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. A reminder of what I’m asking for in the OP:

    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.

    To reiterate, I’m looking for

    1) your personal definition of “Islamophobia”; and
    2) verbatim quotes from New Atheists that exemplify Islamophobia under your definition.

  2. I was using it in the sense of Def. 2 here:

    Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003
    regime (reɪˈʒiːm) or régime
    n
    1. (Government, Politics & Diplomacy) a system of government or a particular administration: a fascist regime; the regime of Fidel Castro.
    2. (Sociology) a social system or order

    Obviously, a nuts leader with any (or no particular) ideology could drop a nuclear bomb on some other country for lots of cuckoo reasons. That’s why the world has been worried about N. Korea, for example. But that’s not what Harris is talking about there. He’s concerned about a worldview that he believes infects a whole lot of Muslims.

    I’m not saying he shouldn’t be concerned. I am concerned too. But I’m not thinking that a first strike might be the most sensible response to that concern. He is.

  3. keiths:
    A reminder of what I’m asking for in the OP:

    To reiterate, I’m looking for

    1) your personal definition of “Islamophobia”; and
    2) verbatim quotes from New Atheists that exemplify Islamophobia under your definition.

    Sorry,

  4. I think everyone is being misled by failing to see the difference between people as individuals and people as members of a group. This particularly important when the group is a tribe or a mob, and when the group applies penalties to non-conformity.

    To convince ordinary non-Muslims that Muslims are individuals not supporting ISIS and ISIS like policies, we need to see strong evidence. Instead, what we see is reformers heckled and threatened. We see dissenting authors living entire lives in hiding. We see polls indicating that it is typical for Muslims to support strong punishment for apostasy, even death.

    This really isn’t compatible with a secular society.

  5. To reiterate, I’m looking for

    1) your personal definition of “Islamophobia”; and
    2) verbatim quotes from New Atheists that exemplify Islamophobia under your definition.

    1. Irrational fear of Islam is Islamophobia. I think there is fear. Aayan Ali having fear after having her name on a death treat on the body of her murdered friend hardly qualifies as an irrational fear.

    Whether the terrorists groups are an extreme subset of Islam, whether it is non-representative of Islam, doesn’t make the inference irrational. I could go to a bad neighborhood and not be mugged most days. Being mugged isn’t representative of what will happen every day, but I still might choose to avoid the neighborhood because of the fact of non-representative daily events in the neighborhood none the less. The fear of an entire group as a heuristic is therefore not irrational, even though it really proceeds from the extreme behaviors of a group, maybe not the typical sample.

    But note, this does not imply I’m saying we treat Muslims with blanket injustice. We can do the right thing, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have the right to fear that we’ll pay the price for doing the right thing because some of them don’t play by the same rules of a civilized society. The USA provided food and shelter through the welfare system to the family of the Boston Bombers before they committed their acts, for example.

    2. I don’t have examples of any note that display “phobia” but it does seem there are examples that display reasonably rational fear.

  6. newton,

    Sorry,

    Oh, I wasn’t scolding you. Every thread has its digressions.

    I was just reminding readers of what I was looking for, so that anyone who perceives Islamophobia in the writing of the New Atheists will weigh in.

  7. walto,

    I was using it in the sense of Def. 2 here:

    Harris wasn’t. He was clearly using ‘regime’ to refer to an authoritarian government:

    What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry?

    Your preferred definition doesn’t make sense in that context. The people don’t launch nukes; the government does.

    Obviously, a nuts leader with any (or no particular) ideology could drop a nuclear bomb on some other country for lots of cuckoo reasons. That’s why the world has been worried about N. Korea, for example. But that’s not what Harris is talking about there.

    Yes, it is. See above.

    He’s concerned about a worldview that he believes infects a whole lot of Muslims.

    That’s right, and he’s especially concerned about what will happen if that worldview infects someone with his or her finger on the nuke button.

    I’m not saying he shouldn’t be concerned. I am concerned too. But I’m not thinking that a first strike might be the most sensible response to that concern. He is.

    No, he isn’t. You’re making shit up again. What is it with you and false accusations, walto?

    We all have that concern right now. Is Harris calling upon President Obama to launch the nukes as a “sensible response to that concern”? Of course not. Your accusation is ridiculous.

  8. Harris writes,

    It should be of particular concern to us that the beliefs of Muslims pose a special problem for nuclear deterrence. There is little possibility of our having a cold war with an Islamist regime armed with long-range nuclear weapons. A cold war requires that the parties be mutually deterred by the threat of death. Notions of martyrdom and jihad run roughshod over the logic that allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to pass half a century perched, more or less stably, on the brink of Armageddon. What will we do if an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise, ever acquires long-range nuclear weaponry? If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own.

    I can’t help it if you can’t understand what your guru is saying there, keiths. I note that you’re a lot like him, though (in the sense of being a dickish know-it-all, I mean.)

    Anyhow, I know there’s not much point in trying to discuss anything with you, so I’ll just say that, as usual, you are completely full of shit.

    Oh, and suck it, keiths.

  9. KN,

    OK, I’ll eat crow on this one: he [Harris] said that anyone who looks Muslim should be profiled in security screenings in airports. I still think that’s an implicitly racist remark, since he ignores that there are black Muslims, white Muslims, Asian Muslims, etc.

    He doesn’t ignore it. He addresses it explicitly:

    Although I don’t think I look like a jihadi, or like a man pretending not to be one, I do not mean to suggest that a person like me should be exempt from scrutiny…

    And, again, I wouldn’t put someone who looks like me entirely outside the bull’s-eye (after all, what would Adam Gadahn look like if he cleaned himself up?)

  10. walto,

    I can’t help it if you can’t understand what your guru is saying there, keiths.

    He’s not my guru, and I do understand what he’s saying. You’ll notice that his concern is that a “an Islamist regime, which grows dewy-eyed at the mere mention of paradise” might acquire long-range nuclear weapons, and in that scenario — not now, but in that scenario — “the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own.”

    I also notice that you chose a rather, um, convenient place to truncate your quote.

    Here’s what follows, which of course completely undermines your claim:

    Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe. How would such an unconscionable act of self-defense be perceived by the rest of the Muslim world? It would likely be seen as the first incursion of a genocidal crusade. The horrible irony here is that seeing could make it so: this very perception could plunge us into a state of hot war with any Muslim state that had the capacity to pose a nuclear threat of its own. All of this is perfectly insane, of course: I have just described a plausible scenario in which much of the world’s population could be annihilated on account of religious ideas that belong on the same shelf with Batman, the philosopher’s stone, and unicorns. That it would be a horrible absurdity for so many of us to die for the sake of myth does not mean, however, that it could not happen.

    walto:

    I note that you’re a lot like him, though (in the sense of being a dickish know-it-all, I mean.)

    It’s clear that both of us prick your insecurities and that when you’re feeling insecure, you make stuff up. Your falsehoods are pointed out, you look ridiculous, your insecurity worsens, and the cycle continues until you take a breather and cool down.

  11. KN:

    Because Harris thinks we should kill anyone who looks Muslim.

    walto:

    But I’m not thinking that a [nuclear] first strike might be the most sensible response to that concern. He [Harris] is.

    It’s telling that both of you, in response to your hatred/envy of Harris, resort to absurd and easily refuted claims that he is a genocidal maniac.

    It makes you look ridiculous.

  12. llanitedave,

    Envy?

    Yes, particularly in walto’s case. I think walto envies Harris’s intelligence and eloquence. Labeling Harris a ‘know-it-all’ is a compensatory move on walto’s part, an attempt to take Harris down a notch.

  13. keiths: I think walto envies Harris’s intelligence and eloquence.

    He wouldn’t be alone. I do too. Well, admire, maybe.

  14. Hahaha great stuff. All ad hom of course, but it is a dumb rule.

    Anyhow, keep it coming, keiths–just how much do I envy your hero’s eloquence? And what about his dimples? Or his figure? What would I give to be your hero too?

    ETA: oh, and how insecure am I made by your (wicked acute) criticisms, because I want to replace Harris in your eyes (as all must do)? How much do I notice your concentration on his ‘might’ and your eliding my own?

  15. walto:
    Hahaha great stuff. All ad hom of course, but it is a dumb rule.

    Anyhow, keep it coming, keiths–just how much do I envy your hero’s eloquence? And what about his dimples? Or his figure? What would I give to be your hero too?

    ETA: oh, and how insecure am I made by your (wicked acute) criticisms, because I want to replace Harris in your eyes (as all must do)? How little do I notice your concentration on his ‘might’ and your eliding my own?

    I bet it’s his teeth that you most envy.

    Glen Davidson

  16. walto,

    Double post. All below–but with more…..ooomph!

    It wasn’t a double post, walto. I saw it before you erased the evidence. You complained about ad homs and asked where the moderators were.

    After realizing how pathetic you looked for crying to the moderators — especially after labeling me a ‘dickish know-it-all’ and ‘completely full of shit’ — you went back and erased your comment.

  17. Meanwhile, I’m glad to see Donald Trump’s proposal getting the ridicule it deserves.

    Banning all Muslims from entering the US? Now that’s Islamophobia.

  18. Another brilliant Trump idea:

    “We’re losing a lot of people because of the internet,” Trump said. “We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening.

    “We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some ways. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people.”

  19. Trump’s comments cause much hilarity over in the UK. He‘s the Republican front runner? But then everyone laughed at Bush too. Still laughing, two terms on.

    Mayor of London Boris Johnson (not everyone’s cup of tea himself, but a bit of a wit), observed, in response to Trump’s repetition of the apparently common but mistaken US belief that there are parts of British cities that are ‘no-go’ areas due to Islamic radicalism: “The only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump”.

  20. keiths,

    Another brilliant Trump idea:

    “We’re losing a lot of people because of the internet,” Trump said. “We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening.

    “We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some ways. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people.”

    The Democrat front runner is no better. Here’s what Hillary said this week:

    You’re going to hear all of the usual complaints, you know, freedom of speech, et cetera. But if we truly are in a war against terrorism and we are truly looking for ways to shut off their funding, shut off the flow of foreign fighters, then we’ve got to shut off their means of communicating.

    Neither of these people can honestly take the presidential oath of office to defend the constitution.

  21. keiths:
    walto,

    It wasn’t a double post, walto. I saw it before you erased the evidence. You complained about ad homs and asked where the moderators were.

    After realizing how pathetic you looked for crying to the moderators — especially after labeling me a‘dickish know-it-all’ and ‘completely full of shit’ — you went back and erased your comment.

    Not that it matters, but it was a double post, and I changed the second one, before changing the first one, though not for the silly reasons you attribute in your know-it-all manner, but, as I said, to add oomph.

    Also, (i) all these posts are rule violative and should be moved if the admins cared about the rules, and (ii) you certainly are a dickish know-it-all.

    Suck it, keiths.

  22. keiths:
    llanitedave,

    Yes, particularly in walto’s case. I think walto envies Harris’s intelligence and eloquence. Labeling Harris a ‘know-it-all’ is a compensatory move on walto’s part, an attempt to take Harris down a notch.

    I don’t see a need for that. Having read one of his books and several of his essays, I find myself somewhat less than astounded.

  23. llanitedave:

    I don’t see a need for that.

    Keep in mind the two people we’re comparing.

    Having read one of his books and several of his essays, I find myself somewhat less than astounded.

    I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as ‘astounded’, but Harris is smart and articulate.

  24. To be honest fellas I like you both and I get no pleasure in you disagreeing, but that’s sort of what this place is for. Part of it is a personality miss-match, I think. Like with one’s spouse, it’s a balance of “being right” vs. “is it worth the grief’ – and that’s for us all to decide individually.

    So 2 Hugs.

  25. Richardthughes:
    To be honest fellas I like you both and I get no pleasure in you disagreeing, but that’s sort of what this place is for. Part of it is a personality miss-match, I think. Like with one’s spouse, it’s a balance of “being right” vs. “is it worth the grief’ – and that’s for us all to decide individually.

    So 2 Hugs.

    thx

  26. keiths: I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as ‘astounded’, but Harris is smart and articulate.

    I think it depends on your expectations. Compared to journalists and politicians and pundits, Harris is a genius. I can see why professional philosophers might be underwhelmed.

    Personally, I enjoy seeing and reading “militant” atheists. I have spent my whole life biting my tongue in the presence of friends and relatives. I don’t like conflict. that may not be obvious on the internet, but the internet is the only place I can say approximately what i think without starting a family feud.

  27. Rich,

    Like with one’s spouse, it’s a balance of “being right” vs. “is it worth the grief’ – and that’s for us all to decide individually.

    A skeptical blog on the Internet is waaay different from a marriage.

    Walto made a ridiculous and false accusation against Harris, so I called him on it. He didn’t like that.

  28. Wouldn’t Islamaphobia be the fear of all things Islam? And it seems clear that the way the new atheists act that they fear all religions.

  29. I think political comment that omits possible scenarios because they are painful or offensive is remiss. It appears to me that western countries are already making preemptive counterattacks against ISIS.

    What would happen if ISIS obtained a nuclear weapon is something that military planners are thinking about. There’s no good reason not to discuss it.

    My own opinion — probably optimistic — is that “smart” weapons have reduced the use of ground troops and may have reduced the possibility of nuclear war.

    I will pass on judging whether they are ethical or useful. I tend to think most things governments do are counterproductive. I simply am not smart enough to suggest better things, given what we have to work with.

  30. petrushka,

    What would happen if ISIS obtained a nuclear weapon is something that military planners are thinking about. There’s no good reason not to discuss it.

    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.

  31. I will share something I learned as a family counselor.

    When someone pisses you off, it is more productive to discuss how you feel and what you want, rather than what the other person is doing wrong and why they are bad.

    What I want is what I want. It imposes no obligation on other people. If I say what i want, and if the other person cares, it may influence their behavior. If they don’t care, then eff them. You can’t influence them anyway.

    Hume’s Guillotine is about oughts. I don’t care about oughts. I don’t think morality is a useful or productive activity. We can talk about what I want and about what you want, and we can attempt to reconcile the differences if we both care to do so.

    But if we don’t care, then the alternatives include divorce, separation, lawyers, or pistols at 20 paces. No one will ever win an argument over morality.

  32. Allan,

    Mayor of London Boris Johnson (not everyone’s cup of tea himself, but a bit of a wit), observed, in response to Trump’s repetition of the apparently common but mistaken US belief that there are parts of British cities that are ‘no-go’ areas due to Islamic radicalism: “The only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump”.

    The risk of meeting Trump in the UK may soon be reduced:

    Petition to ban Trump from UK passes 250K, could be debated in Parliament

  33. 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.”

    That’s kind of cool if you really think about it!

  34. 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.”

    That’s kind of cool if you really think about it!

    🙂

  35. 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.

    Hell, every city I’ve lived in has had areas where I would not be safe.

    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.

  36. 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.

    And if that’s true, the ones who agree have political reasons to agree, while the ones who disagree also have (different) political reasons to disagree.

    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.)

    Londoners in particular ought to know better. For generations there have been tough neighborhoods and gang-ridden housing projects which have not been well-policed (or maybe not policed at all) — but they were all white and native-born English. London cops know that. Fear of what danger you might face when you go on patrol has little or nothing to do with whether the people you’re going to encounter happen to be Muslim, or RC, or Prod, or brown, or white — and everything to do with whether they’re criminal and violently inclined.

    Taking them at face value when they agree with Trump is giving way too much respect to the words (Muslim/Paki) they choose to express their bigotry and fear of brown people. They lie about it to get their quotes in the scandal rags like the Daily Mail. And if they do, no rational person should take them seriously.

  37. As Boris Johnson says,”Crime has been falling steadily both in London and in New York — and the only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump”.

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