Friday, 14 July 2017

A Reply to Richard Carrier's Article - "You Might Be an Islamophobe If..."

On December 11, 2015, famous atheist historian Richard Carrier published an article titled - "You Might Be an Islamophobe If..." here:

Carrier focusses on the rising anti-Muslim violence and hatred, particularly in the US and a stagnant and unhealthy amount of support for Old Testament laws. He goes on to list reasons to show that the heavily increased and increasing focus on criticism of Islam is irrational. In my reply to his article, I will demonstrate how Richard uses scores of false equivalences to defend his position (while I completely agree that the support for OT laws is still unhealthy). Before that, let me give you an example of what a false equivalence is. Consider two scenarios -

Scenario A: A poor person came begging for money to a singer named Johann who is neither too rich nor too poor and lives a peaceful life. Johann refuses to give anything.

Scenario B: A poor person came begging for money to an active terrorist named Omar who is neither too rich nor too poor. Omar gives him a lot of money.

A person named Mike writes an article on this stating - "Omar helped the poor man a lot whereas Johann refused to offer any help. So, please don't think Omar is all evil and that Johann is a saint." And Mike does not even acknowledge that there are scores of reasons why Omar is a danger to the society whereas Johann is basically harmless. What Mike wrote, is a factual statement, but what he committed is an example of false equivalence... Sort of like how Linda Sarsour compares the treatment of women in USA and Saudi Arabia.

Richard does not quite come down to this level of fallacy, but he comes close. He also uses a lot of hyperbole - for example to make American Conservative Christians/Republicans look much worse than they actually are. Now, I will start quoting his article:

Richard wrote --

[Pundits have said “vast numbers of Muslims want humans to die for holding a different idea” (even though that’s not true of Muslims in any democratic nation, like the U.S., the U.K. or E.U., or any Western nation in fact, as well as Turkey, and even barely democratic nations like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Azerbaijan) and share “too much in common with ISIS” (even though in fact the “vast majority” of Muslims not only oppose ISIS, but Muslim nations are unanimously united in actively fighting ISIS).]

My answer: I am not sure which "pundit" said that "vast numbers of Muslims want humans to die for holding a different idea". But let's assume that someone actually wrote that. It is indeed misleading to make a blanket statement like that without clarifying further. It is actually true though.. vast numbers of Muslims DO want to kill people, just for holding a different idea. But, as most people know, they are a tiny minority (except when it comes to killing Ex Muslims -- I will come to that later). So, I am not blaming Richard for this statement. However, Richard continues to negate the idea that vast numbers of Muslims share too much in common with ISIS using a logical fallacy - "vast majority of Muslims not only oppose ISIS, but Muslims nations are unanimously united in actively fighting ISIS".

Why is this a logical fallacy? Because Richard seems to miss the original point! The original point was not that vast numbers of Muslims even sympathize with ISIS. The point was that vast numbers of Muslims share too much in common with ISIS. How? It is very simple.. The support for things like killing Ex Muslims, killing homosexuals, gender segregation, stoning married adulterers to death, chopping off hands for theft etc.. is disturbingly high in the Muslim world, eventhough it is not always a majority-held view.

Let us talk about the support for killing Ex-Muslims in the Muslim world. Based on the results of extensive polling conducted by the PEW Research Agency (, 78% of surveyed Muslims in Afghanistan support death penalty for Ex Muslims. 64% in Pakistan, 64% in Egypt, 59% in Palestinian territory, 58% in Jordan, 53% in Malaysia, 36% in Bangladesh, 21% in Thailand and 13% in Indonesia. This is ground reality -- and whoever fails to see how disturbing this statistic is, should really come to his senses. Sure, the support for the same is much lower in certain countries like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. That does not negate what I said. So, even if the vast majority of Muslims (let's say 96%) condemn an organization like ISIS which, apart from endorsing terrible laws, blows up Christians in churches, commits genocide of Shias and Yazidis and go around suicide bombing all over the world, that does not change the facts I set straight above. And it is not mere statistics, Ex Muslims are suffering a lot in these countries, even in India the average Ex Muslim is scared to declare his disbelief.

As for Richard's claim that "Muslim nations are unanimously united in actively fighting the ISIS", that is not true.. what might be true is - "Muslim nations claim to be unanimously united in actively fighting the ISIS".

Richard wrote --

[Hosts [on national news programs] have repeated bigoted falsehoods, for example that female genital mutilation is an inherently Muslim problem (in fact, it is a regional practice that crosses religious lines [e.g. “In Niger, for example, 55 percent of Christian women and girls have experienced FGM, compared with two percent of their Muslim counterparts”]) or that restrictions on women driving are “commonplace” in the Muslim world (in fact, it is restricted to one country, Saudi Arabia, that represents 2 percent of the global Muslim population).]

My answer: Although, there is more to FGM than being merely a "Muslim problem", it IS a Muslim problem too, in addition to being a regional problem (eg: African). First let us talk about African countries - Richard notes how FGM is disproportionately high among Christians in Niger and almost negligibly low among Muslims. Let me give the readers, the other side of the story -- Looking at the UNICEF data, FGM is practiced for 96% of all women in Guinea (where 85% of the population is Muslim), 98% of all women in Somalia (where 99% of the population is Muslim), 91% of all women in Egypt (where 85% of the population is Muslim) ...

On the other hand, Cameroon (which is 70% Christian and 20% Muslim) has merely 1% of its women undergone FGM. Uganda (which is 85% Christian) has merely 1% of its women undergone FGM. Ghana (which is 71% Christian and 18% Muslim) has merely 4% of its women undergone FGM. You can see the full UNICEF statistics for FGM in different countries of the world, here:

A close look at the statistics clearly suggests that on an average in African countries, the problem of FGM is more rampant among Muslims, eventhough it is entirely the other way in Niger.

What about outside Africa? A whopping 98% of all Muslim females have undergone FGM in Indonesia and 93% of Muslim females in Malaysia... whereas UNICEF notes that the practice is almost non-existant in the Hindu and Buddhist communities in Malaysia. A honest look at these statistics and some common-sense is all that is required to understand that FGM is also a Muslim problem, apart from an African problem. What about the religious texts? Both the Quran and Bible are completely silent on FGM. To give some credit where it is due, the Quran does not even prescribe the concept of circumcision. However, there are some strong (Sahih) hadiths that indicate that FGM was thought to be normal/moral by Muhammad and his child bride Aisha. For example --

Jami at-Tirmidhi 1:1:108 (Classified Sahih by Darussalam)
Aishah narrated:
"When the circumcised meets the circumcised, then indeed Ghusl (Islamic ritual washing) is required. Myself and Allah's Messenger did that, so we performed Ghusl."

Richard wrote --

[Yes, Saudi Arabia is just a successful ISIS. Just as Kim Jon Un is a successful Bond villain. But Turkey has nearly three times as many Muslims as Saudia Arabia has, and the vast majority of them do not at all share the criminal views of the Saudi regime. Much less the Saudi people, which one should not confuse with the elite in a tyrannical state: most Iranians are de facto secular, for example, and simply required by law to pretend to be Muslim, not even being allowed to elect their own candidates.]

My answer: I have one objection (or let's say some detail to add) to this paragraph.. Muslims of Saudi are on an average, extremely fanatic. Support for killing anyone who criticizes Islam, let alone for declaration as an Ex Muslim, is widely rampant. As a person who has had thousands of discussions with Muslims all over the world, I know this. Hell, lots of Ex Muslims are killed secretly in Saudi and the government and police censor this heavily, just enough to not lose too much of their "image" while still letting out a message that it shall kill Ex Muslims. Woman are widely harassed if they reveal their hair, often even if they reveal their faces, not just by the religious police, but by their own families. Honour killing is rampant. People are kept in dark about this because of how much Saudi censors news. Pakistan is another country where Ex Muslims are routinely hunted and harassed... even to the point that you cannot even identify as an Ex Muslim on social media unless you totally hide your credentials. It has become a parallel rule that of anyone speaks anything against Islam, he would be hunted.. often killed. Otherwise, I agree with what Richard said about Iranians and Turks, more or less.

Richard wrote --

[Similarly, much is made of Islamic opposition to homosexuality rendering it especially evil, as if that hasn’t always been a Christian thing as well. In fact, it is not notably different. The Koran does not even command the killing of gays; the Christian Bible does. And like a slight majority of Muslim, and still many Christian, nations now do, Christian authorities in America were jailing gays as recently as 1986; even life sentences remained on the books until 2003. In fact, it was American Christian lobbyists who tried to get the death penalty for gays instituted in several African nations in just the last few years (because they couldn’t succeed at this in any decent nation on earth). Meanwhile, nearly half of Muslim countries don’t even outlaw it. Think about that.]

My answer: What is more relevant is the mainstream beliefs -- most Christians do not believe that the Old Testament punishments are to be implemented today, and the Gospels promote (or atleast give a good case for) a non-retaliatory interpretation of using the OT as commandments whose violations are not to be punished by humans on earth.. most notably Mathew 5:38 - 5:45.. and unlike Muhammad, Jesus does not overturn his peaceful teachings with commands for violence and establishing a theocracy - he even discourages it. For the readers, the New Testament does not have a punishment for homosexuality (although Paul sort of says that they deserve to die). With that said, one certainly cannot ignore that there is a sizable fundamentalist Christian crew who still believes that OT laws have to be enforced, the support for the same is way lesser among the Christians globally than the support is for similar laws among the Muslims.

Yes, the Quran does not ask humans to punish homosexuals (it is remarked as the highest abomination though). However, most Muslims accept strong-chained hadiths as legally binding. And there is one strong hadith which commands to kill homosexuals (and a bunch of good (hasan) hadiths).

Sunan Abu Dawud 39:4447 (Classified Hasan-Sahih by Al-Albani)
Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas:
The Prophet said: If you find anyone doing as Lot's people did, kill the one who does it, and the one to whom it is done.

As for some of the Christian nations/provinces having jail terms for same-sex activity on paper, yeah. That is a problem. However, I can vouch that gays/lesbians would be far safer while living among the average religious Christian communities than they would be in pretty much any religious Muslim community. While Christian fundamentalists whine about homosexuality being a disease, their Muslim counterparts would have physically abused them. While the former would resort to physical harassment, the latter would have killed them. That is the average equivalence. The sad reality is that most Muslim countries (and often communities) censor news too much, that we don't get to hear about these things unless and until we contact Ex Muslims/homosexuals living in the Muslim world.

Let us look at another development that happened fairly recently. In 2011, South Sudan split away from Sudan. Sudan is a 97% Muslim country whereas South Sudan is 60% Christian and 6% Muslim (rest pagan). South Sudan has removed death penalty for homosexuality (which was and is still part of Sudan law) and replaced it with a 10-year jail term. It has also no apostasy law, whereas Sudan still has death penalty for apostasy from Islam. Isn't that great?

Richard wrote --

[Even this year, major American presidential candidates (Jindal, Huckabee, and Cruz) spoke at a rally calling for the death-penalty for gays.]

My answer: That is a bit misleading. Richard talks as if Jindal, Huckabee and Cruz directly called for or supported death penalty for gays. It was the zealot Kevin Swanson who called for it.. perhaps supported by people who spoke later. It is disgusting to see the crowd clap at these zealots. And make no mistake, Jindal, Cruz and Huckabee deserve condemnation for being soft on this, and being irresponsible (Also, there is a good chance that they were fully aware of Kevin's propaganda before coming there to speak). But they did leave the stage before Kevin started sprouting venom.

Richard wrote --

[This decade, in the very United States, hundreds of thousands of Christian voters still support kill-the-gays candidates. Last year, kill-the-gays Scott Esk won 5% of his district in a primary. In 2012, Charlie Fuqua won 30% in a general election (even though p. 168 of his book God’s Law makes clear what he wants for gays: executing them is the “kind and loving thing to do”). Very small districts, but these percentages were no fluke. Larry Kilgore “ran for the U.S. Senate in 2008 and came second in the Republican primary behind Senator John Cornyn with 225,897 votes,” which is about 19% of voting Texan Republicans. And Merrill Keiser, also openly calling for the death penalty for gays (even saying Elton John and Mary Cheney should be killed), received 163,000 votes in Ohio as recently as 2006.]

My answer: These stats are really disturbing and shows that we have got a lot to do with OT-loving Christianity. No sane human should even consider voting for any of these people. My only point is that Christianity having problems does not make a special focus on Islam "irrational" as really unique problems thrive in the Muslim communities, even in USA - such as harassment/isolation of apostates/their families, especially if they involve in any sort of public criticism of Islam, or even publically flaunting their apostasy. One could get to know a lot, if he was to listen to Ex-Muslims like Sarah Haider. It would be safer to criticize Islam now (when Muslims are just 1% in USA), rather than wait till their percentage gets as high as 5-6. Besides, we need to send a strong message to the mainstream Muslim world with regards to their treatment of apostates.. which is a safer place for that, than USA?

Richard wrote --

[But otherwise, Dominonists, Reconstructionists, Restorationists, Armageddonists, David Barton, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, John Hagee and his tens of thousands of worshipers and millions of fans, 57% of Republican voters…yes, let me say that again in case you missed it, 57% of Republican voters…they want sharia law instituted in this country.]

My answer: To clarify for the readers, these are statistics of how many republicans who want *Christianity to be the official religion*, which does not necessarily mean support for the barbaric OT laws (although intolerance towards homosexuals comes in the top list of a large % of these people).

Richard wrote --

[I cite the evidence that we are more likely to be killed in this country by Christian terrorists than Muslim ones (seven times more likely even). Because that exposes the irrationality of their defending a fear of Muslims, when they obviously don’t fear Christians. And an irrational fear of Muslims is Islamophobia.]

My answer: Some flawed logic here. There are 60 times more Christians than there are Muslims in the US. And if despite this, Christians are only 7 times as likely to kill you compared to Muslims, in USA, that tells you something underlying the ideology behind Muslims.

Richard quotes another member's response (which I will put within "Quotes") --

[Member Quote - "Name-calling with the term Islamophobia is an aggressive tactic popularized by apologists for radical Islam to silence individuals who attempt to tell the truth about Jihadist Islam. The psychological term phobia describes an excessive and irrational fear. So-called Islamophobia, by contrast, is appropriate willingness to heed the solid evidence of who commits terror acts and their motivations."

Richard - Yep. This douchebag just justified all the horrible bigotry, violence and murder and dismemberment and all, documented in that article, with the argument that it’s all “appropriate” and in accordance with “solid evidence” of who is endangering us.]

My answer: No, the quote does not justify any of what Richard states. Much simply because most people whom Richard would classify as "Islamophobes" actually do not want to unleash violence against Muslims in general. Nor does a US citizen focussing on Islamic extremism much more than Christian extremism, imply that he is condoning the latter. Richard is also genuinely interested in explaining the terror attacks on US as "a reaction to US invasion of Iraq". If he would bother the same way, he would know that a lot of the anti-Muslim violence is actually "a reaction" to politically correct masses trying to shut down criticism of Islam and branding as a "racist" and a "bigot" and an "islamophobe" anyone who focusses on it.

Richard wrote --

[Someone notices and calls out the original commenter’s Islamophobic dogwhistle about Islam being a “civilizational risk.” Like, say, a large asteroid impact, or Global Thermonuclear War (which requires arsenals of thousands of nukes, which no Islamic nation will ever have even a fraction of access to). Did I mention Islamophobia consists of an irrational fear of Islam? Yeah. That’s what this is. “Muslims will destroy civilization” is as irrational a thing to believe as “California will soon fall off into the sea.”]

My answer: Islam IS a civilizational risk. The amount of intolerance and danger it brings with its spread, is as clear as day. For instance, refer the PEW Research statistics that I cited for the support for killing Ex-Muslims. Islam also brings many other problems with it, but I would like to focus on two - Intolerance towards women from their community marrying from outside their religion, intolerance towards gender-mixing (not even coming to sex). A good observer knows these things.

Richard wrote --

[But look? Almost none of the Muslims here are killing us. In fact, in fifteen years, out of over two million Muslims, barely a dozen have even tried. That’s a total headscratcher.]

My answer: After using false equiavalences throughout his article, Richard makes a factual error here. A study conducted in USA ( revealed 63 Islamic terror-motivated incidents in US from the time period from 2008 - 2016 (although I go one year further than the date Richard wrote this article, I am only checking an 8 year time period, not even 15 years). Now most of these terror attempts involve more than one person in the conspiracy chain. Discounting the odd cases where the same person was behind multiple attempts, that would still mean something like 80-100 US Muslims documented trying to commit terror attacks in the US over the last 8 years. Probably a lot more. And that's grossly inconsistent with how Richard downplays this threat. Perhaps he means this is too less. But most would disagree (considering that Muslims make up only 1% of the US population).

I could go on.. but I think I will stop here. By the way, Richard is a great historian and there are many things I like about his approach.. such as not simply buying into "expert consensus" and analyzing the actual data.. here in the topic of Islam, he however happens to be way off the mark.

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