Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins Scapegoat Islam

bill-maher1_062702

It seems that Bill Maher likes to change his opinions on US foreign policy depending on who he has on the guest panel.  Friday night (October 2nd, 2009) was a perfect example of his inconsistency when he started to engage in juvenile Bushspeak (clip embedded below).

Richard Dawkins appeared on the show to promote his new book, “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution,” and as usual, Maher and Dawkins took some playful jabs at the Christian Right and how “superstitious” the West is becoming.  This wasn’t a surprise to me because both Dawkins and Maher aren’t shy when it comes to ridiculing religion.

I don’t argue against their points simply because they’re offensive, but also because they fuel a false notion that “religion” and “science” are “incompatible.”  This is not to deny the fact that there is an actual debate between creationists and evolutionists.  Rather, the point is that both sides of the argument tend to isolate the many who don’t believe religion and science are antithetical to one another.  Instead, we see Dawkins and Maher use ad hominem fallacies to insult and discredit alternative arguments and perspectives.  For instance, labeling people who believe in God as “superstitious,” “schizophrenic,” and/or “delusional” only dodges opportunities to engage in productive dialogue.

But this post isn’t about evolution or Dawkins’ new book.  It’s about the discussion Maher, Dawkins, and the rest of the guest panel have about Muslims and Islam.  Maher initiates the discussion with a recent report of two young Muslim men who had serious intentions to attack locations in the United States, and then makes an absolutely ridiculous assertion that they “don’t hate America, they Love America and feel guilty about it, I think.”  During the day, he continues, “they’re eating at Chili’s, going to the titty bar, and then they get on the internet at night and want to atone for the guilt they feel for embracing the West in cyberspace.”

Um, what?!

Maher, who has argued many times on his show that violence against the West occurs because of US foreign policy, suddenly transformed into George W. Bush.  Like Bush, Maher is essentially arguing that “they hate us because of our values” or “because we’re a democracy”  Muslims feeling guilty about enjoying American culture?  What kind of “logic” is Maher using?

After Janeane Garofalo brilliantly exposed how irrational Maher was being and argued that US foreign policy was the main issue, Dawkins chimed in with a lazy and predictable remark, “Why don’t you just say it’s religion, it’s so obvious.”  Once again, Dawkins uses religion (in this case, Islam) as a convenient scapegoat to simplify complex realities.  Any honest scholar, especially historians who have dedicated their lives to studying so-called “religious wars” or “holy wars,” acknowledge the fact that religion is not the “one and only” cause of war.  The fact that Crusaders, for instance, slaughtered and subjugated other Christians (namely the Greek Orthodox Christians and Arab Christians) is one of many examples on how flawed the argument of “holy war” is.

Thomas Friedman, an American journalist who supported the invasion of Iraq, entered the discussion with his sheer arrogance and pompous pseudo-intellectualism, behaving as if he had full credibility to discuss Islam, its theology, its history, and its people.  His incredibly flawed and ethnocentric prejudices of Muslims reek in his colossally stupid remarks about the Muslim male psyche and how young Muslim men “hate America” because “their countries” (i.e. Muslim countries) are “behind” in economics and education. Shamelessly, Friedman relies on his own conjectures and then paints Muslims as the “Other.”

And that’s exactly what we get out of this episode:  Otherizing Muslims and Islamophobia.  Whether consciously or subconsciously, the panelists speak about Muslims as if Islam is not part of America.  Although Barack Obama has defended Islam and Muslims on many occasions (and even went as far as saying Islam is part of America), it seems that this message is not resonating with many people.  I get the feeling that Bill Maher was afraid to invite Reza Aslan, Naomi Klein, and Jeremy Scahill (who have all been on his show before) for this episode because either one of them would have blasted Maher, Friedman, and Dawkins on their ignorance and childish generalizations.

I’m hoping Reza Aslan appears on the show soon.  Maybe he can help correct Maher’s Bushspeak and elementary school logic.

44 thoughts on “Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins Scapegoat Islam

  1. Richard Dawkins is a smug plague on all atheists.

    I may be an atheist but I see no reason why religion and science can’t sit alongside (and have done for thousands of years). Neither can I see any reason to label myself as more “rational” than the religious. Dawkins clearly has a massive ego.

    I read blogs like these because I want to hear other people’s perspective (although I don’t comment if I don’t feel I can add something to the conversation).

    By simplistically laying the world’s ills at religions face Dawkins only fuels irrational hatred and stops us tackling real problems. The world is a huge and complex place. You can’t just point the finger at one part of it. You’d think that a scientist would be smart enough to work this out.

    As I am not American I don’t really know who Bill Maher is. He sounds pretty ill-informed here though.

    • Thank you for your comment, Jennifer! Your words are much appreciated and I agree that religion and science are not incompatible. The problem I have with individuals like Maher and Dawkins is that they seem to equate “evolution” with “atheism,” which alienates those who actually believe in God *and* evolution.

      Furthermore, their arguments seem to fuel a conflict between atheists and those who believe in God — as if they can’t find any common ground, or that one is better than the other (which is essentially the same kind of attitude that religious extremists have towards those who don’t follow their religion and/or don’t believe in God).

      As you said, simplifying a complex world is very problematic and it just exposes Dawkins’ ego. Bill Maher is considered to be a liberal, and he has expressed his anti-war views many times on his show, but every once in a while (like in this episode), he comes out saying something bizarre and reminiscent of the previous administration. It makes you question what his real views are.

      Anyway, thanks again for sharing your thoughts and thanks for reading my blog :)

      • They’re not incomparable, but science shouldn’t dictate spirituality and religion should not attempt to dictate science. If you want to choose a religion for yourself, that’s awesome. But the problem is religion (especially here in the US) universally attempts to dictate policy. If we were all tolerant, no matter what our beliefs, this wouldn’t even be an issue…

    • You’re not an Atheist. Real Atheists understand that NO religion deserves a place in this world. ANYWHERE.

  2. J-Heezy, SO glad you wrote about this ’cause a.) this mess REALLY was begging to be decontructed and b.) it needed to be done by a Muslim, IMO. I’d have loved to have written about this but I feel your perspective is more nuanced and informed than mine. Well done!

    (Oh, and please read the “Towel Headed Hos” piece linked here, it’s good.)

    • Hey Fiqah! Thank you! After I saw the episode, I was just so appalled at his comments. I was like, “Why he is talking like George Bush?”

      I’m going to read the “Towel Headed Hos” piece soon! Thanks for letting me know about it :)

  3. I get the feeling that the only way I can describe Maher is a self-centered, self-righteous, inflametory, possibly sexist meanie. He tries so hard to make it seem that he is a reasonable person who hates extremes on all sides, then does something like this. What he really means is that any opinion other than his is extreme, ignorant and misinformed.
    I fell out with him after he said on the Daily Show that atheists were just as arrogant as religious people b/c they claim to know there is no divine, then sat back in glee as people clapped for how rational he is. Wrong, just wrong. Not only does he need to recheck the definition of atheism (lack of belief), but maybe meet enough people of faith to realize many of them would say it is through their faith that they believe, not because they claim to have undeniable proof. The number of religious people who engage in junk science to try and prove their view of natural history is very small. As a matter of fact, my biological anthropology teacher (meaning she was probably required to have a better understanding of evolution than Maher could ever hope to obtain unless he too is working towards a Ph.D. in anthro w/ a focus on biological/primatology) was very involved in her church and taught sunday school. I know this b/c she, as many biology teachers do, made it known that the class would be based on evolution. Did not mean you had to accept it, just understand it. She the told us about her church involvement to demonstrate that the two were not incompatible.
    Saying things like that is an insult to her and the many,many other scientists of faith who work in fields which require a thorough understanding of evolution and natural forces/laws. Not to mention Mendelin, a pioneer in the field of genetics and the way they are passed down was a monk. Try getting past 9th grade biology w/o an understanding of the genetic square that that particular religious “nut” developed. Then there are the nuns who developed a glutten free communion waffer for people with allergies because several of the nuns had degrees in chemistry, biology, and food science. And if all the jurors in the Scopes trial, and all the members of the Supreme Court who struck down creationism in schools were atheists, this is news to me.
    Not only am I mad at Maher for retelling the misconception that all atheists claim to “know” there is no divine, but for being so arrogant and smug while putting down others for their supposed arrogance (and by arrogance he means disagreeing with him). I am quite certain that if all the religious and/or spiritual (not to mention the atheists like myself that still occasionally attend services with Quakers or Universal Unitarians) people in the scientific and medical fields were to cease working, those fields would come to a stand still. Also, I’m beginning to think that Dawkins has an inflated sense of importance, and quite a few people who respect him as a scientist thinks he should stop with the whole philosophy thing.

    • Thanks for your thoughts and comments, Tracey :) You offer a lot of insight and information about how science and religion, both currently and historically, are not incompatible. I especially like your point about Gregor Mendel.

      I honestly a lot of people get the wrong idea about atheism and religion from people like Maher and Dawkins. Perhaps Dawkins should just stick to his field and not discuss politics and/or religion.

      Thanks again for your insightful comment!

    • Sorry, I use to do debate, and one of the main points of any debate is definitions.
      From ww.m-w.com
      —–
      atheism
      2 a : a disbelief in the existence of deity b : the doctrine that there is no deity

      disbelief
      mental rejection of something as untrue

      agnostic
      1 : a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable; broadly : one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god
      —–
      From the definitions above, we can make the statements: Atheists reject, as untrue, the existence of a deity. Agnostics reject the idea that the existence of a deity in know or unknown. In other words, Atheists are certain of the non-existence of God, while Agnostic refuse to whole heartedly believe either way. Yes, Bill is an meanie and a jerk… but he does have some valid points.

      • Gabriel,

        There is some privilege in your response because you are clearly not affected by Bill’s racism, Islamophobia, and sexism. If you were a woman and watched Bill’s misogynist stand-up ac,t would you be saying “yeah, he’s mean and a jerk, but he has some valid points”?

        You need to put yourself in the shoes of the groups that he is insulting, stereotyping, and essentially dehumanizing. Try doing that, and maybe you’ll get it.

  4. This video was worse than I was expecting. I’m not sure why Maher is so unnuanced and unfunny on this topic. Janeanne Garofalo had the most intelligent and accurate comments of the lot.

    Dawkins science isn’t without its critics either, who suggest he is being overly simplistic in seeing evolution as a function of change at the gene level, rather than that of the combinations at the level of an allele.

    Contrary to popular misbelief the majority of scientists, including the great ones, are both religious and spiritual and most of the rest are spiritual. One in my acquaintance who has been nominated for a Nobel Prize in a science is profoundly religious. Discovering the workings of the universe is not incompatible with religion nor do they think so. Many religions, including Islam most notably encourage study, knowledge acquisition, and scientific inquiry.

    The atheists, and secular humanists I know are more respectful of others’ beliefs than Messrs Maher and Dawkins. It is pathetic to see their interactions, and the comments of Friedman here, as each is capable of better.

    It seems 9/11 irrationality has taken over the 3 of them. Dawkins misuses the term delusion about religion and Maher misuses the term schizophrenia in the typical way of mistaking being of 2 minds about something– ambivalence, love-hate relationship–with what is actually a disorder of thought processes.

    “Suicide bombers = terrorists = Muslims = they” There is not a logician in the lot of them, let alone a true humanist. Garofalo is at least a good political scientist.

    Interesting –but annoying LOL :) –post!

  5. Jehanzeb,
    I cosign Fiqah… I am really glad you wrote this. I watched this exchange with my mouth hanging open. Maher, Dawkins (boo!) and Friedman were all so wrong on so many levels at once that it made me dizzy. Even though Janeane Garafalo spoke eloquently about why his opinions were irrational, he would not be dissuaded. For me this is the hallmark of racist discourse: an emotional argument that feels so true to the person saying it that facts are irrelevant to them.

  6. If it is the case that muslims who commit terror are only doing so because of the United States foreign policy then that would make the 9/11 hijackers not murderers or terrorists but individuals participating in a legitimate act of self defense right?

    Do you believe that environmentalists who commit acts of terror due to U.S. environmental policy to be as justified as muslims who commit acts of terror due to U.S foreign policy?

    Lastly, can you inform me how i can defend myself against the inevitable violent muslim attacks (as the same people are REALLY in power as were during the Bush years) without being islamophobic. I don’t want to offend Islam.

    • Jim,

      Stop stalking me. I have seen you on this blog before. You have signed under different names like “Steven” or “Stephen,” and your IP addresses reveal that you are writing from Penn State university.

      When I write a blog post about peace and coexistence, you point fingers at Muslims and Islam. When I write about breaking stereotypes, you start promoting them. When I write poems, you make rude comments that are completely irrelevant to what I’m writing — that’s disrespectful. When I ban you from commenting, you use another IP address from the same location

      I’ve tried to engage in dialogue with you before, and it was a waste of time because all you do is blame Islam and Muslims for all the problems. You ask ridiculous questions with insulting implications about Muslims and Islam. Who said that terrorists are “participating in a legitimate acts of self-defense?” That’s not even what I said. The only person saying that is YOU.

      You don’t care to *listen* to what Muslims have to say because, in your mind, we’re all the same. You have a prejudice against Muslims. It’s obvious. You twist words in order to read what you want to read.

      You got your own issues to sort out. Figure out why you hate Muslims and Islam. Enroll in an inter-cultural communications class. Go visit a Mosque. Go make some Muslim friends. You should have went to an iftar dinner during Ramadan.

      I feel sorry for you because you waste so much of your time stalking Muslims on the blogosphere. Get a life and get help if the Islamophobia is affecting you that much.

  7. They all had their points, but I think Maher’s could have been made without appearing so ethnocentric. There are cultural positives in Western society that have been forcibly excluded in the Islamic world for the mere reason that they contradict stricter interpretations of Islam. The secularization of the West is something we view as a positive benefit to all members of a democratic society because it permits us to practice freely within our social and cultural spheres. However, to say that we can divide the problem of terrorism into exclusive political and exclusive political spheres is a bit short-sighted. And to get mad and play the victim of anti-Islam scapegoating also adds nothing to the conversation. It is a sensitive situation because jerks like Bush, Cheney, and recently McCain’s camp have launched criticisms of Islam as political fireballs, muddling the debate on Islam and modernization. Clearly both religion AND politics are involved.
    But oddly enough, Dawkins is not incorrect. The current social constructions of Islam have been forged in political and religious radicalization. But the political implications within Islam seem largely to be ignored. Is Sha’ria not some reflection on belief? Are not the social injustices of it a result of politically actualizing Islamic moral doctrine? Do the Quranic phrases which endorse the killing of infidels carry weight with contemporary interpretations of Islam? These are serious questions that fail to be answered by a dismissal of the religious aspects of Islam. Similar to the way that critiques of Israel and Messianic Judaism are dodged by accusations of Anti-Semitism, it is interesting (and perhaps ironic) that criticizing Islam brings a similar kneejerk about ethnic racism. I agree that this issue is sensitive, and that often the motives of such criticism are based on xenophobia and ethnic prejudices, but not permitting the examination of the psychological impact that specific doctrines have, or the political ideologies within Islam, or their effects as catalysts or justifications for inhumane behavior will not result in progress with this issue.

    • JC420,

      No, I am not playing “victim.” To accuse me of that is offensive, condescending, and completely ignores the realities that Muslim-Americans face and experience — realities that I suggest you should make efforts to understand.

      Calling Muslims or anyone who believes in God “schizophrenic” is not a criticism; it’s an arrogant and personal attack. It’s an insult.

      You need to get rid of this whole divide about Islam and modernization. If you think every single Muslim country is “backward,” then you’re totally giving into the Orientalist presentation of the so-called “Muslim world” in mainstream media. There are Muslim democratic countries, and historically, we have seen Islamic civilization contribute countless advances in science, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, architecture, art, literature, music, and so on (during a time when Europe was in the Dark Ages).

      You are speaking about Muslims in a manner that suggests most Muslims are violent and aggressive. There are over a billion Muslims in the world, and if you personally know Muslims, or have Muslim friends, then I’m sure you would know by now that most Muslims are peaceful and non-violent.

      Your views on the Sharia and “violent verses” in the Qur’an reflect your limited knowledge about Islam. I never have to address those issues with my non-Muslim friends anymore because I’ve explained it to them so many years ago! In any case, please read “The Muslim Next Door” by Sumbul Ali-Karamali. It will enlighten you about what Muslims really believe and how those verses in the Qur’an are strictly about self-defense and directed specifically to the Quraysh tribe which persecuted, tortured, and waged war on the early Muslims.

      If you have a genuine interest to learn about Islam, then I’m confident that you will purchase the book and read it with an open mind. I also think you need to be aware that hate crimes and discriminatory acts against Muslim-Americans have increased since 9/11. A recent survey conducted by the Pew Forum found that “nearly 40% of Americans still say they think Islam is more likely to encourage violence.” CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) found a spike in hate crimes during the month of Ramadan (which was last month!).

      It’s not a “knee-jerk” reaction. It’s called standing up for your human rights. It’s called respecting every person as a human being and not judging them based on stereotypes and/or misinformation propagated by people who absolutely have no credibility.

      As I said, read “The Muslim Next Door.” It’s one of the most important books out there for all non-Muslims, especially if you don’t have any Muslim friends.

      Peace.

  8. You wrote above there there is “a false notion that “religion” and “science” are “incompatible.” This is not to deny the fact that there is an actual debate between creationists and evolutionists.” I never really understand what is meant by this.

    Religion and science are no more compatible or incompatible than literature and sport – they are just different. Religion embodies a faith-based way of seeing and understanding the world and science follows a rational methodology that requires observation, testability, etc. For example, the belief in a supreme being/creator is just that – a belief – there is no science in it (this doesn’t mean that there is no God, it just means there is no “scientific proof” that can be had.

    Using the means and methods of science, there is no proof at all for the existence of Abraham or Moses – that doesn’t mean that they didn’t exist; it just means that you can not prove that they did and, from a scientific perspective, at the present time, we should conclude that they did not exist – that would be changed if more information became available.

    But remember, if you wanted to maintain that religion and science operated in a substantially similar manner, you would have to admit that you might be able to find something out, that would allow you to change your mind about your current truth and come to the conclusion that there is no God, or that the Quran, or bible does not reflect the revealed word of God. That’s how science works.

    I would therefore say, that religion and science are neither compatible nor incompatible; they are simply two very different ways of seeing and understanding the world we live in

  9. Thank you for commenting on this. As an American evangelical Christian thinker I was outraged on many levels by this episode. Dawkins is a bigot and ironically a fundamentalist, his “religion” is secular humanism and scientism (note: not science). It is nothing old, a strict materialist view of the physical world (denying any role for agency) which is supported by the philosophy of logica positivism. It is actually a very shallow and incomplete philosophical system. I have had many wonderful chats with atheists and agnostics and none has the massive arrogance and smug superiority complex which Dawkins has in abundance! Muslims and Christians have a lot of common beliefs actually and we should celebrate that and stop letting idiots divide us. Anyone who knows anything about Muslim beliefs and culture would laugh at the panelists’ false assertions and racist statements.

  10. Both Bill and Richard are very even handed in their disdain of religion as a whole. In fact, they both usually concentrate more on attacking Christianity & Catholicism than Islam. And the Abrahamic religions aren’t the only ones in their sites. Honestly, I finds a lot of practices in ancient religions to be barbaric. Personally, I am a Discordian. I believe that we need to learn to take things less seriously or we will just continue to slaughter each other en mass. When I ponder the Israelite vs Palestinian issue in the Middle East, the only solution I can think of is to take an entire generation of children (on both sides) away from their parents so this tradition of hate will stop being passed down. I would never seriously suggest this, but still… wouldn’t it be better than that continued hate and killing?

    What Creator would have placed us here just to destroy ourselves and each other? By their own traditions, the Jews and Arabs are COUSINS!!!

    • I strong disagree Gabriel. Dawkins and Maher have an extreme irrational bias to the even the metaphysical possibility that there is truth which exists beyond their limited knowledge and the current, ever shifting, scientific realm of understanding. They are intellectual bigots and go out of their way to actively *attack* belief systems. They are the atheist equivalent of the Fundamentalists who they so gleefully denounce. Total hypocrites. Serious philosophers (even atheistic and agnostic ones) hold them in low regard if you research the formal reaction to their hate drenched drivel. Science and faith DO NOT have to be enemies. Quite the contrary some of us believe the former testifies to the truth of the latter. I am a thinking Christian and am well acquainted with the works of both authors.

      • We are not on the same page here. I never said they weren’t biased. :) There is no such thing as a person that holds any sort of belief/disbelief that isn’t. The fact that both you and I are passionate about our respective views shows our biases. All I said is that they attack all religion, not just Islam, and that they dedicate more time to attacking other religions. Yes, their comments ARE offensive to people who do not share their beliefs, but I think everyone takes life, the world, religion, and EVERYTHING waaaaay too seriously, and that in turn causes some of the worst problems in the world. Hence, I am not here to start a fight… just to add my own view. I believe that Diogenes of Sinope was correct. There are true evils and false evils, and dogs seem to know the difference where humans do not. Bill Mahar IS a jerk… but so is Rush Limbaugh. The world is full of jerks. If you really want them to have no power, then tolerate their biases and ignore them. My outrage is reserved for those who harm others on all sides including my own country and anti-religious organizations like Communist China. If you are Islamic or Christian or Jewish or whatever and have never harmed or killed someone else (which is most people in the world), then I have no issue with you and welcome you. However, I also don’t think that people should hide behind their religion. The Catholic church needs to be held accountable for the systematic and widespread abused of children and how the organization as a whole hid it rather than helping their charges. Honor killings need to stop. The repression of Buddhists in Tibet and all of China needs to stop. The repression of women is most major religions (and cultures) needs to end. We are on a constant cycle of war, fear, greed, and self-destruction. We need to get past being addicted to the drama of what other’s say and focus on what’s really hurting us.

  11. Gabriel,

    Your attitude is a bit condescending. You think people take life too seriously. Well, it may come as a shock to you, but not every individual is the same. People are different. Just because someone may take religion more seriously than you doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing (and it doesn’t mean that all of them are violent extremists — only a small minority within those groups are).

    Blaming religion for the world’s problems is one of the most pathetic excuses people can use to “explain” a conflict (such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict). The Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example, is not a religious one, but a political one. If you ever attend any of the pro-Palestinian rallies, you will find people of all faiths, including Christian and Jews, expressing their condemnation of the Israeli government. In fact, I just had a conversation on campus with non-Muslims who are outraged by Israel’s actions.

    Political conflicts are often accompanied by religious fervor and symbolism – that is part of the cultural response from the indigenous people against a foreign invader. Because, remember, people in general do not like being occupied by a foreign invader. When people are occupied, they turn inward and become more passionate and protective of their identity, which is why you see radicalism and religious slogans used in speeches to fuel the resistance.

    You say Bill Maher is a jerk, but then say, “but so is Rush Limbaugh. The world is full of jerks.” So, are you essentially saying, “hey, there are jerks everywhere, let’s just forget about it”? Yes, there are jerks everywhere, but that does NOT make it OK. If you’re going to say that religious institutions should be held accountable for their actions, then why not apply the same logic to people who spew hate speech, racism, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, and so on?

    Blaming religion alone is quite lazy and not very accurate because there are other important factors that need to be acknowledged, such as political and social issues.

    Lastly, when you talk about “repression of women in most major religions (and cultures),” it may benefit you to get familiar with the feminist movements that exist throughout the world and within various religions. Read Muslim feminist websites such as “Altmuslimah” and “Muslimah Media Watch,” if you’re interested in learning more. Muslim feminists root their views in their religion, and if you’re someone who says you respect other people regardless of their beliefs, then I’m sure you will have no problem respecting their religious beliefs and endeavors for gender equality.

  12. The difference between attacking Islam and attacking Judaism and Christianity is that in the West people have a much broader base of knowledge and experience from which to contextualize such comments on Judaism and Christianity, than they most often do on Islam. Also the attackers have a better knowledge base and contextualized experience in those attacks too.

    While the Catholic Church does need to be held accountable for how it deals with pedophiles in the priesthood, it is important to remember that independent, seriously derived statistics show that 2-5% of the priesthood are pedophiles. 1 is of course too many, especially as pedophiles normally have high numbers of victims each, but it is a different measure of the problem to understand its true dimensions, which also are part of addressing it. Similarly, the Church’s way of dealing with the problem was until recently the same as other institutions–school boards, sports organizations, etc–dealt with it: turn a blind eye, when that is impossible reprimand and transfer, and more recently add in therapy. It is only recently that these other institutions have turned to police involvement including police checks of all prior to employment or volunteer activity (even of the grannies, like my mother). Finally, celibacy doesn’t make pedophiles, perversion (in the linguistic and psychoanalytic sense of turning away from the normal path) does. Most priests who transgress their vow of celibacy do so with adults. Pedophiles go where there are children; the ones trying to resist their urges go where there are adults. I doubt many head to the priesthood, though some might.

    Each religion, and each culture has its feminism, and I agree that reading them is important for understanding the full context of their societies. A big movement within American feminism is to support these feminisms rather that pretending that the one which grew out of white middle-class or upper-class USA is valid for all.

      • Thanks for your thanks!I know you are busy but come visit “Chez Chiara” when you get a chance–especially on the cinema posts! :)

    • I agree with your first statement. Westerners do not have as much understanding of Islam as they do of Christianity. I am very much in favor of eduction for that reason.

      I agree with most of your second statement, however I find issue with your definition of perversion since perversion is relative to the perceptions of the individual. It is perverse to eat with your left hand in an Arabic country, but not a European one. To take a more extreme example, looking at child pornography is considered perverse with the US but completely acceptable in Japan. You can not make a universal standard of what is and is not perverse. Also, while I agree that celibacy does not create pedophiles, I think being indoctrinated with the belief that if you are attracted to men (and thus a sinner), then it would be a natural choice to join the priesthood so no one would question your lack of interest in women and marriage. This internal self-hatred and repression could then (very logically) lead to acting out said repression in a harmful manner. In other words, what’s a gay Catholic to do other than join the priesthood? I am of course working from the notion that homosexuality and pedophilia are not choices but something you are born as, which I understand most religious people do not agree with.

      Finally, I agree with your last statement as well. Feminism isn’t just for white middle-class American women.

      • Gabriel–Thank you for your comment to me and for the chance to elaborate and clarify my statement about perversion.

        I was using the term in the Diagnostic Standard Manual (DSM) sense of not being within the normal realm of sexual practice where the object of sexual desire is a non-standard one, AND where it causes problems in real life for the individual. The linguistic meaning of per-version is to turn away from (the normal path).

        There was no moral judgment implied on my part, nor condemnation of individual’s choices, except as they harm others. Looking at child porn is a different degree of harm (some child had to be involved in making the porn) than being a pedophile. The US is essentially puritanical in many of its attitudes (including the reaction to that of hypersexualizing everything) and also sees child porn as an industry exploiting children so the viewing it is providing a consumer for that industry.

        Again I think that celibacy is usually transgressed by activities with other consenting adults. My mother knows a former nun who had a longstanding sexual and romantic relationship with a priest–in the rectory. She laughed hilariously at my mother’s naive notion that they got together on vacations. On the other hand, many priests do travel without their collar, and take a vacation from their vows.

        I did research on medicine in a small town in Costa Rica. My driver spent my interview time in the bar, and helped contextualize the nursing nun’s answers to my questions by filling in the knowledge he gained. There was then no priest in the town temporarily because the last one and one of the teaching nuns had an affair. They left the town to elope.

        John Dominic Crossan, the brilliant scholar and writer on the Historical Jesus, left the priesthood for academic reasons, and to get married to the love of his life. If you google his name you will find his website with his brief and fascinating memoir.

        Others of course are homosexual but with adults. Pedophilia is a whole different issue, as is hebephilia.

        Thanks again for your comment. I hope this clarifies my previous one. Let me know if you have any other concerns about it.

  13. Jehanzeb :
    Gabriel,
    There is some privilege in your response because you are clearly not affected by Bill’s racism, Islamophobia, and sexism. If you were a woman and watched Bill’s misogynist stand-up ac,t would you be saying “yeah, he’s mean and a jerk, but he has some valid points”?
    You need to put yourself in the shoes of the groups that he is insulting, stereotyping, and essentially dehumanizing. Try doing that, and maybe you’ll get it.

    There is “privilege” in the fact that this is your blog and you are the moderator. You have chosen to leave two of my longer responses “moderate” rather publish my counter-points and criticisms. I was hoping the moderation was something that was automatically triggered by the length of my responses. I think that it is unfortunate that you have chosen to censor me rather than continue an intelligent debate, which is what you present yourself as wanting.

    • Gabriel,

      Um, I have “comment moderation” off on WordPress, but whenever someone writes a post that includes links, it automatically puts it in comment moderation.

      I didn’t publish your response because I was not active on my blog for a few days. I have not censored you, but I take issue with how you’re interpreting my being a blog moderator as “privilege.” That is not even close to White non-Muslim privilege and you’re resorting to flawed logic. Anyone can own a blog; if you want to express your views, just create one and express your thoughts there.

      The privilege in your previous comment was that you didn’t recognize how severe, traumatic, and dangerous racism, sexism, and Islamophobia can be for people. If it doesn’t affect you, then why care, right?

      • Now you’re just being hypocritical. You say you didn’t censor me, but now that you have actually replied, I find my two “awaiting moderation” comments to have been deleted completely. No matter. I posted them on my facebook with a link back here, so my readers/friends can follow the debate.

        I do have my own blogs on facebook, myspace, and livejoural. My blogs are not what’s in question here. Your completely inaccurate statements regarding Bill and Richard “scapegoating” Islam are. As my censored post said, I am of Gypsy and Bohemian heritage. I use to be mistaken for an Arab when I was younger and let my skin get tanned. I have at times been a Mormon, a goth, a computer nerd, an intellectual, poor, etc… all of whom have come under fire in my life time. I have personally experienced physical, verbal, and social attacks for most of these.

        Also, you’re being illogical. If I didn’t care about what happened to other people I wouldn’t bring up the Catholic Churches pedophilia scandal. You are ignoring the line I’m drawing between actual harm and choosing to be offended. How can you equate one with the other?

        I have shown your blog to many of my friends, and have reposted it on my facebook. As a test of your idea that Bill is offensive to women, I showed both the clip above and his stand up “…But I’m Not Wrong” to a 19 year old feminist goth/anime/punk friend of mine. Bill’s comments about how there “really are just a lot of lazy hoes in the world” made her giggle, not fly into an indignant rage.

        Watch the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour (as I suggested in my censored post). Ahmed Ahmed, who is Egyptian and Islamic, makes almost all of the same points that Bill did to a crowd consisting mostly of American-Muslims. “Ahmed, you shouldn’t talk about Islam like that. It is forbidden. Excuse me… I’d like another Heineken!” And the crowd roared with laughter. :) I am convinced that only by having a sense of humor will we survive.

      • Even though I am a white make American (which IS a ridiculously unfair advantage is the modern world) I take issue with your idea that my point of view is “privileged”. If it is, its for exactly the opposite reason. I know what comes from the anger and outrage people show towards those who are different. I know the frustration of dealing with the irrational.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s