Daniel Greenfield: Is Criticism of Islam a Hate Crime?

After every terrorist attack, the news goes through the usual checklist of excuses. Muslims aren’t responsible. It had nothing to do with Islam. Asking Muslims to condemn or disassociate themselves from the attack is racist and you should be ashamed of yourself for even asking them to do it.

The Chapel Hill shootings reversed the spin. The media switched from warning us that we shouldn’t blame Muslims for Muslim terrorism, to blaming atheists for a parking dispute turned violent. Their evidence was Craig Hicks’ Facebook page quoting prominent atheists attacking, mainly, Christianity.

The Washington Post headlined its story, “Chapel Hill killings shine light on particular tensions between Islam and atheism”. A more accurate headline would be that they shine a light on tensions between atheists and the left. Though atheists aren’t necessarily on the left, the Western left used to view them in a friendly light due to its own hostility to Christianity and Judaism. But recently that began to change.

The media’s official story is that the catalyst for the conflict came from “New Atheists” like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who were too strident and extreme. Like most of the media’s official stories, this one is a fairy tale. Atheism has always had its strident rhetoric. It certainly did not turn strident a mere few decades ago. The New Atheists however were more willing to criticize Islam.

And the left has become increasingly intolerant of any criticism of Islam, whether from Christians or Jews, or from atheists even if they, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, are ex-Muslims. Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins haven’t said anything about Islam that Bertrand Russell didn’t say. The difference is that they said it at a time when the left had become joined at the hip to Islam and criticism of Islam was being censured.

The New Atheists are far more focused on Christianity than any other religion, but even their occasional comments on Islam have infuriated the rising Muslim activists of the left and their non-Muslim allies. The attacks on them have come from the farthest corners of the left which would once have been militantly atheist. Today it is at best a politically correct atheism that criticizes Christianity, not Islam.

The debate had been initially fought out in the pages of The Guardian andThe Independent, before migrating into the loonier corners of the American left, namely Salon, which became notorious for its unhinged rants about New Atheists hating women, smearing Muslims and mutilating cattle.

The initial critics had ties to Middle Eastern terror states that abused women, supported terrorism and blatantly discriminated against non-Muslims.

Al Jazeera, Qatar’s pet propaganda outlet, ran a piece accusing Richard Dawkins of “Scientific Racism” for describing Al Qaeda terrorists destroying a library as “Islamic Babrarians”. Nathan Lean, the research director for the Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal Center, has spent more time attacking the New Atheists on Salon for Islamophobia than he has FOX News.

Why makes the New Atheists even scarier to Islamopologists than FOX News?

They are on the left making it impossible to ridicule them away as “Faux News”. Most of them have no interest in foreign policy so they can’t be denounced as warmongers. Their scientific credentials make it difficult to dismiss them as ignorant. The usual attacks Islamopologists launch against critics bounce off.

And their criticisms of Islam are often more cutting and direct than anything viewers are likely to hear on FOX News. Consider Sam Harris writing, “Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we will kill you.” That didn’t appear on a right-wing site, but in the virtual pages of the Huffington Post.

It’s not hard to see why shutting them up has become a major priority of the Islamopologist left.

Bill Maher’s comments on Islam took the debate into the prime time, but the Chapel Hill shootings have made it possible for the first time to accuse the New Atheists of murder. Depicting the parking dispute as a hate crime is about more than just the usual need to manufacture Islamic victimization, a bad habit which has already produced at least one post-shootingIslamophobic hoax hate crime in Texas.

It’s also about warning atheists against criticizing Islam.

The hate crime case against Craig Hicks rests heavily on his Facebook page with its quotes on atheism, even though its contents mainly criticized Christianity. The implication has become that atheism is in and of itself proof of a bias motive. This position has dangerous consequences. If an atheist and a Muslim were to get into a fight, the atheist’s criticism of Islam might retroactively prove a hate crime.

The Islamopologists have claimed that raids on Muslim charities funding terrorism were criminalizing their beliefs. Now they are criminalizing someone else’s beliefs.

The Washington Post’s Michelle Boorstein was quick to drag in Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins into the shootings, while misstating a quote from Dawkins. Boorstein was unable to show that Harris or Dawkins had in any way advocated violence, only that they had accused Islam of being violent.

The New Republic’s Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig contended that, “The Chapel Hill Murders Should Be a Wake-Up Call for Atheists”. Again Harris and Dawkins were dragged in without actually showing that they had called for the murder of Muslims.

CNN ran a Muslim piece claiming that Hicks had been motivated by atheism. NPR quoted Reza Aslan demanding that atheists confront “extremists” in their community. (If Reza Aslan did that in his own Islamic community, he would have a full time career on his hands.)

All of this is in sharp contrast to what happens after every Muslim terrorist attack when no amount of assertions by the very killers themselves can ever convince the media that it was Islamic terrorism. The media will disregard evidence of Islamic terrorism, as it did with the Fort Hood massacre, and in the same way it will disregard the lack of evidence when making the case that Muslims are the victims.

Non-Muslim neighbors described Hicks as threatening and obsessed with parking spaces. A development resident said that he was fueled by “equal opportunity anger” and that Hicks made “everyone feel uncomfortable and unsafe.”

But the case has already ceased to be about Hicks. Local shootings don’t usually lead to condemnations from the White House or trending hashtags. Sandwiched between Muslim killings of non-Muslims, the Chapel Hill shootings have become a rare opportunity for Muslims and their allies to play the victim.

Blaming New Atheists for the Chapel Hill shootings may be wildly dishonest, but so is pretending that Islam has nothing to do with the Islamic State.

Atheism in the Muslim world is a crime. The Islamopologist attempt to treat atheism as proof of a hate crime imports the theocracy of Islamic law into the United States. And if it is allowed to stand, how long until Christian criticism of Islam suffers the same fate so that the only allowable attitudes to Islam are either belief or the mindless secular admiration that politicians and reporters display all the time?

Criticism of Islam, obnoxious or otherwise, is legal in the United States. It is illegal in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Pakistan, Gaza and Iran. Recently we’ve seen Muslim efforts to impose this law through murder in Paris and Copenhagen. What the terrorists have tried to do to Charlie Hebdo by force, the Islamopologists are attempting to do here by associating the New Atheists with a crime they did not commit.