Storify, Richard Dawkins Problem With Muslims

Just started using Storify as a quick and easy platform for relaying exchanges on Twitter. It is not too bad, when it works. Storify seems to have an issue on Chromium with “This webpage has a redirect loop”. Hope it is a teething problem. Nevertheless, these particular stories may enlighten readers:

Holocaust Denial at Anonymous

Richard Dawkins, Insensitivity And the English Defence League
anon2a
A few observations, as I found a great similarity in these variations of racism:

The highlighted Anonymous accounts and their allies would probably claim that they are merely “anti-Zionists”, which could be true but they also have a strong line in disseminating antisemitism.

Whilst I do not believe that anti-Zionism is antisemitism, it is not coincidental that rantings involving antisemitic themes are found in proximity to anti-Zionism. Nor is it mere chance that many strident “anti-Islamists” around the periphery of English Defence League are found to have a connection to the British Far Right or worse.

Equally, when looking at the background to Richard Dawkins’ foolish mistake of re-tweeting from one EDL sympathiser, there were parallels between fanatical “anti-Zionists” and maniac “anti-Islamists”.

Both of these creeds as exercised by these extremists are, almost, inoculated against spotting racism.

Whereas “anti-Islamists” of this order rarely perceive any racism towards Muslims, their compatriots within the sphere of anti-Zionism find it incredibly hard, next to impossible, to spot modern antisemitism.

My research found that “anti-Islamists” had a catalogue of standard arguments which bore a striking similarity to those found on the Far Right. Naturally, few of these themes stood up to any serious scrutiny and had the stench of refried racism from the 1970s.

Studying the crossover on Twitter (an imperfect but readily available sampling) not all obsessive “anti-Islamists” were from the Right of the political spectrum. However, it became very apparent that those not imbued with Hard or Far Right thinking could not spot an EDL sympathiser amongst them, if their life depended on it.

Which is very troubling.

Elsewhere, mainstream anti-Zionists have yet to address with any intellectual competency the question of periodic outburst of antisemitism amongst supposed “anti-Zionists”. Greta Berlin’s eruption of racism was hardly coincidental and only one example.

In short, neither of these political trends can adequately explain the presence and persistence of hardened racism in their midst.
Dawkins2a
Bringing us back neatly to Professor Richard Dawkins. Predictably he went from general antagonistic statements against Islam to swift digs at Muslims in general. A past supporter of Dawkins, Tom Chivers at the Torygraph takes him to task:

Treating all Muslims as featureless representatives of their religion (as Dawkins does when saying things like “Who the hell do these Muslims think they are? How has UCL come to this: cowardly capitulation to Muslims? Tried to segregate sexes in debate between @LKrauss1 and some Muslim or other”) is – well, it may not be directly racist, but it’s certainly not the sort of thing Martin Luther King would admire. The content of their character, and all that.

Because Dawkins has gone from criticising the religion itself to criticising Muslims, as a vast bloc. ” [My emphasis.]

The Guardian provides two reflective articles on Professor Dawkins’ unhealthy discharges:

Richard Dawkins criticised for Twitter comment about Muslims.

Richard Dawkins’ tweets on Islam are as rational as the rants of an extremist Muslim cleric.

Martin Robbins at the News Statesman argues:

” “Islam isn’t a race,” is the “I’m not racist, but. . .” of the Atheist movement, a tedious excuse for lazy thinking that is true enough to be banal while simultaneously wrong in any meaningful, real-world sense.

Yes, congratulations, you can read a dictionary. Well done.

But it’s possible for a statement to be both true and wrong. “Homeopathy worked for me” is one example (as is its inverse): it may genuinely make people feel better, emotionally or through the placebo effect; but it doesn’t work in any medical sense.”[My emphasis.]

Final thoughts, people need to decide seriously if they are against certain particular forms of racism and rather lazy or ambivalent on the rest?

Do you oppose racism towards Muslims? Do you apply the same standards when Jews are the target of racism? Etc

Are you universally opposed to racism or just selectively?

If the latter, then you are not really an antiracist/nonracist. Whatever else, that is not the company to keep.

Update 1: The Indy covers it too, Richard Dawkins Muslim jibe sparks Twitter backlash.

Nelson Jones makes some sharp points and I imagine this last one will fly over Professor Dawkins’ head:

“A final point. The United States may boast almost as many Nobel Prize winners as the rest of the world put together, but it is also home to millions of diehard creationists. What has Richard Dawkins to say about that?”

Update 2: Professor Dawkins has replied without the restrictions of Twitter and 140 characters. Yet predictably, Professor Dawkins’ arguments do not engage with any intelligent criticism of his previous stupidity:

“…

Twitter’s 140 character limit always presents a tough challenge, but I tried to rise to it. Nobel Prizes are a pretty widely quoted, if not ideal, barometer of excellence in science.

I thought about comparing the numbers of Nobel Prizes won by Jews (more than 120) and Muslims (ten if you count Peace Prizes, half that if you don’t). This astonishing discrepancy is rendered the more dramatic when you consider the small size of the world’s Jewish population. However, I decided against tweeting that comparison because it might seem unduly provocative (many Muslim “community leaders” are quite outspoken in their hatred of Jews) and I sought a more neutral comparison as more suitable to the potentially inflammable medium of Twitter.

It is a remarkable fact that one Cambridge college, Trinity, has 32 Nobel Prizes to its credit. That’s three times as many as the entire Muslim world even if you count Peace Prizes, six times as many if you don’t. I dramatised the poverty of Muslim scientific achievement, and the contrast with their achievements in earlier centuries, in the following brief tweet: “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.” [My emphasis.]

Why pick on Muslims? You could arbitrarily pick on plenty of categories of people that have achieved far less than Trinity College, Cambridge

Again, fair point. Somebody mentioned redheads (neither he nor I have figures on redheaded scientific achievement but we get the point). I myself tweeted that Trinity Cambridge has more Nobel Prizes than any single country in the world except the USA, Britain (tautologically), Germany and France. You could well think there was something gratuitous in my picking on Muslims, were it not for the ubiquity of the two positive boasts with which I began. Redheads (and the other hypothetical categories we might mention) don’t boast of their large populations and don’t boast of their prowess in science.”


Update 3: Glad I am not the only atheist cheesed off, Richard Dawkins’ Anti-Muslim Tweets Spark Furor, Even Among Atheist Supporters:

“Even some of his admirers were disgusted, as Tom Chivers published a blog on the Telegraph titled, “Please be quiet, Richard Dawkins, I’m begging as a fan.” He makes the point that Dawkins has strayed from providing critiques of religious beliefs and practices grounded in logic to blindly attacking faiths as monolithic groups, manipulating facts to further an agenda.

The Atlantic published “A Short History of Richard Dawkins vs. The Internet” that thoroughly chronicles Dawkins’ long history of anti-Islamic speaking and writing, as well as his admiration for Geert Wilders, the notoriously far-right and anti-Muslim Dutch politician.”

This is worth reading on its own, A Short History of Richard Dawkins vs. The Internet.

Socialists, Scarfe’s Cartoon And Inverted Commas

Socialists tend to expound socialism, the view that there is something beyond the bleak and avaristic world that we live in, or at least that is what they used to do.

Nowadays many on the Left have an unhealthy attitude towards one particular ethnicity, Jews.

So watching modern-day socialists discuss the atrocious Scarfe cartoon is not for the faint hearted, or those with any appreciation of antiracism.

Scarfe-Cartoon1

Rather than debate what is offensive, what is racist and why, the discussion in the comments box hinged on whether not is acceptable to put the word, Holocaust, in inverted commas.

One of the posters had objected:

“10. Moderator: putting the world “Holocaust” in inverted commas is highly abusive, particularly if, like me, you know what concentration camp your relatives were sent to.

CJB ought to be banned. He could always go to some Holocaust denial site and post his garbage there.

Posted by prianikoff 30 January, 2013 at 9:48 am”

The moderator finally came out with a bizarre explanation:

“Moderator: putting the world “Holocaust” in inverted commas is highly abusive, particularly if, like me, you know what concentration camp your relatives were sent to.

Prianikoff, I guess you’re seeing a completely united management team here – it’s clear that me, John and Andy agree that aspects of your posts have been abusive.

However: I’m the one who put the “abuse deleted” in yours – and CJB’s – posts.

Let me explain: You can argue hard against him using quotation marks around the word ‘Holocaust’ without calling him a piece of shit. Cos you don’t know why he did it – he used the word twice in his post, once in quotes and once without. That *might* mean he has a nuanced position on the Holocaust as a historical fact, and the “Holocaust” as an ideological industry. I don’t know – but your politics are solid enough for you to be able to put a decent argument in without calling him names.

So, his use of quotation marks isn’t offensive unless he then comes back and starts denying that the Holocaust happened. You didn’t know at the time, and since then he’s come back and given an explanation.

I hold you to quite a high standard as it goes – I told Andy last night that I find you really interesting to read. You can do this without calling people names.

Posted by Tony Collins 30 January, 2013 at 10:33 am ” [My emphasis.]

It’s depressing that many modern socialists can’t see where this type of debate leads or why certain individuals put the Holocaust with in inverted commas. There is an almost complete lack of perception and understanding of how anti-Jewish racists work and their methods.

In the past there was a more direct confrontational approach taken by these racists, but with the advent of the Internet they change their approach, slower, subtler, pushing discussions towards a certain area and seeing who bites. Who takes up or agrees with their anti-Jewish sentiment.

But it is a damning indictment when socialists can’t discuss these issues with any degree of sensitivity, are unable to comprehend the background to real racism affecting Jews, its implications, why racist and bigots purposefully denigrate the memory of the Holocaust. They have truly lost it. By way of comparison, at Engage there is an intelligent discourse on the significance of David Ward’s remarks and where such thinking leads.

Steve Cohen provided plenty of examples of this detachment and ambiguity towards Jews amongst elements of the Left.

Still, I can’t help thinking that socialism needs better advocates. Some that grasp the techniques of the Far Right and salami-style Holocaust revisionism. Particularly those that understand when the **neo-Nazis at Stormfront approve of a cartoon then something is seriously wrong.

[**Warning: Indirect link to neo-Nazi filth at Stormfront as a record of their views.]

Update 1: It might be argued that the above is a poor example, isolated or not representative, however, a similar hostile attitude towards Jews can often be found at Liberal Conspiracy, Why aren’t the usual suspects defending the Sunday Times over its ‘anti-semitic’ cartoon?

Update 2: It seems that the penny has finally dropped and one of the moderators sees the issues, after it was highlighted.

Update 3: I think Norm makes many good points in his Alibi Antisemitism, notably when he argues:

“A second form of the Israel alibi for antisemitism is the plea that antisemitism should not be ascribed to anyone without evidence of active hatred of Jews on their part; without, that is to say, some clear sign of anti-Semitic intent. A well-known case of this second form arose with Caryl Churchill’s play ‘Seven Jewish Children’, following upon Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2008-9. This play puts into Jewish mouths the view that Palestinians are ‘animals’ and that ‘they want their children killed to make people sorry for them’; but that there is no need to feel sorry for them; that we – the Jews – are the chosen people and that it is our safety and our children that matter; in sum, that ‘I wouldn’t care if we wiped them out’. I will not insist here on how this echoes the blood libel; it is enough that Churchill ascribes to the Jews, seeing themselves as chosen, murderous racist attitudes bordering on the genocidal. On the face of it, one would think, this is a clear candidate for anti-Semitic discourse. ” [My emphasis.]

Update 4: It seems that Liberal Conspiracy moderators are filtering out the worst comments from obvious bigots. Most commendable. I hope they continue this approach as they will, unfailingly, touch on related subjects in the next weeks and months.

Update 5: Liberal Conspiracy appeared to be down, but this comment from the Google cache was illuminating:

“Shuggy 12:34 am, January 31, 2013

Oh for goodness sake! Anyone familiar with the history of anti-Semitic imagery and propaganda calls this out of what it is. Those that don’t need to go back to school.

Look, it’s a simple distinction between a right and an obligation; the former doesn’t necessitate the latter with regards to publication. Take three recent examples:

1) The Guardian has the right to publish Burchill’s article but since it was a piece of shit, they shouldn’t have.

2) The Sunday Times has the right to behave like Der Sturmer, I suppose, but anyone with any knowledge of European history would hope they might have more sense.

3) Most recently, we have an anti-Scottish racist cartoon by Steve Bell. I would defend the right of the Guardian to publish it – but obviously as a Scot, I rather wish they hadn’t.

But I’m not that surprised because quite frankly the British ‘quality’ press has a bunch of thugs working in it these days and it would be refreshing if you had something to say about that rather than, “Ooh, Nick Cohen defended this but doesn’t defend that…” You both work for the same increasingly shitty paper, after all – and you haven’t even touched upon the cesspit that is the Daily Telegraph, which is – as they like to remind us – Britain’s best-selling ‘quality newspaper’. [My emphasis.]”

Shuggy calls out the Liberal Conspiracy’s piece as more of a spat between media types than any particular concern for correctly analysing antisemitism.

That seems a fair judgement given the LC’s coverage of such matters.

Update 6: The Guardian contrasts two views on that awful cartoons, however the comments box is as poisonous as ever.

Thought Provoking Essay on Islam And Jews

There is an intriguing essay at the JC by David J Wasserstein, So, what did the Muslims do for the Jews?

I can’t really comment around Professor Wasserstein’s thesis as I have only read 3-4 books on the topic, but hopefully it will ignite a productive debate on the interactions of peoples, then and now, the myths and reality.

An extract:

“Within a century of the death of Mohammad, in 632, Muslim armies had conquered almost the whole of the world where Jews lived, from Spain eastward across North Africa and the Middle East as far as the eastern frontier of Iran and beyond. Almost all the Jews in the world were now ruled by Islam. This new situation transformed Jewish existence. Their fortunes changed in legal, demographic, social, religious, political, geographical, economic, linguistic and cultural terms – all for the better.

First, things improved politically. Almost everywhere in Christendom where Jews had lived now formed part of the same political space as Babylon – Cordoba and Basra lay in the same political world. The old frontier between the vital centre in Babylonia and the Jews of the Mediterranean basin was swept away, forever.

Political change was partnered by change in the legal status of the Jewish population: although it is not always clear what happened during the Muslim conquests, one thing is certain. The result of the conquests was, by and large, to make the Jews second-class citizens.

This should not be misunderstood: to be a second-class citizen was a far better thing to be than not to be a citizen at all. For most of these Jews, second-class citizenship represented a major advance. In Visigothic Spain, for example, shortly before the Muslim conquest in 711, the Jews had seen their children removed from them and forcibly converted to Christianity and had themselves been enslaved.

In the developing Islamic societies of the classical and medieval periods, being a Jew meant belonging to a category defined under law, enjoying certain rights and protections, alongside various obligations. These rights and protections were not as extensive or as generous as those enjoyed by Muslims, and the obligations were greater but, for the first few centuries, the Muslims themselves were a minority, and the practical differences were not all that great.”