Tuesday, October 06, 2015

"Bigot" As A Synonym For "Realist"

In Alternet, where Adam Johnson is an associate editor, it's "Richard Dawkins & Bill Maher Still Baffled Why so Many Liberals Think They're Bigots-- Here's Why." In its Salon reprint, it's "Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins just don't get it: The real reason(s) progressives can't stand them."

To the contrary: they do "get it" and they- or at least Maher- is not a bigot (video of theabsolutely horrid conversation below). Johnson maintains

Dawkins doesn’t go after “all religions” equally. Quite the opposite, he has said that Islam is uniquely sinister, referring to it as “unmitigated evil“, on numerous occasions. Accusations of bigotry against Dawkins, therefore, are not selective in favor of Islam, they are areaction to his selective, repeated highlighting of it – fair or not. Secondly, this position is dripping with libertarian false equivalency. The “I criticize all religions equally” is the close cousin to “I criticize all races equally” — a principle that sounds cute in theory but willfully ignores the burden of history and imperialism.

I rarely have heard the phrase "I criticize all races equally," but perhaps I need to get out more often. Clearly, Johnson appears to be unaware that Dawkins and Maher abhor all manifestations of religous or spiritual belief, whether Western religion, eastern religion, or any New Age perversion of either. Typically, Bible-believing Christians, many of them unaware of Maher's equal opportunity criticism, consider these guys reprehensible.

Obviously obsessed with the evil of western civilization, Johnson argues that the President Obama who

has bombed seven Muslim countries in as many years is seen as irrelevant. Western panic and outrage over “women in beekeepers suits” (what Maher calls burkas) is entirely divorced from the convenient “civilizing mission” of America’s wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan

Johnson does not acknowledge that women have been wearing burkas/beekeeper suits since long before "America's wars in Iraq,Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan."   He ignores the genital mutilation, honor killings, and the dearth of democratic traditions in Islamic nations.

These characteristics pre-date those wars to which Johnson refers, and which the USA didn't begin. Moreover, no one in American government has described any activities as part of a "civilizing mission," though one must credit Johnson for a subtle implication of racism without specification of individuals or events.

He claims

Without directly addressing American empire and its relationship to radical Islam their analysis will invariably be superficial. Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins have walked into a game between a Division III college football team and the New England Patriots and feel good about themselves for calling holding on both sides. In a very limited, morally O.C.D. way, they’re correct, both sides are technically in violation given the rules of the game. But without addressing these rules or the broader power asymmetry at work, they’re party to a farce, a rigged discourse that mistakes “consistency” for fairness and posturing for principle.

Sorry, Adam: while Maher never has denied that the war in Iraq has contributed to radicalization in the Arab world, terrorist groups such as ISIL cannot be explained merely as an offspring of western imperialism.  Nor will obliviousness to that organization's barbarity, directed most enthusiastically toward innocent, men, women, and children, decline if a blind eye is turned toward its fanaticism or the foreign policy of the west is scapegoated.   Neither is ISIL (or al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra, or other terrorist groups) akin to  a Division III team playing the New England Traitors (uh, er, Patriots).

This is not the Penn Quakers. Nor were US forces responsible when, as was reported in August

ISIL has claimed a powerful car bombing that tore through a Cairo police building on Thursday, injuring at least 29 people.

Six policemen were among those wounded in the explosion but officials said that none of the injuries were life-threatening.

Described by a resident as “like an earthquake”, the overnight explosion shook the working-class Shubra district of northern Cairo, severely damaging the front of the police office and shattering the windows of nearby buildings.

The attack came just days after president Abdel Fattah El Sisi imposed a tough new antiterrorism law. The country is facing a militant insurgency spearheaded by Sinai Province, a local affiliate of ISIL.

Egypt’s interior ministry said that a car had exploded outside the police building, which houses a centre for investigating threats to national security, in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Prior to the explosion, a man was seen parking the car in front of the building and escaping on a motorbike that had followed the vehicle, the ministry said.

“One policemen suffered moderate injuries and the rest [of those hurt] had minor injuries,” said health ministry spokesman Hossam Abdel Ghaffar.

Nor is ISIL the hapless Chicago Bears or the Detroit Lions (from whom officials snatched defeat from the jaws of victory Monday night), for as we learned in August

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has captured Syria's ancient city of Palmyra, giving them control of almost half of the country, according to a monitoring group.

Located in central Homs province and in the heart of Syria, Palmyra lies 210km northeast of Damascus in desert that stretches to the Iraqi frontier to the east.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Thursday that ISIL now controls approximately 95,000 sq km of land in nine out of 14 provinces since they declared their alleged caliphate - which puts them in control of almost half of the country.

When Syria's Bashir al-Assad died, power was transferred to his son, Bashir al-Assad, and not by a fair and free election.  The military state endured and the government in Baghdad has become increasingly theocratic.   Bashir's Baathist regime has been marked by its own viciousness, including torture of political enemies, starving the citizens whom it doesn't spy on, destroying a city of nearly a million people, and the use of chemical weapons. And that state is ISIL's sworn enemy, demonstrating the nature of conflict in the Middle East, and of the partisans involved.

Admittedly, European and non-Muslim nations are not blameless. That applies particularly to Russia, whose contribution to the Syrian civil war now appears to be bombing U.S.-aided rebel groups, which have at least a pretense to desiring a democratic state.

Russia is, however, an outlier among nations not overwhelmingly Islamic. It may not be true, as Aayan Hirsi Ali contends, that "Islam is not a religion of peace."  However, if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, we at least must admit it might be a duck, and labeling prominent critics of Islam "bigots" will not prove the religion plays no role in the world's most flammable tinderbox.

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