I've been noticing a disturbing trend lately, in which otherwise progressive people feel free (hell, feel seemingly compelled) to be anti-Islamic in the name of some other ideal (current ideal du jour: free speech). That the left has it's own problems with racism and bigotry is nothing new, but this particular form has been popping up quite a bit in places I normally wouldn't expect it. As one example, take this racist claptrap, written by Jeffrey Tayler and published on what is supposed to be at least a liberal, if not terribly progressive, website. While I'm deconstructing this one singular bigoted rant, it's pretty par for the course for this type of argument, featuring the same augments I've heard from multiple sources, so it serves as a handy stand-in for progressive bigotry in general.
I'll save you the time/aneurysm of actually reading the article by pulling the most offending quotes and responding to them individually. I mean, you can feel free to read the article, but then you may also need to thoroughly scrub your eyeballs, so don't say I didn't warn you. Anyway, all quotes in italics are directly from the piece in question.
"From a rationalist’s perspective, any ideology that mandates belief
without evidence is a priori dangerous and liable to abuse."
Remember this point, because we're going to be coming back to it quite a bit. Because this really underscores all of the logical problems with Tayler's (and other's) argument. Essentially, religion is bad because it is not based on empirical evidence. That's a fine argument, if not one I agree with. However, in arguing against the non-science of religion, this guy fails to give any actual evidence of his own. Instead, we're left to take his arguments on…well, faith.
"Europe’s colonial past and the United States’ current (endless) military
campaigns in the Islamic world, as well as prejudice against nonwhites
in Europe, have predisposed many to see, with some justification,
Muslims as victims."
Yeah, some justification. Sure, our decades of indiscriminate slaughter of innocent people might have had something to do with the anger found in parts of the Muslim world, but only a little bit. But the real reason for this violence is that they're actually just all backward savages, and it's insane that you'd call him intolerant simply for pointing out the obvious truth that they're savages! So I guess he needs none of that evidence he criticizes religion for not having, because the point that following Islam makes one a savage is apparently just a given fact.
"All those who, à la Reza Aslan, maintain that Muslims today do not
necessarily read the Quran literally have lost the argument before it
begins. What counts is that there are those (ISIS, say, and al-Qaida)
who do, and they are taking action based on their beliefs. To
the contention, “ISIS and al-Qaida don’t represent Islam!” the proper
response is, “that’s what you say. They disagree.” No single
recognized Muslim clerical body exists to refute them."
Ah, the old canard that a sufficient amount of Muslims have not yet denounced the violence done by extremists, so that means they obviously approve of said extremists (of course, folks like this never actually specify what percentage or total number of Muslims have to condemn these actions. Because thousands have, but that's apparently not yet enough).
But the bigger problem is that this logic is so patently absurd you really have to take it…on faith. For instance, this same logic would have to hold that Jodi Foster is responsible for the assassination attempt on President Reagan. "That's insane!" you might say, dear hypothetical reader. "Hinckley was obviously a nut! Just because he said he was doing it for Foster doesn't mean she was in any way involved." And sure, that would be a pretty reasonable reaction. But according to Tayler's logic, the proper response to any argument that Foster is not responsible for the assassination attempt on Reagan is "That's what you say. Hinckley disagrees. After all, there is no single recognized authority on assassination motivation to refute him."
Or to bring the example closer to home, George W. Bush invoked Christianity and the name of Christ constantly while launching attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan. So, again, according to Tayler's logic, that means these wars represent all of Christianity. And since there's no single recognized Christian clerical body in existence to refute that fact, this means the War on Terror is inarguably a Christian crusade, full stop. That might surprise some folks. Like say, Pope John Paul II who notably condemned the war as illegal and immoral.
"When “holy” books and their dogmas dominate, societies suffer. Whatever
Islam did for scholarship in the Middle Ages, the dearth of top-quality
institutions of higher education in Muslim countries today stems at
least partly from the reverence accorded to, and time spent studying,
Islam and its canon. Says a respected report, the highest-ranking university in the world within the Dar al-Islam occupies the 225th spot."
Yeah, sure, inventing math was fine, but what have you done for us lately?!? Here's where I have to diverge from talking about all Muslims and focus on the one Muslim-majority nation I have some expertise on. Having spent a lot of time in Iraq and years studying the nation, it's history, politics, culture, etc., I can speak with some authority on the subject.
Iraq used to have an amazing education system, with an incredibly educated society. In fact, UNESCO points out it was one of the most educated societies in the world. But you'll notice I say "was" because for some reason, Iraq's education system really started to go down hill in the early 90s, and then fell completely apart around 2003. I wonder what was happening during this period. They must have all just discovered Islam, since that's the reason their education system isn't any good, right? Wait, but Islam preceded this fall in education by generations. Actually, by centuries.
But how can that be? That almost seems to imply Islam is not responsible for this decline. So what could it be? Could it be something to do with the US-imposed sanctions and subsequent illegal invasion? Surely not, for Tayler already explained how Western imperialism has nothing to do with this. And, again, we just have to accept that on faith, since he provides no empirical evidence for this argument in any way. Wait, where have I heard someone denouncing that very idea?
Also, and this probably goes without saying but I still feel the need to point it out: "white people ranked everyone and white people came out on top" is not a super convincing argument.
"Islam’s doctrinaire positions on women are infamous enough to merit no
repetition here. Their sum effect is to render women chattel to men, as
sex objects and progenitors of offspring, and foster the most
misogynistic conditions on the planet: nineteen of twenty of the worst
countries for women, according to the World Economic Forum,
are Muslim-majority. Some Muslim countries are deemed more progressive
than others, but their progressivity varies inversely with the extent
to which Islam permeates their legal codes and customary laws – the
less, the better. Not liberal at all, that."
And of course! Can't have a bigoted article about Islam without concern about teh wimminz! Again, I might note that Iraq has more female politicians in office than America. Not just a higher percentage, but a higher raw number, even though the US has roughly 310 million citizens, compared to roughly 36 million Iraqis. Apparently Iraq is oppressing women by making them write laws and influence the direction of their nation, while the US protects women by not making them work in the government.
Or I might point you to this article about how the status of Iraqi women has worsened dramatically since the secular, brilliant America decided to intervene. But then that article was written by a Muslim, so we should probably not even bother reading it.
"The rising number of ethnically Europeans mesmerized by Islam who set off to enroll in the ranks of ISIS
attests to this; and may prefigure serious disruptions, especially in
France, the homeland of a good number of them, once they start
"Hey everyone, there's a terrible future of death and totalitarianism on the horizon! Even real human beings (e.g. Europeans!) are being seduced by this terrible force!" Is there any empirical evidence at all to support this point? No? Oh, guess I'll just have to accept it...on faith. You know, for someone who says religion is backward because it requires you to believe with no proof, this fella sure wants you to believe a lot of stuff he says without offering any proof. It's almost as if he's holding Islam to a different standard.
"This is no call to disrespect Muslims as people, but we should not
hesitate to speak frankly about the aspects of their faith we find
Yeah, it's totally not a call to disrespect Muslims. It's just a call to tell them that everything they believe is wrong, everything they do is bad, and that they need to either change to his way of life or be wiped out. Gee, where have I heard that perspective disparaged before?
"We must stop traducing reason by branding people “Islamophobes,” and
start celebrating our secularism, remembering that only it offers true
freedom for the religious and non-religious alike."
"There is only one way! All who don't believe as I do are a dangerous threat that must be wiped out!"
I mean, seriously, dude actually says "only it offers true freedom." Like…I can't even parody that. He's denouncing what he sees as totalitarianism by saying that only he is correct and that only his ideas are valid and must be followed by everyone. It's times like this I wish irony wasn't dead, because this sure as shit seems pretty ironic to me.
Bu the bigger point of all of this is that this bigoted drivel is written in response to two attacks by four people that killed eleven people total.
Now, I'm of the perspective that any deaths are far too many. But unlike Tayler and others of his brand of special progressive bigotry, I also understand that context exists. And the context of those two attacks are that they come after a decade-plus rampage of the West throughout the Middle East, which has featured thousands of attacks which have killed hundreds of thousands of people. Echoing Paul Pierce, at a certain point you've just got to call "game."
Because only if you remove all context of world politics and the two-plus wars which have been going on for well over a decade can you somehow say that two violent acts perpetrated by four people are somehow emblematic of the roughly 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. Not to mention that at the same time you can somehow ignore the regularity of hate crimes perpetrated against Muslims here in the US. Or, you know, somehow separate the literally tens of thousands of Muslims slaughtered by the US from representing all Americans, or white people, or Christians, or whomever you'd like to attach random acts to in an attempt to smear them.
Really, I shouldn't be surprised by such bigotry. But it's the gall that gets me. Tens of thousands of murders of innocent people perpetuated in your name? Well, that's a complex issue and can't be said to reflect any single cause. A small handful of murders perpetuated in the name of foreign Brown people? These clearly represent everything about those people, and we must destroy their way of life before it destroys ours. But remember, calling that logic Islamophobic is to traduce the very concept of reason!