A couple of weeks ago, I posted about a Christian apologist who ripped out a page of a Qur’an, put it in his mouth, chewed it up, and spit it out… before threatening to swallow it next time so that he could shit it out days later.
As I said at the time, the act itself didn’t offend me. (Why would it?) I just found the whole thing immature and pointless. Especially coming from a white evangelical in the U.S., the sort of person who would probably flip out if anyone else did that to the Bible. Trashing the Qur’an had no higher purpose. He was trolling for the sake of trolling.
So, naturally, Atheist Republic’s Armin Navabi, who delights in saying provocative things presumably to get a rise out of everyone, is taking things even further with a new campaign called #DesecrateTheQuran.
Here he is spitting on a page of the Qur’an, then tearing it up.
— Armin Navabi (@ArminNavabi) September 1, 2020
Okay… mission accomplished?
According to one website, there’s a reason for this:
The online campaign to burn or tear the pages of Quran comes at the backdrop of a recent trend where anti-Islamic activist groups in a few European countries such as Sweden and Norway have resorted to the public burning of Quran which resulted in widespread rioting. An activist group — Stop Islamisation of Norway (SIAN) has carried out various campaigns in recent times to desecrate Quran.
Just last week, Islamist mobs in Sweden and Norway had unleashed violence against these anti-Islam groups and had damaged public properties after there were rumours that some of these activists had burnt the Quran.
So people destroyed copies of a holy book, then extremist followers of that holy book did extreme things, leading to more destruction of the holy book… and the cycle continues.
If that’s the case, then this act of destroying the Qur’an isn’t about defending free speech like Everybody Draw Muhammad Day was a decade ago. That was undoubtedly offensive to many people, but at least there was a higher principle at stake there: the right to blaspheme.
But desecrating the Qur’an — without explanation, as in that tweet — just to stick it to those radical mobs is like burning the Bible because of whatever the hell Westboro Baptist Church does. It creates far more problems than it solves. In this particular case, Navabi is playing right into the hands of right-wing zealots who make life hell for peaceful Muslims by overstating their “true” intentions and trying to whip up public resentment against them.
For years, I heard prominent atheists saying they’re not “Islamophobic.” They’re not “scared” of Islam. They oppose anti-Muslim bigotry. They do feel, however, that Islam can and should be criticized, just like any other religion. I’ve been right there with them.
But at a time when Muslims in India are facing a genocide, and Muslims in China are being sent to “re-education camps,” and Republicans in the U.S. have issued Muslim travel bans, this stunt strikes me as nothing more than a cheap shot at all Muslims with no attempt to get any more nuanced.
It’s a giant “fuck you” to Muslims in general. I don’t understand it. I don’t get how it accomplishes anything useful. And I don’t get why any stunt likely to draw praise from anti-Muslim hate groups and the likes of Laura Loomer is something any decent person should praise or imitate.
If you have a problem with the Qur’an, then describe the chapter and verse. Explain why a certain page is problematic. Tell us what, exactly, is wrong. Educate people. (Navabi, a former Muslim, should be able to do all of this better than most!)
But acting like Islam — all of it — is uniquely awful is about as ignorant as the rhetoric used by conservatives who trash Muslims by treating them as existential threats to everyone’s freedom, even though Muslims in the U.S. have little political power and tend to vote for more liberal candidates anyway. (As of 2017, 66% of U.S. Muslims are Democrats.)
Maybe I’ve softened on this issue from a decade ago, but whatever concerns I once had about Islam at large, I’m far more worried today about right-wing authoritarians, typically Christians, who will do anything to suppress actual religious freedom and impose their beliefs on everyone else. Desecrating a holy book of people who are struggling in many parts of the world, rather than criticizing a specific group or specific ideas, is just lazy activism.
The only goal seems to be provocation and getting social media notoriety, not changing anyone’s hearts or minds. If that’s the case, at least have the guts to admit it.
Congratulations, atheists. We have our own Milo.