‘Talibani Atheism’ & how it fuels Islamophobia

Yyynkt2Bigotry of any sort – whether based on race, gender, religion or ethnic background – is like cancer. It must be condemned in its start before it metastasizes and takes root in society. At this point, it is usually too late to cure the disease, which rapidly progresses to its natural, malignant fallout. Islamophobia is one such strand of bigotry.

The term is defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as an “intense dislike or fear of Islam; hostility or prejudice towards Muslims”Multiple studies have shown that Islamophobia is on the rise in the West for the last few decades. This should be a cause of concern for all citizens of the civilized world.

Islam is not a monolithic faith. It has numerous sects and sub-sects that differ based on their understanding of the Quran. They also differ in their analysis and extent of reliance on recorded narrations – collected centuries later – of Prophet Muhammad, with one sect treating all such narrations as authentic, another disregarding them altogether and a whole spectrum in between. Given this diversity, the actions of a particular faction within Islam can only be representative of that group, not the whole religion. It is the teachings of the Quran and the proven example of Prophet Muhammad that define the Islamic faith as a whole.

Of the sects within Islam, I belong to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. This is one of the largest communities of Muslims worldwide, with tens of millions of members in over 200 countries in the world, all united under His Holiness, the Khalifa of Islam. We not just claim, we also demonstrate that Islam promotes universal justice, freedom of speech and free exchange and criticism of ideas. We promote peace through dialogue and support universal freedom of conscience for people of all faiths – and of no faith. We are at the forefront of humanitarian service throughout the world. We have schools to impart secular education, hospitals to treat the sick, and charity projects to provide food and water etc. across parts of the developing world. In the United States alone, we collected 30,000 bags of blood to commemorate 9/11 victims and recently took our fight against hunger to the US Congress. We condemn violent Jihad, and apostasy and blasphemy laws as un-Islamic and inhumane, and champion the separation of Church and State.

Taliban and Al Qaeda are examples of fringe outliers to the right of the sectarian spectrum. They are the Christian, Jewish and Atheist equivalent of KKK, Brit Hakanaim and the League of Militant Atheists respectively. Claiming that these terrorist groups represent their respective faiths or philosophy is not simplistic, it is outright stupid.

Here is where “Talibani atheists” – a term I coined over the weekend – come in.

Like Islam, atheism is no monolithic group of people either. Most of my atheist friends are great people, like most of my theist friends. Kile, the editor-in-chief of Claremont Journal of Religion, is one such example. He is keen on “interfaith” discourse and on building bridges between religious and atheist communities. He disagrees with religion but does not hate it. Most of my atheist friends are like Kile. Then, there are my New Atheist friends that are anti-religion. There is diversity within this group as well. There are those, like Faisal Saeed, who believe that religion – and hence scripture – must be subject to critique and countered with rational argument. A proponent of reason, I agree with his stated approach and use the same to counter extremist narratives.

And then, there are those like Hirsi Ali and Sam Harris, who – like their Talibani counterparts – are extreme outliers in this diverse group. So, why do I call them Talibani atheists? And what sets them apart from other atheists?

Talibani atheists are like the Taliban. They share the same neuronal biochemistry. Just as the Taliban are spiteful, the Talibani atheists are dutifully programmed to obsessively hate, ridicule and condemn religion in their daily routines. They believe that all Islam – including Ahmadiyya Islam – is evil, and they deny the existence of moderate Islam altogether. They argue that a good Muslim and a good human are mutually exclusive. If I am a good person, I must not be following Islam. If I follow Islam truly, I must be a bad person. The Taliban, similarly, stigmatize those they despise, based on mere affiliation. Like their counterparts, Talibani atheists are rigid in their worldview and childishly stubborn. Moreover, Talibani atheists rely on Talibani narrative for their understanding of Islam.

“But we don’t have guns?” they plead. “Thank God (or Goodness),” I respond.

Unlike Talibani atheists, Faisal is a liberal New Atheist. He acknowledges the existence of moderate Islam and believes that Scripture can lead people to bad or good, depending on what they read in it. He does not lump me and Al Qaeda under a monolithic bloc he calls “Islam.” His fight is not against Islam per se, but against the radical Islam that we both despise and fight. He applauds Ahmadiyya Islam, for instance, for its rational reading of scripture. This is a reasonable position that I applaud, and that highlights the key difference between a Talibani atheist and a liberal one.

The reason Talibani atheists consider moderates “bad Muslims,” or as some New Atheist friends insist, “non-Muslim” is because considering us good Muslims forces them to acknowledge the existence of moderate Islam. They insist that extremists interpret the Quran “literally,” whereas moderate Muslims do not, a lie that falls flat on its face when they are caught relying on the interpretations of the same extremists as their evidence against Islam.

The Taliban attack and kill moderate Muslims like the Ahmadis in Pakistan and elsewhere. While the moderates suffer and fight them on ground, Talibani atheists borrow their narrative, flaunt it, give credibility to their “twisted interpretations” and base it to condemn us as “bad Muslims.” They look for easy targets in the moderates – the same moderates who fight at the fronts of this ideological war.

As a consequence of this prejudiced approach, Taliban atheists are directly responsible for Islamophobia. For, indeed if Al Qaeda defined the face of Islam and none else did, I would fear it too. Anyone would. Anyone should. At a large scale, such promotion of fear and hate of Islam is known to result in anti-Muslim bigotry and hate crimes. Because the word “Islam” is deliberately linked to evil, anyone claiming affiliation with Islam is looked upon with suspicion and hate. As such, for their role in demonizing a faith and the resultant demonization of its adherents, Talibani atheists are Islamophobe bigots and must be identified and condemned as such before this cancer takes root.

“You want to censor criticism of Islam!” they yell. “No,” I calmly reiterate. “I appreciate intellectual criticism and use it in my work against religious extremism in parts of the Muslim world.”

We know well what followed when Nazis demonized Judaism in Germany. We know what followed when the Black color was demonized in America. We know what follows when extremist zealots are allowed to promote their prejudices against Ahmadiyya Islam, Shia Islam, atheism etc. in places like Pakistan. We also know how Talibani atheists in the past, when empowered, went door to door hunting down theists in Russia. Let us not wait to witness such a dreadful outcome. Instead of waiting for it to metastasize beyond cure and mourning ex post facto, let us all condemn and call out the bigotry that is inherent in Talibani atheism – the bête noire of atheism – now.


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  • http://zachsmind.wordpress.com ZachsMind

    If you can’t accept every single word in the Quran, you should stop calling yourselves Muslims. I’ve read the hate that’s in the Quran and it mirrors hate I found in the Christian Bible with which I grew up. It’s all traced back to Abraham, a man who was willing to sacrifice his own flesh and blood to appease the voice in his head.

    One of many reasons why I stopped being Christian was because I personally looked over the Abrahamic texts upon which not only my denomination of Christianity was based, but all Christian denominations. In the Tanak and New Testament, there are many statements upon which I simply can’t agree. Stoning adulterers. Shunning apostates. Killing gay people. Slavery of other tribes. The idea that a very select few will make it to god’s after-party and a god will punish billions of souls for essentially being what he allegedly made them to be: human.

    So if I don’t believe even one of the many things in these teachings, I can’t in all honesty continue calling myself a Christian. It’s not a buffet. I can’t say I agree with the “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” parts and ignore the parts of the Bible that are downright inhumane and cruel. THEY’RE IN THE SAME BOOK!

    So if you’re asking me to give all Muslims a pass cuz only some of them want to cut my head off for doubting what they call the word of Allah, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Abraham is in your books too. If I can no longer believe in the monster that was described in my god’s perfect word, I’m not going to embrace the sadistic homicidal maniac that’s in yours,either.

    And neither should you. ANY of you. Especially since others use the SAME Abrahamic texts you use to rationalize their bloodshed of fellow human beings. There is no excuse for this, and how dare you try to make up excuses for them.

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  • tildeb

    They (‘Talibani’ atheists Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali) argue that a good Muslim and a good human are mutually exclusive.

    Sources, please.

    Taliban atheists are directly responsible for Islamophobia.

    Evidence, please.

    Look, anyone can make these kinds of claims and then use them as premises to justify their demonizing conclusions by conveniently ignoring what’s true. For example, it’s not you who has to pay for 24 hour protection against these ‘Talibani atheists’ is it? Harris helps pay for Ali’s yet you conveniently lump these two as equivalent to those who would kill them. This is disingenuous and apologetics of the worst kind.

    Both Harris and Ali unequivocally support muslims as people who are the greatest victims of islam. The cause of this victimization is not atheism as you hint in your final paragraphs; it’s other muslims who hold their religious beliefs to be of greater value than the dignity of real people in real life they harm in its name.

    Both Harris and Ali condemn islam for producing such popular values contrary to the central enlightenment values of western liberal secular democracies, namely, the recognition of personal autonomy and legal equality. Harris and Ali have spoken and written at length about why these values apply to all people – including any and all muslims – and that any religious doctrine – especially islam – that subjugates personal autonomy and grants this authority to the rule of some divine being is contrary to and in conflict with the root values on which liberal secular democracies have been built.

    To claim that New Atheists Harris and Ali are promoters of bigotry when, in fact and deed, they demonstrate inclusiveness for all people with sacrosanct equality legal rights and autonomy, is beyond ludicrous: it is lying. It is an intentional falsehood used solely not to represent what’s true, not to be honest in description, but stated to intentionally malign their characters.

    Not satisfied with just maligning their characters with this false accusation of bigotry, you equate their justified criticism of islam (based on scriptural authority to reject legal equality and autonomy of individuals) to be equivalent to people who throw acid in the faces of girls who want to go to school and learn. This makes your assertion malicious. That’s what this post of your demonstrates and that is your post’s demonstrated intentions. You vilify those who champion your right to be able to form your own opinions and then vilify them for doing the same (in the name of moderate islam, of course). This is religious apolgetics at its finest, and you should be ashamed for your lack of character to participate in spewing it.

    • http://kashifmd.com/ Kashif Chaudhry

      I did not equate criticism of Islam to bigotry at all. Read my piece again and focus on where I praise those atheists that criticize Islam and make the distinction between them and Talibani atheists.

      Res is all bla bla bla. Harris and Hirsi are not my saviors as you present. Thank you very much. If anything they have spoken to curtail my rights. Feel free to read my piece in Huffington Post on Hirsi Ali’s Islamophobia and bigotry: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kashif-n-chaudhry/hirsi-ali-telling-a-criti-islamophobia_b_5229502.html

      Don’t chose bigots. Like me, speak against all – theists and atheists. Peace my friend.

      • tildeb

        I read your article and it’s an intentional smear job based on distorting her words to suggest she supports Taliban-like policies against muslims. This is ludicrous. You say ‘Talibani atheists’ are like the Taliban. Fine., Neither Hirsi Ali nor Harris are ‘like’ this. And that’s why unlike them you don’t have to pay for 24 hour protection. No atheists are out to kill you. Period They are out to show why islam is a religious doctrine – in all its forms – incompatible with western liberal secular values.You intentionally distort the truth of their criticisms (Hirsi Ali specifically) and maliciously malign their characters in the service of protecting what you assume is the reasonableness of your ‘moderate’ religious beliefs and not in the service of countering their arguments that your religious beliefs are, if islamic, incompatible with these values.

        So let’s see what happens when we put you to this test: do you believe the Koran is the perfect word of god?

        Now let’s look and see where you direct your fear in answering anything other than ‘Yes’ and aligning yourself with an incompatible religious doctrine….from ‘Talibani atheists’ or your islamic brethren?

        This is the brute fact that disrobes your nicely dressed-up HuffPo distortion.

        • http://kashifmd.com/ Kashif Chaudhry

          Write a rebuttal. None of what you say is my argument anyway. Read my piece again. Good luck.

      • madge hirsch

        Tildeb is right. Your piece is intellectually dishonest to the core.

        • http://kashifmd.com/ Kashif Chaudhry

          Feel free to rebut. That is exactly what radical extremists in Muslim world tell me. Both extremes consider us liberals as “intellectually dishonest.” I’d prefer an intellectual rebuttal instead of ad hominems. Thanks.

        • madge hirsch

          As I said I am in agreement with what Tildeb wrote. They expressed their criticisms of what you wrote and I have nothing to add except that I admire Hirsi Ali enormously despite disagreeing with her economic views. It seems to me she defends women’s rights more than any spokesman for the Ahmadis I have seen. Oh perhaps you could direct me to the writings/ youtube / blog of an Ahmadi spokeswoman.

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