Monday, November 30, 2015

Breaking Down Anti-Muslim Prejudices on the Left

One of the most destructive effects of Barack Obama's Presidency has been the decimation of the antiwar movement on the left. To be sure, there are still many brave, liberal journalists and activists that are promoting nonintervention. But since 2008, we haven't seen the same kind of widespread popular sentiment against the wars in the Middle East. One compelling explanation for this may be that many of the people that claimed to be antiwar in 2007 and 2008 were really just anti-Republican war. And so once President Obama took office, a substantial component of the movement against war seemed to fall silent.

Progressives, who may have been generally predisposed to favor peaceful solutions before Obama were put in a tough spot after 2008. As President Obama continued to push hawkish policies of various sorts (stepping up drone assassinations, failing to act on Guantanamo, pushing intervention in Libya, and so on), they could either continue to oppose war and oppose their President, or they could change their position on war to be in line with the leader of the Democratic party. The lack of meaningful opposition to many of Obama's foreign policy suggests that many acquiesced.

Fortunately, there was a rising intellectual force to help the new, more bellicose left get over their cognitive dissonance. Prominent atheists began to focus much of their ire against Islam specifically rather than religion in general. And as the left is less religious in general, this was a very significant development. Anti-Muslim remarks and policies used to be routinely and correctly dismissed as racist on the left. But with the rise of the atheist critique on Islam, this bigotry gained credibility. As author Sam Harris once said on Bill Maher's show, Islam is a "motherload of bad ideas". In that same episode, when a guest asked if Islamophobia is a real thing, Maher literally said "It's not a real thing when we do it." (It's at around 1:40 in the embedded clip.)

The point is that generalized anti-Muslim beliefs have started to gain traction among people who really ought to know better. And that is what brings us to our recommended story today. In a new op-ed at The Guardian, Jeff Sparrow takes on the bigotry that has come to prominence among what are sometimes called the "New Atheists". Regardless of whether you identify as atheist, this article is certainly worth your time. It concisely explains how quickly otherwise unrelated ideas can be twisted to serve the interests of the powerful at the expense of the weak. As Sparrow writes:
In the name of enlightened atheism, you thus arrive at an old-fashioned imperialism: the people we just happen to be bombing are simple-minded savages, impervious to reason and civilisation.

Indeed. Here's the link:

We can save atheism from New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris

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