctures, and bites), in some settings, more serious injuries (broken bones, injuries to ears and eyes) were relatively common. At least 20% of ever-injured women in Namibia [Christian], provincial Peru, Samoa, urban Thailand, and the United Republic of Tanzania reported injuries to the eyes and ears. In Bangladesh, Ethiopia, provincial Peru, and Samoa, over a quarter of ever-injured women reported that they had lost consciousness as a result of partner violence.
It’s obvious that intimate partner violence is a global issue, affecting a huge percentage of women worldwide. However, it isn’t obvious this is tied to religion; Christianity seems to dominate the stats, but that could be because it’s still the dominant global religion, or the researchers couldn’t get into certain Muslim states.
Worse still for Dawkins, Islam is not a monolith. According to a Pew Forum study, while 99% of Afghan Muslims support Sharia law, 8% of Azerbaijanis do. The biggest predictor of support is secularism, not religion; Turkey is 99.8% Muslim, but only 12% of their Muslims support sharia law.
Things get weirder when you look at specific beliefs: 50% of Bangladeshis that support Sharia say that family planning is morally acceptable, while among those that oppose Sharia law… only 28% think it’s acceptable. On the flip side, 28% of pro-Sharia Kazakhs think it’s acceptable, yet 52% of anti-Sharia Kazakhs think it’s fine.
The veil? In Sub-Saharan Africa, only 40% of Muslims agree that women have the right to choose, while in South-East Europe that sits at 88%. How about the ever-popular topic of suicide bombings? 96% of Bosnian Muslims do not think it is justified, or think it’s only fine in rare circumstances, while in Pakistan, the spot with the greatest support, that number sits at 49%. Yes, more Muslims in Pakistan think that suicide bombing is poorly justified than that it sometimes or often is. At least 85% of Muslims endorse non-Muslims practicing their religion freely, with some areas hitting 97%. In South Asia, 76% would be OK with executing apostates; in Central Asia, only 16% are.
And yet, Dawkins is opposed to Islam, full stop. No shades of gray. Every Muslim is an olive-skinned Middle Eastern person that wants every woman stuffed in a burqa. Never-mind the existence of Black Muslims in Nigeria or Caucasian Muslims in the Caucasus, they’re all the same to him. While he loves to toss out the phrase “Islam is not a race,” he certainly treats them as one[5,6] and is happy to exploit xenophobia to distract from more important issues.
You might argue Dawkins wasn’t talking about domestic violence, though, but mild sexual assault and sexism. But that supposes those issues are specific to North America and Europe, and absent everywhere else. Again, that’s just not true; as Hans Rosling loves to point out, there really isn’t much difference between developed and developing countries nowadays, with urban areas of some “developing” countries on par with developed nations.
Just looking at cell phone and internet usage, 45% of Lebanese own a smart phone, 39% of Chileans, and 33% of South Africans; in contrast, 23% of Russians and 21% of Mexicans do. By 2018, it’s forecast that 67% of cell phone users in all of Africa will have a data plan. The fastest internet in the world is in South Korea, the fifth is in Latvia, and the Czech Republic comfortably edges out the United States to take seventh place.
This means that the problems of American Women are fast becoming the problem of Global Women. And as the world becomes more connected, the campaigns and experience of the former can be easily modified and exploited by the latter to improve their lot. The same isn’t true for combating Islam, however; as I pointed out above, that religion is quite heterogeneous and thus you’d have a tough time spreading one area’s fix to another place.
This leaves Dawkins as little more than a wailing, short-sighted bigot.
 “Richard Dawkins Stands by Remarks on Sexism, Pedophilia, Down Syndrome.” Religion News Service. Accessed November 22, 2014.http://www.religionnews.com/2014/11/18/richard-dawkins-stands-remarks-sexism-pedophilia-syndrome/
 García-Moreno, Claudia., London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine., Program for Appropriate Technology in Health., World Health Organization., and Women and Health. Department of Gender. WHO Multi-Country Study on Women’s Health and Domestic Violence against Women: Initial Results on Prevalence, Health Outcomes and Women’s Responses. [Geneva, Switzerland]: World Health Organization, 2005.
 “The World’s Muslims: Religion, Politics and Society.” Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project. Accessed November 22, 2014.
 Well OK, I was a bit shocked when I cracked open my copy of The God Delusion and rediscovered that he endorsed teaching the Qur’an as a source of literary heratige. That bit’s on pages 386 to 387 on my copy, or just look for the last two paragraphs in Chapter 9.
 Malik, Nesrine. “Message to Richard Dawkins: ‘Islam Is Not a Race’ Is a Cop out.” The Guardian, September 20, 2013, sec. Comment is free.http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/20/islam-race-richard-dawkins
 Chituc, Vlad. “Islam Isn’t a Race, and so What?” NonProphet Status. Accessed November 22, 2014.http://www.patheos.com/blogs/nonprophetstatus/2014/10/08/islam-isnt-a-race-and-so-what/
 The River of Myths by Hans Rosling | #BillsLetter, 2013.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OwII-dwh-bk
 “Emerging Nations Embrace Internet, Mobile Technology.” Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. Accessed November 22, 2014.http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/02/13/emerging-nations-embrace-internet-mobile-technology/
 “Africa Telecoms Outlook 2014: Maximizing Digital Service Opportunities » Informa Telecoms & Media.” Accessed November 22, 2014.http://files.informatandm.com/uploads/2013/11/Africa_Telecoms_Outlook_Low_resolution.pdf
 “South Korea’s Internet Is About to Be 50 Times Faster Than Yours.” Motherboard. Accessed November 22, 2014.http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/south-koreas-internet-is-about-to-be-50-times-faster-than-yours
[BONUS] Hans Rosling: Religions and Babies, 2012.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezVk1ahRF78
The quote that the commentator takes as their “starting point” uses the phrase “Islamism and jihadism” – which is clearly more specific than ‘Islam’ or ‘Muslims’ (and was also a reporter’s interpretation of whatever it is that Dawkins actually said). The commentator then goes on at length to establish that the Muslim world is heterogeneous. But as the initial quote is not about ‘Islam’ in all it forms, the writer is misguided and has clearly chosen to re-interpret the passage in a hostile way and treat it as a more general statement about Islam than it in fact was. They will have to provide more compelling quotes to justify their claim that Dawkins is “little more than a wailing, short-sighted bigot.”
This is simplistic. In the water cooler remark Dawkins was referring to American women and not women in Rural Peru. I’m quite sure Dawkins is aware that impoverishment, tto, can lead to a deterioration in women’s lives.
To cite statistics from Peru in a effort to refute statements referring to American women is idiotic. Such “logic” demonstrates nothing.
96% of Bosnian Muslims do not think it is justified, or think it’s only fine in rare circumstances, while in Pakistan, the spot with the greatest support, that number sits at 49%
Another deceitful example. Pakistan’s population is nearly 200,000,000 million, meaning that some 98,000,000 Pakistanis…roughly 20 times the population of Bosnia endorse sharia. Those numbers are so absolutely staggering, they suppport Dawkins position
it surveyed fifteen sites worldwide, and found that the highest lifetime rate of physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner was 71% in the Ethiopian countryside and 69% in the Peruvian… both of which are Catholic-majority states.
Ethiopia is a majority Catholic state!!? Ethiopia is no longer even a majority Christian state, let alone a majority Catholic state. What is these lad smoking? I ask the question becauser surly someone sober could never be that dumb.
Christianity seems to dominate the stats, but that could be because it’s still the dominant global religion, or the researchers couldn’t get into certain Muslim states.
Not only can’t reasearchers get into some Muslims states, but when they do their research is suspect because levels of trust in Muslims countries are notoriously low. Few Muslim women would talk openly about domestic dirty laundry with a westerner in the presence of local interpreters who would probably spill the beans were any women to “shame” the community.
Unlike many American women, many Muslim women simply aren’t free to speak their minds. Hornbeck inadvertently projects western freedoms on societies where those freedoms just don’t exist.
The most amazing thing about this is the passion with which an atheist will make excuses for Islam in an effort to prove another atheist wrong.
At least 85% of Muslims endorse non-Muslims practicing their religion freely, with some areas hitting 97%. In South Asia, 76% would be OK with executing apostates; in Central Asia, only 16% are. Once again, there are probably 20 times the number of Muslims in South Asia than in Central Asia. Hornbeck conveniently overlooks that damning fact. His statistics appear to support heterogeneous argument, but they in fact support the opposite. He cites statistics from regions with enormous assymetrical demographics, then then claims it’s all even-steven.
Lastly, practically every single Muslim majority state, even the moderate ones like Malaysia, place severe restrictions on non-Muslim worship and on conversion out of Islam. Islam, itself, is headquartered in a religious-apartheid state that doesn’t allow the practice of any other religion except Islam. All four schools of islamic jurisprudence ( representing well over 90% of all Muslims worldwide) call for the death penalty for apostates. 90-some%? Nothing monolithic there…
I see. So Rural Peruvian women should not only tolerate having their asses pinched in the workplace, they should expect worse. But they get to complain about it (not too much, mind you). Whereas American women should… also expect to have their asses pinched. But they can’t complain, because Peruvian women have it worse.
Do you not get that this is the quintessential objection to the Dear Muslima-style argument?
I’d continue on into your comment, but … Jebus, dude. It’s really hard to read this as anything but a Dawkining: Other people get worse things done to their asses, so don’t complain about the pinches.
By the way, I’ll grant the the OP misstated and Ethiopia is majority Christian instead of Catholic. That totally changes the point, doesn’t it?
Al Dente says
You’re wrong (as usual). Citing statistics from various countries show that misogyny is a world-wide phenomenon. It may manifest itself in different ways in different societies but the underlying mistreatment of women is not confined to a few countries. Also Dawkins claims that Islamic countries treat women worse than non-Islamic countries, a claim which Hj Hornbeck shows is incorrect.
Also Dawkins claims that Islamic countries treat women worse than non-Islamic countries, a claim which Hj Hornbeck shows is incorrect.
Hornbeck does no such thing.
Look, saying that Ethiopia is a majority Catholic country is about as factual as saying the moon is made of green cheese.
Or that Muslims discovered America centuries before Columbus and that there were Mosques all over the island of Cuba.
It’s also quite callous and cruel on the part of this simpleton to equate the pain of FGM with that of having to look at a man’s shirt with girly pictures on it.
The one is a stabbing, the other a pin-prick
We can’t admit to the obvious because it would do so much to upset the status quo. We’d have to focus on Brown men, now wouldn’t we? And we’d have to focus on religions other than Christianity for a change, which would, of course, lead to charges of racism and and shitloads of death threats.
It would spell the end of our comfort, indifference, personnal security and complacency, so we won’t even go there.
By the way, I’ll grant the the OP misstated and Ethiopia is majority Christian instead of Catholic. That totally changes the point, doesn’t it?
Ethiopia is NO LONGER a majority Christian country. Ditto for Nigeria and Lebanon, as well. Some progressives tend to live in the past
And I’ve just one question. Don’t either of you think it rather odd that an atheist would so ardently defend what is without doubt the most violent, misogynistic, homophobic and anti-Semitic religion going? What can you say about people so eager to get a jab in at an Old White Guy, that they’ll run interference for an ideology that would see their bodies separated from their heads
What can one say? Most of the security services in both Europe and America are now devoted to tracking Muslims hell bent on blowing us up, and yet we maintain the fiction that Islam is no worse than any other religion.
Yosuf Qaradawi should be handing out medals for this.
The whooshing sound was the point passing far over your head.
Dawkins has proposed the following syllogism:
Premise 1: We can only focus on the most serious of issues
Premise 2: Islamism and jihadism are the most serious issues facing women [worldwide]
Conclusion: American women have it good, so shut up.
A lot of people have been addressing Premise 1. They’ve shown it to be false. We can and should address problems of all sizes.
Hj Hormbeck is addressing Premise 2. He shows it to be false, by showing that violence against women is a a worldwide problem, not one unique to the Islamic world. The use of those statistics isn’t “idiotic,” it’s absolutely necessary because they are implied in Dawkins’ premise. Although he doesn’t use the word “worldwide” directly, you cannot escape the implication, since he’s comparing American women with those in Islamic areas.
As an aside, for someone who trumpets his “logic and reason” far and wide — even using it as a way to put down others — Dawkins fails miserably with his syllogism. The truth is that he’s just as emotional as anyone else. His emotions have been riled because he’s been criticized and he’s trying desperately to make the problem go away. He started with a conclusion, “American women must shut up,” and is trying to build a proof for it. Something that makes him no better than your average ID Creationist.
As for Hornbeck’s views on Turkey
Attaturk’s vision is belly-up.
Turkey is 99.8% Muslim, but only 12% of their Muslims support sharia law.
Yeah butoonly a few years ago no one did.
Ethiopia, even just ‘rural Ethiopia’ a majority Catholic area? Ethiopia’s one-time ‘Christian’ majority was Coptic. The Catholic church would have regarded them as heretics.
So violence against women can be correlated to poverty, illiteracy, and religiosity. So can Islam. Maybe Peruvian yobs and dudebros justify themselves by Christianity. But massive violence against women is directly commanded by ‘authorities’ within Islam (and Indian nationalist Hinduism for that matter).
If supposed ‘progressives’ could put half the effort they spend rationalizing and accommodating Islamist violence into work closer to home, Westboro Baptist and Quiverfull might be on the wane.
Who are the authorities within Islam and Indian nationalist Hinduism that are commanding massive violence against women?
They should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity by ICC.
And who are the progressives that are accommodating Islamist violence?
Citation needed. The CIA World Factbook from 2014 states that Ethiopia is ~62.7% christian, split between Ethiopian Orthodox, Protestant, and Catholic.*
It turns out that just saying something doesn’t make it true, Decker. You have to back up your statements with verifiable information.
Brony, Social Justice Cenobite says
I was going to step in but ArtK pretty much said what I would have.
The whole point to this issue is how it keeps getting asserted that we need to focus on big awful problems over there cause we can’t chew gum and walk at the same time. There is absolutely no sense in trying to fix a problem elsewhere in the world and ignoring its local manifestation.
The people here defending Dawkins with trivial irrelevancies are one of two things, lazy or dishonest. If you think we can only solve one big problem you are lazy. If you you are using this whole line of argument to prop up a power structure more concerned with it’s own power than anyone’s problems you are dishonest. You comments and interactions with us over time will tell the difference.
Hj Hornbeck says
Hey everybody, I seem to have lost my humanity. Has anyone spotted it?
Except this plays out even worse for Dawkins. How many of these Islamists or jihadists are there, out of all Muslims? If few, then his fixation on them seems even more out-of-touch with real global problems. Besides, it’s not entirely clear there’s a difference between the two. Here’s Dawkins speaking about religious moderates:
Not too long ago, I would have nodded along in agreement to that. But recently I’ve noticed it has a dark side: if even religious moderates are supporting fundamentalists, then to merely be religious is to support extremists. A fight to stop Islamists becomes a fight against all of Islam, and again all Muslims are put in his cross-hairs.
It’s also illuminating to compare Dawkins’ words on the podium to those made when he’s off. Contrast “It’s very important that we should not demonise ordinary, law-abiding, very decent Muslims” with “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.” He seems to want to play both sides, alternately cooing nice things about moderates then lumping them in with fundamentalists as one giant monolith.
I suspect he’s more bigoted than he lets on.
Hj Hornbeck says
Uh, no. If Pakistan had 200,000,000 million people, and 84% of them support Sharia, then 168,000,000 million support Sharia. Except there aren’t 200,000,000 million Pakistanis, rather there were 196 million in July 2014, according to the CIA World Factbook.
But I get your gist: 174 million Pakistanis support Sharia, therefore we should focus on Islam or Islamism. Except you’re forgetting that the first sexual experience of roughly 23 million Bangladeshi women was a rape (assuming roughly 95% of women are sexually experienced). That number’s 6.5 million in Ethiopia, 3.8 million in Tanzania, 3 million in Brazil, 1.6 million in Peru, and 1.5 million in Thailand. Add in the remaining countries in that UN study, and extrapolate to the rest of the planet, and I estimate that 377 million women had their first sexual experience be a rape.
Looks like we should put more effort into preventing women from experiencing a rape as first sexual experience, than we should into changing people’s minds about Sharia law. The emphasis would be much larger if we instead compared women who’ve experienced sexual harassment to women who live in countries with Sharia law. My point still stands: Dawkins has a distorted set of priorities.
Hj Hornbeck says
I was tempted to pull the “Eastern Orthodox is Catholic” card that John Horstman pulled in the original thread; as he pointed out, it is a catholic church for several meanings of the word. Another source puts it this way:
So yes, there are at least six “catholic churches” running around. Having said that, most people think “Roman Catholic” when you say just “Catholic,” so I’m guilty of poor writing even if I invoke the card. Count it as a gaff. I don’t really care, because as you put it, “That totally changes the point, doesn’t it?”