That Washington Post article that Glenn Greenwald linked to – it’s by Michelle Boorstein yesterday, on the (cough) tensions between atheism and Islam.
On Wednesday, the father of the two women said one of his daughters had mentioned Hicks’ before and felt he was anti-Muslim. A week ago, he said, she told her family she had “a hateful neighbor.”
“Honest to God, she said, ‘He hates us for what we are and how we look,’” Dr. Mohammad Abu-Salha, who has a psychiatry practice near Chapel Hill, told The News Observer.
Later on Wednesday, Hicks’s wife insisted that the shooting was only due to parking arguments and not to any bigotry. “I can say with my absolute belief that this incident had nothing to do with religion or victims faith, but in fact was related to the long-standing parking disputes that my husband had with the neighbors. ” Karen Hicks said during a news conference.
Notice a problem with that? It was a fucking parking dispute. Who the hell murders three people over a parking space? Citing “long-standing parking disputes” really doesn’t do anything to fill the yawning void between a parking dispute, however longstanding, and murdering three people.
But reports that an outspoken atheist — most of Hicks’ many Facebook posts railed against religion — had attacked a family who were visibly Muslim (the women wore headscarves) tapped immediately into a conversation that has been going on since Sept. 11 about why several of atheism’s biggest figures have singled out Islam for criticism.
And therein lies a whole different problem, which is that both of those examples of Atheism’s Biggest Figures are annoyingly crude and simplistic in what they say in public about Islam. Dawkins in particular thinks it’s useful to keep cranking out eye-poking tweets about Islam as a way to…whatever: fix it or lure people away from it or startle people into paying more attention to it. He’s wrong to think that’s useful. It’s the opposite of useful. It makes him look like a jerk who likes poking people in the eye, and by extension it makes all atheists look like that. This is one reason out of many I wish we had different, better Atheism’s Biggest Figures.
The tensions have been central enough that umbrella secular and atheist groups Wednesday were quick to release statements condemning the Chapel Hill killings. Ron Lindsay, president of the skeptics’ group Center for Inquiry[,] said atheists have in the past held conferences on the topic of Islam and tried to “reach out for dialogue” but the overtures have been viewed skeptically by Muslims.
Lindsay and other secular groups said Wednesday that the atheists’ particular focus on Islam has been triggered by the comments of big-name celebrities like Harris.
“I don’t think he’s an Islamophobe. But it’s fair to say in his writings that he portrays Islam as inherently more violen[ce]-prone than other religions and that has had an effect on some people, maybe an unintended [e]ffect. A lot of people tend to see Muslims in their mind a[s] more of a threat and tend to lump Muslims together,” Lindsay said. “To try and put things in focus, clearly we’re concerned about Islamic extremism, but we always make this clear, this is a small minority of Muslims.”
I’m tired of having to live with the unintended effects of Harris and Dawkins being provocative. I think they’re both clumsy at it; I think they’re both rude rather than wittily challenging, which I think is what they intend. I think they’re both very full of their own importance and prickly when disputed. I’m tired of having them as putative Leaders.
Meanwhile, a group of atheists is raising money to donate to a cause championed by one of the Muslim victims. Barakat, whose family was from Syria, had started a crowd-sourcing campaign to collect donations for the Syrian American Medical Society Foundation. His “Refugee Smiles,” focuses on providing dental care to refugees of the Syrian War in Turkey.
“There are conflicting reports about what the motivation was,” said Dale McGowan, executive director of the humanist nonprofit, Foundation Beyond Belief, a national organization based in Atlanta. “It doesn’t matter. It’s someone who identified with our community. We need to make a strong statement against the act.”
Quite right. The conflicting reports don’t matter: he was part of the atheist community and we need to repudiate the whole thing – the leader-worship, the male-centrism, the belligerent tweets, the hostility for its own sake. Enough already.