Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Sat 17th Mar, 2007

Now you can both hate me instead

It's been interesting watching Erik and Simon debate over Fred Nile's racism. Yes, Erik, it is racism in this era of dog whistle politics. Ask anyone on the street what they expect a muslim to look like - go on, I'll wait - and they'll probably say Middle Eastern or Indonesian. That's why it's racist - not because Islam is a race, but because Fred Nile's supporters and the Christian Right like to portray them that way.

Now, as an Atheist, I agree with points of both their arguments. Islam has, on average, had as bloodthirsty a history as Christianity. Remember the crusades? The Inquisition? The forced separation of children from parents by Christians and Muslims thinking they're "doing good"? Islam, to me, just happens to be the most backward at the moment: their treatment of women is worse than the average Southern Baptist. But, to me, that's like saying soot is better than mud because it's less sticky. And it hasn't stopped the Christian Right wanting to put things the way they used to be. You know, stonings and all that.

One thing that I do think needs saying these days was highlighted by an interview with several moderate Islam clerics I heard on the radio. Put simply, the media love focussing on the Islamic radicals and downplaying the Christian radicals. We hear so much about that Sydney sheik whats-his-name simply because it's exactly what the newspapers and TV shows want us to hear - er, I mean, what they think we're interested in. No-one's going around talking about the fact that over 50% of the population of the USA believes that the Bible is literally true. Yeah, Erik, put that in your pipe and smoke it, Papal decrees or no. That's over 100 million people in the most heavily armed superpower on earth. Yeah, that's got to look good. Likewise, according to this interview there are plenty of Muslims who are not radicals, who believe the Koran needs to be interpreted, who believe that we need to get along with the people we live with and the laws of our country. Funny how you don't hear much about them, eh?

There's plenty of moderate Muslim clerics urging peace and good will. There's plenty of radical Christians going out attacking everyone and everything that doesn't agree with them. Why aren't they in the papers? When you answer that most of the rest of the pieces fall into place.

Erik also constructs an elaborate straw man called the Zebuts, and then fails to see the parallels between his argument and the democracy we have today. We've got a Prime Minister who's lied so many times it's boring to repeat it - Tampa? GST? - simply in order to retain power, and who continues to throw our environmental and political future into the fire to keep the populace warm. Which is why they vote for him. Which is why he keeps getting elected. If we called anyone who opposed these happy, warm, 'safe' voters "Zebuts", they'd still fit Erik's model pretty well. In Democracies, they're called "the minority". Sometimes, as happened in Queensland in the 1970s where I grew up, that's a 67% 'minority'. But, sooner or later, Joh was voted out; Howard will be voted out too. Even if I had a favourite Prime Minister, sooner or later they'd be voted out too. That doesn't mean it's wrong. That's just Democracy at work. I'm sure the Dutch are just as capable of being manipulated by Christian fundamentalists as anyone else.

Right or Wrong and Majority or Minority are disconnected - there's no relation between the two.

Of course we have to fight against what we see as bad, to protest against things we don't agree with. Part of that for me is standing up and saying "No, I don't believe in any God. And no writings of some so-called prophet or disciple should be any more valuable to me than a ten-year-old's poem for peace and harmony." Part of that for me is standing up and saying "What about the future of our children. What are we giving to them?" (Of course, since Kate and I have decided to not have children, that'd be 'nieces' in that slot.) We have to do what we think is right. But please, for the sake of your parents and your children and for your friends and family, don't let that be solely guided by the half-baked ravings of someone from a completely different time that have to be 'interpreted' in order to make any sense in today's world.

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