September 7, 2013
MARK STEYN: BLUNT WORDS ABOUT MUSLIM BACKWARDNESS.
In 2010, the bestselling atheist Richard Dawkins, in the “On Faith” section of the Washington Post, called the pope “a leering old villain in a frock” perfectly suited to “the evil corrupt organization” and “child-raping institution” that is the Catholic Church. Nobody seemed to mind very much.
Three years later, in a throwaway Tweet, Professor Dawkins observed that “all the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.” This time round, the old provocateur managed to get a rise out of folks. Almost every London paper ran at least one story on the “controversy.” The Independent‘s Owen Jones fumed, “How dare you dress your bigotry up as atheism. You are now beyond an embarrassment.” The best-selling author Caitlin Moran sneered, “It’s time someone turned Richard Dawkins off and then on again. Something’s gone weird.” The Daily Telegraph‘s Tom Chivers beseeched him, “Please be quiet, Richard Dawkins, I’m begging.”
It’s factually unarguable: Trinity College graduates have amassed 32 Nobel prizes, the entire Muslim world a mere 10.
None of the above is Muslim. Indeed, they are, to one degree or another, members of the same secular liberal media elite as Professor Dawkins. Yet all felt that, unlike Dawkins’s routine jeers at Christians, his Tweet had gone too far. It’s factually unarguable: Trinity graduates have amassed 32 Nobel prizes, the entire Muslim world a mere 10. If you remove Yasser Arafat, Mohamed ElBaradei, and the other winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, Islam can claim just four laureates against Trinity’s 31 (the college’s only peace-prize recipient was Austen Chamberlain, brother of Neville). Yet simply to make the observation was enough to have the Guardian compare him to the loonier imams and conclude that “we must consign Dawkins to this very same pile of the irrational and the dishonest.” . . .
Even a decade ago, it would have been left to the usual fire-breathing imams to denounce remarks like Dawkins’s. In those days, Islam was still, like Christianity, insultable. Fleet Street cartoonists offered variations on the ladies’ changing-room line “Does my bum look big in this?” One burqa-clad woman to another: “Does my bomb look big in this?” Not anymore. “There are no jokes in Islam,” pronounced the Ayatollah Khomeini, and so, in a bawdy Hogarthian society endlessly hooting at everyone from the Queen down, Islam uniquely is no laughing matter. Ten years back, even the United Nations Human Development Program was happy to sound off like an incendiary Dawkins Tweet: Its famous 2002 report blandly noted that more books are translated by Spain in a single year than have been translated into Arabic in the last thousand years.
What Dawkins is getting at is more fundamental than bombs or burqas. Whatever its virtues, Islam is not a culture of inquiry, of innovation. You can coast for a while on the accumulated inheritance of a pre-Muslim past — as, indeed, much of the Dar al-Islam did in those Middle Ages Dawkins so admires — but it’s not unreasonable to posit that the more Muslim a society becomes the smaller a role Nobel prizes and translated books will play in its future.
Read the whole thing. Islam may not have to be that way, but at the moment it pretty clearly wants to be that way.