Friendly Hemant says PZ gets Ayaan Hirsi Ali all wrong, because she didn’t say that, she said the opposite.
I’ve seen complaints online about how Hirsi Ali was minimizing problems caused by conservative Christians, as if they weren’t as big a deal as those caused by extremist Muslims. PZ Myers called it “fatwah envy” and said Hirsi Ali was suggesting “we should meekly accept the lesser injustice because of the threat of the greater” and trying to “silence those who strive for respect and dignity in their lives.”
But when I watched her speech (because I actually did that instead of relying on a couple of sound bites and tweets), I didn’t get that impression at all.
Well what impression one got or didn’t get isn’t the issue. The issue is what she actually said.
Through her examples, she compared the religious concerns we often deal with on a regular basis with those we may not understand because of our geography. We’re undoubtedly familiar with LGBT-rights issues in the U.S., but she wanted to call our attention to injustices perpetrated by people in the name of Islam — injustices she’s all too familiar with.
It’s a funny thing – that was actually the subject of my talk at the American Atheists Convention in 2013. I spelled it out pretty much the same way. It was on the Sunday afternoon, so one of the last talks, so I started with something along the lines of “we’ve heard a lot about religious bullshit here in the US and I want to tell you about some activists working on religious bullshit elsewhere in the world.” Then I talked about Maryam Namazie and others. But it was an “and” not a “but.” It was meant as an addition to everyone’s understanding of the fight against religious bullshit, not as a replacement of everyone’s understanding with a different understanding. I didn’t say forget your issues, pay attention to these issues instead. I just said here’s some more religious bullshit and some more people fighting it.
A few weeks later I introduced Dave Silverman to Maryam Namazie at Women in Secularism 2, and she was a speaker at the 2014 Convention.
Hemant quoted from Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s talk:
I understand, I empathize, and you have my support in fighting religious bigotry. And in Christian America, there’s probably a lot to do. But I want to draw your attention to a different kind of religion. If you become a Christian apostate, the highest price you’ll pay is that your family, your neighbors, your communities will disown you. And trust me, I understand that pain…
Yet given the limited resources we have, the limited time we have, and the potential energy and force and magnitude and resources of the Islamic threat, I wanted to draw your attention to the religion that threatens us the most in 2015.
If you are gay, today in the United States of America, the worst the Christian community can do to gay people is not serve them cake… I tweeted Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, whom I think is very brave by going out there and describing what it is that the LGBT community faces in predominantly homophobic communities. The discrimination is subtle, and it lurks in the shadows. But I just want you to think about being Muslim and gay today. In the worst case scenario, you’ve seen it on television, on YouTube… if you’re accused of being gay, you are marched to the tallest building in town and bullies throw you off that building and there’s a crowd of people waiting there…
So that’s AHA not “suggesting ‘we should meekly accept the lesser injustice because of the threat of the greater'” according to Hemant.
I’m sorry but that’s exactly what it looks like to me. Or, at least, to put it less rhetorically than PZ did, it does look to me as if she is saying that because Islam is much worse therefore we should be devoting our limited resources and time to issues related to Islam. It looks that way to me because that’s what she said.