Addressing Accusations That I Am A Deplorable Racist

Addressing Accusations That I Am A Deplorable Racist November 28, 2018

One day, I was thumbing a popular book when I was shocked to stumble across a specific passage. In it, it had been written clearly that women ought to be subservient to men and that men should not be afraid to give us a smack if we refuse to fall in line.

Naturally, I was horrified. I don’t expect my readers to agree with me on everything, but I would hope, at the very least, that this misogynistic assertion horrifies you, too.

As you can imagine, it didn’t take me long before I was outwardly critical of this text, being as it basically called for my enslavement and promoted corporal punishment, to which I am vehemently and vocally opposed.

I was astonished to discover that my criticisms of the abusive text were met with accusations that I was a racist. Some of these accusations actually came from feminists, too. I thought I’d stumbled into the Upside Down. Were these people for real? Calling me a racist because I don’t like the idea of such a popular book promoting the persecution of my own gender?

By now, most of you have pieced together that the book I’m talking about is, of course, the Quran. The surah in question, Quran 4:34:

“Men are in charge of women by [right of] what Allah has given one over the other and what they spend [for maintenance] from their wealth. So righteous women are devoutly obedient, guarding in [the husband’s] absence what Allah would have them guard. But those [wives] from whom you fear arrogance – [first] advise them; [then if they persist], forsake them in bed; and [finally], strike them. But if they obey you [once more], seek no means against them. Indeed, Allah is ever Exalted and Grand.”

There are, of course, other passages in this book that are of deeply questionable taste, but really, 4:34 is the only passage I need to share with you for you to understand why I object to the reverence of such a book. I’ve spent five years arguing with Islamic apologists about this surah, who defend it by saying that in some translations the word “strike” is not there. So, somehow, my objections to 4:34 are nullified because some of the book’s followers don’t see it as a commandment to hit women. The fact it clearly states that men are in charge of women… that’s okay, so long as they don’t hit us, right?

Another defense I get is that I’m reading the English translation and much is lost when you don’t read it in its original Arabic. Of course, this defense comes from apologists before they learn the fact I read through much of the Quran in Arabic with my Muslim ex-boyfriend, a native-Arabic speaking Kurdish Iraqi. Whom I adored, by the way, despite being the deplorable racist I am.

As I recall, when we arrived at 4:34, he said to me in his adorable broken English, his soulful brown eyes twinkling, “This part, I don’t like it. When we get married, I won’t hit you.” “Gee, thanks, Ramz.” I quickly responded, “and I’m already in charge of you.” He laughed.

It’s clear, and there’s no way to circumvent it, surah 4:34 calls for the enslavement of women. This alone is enough for me to be openly and vocally critical of Islam. I would expect the same from any decent human being who believes in equality, freedom and human rights. That’s why it’s so bizarre to me that, when I openly criticize this misogynistic doctrine, people call me a racist. Especially, when it’s a feminist delivering the accusation.

I’ve written a hundred times about the fact that I started all this godless blogging nonsense for fun, but I stick around because I quickly realized people need this. Each week, I get numerous emails from ex-Muslims across the globe who are in fear of losing their lives because they no longer believe. These people live in one of the 13 countries where apostasy is punishable by death, or they live in one of the dozens of countries where blasphemy is punishable with prison time. It wasn’t a few months into this wild ride that I was approached by a Nigerian ex-Muslim, asking for help in getting him released from a psychiatric hospital he’d been condemned to because he told his Muslim father he no longer believed. I busted my ass working to get Mubarak out of that hospital, catching the attention of all the major news sources around the world. His story fueled my fire. I felt so strongly that what happened to him was wrong and I never wanted it to happen to anyone else.

It did though. In the time since Mubarak got out of the hospital and has been making us all proud as a humanist activist in Nigeria, so many more ex-Muslim apostates have been beaten, murdered, jailed, shunned and disowned. I hear from them all the time. They are the main reason I keep doing what I do despite the fact I feel like I have said everything there is to say about being godless seventeen times over.

I. Do. This. For. Them.

Here’s the thing, though: none of these ex-Muslims who move me to act changed their race when they left Islam. It’s important to really stop and think about this for a second. Get those cogs smoking, friends, really mull it over. If being outwardly opposed to Islam makes me a racist, then I shouldn’t care about the plight of ex-Muslims being as they’re the precise same race they were before they left Islam.

Racism is: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

If I believe my race is superior before they leave Islam, I would still believe that after they leave Islam because NO ONE CHANGED THEIR RACE.

Friends, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “yabut, you have to admit, there are people who are bigoted against Muslims.” and you’re absolutely right. There are. This is where nuance comes in. This is where our thinking has to dip below the surface and can’t necessarily be covered in a Big Bang Theory! or This Is Us episode. You’re going to need a ginseng tea and your thinking cap for this one.

People are not ideas.

Ideas are not people.

I am openly opposed to Islam. I don’t like it, as ought to be the case for any equality-supporting human. It’s an awful doctrine, full of hatred and violence and misogyny. I think it’s gross. You should, too.

I do not, however, oppose Muslims. A human being is not the sum total of what they believe, because a human being can change their opinions as is evidenced by the vast majority of the atheist community. Most of us you are ex-theists. Most of you changed your mind about this dearly held idea.

A human who identifies as a follower of Allah doesn’t necessarily follow every word of his or her Quran. A human being who identifies as a Muslim is just as likely to be a wonderful person as a member of any other belief system or lack thereof. A Muslim can be a great friend, a terrific partner, a friendly neighbour. The fact that someone is a Muslim doesn’t stop me from wanting to be friends; from wanting to connect and socialize and share with them or even from falling in love as I once did.

In fact, all data points to the knowledge that the preaching of inequality in the Quran and Hadith has led, most of all, to the oppression of Muslims, themselves. Do you know what this means? This means that if you truly gave half a damn for Muslims, you’d oppose the doctrine that most often leads to their suffering.

So, when people tell me I am either racist or bigoted because I openly criticize Islam, I ask them right back,

“Is it bigoted to criticize Christianity? Is it bigoted to criticize Satanism? Is it bigoted to criticize atheism?”

I am often reminded of Ben Affleck’s ridiculous outburst at Sam Harris on the Bill Mahr show. When Sam, who co-authored a book with his Muslim friend, referred to Islam as the motherlode of bad ideas, Ben, co-star of the Catholic critique film, Dogma, shouted,

“That’s gross! That’s racist!”

What Ben was actually saying, and what others like him are actually saying, is that he believes, clearly, Catholics can cope with criticism of their belief system. We know this because Ben had zero objections to starring in the Kevin Smith hit with his life partner, Matt Damon. But lay down the same criticism towards Islam, and Benny says you’ve crossed a line, ergo, Benski does not believe Muslims have the same capacity to cope with criticism as Catholics do.

I have to admit, this sounds a bit racist. Bigoted, at least.

Barbaric ideas are barbaric ideas, no matter the skin colour of those who hold them dear. I do not like religions of any flavour, because they are full of barbaric ideas. They drag us down and turn us into dogmatic robots obeying without thought or question.

We are obligated by our own flourishing to stand up to the ideas that hurt us the most and that means, we are obligated to stand up to dogma. It means we are obligated to stand up to religion. It means we must stand up to Islam.

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Image: Creative Commons/Pixabay

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • karmacat

    Sometimes people have trouble differentiating criticism of an idea from criticism of a person. They don’t realize you can support a person’s safety and religious freedom but still criticize their religion. It is frustrating to watch smart people not understand this concept

  • persephone

    I was called an anti-Semite because I dislike Bernie Sanders. Sanders is a misogynist and a racist. They continued to call me an anti-Semite, despite my telling them that I was recently divorced after 24 years of marriage to a Jew, by whom I have two kids, and his mother and I are still good friends.

    Idjits gonna idjit.

    I lumped all the Abrahamic religions into a comment that they were all flaming piles of garbage, and destructive horror shows. One response was that I should read the Qu’ran. I replied, “Why the f**k should I?” No follow up comment, so I guess my use of foul language scared him.

    I have actually read parts of the Qu’ran. I view it the same way I view the Bible: it’s BS made up by a guy(s) who were literally the bottom of the pile when it came to place in society, and had to make themselves feel better by proclaiming they knew the One True God and were ordered to tell people what He wanted.

  • Anne Fenwick

    The other thing is that it’s impossible to have honest relationships with people or groups of people if you abstain from engaging with their ideas. To choose not to criticise the ideas in Islam says that neither those ideas nor the people holding them have any relevance or importance. It isn’t motivated by respect, it’s dismissal at worst and a kind of patronising benevolence at best – the kind people reserve for the speculations of toddlers on how the international economy should be run. It says ‘you don’t count, so I’ll humor you’.

  • Ungodly Sweet

    Since when is Islam a race? Maybe you need to send them a thesaurus.

  • Major Major

    I think you are right that criticizing Islam is a very nuanced position. I have come to see that those on the right/alt-right/alt-lite tend to use criticism of Islam as a cudgel/dogwhistle to demonize people from the middle east/south asia. This can cause those on the left to overcorrect and see that any critcism of Islam is in fact coded racism against the practicioners. There is a youtube channel called Polite Conversations where the host Eiynah Mohammed does try to thread the needle as it were. She is also critical of the same group on the right co-opting nonWestern feminists to criticize Western feminists.

    As for Harris, I find that he is similar to JBP in that he says controversial things, and gets upset when people don’t interpret it the way he wants them to, he gets upset. There are people who are dishonest when it comes to Harris, like Glenn Greenwald, but there are others who I think do argue in good faith, like Robert Wright. Here is a good vid I think which covers Harris. FWIW, I think Affleck was wrong.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvemuO2mL14

  • Martin Penwald

    Basically, most muslims, christians, sikhs, hindus, jews … are good people DESPITE their religion. And some of the others use their religion to justify their assholeness.

  • persephone

    There’s always that ~10% in any group.

  • Jim Jones

    “Holy books” tell you about the authors.

    They can tell you nothing about imaginary sky fairies.

  • Jim Jones

    Almost always the excuse. Hardly ever the reason.

  • Chris DeVries

    I watched this video a few weeks ago and agree with a lot of what T1J says in it. I also idolized Harris at one point, and no longer do (I’d like to think I’m past my idolatry phase). I still think Harris is most likely right on a bunch of stuff, and I am more disappointed than anything that he seems to view having acted rationally in dismissing religion as superstitious nonsense as proof positive that all of his beliefs are 100% defensibly rational while dismissing most criticism as in bad faith. The fact is, plenty of criticism is absolutely in bad faith. Plenty of people WON’T engage with what he says, or take what he says intentionally out of context (and when all else fails, they’ll all-out lie about his views). But there are legitimate critiques of Harris too, and he seems to have his head stuffed so far up his own rear end to see that not every person who disagrees with him is doing so to score points with the regressive left.

    Let me be clear: there IS a regressive left. There absolutely are people who engage in practises like virtue signalling and who join twitter mobs to demean and ultimately dismiss people without knowing a true thing about them. But Harris’s inability to critically examine some of the views he espouses (even when presented evidence of their shortcomings) while obviously not unique to him (most people have trouble with altering opinions, especially those that are tied to their identity), is frustrating – having a popular “public intellectual” who WAS always thinking critically about their own opinions would maybe create a space for more people to do so without feeling like they’re being disloyal to their various tribes. Worse, his condemnation of alt-right bugbears like identity politics and SJWs does the exact opposite of what he hopes to achieve: instead of making a space for conversation/dialogue, he contributes to a very real polarization on issues he cares about, making a meeting of the minds between tribes more difficult. And the ironic situation that is on display here (that a large portion of his fans take his opinions on EVERYTHING as gospel truth) means that one man’s difficulty remembering that he, too, can be wrong is shutting down all sorts of possibilities of productive dialogue.

    Finally, his belief in the unassailable virtue of free speech has led him to lend his (sizeable) audience to a disgraced racist academic (Charles Murray) and a bewildering celebrity psychologist (I still don’t see why Jordan Peterson has become so famous – most of the time he speaks, even he can’t decide what he means, and his writing is often worse). It COULD have been a good thing for people (especially on the left) to be exposed to the kinds of ideas promoted by these dubious podcast guests, so that we all could figure out if they’re wrong and why, but that’s not what most people are doing when they hear Peterson or Murray, or indeed Harris himself. Instead, most people have either unquestioningly accepted the orthodoxy on why these supposed (and in Peterson’s case, self-proclaimed) iconoclasts ARE wrong (delivered on high from Ivy League humanities departments), or decided instead that Harris et al. are beyond criticism, the only people ever to have been correct 100% of the time in the history of the world. Everything is black and white, everyone is good or evil. How can anyone just accept that and move on?

    So you could say I have a few problems with Harris. But I also don’t think that those flaws negate his contributions to atheism (thousands of atheists owe their non-belief to his words), or that he (and by extension, his views) should be ignored/shunned. I still listen to his podcast regularly. As a person who is trying not to hold ANY beliefs that are beyond question, immutable, I actually find Harris highly useful, ESPECIALLY when I disagree with him. When this happens, I look at the substance of what he said, I read what he has written in other places about the topic at hand, I find other opinions that disconform to both of our pre-existing views, and I eventually come to the heart of why I think he’s wrong (and by extension, why I hold the position I do). To become an atheist and to hold such a lack of religious belief with a modicum of certainty, I think all of us have, at some point, had to confront the statements of Christians of all stripes (including those on the religious right) and rationally assess them. I’m just trying to keep doing this. Probability dictates that I still hold a bunch of irrational beliefs, so I am not afraid of or averse to the opinions of those with whom I disagree. Both Harris and his bad faith foes are engaging in behavior designed to wall off certain core beliefs from criticism; if my views are vulnerable to legitimate criticism, believe me, I want to know about it.

  • Chris DeVries

    Oops, meant to respond to another post in this thread. Sorry.

  • Chris DeVries

    I watched this video a few weeks ago and agree with a lot of whatT1J says in it. I also idolized Harris at one point, and no longer do (I’d like to think I’m past my idolatry phase). I still think Harris is most likely right on a bunch of stuff, and I am more disappointed than anything that he seems to view having acted rationally in dismissing religion as superstitious nonsense as proof positive that all of his beliefs are 100% defensibly rational while dismissing most criticism as in bad faith. The fact is, plenty of criticism is absolutely in bad faith. Plenty of people WON’T engage with what he
    says, or take what he says intentionally out of context (and when all else fails, they’ll all-out lie about his views). But there are legitimate critiques of Harris too, and he seems to have his head stuffed so far up his own rear end to see that not every person who disagrees with him is doing so to score points with the regressive left.

    Let me be clear: there IS a regressive left. There absolutely are people who engage in practises like virtue signalling and who join twitter mobs to demean and ultimately dismiss people without knowing a true thing about them. But Harris’s inability to critically examine some of the views he espouses (even when presented evidence of their shortcomings) while obviously not unique to him (most people have trouble with altering opinions, especially those that are tied to their identity), is frustrating – having a popular “public intellectual” who WAS always thinking critically about their own
    opinions would maybe create a space for more people to do so without feeling like they’re being disloyal to their various tribes. Worse, his condemnation of alt-right bugbears like identity politics and SJWs does the exact opposite of what he hopes to achieve: instead of making a space for conversation/dialogue, he contributes to a very real polarization on issues he cares about, making a meeting of the minds between tribes more difficult. And the ironic situation that is on display here (that a large portion of his fans take his opinions on EVERYTHING as gospel truth) means that one man’s difficulty remembering that he, too, can be wrong is shutting down all sorts of possibilities of productive dialogue.

    Finally, his belief in the unassailable virtue of free speech has led him to lend his (sizeable) audience to a disgraced racist academic (Charles Murray) and a bewildering celebrity psychologist (I still don’t see why Peterson has become so famous – most of the time he speaks, even he can’t decide what he means, and his writing is often worse). It COULD have been a good thing for people (especially on the left) to be exposed to the kinds of ideas promoted by these dubious podcast guests, so that we all could figure out if they’re wrong and why, but that’s not what most people are doing when they hear Peterson or Murray, or indeed Harris himself. Instead, most people have either unquestioningly accepted the orthodoxy on why these supposed (and in Peterson’s case, self-proclaimed) iconoclasts ARE wrong (delivered on high from Ivy League humanities departments), or decided instead that Harris et al. are beyond criticism, the only people ever to have been correct 100% of the time in the history of
    the world. Everything is black and white, everyone is good or evil. How can anyone just accept that and move on?

  • Jim Baerg

    BTW look up this podcast by some ex-muslims.
    http://secularjihadists.libsyn.com/

  • Sophotroph

    It’s almost always the reason. People feel icky for all sorts of reasons, but only a few things give them permission to attack others for causing those feelings rather than maturing and learning to deal with them.

    It’s the excuse, too, but these people didn’t decide to hate people first and then hide behind religion second. They felt fear, and religion guided them to hate as an acceptable response rather than self-correction and growth.

    So, maybe I’m kind of picking nits here, but religion contributes far more than simply being an excuse.

  • Sophotroph

    “Sanders is a misogynist and a racist.”

    Uh, I’m going to need a cite for that.

  • persephone

    Any person who demands the POC and women shut their mouths and fall into line, because “identity politics” is the issue, is a racist and a misogynist. That’s just the start. His lies about marching with MLK. His fleeing to one of the whitest states in the country after spending one night in jail. His lack of any kind of support to the mother of his child. His horrifying rape essays. His voting to dump toxic waste in a Latino community in Texas.

    Yeah, he’s a jerk.

  • nebthet gg