The World

Apr 16, 2012

Unexpected mystery at the atheists’ convention

It seems like a bit of a mystery when you hear at an atheists’ convention what a good job Christians are doing to help defend the rights of women against fundamentalist Muslims.

Noel Turnbull

Adjunct professor of media and communications at RMIT University.

It seems like a bit of a mystery when you hear at an atheists’ convention what a good job Christians are doing to help defend the rights of women against fundamentalist Muslims — particularly when the support is contrasted with the problems caused by Western middle-class liberals. But when you know how skillful some US think tanks are in framing their offerings it’s not so mysterious.

The 2012 Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne at the weekend was a huge success, attracting about 4000 attendees and speakers from Peter Singer and Leslie Cannold to Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins and A.C. Grayling.

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9 thoughts on “Unexpected mystery at the atheists’ convention

  1. Shakira Hussein

    Interesting article.
    The facts of Hirsi Ali’s life, in particular the circumstances of her migration to the Netherlands, are (famously) deeply contested. Deborah Scoggin’s recent book “Wanted Women” provides an fascinating profile.
    She was never deported from the Netherlands – the then Immigration minister at one stage threatened to cancel her visa because she had lied on her initial asylum application (Hirsi Ali does not contest this – she claimed at the time to be fleeing the war in Somalia, not a forced marriage in Kenya where she had been legally resident for years). This had been the highly publicised fate of a young Bosnian refugee who had returned to the Netherlands on a tourist visa to complete her high school education. Hirsi Ali did not speak out in support of this young woman in public although it was undertaken by her own party – she claims to have spoken to the Immigration Minister in private. The minister denies this. Hirsi Ali’s own citizenship was not withdrawn (the political scandal around the issue led to the fall of the government) and she has said that her decision to take up opportunities in the United States predated the public fracas over the false information in her asylum application.

  2. Shakira Hussein

    *Sorry – threatened to cancel her citizenship, not her visa. Hirsi Ali’s neighbours also won a court case complaining that her security issues disrupted their quality of life. After her departure for the US and the AEI, there were disputes over who bore responsibility for the cost of her security.

  3. Stephen

    Depends. If they’re rich allies like Saudi Arabia, diplomacy and trade naturally forbid any references to the treatment of women. If they’re poor zones like Afghanistan, then the issue might rate a mention.

  4. Tom Jones

    What I find amusing is that so many Christian fundamentalists of the T Party variety are so anti-Muslim and yet are so similar in the way that they oppress women.

  5. Mort

    Would have been an interesting conference to attend.
    Hopefully some of it will be on Big Ideas

  6. Greg Jones

    Hirsi Ali is an agenda driven person who does n’t always tell the truth.

    BTW, they are “arranged” marriages, not “forced” marriages .

  7. HitchLives

    Maybe Hirsi Ali was objecting to this sort of thing. Christianity sure has a lot to answer for, but I don’t see folks (Atheist, Agnostic or Christian) climbing over each other to catch the next flight to an uptight non-secular locale to enjoy the vastly reduced freedoms on offer. (Says newly arrived “liberal” to a local in the paradise that is the theocratic dictatorship): “Yeah, it’s crazy back home, we don’t stone women to death for adultery, we have the right to elect our leaders and our girls actually go to school, how nuts is that?”

    The moral and cultural relativism held so dear by some of those who felt pricked by Hirsi Ali’s is the best contribution she could have made. The “West” is a product of its institutions, including, rightly or wrongly, the Church. Personally, I am glad Hirsi Ali made some of the smug folks a bit uneasy. Name-checking the AEI hardly puts her in a less credible position than those who would rather see her harmed. Smug inner-city post modernism is no substitute for a hard rational assessment of the world’s realities.

  8. AR

    ShakiraH just can’t stop defending the indefensible. Why get involved in the minutiae of Ali’s Nederland sojourn and ignore the islamic ELEPHANT in the room?

  9. Tim H

    Great article Noel. “Liberal guilt” seems to be just a way to belittle what would have in the past been called politeness or respect. Probably the same things that allowed Ali to get a free pass.

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