This coming August, the Festival of Dangerous Ideas will take place in Sydney Australia. Speakers include Pussy Riot, Rebecca Newberger Goldstein talking about why philosophers are more important than scientists, Salman Rushdie talking about how television has replaced the novel, and — until a few days ago — Uthman Badar talking about how “Honour Killings Are Morally Justified.” There was so much backlash against that title that Badar was disinvited from speaking.
Normally, the controversy would’ve been limited to that. But then a local Howard-Stern-like radio host jumped into the fray.
Shock jock Michael Smith (above) said that inviting Badar was like inviting a KKK leader. But then things took an awkward turn when he began complaining about Islam in general:
… the Prophet Muhammad was a pedophile, a pederast, a sexual offender, a man who promoted the idea that it was okay to marry a six-year-old and consummate the marriage when the little girl was nine. And that’s written into their books, it’s part of the philosophy…
He’s not necessarily wrong about the age discrepancy there — I’ll admit that — but I have to take issue with his characterization of Muslims as a whole. His implication isn’t just that Badar should never have been invited to speak; it’s really that all Muslims should be banned from speaking. As if all of them support pedophilia because of what Muhammad did with Aisha.
On Smith’s own site, he tried to make his case:
At 7.15 last night 2GB’s Program Director David Kidd phoned me and said, “We won’t be needing you, you can’t call a Deity a paedophile.”
David told me he was referring to the interview Ben Fordham conducted with me on Thursday this past week. Just for the record, Muhammad was a man, a prophet — but not a Deity.
I’ve thought about what I said in answer to Ben’s question. I think it’s wrong for a man in his 50s to have sex with a 9 year old child. It is wrong, it’s a crime and it should be called out for what it is.
I know Ray Hadley disagrees with me — perhaps Ray could let us know what part of a grown man having sex with a 9 year old girl is right?
Sure, it’s a crime… now. And go ahead and call Muhammad out for that. But while you’re at it, remember that in the Old Testament, God was a bloodthirsty, genocidal maniac. Does that mean all Christians approve of those actions?
And how old was Mary when God impregnated her with Jesus? While the Bible isn’t explicit, scholars have put her age at anywhere from 12 to 16. So I guess the Christian God is a pedophile/rapist. Does that mean all Christians should be banned from speaking at this festival, too?
No. Smith is just going after the Muslim speaker.
Holy books contain a lot of awful bullshit we would never let slide in modern times. It doesn’t mean believers accept or approve of all those ideas. To call out Badar for what the Koran says instead of what his talk was supposed to be about misses the point.
Smith didn’t bother to learn more about Badar’s actual topic. Why bother? That might’ve required more nuanced thinking. Why do that when you can keep things black, white, and overly simple?
By the way, even if Badar wanted to defend honor killings, wouldn’t that be a “dangerous idea” fitting the bill of the conference? He’d still have to defend it — which I doubt he or anyone else could — but it’s hard to understand why people are so offended by the mere question instead of the possible justifications someone would raise in defense of the crime.
(Thanks to Shayne for the link)