At Global Atheist Convention, Islamic Protesters Have No Power

During the Global Atheist Convention in Australia this week, there were a handful of Islamic demonstrators:

Obviously, I wasn’t there and I don’t know what happened beyond what you see in that clip. But I think there’s still something to learn from it.

I love that it looks to be a completely peaceful demonstration (perhaps thanks to the security detail there). I love that the atheists are just standing around the Muslim protesters, taking pictures, hurling words right back at them (“You can speak. We don’t have to listen!”) as if they were animals at a zoo.

Their signs, their words, their beliefs — none of it has any impact. There are so many atheists surrounding them and they all know how foolish the demonstrators are that the whole protest becomes a sight to be seen and not worth taking seriously. Instead of running away scared, we laugh at them. Because they’re incapable of dialogue, judging from the way they yell and the ignorance depicted on their signs, they’re not people with anything substantive or meaningful to add to the conversation. So there’s no reason to take them seriously.

There’s power in standing together.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • ruth

    I remember 1973 and being the small group of demonstrators crowded by another much larger group.  That group considered us animals in the zoo, and could have easily said:

    “Their signs, their words, their beliefs — none of it has any impact. There are so many [prolifers] surrounding them and they all know how foolish the demonstrators are that the whole protest becomes a sight to be seen and not worth taking seriously. Instead of running away scared, we laugh at them. Because they’re incapable of dialogue, judging from the way they yell and the ignorance depicted on their signs, they’re not people with anything substantive or meaningful to add to the conversation. So there’s no reason to take them seriously. ”

    Roe v. Wade was law.  Kids were let out of school to protest the decision.  Places of work shut down.  There were thousands of people protesting the decision and we were a pro-choice group of about 20.  It was frightening.  

  • madz3000

    Check out this video too:
    Atheists sing ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ to Islamic Protesters
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3q_q0m1CiME

    …..Epic

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=553145445 Gordon Duffy

    Suggestion for the future: a “Life of Brian” style stand with fake beards. 

  • GregFromCos

    Here is another video of the same crowd. I love the question at the 2:45 mark, and the crowd starts chanting, “Where are your women?”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=c2joL2Pz8oM#! 

  • nickandrew

    I was there. When the Islamist protestors started chanting “In-Fi-Del! In-Fi-Del!” while pointing at us, we gladly joined in the chant. Proud to be infidels, godless, heathens. We’ve no medieval dieties to supplicate, just our own minds to fill with knowledge.

    It was a lot of fun for us. The Islamists were angry, shouting about something but I couldn’t understand a word of it. We poked fun at their bigotry. A couple of guys kissed in front of them – there’s a photo of that online. Also, a couple of girls. Apparently the Islamists turned away for that one.

  • Ganor

    I wouldn’t feel that much proud of it. Poking fun of a group of people using numeric domination is both giving them more attention than they deserve and using a technique we would be the first to condemn, like the way the atheist minority feels oppressed in the states.
    By the way i think we ought to think more about the interesting questions (ethic, morality, reason, epistemology for instance) than just saying over and over again that we’re atheist (wich is only a lack of something, and should be somewhere to start, not to end with).

    Sorry for the english, it was just a thought from france.

  • http://www.facebook.com/gregorystorer Gregory Storer

    Then there’s the kiss http://gps.storer.net.au/?p=355

    • http://mikeybear.wordpress.com/ Michael Barnett

       I couldn’t have done it without you.  :)

  • http://lizheywoodwriter.blogspot.com/ Liz Heywood

    Hemant I love the integrity in your respecting their right to protest (peacefully) and the atheists’ right to challenge them…it implies the wholeness of the democratic model. There is no fear in challenging ideas, only strength. Good for you.

  • BenFromCA

    “I love that it looks to be a completely peaceful demonstration…”

    And here’s the narrative they will deliver upon their return to their “brethren.”
    “It was terrifying!  We were surrounded by angry atheist who shouted blasphemy after blasphemy as we tried earnestly to bring them the word of the prophet (peace be upon him) through which they might be saved.  One could feel the evil – the very evil itself – that had consumed the crowd!  There is no hope for them!  Their evil will consume us all, if we allow it!  In the name of Allah, we must destroy them first!

  • advancedatheist

    The more I hear about Australia, the more it sounds like an advanced, enlightened civilization out of science fiction. 

    For example:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Human_Development_Index 

  • Atillathemum

    I was there and it was quite scary in a way. Although the atheists had the advantage of numbers they had very hateful signs – one of them very threatening to a former Muslim speaker at the event – and had positioned themselves right up in front of the doors making it impossible for anyone to exit without having to brush past them. Then one of them shoved one of the female attendees there.

    I did enjoy the chanting “Where are the women?” At least the fundie Christians the previous day had a few token females there – though I didnt observe them speaking, just their male brethren.

  • Denis Musaefendic

    I was also there.
     
    I listened to the protestor comments and it soon became apparent that two way dialogue was not going to be an option. Therefore the only natural thing to do was to sing along to “Always look on the bright side of life” at the front lines of the protest.
     
    However, as an atheist, and as someone who actually paid attention to the moral and inspiring presentations of this enlightening weekend (appropriate word?), I am ashamed that I did not speak up and silence a fellow atheist who was standing a few feet away from me and shouted appallingly provocative and insulting comments to the protestors with the CLEAR intention to be offensive. “F-Off”, “Time to go back to driving Taxi’s”, “Look, there’s a 6 year old girl”, “go back to where you came from”.
     
    To continue Hemant’s analogy, if we were the spectators in a zoo, the idiot/s yelling out derogatory and stereotypical insults is the fat kid with a stick in the zoo whose low self esteem pushes him to prod our distant cousins which he is observing and to see how they might react.
     
    His actions offended and reflected badly on me, on all of us, as part of the atheist group which he is supposed to represent.
     
    We have a good thing going, lets not let idiot’s ruin it for us. I apologize for not attempting to silence him.
     
    PS, I saw many of the Islamic protestors smile when we started singing “Always look on the bright side of life”. I dont know about you but Christophe Hitchins dined with people who opposed his views. I would have been happy to have a cilivised lunch with the protestors.

    • TimothyWells

      “the fat kid with a stick”

      check your privilege please.

      • Denis Musaefendic

        Apologies, probably not the best metaphor.

        • Matt

          You need to be challenged on that, Denis.

          You complain about a hypothetical ‘fat kid with a stick’ analogy, but say nothing about comparing a group of fellow human beings to ‘animals at a zoo’ who as ‘incapable of dialogue’?

          Double standards, much?

          Matt

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=684071302 Marty KrabbyPatty

            Its pretty obvious to everyone that the protesters werent the most lovable bunch, what may not be so obvious to everyone is the hypocrisy of the ‘fat kids with sticks’ and how it may ruin it for the rest of us.

            Marty

  • Tiffyday
  • Bilbo

    And another one, 7 minutes:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUWw2EI1J80

    Was pretty intimidating. One guy started insulting Allah and Muhammad in Arabic, they didn’t like that much!And yes, that ship in the background is indeed a pirate ship. Ramen.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-A-Anderson/100000016895400 John A. Anderson

    Am I the only person here who knows how to spell “protester”?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      I feel dumb. Fixed! Thanks :)

  • Mej

    It’s worth noting that religious protestors don’t show up to convert; they show up to galvanize.

    If they really wanted to spread the word, they’d disperse amongst the crowd and sell their ideas to as many folks as they could.  Instead, they stick together, to reinforce the us-versus-them mentality when atheists surround and argue with them.  By subjecting themselves to a stressful situation together, their loyalty to their uniting cause is strengthened.

    This effect is amplified the more hostile their situation is, which is why it’s important that the crowd around them try not to be hostile.

  • Gwen

    I noticed all of the protesters were men. Were the women not allowed to attend?

    • Denis Musaefendic

      At one point we atheists started the chant “where are the women, where are the women…” I think it is in one of the youtube clips somewhere. :)

  • nosyechidna

    I was there, too.  The Islamic guys were hostile, and intended to intimidate us – something that would be a mistake to acquiesce to.   By the way, it was not only atheists that were drawn into shouting at them.  Passers-by also joined in.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X