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Debate:Should any bigots get a free pass?

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During my recent absence from RationalWiki, I was party to a debate that is, I think, presently illegal in several European countries, and of dubious legality in our neighbor to the north.

It went like this. Much of the Muslim community here in Minneapolis is situated in Riverside Plaza, a.k.a. "Little Somalia," or (if you happen to be a local historian) "An Horrendous Snarl of Brutalist Monstrosities that the Feds Bulldozed a Whole Neighborhood of Fine Historic Houses in Putting Up."[1]

Recently, it happened that a girl went into one of the shops in the neighborhood nearby and was denied service by the Muslim owner, an incident she believed to have occurred on account of her being female. A friend of hers, hearing of it, objected publicly to the incident and generally to sexist attitudes in Riverside Plaza's Muslim community.

As is generally the case, he was immediately pounced on from all directions. Some Muslims objected to false generalizations that they said he had made of the community. Others lapsed into la-la land by, for example, using the words "burqa" and "girl power" in the same sentence. Then, of course, you had your contingent of identity-politicos (mostly non-Muslims) who, as per usual, did not make any arguments at all, instead putting forth logorrheic shmears of which the main constituents were "diversity," "bigot," "ethnocentrist," "culturally insensitive," and "Won't someone shut this capitalist racist up?" Feminists, perhaps facing a catch-22, remained silent through the entire transaction.

A common theme through all this caterwauling was that a mere criticism of sexist attitudes within this community was held to be a racist action; that, in the name of "cultural sensitivity," bigots can get a free pass, being immune to criticism of their bigotry on account of being a part of a minority ethnic or religious group.

I think that this idea is perfectly ridiculous, similar to letting creationist views in the schools in the name of "tolerating alternative viewpoints;" one reason being that at least some of the sexists concerned, or their spokespeople, are appealing to a general idea of tolerance that they do not share, and if we were instead to adopt their ideas of tolerance, we would be deporting the lot of them. The same goes for creationists, if the Butler Act is anything to go by. (Not to mention that this attitude basically boils down to, "Oh, they're just ignorant Third-Worlders; we can't expect them to understand sophisticated concepts like equal rights for women!")

I would, however, like to know what anyone else here thinks of this. Are people of a minority religion or ethnicity immune from this sort of criticism, or should sexism be criticized with equal vigor everywhere it occurs, never mind the ethnicity of the sexist? Is it racist to make the following four statements?

  • Where Muslim clerics rule, women are very badly disenfranchised, with Islam being used as the justification. Cases in point: Afghanistan under the Islamic Emirate and Iran.
  • In Muslim countries where clerics do not rule, the situation is much better for women than in the countries where clerics rule. Cases in point: Turkey and Pakistan.
  • Sexist attitudes are disproportionately prevalent in the Muslim immigrant communities of Europe and America, with women being terrorized into obedience to the men of the community through such methods as honor killings and fear of shunning. There are reports that those who perform honor killings are greatly lauded for it within the community.[2]
  • The arguments in favor of the "free pass" position have their roots, not in any policy of tolerance, but in a post-Marxist strain of thought that views race analogously to how orthodox communists view class. In this framework, words such as "racist" and "sexist" must be reserved to apply only to the ascendant group (in the race-based framework, white people).[3][4][5]

Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 19:30, 12 October 2009 (UTC)



I'd hesitate to say that any bigotry should get a free pass (i.e. that it should be unchecked), but I see nothing wrong against being bigoted towards towards purveyors of falsehoods, like Scientology, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, any abrahamic fundamentalists, Conservapedia, etc. — Sincerely, Neveruse513 / Talk / Block 19:42, 12 October 2009 (UTC)

The question is more if you would pass over any bigotry you disapproved of on account of the bigot's ethno-religious background. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 19:53, 12 October 2009 (UTC)
In that case, those bigots should not get a free pass. I am interested in seeing an opposing view defended.
I've been places where racism was rampant and nigger jokes were the norm. If you can't immediately leave, you fake a laugh or get your ass kicked. Would that be a free pass? — Sincerely, Neveruse513 / Talk / Block 19:58, 12 October 2009 (UTC)
The "argument" in such cases is mostly to dodge the issue by waxing all offended. You might find some such arguments among the responses to Geert Wilders's film, Fitna.
There is no law preventing you from raising an objection in the place where racism is rampant, so it is entirely up to you whether they get a free pass or not. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 20:39, 12 October 2009 (UTC)

Can you cite a news report on the incident described above please? ωεαşεζøίɗWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 20:40, 12 October 2009 (UTC)

No. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 20:51, 12 October 2009 (UTC)
Oh. Well then, cool story bro. Shame you couldn't back it up with some verifiable facts. Then we could have actually debated the issues rather than your one-sided perception of them. ωεαşεζøίɗWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 23:34, 12 October 2009 (UTC)
I will try and post links to any similar dialogue I can locate. In the meantime, let me try and compensate for my bias:
  • Feminists did not participate in the dialogue. I would have to be an outright liar to spin that fact any other way.
  • Many of the detractors expressed skepticism or outright denial that the girl had been at all discriminated against by the shop owner. This is not remarkable in itself, until one takes into account that the people expressing the skepticism are the same people who, on another occasion, will bash people who show the same amount of skepticism with regard to accusations of sexual harassment.
  • The fellow who made the complaint has friends who are Muslims (including a girlfriend); he mentioned this to defend against charges of racism. Many of the detractors called him out on it.
  • The fellow at one point referred to an aged Somali man, whom he perceived to be behaving in a sexist fashion, as a shriveled old raisin. Several detractors extrapolated from the "raisin" to obtain "n****r," a progression that I found slightly tenuous, but that is just me.
Also, only the Muslim detractors picked out the points mentioned above. The rest of the responses, comprising the vast majority, employed the ad hominem with little mention of what had actually said. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 03:03, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
OK, but we still don't know what the complainant said (other than the "shrivelled up raisin" comment which, whether or not you take it to be racist, shows that some of his comments were uncivil and personally insulting). If we knew what else was said in the complaint, & what form this complaint took, we could decide for ourselves whether it was bigoted. Also, what were the ad hominem comments against the complainant? ωεαşεζøίɗWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 06:50, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
I would be naming too many names if I gave any of the actual text of the complaint. I can say that the ad hominem remarks were mainly putting words in his mouth (positing that he wanted to say "I hate all Middle Easterners" or air other views that would be welcome on Stormfront) and presupposing that the girl in the meat market was white (likening his complaint to the KKK's "black man disrespects white woman" boilerplate) when he had not named her ethnicity. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 15:23, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
Were you that little girl? — Sincerely, Neveruse513 / Talk / Block 21:04, 12 October 2009 (UTC)
Um, [1] [2] [3] Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 03:03, 13 October 2009 (UTC)

Unfortunately (being a resident of the Loring Park neighborhood myself), I know that there is rampant sexism in the local Somali community that is kind of the elephant in the room in Minneapolis. And I must say I agree with Listener X here that no form of bigotry, even based on culture, is excusable.The Goonie Punk Can't sleep, clowns will eat me! 21:36, 12 October 2009 (UTC)

No form of bigotry should be excused, especially if to point it out would be called bigotry. EddyP 21:41, 12 October 2009 (UTC)

Nice Essay (I won't call it a debate unless someone disagrees with your proposition which I doubt). I think you are making a very good point, that ties in nicely to a point Sam Harris in particular makes a lot: that accepting the most harmless and benevolent parts of religion in the name of "tolerance" often leads people to show the same acceptance for some of the radical and distasteful parts of the same and other religions. --DamoHi 22:53, 12 October 2009 (UTC)

Politics of multiculturalism[edit]

What you seem to be arguing here is that minority cultures (e.g. Islamic communities in USA) should be made to accept the social & cultural norms of the dominant culture (i.e. your norms of behaviour). Why would you expect them to be happy to do so, any more than you would be to accept their norms?

To respect different cultures, you need to accept that there will be cultural differences - that's the whole concept of multiculturalism: multiple cultures within the same society. Some aspects of other cultures might seem strange or even "bigoted" to you, but if you take the position of telling minorities that their culture is wrong, & that they should adopt your culture's way of life, you can rightly expect them to be offended.

Regarding gender politics within Islamic cultures, change has to come from within those cultures, & this is already happening (in some cultures more than others). Influence from western culture, the wider society & the international community is important to this, but taking an approach of forceful cultural assimilation is more likely to alienate Muslims, cause resentment & potentially encourage extremism. ωεαşεζøίɗWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 18:03, 13 October 2009 (UTC)

So the bigots should get a free pass from anyone who is not of their religion? Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 18:11, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
What bigots? Bigots who do & say what specifically? ωεαşεζøίɗWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 18:41, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
Let us say, the ones who think women should not work outside the home, citing the divine commandment that this is the man's job, and the prohibition on women being in the company of any man not related to her without another woman present? Or how about the ones who think that the word of two women is needed to make up for the word of one man in court? Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 18:49, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
I think Weaseloid's saying that keeping women subservient isn't bigotry by their standards, and it is an awful lot to ask of them to change their culture to conform to ours. As much as it bothers me that their religion puts women in subjugation, that's what they know and were taught. Telling people that their deeply held beliefs are wrong will only piss them off and likely make them cling tighter to them. It's something each individual has to figure out for themselves. I do give most bigots a "pass" simply because I don't think that it's entirely their fault for thinking that way. Children don't wake up one day hating another race, it has to be taught. I was lucky enough to be raised in a very accepting environment, so I can't speak on how hard it must be to unlearn xenophobic tendencies, but I'd imagine it isn't easy.--EcheNegraMente When I look up the sky's all I see 19:04, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
It is not bigotry by Christian fundamentalist standards either. That is no excuse. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 19:13, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
What is your proposed solution? ωεαşεζøίɗWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 19:16, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
Of course it's an excuse. It's a deeply held belief. We can all agree that it's wrong on several levels, but most of us disagree with the entirety of that belief system. Asking them to do the same simply because we see it as wrong isn't any better.--الملعب الاسود العقل Box it up and bury it in the ground 19:28, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
(EC) Freedom of speech. It has worked wonders in that area in the past. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 19:34, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
PitchBlackMind, you would then permit Mr. Schlafly to continue patronizing the girls in his homeschool classes without so much as a hard word against the practice? Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 19:36, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
As long as our laws are strong and enforced, then the problem becomes people's attitudes. Women are legally allowed to work, and cannot be legally discriminated against. That won't stop people from viewing them as inferior, but that is an attitude that will have to change over time. Z3rotalk 19:40, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
(EC) If it's wrong to point out/mock bigotry inherent in other cultures, then I propose we shut down this site immediately. PBM, you said "I think Weaseloid's saying that keeping women subservient isn't bigotry by their standards, and it is an awful lot to ask of them to change their culture to conform to ours." Keeping women subservient isn't bigotry by Andy's standards either; considering his mother, the subservient role of womem was probably engraved into is mind as soon as possible. Yet we still criticise, attack and insult him - heavily - for it; I believe one of our highest scoring WIGOs covers his misogony. Why is it wrong to tell a muslim his culture is bigoted (seeing as we can 'rightly expect him to be offended') yet alright to have this entire website dedicated to mocking and attacking the culture of A.Schalfly? EddyP 19:42, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
"PitchBlackMind, you would then permit Mr. Schlafly to continue patronizing the girls in his homeschool classes without so much as a hard word against the practice?" If their parents want them groomed to be future housewives, so be it. Do I think it's wrong and does it disgust me? Yes. Should I tell them what to do with their children and attempt to force my version of what's right and wrong on them? I personally would not. I'm not arguing that it's wrong to make fun of or be offended by bigotry in other cultures, perhaps my wording wasn't quite up to snuff above. I'm not saying that I think Andy's worldview is great, just that I do understand it. As you said, considering his mother it makes perfect sense. The stronger people remove themselves from the unjust things that their culture may have taught them, but unfortunately many people either don't want to, or don't have the capacity for it.--الملعب الاسود العقل When I look up the sky's all I see 19:56, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
Palming the blame off to the Big Bad System is not helping anyone. If you say something, you answer for it, personally. (Also, note that I am not advocating the imposition of my values on anyone, merely the right to try and convince people of the merits of those values.) Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 20:05, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
And who is opposing that right? ωεαşεζøίɗWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 20:21, 13 October 2009 (UTC)
The U.K. has some shiny new blasphemy laws, for starters. Mjollnir.svgListenerXTalkerX 20:25, 13 October 2009 (UTC)

My 2 cents[edit]

Being a fellow resident of Minneapolis, I felt I could shed a little more perspective on Listener X's point. Minneapolis is full of all sorts of ethnic groups including American Indians, Latinos, Hmong, Somalians, Caucasians, and blacks, and all seem to co-habitat peacefully by acknowledging that each other is different, respecting those differences, and not does not try to push those diferences on the other groups. Recently, however, the Somali community has taken great leaps to try to force their cultural beliefs on everyone else regardless Like when Somali cabbies tried to refuse service to people transporting alcohol. The local issue is not with their cultural beliefs per se, but rather with their blatant disregard for the cultures around them. I don't mind their women covering themselves up like nuns, but when they, for example, heckle and harass my girlfriend for not being covered up (like they did once when I was at the Triple Rock Social Club, on the outskirts of their community), that is where the road to embracing their "multiculturalism," in my opinion, ends. If I were in Somalia, I might, of course, want her to out of respect, but we were not. And to allow them to push and bully their beliefs on other cultural groups just because (fill in the blank) offends them is no better an excuse, in my opinion, than pharmacists who refuse to sell birth control because Pat Robertson said is was immoral. Anyways, that's my two cents.The Goonie Punk Can't sleep, clowns will eat me! 21:36, 13 October 2009 (UTC)