What is Islamophobia, and are the New Atheists guilty of it?

On the ‘Problem of Evil revisited’ thread, Kantian Naturalist says:

And I’ve become increasingly disgusted by the Islamophobia of “the New Atheists” — especially the odious Bill Maher, who has become their spokesperson in the US media. I think that people who rightly reject the fascist tendencies of contemporary Abrahamic religiosity (whether in the guise of Marco Rubio, Benjamin Netanyahu, or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) are rarely aware of how fascistic their own atheism sounds.

Patrick responds:

I don’t watch Maher regularly, but I often enjoy him when I do. What has he said that demonstrates Islamophobia? (And what does Islamophobia mean? Being phobic of the jihadists seems sensible to me.)

 

 

The New Atheists are regularly accused of Islamophobia, and I know it isn’t intended as a compliment, but I would echo Patrick’s questions. What exactly are they being accused of, and what have they said that qualifies? Please provide specific quotes.

The New Atheists aren’t perfect, and I am quite open to the possibility that some of them have said  things that qualify as ‘Islamophobic’.  However, I’d like to see specific examples along with a definition of ‘Islamophobia’ under which they qualify.

Though these questions are motivated by KN’s claim, all are welcome to answer them.

147 thoughts on “What is Islamophobia, and are the New Atheists guilty of it?

  1. hotshoe_: It certainly doesn’t mean that any sane person is actually afraid to be a police officer in some area of London because of “Muslims”. It might make sense, if they’re afraid, to say they’re afraid of “jihadists” or “angry people suspected of having weapons” or “gangs of young men” or “motivated mobs of marginalized immigrants” – any/all of which might be true. They may have genuine fears about losing the law-and-order battle in some neighborhoods, but the answer is not to condemn millions of people for incidental characteristics (being Muslim, or being of SE Asian descent, etc.)

    Ghettos are a big problem wherever they exist. So the problem of immigration is not the ethnicity of the immigrants, but the fact that they will wind up in ghettos.

  2. Richardthughes:
    keiths,
    Whilst my dislike of trump is great, my dislike of “no platforming” is greater.

    How is all [fill in the blank] think alike different from all Muslims [fill in the blank].

    Tribalism sucks, even when the enemy is republicans.

  3. petrushka: Ghettos are a big problem wherever they exist. So the problem of immigration is not the ethnicity of the immigrants, but the fact that they will wind up in ghettos.

    Yes.

  4. I don’t read much from the militant atheists. Frankly, I find them a little boring, and often very pompous. But, speaking of Islamophobia and pomposity, our friend KairosFocus over at UD certainly meets the definition of Islamophobic.

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/off-topic/developing-news-san-bernardino-incident-may-be-lone-wolf-independent-razzia-assassin-cult-islamist-terrorism/#comment-591721

    KairosFocus:
    1: Control access, and monitor it — preferably vid feed that can be patched through to SWAT support.

    2: The gate should be barred, and there should be security control, with sufficient fencing or walls.

    3: Parking lots should be monitored with access for security points in sufficient cross-fire to provide enfilade.

    4: Building access and corridors as well as entrances to bathrooms, stairs, elevators etc should be monitored and there should be ways to block and/or defend access.

    5: Large halls should be access controlled with defensive points. There should be several emergency exits so rapid evacuation can be done.

    I only pasted the first five in his list of 18. They get worse from here. And then a few comments later, he comes up this completely off-topic (I hope) comment.

    PS: Whether by parliaments or courts, we don’t get to define marriage, which is locked to our biology of reproduction and child nurture needs. The presumption that we can say a few magic words and contemptuously sweep away something embedded in creation order is a pretty good indicator of how deeply delusional, endarkened, clouded, benumbed, bewitched and reprobate in mind and heart we have collectively become. Our march of folly on this as on so many other matters, will end over the cliff.

  5. Rich,

    Whilst my dislike of trump is great, my dislike of “no platforming” is greater.

    Mine, too. I don’t think Trump should be banned from the UK, but it is amusing that he’s being given a taste of his own medicine.

  6. keiths:

    Right, and Harris’s entire point in raising the scenario is to emphasize the importance of avoiding it. The idea that he’s an Islamophobe advocating the nuking of Muslims is ludicrous.

    walto:

    What I find to be a really astonishing coincidence is that everyone who has ever disagreed with keiths about anything has always made claims that are not only “false” but also “ridiculous” and “ludicrous.”

    I’ve shown that your accusation against Harris is ludicrous. Do you have a counterargument?

    (This time, make it something more sophisticated than “Suck it, keiths”, please.)

  7. That’s a pretty underwhelming “counterargument”, walto.

    Is there anyone else here who agrees with walto’s claim about Harris? If so, can you provide the counterargument that walto lacks?

  8. Acartia: we don’t get to define marriage, which is locked to our biology of reproduction and child nurture needs. The presumption that we can say a few magic words and contemptuously sweep away something embedded in creation …

    To hell with him.

    I’ve done marriage by his definition. I’ve done my duty to creation with children.

    If I want to get married to someone same-sex as me, then KF better be prepared to prove that “locked in our biology” has any ethical or logical reason to apply to those who can’t/won’t be having any (more) children — which of course he can’t, because his church has always allowed the sacrament of marriage to people know to be too old to spawn, and quite rightly so have secular governments. No marriage license ever contains the words “we swear to have children to the best of our ability”. He just wants the benefits of marriage for the childless as long as they happen to be members of his particular sect – by which I mean the cumulative sect of all crazy theists who think their god sanctifies secular, legal, marriages.

    Goddamned dominionists. Forget putting the billion Muslims under surveillance or lock and key. The real threats to democracy and happiness are people like KN

  9. hotshoe:

    The real threats to democracy and happiness are people like KN

    I think you meant KF. 🙂

  10. keiths,

    The real threats to democracy and happiness are people like KN

    I think you meant KF. 🙂

    Philosophers will be the death of us.

  11. Patrick:

    keiths,

    [hotshoe wrote:] The real threats to democracy and happiness are people like KN

    I think you meant KF.

    Philosophers will be the death of us.

    Ugh, don’t I feel dumb. Can’t fix it now.

    Sorry, Kantian Naturalist, for careless typo associating your nym with that of … he who shall not be named. 🙁

  12. hotshoe_,

    You won’t get an argument from me. But KF (that is with an “F”, not an “N”) has demonstrated in a single thread that he is both Islamiphobic and homophobic. I wonder if he suffers from any other “phobics”. Maybe grammaraphobic. Or logicaphobic. Of sanityaphobic. Or concisaphobic.

  13. Acartia: I wonder if he suffers from any other “phobics”. Maybe grammaraphobic. Or logicaphobic. Of sanityaphobic. Or concisaphobic.

    Epistemophobia — a fear of knowledge.

  14. petrushka,

    I once had a fully pulled hunting bow aimed at me from an apartment window while i was walking home from work. I suppose someone thought it was funny.

    A member of an armed hunting party in Corsica once levelled his weapon at my car, or so I perceived. It’s a scream.

  15. petrushka,

    For the record, there are working cops in London who agree with Trump, at least on the narrow issue of whether the police are afraid to go into certain areas.

    To the extent that may be true (I’m dubious, but concede there are bound to be some areas where the job of being-a-policeman is tougher than others), it has absolutely nothing to do with Islam. Jihadis don’t menace cops. They stay well under the radar. Trump (and others besides) has conflated 2 independent issues.

  16. Allan Miller:
    petrushka,
    A member of an armed hunting party in Corsica once levelled his weapon at my car, or so I perceived. It’s a scream.

    I perceived a guy about twenty feet away. I do not wish to derail a thread, but ghettos have deep and difficult problems. I was living in one as an outsider. It was a very nice ghetto, but I was simply at wrong place at the wrong time.

    But how do you as a government or as a policy maker, deal with self-imposed ghettoization?

  17. petrushka,

    Ghettos are a big problem wherever they exist. So the problem of immigration is not the ethnicity of the immigrants, but the fact that they will wind up in ghettos.

    The associations of the word ‘ghetto’ may differ across the pond, and not all ghettoes are equal. Predominately Muslim neighbourhoods are correlated with lower crime, typically, particularly when adjusted for social factors. Although stats tend to be broken down on ‘Black/Asian’ ethnic lines rather than religiosity per se.

  18. petrushka,

    But how do you as a government or as a policy maker, deal with self-imposed ghettoization?

    I freely admit I don’t know. The various areas of Belfast and Londonderry/Derry can be seen as ‘white ghettoes’, and their problems will rumble on indefinitely. You obviously can’t forcibly move people to live in alternate addresses based on religion. But you can foster goodwill and, I think, a begins-at-home way is avoid and deprecate demonisation of ‘the others’.

  19. petrushka,

    I’m kind of interested in what Harris may have said, and whether published accounts are what he actually said.

    Salon has recently published a disclaimer:

    This was mostly an email correspondence, not a traditional interview, so remarks were edited throughout.

    http://www.salon.com/2015/11/25/harris_and_illing_correspondence/

    It’s an egregious example of journalistic malpractice.

    Harris writes:

    However, in response to the repeated requests of one Salon writer, Sean Illing, I decided to make an exception. I agreed to do an interview with Illing under two conditions: 1) I would get final approval of all the words attributed to me; 2) I could say whatever I wanted about Salon. These conditions were agreed to, and I spent several hours producing the following exchange by phone and email.

    In the end, Salon published a bowdlerized version of my interview, cutting out the parts that were critical of the website.

    Follow the Harris link if you want to read the criticism that Salon redacted.

  20. petrushka,

    I perceived a guy about twenty feet away.

    Yes, I’m pretty sure I saw what I saw too! But there is a little more room for doubt in my case.

  21. Allan Miller: The associations of the word ‘ghetto’ may differ across the pond,

    I do not associate anything with ghetto except a community of ethnically sorted people. New York has many ghettos. My kids have lived in some in which they were not entirely welcome.

    Ghettos can be the result of external policies or social pressure, or they can be self-imposed. communities of people who do not speak the surrounding language. I’ve been to restaurants in New York where no one spoke English.

    I think the problem with Muslims is that there are a couple of well financed organizations in the world who are attempting to prevent Muslims from fitting in and assimilating. Their actions — terrorism and such — are designed to isolate Muslims from non-Muslims.

    Donald trump may be an asshole, but he is not the leader of this movement. Radical Muslims are doing this, and at the moment it’s working. I see evidence that nonviolent Muslims are organizing to fight this. I wish them luck.

  22. keiths:
    petrushka,

    It’s an egregious example of journalistic malpractice.

    Harris writes:

    Follow the Harris link if you want to read the criticism that Salon redacted.

    Wow. The terrible thing is that this doesn’t surprise me.

  23. petrushka,

    I think the problem with Muslims is that there are a couple of well financed organizations in the world who are attempting to prevent Muslims from fitting in and assimilating. Their actions — terrorism and such — are designed to isolate Muslims from non-Muslims.

    There is something of a feedback loop. People naturally tend to congregate ethnically, without any help from shadowy organisations. But both groups sense the others as ‘other’, which makes violence or repression against the other less distasteful. This escalatates into backlash and further tension.

    Personally, I’m not so sure that the ‘design’ of the terrorist is generally to divide at the community or even national levels. I’m not sure there is even a huge amount of political intelligence at work. But if one is correct in perceiving that groups want to cause tensions – which some acts are explicitly aimed to do, as with the butchering of a soldier in London – it seems we are playing into their hands by obliging.

  24. keiths: Follow the Harris link if you want to read the criticism that Salon redacted.

    The only link I see is the one I posted. The Harris link seems to go to the same Salon article.

  25. Allan Miller: it seems we are playing into their hands by obliging.

    Results from the regional elections here in France seem to suggest you are right. The racist Front National has benefited hugely from the irrational fear generated by the recent Paris terrorist attacks.

  26. Allan Miller: But if one is correct in perceiving that groups want to cause tensions – which some acts are explicitly aimed to do, as with the butchering of a soldier in London – it seems we are playing into their hands by obliging.

    Yes, and I hope it will backfire. but my expectations require generations to fulfill. Unless the internet can speed up the process.

    But what I see is a power struggle within Islam, and when you have a power struggle, those who are ruthless in using force are the early winners.

  27. I would like to see someone take Harris’ points one by one and explain where he goes wrong.

    Either that or grant all the people they disagree with — republicans, capitalists, conservative Christians, climate deniers, anti-vaxers, etc — the same degree of tolerance they wish for Muslims.

  28. petrushka,

    I would like to see someone take Harris’ points one by one and explain where he goes wrong.

    And where he goes “Islamophobic”, and by what definition.

  29. keiths:
    petrushka,
    And where he goes “Islamophobic”, and by what definition.

    Phobia is — by definition (heh) — irrational.

    Fear, on the other hand, can be varying degrees of rational. People can be afraid of flying, afraid of heights, and so forth. Most people are not afraid of riding in cars, but are afraid of lightning, despite quite opposite statistical risks.

    I do not like associating with any religiously conservative people, because I do not like walking on eggs, nor do I want to offend people. It appears that being offended has become an occupation these days, with severe personal and legal penalties being attached to mere words.

    So the desire not to offend people is more than just social anxiety. People can be fired for offending.

    I do not personally give a shit if people are offended by words. I do not wish to socialize with people who are offended by words. this may be a personal shortcoming, but it is not a phobia. I simple get no joy from being in the presence of someone with whom I cannot be honest.

  30. petrushka: Phobia is — by definition (heh) — irrational.

    Fear, on the other hand, can be varying degrees of rational. People can be afraid of flying, afraid of heights, and so forth. Most people are not afraid of riding in cars, but are afraid of lightning, despite quite opposite statistical risks.

    I do not like associating with any religiously conservative people, because I do not like walking on eggs, nor do I want to offend people. It appears that being offended has become an occupation these days, with severe personal and legal penalties being attached to mere words.

    So the desire not to offend people is more than just social anxiety. People can be fired for offending.

    I do not personally give a shit if people are offended by words. I do not wish to socialize with people who are offended by words. this may be a personal shortcoming, but it is not a phobia. I simple get no joy from being in the presence of someone with whom I cannot be honest.

    I am offended by your words.

  31. In Defence Of The New Atheism And Their Occasional Useful Idiots

    Does Dawkins make an arse of himself when he holds forth on the state of science in Islamic countries or goes ape-shit over a small jar of honey? Yes, he does.

    Is Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith, a crass and increasingly reactionary numpty? No question.


    But ….

    Islamic extremism, like Christian fundamentalism, has a life of its own, and it’s evolving as we speak. The New Atheists’ contribution to this debate is to have taken fundamentalists of all stripes at their word and to have suggested that it is not only the particular interpretation of holy books that is problematic but the existence of holy books themselves: that fundamentalism cannot be detached from religion but is an outgrowth (or mutation) of it.

  32. When you get down to the nitty gritty, what people don’t like about the new atheists is the aren’t properly deferential. They are no longer afraid of the world’s Gregorys. And they are increasingly unafraid of the head choppers, the ones who did in Van Gogh and sent Rushdie into hiding.

    The world really needs to get used to secularism and open criticism.

  33. petrushka: When you get down to the nitty gritty, what people don’t like about the new atheists is the aren’t properly deferential.

    No, I think it’s that they are overly general–for effect.

  34. walto:

    petrushka: When you get down to the nitty gritty, what people don’t like about the new atheists is the aren’t properly deferential.

    No, I think it’s that they are overly general–for effect.

    Why not both? Both is good. 🙂

  35. I mentioned New Atheist Horseman(Horsewoman) of the Apocalypse Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

    I have no confirmation or disconfirmation of the following statictical claim, but it might be worth tracking down.

    Asked whether suicide bombing can be justified as a measure to defend Islam, 26 percent of American Muslims age eighteen to twenty-nine said yes. That is one quarter of the adult American Muslims under the age of thirty, and no matter how you count the number of Muslims in America (estimates vary from 2 million to 8 million), that is a lot of people.

    – Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    Somali-born American (formerly Dutch) activist, writer, and politician.

    https://themuslimissue.wordpress.com/islamophobes/

    Where is sociologist Gregory in all of this? This is scholarly question worth pursuing.

  36. stcordova,

    Worth pointing out that 74% don’t. Pew foundation polls reveal an interesting pattern across Muslim nations. Most that are not war-torn exceed this 74%-don’t figure.

    Also worth pointing out that a significant percentage of people in many Western nations support aerial bombing of people with whom they are not at war. There are differences with suicide bombing, but not many. Pointing to the horror of a particular view in a particular culture demands a certain amount of balanced reflection vis a vis widespread attitudes in one’s own.

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