The Islamophobia of the New Atheists

Nathan Lean reviews some of the latest Islamophobic rants from Richard Dawkins and fellow militant atheists: Dawkins’ quest to “liberate” Muslim women and smack them with a big ol’ heaping dose of George W. Bush freedom caused him to go berzerk over news that a University College of London debate, hosted by an Islamic group, offered a separate seating option for conservative, practicing Muslims. Without researching the facts, Dawkins assumed that gendered seating was compulsory, not voluntary, and quickly fired off this about the “gender apartheid” of the supposedly suppressed Muslims: “At UC London debate between a Muslim and Lawrence Krauss, males and females had to sit separately. Krauss threatened to leave.” And then this: “Sexual apartheid. Maybe these odious religious thugs will get their come-uppance?”

Of course, the fact that the Barclays Center in New York recently offered gender-separate seating options for Orthodox Jews during a recent concert by Israeli violinist Itzhak Perlman didn’t compute in Dawkins’ reasoning. Neither did the case of El Al Airlines, the flag carrier of Israel, when, in August of 2012, a stewardess forced a Florida woman to swap seats to accommodate the religious practice of a haredi Orthodox man. Even if Dawkins were aware of these episodes, he likely wouldn’t have made a fuss about them. They undermine the conclusion he has already reached, that is, that only Muslims are freedom-haters, gender-separating “thugs.”

Where exactly Dawkins gets his information about Islam is unclear (perhaps Fox News?). What is clear, though, is that his unique brand of secular fundamentalism cozies up next to that screeched out by bloggers on the pages of some of the Web’s most vicious anti-Muslim hate sites. In a recent comment he posted on his own Web site, Dawkins references a site called Islam Watch, placing him in eerily close proximity to the likes of one of the page’s founders, Ali Sina, an activist who describes himself as “probably the biggest anti-Islam person alive.” Sina is a board member for the hate group, Stop the Islamization of Nations, which was founded by anti-Muslim activists Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer and which has designated as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Dawkins is also on record praising the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, a man who says that he “hates Islam” and that Muslims who desire to remain in the Netherlands should “rip out half of the Koran” (Later, he blabbed that the Muslim holy book should be banned entirely). The peroxide-blonde leader of the Party of Freedom, who faced trial in 2009 for hate speech, produced an amateurish flick called “Fitna” the year before. The 17-minute film was chockablock with racist images such as Muhammad’s head attached to a ticking time bomb and juxtapositions of Muslims and Nazis. For Dawkins, it was pure bliss. “On the strength of ‘Fitna’ alone, I salute you as a man of courage who has the balls to stand up to a monstrous enemy,” he wrote. [Continue reading…]

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4 thoughts on “The Islamophobia of the New Atheists

  1. Marion Delgado

    There is one big antidote for this crap:

    And here are a couple accounts of a Canadian eyewitness to the US/Pakistan/Iran-under-the-shah – led assault on Afghanistan’s kick-back , secular, nonsexist, progressive democratic society – elements of which had endured under both monarchy and the nominally Islamic Republic that the US called a communist puppet:

    That society, which a lot of people remember the way they recall going to Goa in India, survived until neoconservatives and Scoop Jackson Democrats united to destroy it. As Parenti points out, that society didn’t finally go under for a couple of years after the demise of the Soviet Union the US alleged it was a puppet state of.

    In the guise of spreading democracy (and capitalist “freedom”), the US destroyed, violently, labor movements and democratic societies all over the Earth. Typically, they were replaced with fundamentalist societies or monarchies or fascisms. And the Israel so beloved of neocons like Sam Harris actually registered Hamas as a charity and boosted it as a reactionary alternative to the secular Palestinian Authority.

    The true nature of the cycle – the elites who control the US and other Western powers destroy secular and progressive society and replace it with tyranny and oppression. then they point to the tyranny and oppression. Then they replace it – at a terrible cost to the 99% – with more tyranny and oppression. The one constant is the increasing accrual of power and wealth to those elites.

    The New Atheism has several ugly aspects, the one that bothers me the most is its quasi-religious market fundamentalism. Some of the actual people in it, like Paul (PZ) Myers or Dawkins himself aren’t market fundies but the movement definitely is. The market fundamentalists have coopted the concept of skepticism to mean anything the corporations disapprove of should be unacceptable. That’s why James Randi was a climate denialist so long; that’s why they have such crude anti-scientific pronouncements on animal welfare and the environment.

  2. Norman

    Who signs the pay checks? That should say something, wouldn’t you say? After all, as the saying goes, money talks, well, you know the rest.

  3. hquain

    I guess it’s really hard for those wedded to hierarchical religion to grasp that others don’t organize their lives by a personalized doctrinal authority structure. Atheists, new or old, do not follow pseudo-popes or para-pastors and are not tied in any way to the personal peculiarities of other atheists. Do I care what Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris randomly think about this, that, and the next things? Do I have to care?

    This is the like the Martian who lands and says, “Take me to your leader.” We earthlings regard this as funny because we don’t have the leader they’re looking for. And there’s no way we can get this across.

  4. Paul Woodward

    Atheism doesn’t really provide any bond of affiliation. That’s why I’ve never felt drawn by the idea of seeking out the company of other atheists. I’d rate the chances of my finding common ground among people who identified themselves religiously in some way, fairly evenly as I would with those who identify themselves as atheists. To know that someone is an atheist tells me nothing about their values.

    But the question about whether anyone — atheist or non-atheist — should care about what someone like Richard Dawkins thinks, should have nothing to do with whether one imagines atheists to be collectively bound together or whether one mistakenly believes that atheism is like a religion with leaders. That’s besides the point. The point is that Dawkins exerts immense influence and when he spouts nonsense to his 660,000 followers on Twitter, his prejudice ripples out across a wide pool. Indeed, his influence is probably far greater than that of nutcases like Pastor Terry Jones.

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