How much does Richard Dawkins, biologist, atheist and secularist, loathe Islam? Let us count the ways. Actually, let us not count the ways because of space limitations. But let us pause at one argument he uses to defend his singling out of Islam for criticism – Islam is not a race, and therefore disparaging it is not equivalent to racism.
Is Islam not a race? Other commentators have already characterised Dawkins’s stand as casuistry and taken him to task for it. For example, Nesrine Malik of The Guardian admits that technically Islam is not a race but points out that there is a ‘strong racial dimension to Islamophobia’ – Muslims in the UK are mostly African, Asian or Arab. Many suffer hate incidents or discrimination because of their intersecting racial and religious characteristics. So, Malik tells Dawkins, saying that Islam is not a race is a ‘cop out’, because although ‘Islam might not be a race…using that as a fig leaf for your unthinking prejudice is almost certainly racist’. Tom Chivers, who blogs for The Telegraph, says Dawkins often goes from ‘criticising the religion itself to criticising Muslims, as a vast bloc’, and is thus ‘failing as a scientist’. For example, Chivers argues, when Dawkins points out that the Muslim world has not produced very many Nobel laureates, he implies that this is ‘because they’re stupid, or brainwashed into zombiehood by their religion’. Surely, argues Chivers, a scientist should also examine other institutional or non-institutional dimensions on the lack of progress in Muslim societies, such as poverty and the scarcity of other resources? In other words, claiming that Muslims are exceptionally backward and attributing this to Islam is tantamount to racism and Islamophobia.