David Frum

03.31.13

Salon to Atheists: Be Nicer to Islam!

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Here's a complicated intellectual maneuver: a writer in Salon argues that it's OK to be an atheist, so long as you omit Islam from your list of the religions to which you object. The theory seems to be that it's bigotry to notice when more bad things are done in the name of one religion than in the name of others.

Until 9/11, Islam didn’t figure in the New Atheists’ attacks in a prominent way. As a phenomenon with its roots in Europe, atheism has traditionally been the archenemy of Christianity, though Jews and Judaism have also slipped into the mix. But emboldened by their newfound fervor in the wake of the terrorist attacks, the New Atheists joined a growing chorus of Muslim-haters, mixing their abhorrence of religion in general with a specific distaste for Islam (In 2009, [Christopher] Hitchens published a book called “God Is Not Great,” a direct smack at Muslims who commonly recite the Arabic refrain Allah Akbar, meaning “God is great”). Conversations about the practical impossibility of God’s existence and the science-based irrationality of an afterlife slid seamlessly into xenophobia over Muslim immigration or the practice of veiling. The New Atheists became the new Islamophobes, their invectives against Muslims resembling the rowdy, uneducated ramblings of backwoods racists rather than appraisals based on intellect, rationality and reason. “Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death,” writes [Sam] Harris, whose nonprofit foundation Project Reason ironically aims to “erode the influence of bigotry in our world.”