Chris Stedman had a post published in Religion Dispatches yesterday suggesting that atheists aren’t addressing Islamophobia and that it’s going to come back to bite us on the butt. Stedman seems to suggest that his interfaith work has made him more likely to fight Islamophobia than the rest of us.
RationalWiki, an atheist wiki featuring a newsfeed and articles like “Atheism FAQ for the Newly Deconverted,” contained no mention of the Sikh shooting, but it did list an instance where a Florida door-to-door salesman was shot, and noted the recent mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. PZ Myers, who is among the most visible atheist bloggers in the world, did write about the shooting twice, though one of his posts simply referenced the shooting as a way to condemn America’s “gun culture,” while the other focused on Pat Robertson’s comments. (Most of the more than 35 other dedicated bloggers on Freethought Blogs—a massive atheist blog network he co-founded—didn’t address it at all.)
But while this silence is deeply troubling, I don’t want to suggest that, like some of those mentioned earlier, the atheist community at large necessarily has an Islamophobia problem—or that legitimate criticisms of Islam (or any other religions) constitutes Islamophobia. The problem, I think, lies in a lack of sensitivity to or awareness of the rampant Islamophobia sweeping our society. A key offender in this respect is bestselling atheist author Sam Harris.
The day after the shooting in Wisconsin, Harris published a lengthy blog post decrying Internet trolls; bizarrely, though, he included yet another defense of his position that Muslims should face extra scrutiny at airports.
There are a couple of points worth addressing here. Continue reading “Islamophobia and Skepticism”