Why Don’t More Atheists Speak Out Against Islamophobia?

Chris Stedman raises some excellent points about how atheists with large forums (via books and blogs) have done relatively little to speak up on behalf of Muslims in our country.

He’s not saying we should stop criticizing their false beliefs — Stedman has no big problem with that.

But when a shooting occurs at a Sikh temple or Muslims aren’t allowed to build mosques in the same way Christians build churches, why does it seems like we’re nowhere to be found?

… As the Sikh community reeled from the tragedy in Oak Creek and prominent figures from a plethora of religious communities reached out to express their solidarity and sympathy, I was surprised that I didn’t see more notable atheists speak up. Browsing some of the most trafficked atheist blogs I saw that they posted little or nothing about the shooting — until Pat Robertson blamed atheists for the tragedy, an accusation that a sizable majority of atheist websites then addressed.

We can disagree about the veracity of religious claims, but I worry that these disagreements lead some atheists away from defending religious individuals against injustice (and, to be sure, many religious individuals and communities likewise neglect to extend their support to atheists in need). But if the atheist community doesn’t speak loudly against Islamophobia now, when will it?

If too many are only willing to stand up against hate directed at ourselves and other members of our community, then we are not truly against hate or for social justice — we are merely for ourselves and for our community. Social justice cannot mean in-group tribalism, or it’s not justice at all.

Muslims and Sikhs, like atheists, are minorities in this country. We face many of the same struggles regarding getting treated with respect and fighting for equal rights in schools and in the law. When they’re in trouble, we need to do a better job of coming to their aid.

Stedman calls out a lot of Freethought Bloggers, Sam Harris, American Atheists, and others for fueling the fire against Muslims. He doesn’t mention me, but he might as well have, since (looking through my history) very few of my posts have supported them in their times of need. But that’s something I can improve on.

We ask all the time why religious groups don’t openly support us when we fight church/state separation battles, but that’s no excuse not to do the same for them when their rights (or lives) are threatened by others.

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.


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