16 February 2006

Hating Islam.

Just as Johann Hari has been accused of singling out Islam for unfair criticism, I have been accused of singling out Christianity. Johann's reply to a reader's email on this subject, sums up far better my feelings than I could, so I reprint it here.

"I am opposed to all religion. I am an atheist, and the man-made idea of God has, in my opinion, been a disaster for humanity. Obviously this entails being opposed to Islam, just as I am opposed to Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and all the rest. But I am careful not to single out Islam - as some right-wing commentators like Mark Steyn and Melanie Phillips do - and claim it is uniquely evil. If you look back over my articles, you will find attacks on the Pope, the Dalai Lama, the Jewish fundamentalist settlers in the West Bank, and evangelical Christians that are just as vociferous as my criticisms of Islam. I find all theocratic superstitions equally problematic.

I would also stress that while I hate the religion, I do not hate its adherents like you. As Peter Tatchell - a great atheist - once said, "We should hate the belief but love the believer." I believe you are wrong, and I would like to help you see the darkness if I could.

So while I appreciate your offer of a dialogue, I think I have to say no. It is not that I am "ignorant" of Islam, or that I "fail to understand it". I understand it perfectly well - I simply disagree with its central ideas in every way."

Johann also explains better than me, why it can be racist NOT to print the Mohammed cartoons, since it assumes that freedom of speech is not also important to Muslims. The battle for freedom of speech is going on within Islam not just between the West and Islam, as the publication of the cartoons by an Egyptian newspaper demonstrates.

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