Sunday, September 29, 2013

Richard Dawkins is Right

Richard Dawkins recent tweet stating, “All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though” has produced paroxysm outrage among Muslims and other defenders of Islam. Nesrine Malik fulminates, “But this, in its deliberately obtuse (say what you like, but Dawkins is not a stupid man) baiting, was a new low.” She contends that the Oxford don is really trying to say ’that Muslims as a unit throughout history have done nothing since the Middle Ages, and that is clearly attributable to their stupid religion’.

The sad truth is that since the 12th Century, scientific endeavour in the Muslim world has lacked woefully behind that of much of the rest of the world (both East and West), yet in the 300 years 800-1100AD the centre of thinking and academic endeavour in the world was Baghdad. Indeed the names of many of the stars in the night sky are testament to this period, as is algebra and many other mathematical advances. Baghdad also welcomed persons of all faiths (and non) to engage in free-thought and debate. This all ended in the 12 Century when an Imam named Hamid Al-Ghazali enforced the more rigid, orthodox and unquestioning interpretation of the Muslim faith we see globally today. This is what Dawkins was referring to in his tweets, I doubt many of those who criticise him, both Muslim and non-Muslim have ever bothered to educate themselves on this era of Islamic history, they will just engage 'offended' mode and spout the same old nonsense in Dawkins' direction about him being a bigoted angry atheist. It is pathetic. I have not seen one person offer up a rational, educated counter argument to the points he made.

This offence taking and faux-outrage has been whipped up not just by Muslims and other religious folk, but by apologists for Islam and Islamism especially on the left/liberal side of the debate. It seems like all bets are off when it comes to any debate about this single faith, that by criticising Islam (which is a man-made Idea) you are somehow being a horrid bigot, it is censorship by the back door and is a vile trait in many commentators and public figures I usually side with in public debate.

Yes, there is a certain section of the society who hate and discriminate against individual Muslims out of fear and ignorance, but it is intellectually and morally abhorrent to lump in legitimate critics of Islam/Islamism such as Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris with these actual bigots. Dawkins has often shared a stage with and spoken in support of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a female apostate from Islam who has had to go into hiding because of very credible death threats made to her and the murder of Theo Van Gogh, with whom she worked with on the film 'Submission.' Indeed I would say Dawkins writings, speeches, support and tweets have aided more people suffering under religious persecution and dogmatic intolerance than any tweet bemoaning 'Islamophobia' from the likes of Mehdi Hasan, Owen Jones or Mo Ansar.