Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Tragedy of Chapel Hill: Muslims, Mermaids & Atheism

In this world of ours, it is becoming increasingly hard to carve a path of reason for myself as an ex-Muslim. I find that I constantly have to walk a tightrope over the opposing waters of religious fascism and anti-muslim bigotry. Both of which I am personally affected by on a daily basis. 

I used to only have to worry about death threats from angered Muslim extremists, will I now have to worry about being targeted for my background too?

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Yesterday, a quiet neighbourhood in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, lost three wonderful people; Deah Barakat, Yusur Mohammad and Razan Mohammad. They were gunned down in their home, by someone who identified as a vocal atheist on social media. Those three innocent people also happened to be Muslim...


I cannot describe to you how this eats away at me, because I too am a vocal atheist and I too was born into a Muslim family. 

I have seen an outpour of compassion from all kinds of people, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, atheist and non-atheist. I have also seen people on both sides of this use the incident as an opportunity to score a point or lash out in defensiveness. I have seen the anti-Muslim rhetoric rear its ugly head more times than I was prepared to see, coming from ‘rational’ people. And I have also seen the anti-atheists try to further their agenda in ludicrous ways, with the use of foolish false equivalencies.

I must admit, I am not shocked by bigotry and narrow-mindedness coming from ardent followers of texts that call for violence and murder. Sadly, it kind of happens all the time... Though I am baffled by how someone ‘rational' enough to abandon myth, can act in such a non-humanistic manner.

In the past day I have come across several calls for wiping out Muslims entirely, mass deportations, people calling ordinary Muslims a threat, people not even entertaining the fact that this heinous killing could have been the result of prejudices, to do with the victims’ faith. On the surface, it may have happened over ‘a parking dispute’ - but you would have to be in serious denial to not consider the involvement of other factors like religion, ethnicity, etc. This is not someone trying to put a spin on it, killings rarely do occur over parking. What was in the killer’s heart and mind that caused him to act in this way? Perhaps we will never know... We should definitely investigate.

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On the flip side, I see plenty of atheist-haters smugly saying how Dawkins and Harris should apologize for this - since they want to hold the Islamic ideology accountable for it’s (very real and numerous) prescribed atrocities. With the increasingly reliable naiveté blame-shifting, apologist narrative of CJ Werlman and his oft-used recipe for attention - a dash of malice and a hint of slander, you get tweets like this (which he apparently realized was wrong himself and deleted within 30 seconds): 

screenshot via 
Aside from the fact that this is vile, it’s plain inaccurate. I cannot believe I’m having to explain what a false equivalency this is, over and over again. Dawkins and Harris are not the 'imams' of atheism (they had no trouble denouncing the act anyway, but thats not the point), and atheism isn’t a belief. It is exactly the opposite, a lack of belief. 

Dawkins/Harris write books and articles, not commandments and scriptures that are meant to be seen as 'divine guidance'. They don’t claim divinity or want submission, they are fallible like the rest of us. The killer did not shoot in the name of his atheism either. But notice when someone kills whilst screaming Allahu Akbar, the media hesitates to call them Muslim. No one hesitated to call this guy an atheist - as they shouldn't.

Who are these atheists, and what do they believe? Well, let me put it this way;

A lack of belief in god(s) unifies people in some sort of ‘worldview’ as much as a lack of belief in mermaids unifies people. There is no doctrine about 'how not to believe in mermaids' .. there are no verses commanding non-believers of mermaids to kill people who daren't disbelieve in them. You can't blame everyone who doesn't believe in mermaids for the actions of one guy who doesn't believe in mermaids. There's nothing really common among them except for the disbelief in mermaids. Whereas a jihadist chanting "We have avenged our prophet" and a flag that says "there is no god but Allah", or a book that commands people to slay disbelievers.... those things can and should be held accountable, because depending on your interpretation, they are instructions straight from the holy book. Like it or not, there is nothing religion-like about atheism and I am so sick of this faux analogy. 

I am also severely irritated and embarrassed by those who jump to say, frothing at the mouth, that this story wasn’t being given importance, that it wasn’t being given coverage…simply because the victims were Muslim. Thats a fresh pile of BS right there, because it was on every channel I flipped to and I came across countless articles on Twitter as well. In this Western country filled with a non-muslim majority, the turnout for these beautiful people’s vigil speaks for itself. Is this the 'lack of respect' for Muslims you were referring to? 





Do we have vigils like this for minorities in our Muslim countries? Do we honour the lost lives of apostates? Or do we join in the call for their death? 

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I’ll end with this; The killer was an atheist and I don’t think you’ll find many people trying to deny that. You won’t find anyone saying ‘he’s not a real atheist’, you hopefully won’t find disassociative hashtags like #NotInMyName and you won’t find many people making a fuss about an 'atheiphobic' backlash. What we should see is an increase of people distinguishing their critique of an ideology from holding individuals accountable. We should make an extra effort to point the difference out. Islam is problematic, not individual Muslims. Calling people towelheads and donkeyfuckers is not a valid critique of an idea. Violence is most certainly never ok ...and we should talk more about gun fetishization in the US. I read that the killer (Hicks) was one of those 'Guns don't kill people, people kill people' guys.  I have heard this same line about the Quran...

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And if you wish to support my work and my voice, please do so here. I feel it is important for people to hear alternate views that are less popular in the mainstream. Please help make this possible.

Thank you. 







10 comments:

  1. Its really disgusting to read so many posts that presume we in the U.S. don't give a shit about the deaths of these fantastic Americans.

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  2. You sound a lot like an apologist here. Don't you say how atheism is now going the same way as religion is? Of course there is going to repercussions when blatant anti-islam is being propagated by the New Atheists. Or did you fall for it too, and as such there will always be radicals and moderates. So there you have it, radical atheists, not that it is something new - communist governments have been persecuting religion violently in the past.

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    1. An apologist for what exactly? I mentioned it was likely due to prejudice..and I mentioned that no one should deny this guy was an atheist. Need to revisit your definition for apologist.

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  3. Atheism is a lack of belief in a god that has nothing to do with this crime.

    But "New Atheism" is a violent ideology that motivated this killer to do what he did.

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    1. "violent ideology".... really? Have you come across a thing called religion? And what violence has been committed in the name of "new" atheism?

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  4. Thanks for this clear-headed look at this issue Eiynah.

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  5. An accurate assessment of this episode given what we know so far. Thumbs up.

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  6. Thanks for the detailed clearification.
    One can't help notice what muslims call islamophobism actually has effect to some extent. It does lead to dislike of muslims. Even for us atheists who are supposed to be rational, emotions do cause behaviors. Even though Jihadist Joe is hilarious, he brings down view of ordinary muslims along with Salafists.
    I agree, religious beliefs could give rise to horrifying groups such as IS. This kind of confrontation leads to muslims getting their guards up. What should be done is to sincerely explain the gaps in their beliefs and get them to come to the conclusion to leave their ideology.

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  7. You called BS on people complaining the incidence wasn't given importance in the media, when it was. However, when the news first broke it wasn't on any major US news organizations, definitely not as part of the top stories. What they pointed out was that fact coupled with the fact that if the victims had not been Muslim the story would have made a bigger impact sooner. When people started pointing out that the story was nowhere to be seen, that's when it appeared and made major headlines. It took a while.

    Also, you can't really compare how a developed/civilized/democratic nation such as the States handles this situation with how a third world country like Pakistan or Saudi Arabia would deal with this. When developed regions like Europe and North America, especially the US, claim to be democratic/civilized and implore, sometimes force, other countries to adopt the same values, they have to live up to them. As a nation of immigrants, the US has to treat all minorities and groups equally. You can't compare the many complexities - social, and political - of race and religion between such contrasting nations. Developing nations are just that, developing. They are dealing with issues that come before a society tackles social issues - the developed countries went through the same process and stigmatized/discriminated/attacked minorities in their history. The other nations are unfortunately behind the times.

    Although I agree with your point, in certain countries the same attack against a minority would not be given such gravitas, there are good and bad people everywhere. Even with this incident, it brought out a lot of Islamophobic comments from 'rational' and 'civilized' people. In much the same way, there are good people in those less-tolerant nations that would stand for and stand by minorities.

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    1. Pointing out the inconsistencies of what muslims expect to be treated like and how they actually treat minorities themselves is definitely one way of helping people recognize the hypocrisy that is present in our claims of the perfect 'infallible' islam, and moral superiority that so many muslims feel over westerners. Just because the countries are developing, doesn't mean we cannot point out human rights violations and excuse it away. And no, people didn't stop complaining about how little importance the case was given even after the vigil. I thought that was complete BS. And even those complaining in the very beginning, should have given the media some time to get the story together. It did, and those people still claimed victimization.

      That's not to say that Fox news type channels aren't absolutely a part of the problem, as they too spread ignorance and often don't know what they're talking about. But this victimization claim of muslims is untrue most of the time. There is not as much "islamophobia" as there is anti semitism. And still you hear more muslims going on about how badly they are treated. It's true, we are profiled and unnecessarily harassed at airports... but these false constant claims only water down the real instances of bigotry... crying wolf will only have us taken less seriously when actual cases of bigotry happen.

      I don't appreciate fox news, and I don't appreciate the constant whining of self victimized muslims. Islam is more respected in the west than any other religion is in Muslim countries. Hypocrisy.

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