Mensch tracht, un Gott lacht

Thursday, November 26, 2015

'Teaching Children About World Religions and Ethics Could Help Counter Islamophobia': A Response

After Paris, questions for us all
a response to 
Teaching Children About World Religions and Ethics Could Help Counter Islamophobia

Dr. O’Donnell tells us that teaching about world religions and ethics “might counter the risk of Islamophobia in Europe and the increased potential for discrimination that we are witnessing”. Simply put, one cannot “witness” either “risk” or “potential”. At best, such things can be inferred.

If Dr. O’Donnell means that adherents of Islam have experienced increased discrimination in the immediate wake of the Paris murders, then a few well documented examples of concrete significant injuries might be convincing.

But if instead, Dr. O’Donnell means only that, post-Paris, some of Islam’s adherents feel less comfortable with their neighbours, then, although such a regrettable situation has a claim on us as do all of society’s many ills, this is not the crisis which demands the community’s immediate attention. Why? Sometimes a minority subjectively experiences feelings of victimization because it has been actually injured by wider society. But this is not always the situation: sometimes the subjective experience of victimhood comes about, not for objective reasons, but only because the minority stereotypes its neighbours’ thinking. A considered judgment as to which is going on in our shared post-Paris Europe requires solid evidence.

Furthermore, Dr. O’Donnell downplays the potential benefits of the UK’s new counterterrorist legislation and programmes by pointing out that they are based upon a “discourse about radicalisation” supported by “scant empirical evidence”. But in regard to the educational reforms she proposes—i.e., teaching about world religions and ethics—she puts forward no empirical evidence at all. Instead, she only notes that her proposals “might” or “could” lead to benefits, and she asserts in a wholly conclusory fashion that such education is “part of a good education and part of understanding the human story.”

Likewise, Dr. O’Donnell never explains what she believes caused the Paris murders and similar past events or what she believes could counter the formation of the sort of personalities that display all too great a willingness to engage in murder and mayhem on a grand scale against civilian targets.

In fact, we all know that it is this very real possibility—the omnipresent depressing likelihood of future Paris-like attacks—which is the urgent crisis that demands our immediate attention and our best efforts. All our lives and our children’s lives depend on it. All know this, except Dr. O’Donnell. For her, the “urgent [matter is] to ensure that students and professionals do not resort to prejudicial judgments about others”. This is the sort of grand category error that the public has come to expect from a disconnected transnational, elitist, academic class: an academic class which sees tradition, loyalty, and patriotism as primitive, and whose promoters teach that nations, citizenship, borders, and law defined by elected parliaments are irksome problems to be overcome.


PS: My prior is post: Seth Barrett Tillman, My Ben Carson Days, The New Reform Club (Nov. 9, 2015, 9:01 AM),

Seth Barrett Tillman, ‘After Paris, questions for us all Irish Independent (Dublin, 26 November 2015), p.37, accessed 26 November 2015.

responding to 

Dr Aislinn O’Donnell, ‘Teaching Children About World Religions and Ethics Could Help Counter Islamophobia’ Irish Independent (Dublin, 20 November 2015), p.32, accessed 23 November 2015.

Twitter:  ( @SethBTillman )


Tim Kowal said...

To claim a fear is mere "phobia," one must carry the burden that it is irrational. Terrorists in substantial numbers claim to carry out heinous murders in the name of Islam. Those of us not Islamic theologians must take them at their word. That is due cause for justified fear of the radicalized Muslim -- and the modern West is promiscuous in its temptations to radicalism.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Simply put, one cannot “witness” either “risk” or “potential”

Heh heh. Ace.

tim maguire said...

One wonders if Dr. O'Donnell is even aware of the assumption behind her assertion that knowing more will reduce the fear.

Unknown said...

"One wonders if Dr. O'Donnell is even aware of the assumption behind her assertion that knowing more will reduce the fear."

Or that it may well do the opposite.

Luke Lea said...

The problem is that a greater knowledge of Islam will have just the opposite effect. By Western standards, Muhammad was clearly an evil man: a warlord, a looter, meeting out collective punishment to a Jewish community in Medina, and spreading his new religion by the sword. There is simply no getting around these fundamental facts about the man whom sincerely believing Muslims regard to be the model human being.

DonC said...

Tim Kowal: Well said. Fear of spiders is a phobia. Fear of radical Islam is not. I see many things in the world that let me know, if not fear, then extreme concern is warranted with issues about Islam.
Suicide Vests
World Trade Center
Rockets into Israel
"Workplace Violence" in Texas
ISIS videos promoting destruction in New York City
Masses screaming 'Death to USA'
Having our country referred to as 'the Great Satan'
Clerical approval for the death of Salman Rushdie
Outrage at the African schoolroom's stuffed bear named Mohammed

Compare and contrast to fear of Christianity
Crazies from Westburough Baptist shouting at your funeral
Bakers refusing to bake your wedding cake
Chick-Fil-A insisting that their stores remain closed on Sunday.

Which fear is justified, and which one is irrational? Anyone but a reporter for the MSM, or a member of Obama's administration find it easy to tell the difference.

Unknown said...

A lot of logic applied here. I miss that in my country's news media.

Anonymous said...

Oh. My. Goodness.

There is rational, critical, reasoned thought in the world, and it exists on the Internet! Oh, that there was a critical response like this to every "news" article which put forth some politician or scientist's claims. The absence of such point-by-point reasoned critique would serve us so well--whether looking at liberal or conservative (or "scientific") claims.

If this were to spread, perhaps less reactionary legalism and politicization would happen, but more meaningful, effective legislation and research might be enacted.

I'm so, so happy to have stumbled upon this. Faith in (at least one part) of humanity: Restored.

Anonymous said...

How bizarre it is to call disdain for Islamic terrorists "islamophobia".

First, no one fears Islam when their family members or neighbors are slaughtered while out of a Friday night dinner.

Second, no one fears Islam when their children are mowed down at a concert.

Third, no one fears Islam when they have to find an alternate way home because public transportation has been suspended because of coordinated terror attacks.

It is called hatred of terrorists.

Hatred of terrorists with the annoying habit of shouting "Allahu Akbar" while sawing off the heads of Christians.

That same kind of hatred would be directed at terrorist who saw off the heads of, say, Buddhists while shouting "Jesus Saves!"

Or who throw a hand grenade into a group of women wearing burkas while shouting "God is Dead!".

But only someone deliberately conflating issues to protect the guilty would accuse that response of being "anti-Christian" or "anti-atheist".