Over the years of writing articles, of changing my views on certain subjects, softening on some, or hardening on others, the timeless responses to those articles tend always to be very angry because I’ve offended religious or political sensibilities, or supportive for the very same reason. Very rarely does anyone – whether angry or supportive – misrepresent what I’d written. It takes a special kind of dishonesty to do that, someone who cares little for truthful representation of the views and thoughts of others. Enter CJ Werleman:
– It’s important to note from the start, that I’ve never accused, or implied that CJ Werleman is ‘anti-white‘. On the contrary, I think Werleman presents a wholly white privilege narrative. And so with this in mind, I thought I’d clarify – and in much of the article, simply repeat from my previous article – what I took exception to in Werleman’s article for Middle East Eye. Here are the two paragraphs in question:
“Moreover, New Atheists enthusiastically, and often unintentionally, promote western imperialism, and any individual who supports an erroneous narrative (“clash of civilisations” is the theme of New Atheism) that, by design, attempts to justify western intervention in the Middle East, Africa, or Asia is, ergo ipso facto, a white supremacist.
Case in point: Somali-born, anti-Muslim activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali is feted by the New Atheist movement. Her most staunch supporters include celebrity New Atheists Harris, Bill Maher and Richard Dawkins. Last weekend, Hirsi Ali was the keynote speaker at the largest annual gathering of atheists – the American Atheists convention, despite the fact both her fictitious biography and anti-Muslim bigotry are well documented.”
– It’s worth remembering that with such a provocatively absurd title like “Is New Atheism an anti-Muslim, white supremacy movement?”, the point of the article is not to present an intellectually stimulating piece of journalism with integrity, quite the opposite, the point is to be purposely hyperbolic and personally attack opponents. It’s the ‘Your mum is fat!‘ before the schoolyard fight. We find throughout the article, all the emotive buzzwords that possess little thought, do not engage with actual arguments, and are simply designed to poke at the emotions of the reader; “neoconservative”, “neo-Nazi“, “genocidal“, “colonialism” “fascist“, “racist“, “white supremacist“, with a quick dose of “Anders Breivik” and “ethnic cleansing” thrown in, just to make sure the reader knows for certain that Bill Maher is actually Josef Goebbels. The whole piece is reminiscent of Fox News unable to go three minutes without having to refer to the President as a communist, socialist, Marxist, anti-Christian, Muslim born in Kenya and probably gay. It isn’t a respectable form of journalism, it is throwing shit in the hope that some of it sticks. It is also so narrowly focused on attacking the targets (in this case – as in most of Werleman’s recent tantrums – Sam Harris & Ayaan Hirsi Ali, through hideous distortions) that it’s easy for Werleman to not recognise the creeping bigotry in his own rhetoric.
For example, Werleman implies with “Western intervention” & “Western imperialism” being “white supremacist” that Western countries are to be considered white. Far from being “anti-white“, I’m convinced this paragraph represents Werleman’s white privilege narrative. He’ll use that racially-charged narrative, if it helps him in his endless attempts to smear Sam Harris or Ayaan Hirsi Ali. To imply that Western nations are white, disregards human beings who are not white, who daily shape the nation, and the struggles for equality that have influenced the social, philosophical, scientific, & economic framework of Western countries over the years to get to where we are today.
Further, Werleman has created an organised enemy – ‘New Atheists‘ – given it the ‘white supremacist‘ attribute as its core purpose, and now has to explain away the logical inconsistencies that arise. For example, along with the ‘white’ West, why does he dismiss ‘New Atheism‘ as ‘white supremacist’? Does that mean that only atheists with white skin are included in that title? Doesn’t that imply that rhetoric is actually second in importance to skin tone, in Werleman’s definition of a ‘New Atheist‘, because if you’re not white, and argue in tone much like Sam Harris, you don’t fit the definition? Need we a completely separate phrase for those who are as critical of Islam as Sam Harris, but who aren’t white? Why must a phrase for such people be based on ethnicity? The problem as you can see, with the attribute that Werleman gives to ‘New Atheists‘ is that the inconsistencies in this completely false narrative, ultimately betray his own bigotry with the questions that they raise. To claim ‘New Atheists‘ are ‘white supremacists‘ makes that club racially exclusive, according to the criteria of Werleman’s own definition of ‘New Atheists’. In reality, critics of Islam are spread across the World, across cultures, and certainly not anchored to one tone of skin.
The framework upon which I was born in 1986, is one in which white privilege still illegitimately influences everything, though over the years chipped away by the bravest of human beings who put their lives on the line – often resulting in death, as was the case with Dr King jr – to level the playing field, and reshape the framework. The nation that I was born into still has institutionally racist elements, but is far less so than when my great-grandfather was born. In fact, only two decades before I was born, my dad was in his early years when Paul Stephenson, following the example of Rosa Parks, lead a protest against Bristol Omnibus Company for their refusal to employ black and Asian drivers. Even more unbelievable, Eric Holder – the US’s first African American Attorney General – was born 11 months before the death of the Confederacy’s last remaining veteran – Pleasant Crump – who fought to uphold slavery as the great Frederick Douglass was laying the intellectual foundations of a civil rights movement that would grow fearlessly for the next century. The progress in one man’s lifetime to reshape the country away from its white supremacist foundings (and at that time the hypocritical notion that ‘all Men are created equal‘) & human slavery, and the battles that had to be fought by extraordinary human rights campaigners, is exceptional (though still, quite hideously, not even close to being fully remedied). The framework that we today live on, owes everything to those reformers (not just racial reformers, but gender, sexuality, and secular reformers). Western nations benefit from a melting pot of ideas and challenges to authority from those people traditionally oppressed by the illegitimate power of supremacists, so that future generations are less likely to be held back by those same illegitimate restrictions based on ethnicity. The nation belongs to all who live here, not a single ethnicity, or a single gender, or a single sexuality, or eye colour or any other pointless distinction. It may suit the overall narrative that Werleman is dedicated to – ceaselessly trying to cast Sam Harris as the reincarnation of Hitler – but the narrative is loaded with racism itself, in that it disregards anyone who isn’t white.
That leads us to the “clash of civilisations” phrase. Far from new atheists claiming that narrative, Werleman does exactly that when he refers to the West as white, and implies the Middle East, Africa, and Asia is the opposite. I guess President Obama would be banned from leading the “Western imperialist” white-supremacist crusade. Further – as I noted in my previous article – Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s criticisms are included as part of a “case in point” white supremacism. A bizarre form of silencing. One wonders if this also applies to other non-white ex-Muslims across the World, if Werleman absorbs them into a “white supremacist” narrative also. I wonder if they realise that by speaking out, they’ll never get to be “New Atheists” (a solely “white” club, obviously), and that they’re only supporting white supremacy!
Indeed, to push criticism of an idea – political or religious – into a category that is considered solely ‘white‘, despite criticism of that idea, as with practically every idea coming from all different sections of the global community, is to disenfranchise and silence people like Hirsi Ali and others like her, as well as non-white atheists and secularists, before they’ve even told their story or argued their point. Leo Igwe from Nigeria is not a white supremacist, Walid Shoebat is not a white supremacist. Walid Husayin is not a white supremacist. People, again, dismissed by Werleman for not fitting the racially-driven narrative he clings to.
There is nothing liberal, or respectable in trying to smear whom you perceive as opponents, to do so dishonestly and manipulatively, and to do so using racist rhetoric. If you create an undefined organised enemy – like “new Atheists” – that you attribute white supremacism as key to its being, you’ll find it incredibly difficult to dig yourself out of that hole when it’s quite clear that criticism (harsh or otherwise) of that religion you seek to protect, is across seas, ethnicities, and cultures. Your own bigotry will shine through, as it did in Werleman’s article. In short, everything Werleman accuses his opponents of…. he is guilty of himself, to a far greater degree, in these two short paragraphs.