The Islamophobia Industry (CAIR, ISNA, news networks, most politicians, etc.) might have let the New Atheists (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, etc.) proceed unchecked, if only the latter hadn't crossed a certain line. If the New Atheists had contented themselves with mocking all religions equally, the showdown may have been avoided. After all, one of the core tenets of the Islamophobia Industry is that Islam is no different from other religions (except, perhaps, in that it is to be exempt from all criticism). Hence, so long as the New Atheists were treating all religions as equally bad, Islam was under no particular scrutiny, and this was fine with Islam's defenders.
But the New Atheists dared to point out the obvious: All religions are not equal. Consider Bill Maher, who recently blasted Brian Levin, one of the Islamophobia Industry's champions:
Maher was simply continuing a long trend among the New Atheists, whose semi-official position now is that, while all religions are bad, Islam is worse. This, of course, is too much for the Islamophobia Industry to bear, and Salon's Nathan Lean has declared war:
Until 9/11, Islam didn’t figure in the New Atheists’ attacks in a prominent way. As a phenomenon with its roots in Europe, atheism has traditionally been the archenemy of Christianity, though Jews and Judaism have also slipped into the mix. But emboldened by their newfound fervor in the wake of the terrorist attacks, the New Atheists joined a growing chorus of Muslim-haters, mixing their abhorrence of religion in general with a specific distaste for Islam (In 2009, Hitchens published a book called “God Is Not Great,” a direct smack at Muslims who commonly recite the Arabic refrain Allah Akbar, meaning “God is great”). Conversations about the practical impossibility of God’s existence and the science-based irrationality of an afterlife slid seamlessly into xenophobia over Muslim immigration or the practice of veiling. The New Atheists became the new Islamophobes, their invectives against Muslims resembling the rowdy, uneducated ramblings of backwoods racists rather than appraisals based on intellect, rationality and reason. “Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death,” writes Harris, whose nonprofit foundation Project Reason ironically aims to “erode the influence of bigotry in our world.”
For Harris, the ankle-biter version of the Rottweiler Dawkins, suicide bombers and terrorists are not aberrations. They are the norm. They have not distorted their faith by interpreting it wrongly. They have lived out their faith by understanding it rightly. “The idea that Islam is a ‘peaceful religion hijacked by extremists’ is a fantasy, and is now a particularly dangerous fantasy for Muslims to indulge,” he writes in “Letter to a Christian Nation.”
That may sound like the psychobabble of Pamela Geller. But Harris’s crude departure from scholarly decorum is at least peppered with references to the Quran, a book he cites time and again, before suggesting it be “flushed down the toilet without fear of violent reprisal.”
Dawkins, in a recent rant on Twitter, admitted that he had not ever read the Quran, but was sufficiently expert in the topic to denounce Islam as the main culprit of all the world’s evil: “Haven’t read Koran so couldn’t quote chapter and verse like I can for Bible. But [I] often say Islam [is the] greatest force for evil today.” How’s that for a scientific dose of proof that God does not exist?
A few days later, on March 25, there was this: “Of course you can have an opinion about Islam without having read the Qur’an. You don’t have to read “Mein Kampf” to have an opinion about Nazism.”
It’s an extraordinary feat for an Oxford scholar to admit that he hasn’t done the research to substantiate his belief, but what’s more extraordinary is that he continues to believe the unsupported claim. That backwards equation — insisting on a conclusion before even launching an initial investigation — defines the New Atheists’ approach to Islam. It’s a pompousness that only someone who believes they have proven, scientifically, the nonexistence of God can possess. (Continue Reading.)
Who will come out on top in this epic battle of critics and complainers? The Islamophobia Industry certainly has greater media resources at their disposal, with all major news networks thoroughly terrified of offending Muslims. The New Atheists, however, may gather support from unlikely allies, e.g. Christians, Jews, and others, who, although generally incensed at the abuse heaped on them by Dawkins & Co., at least respect the New Atheists for not lumping all ideologies together with Islam.
Too close to call as far as I can tell. Any thoughts?