Response to Widdowson

April 2018

I read with some alarm Frances Widdowson’s article “‘ISLAMOPHOBIA’ AND MOUNT ROYAL UNIVERSITY: Disrespectful Criticism of Islam Will Not be Tolerated” (SAFS Newsletter, Jan. 2018). In it, Prof. Widdowson accredits graffiti such as “Fuck Islam” and “Islam is Cancer” as protected speech on campus, words to which she is, furthermore, not unsympathetic. She then interprets a phrase she has seen, “Love Muslims, Hate Islam,” as something that “clearly distinguishes” between believers and their terrible religion. Adding to my galloping revulsion was Widdowson’s uneditorialized quote about being at “war with Islam,” a war she does not disavow in her article.

Prof. Widdowson is, of course, welcome to her opinion; however, I ask that she consider my objection to it, which is this: Critical thinking is about skeptical analysis, not pushing out “Fuck This,” “That idea is Cancer,” and “I love you and hate your religion.” Hating a religion is actually not atheism or even dialectical materialism; it’s blind religious bigotry. Bigotry is not a strand of enquiry; within the humanistic university it’s an epistemological defect, and religious bigotry is one of the phenomena which a public institution rejects, as contrary to core values.

By the way, Prof. Widdowson should dig deeper into the phrase “I love you and hate your religion.” It’s not necessarily a nice gesture, as she suggests; to me, it’s redolent of the agonistic stance of one particular and powerful religion, missionary Christianity. That’s called recruitment, not open-heartedness, although not all missionaries are closed-hearted.

It is particularly alarming that this article was published on the eve of the anniversary of the attack on the Quebec mosque, first ever in North America, with its slaughter of six worshipers and the maiming of many others. Regrettably, that event was not noted in the SAFS Newsletter. Yet I can’t imagine the alleged shooter, Alexandre Bissonette, not feeling he was a part of the “war on Islam” nor harboring much of this “protected” bigotry.