Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Islamophobia and Atheism

Atheists, choose your message.

“It is ridiculous to believe that a flying horse carried Mohammed back and forth between Mecca and Jerusalem.”

“You and your descendants will not be safe so long as there are Muslims in the world.”

As a point of clarity. In this second statement, I am not talking about rounding up and exterminating all Muslims. A person can believe that the world will not be safe so long as there are Muslims in the world and still believe that the only legitimate way to accomplish this goal is through reasoned argument.

However, given the facts of human history, a Muslim would have good reason to worry, “You may think that violence is not an appropriate way to accomplish this end, but that disgruntled unemployed young man over there with an arsenal of guns and a violent streak being taught that Muslims are the cause of all of his problems might come to agree with you regarding ends but disagree regarding means.”

There seems to be a lot of people who want to treat these as equivalent in some way.

On one type of case, a person will say things that substantially imply (even if the speaker does not say so directly) that, “You and your descendants will not be safe so long as there are Muslims in the world.” When the speaker is (justly) accused Islamophobia and bigotry, he answers by saying something like, “It is not Islomophobic or bigotry to challenge an absurd belief like that of a flying horse delivering Mohammed to Jerusalem and bringing him back to Mecca.”

From the opposite direction, we get those who eagerly apply the terms “Islamophobic” and “bigot” to those who (correctly) assert that there never was a winged horse and the tale of such a horse delivering Mohammed to Jerusalem was fiction. They treat a person who challenges such a statement the same way they would treat a person who would say, “You and your children will not be safe so long as any Muslims exist.”

A rational person would recognize that these are distinct types of claims. She would have no trouble asserting the absurdity in believing that a flying horse actually existed. At the same time, she can say that those who condemn whole groups of people regardless of their individual differences are engaged in the worst form of bigotry.

Then that person will have to the accusations that both types of extremists hurl on all moderates.

On one type of case, there are those who would claim that giving even an iota of respect or consideration to any Muslim is the equivalent of endorsing any act of terrorism that any Muslim has ever committed. The moderate is accused of “giving cover” to the terrorists and excusing away all of his wrongs.

In the other type of case, a person who raises questions against any aspect of Islam – including the belief in a winged horse – is accused of giving aid and comfort to bigotry – giving a sense of legitimacy to unjust and prejudicial treatment of Muslims. Indeed, they must be silenced (under threats of violence) because of their contributions to bigotry and anti-Muslim violence.

So, the moderate finds himself in a nice little trap. Rather than being seen as an opponent of both bigotry and terrorism, he is claimed to be a supporter of both – precisely because he sees a DIFFERENCE between “There was no flying horse,” and “All versions of Islam are and forever will be a threat to civilization.”

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