Where is the line between criticizing and bigotry?

Recently, I read an article about how Sonia Kruger, a well-known Australian celebrity, claimed that Australia must close its borders to all Muslims. As an atheist/ ex-muslim whol lives in Australia, this sounds like bigotry to me as it is targeted towards a group of people. I have always criticised Islam but I have never had any prejudiced against muslims.

So I have a question; where is the line between criticizing ideologies and bigotry?

Also, do you think we can criticize religions equally? Can I criticise Judaism the same way I criticise Christianity?

13 thoughts on “Where is the line between criticizing and bigotry?

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  1. The undertones of Islam seem to be widespread takeover, not assimilation. That would go against the tenants of the faith. Judaism is a political religion, Christianity is a proselytizing religion, and Islam is a political proselytizing religion. I wish it was fair to call them out for what their motives truly are. When I was a believer, private talk was different from public, and calling out the fallacy should be fair game to any public entity.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I can understand the desire to protect jews considering 20th century European history. That should never stop reasoned debate on religions including judaism.
        It would be wrong to extend that sympathy to israeli governments and their US supporters. Their behaviour is a cause for concern at times.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Bigotry is generally considered to be based on prejudice — that is, ignorant bias unsupported by facts and evidence. If someone could construct a convincing fact-based argument why all Muslims, as opposed to merely dangerously radical ones, should be excluded from Australia, that wouldn’t be bigotry. I don’t think it’s possible to construct such an argument, though.

    There is indeed a sharp distinction between criticizing Islam and criticizing Muslims in general — it’s the difference between attacking an ideology and attacking people (who in most cases aren’t defined only by that ideology). It’s the same principle as with any other religion. I attack Christianity but I don’t attack Christians in general, only the extremists.

    The issue with Judaism is partly that Jews have been subjected to unparalleled persecution in both the West and the Middle East for centuries, including fairly recently (through the mid-twentieth-century), and thus anything perceived as an attack on them is especially sensitive — and partly that the word “Jewish” in English has two quite distinct meanings. It can refer both to the religion and also to Jews as an ethnic group, many of whom are not adherents of the religion — the majority of (ethnic) Jews seem to be atheists. Attacking an ethnic group, especially one with a particular history of being persecuted, is racist and is far more unacceptable even than attacking all adherents of a religion. Because of the conflation of meanings in English, any criticism of the Jewish religion has to be worded in such a way as to make it clear that it isn’t an attack on the Jewish people, which would indeed be bigotry.

    Also, Judaism doesn’t get criticized as much as Christianity and Islam because, having far fewer adherents, it isn’t in a position to do the same kind of damage. The area where hardline religious Jews have any real power is limited to Israel and perhaps a few enclaves in New York City. That’s not much compared to the large areas of the world where fanatical Christians or Muslims exert real power.

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    1. I have always tried to attack Islam as an exmuslim and not the Muslims, except for the extremists just like you said, however earlier today I was accused of being an “illiterate bigot” and later I received a death threat from a muslim facebook user! how ironic!

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      1. This is a tactic which anti-gay Christian extremists in the US have begun using — claiming that any opposition to their bigotry against gays and other groups they dislike is somehow bigotry against them — as if opposition to prejudice were itself somehow a form of prejudice. The Islamists have started to pick up the same tactic.

        Unfortunately death threats do sometimes happen. Islamist extremists are notorious for using such threats against anyone who challenges their ideology.

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  3. From the comments here, I would like to point out that with Jews you have a rather special case. “Anti-Semitism” is the charge that is used to stifle any and all criticism of Jews anywhere in the world. Many folks no longer accept the myth of perpetual victimhood for the Jews. Who helped drive nations to war throughout the 20th century? Which group was behind and actively involved in Bolshevism and Zionism? No, criticism of the behavior of the Jews is not bigotry. And, if you are troubled by the precepts of various religions, consider the vile passages of the Talmud, where the rest of us, the goyim, are considered less than human and only good for serving the Jews. (On a related point, the heresy of Christian Zionism has done much harm to the public perception of Christianity in the US.)

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    1. Maz, this is a good example of what I was describing above. Notice, for example, how it refers to “Jews” without specifying whether it means members of the ethnic group or adherents of the religion. A writer who was not anti-Semitic would always be careful to specify that he was criticizing only the religion and not Jews as a people — in any case, the rest of the comment makes it clear that that isn’t the case.

      Who helped drive nations to war throughout the 20th century?

      This is an example of a “tell” which would immediately identify the comment as anti-Semitic (racist) to Western people familiar with the way such language is used, which I realize you may not be. In context it’s obviously intended to mean that the Jews “helped drive nations to war throughout the 20th century” — a standard anti-Semitic meme — but phrasing it as a question creates some degree of plausible deniability.

      “Anti-Semitism” is the charge that is used to stifle any and all criticism of Jews anywhere in the world.

      If you see a statement like this, it almost always means that the intent is indeed anti-Semitic. If the statement instead references “criticism of Israel” rather than “criticism of “Jews”, it’s possible that the writer is a bit naïve and not anti-Semitic, though even that would be borderline. Again, it’s a subtle point, but there are certain turns of phrase that are only used by anti-Semites.

      No, criticism of the behavior of the Jews is not bigotry.

      Generalization about “the Jews” — in context, pretty obviously meaning the ethnic group rather than adherents of the religion (most Jews involved with Zionism and “Bolshevism” weren’t religious) — implying that Jews generally are collectively worthy of criticism for whatever behavior is being objected to. Again, this is parallel with Kruger’s attack on all Muslims as opposed to Islam the religion, except it’s worse since it’s pretty obviously directed against an ethnic group, not adherents of a religion.

      A look at the blog linked to the moniker confirms this. There’s a review of a book whitewashing Hitler, making excuses for anti-Semitism in Germany, and denouncing the Allied side in World War II. Again, phrased to allow for plausible deniability, but when you’ve seen as much of this stuff as I have, you recognize it right away.

      On my own blog I’ve had a series of comments (probably all from one person) using similar phrasing to this, trying to maneuver me into endorsing anti-Semitic memes and language. I use comment moderation, so they never appear, except in one case where I felt like responding in detail. Your post asked about “the line between criticizing ideologies and bigotry” — and this is a good illustration, as well as showing how easy it can be to be led across that line without realizing it, if you’re not familiar with how anti-Jewish bigots in the West use language.

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      1. ” The area where hardline religious Jews have any real power is limited to Israel and perhaps a few enclaves in New York City.”

        Definitely those enclaves in New York City. And Kiryas Joel. For the record, I am an escapee from one of those Hasidic Hellholes in Brooklyn that Infidel753 refers to.

        The first complaint I made to him on his blog was how Jewish education in Brooklyn was preventing us from using English — he criticizes Christian evolution denial, so why fail to mention this? The second one was how women can’t drive in Kiryas Joel.

        Based on what I’ve been through in Brooklyn, I said that Jewish ideology was worse than Christian or Muslim ideology. I noted that while women can pray at the Ka’aba, we still can’t pray at the Western Wall. Perhaps Infidel753 thinks that this is anti-Semitism.

        By his definition, Sam Harris is an anti-Semite:
        “Let me remind you that parts of the Hebrew bible – books like Leviticus, Exodus, and Deutoronomy, are the most repellent, the most cynically unethical documents to be found in any religion. They are worse than the Koran. They are worse than any part of the New Testament. But the truth is most Jews recognize this and don’t take these texts seriously.”

        Sam Harris and Infidel753 have the same idea: Judaism is bad, but it doesn’t have a lot of followers, so we don’t care a whit about its victims.

        Infidel753 decided to lecture me on how Palestinians in Israel had it better than Shiiites in Saudi Arabia. I told him that I didn’t come from Israel, I came from Brooklyn, and that’s where he can see undiluted Jewish ideology, and asked him if he’d like to experience being a woman there. No reply from him. Surprise, surprise.

        For him, ex-Christians are heroes, ex-Muslims are heroes, but ex-Jews like me are anti-Semites. He’s a jerk.

        Liked by 1 person

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