Dear New Atheists Re: Chapel Hill Shootings

Dear New Atheist Thinkers,

Salaamun alaikum (Peace be upon you),

I understand how conviction drives people. When we believe in an idea and we believe that it is good, nay the best for humankind, then we will go to great lengths to ensure that this idea is accepted. Sometimes we may even lose our objectivity in pushing this idea. We see it with religionists all the time. The compelling nature of dogma causes you to delude others, inadvertently perhaps. Maybe this delusion can even be self-delusion.

However, being New Atheists, I highly expect you to be reasonable people. After all, it was the very exercise of reasoning which enabled you to conclude that God does not exist. I disagree with your conclusions, of course but I respect you more than I respect religionists who simply inherit the dogma of their forefathers without question. Through your works, I can see that you have highly developed reasoning skills which obviously went into your ground-breaking and often philosophically challenging thought. This is how you became a movement, heralding a new phase in Atheism, as it were.

I must therefore ask you, why has this genius not found its way into your analysis of Islam?

I have read your books and followed your statements about Islam for some time and I find the most generalising language being used. I see phrases like ‘Islam is the problem’ ,‘Islam believes in’ and ‘Islam says’. This sort of language one can only find in public discourse. No, I take it back. Not public discourse but public chatter. It is no different from when, waiting for a bus along with a middle aged lady, we saw an elderly man in Muslim garb spit his betel nut juice on the ground. She commented to me, perhaps not guessing I’m a Muslim myself, ‘it’s his religion’.

I do understand that you see religion as the bane of human existence. From your writings, I would guess that you feel that Islam is probably the biggest bane of all. That’s fair enough. That is your perception and I respect it. I can even agree with you that Islamofascism (which I define to be the strain with the Islamic tradition given to oppression and suppression) is a huge menace to humanity and needs to be extinguished. However, why not use your mammoth intellects to also see that Muslims use their religion to empower themselves towards becoming better people? You may say that they can do that without religion and I would agree but why does that matter if they do indeed become better people? Surely if you press your way as the only way to Truth, then yourselves would be construed as religious fundamentalists! Why not respect that other people have their own ways to evolve?

A great tragedy occurred two days ago in Chapel Hill. I don’t need to tell you about it because you have responded. It is becoming clear that the alleged murderer was inspired by your writings. I am in no way suggesting that your writings encourage murder. Far from it. However, you cannot control who your readers are. One may read your books and use it as a justification to commit violence against those whom you consider ‘deluded’. This would be in no way your fault but here is what I would like to ask you: Is it possible that your generalizing language enables such evil individuals to perceive Muslims tribalistically, almost racially? Such perceptions cause random violence.

Perhaps, instead of saying ‘Islam says’, say ‘within the Islamic Tradition, it is said’ or ‘Islamofascism, an ideology distinct from other forms of Islam, says’ or even ‘some Muslim scholars say, but there are Muslims who disagree’. This is specific and precise language worthy of people with gargantuan intellects. Such people can understand various shades of grey. If you think about it, ‘Islam’ cannot say anything anyway. It is mostly a complex network of human discussions compiled over a thousand plus years. People speak, using these texts as their mouthpieces. By highlighting the specificity and subjectivity of these views, you will help people isolate the Islamofascists from the main body of Muslims and thereby cut it off from its human resource. Isn’t that your objective, rather than using Islam as a punching bag to increase your popularity? I sincerely hope it is.

Thank you very much for reading my humble letter and I hope we can all live together in a more peaceful world soon.

With peace.

Farouk A. Peru