I read a Facebook post today. It was a final status update by an atheist in Bangladesh. I say final, because he expects the post will get him killed. And he requested that, as fellow members, could we contact his partner after his death and tell her how much he loves her.
You must be thinking he posted some pretty provocative words right? Wrong! They weren't even particularly atheistic - if such a word even exists. They were the words of a humanist. One who felt that if indeed there were a God, should it not be up to him to mete out the punishment for disbelief or offense?
And whilst the post was supremely moving, it was the comments under it that got to me. Some were calling him stupid and provocative. He should not say these things because dying for religion was not a worthwhile cause. Religion would die a natural death. Be patient. And I found that I couldn't disagree more. So this was my reply:
The reality is that social change is rarely achieved through cowardice. The world is not going to change until people make a stand and lives are lost. Hasn't it always been this way? Even this can be said of Gandhi - to some extent. Consider his words 'where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I advise violence'. Don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating violence. But I have little or no respect for cowardice either. And cowardice is what I see in relation to Islam - all too frequently - but it's cleverly framed as tolerance and diversity.
To achieve change, its going to take brave people like this man from Bangladesh, and lots of them. The trick is to have so many people making a stand, it becomes impossible to kill them all. They may attempt to kill one or two to 'send a message', but if you stand firm, eventually you will succeed.
It's the same for depictions of Mohammed. If drawing Mohammed is normalised in the newspapers, the television, in magazines and social media, they simply cannot kill us all. Because the fact is, Sharia, blasphemy and indeed all Muslim law, applies to Muslims, not us! Avoiding drawing Mohammed is caving into the idea that Muslim law applies to us. It doesn't.
If atheists oppose sharia, oppose any Muslim ruling, we are called paranoid, bigoted, Islamaphobic and for some inexplicable reason, racist. Then, in almost the same breath, we are told some Muslim laws such as drawing Mohammed do apply to us after all. They cannot have it both ways. More atheists must take hold of their courage and stand up and be counted.
So, when a Muslim with an AK47 says 'Who drew this?', the reply ought to be a chorus of 'I did'. Alternatively, we can continue on the same path and avoid drawing Mohammed. Avoid 'offending'. And atheists can point the finger at each other and shriek 'islamaphobe' or 'provocative'. Meanwhile Islamists are laughing all the way to the mosque because they have won. They have succeeded in their quest to divide and conquer.
A long Facebook post, I know. But maybe after 12 months of being confined to 140 characters, the emotions, and words behind them bottle up and spew forth when you least expect it. Or maybe its because I am gutted that Islam has succeeded in turning atheist against atheist.
I grew up in a mixed race family. My closest friend is indigenous and I worked in Aboriginal affairs for many years. My family was an active member of The Australia/Malaysia/Chinese society and we had some great functions in which religion or race was never an issue. My family also later volunteered and housed refugees (mostly Muslim) for many years. Never, before Twitter, have I been called either a bigot or a racist. And the last people I expected to hear it from were other atheists. And yet, I hear it again and again.
My knowledge of religion is not extensive. I was raised catholic but it wasn't until I read the bible from cover to cover at 19 that I realised that there were too many contradictions and absurdities to ignore. Since then I have had a closer look at the Creationists, Mormons, Jehovahs, Scientology and Islam. And I have now begun investigating Judaism and Hinduism. But, no matter what I say about any of these, no matter how big a generalisation I make about 'dumb' creationists or 'paedophile' priests, the only religion I receive such animosity and hatred, such name calling and intellectual dishonesty is Islam. And all by atheists. Why?
Divided And Conquered by Islam
By Staunch Atheist, Australia