Atheism does not have a stellar history when it comes to Islamophobia, particularly in the realm of holding Muslims or Muslim countries to the same standards that we hold everyone else. Instead, Islam has for many atheists become the emblem of Bad Religion (no, not the band). When convenient, it’s the pawn with which some deflect accusations of sexism (cough Dear Muslima cough), and when it’s not, Islam tends to get thrown under the bus.
Enter the latest in a series of organized atheism’s missteps with Islam. Over at The Friendly Atheist, there’s a post up about Somali residents of Minnesota seeking funding for a food shelf with halal options. Libby Anne has a great breakdown of the numbers and facts of the situation, why these residents need the help and support of their community, and how culturally appropriate food is considered a human right.
There are so many things that are wrong with the original piece that many other people have covered, but what is particularly disgusting is the final p.s. “I can’t help but wonder if some of these folks don’t have jobs — in retail, or in transportation, or in the hospitality industry, etc. — because they believe their religion forbids them to handle alcohol, or pepperoni pizza, or dogs.”
I live in Minneapolis, and it’s pretty obvious that Somali communities are struggling because they are new immigrants trying to adjust to a new culture and community that tends to look poorly on people with dark skin. There is open racism against the Somali community that I hear on a regular basis. The services that are available are fairly taxed with new immigrants from a variety of places. Systematic issues are keeping this community in a rough place, and coming from a background of war is hardly making it an easier adjustment. But apparently if you’re an atheist you get to be as xenophobic as you like and it counts as objective logic because it’s religion that’s the problem.
But it’s easier to point towards religion than examine our own biases and the responsibilities we might have towards people who are struggling. it’s a lovely sort of victim blaming; if you weren’t so stupidly religious you would have a job, so reconvert and your life will be great! It’s your own stupid superstitions that are holding you back! It’s like the atheist version of The Secret: stop believing and everything will work out for you! The moment you cut God out of your life, all your problems will disappear because the only thing that’s holding you back is yourself and your stupid God-thoughts.
It is lazy thinking to believe that there is a one to one correlation between our beliefs and our success in life. Believing that you’re a skeptic, and then making assumptions like this is hypocritical at best and racist at worst. If religion is the only thing that matters, then it’s easy to overlook racism or sexism and simply blame bad things on either people being taken advantage of by religion or on people being blinded by the horrible beliefs of their religion. Libby Anne phrased it as “attacking minorities”, but it seems to me that the problem here is even deeper than that: it’s victim blaming any minorities for their problems because of their religion. It’s not simply being unnecessarily cruel and oppressive, it’s doing so under the atheist banner thinking that it will give you the moral high ground.
You’d think that if atheists want to demonstrate what moral people they are, they’d be willing to support a poor, immigrant community get support for a food bank, but apparently some of us are willing to be the caricatured, moustache twirling, evil atheist. We can do better folks.