That Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher and Sam Harris are vilified by theists is nothing new. All three are Atheist activists bent on spreading critical thinking and unmasking God. When they ply their views to Christianity, they get death threats from the pulpit. When they ply their views to Islam, they get not only death threats, but even their liberal minded supporters turn against them. Why? In a word: Islamophobia.
The latest publication to decry the New Atheist movement is the Middle East Eye. In CJ Werleman’s article “Is New Atheism an anti-Muslim, white supremacy movement?” the tag line of the article is a perfect summary of Werleman’s thesis:
“The New Atheist movement has become a pro-white supremacy movement that is anti-Muslim, anti-Arab bigotry dressed up with a thin veneer of fancy sounding words.”
The article begins with Werleman’s admiration (I’m a fan too!) for Cynk Ugyaran an Atheist from the Young Turks, who claims to defend “Muslim-Americans” from the likes of Maher, Harris and other New Atheists. Then the article goes into left field trying to link Islamophobia with McCarthyism. If you remember history class, McCarthyism was a witch hunt for communist in the US during the 1950s and 60s headed by Senator Joseph McCarthy. The article then degenerates into claiming that when New Atheists describe the attrocities of Islamic terrorists (note: that is Islamic terrorists, not all Muslims) they are using the same language as the KKK. Then Werleman gets surreal when he asserts that criticisms of Islam is the West trying to dictate the culture of the Middle East and thus is white supremacy. At last, Werleman finishes his brain draining rant by calling Ayaan Hirsi Ali a shill for the “empire” of the west, due to her outspokenness against Islamic extremism.
There are numerous problems with Islamophobia as a concept. Islamophobia is a marriage of race with an idea. This is a form of race-baiting. the race involved are the Arabs, which is funny because most Muslims are not Arabic! According to the Pew Research Center, 62% of Muslims in the world are Asian-Pacific, and less that 20% are Arabic. The ones who say those who question Islam as a “religion of peace” are racist are committing a grievous error. But the problem is not a few Muslims trying to race-bait, the trouble is that the media, and the political left is falling for it!
Racism is a problem in the US, and Muslims are cashing in on it. This is not just in the US, either. In Europe, attacks like the one on Theo van Gogh, and Charlie Hebdo are becoming more frequent as the population of Muslims rise. However, these attacks had nothing to do with Race, but ideology. Islam forbids images of Mohammed and extremists are willing to kill over that little bylaw. This is incompatible with a free society where freedom of speech is more sacred than an individual’s supernatural notions. Werleman’ accusation of New Atheists speaking out against such acts of Islamic terrorism as ethnocentric (his “empire” rant) disregard the desires of Arabs in the Middle East who are not Muslim or Muslim in name only. What about the women who want to attend University and become doctors? What about Atheist Arabs who do not want to be beaten if not beheaded? To claim that criticizing such things is ethnocentric is morally dubious at best, and criminal at worst.
Logically, Islamophobia doesn’t work. To claim that speaking out against Islam is racist, but not speaking out against Christianity, Buddhism, or Sikhism, is a case of special pleading. Special pleading is when one tries to claim that a certain thing does not have to adhere to criteria that other, similar things have to. For instance it is special pleading when a Christian says that a piece of burnt toast that looks like Elvis is a neat coincidence, but another piece of burnt toast that looks like Jesus is a miracle. Islam as a credo must be held to the same scrutiny as Christianity, Humanism, Buddhism and any other -ism one can concoct. To not scrutinize Islam is a crime against future generations because to not do so leaves the problem of extremism to future generations; it is a moral passing of the buck.
Putting criticism of Islam in a racist light is in itself racist. Remember that only 20% of Muslims are Arabic? Yet, calling someone an Islamophobe is always in the context of “Arab”, never “Indonesian“. This is what the Islamic apologeticists want: to stop anyone from criticizing Islam in any meaningful way. Do not fall into that trap. If someone brings up the specter of Islamophobia, call them on it. You are criticizing an idea, the fact that they call it racist means that they are the ones trying to infuse extreme religiosity with ethnicity; they are the racist.
Shutting down the conversation on Islam is detrimental to not only infidels, but to Muslims as well. We can look to history and find a prime example with how criticism of Christianity was forbidden during the 1,000 years of the dark ages.