Tag Archives: bigotry

Via Media

Cathy Young wonders,

Which is the more serious problem today: Islamic extremism or anti-Islamic bigotry?

In her even-handedness she admits that both are serious. But guess who doesn't? That's right. The Left. Young argues that Liberals have spent ample energy railing against anti-Islamic bigotry, but have failed to also take seriously the threat of Islamic extremism: 

Yet nowhere in The Nation will one find recognition that extremism in Islam is a particularly serious problem. 

Young has beef with the Muslim-lovers at The Nation for failing to call out the bad stuff Muslims believe and do. Unfortunately, her evidence is rather weak: 

One author dismisses the issue by stating that "every group has its loonies." Another writes that while misogyny and religious repression in some Muslim countries should be denounced, it can be done without generalizing about Islam.

These authors are apparently not serious enough! We need to generalize…

Evidence against her assertion, on the other hand, is rather strong (see here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and…you get the point). 

Instead of letting basic internet research get in the way of her argument, Young paints a picture of left-wing political discourse as biased in favor of protecting the good name of Islam while failing to face up to the very real threat of what she considers a particularly dangerous religion. Young contends that, "for complex historical and cultural reasons, radicalism in Islam is far closer to the mainstream than in other major religions right now." What evidence does she provide? 

There is no country today where a Christian government executes people for blasphemy, apostasy or illicit sex.

(Except for here. Also, while the few places that do have death penalties are Islamic, many other non-Islamic countries have severe penalties for homosexuality)

And,

Freedom House, an esteemed human rights organization, reports that many U.S. mosques carry extremist literature. Supposedly moderate Muslim groups such as the Islamic Circle of North America have hosted speakers with extreme ideas.

So, there must be some truth to all this anti-Islamic sentiment (except from you, Pam Geller!). Get serious. It is entirely disingenuous for Young to write that, "Concerns about bigotry are justified. But they should not deter legitimate debate about problems in modern Islam." Legitimate debate about problems in modern Islam are not necessarily separate from concerns about anti-muslim bigotry. Indeed, one of the main causes of extremism in Islam is the West's callous abuse of Islamic peoples over the last century. Further, there is no evidence that the Left's anti-bigotry writings have come anywhere near the level of debate-killing as shouts of "anti-Semitism" have done in discussions of extremism in Israel. Young provides no real evidence that the Left has confused legitimate criticism of Islam with bigotry. Rather, Young has created a false narrative in the guise of being even-handed in order to both attack the Left and keep open the door for continued abuse of Muslims around the world. 

Changing the definition of bigotry

I did not think arguments against same-sex marriage could get any worse, but alas, I was wrong.  Here is Pastor Aaron Fruh, of Knollwood Church in Mobile, Ala, writing (inexplicably) in the Chicago Tribune:

If I were counseling a married couple who were about to break their marriage vows by agreeing to an open marriage, I would tell them that adultery is a bad idea. Adultery erodes marital trust, splinters the lives of the outside partners, results often in divorce and shatters the lives of children in the families involved.

In the same way, I can say to a teenager who is considering having premarital sex that it is a bad idea. The emotional scars that sex before marriage and abortion leave cannot be measured.

In the same way, it is not discriminatory hate speech to say to gay couples that same-sex marriage is a bad idea. Here’s why: Proponents of same-sex marriage want to change the meaning of marriage. To them, marriage is any romantic relationship between people. They believe the state should regulate and recognize same-sex marriage because it has an interest in stable romantic partnerships.

Again with the pseudo-Platonism on the meaning of concepts.  Pastor Fruh alleges that he’s not a homophobe or a bigot for denying, without good reason, gay people rights he enjoys.  But that’s the very definition of those terms–”homophobe” and “bigot.” Why does he want to change the meaning of those terms?

In all seriousness, someone ought to have pointed out that the Pastor’s argument against gay marriage uses as premises the consequences of non-marital unions.  I imagine that a proponent of same-sex marriage would likely agree with Pastor Fruh.  “Yes, non-marital romantic relations of type x or y are inadvisable and bad–that’s why I want to get married.”  But this person’s desire to get married will be frustrated, won’t it, by Pastor Fruh’s bigotry.

The rest of the article is the usual compendium of slippery slopes (why not polygamy?  I don’t know why not, ask King F—ing David or Abraham), bogus empirical claims, insinuations that same-sex marriage will replace “traditional” marriage and thus doom our society which no longer merit refutation.

I’m not a bigot, but I play one on “The O’Reilly Factor”

Here's Juan Williams, formerly of NPR, on non-bigotry:

"Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

NPR fired this guy.  If they fired him for being an f—ing moron they would be absolutely more than justified.  I can think of two reasons: first, Muslims in traditional garb are not going to commit acts of terrorism; second, Muslims as a whole ought not to be identified for logical and political reasons with Taliban-style extremists (Wanna be identified with Timothy McVeigh?). 

One more reason: Williams endorsed the justification, although this time a bit more plausibly, for any Iraqi or Afghani or Iranian or just anyone at all perhaps in the non-Israeli Middle East who worries that Westerners, in particular Americans, might want to democratize them. 

He’s a decent family man and citizen*

Shorter Charles Krauthammer: only liberals are bigotted enough to use ad hominem arguments. 

Todays' piece is a gold mine of fallacious reasoning.  One hardly knows where to begin (or where to end).  Now hold on objector, I'm going to prove that charge, just give me a minute.  The article begins by, on a very charitable interpretation, weak-manning the "liberal" position:

– Resistance to the vast expansion of government power, intrusiveness and debt, as represented by the Tea Party movement? Why, racist resentment toward a black president.

– Disgust and alarm with the federal government's unwillingness to curb illegal immigration, as crystallized in the Arizona law? Nativism.

– Opposition to the most radical redefinition of marriage in human history, as expressed in Proposition 8 in California? Homophobia.

– Opposition to a 15-story Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero? Islamophobia.

A sort-of caveat.  Columnists (given the absurd and arbitrary limitations on space which is as much their fault as anyone else's) have broad latitude to characterize their opponents' arguments in general terms.  But one can do this–I think at least–without sacrificing clarity, precision, and honesty.  (This one fails on all of those grounds). 

The weak man has it that in some forms someone in the opposition holds the view as described.  And indeed I bet I can find lots of people who fit the caricature Krauthammer draws.  Funny thing, however, without disgracing himself and engaging in obvious nutpicking, Krauthammer can't.  He doesn't name a single person or reference a single argument made by an actual person.  Moreover, the only things he attributes to a person are without meaningful context.

On all of the topics listed above, serious arguments have been made.  Just to take one for example because it's all anyone talks about anymore: Richard Cohen, Krauthammer's Post colleague (and frequent object of criticism here) had a piece up earlier this week about the Park51 Islamic Community Center project (which, by the way, IS NOT A MOSQUE NEAR GROUND ZERO).  Now he points out, correctly I think, that no small measure of opposition to the project is driven by old-fashioned bigotry against Islam.  Hell, a too-large percentage of Americans don't think a Muslim ought to be legally allowed to be President (and a number of Americans think the current President is a Muslim). 

But he also mounts an argument against the clearly non-bigotted:

This is not a complicated matter. If you believe that an entire religion of upward of a billion followers attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, then it is understandable that locating a mosque near the fallen World Trade Center might be upsetting. But the facts are otherwise. Islam was not in on the attack — just a sliver of believers. That being the case, those people with legitimate hurt feelings are mistaken. They need our understanding, not our indulgence.     

I think Cohen happens to be right.  But you'll at least have to admit that he doesn't resort to the bigotry charge.  Then again, maybe Krauthammer doesn't consider him part of the intelligentsia. 

Whatever the merits of Cohens argument, however, we have at least one easily found example of someone making a freedom of religion case for not disallowing the Park 51 project.  Sure it accuses people of ignorance.  But hey, that's what happens when you're wrong.   

*On the title: cf. John McCain's response to the 2008 accusation that Obama was an "Arab."