Yesterday Sam Harris posted an article titled On the Freedom to Offend an Imaginary God. It tackles the recent outbursts by Muslims over a crappy internet video. Stuff like this is why Harris remains one of my atheistic heroes (even if his position on profiling is wrong).
The contagion of moral cowardice followed its usual course, wherein liberal journalists and pundits began to reconsider our most basic freedoms in light of the sadomasochistic fury known as “religious sensitivity” among Muslims. Contributors to The New York Times and NPR spoke of the need to find a balance between free speech and freedom of religion—as though the latter could possibly be infringed by a YouTube video. As predictable as Muslim bullying has become, the moral confusion of secular liberals appears to be part of the same clockwork.
Consider what is actually happening: Some percentage of the world’s Muslims—Five percent? Fifteen? Fifty? It’s not yet clear—is demanding that all non-Muslims conform to the strictures of Islamic law. And where they do not immediately resort to violence in their protests, they threaten it. Carrying a sign that reads “Behead Those Who Insult the Prophet” may still count as an example of peaceful protest, but it is also an assurance that infidel blood would be shed if the imbecile holding the placard only had more power. This grotesque promise is, of course, fulfilled in nearly every Muslim society. To make a film like “Innocence of Muslims” anywhere in the Middle East would be as sure a method of suicide as the laws of physics allow.
What exactly was in the film? Who made it? What were their motives? Was Muhammad really depicted? Was that a Qur’an burning, or some other book? Questions of this kind are obscene. Here is where the line must be drawn and defended without apology: We are free to burn the Qur’an or any other book, and to criticize Muhammad or any other human being. Let no one forget it.
Bingo. The whole article is just epic.
For those rushing to defend Islam (looking at you, Harvard Humanists), I implore you to take a close look at the reactions of the Islamic world. Mark Turner points out some of the lowlights on the Friendly Atheist.
When you gripe about the use of the phrase “peaceful Muslims,” you confess to either ignoring or to being unaware of a global climate that necessitates that distinction. I then wonder how such people can accuse anybody of lumping all Muslims together when it is we who are paying the peaceful Muslims the courtesy of that distinction. The term “peaceful Muslim” exists for the same reason as “moderate Republican.”
All that being said, the response from the Muslim world has being depressingly familiar. The edicts handed down by some Islamic leaders have sought only to fan the flames. Hezbollah’s leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah appeared publicly for the first time since 2011 — specifically to denounce the US and to call for further protests. The events of the last week have included:
- About 3,000 protesters from the Philippines Muslim minority burned US and Israeli flags in the southern city of Marawi
- In Yemen, hundreds of students in the capital, Sanaa, called for the expulsion of the US ambassador
- In Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, hundreds of protesters faced off with police, throwing stones and petrol bombs, while police retaliated with tear gas
- Hundreds of Palestinians staged a peaceful sit-in protest in the West Bank city of Ramallah
- Angry demonstrators in the Afghan capital, Kabul, fired guns, torched police cars and shouted anti-US slogans
- Police arrested at least 15 people at a small protest outside the US embassy in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku
Once someone has applied the simple human trait of pattern recognition to the wake of these events it becomes obvious that lots of Muslims consider mocking Islam to be a greater priority for their moral outrage than people dying. It is also easy to note the conspicuous silence of moderate Muslims on the matter. I have read of only a couple who even dare to denounce the violence, but absolutely none who have affirmed the right of others to live in defiance of Islamic scripture by criticizing Islam. This is either because moderate Muslims have not felt compelled to do so, which favors my position, or the moderate Muslims around the world fear repercussions from violent Muslims. To confess the latter would be to admit that the problem of reactionary violence to dissent permeates the Muslim world to such an extent that even the moderate Muslims fear their own, which is problematic to anybody arguing that Muslim violence is a problem blown out of proportion. Pointing this out is not Islamophobia – it’s being unwilling to shove truth under the bus for the sake of being politically correct.
American Atheists president Dave Silverman is running a campaign on twitter: #IslamIsBarbaric. He’s right. The fact that some nebulous percentage of Muslims is not barbaric doesn’t rescue Islam from being laced with barbarism any more than the existence moderate Christians erases the primitive inhumanities from the bible. The plain and simple fact of the matter is that this world would be much better off had it never known Islam (or Christianity, or faith in general), and that Islam is so polluted with savagery, contradiction, and flat out inaccuracy that it should not be believed by anyone.