As I wrote a post a few days ago responding to criticisms of Islamophobia, I drew even more criticism-interestingly, from my own fellow bloggers at Skeptic Ink. But life sometimes seems to have a sense of humor. In less than a week, Richard Dawkins came under fire for very similar reasons time and again. Further, as was the case for me, those tearing into Dawkins are self-described non-believers, and even his fans. Who knew.
So what did Dawkins actually say that was so outrageous? As it happens, The truth. The Naked Truth. Even his detractors haven’t denied this. Their only objection has been the way he said it. And with Dawkins, it is deja vu all over again. He is known to be controversial precisely because of things he has said that are truthful but no one wants to hear.
So let’s look at what he said, and what drew the objections.
Some of what he said was what I have also said (even though I have produced more evidence!)
In a recorded interview, he described Islam as “One of the great evils in the world.”
I cited several example of this in my related posts: not all Islamic countries make atheism punishable by death, but all countries that condemn atheists to death are Islamic; that you don’t actually find followers of other religions demanding “atheists must be hanged“, or holds signed saying “behead those who insult our religion“, even though countless Muslims would never do such a thing; there is no equivalent of Organization of Islamic Conference in other faiths, and nations with majority followers of religions other than Islam do not passe resolutions demanding their religion-based restrictions on freedom of expression become international law; followers of other religions do not picket the offices of Google, demanding youtube videos they don’t like be taken down; and many, many more examples.
But here is the most controversial part.
So why should he shut up?
He’s absolutely right on one level, of course: Islam is a religion, not a race, and it would be ridiculous to accuse someone of racism for criticising its tenets…But as Heresy Club’s Alex Gabriel writes: Asserting that because Islam is a religion and not a race, one can never discuss it (or treat its followers) in racist ways makes about as much sense as saying that because ballet is an art form not a sexual identity, it’s impossible to say anything homophobic about male ballet dancers. Hip-hop musicians and immigrants aren’t races either, but commentary on both is very often racist – or at least, informed and inflected to a serious degree by racial biases.
Because Dawkins has gone from criticising the religion itself to criticising Muslims, as a vast bloc. They’re not individuals with names, they’re “these Muslims” or “some Muslim or other”, undifferentiated, without personhood.
Wait a minute, wait a minute…are you asserting Muslims are somehow a race? If so, are non-Muslims also a race? How can you have the former without the latter? And if non-Muslims are a “race”, what does that make of the never-ending intolerance (and threats, and incitements of violence) against non-Muslims all over the Koran? Does that made the Koran a racist book? Does that make every mosque that preaches the Koran a racist institution? Whoever wrote the Koran wasn’t (weren’t) any less indiscriminate in his attacks than Dawkins (well, except when the said scribe specifically targeted the Jews). Be watchful what you wish for; you may actually get it.
For instance, would Dawkins have tweeted another fact, which is that Trinity also has twice as many Nobel prizes as all black people put together? It’s just as true, but presumably he doesn’t believe that it’s because black people aren’t as clever. Yet he is willing to make the equivalent inference about Muslims, without further evidence.
Dawkins, as it happens, did not speculate on why. But that is what the Telegraph writer accuses him on thinking: that Muslims aren’t clever. Only Dawkins said in the same breath that Muslims made significant contributions in the Middle Ages; hence the straw man getting knocked down here is specifically the one Dawkins himself said he didn’t have in mind!
So if Muslims are as clever as anyone else, why is it that no Muslim majority country in the top 20 producers of scientific literature? Well, as it happens, it has to do with Islamic ideology. I have written on this matter before. The golden age of science in Islam ended as the ideas of Al-Ghazali, the man who dismissed naturalistic causality altogether and attributed everything to the divine (say, like, Pat Robertson blaming natural disasters on gays), got traction. And the Islamic world has never recovered. To the point that the “most outstanding” Islamic “scientists” look for inspiration to the hadith, not to scientific literature.
And then, this:
Does the average Muslim do worse in the Nobel prize stakes than the average similarly deprived Christian or atheist or Hindu? I don’t know. You need to do proper analysis, statistical regression, to work that out.
I have an easier proposition. Why don’t you look at how Islamic nations behave toward their own brightest. The only Muslim ever to win the Nobel Prize in physics was Abdus Salam, of Pakistan. And he got maligned in his home country. Because he belonged to a religious minority! How can you expect scientific accomplishment where ideological orthodoxy is valued about scientific accomplishment? And that is just one way in which Islamic ideology stands in the way of science; from rampant creationism based on (near universal) Koranic literalism, to restrictions placed on women, pointed out by none less than Bill Gates. Does that make Bill Gates a “racist” too?
To recap, there is nothing racist about saying that following a ruinous ideology leads to ruin. And as I have said before, I fear that it could happen in the US.
So now, I am feeling better: I am not the only target of criticism of Islam (by atheists, no less) for failing to be politically correct about Islam. Thank you, Dawkins!