Let’s play ‘Atheist or Fascist?’

Below are a selection of quotes from three prominent figures of the Atheist movement, and three prominent far-right figures. Try and guess which are which and maybe comment with your score (answers at the bottom).

  1. I regard Islam as one of the great evils in the world, and I fear that we have a very difficult struggle there… There are people in the Islamic world who simply say, ‘Islam is right, and we are going to impose our will.’
  2. Western values, freedom of speech, democracy and rights for women are incompatible with Islam, which is a cancer eating away at our freedoms and our democracy and rights for our women.
  3. It’s almost impossible to say anything against Islam in this country, because you are accused of being racist or Islamophobic.
  4. I do feel visceral revulsion at the burka because for me it is a symbol of the oppression of women.
  5. The Koran is an inspiration for intolerance, murder and terror.
  6. Islamo-fascists gave us no peace and we shouldn’t give them any. We can’t live on the same planet as them and I’m glad because I don’t want to. I don’t want to breathe the same air as these psychopaths and murderers and rapists and torturers and child abusers. It’s them or me. I’m very happy about this because I know it will be them. It’s a duty and a responsibility to defeat them. But it’s also a pleasure. I don’t regard it as a grim task at all.
  7. The dogma of multiculturalism has left a secular Europe very slow to address the looming problem of religious extremism among its immigrants.
  8. Islam is not compatible with our Western way of life. Islam is a threat to our values. Respect for people who think otherwise, the equality of men and women, the equality of homosexuals and heterosexuals, respect for Christians, Jews, unbelievers and apostates, the separation of church and state, freedom of speech, they are all under pressure…
  9. Let us remind ourselves what Sharia means on freedom of speech, conscience, and protest. All we need do is look at a few examples from other countries.
    In Pakistan, the Criminal Code articles 295 and 298 have shut down any freedom of speech as regards Islam. The blaspheme laws are a rod to beat down and kill the non-Muslim population.
    In Saudi Arabia, in 2007 the religious police beat little school girls back into their burning building because they were not properly covered.
    In Egypt, converts from Islam have to either flee the country or go into hiding.
    In Iran, protesters are gunned down in the street for declaring their lack of confidence in and support for the recent presidential elections.
    And in this country we are apparently not allowed to have an opinion that can be in anyway construed as being negative about Islam.
  10. As a matter of doctrine, the Muslim conception of tolerance is one in which non-Muslims have been politically and economically subdued, converted, or put to sword.
  11. Sharia – the rule by a so-called Allah means the domination of non-Muslims. It is a central teaching of Islam and rooted in the Qur’an and the example of Mohammed, the founder of Islam.
  12. I think it is well arguable that Islam is the greatest man-made force for evil in the world today.
  13. This wicked, vicious faith has expanded from a handful of cranky lunatics about 1,300 years ago, to it’s now sweeping country after country before it, all over the world. And if you read the Koran, you’ll find that that’s what they want.

The point of this (to preempt some of the more predictable objections to this) is not that atheism inevitable leads towards fascism or racism (as some of the more ludicrous religious evangelists will argue) nor that the Atheist movement and the far-right share common ideologcal roots (they don’t). It is to illustrate that the kind of vulgar post-political reductionism embodied by the likes of Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens converges with the far-right around a shared problematisation of Islam, and, more specifically, the presence of Muslim immigrants in the West, as well as shared anxieties around multiculturalism and political correctness. One can find much more explicit racist framings of Islam among the comments on the likes of Richard Dawkins website, while Dawkins and others are quoted enthusiastically by the EDL et al. This suggests (unsurprisingly, given that both inhabit the same political discourse) not just a point of convergence but an inter-relation of the two movements – a mutual feeding-into-one-another.

EDIT: Ok just to be clear, for the benefit of all the Redditors, I’m not asserting, nor do I believe, that the word ‘Muslim’ is interchangeable with ‘Arab’ or anything of the sort. But nor is it possible to draw a sharp distinction between race and religion as many commenters have. The word Muslim has a set of associated racial meanings. It is used in various ways to signify a multiplicity of minority races and cultures. This is simply a fact of our political discourse. This is why the political framing of Islam is a racial issue. What’s more: everyone knows this. The “I’m criticising their beliefs not their race” gambit is merely an attempt to deny the racial content of your statements in order to sidestep accusations of racism – a classic racist move.

Answers:

  1. Atheist Richard Dawkins (source)
  2. Fascist Nick Griffin (source)
  3. Atheist Richard Dawkins (source)
  4. Atheist Richard Dawkins (Ibid.)
  5. Fascist Geert Wilders (source)
  6. Atheist Christopher Hitchens (source)
  7. Atheist Sam Harris (source) (He goes on to say that “The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.”)
  8. Fascist Geert Wilders (source)
  9. Fascist Tommy Robinson (source)
  10. Atheist Sam Harris (source)
  11. Fascist Tommy Robinson (source)
  12. Atheist Richard Dawkins (source)
  13. Fascist Nick Griffin (source)
19 comments
  1. Anonymous said:

    This demonstrates that some comments made by fascists can still be correct, even if the methods by which they implement their ideologies are unacceptable. All you need do is remove the part where they kill everyone who disagrees with them, and you have an argument against both fascism and against Islam.

  2. Hambone said:

    “One can find much more explicit racist framings of Islam among the comments on the likes of Richard Dawkins website, while Dawkins and others are quoted enthusiastically by the EDL et al. This suggests (unsurprisingly, given that both inhabit the same political discourse) not just a point of convergence but an inter-relation of the two movements – a mutual feeding-into-one-another.”

    Oh please. That’s like saying that it’s misogynistic to note the historical fact that women have been excluded from serving on the front lines in professional militaries. It is not racist to observe historical fact. I don’t share Tommy Robinson’s politics, but the events he listed in Quote 9 really did happen. Noting that objective truth is NOT racist. He may be drawing racist (or at least extremely right-wing) conclusions as a result of the fact, but the truth itself is impartial and quoting it is not an inherently fascist opinion.

    Correlation is not causation. If a fact is a fact, then its use by two different political figures does not imply a commonality of opinion between those figures, it’s simply independent verification of the fact.

    The fundamental difference between Hitchens/Dawkins/Harris and people like the BNP or other far right movements is that the former want to persuade, educate and enlighten, while the latter want to legislate, suppress and ban. Both objectives are served by highlighting the same truth. That does not mean that they are the same objective.

  3. Anonymous said:

    “One can find much more explicit racist framings of Islam among the comments of…”

    No. You cannot find a /racist/ framing of Islam /anywhere/. Because ISLAM IS NOT A RACE. You have an /anti-theistic/ framing of Islam. Which /it/ richly deserves in a way that /Arabs/ do not.

      • Anonymous said:

        I used no vulgarity, politics, or reductionism. I corrected your mistake preconception about Islam, Arabs, and what it is that the terms racist and anti-theist apply to. If this makes my comment objectionable to you, your enemy is the English language, and you should perhaps speak in a language of your own devising where those words meant what you have implied them to mean.

      • Um yeah it’s vulgar in the sense of being crude. It’s reductionist because it denies the complexity of social relations and attempts to reduce the discussion of racism to abstract categories (where does a “race” end and a “culture” begin?). It’s post-political in the sense that it attempts to depoliticise the political framing of Muslims.

      • Hambone said:

        okay, this is the thing you’re not getting: there IS a difference between religion and race.

        Race is intrinsic. It is genetic, historical, and not something that the person has any choice or say in. It is physically impossible to change your ethnicity. (Michael Jackson was a special case, and technically he was still genetically African-American, despite his appearance in later life.)

        Religion, on the other hand, is extrinsic. It is a choice. One that is frequently enforced by childhood indoctrination, and with threats of violent retribution should you make what the ruling authority of your country considers the “wrong” choice, but there is otherwise nothing stopping a person from converting to a faith other than the one they were raised with, or rejecting faith altogether.

        The two are not the same thing. And in fact I’d say that if you’re making the assertion “Arab = Muslim” then *YOU’RE* the racist, crude, reductionist one.

        Race and Religion are *NOT* the same thing. And the difference between them is what separates the anti-theistic position from the fascistic one. The former is directed (deservedly) at the religion, and the latter is directed (unjustly) at the race. If you’re lumping Islam in with the Arabic ethnic group without regard for the distinction between the two then you’re making the exact same mistake as Nick Griffin et al.

      • Oh ffs even your beloved Richard Dawkins the arch-essentialist and bio-reductionist acknowledges (in The Ancestor’s Tale) that race isn’t a meaningful biological concept and that the categorisation of people into races is arbitrary.

        So the question is who categorises people and on what basis? That’s a sociological question. The term in sociology for the process of assigning people to racial (or ethnic) categories is ‘racialisation’.

        Racialisation is a much more complex process than the reductionist account you give. It is in fact impossible to separate race from culture in the way you do, because race and culture are bound together in a variety of ways.

        Politically, contemporary racism has largely shifted from discussing race as a biological category to focus on culture. This is why the political framing of Islam is a racial issue. It’s not because all Arabs are Muslims or all Muslims are Arabs, but because politically the word Muslim has a set of associated racial meanings.

      • Hambone said:

        Let me put it another way, then – it is not “racist” to accuse the Saudi government of being an oppressive regime that wants to police what its citizens are permitted to believe, and who treat women as inferior to men. It is not “racist” to observe that the Syrian government are routinely massacring their own citizens in a clumsy and brutal bid to maintain control. It is not “racist” to note the destruction of Buddhist statues in Afghanistan and the demolition of historical Islamic shrines in Timbuktu by Islamists. It is not “racist” to observe that each of these three examples of barbarism are either done in the name of, or are at least endorsed by, interpretations of Islam. *FACTS* are not inherently racist.

        Those behaviours would be abominable no matter who was doing them and what ethnicity they may be. The fact is that the majority (not all, but a majority) of atrocities and human rights abuses in the modern world have one factor in common – Islam. Observing that simple, demonstrable fact is not, and cannot be, racist, because Islam IS. NOT. A. RACE.

        How is this hard to grasp? Islam is not a race. Race is, I agree, largely* an arbitrary and meaningless distinction. Islam is a religion. Religions are NOT entirely arbitrary and meaningless distinctions. Harsh criticism of a religion is not racism because a religion is not a race because there IS NO SUCH THING as a race. There IS such a thing as religion, however, and criticism of Islam (which it entirely deserves) constitutes anti-Theism.

        *(I say “largely” because ethnic origin does have a biological impact and must be factored into many medical processes such as calculating the eGFR score of a patient with chronic kidney disease.)

        Nor is it prejudice. Prejudice means “before justice”, making it an unthinking leap to a conclusion that is probably not fair based on preconceived notions. Anti-theism, however, generally requires that the anti-theist have weighed the balance of evidence and drawn a judicial opinion. Indeed, anti-theism requires flying in the face of the dominant zeitgeist of the world which holds religion to be privileged and not a valid target for criticism. In other words, Anti-Theism requires ABANDONING preconceived notions and therefore abandoning prejudice.

        So the difference between a left-wing thinking Atheist and a right-wing bigoted Fascist is this – the latter is hating for no good reason, the former is criticizing for *extremely good* and ethical reasons. A left-winger is uncomfortable with the idea of launching seek-and-kill strikes via drone and special forces operations against prominent Islamist ringleaders, a Fascist applauds the decision. Left-wingers criticize and seek to improve, Fascists hate and seek to suppress. The fact that both groups have an overlap in their rhetoric does not invalidate the rhetoric – even a stopped clock is right twice per day.

      • Hambone said:

        I’d also appreciate it if you could explain to me why the term “reductionist” is so important to you? You keep using it as if it invalidates any possible argument we might make in which the terms “arab” and “muslim are treated as distinct and separate.

        In fact, my reading of the term is that it means “reducing complexity”. I’d suggest that saying that being arabic and being a Muslim are exactly the same thing is MORE reductionist than treating the two separately.

      • I might leave the longer comment and give it a fisking in its own post, because I think with it you more or less sum up the New Atheist objections to my analysis.

        I use the term reductionism because that is precisely the problem. To treat Islam as merely a body of ideas is to remove it from its political context, to deny the complex web of semantic associations with Islam, and to attempt to remove yourself from the discourse you inhabit. Reductionism can sometimes be illuminating, in this case it’s obfuscatory because it’s precisely the discursive relationship between liberal atheists, far-right racists and Muslims that we’re trying to explore.

  4. There’s a difference between criticizing the ideas of Islam and claiming that muslims should not be allowed to exist. Dawkins and Hitchens would certainly never make the claim that muslims should be banished, imprisoned, or worse, or that Islam itself should be banned. They are criticizing the claims that Islam and muslims make about the world, and the behaviour of some muslims with regard to others.

    The fascists you quote are quite the opposite: they would like to see Islam banned, and muslims banished, imprisoned or worse, and have little to no problems, really, with the core tenets of Islam. They are just as religious, and they share many beliefs about the role of religion in government, the role of women in society, and the role of democracy itself.

    It’s insulting, and it’s fascistic, to mix categories like that just to paint a group of people you disagree with as somehow “evil”.

    There are atheists who are far too close to the fascists’ view. People like Pat Condell, for example. Sam Harris skirts dangerously close to that position in his worst moments. And I am the very first person, as a militant atheist, to call them out on their bullpucky when they do.

    But that doesn’t mean one should not criticize Islam. I criticize ALL religions; religion itself is evil; individual religions differ only in their ability to cause damage at a given point in history. Right now, Christianity and Islam are by far the most dangerous, because of the power of their most extreme adherents to cause harm.

  5. Got 10 out of 13. Well chuffed with that score :)
    Only ones I got wrong were 1, 9 and 12.

    Dawkins is an out-and-out elitist, and to be perfectly honest his brand of ‘rational scientific humanism’ would have have been eagerly embraced in 1930′s Germany. I know that is somewhat of a cliché, but in this case it is apt – I’m sure he would have been most interested in their eugenics programs and if you simply substitute the word ‘Judaism’ for ‘Islam’ in any of his quotes you can see an eerie similarly. Hitchens is one of the very few people who, when I heard had died, made me grimly happy – a truly hateful man. Yet the almost loving affection and admiration so-called ‘liberals’ have for these individuals is widespread, and needs to be challenged – and articles like these go a long way to doing so.

    Fair play for writing this.

  6. Steven said:

    Can you provide comments regarding the evil of other forms of religion from Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens?
    And then find similarly negative comments regarding the evil of other forms of religion from Griffin, Wilders and Robinson? Then ask us to guess who said what. As a Liberal Atheist who has a dislike and distrust of ALL kinds of religion I am always amazed when folks who are critical of Christianity of Judaism defend Islam. Blows my mind, given the vicious homophobia of all three religions.

    • I think people confuse opposing imperialism, racism and fascism with supporting Islam. In reality anyone who opposes fascism should oppose militant Islam as it shares so many of the same traits.

  7. Steven said:

    Apply your methodology to this.
    How about this game?
    Christian or Islamic statement from a religious figure:
    A) “[Homosexuals should be] Punished, in fact, killed. The people involved should be killed in the worst, most severe way of killing.”
    B)”Not only is homosexuality a sin, but anyone who supports f*gs is just as guilty as they are. You are both worthy of death.”
    C) “AIDS is not just God´s punishment for homosexuals; it is God´s punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals.”
    D) “They have a common punishment amongst them and they have the virus to run after them wherever they go.”

    A. Iranian Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani talking about homosexuals
    B. American Fred Phelps leader of the Westboro Baptist Church
    C.American Jerry Falwell founder of the Thomas Road Baptist Church
    D. Egyptian Abu Hamza talking about homosexuals, he is a Muslim cleric who was jailed for seven years in the UK for inciting violence

  8. 43n4347y834ny7n4c said:

    You are stupid enough to conflate criticism of religion with racism. You are painfully stupid.

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