Richard Dawkins' Islam Problem and Ours
Over the last few days, militant atheist author Professsor Richard Dawkins has caused an uproar with a Tweet that transcended the bounds of Twitter and made it into the (mostly British) mainstream media.
Dawkins tweeted: "All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though."
I had once considered tweeting something similar -- that the inventions of Jewish doctors had saved more Islamic lives than all the imams in history put together -- but decided to refrain for fear of what happened to Dawkins, who has been savaged by the bien pensants.
As The Independent described the uproar:
The outspoken author went on to defend the remarks which sparked fury on the social network where he was accused of disguising his "bigotry" as atheism.
A series of high-profile Twitter users condemned his comments, prompting Prof Dawkins to question what Muslims had achieved since the Dark Ages.
He responded to the barrage of ensuing criticism by telling his followers: "A statement of simple fact is not bigotry. And science by Muslims was great in the distant past."
In a further posting he wrote: "Where would we be without alchemy? Dark Age achievements undoubted. But since then?"
He sought to justify the observation by adding: "Why mention Muslim Nobels rather than any other group? Because we so often hear boasts about (a) their total numbers and (b) their science."
One angry Twitter user hit out at the remarks telling the author: "You absolutely disgust me."
Writer Caitlin Moran added: "Think it's time someone turned Richard Dawkins off and then on again", while Channel 4 News Economics Editor Faisal Islam questioned Prof Dawkins' "spurious use of data".
Writer and Independent columnist Owen Jones responded: "How dare you dress your bigotry up as atheism. You are now beyond an embarrassment.
Ah, but is it "bigotry" when you are factual? And Dawkins, as many will remember, has also attacked Christianity with great disdain many times over. Needless to say, however, he never got such pushback.
Bashing Christianity is fair game but bashing Islam is not. For Dawkins or just about anybody else.
Never mind that these days so much more murder and mayhem is committed in the name of Islam than Christianity, we're not supposed to mention that out loud -- not even if our name is Dawkins.
This isn't just political correctness. In the United States, where jihadist mass murderer Major Hasan is on trial for "workplace violence," it has become government policy.
But behind closed doors, almost nobody believes this nonsensical rhetoric. Just as there are no atheists is foxholes (well, Richard Dawkins excepted perhaps), no one's "politically correct" getting on airplanes (we're all a bit more nervous if some of the passengers look Islamic) or even, post Boston Marathon, attending sporting events.
We're just not supposed to talk about it.
Richard Dawkins, however, is being excoriated for pointing out the obvious. These days the Islamic world has a giant problem --- they've been moving backwards for hundreds of years while the rest of the world moves forward (although rather fitfully). And they're visiting that problem on all of us.
Dawkins' sin that has his opponents aflutter isn't lying about this. It's telling the truth about it.
He may have impulse-control issues -- Twitter is one of the epicenters of that -- but he's no more a bigot than most of us. We all think that way, even many of his critics. We just shut up about it.
Is this a good or a bad thing? Well, it's not simple, but our public dishonesty complicates matters. It also amounts to infantilizing Muslims -- basically a racist policy. They are infants who cannot take criticism. (Hillary Clinton's monumentally hypocritical apology for the Nakoula Nakoula video is a particularly wretched example of this behavior.)
The least you can say for Dawkins is that, unlike Hillary, he doesn't treat Muslims like children.