SALON headline: “Richard Dawkins goes on another ignorant Twitter rampage. The ugly underbelly of his worldview is anti-Muslim hate.” (And this is a BAD thing because why?)
Salon Richard Dawkins is at it again. And by “it,” I mean simple-minded anti-Muslim Twitter trolling. On Thursday, the professor and provocateur raised eyebrows when he wrote that, “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”
You could almost hear the 72-year-old biologist exhale a sigh of pity as he fired off the Tweet. Oh, those poor Muslims. How great they once were! Now, well, not so much. “A simple statement of fact is not bigotry,” he added.
Yes, the truth is that Muslims have received fewer Nobel Prizes than the sophisticated academic specialists at Trinity. But who in the hell cares apart from people like Dawkins who hope either to embarrass or discredit the faith group by pointing out such arbitrary things?
In March, I wrote a piece here at Salon that sparked a fierce debate about the so-called New Atheists and the way in which they use rational atheism as a cover for anti-Muslim prejudice. But in his rant this week (as well as in other recent Tweets), Dawkins poked holes in his own façade, showing that it is increasingly difficult for him to engage religious topics without eventually resorting to some good old-fashioned Muslim bashing.
To be sure, it’s always okay to critique religious beliefs. It’s healthy to do so and no religion should be immune from — or its followers resistant to — well-intentioned and reasonable inquiries about faith claims. But there’s a difference between problematizing a religion’s tenets and persecuting its adherents. There’s also a difference between raising legitimate concerns about doctrines, scriptures and the rationale of one’s beliefs, and hurling insults that shift the tenor of the debate into a machismo register better suited for high school locker rooms.
Earlier this year, when the University College of London hosted a debate on “Islam or Atheism,” Muslim organizers segregated the seating arrangements by gender. It was, without question, a poor decision, and one that many protested, including Dawkins. He responded on Twitter:
“Who the hell do these Muslims think they are? At UCL of all places, tried to segregate the sexes in debate between @LKrauss1 and a Muslim,” he railed.