I was disappointed, and for some reason even a little surprised, to read Jerry Coyne’s response, Islamophobia again, to my recent post and see that he chose not to deal with the key points I raised. In fact, he merely repeated his own arguments as if my own rebuttal of them was nowhere on record. What was most disappointing was his upfront declaration that he had no interest in engaging with contrary views, even referring readers to a Christopher Hitchens quotation expressing disdain for any opinions but his own and inviting anyone who wishes to challenge those opinions to kiss his arse.
So there is clearly no interest on Jerry’s side to seriously debate the issue. His mind is made up and has no room for anything new when it comes to the question of Islam.
Much of his post is elaborating on the recent events in Bangladesh. At least a hundred thousand demonstrators (estimates vary between 100,000 and 500,000 in the news sources) have come out into the streets calling for the deaths of atheist bloggers. That is how the news has been filtered into the Western media and that’s all there is to the story as far as Jerry and others are concerned. Presumably anyone who has any further information that might change that view of theirs will be invited to kiss Jerry’s arse.
This blog is all about sharing information and inviting readers to look deeper behind what is most commonly presented to the public. Concerning what is going on in Bangladesh, I really did expect intelligent and thoughtful sceptics to be a little more astute and diligent with checking sources before swallowing what they see on mainstream TV news.
So at the end of this post I will present a few facts — facts easily obtainable by anyone with unfettered access to the internet — that Jerry and others presumably do not think are relevant.
Can you imagine Catholics, for example, rallying by the hundreds of thousands to call for the death of anti-Catholic bloggers? Or murdering them?
Not in this day and age, no. But I do know of some ugly moments in history . . . And that’s Jerry’s problem here. He has assumed a situation in Bangladesh needs absolutely no reference to history there, or to the different religious groups and political roles they have played in recent decades and months, is validly comparable to a Catholic area in the United States. This is the danger of people not knowing or understanding, or not even being interested in understanding, another people on their own terms. Now Jerry has quickly added that what is happening in Bangladesh has nothing to do with colonialism or politics because the demonstrators are clearly saying “Death to the atheist bloggers” in the name of Islam.
That’s it. End of story. Kiss his arse if you want to actually understand some context and background to what has brought those demonstrators out to the streets with those cries, or suggest that this is worth a serious comparison with how Catholics in twenty-first-century America behave.
Jerry completely avoids my argument when he repeats this nonsense:
I still can’t quite understand why it’s sort of okay for atheists to level strong criticisms at other religions (Sam, after all, wrote Letter to a Christian Nation, and I spent an entire week on this site documenting the immorality of the Catholic Church [e.g., here and here]), so long as that religion is not Islam. We’re not accused of Catholicphobia or Baptistphobia, but only Islamophobia. I think this reflects a double standard, for such accusations hold Muslims to lower standards
Rubbish. I have criticized Islam. (Not often, I admit, because my experience is mostly with Christianity.) I have no problems with anyone, not even Muslims, criticizing Islam. There is a lot to criticize, especially given that they have not had the history of Reformations (plural) and Enlightenment challenges that Christianity has experienced. They have a lot of catching up to do.
From time to time since starting this blog I have had a few Muslims (not all!) take great offence at some of my comments or posts. Jerry did not notice or understand my explicit comparison of the sorts of criticisms that are leveled against other religions and those that are lately leveled against Muslims by our leading lights of new Atheism.
He then reprises the accusations he says he regularly hears against new Atheism and its association with Islamophobia. I don’t know if he really hears all of these arguments, because his first point, “it’s racism”, fails to grasp what is actually being said about Islamophobia. Islamophobia is not racism in the normal sense of the word, but it does take negative racist stereotypes and imputes them into a whole religion, and inevitably that implies all adherents of that religion. That’s a neat way of enabling one to claim the odd Muslim (or Jew or black man) that one knows really is a nice person without detracting from the general collective demonization or dehumanization.
Is this dehumanization?
When anyone imputes to other groups the potential to act in a way that is not normally ‘human’ — e.g. on the mere say-so of an authority, and for no other reason or unusual conditioning, go out and kill others; or believe that parents en masse threatened to kill their children in order to gain entrance into a first world country (we once had a Prime Minister here who had much/most of the nation believing just this about some Muslim refugees!) — then one is dehumanizing them.
Jerry also says his critics argue that Islam is no worse than any other religion. I don’t know what others say, but there is no doubt Islam has some major problems that are not faced by Christianity today, and that has to do with history as mentioned above. But let’s stop using abstractions for people. Let’s talk about adherents of religions. That’s where the conflict and any future solution lies. It’s the adherents who define the religion in real terms. And critics of Islam need to know a lot more about Islamic populations than they glean from mainstream media soundbites.
And Jerry misses the point completely about the question of “not all Muslims being violent”. Jerry is not listening — he tells people to take a ticket and go and . . . . — so he keeps repeating the same old the same old the same old. I don’t know how I could have made the point any clearer in my previous post but (or therefore?) he ignores the real argument completely.
Bangladeshi Demonstrators Calling for the Deaths of Atheist Bloggers
No doubt anyone with his or her mind made up will only find in what follows validation for their Islamophobia. But for others . . . .
There has been vociferous debate between staunch atheists and fundamentalists in Bangladesh’s social media for years, but it took a deadly turn in February when an anti-Islam blogger was murdered.
Interesting. So it appears that Muslims had been fiercely debating with atheists “for years” without calling for their deaths. Why wait so long if they are motivated only by a desire to carry out the commands of their faith and kill atheist critics?
Then there’s this curious line at the end of the article:
Two Jamaat leaders have already been convicted by the tribunal, which critics accuse of fabricating charges as part of a government bid to settle political scores, rather than to deliver justice.
What’s going on there? Is religion the whole story after all as Jerry and others suggest? Political scores to be settled?
Then we have an Indian news release, PTI:
The Islamists, under the banner of newly emerged ‘Hafazat-e-Islam’, also called for a nationwide general strike on April 8 and issued a one month deadline for the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government for accepting their 13-point demand. They threatened that if the demands are not met, they would lay a siege to capital on May 5. The demands included enactment of an anti-blasphemy law and arrest of five prominent people they called “atheist” . . . .
Woah, here, so there is a bit more to the demonstrations than a single demand for executing atheist bloggers. How many in the West are aware of this? But what’s this Hafazat-e-Islam?
A Bangladeshi news correspondent wrote the following:
Hafazat-e-Islam . . . demanded punishment of some bloggers tied to the movement in Shabagh, branding them ‘atheists’. The bloggers have denied the allegation and said their protest in Shahbgah is to demand executions for war crimes and a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami for its role in 1971 against creation of Bangladesh as an independent nation.
The radical platform it claimed as non-political also proposes ground breaking changes to the country’s constitution by adding some provisions that could distort the largely secular highest law of the land. But many think the group is backed by Jamaat-e-Islami.
Now it’s getting more complex still. The bloggers deny what the demonstrators are accusing them of? They believe the real reason for the demonstrations has something to do with trials over war crimes dating back to Bangladesh’s war for independence? (I once saw something about some horrific crimes back then — I could not stomach to review them now.) The demonstrators want more broad political changes but “many think the group is backed by Jamaat-e-Islami? Who or what are they?
Jamaat-e-Islami are NOT your ordinary everyday Muslims. They are a political party that is campaigning for an establishment of Sharia law. Jamaat-e-Islami fought against their fellow Bangladeshis in that nation’s war for independence from Pakistan.
The same news story continues:
The Hefazat-e-Islam was floated two months ago in Chittagong to protest alleged defamation of Islam by bloggers as they were waging a campaign for toughest punishment for the 1971 war crimes accused, mostly belonging to fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami which was opposed Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan.
So the bloggers were not simply (allegedly) defaming Islam; they were “waging a campaign for toughest punishment for the 1971 war crimes accused”?
And the Jamaat-e-Islami were opposed to Bangladesh’s bloody struggle for independence from Pakistan. Now there are war crimes trials against Jamaat-e-Islami leaders — against those considered traitors to Bangladesh. That’s what the atheist bloggers were mixed up with?
The story is no longer sounding so simple, is it?
I imagine anyone tilting an eyebrow the wrong way at a Jamaat-e-Islami teaching would be accused of defaming Islam — JI is not, as I said, your everyday Muslim. Their history is tied up with war crimes and siding with the enemy in Bangladesh’s war for independence.
Can we start to put two and two together now?
Remember above that things took a turn for the worse in February this year with the murder of an atheist blogger. Who was he? What was that all about? Why had it all been merely verbal jousting for years until then?
Here’s a report from D. L. Chandler:
Since February, 70 persons have been killed after a prominent Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami (also known as Jamaat) leader was sentenced to death. Blogger Ahmed Rajib Haider was reportedly killed by Jamaat group members and supporters for protesting the Islamic group.
So! A prominent Jamaat-e-Islami leader was sentenced to life in prison for war crimes? All had been quiet (well, nothing but arguing) until then. Many — including the “atheist bloggers” — considered the sentence to be too lenient given the atrocities committed and demanded execution. Only after then do the masses of Jamaat-e-Islami supporters come out to demand death for atheist bloggers who, it appears, were arguing for tougher penalties for Jamaat-e-Islami war criminals. They seem to have had some success one one was sentenced to death. That provoked a Jamaat-e-Islami reaction. A Jamaat-e-Islami mob then murdered one of those atheist bloggers.
The article linked in the above paragraph further explains that police brutality has been exacerbating the violent mood of the crowd. Things are a mess there.
It is surely clear the issue of atheism is an excuse, a cover. The real issue here is a political struggle between anti-Jamaat-e-Islami forces and Jamaat-e-Islami war criminals.
Jamaat-e-Islami leaders are under trial for war crimes committed during the country’s 1971 independence battle. Bloggers, who have long said they are not atheists, have demanded capital punishment for any members found guilty of the committing crimes during the war which claimed over three million lives.
Are they atheists or not? If not, why are they supposedly accused of being atheists?
DW.DE sums it all up, it seems:
War crimes trials fuel tensions
Tensions have soared between Islamist and secular groups in Bangladesh, since the government put leading members of the country’s main Islamist party – Jamaat-e-Islami – on trial for war crimes. The party opposed Bangladesh’s 1971 war of independence against Pakistan, which took some 3 million lives.
Last February, thousands rallied in the capital, demanding the death penalty for the suspected war criminals. Jamaat-e-Islami vice president Delawar Hossai Sayedee was sentenced to death on February 28 for murder, rape, looting and forcible conversion of Hindus to Islam during the independence war. At least 95 people were killed in unrest following Sayedee’s conviction and sentencing.
No, I cannot imagine thousands of Roman Catholics in the United States doing what extremist Jamaat-e-Islami supporters, in the wake of a war that still holds bitter memories and ruined lives, in one of the poorest countries on earth, are doing.
The news reports one uncovers from a web search make it clear that:
- Jamaat-e-Islami supporters (NOT your average Muslims!) were arguing with atheist bloggers for years without violence. And the arguments appear to have been about something much more than atheism — quite likely they had nothing to do with atheism or attacks on Islam per se. Attacks on the extremism of Jamaat-e-Islami and memories of war crimes, now that’s another possibility that’s also apparently quite likely.
- Violence against the bloggers only erupted after a leading Jamaat-e-Islami war criminal was sentenced to death. That speaks volumes about the real reasons. And then the same old script with which we are all only too familiar kicks in: religious motivation kicks in as the cover for the real motive which is revenge, or payback for the death sentence pronounced on the Jamaat-e-Islami leader.
There is more detail on Al Jazeera (the bloggers apparently even deny they are atheists, and if so, we can see once again the unreality, the smokescreen, that the righteous cries for Jamaat-e-Islami’s political-religious movement really are):
But to western news media and some of their audience, all Muslims look alike. Media would have done their audiences a better service had they described the demonstrators as Jamaat-e-Islami rather than generic Muslims, but that’s how the world seems to work, unfortunately.
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