On Monday, evolutionary biologist and “New Atheist” Richard Dawkins contrasted the “lovely” bells of medieval cathedrals with the “aggressive-sounding” Muslim call to prayer, the Adhan. Many prominent liberals shot back at him, calling the remarks racist, Islamophobic, and bigoted.
“Listening to the lovely bells of Winchester, one of our great mediaeval cathedrals. So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding ‘Allahu Akhbar.’ Or is that just my cultural upbringing?” Dawkins tweeted, with a pretty picture of him in front of Winchester Cathedral.
Listening to the lovely bells of Winchester, one of our great mediaeval cathedrals. So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding “Allahu Akhbar.” Or is that just my cultural upbringing? pic.twitter.com/TpCkq9EGpw
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) July 16, 2018
Self-described communist Muslim Ash Sarkar (whose Twitter profile claims she “f**ks like a champion”) said the tweet proves Dawkins is a racist. “Turns out ‘The God Delusion’ was just the collective insistence that Richard Dawkins was a philosopher and not just a tedious old racist,” Sarkar tweeted.
Turns out “The God Delusion” was just the collective insistence that Richard Dawkins was a philosopher and not just a tedious old racist. https://t.co/VuPxwPquf2
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) July 17, 2018
“The God Delusion,” Dawkins’ most famous book, is an anti-religious screed that blames religion for history’s violence, ignoring the 20th century ravages of the atheistic Nazism and Communism. While Dawkins’ anti-religious arguments hold little merit, his warnings about radical Islamic terror deserve to be taken seriously.
Prominent Pakistani writer Fatima Bhutto — niece of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto — blamed Dawkins’s preference for church bells over the Adhan on “bigotry.”
No, it’s your bigotry. https://t.co/73nwuSGjgK
— fatima bhutto (@fbhutto) July 17, 2018
Amarnath Amarasingam, an anti-extremism researcher in Canada, attributed the remark to Islamophobia. “You can’t sit on a park bench on a sunny day without turning it into something islamophobic?” Amarasingam asked.
You can’t sit on a park bench on a sunny day without turning it into something islamophobic?
— Amarnath Amarasingam (@AmarAmarasingam) July 17, 2018
Jenan Moussa, an investigative reporter who covers ISIS but seems somehow unaware that Islamic terrorists use the phrase “Allahu Akbar,” called Dawkins’ tweet “really, really silly.” Moussa tweeted, “Sir, I don’t think it’s your cultural upbringing. I think you genuinely have no clue what the azaan is or how it sounds. Fine to me if you don’t like it but to qualify this as sounding ‘agressive’ is just really, really silly.”
Sir, I don't think it's your cultural upbringing. I think you genuinely have no clue what the azaan is or how it sounds. Fine to me if you don't like it but to qualify this as sounding "agressive" is just really, really silly. pic.twitter.com/CgKbfFdLCI
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) July 17, 2018
As if his remark needed clarification, Dawkins clarified it in an interview with The Independent. “Church bells are beautiful, The muezzin’s call to prayer can also be very beautiful if recited in a good voice,” Dawkins said.
“But also, ‘Allahu Akhbar’ is the last thing you hear before the suicide bomb goes off,” the atheist quipped.
He’s not wrong, and it shouldn’t be considered “Islamophobic” to say so. When Muslims call the Adhan, they are not necessarily calling for terrorism. But terrorists frequently do proclaim “Allahu Akbar!” before engaging in their acts of violence. Islam also has a long history of spreading by the sword, and the name of the religion literally means “submission.” The Adhan itself, declaring “Allahu Akbar” or “God is the greatest,” is one of the fundamental acts of submission.
This submission is not always repressive, and a great many Western Muslims embrace religious freedom. But to deny the terrorism and oppressive history of “Allahu Akbar” is ridiculous.
Dawkins’ critics should know this, and hesitate before blasting his rather mild statement as racist or bigoted.