Jeffrey Tayler on "Islamophobia"
Rolf Potts' Vagabonding Update
In the Salon article "Richard Dawkins is not an Islamophobe" (August 24, 2013), the writer Jeffrey Tayler argues that Nathan Lean's recent "attack on the renowned atheist" Dawkins as an Islamophobe is nothing more than an attempt "to squelch honest conversation about religion" in general and about Islam in particular.
The proximate cause for Lean's ire was Dawkins tweet on August 8th that, "All the world's Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though." Lean was not the sole critic, of course. Dawkins was widely criticized. But as Tayler notes, Dawkins has a point:
The fact Dawkins presents -- that so few Muslims have won Nobel Prizes -- does raise legitimate . . . questions that Dawkins himself addresses in a blog post about the controversy he stirred up by his tweet. He points out that in view of the grandiose claims advanced by some Muslims for the "science" contained in the Quran, it's rather depressing to note that not much by way of science has come out of the Muslim world in the past 500 years, and it behooves us, and certainly Muslims, to ask why. Dawkins also wonders why Jewish people, with infinitesimal demographic stature, have won 120 Nobels, whereas the 1.6 billion-strong Muslim world can boast of only 10 (and six of those were Peace Prizes).The question is legitimate. The general response, however, has been to call anyone raising the question an Islamophobe, and Lean is particularly apt to do so, having written an entire book on The Islamophobia Industry. Tayler dismisses this label as unworthy of being taken seriously:
"Islamophobia" is nothing more than a quack pseudo-diagnosis suggesting pathological prejudice against, and fear of, a supposedly neutral subject, Islam, in the way agoraphobic folk cringe at open places or claustrophobes dread an elevator. Based on the erroneous premise that those who criticize Islam are somehow ill, the term, along with its adjective "Islamophobic," should be banished from our lexicon as pernicious to rational thinking. People, regardless of race or creed, deserve equal rights and respect; religions, which are essentially hallowed ideologies, merit no a priori respect, but, rather, gimlet-eyed scrutiny, the same scrutiny one would apply to, say, communism, conservatism or liberalism. No one has a right to wield religion as a shield -- or as a sword . . . . Surely, Lean imagined that he could mount the podium shouting "Islamophobe!" at Dawkins and hold forth unopposed, or he would not have ventured into print with such a maladroit, bungling critique. But the age of politically correct timidity in the face of religious zealots and their apologist shills has, thankfully, come to an end.Political correctness in its death throes? Let's hope so. But I would point out that the word "Islamophobia" is only superficially used as designating a pathology. Its deeper use is as a term of moral opprobrium, condemning the supposed Islamophobe as one whose illness rightfully invites disdain, as in "That's sick."
Not diagnosis, but exclusion, banishment to the intellectual equivalent of a lepers' isle . . .