Dawkins and Jihadist Joe; a toxic relationship.

On my Friday night foray into twitter, I noticed that the renowned scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins had applauded, with vigorous conviction, the “parody” account Jihadist Joe. The account had been recently suspended but was now back up, and was then subsequently met with effusive appraisal from Dawkins. I disagreed with the suspension of the account. In order for a compelling case to be made for an account to curtailed, explicit evidence for incitement of violence has to be shown. In my opinion, this account does not contain such evidence. Notwithstanding whether or not the account should or shouldn’t be banned, let us shift focus into the content of the account and why Dawkins was very silly to endorse it.

All religious beliefs should be subject to scrutiny, debate, and in some instances, contempt. I should also make it clear that I don’t subscribe to the Reza Aslan/Owen Jones school of apologetics; where they argue Islam has nothing to do with the behaviour of violent Islamists. This is plainly wrong. Although saying Islam necessarily entails jihadism is itself incorrect, it is clear that Salafi-jihadism is an interpretation of Islamic texts, and so retrogressive beliefs, extrapolated from particular scriptures, ought to be challenged and reformed to cohere with modernity. In this sense, I find Islamic orthodoxy-the view that Islamic scripture is infallible- a view that should be met with vigorous challenge. Jihadist Joe doesn’t do that. Or I should say he doesn’t do just that, because although his account certainly traduces ideas within Islam, it also denigrates Muslims indiscriminately and assumes innate maleficence in their character. This is blanket bigotry. Assuming, a priori, that being Muslim entails you engage in rape or you’re equivalent to Nazis is not a legitimate critique of Islamic ideas, it is blanket bigotry. And saying so doesn’t make me an apologist for Islam, or islamophilic , it simply suggests I find bigoted views contemptible and sufficient for obloquy.

The attitude of Dawkins’ defenders has highlighted very starkly that cognitive dissonance isn’t peculiar to religious people. Some have said the account isn’t focused on Muslims, but Islam, and seeing as Islam is a set of beliefs, the account therefore doesn’t qualify as bigotry. This syllogism is dishonest, asinine and pathetic. Dishonest because people know fully well that Jihadist Joe is generalising negatively about Muslims. Asinine because negatively generalising about Muslims is bigotry and nothing less. And pathetic because, whether they notice it or not, the proponents of these apologetics inevitably defer through strawman or descend into execrable invective.

In a different instance, a soi-disant atheist philosopher argued that when one is hostile to bigoted views, one is animated by a totalitarian impulse. After I said about roughly a billion times that I don’t want Jihadist Joe to be banned on twitter, he responded by saying: since there isn’t an objective basis for morality, one should, therefore, assume a morally libertarian attitude to Jihadist Joe’s propaganda. He was, in essence, recycling an argument steeped in cultural relativism; why is it anyone’s business that Jihadist Joe spews virulent generalisations about cultural groups? Well, I said, if we allow cultural relativism to determine our normative interactions, what would be the point in combating racism in the world? Or combating misogyny? Or combating homophobia? What would be the point in combating all forms of bigotry and supremacism, if, by corollary of his reasoning, all bigoted views should just be accepted in civil society, and remain accepted. What would be the basis whereby we invigorate progressive values such as antipathy to bigotry, if such values carry equal moral validity to values commensurate with bigotry itself? Let me repeat, a soi-disant atheist philosopher was recycling the arguments of cultural relativism, in the name of uncritically supporting Richard Dawkins, and prostrating himself to rhetoric indistinguishable from the BNP. This is irredeemably dire. It is vitally important that religious ideas be critiqued in instances, and vigorously so. It is also vitally important that those who go beyond these critique, and assume Muslims pose an existential threat, are not curtailed from speaking. The secular principles here should not, however, preclude anyone from repudiating Jihadist Joe’s toxic comments. In fact, it should energise it. Just as freedom from religious belief should inform an attitude that dispassionately subjects religion to critique, the converse should be paramount. Freedom of religious belief should inform, not curtailment of bigoted views, but implacable repudiation of said views; On the basis that bigotry is objectively contemptible, what is objectively contemptible should be challenged in civil society, and so Jihadist Joe’s views therefore shouldn’t entail moral indifference in civil society. The fact that Richard Dawkins is not even indifferent to Jihadist Joe, but is actively supportive of him, is an enormous shame for someone who has contributed so immensely to the secular humanist movement.

PS: see Kenan Malik’s brilliantly pithy response to that secular humanist I mentioned in the piece; the desperation he shows, because his ‘abstruse‘ Philsophical arguments are not being appreciated, is deliciously juxtaposed with the fact he is fucking senseless. And his demand that I read Orwell and Paine was deliriously funny (can anyone point to anything written by Paine or Orwell that has contributed to the riveting pantheon of relativism?)

This is further evidence that the Pseudo-scientific relativism of my secularist friend wasn’t the only one I encountered .

And these group of tweets form the basis for this blog.

By Tom Owolade
Twitter: @owolade14


25 comments on “Dawkins and Jihadist Joe; a toxic relationship.

  1. Gareth says:

    Good grief. Islam is a genocidal ideology; JihadistJoe lampoons it. Guess which one most of us find obnoxious.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. bootjangler1 says:

    In the case of Jihadist Joe, I’ve always seen his stuff as crossing a line, and not funny.
    Dawkins sees it as funny. He doesn’t appear to see the line being crossed.
    I can, and have moaned about Dawkins’ relative lack of humour, or his narrow view of humour. He’ll frequently (by that, I mean always), use John Cleese’s Basil Fawlty, sarcastic, “Oh I see, silly me!”
    Not to say Fawlty wasn’t funny – he was, but with Dawkins there’s not much more. I doubt very much that I could share a drink with him, and look to my humour, because he’d probably just stare blankly at me. So why can’t he see that line being crossed?
    As for the Tweeters who also defended Joe, many said that he was pointing out truth (and that he was funny). Ok, humour is subjective so put that aside, and if you want to make an equivalence of ISIS and their outlook and atrocities with Nazis, I wouldn’t moan, but replace “ISIS” with “Muslims” and I would – but these tweeters wouldn’t. Maybe they need one of those logic tests:

    Some Muslims support ISIS
    Many Muslims oppose ISIS
    ISIS are Muslims
    ISIS are violent
    Therefore all Muslims are violent – true or false?

    How would they answer that? How would Dawkins answer that?
    I suspect they would answer “false” – so then send them back to Joe’s tweets and let them analyse what they see and perhaps re-evaluate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • C J says:

      Genuinely disappointed with Richard over this. I love his books and I have always respected the man.

      He has either not looked closely at all JihadistJoe’s tweets (so shouldn’t be hastily giving such vocal and explicit endorsements) or he has and is okay with a fair amount of genuine bigotry, which I really hope isn’t the case.

      Either way it’s a shame.


  3. Irrespective of the rights or wrongs of this issue, Islam is a political ideology with religious undertones that is completely incompatible with Western society, culture and values. I will be sincerely glad when someone finds a solution to the argument because it is dominating most conversations at present. Something needs to be done to curb its development in Western countries.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The problem with you, like many more people, is that you can’t distinguish between Islam-which IS a religion. And islamism-which is the political expression of that religion. In any sense piece wasn’t primarily focused on islam but muslims. And your last sentence reads like Britain First/BNP rhetoric-what should be done? Banning Mosques? Completely stopping Muslim migration to Europe?


      • bootjangler1 says:

        I hardly think she deserved a response such as that. You’re leaping to assumptions.

        I used to use “Islamism” in the way you explain the word, but have felt more need to be honest in some situations because without Islam, there is no Islamism – if “Islamism” is simply a “political expression of the religion” it hardly shines a good light on the religion in the first place.

        For instance, the curriculums and practices being used in the Birmingham schools – were they “Islamic” or “Islamist”? They were considered “Islamic” (orthodox). If they were not, and considered to be “Islamist,” would the likes of Salma Yaqoob and Miriam Francois-Cerrah have defended those curriculums/practices so much? So sometimes, “Islam” and the practices within UK society does have to be approached with the correct word.

        You seem to be suggesting that “Islam” cannot be criticised, but “Islamism” can.

        This is away from the “Joe” topic obviously.

        Liked by 1 person

      • No i didn’t suggest that. It’s you that is now jumping to conclusions. All I suggested that when you talk about a political ideology, islamism is the precise term.


  4. pedoprophet says:

    It’s difficult to critique a parody account. Some people will find it funny others wont. Humour is very subjective and most comedians fail to hit the spot on many occasions. Personally I have never laughed once at Russell Brand’s humour even though it is ‘right on’ and politically correct. Does it make you laugh is really the only criteria to measure Jihadist Joe with.


  5. I thought the point of a satire/parody account was that it is supposed to be representative of something the person/people you are satirising would say? Muslims would never say “When boths sides are Muslims nobody is good”.

    But both sides are not exclusively Muslim, there are non-Muslim British ex-military fighting with the Kurds. Does this mean now there IS a good side?


    • I’m sorry but I don’t follow what you’re saying at all. A good example of satire is modawah. Joe isn’t.


      • AA says:

        I think it means that a parody is about ‘imitating’ someone in a exaggerated and comical fashion.

        The account in question doesn’t (always) tweet ‘in character’ (A ‘jihadi’) so the “When boths sides are Muslims nobody is good” tweet was not parody/satire since it’s obviously from the POV of a non-Muslim.


  6. Buddhanonymous says:

    Please stop using words that you think make you sound clever which you do not know the meaning of (at least I hope) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cretinism. I think your writing would be a lot less cringy and immature if you read Politics and The English Language by George Orwell.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Matt says:

    Richard Dawkins has always attacked all forms of religion, the moderate and extremists. Nothing new here.


    • As I have said innumerable times, it’s not about attacking religions, it’s that he is endorsing an account unambiguously bigoted towards Muslims.


      • Matt says:

        Unambiguously attacking religions doesn’t make you a bigot. They all believe in faith


      • He wasn’t unambiguously attacking Islam, he was unambiguously attacking Muslims. Listen, people who misread and misrepresent something as clearly as this really piss me off. Especially as I said very clearly anyone is entitled to critique Islam. My issue is clear: those who generalise about Muslims, paint them as innately maleficent-as Jihadist Joe did-deserve opprobrium, and nothing less. If you genuinely think you can’t be bigoted towards Muslims, then I’m guessing you share the BNP’s analysis on Islam? Or maybe you didn’t read my piece with a clear mind and presumed I’m a wishy washy relativist liberal, when I’ve stated very clearly in the piece I’m not. I hope I’ve made myself fucking clear. I have zero tolerance for obtuseness.

        Liked by 1 person

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