Ask an Atheist / Opinion

Are Atheists Islamophobic?

Lately, the New Atheist movement has come under fire in the news, as is inevitable with movements such as this. Consisting of popular figures like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, New Atheism advocates actively opposing religion through rational argument whenever possible. This movement, as well as atheism in general (New Atheism does not represent all atheists, only a few), has been a hot topic recently because of critics saying it specifically promotes hatred against Muslims and their beliefs — in other words, Islamophobia.

Now is as good a time as any to state the obvious: not all atheists hold the exact same beliefs. With all the fiery debates and deceitful name-calling going on, it is easy to forget that most groups aren’t monolithic hive-minds. It is true that some atheists might be Islamophobic, just as some Christians, some Jews, and some Buddhists are probably Islamophobic as well. Look at any group and you will be sure to find a few members who, for whatever reason, firmly dislike members of another group.

However, in my experience the atheists that I know do not hate Muslims. Atheists generally tend to be wary of the religion itself, not the actual followers. True, with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism being in the media spotlight in recent years, some of these atheists might focus on Islam, but even so I have yet to meet an atheist who stated that they honestly despise someone solely based on the religion that person follows. These atheists do exist, but they make up a very small minority of the population.

Religious interpretations and practices vary so heavily sect to sect and person to person, it’s almost impossible to create a giant blanketed statement that accurately captures all followers of a faith. Generalizations are a simple way for us to attribute qualities to a group of people. Even when these qualities (whether negative or positive) are for the most part true, we have to remember that there are always exceptions. When emotions run high, it can be too easy to criticize an entire group of people without rationally thinking it through. I believe that it is important for atheism, which finds its very roots in rationalism, to remember this.

Jay Grafft is a 3rd year communication major.


The question of whether or not atheists are Islamophobic is an interesting one because it requires us to use the same defense as those whom we scrutinize. Several of the so-called New Atheism’s major figures, namely Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, have come under fire in recent weeks. Their critics argue that they have abandoned the traditionally scientific approach of atheism for a more populist hatred of Islam born out of fear.

Those critics are essentially right, which is why it is now atheists who have to demonstrate that the extremists in our own community do not represent us as a whole.

Richard Dawkins decided to celebrate my birthday, March 1, with some inflammatory tweets about Muslims. Immediately after claiming he had never actually read the Quran, he then has the audacity to ‘cite’ Islam as the greatest force for evil today. Skepticism and willful ignorance make strange bedfellows, my one-time friend.

Harris, on the other hand, is a couple kinds of fucked-up these days. In his book, Letter to a Christian Nation, he posits that there truly is no such thing as Islamophobia on the grounds that the controversial aspects of that religion are fundamental to its teachings. Meanwhile, it only took him a few weeks to publish “In Defense of Profiling,” where he claims that the western world should openly profile anyone who even appears Muslim. I’m not going to touch what ‘looking Muslim’ even means when it’s actually a religion spanning continents, but it’s first-order foolishness to treat Muslims as a monolithic empire of evil.

Nothing is ever all good or all bad. I disagree with the numerous anti-gay messages that have been credited to Muslim leaders, but I won’t write off people like Mustafa Abdullah, a Muslim campaigning against North Carolina’s anti-gay Amendment One. It’s easy to say that the way Muslim countries monitor their women is wrong, but what is our moral high-ground when we would readily profile an entire religion? We can condemn their violent methodology of responding to criticism, but then again we have armed service members in this country who are willing to kill them for a college education.

When you become self-satisfied in your pursuit of a problem, as certain prominent atheists have, you can be just as wrong as any of your enemies. Conflict-centric portrayals in the media have driven us to choose sides, and these polemic debates are bringing out the worst in everyone. If theists can see past the xenophobic extremism of our own quasi-leadership, then it’s our duty to do the same.

Travis Vail is a fourth-year communication major.


This article appeared online only at pm Friday, April 19, 2013.


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  1. When Islam teaches that atheists should be killed.
    When Islamic countries pass laws againt atheism and make it a crime punishable with death.
    Then it is entirely justified for atheists to critisise Islam.
    You don’t see atheists saying or trying to kill muslims in the name of atheism. Just critisism in the face of murderous attacks.

    • The following quote is from the March 19th edition of the Palestinian Authority Daily.

      “Had Hitler won, Nazism would be an honor that people would be competing to belong to, and not a disgrace punishable by law.”

      I guess the atheists are right about Islam.

  2. muslims in islamic countries are more islamophobic than the athiests because they are living in the constant fear of the islamic

    laws which kill and torture their own scientists and musicians….

    • Muslims are more proficient at killing their brothers and sisters than any other people are.

      In the 7 year Iran/Iraq War 1,000,000 Muslims died at their brother’s hands.

      In Syria 100,000 have been killed.

      Since 9/11 Muslim on Muslim killings number in the tens-of-thousands as Muslim bomb markets, schools, refugee compounds and the like.

  3. Mark Moore says:

    Might it be that Muslims are atheistophobic?

  4. religionisBS says:

    U mad Horgisborg?

    Travis needs to open his eyes. If he can’t see the moral high ground in the West compared to Muslim countries then he should stop wasting his time defending Islam.

    for starters, RACIAL profiling is based on appearances, NOT RELIGION. Not all Muslims are from the Middle East, not all have dark skin, not all have beards, not all dress the same. If you’ve been to Malaysia one would know this.

    racial profile is not inspired by bigotry but common sense. does it make sense to waste resources and subject an 80 year old grandma to the same security measures as the 23 year old dude from Somalia? NO. yes, racial profiling is insensitive but if done in a non-obvious way it can work. travel is a privilege not a right.

    generally profiling all muslims is silly and would only cause more problems. not to mention be a huge strain on resources.

    fact is muslims have it better in the US/Europe/Israel than ANY muslim country. i dont understamd hy the left and atheists have such a raging boner for islam. by every measuring stick it is easily the most repressive religion overall.

    most religious terrorists are muslim and most terrorism worldwide is islam-inspired. the most oppressive countries on earth are islamic.

    these are facts. are all muslms bad? no. are most muslims bad? no. but islam remains quite a violent religion and not far off from the 11th-14th century philosophies.

    the real enemies of islam are other muslims. i wouldnt worry too much about political atheists, most are insecure pussies. 99.9% of all victims of islamic terror are OTHER MUSLIMS.

    whining about US soldiers. jesus open a newspaper brah.

  5. HorgisBorg says:

    I like how some column are heavily moderated- like the one about divesting from that piece of shit country known as israel. Yet columns like this, filled with hate speech, are allowed to run rampantly.

    Typical crappy UCSB journalism, from mindless morons rambling their useless opinion.

    This ‘newspaper’ is great for wiping ass when you run out of toilet paper, but maybe make the print edition a little softer.

  6. Andre Servier on Islam

    “Islam was not a torch, as has been claimed, but an extinguisher. Conceived in a barbarous brain for the use of a barbarous people, it was – and it remains – incapable of adapting itself to civilization. Wherever it has dominated, it has broken the impulse towards progress and checked the evolution of society.”

  7. Vernon Richards on Islam

    “The true Islamic concept of peace goes something like this:’Peace comes through submission to Muhammad and his concept of Allah’(i.e. Islam). As such the Islamic concept of peace, meaning making the whole world Muslim, is actually a mandate for war. It was inevitable and unavoidable that the conflict would eventually reach our borders, and so it has.”

  8. Lord Tebbit on Islam

    “The Muslim religion is so unreformed since it was created that nowhere in the Muslim world has there been any real advance in science, or art or literature, or technology in the last 500 years.”

  9. Patriarch Cyrus of Alexandria on Islam

    “I am afraid that God has sent these men to lay waste the world”.
    Gregory Palamus of Thessalonica on Islam

    “For these impious people, hated by God and infamous, boast of having got the better of the Romans by their love of God…they live by the bow, the sword and debauchery, finding pleasure in taking slaves, devoting themselves to murder, pillage, spoil and not only do they commit these crimes, but even – what an aberration – they believe that God approves of them. This is what I think of them, now that I know precisely about their way of life.”

  10. John Wesley on Islam

    “Ever since the religion of Islam appeared in the world, the espousers of it…have been as wolves and tigers to all other nations, rending and tearing all that fell into their merciless paws, and grinding them with their iron teeth; that numberless cities are raised from the foundation, and only their name remaining; that many countries, which were once as the garden of God, are now a desolate wilderness; and that so many once numerous and powerful nations are vanished from the earth! Such was, and is at this day, the rage, the fury, the revenge, of these destroyers of human kind.”

  11. Here are some Islamophobes….

    John Quincy Adams on Islam

    “The precept of the Koran is, perpetual war against all who deny, that Mahomet is the prophet of God. The vanquished may purchase their lives, by the payment of tribute; the victorious may be appeased by a false and delusive promise of peace; and the faithful follower of the prophet, may submit to the imperious necessities of defeat: but the command to propagate the Moslem creed by the sword is always obligatory, when it can be made effective. The commands of the prophet may be performed alike, by fraud, or by force.”

  12. Islamophobia is a made-up word intended to confuse the issue. The issue is that Islam’s prophet, Mohammed, was a sadist and that Islam’s holy books (the Quran, Hadiths and Sunna) are literally filled with supremacist, hate-filled messages and verses.

  13. Does one need to read Mein Kampf to know that Nazism is evil?

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