According to New Zealand First MP, Richard Prosser, Muslims are “a sorry pack of
misogynist troglodytes from Wogistan” and Islam is a “stone aged religion”. I don’t think either of these statements are strictly true, but they do have a certain amount impact to them, especially the first one.
He made these comments in an article in the magazine “Investigate” which itself has a somewhat mixed reputation (to be generous). While it has uncovered some interesting factual stories it is also the source of many crazy conspiracies, wacky global warming denial, and some weird and wonderful religious material.
Naturally most people, including all politicians, have made statements condemning the story and there is no surprise there, even though I ‘m sure some of them secretly admire Prosser’s courage in writing it and may even agree with some of his points.
But if you are a public figure and are going to write an article denigrating a particular group you really should make sure that your opinions don’t stray into the area of extremism (particularly ironic considering the topic) and that your points don’t make sweeping generalisations based on little or no evidence which can be extended to the general case.
And that’s where he failed.
This was an opinion piece in a magazine which encourages controversy and there is no doubt it was written in a confrontational and informal style which might be seen as appropriate to that environment. And maybe someone less in the public spotlight would have got away with it. But an MP won’t, especially when the international press gets hold of the story.
But now I want to put all of the ranting, political correctness, and feigned horror aside and look at the specific claims.
Is Islam a stone age religion? Well not literally, of course, because the stone age ended thousands of years before Islam was founded. But the general tone of that statement is true. Islam is primitive and ridiculous, at least in it’s purest, most conservative forms. But unlike Prosser, who doesn’t think Catholicism also belongs in that category, I would suggest that, to varying degrees, almost very traditional religion is based on rituals and beliefs from the “stone age” in that context.
What about the claim that “most terrorists are Muslims”. Again I would suggest there is a lot of truth in that statement. Certainly many of the high profile acts of terrorism and other violence around the world are perpetrated by Muslims so maybe he has a point. According to a report by the National Counterterrorism Center, Sunni Muslim terrorists committed about 70 percent of the 12,533 terrorist murders in the world in 2011. If that statistic is true there clearly is a real problem here.
Of course the majority of Muslims are not violent and would never commit a terrorist act, but just by being part of the same belief system I think they should bear part of the blame. As Voltaire said: “Those who believe absurdities will commit atrocities” so just believing and encouraging the acceptance of an absurd religion in some ways helps foster extremism and violence as well.
But even if you accept some sort of connection between moderates and extremists as I have suggested, that shouldn’t necessarily extend to denying the rights of the moderates and it certainly shouldn’t extend to denying the rights of groups of people just because they have some extremely indistinct association with the group causing the problems.
So Prosser’s suggestion that “If you are a young male, aged between, say, about 19 and about 35, and you’re a Muslim, or you look like a Muslim, or you come from a Muslim country, then you are not welcome to travel on any of the West’s airlines” is absurd. Surely he wasn’t serious about this and it was included merely as a rhetorical point. Or maybe he let his righteous outrage push him past the point of rationality!
FInally let’s have a look at that classic statement, that Muslims are “a sorry pack of misogynist troglodytes from Wogistan”.
Clearly this is extreme and not to be taken literally. For a start, as far as I am aware, there is no location known as Wogistan, except in the writer’s imagination. And few Muslims live in caves so the troglodyte reference is also inaccurate. The claim of misogyny has some merit though, because it’s clear that there is a systematic bias against women in Islam (and in many other religions). Also, are Muslims a “sorry pack”? I think many of them are. I feel a certain amount of sympathy for them because of the way they are trapped by their belief system.
So I think a more moderate statement such as “Islam is a religious and political system constituting a group of mostly good people who are trapped by an outdated belief system which doesn’t give women the same rights as men and who traditionally come from the Middle East” was what he was really trying to say. But that doesn’t sound anywhere near as good, does it?