There was a right old Twitter barney last week. It started with me defending Richard Dawkins –– always a difficult thing to do since he seems to be everyone’s least favourite atheist. Even atheists often express the wish that he’d “tone it down a bit”.
The usual hail of insults at Richard (and some at me) came down from the holier side of the twittersphere, followed by the inevitable “Ah, but Dawkins and you and your type never dare attack Islam, do you?”
They think this proves that we are cowards because Christians only meekly turn the other cheek, whereas Muslims put bombs on trains, in cars and go around shrieking ‘Allahu Akbar!’ as they detonate themselves and busloads of innocent men, women and children. If we atheists really had the courage of our convictions so far as as the irrationality and in some cases noxious detriment caused to mankind by religion went, we would give Islam as much as we gave Christianity.
Actually I am simply not interested in laying into one religion or another. To me they are all as UNTRUE as the next, which is the point and the only point of being an atheist. It’s not even an interesting point. It’s just that I don’t believe in God. I certainly don’t want to found groups, or persuade others into my way of thinking. Nor am I in the least unhappy in the company of the faithful. I find Unitarians, Quakers and the Liberal Reform wing of Judaism very easy to get along with since they are not concerned with conversion, with proving themselves better or righter than anyone else, nor with splitting up into factions (or sects as they are known in religion) and destroying each other. Muslims kill other Muslims much more than they kill us, just as Christians used to do for centuries.
Anyway, I made the fundamental mistake of tweeting (just to show I wasn’t the coward they assumed I was) that of course I was against those Muslims who slaughtered, bombed and treated women in such charming ways.
Now the entire seesaw tilted and I was bombarded with tweets saying mostly stuff like”:-
"Disappointed that you are an Islamophobe, Stephen. Thought better of you."
Sometimes it’s just a reflex tweet from someone who hasn’t put any thought into it, on other occasions the tweet claims that my saying a single word against any kind of Muslim is Islamophobia of the kind that feeds the vilely racist bigots of the EDL and BNP.
The squeezed liberal finds himself in the position that he cannot criticise Islamofascism because it’s somehow “racist” (although Islam encompasses many many races) or because it encourages acts of violence against innocent law-abiding honourable Muslims, which I would never for a second endorse. It is a topsy-turvy smothering of debate and an Orwellian denial of free-speech to declare that speaking out against violence will cause violence. I’m all for insult, as it happens, as long as it’s funny. But I have no time for assault. Only a few letters’ difference, but the two are a world away.
Naturally, like anyone interested in history, I have nothing but admiration for the breathtaking advances in chemistry, algebra, calculus, astronomy, optics, botany, general physics and chemistry not to mention poetry and philosophy made by Islamic scholars in its Golden Age in the late 13th century, especially in and around the Iberian city of Cordoba. Their talent and wide-ranging curiosity was not matched until 400 years later and the ages of Galileo, Newton and Pascal. What is more, they worked and lived happily alongside Christians and Jews.
Sadly we live in more worrying times. Phobos is the Greek for fear. Am I afraid of certain fanatical Christians, Muslims, Lord’s Resistance Army fighters or any other group like that? You bet your cute keister I’m afraid. I am afraid of anyone who hates me and everything I stand for and wants me and the civilisation I grew up in destroyed. I am afraid of any state or religious endorsed brute squad that suddenly smashes my door down at three in the morning and drags me to the wall to be shot. I am afraid of any group of people wherever they’re from and whomever they do or don’t worship who see justification for explosions that cause human blood to run like rivers down the streets.
Ah, but do I believe that all Muslims want to see my civilisation destroyed? That they are all bombers in the making? Of course I don’t.
The fact that I need to go through this absurd liberal court of inquisition in which I have to repeat these mantras is what, as Peter Griffin would say, really grinds my gears:
"I promise I do not think all Muslims are fanatics.”
"I go out of my way to smile at them when sitting opposite them on the tube."
"I think it is terrible the way a whole community is distrusted because a fanatical few."
Do I hate Muslims? Absolutely not. Any more than I hate Christians. Or Jews, or Hindus, or anyone on account of their beliefs, or lack of them. I just hate, really, really hate the idea of being hated. Of being in someone’s black book. And there may be only a fanatical few Muslims, just as there only a fanatical few Christians, but boy - the damage they can do. The hatred they can foment.
So it comes down to this.
I am not an Islamophobe:
I am a violentsuicidallyfanatichatefilledkillerofpeopletheyhaventevenmet-ophobe. And that group might easily include Americans, Russians or Britons, come to that.
There. I hope that’s clear.