October 2016
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I wouldn’t normally feel the need to have to clarify the intent behind any of my comics, but after seeing how wildly some people missed the point of my strip on catcalling, I thought that this post might be necessary.

Let me be absolutely clear. Islamophobia exists. I’d like my position on that noted right off the bat. It would be entirely dishonest to argue otherwise. But the question is not whether or not Islamophobia exists, but rather what Islamophobia is and, perhaps more importantly, is not.

When a Muslim woman is attacked or harassed on the street for wearing a headscarf, that is Islamophobia. When a follower of Islam is assumed to be a terrorist or religious extremist, that is Islamophobia. When mosques are bombed or otherwise defaced, that is Islamophobia. The widespread sense of fear, hatred, and general distrust of Muslim people in Western society is Islamophobia. Islamophobia is an irrational fear or hatred of Muslim people and culture. That is it’s definition. It is petty, ugly, and harmful to everyone.

Islamophobia is not, however, synonymous with racism – though this isn’t to say that the two are not often linked. Islam is a religion, not an ethnicity. It would be racist to assume that a bearded, middle-eastern looking man is a Muslim, and Islamophobic to then take that one further and assume that because he is Muslim he is part of a terrorist cell or something similarly ludicrous. To hurl around accusations of racism wherever possible Islamophobia presents itself, however, is to ignore that Muslim’s are a diverse group of two billion or more people representing every ethnicity and nationality across the globe.

Islamophobia is also not the same as being critical of Islam as a religion. There is a vast difference between disdain for an entire peoples and disdain for an ideology. The problem we have is that people often seem unable to separate the two. There is an unfortunate tendency as of late to label anyone who is critical of Islam as being bigoted, Islamophobic, and a racist. Of all religions, Islam seems to have reached a privileged status in this regard as I rarely see the same accusations being levied at people who are openly critical of, say, Catholicism or Hinduism.

As an atheist, I regard all religions and their associated myths and doctrines to be rather silly. I don’t say that as a source of some sort of pride, it just is what it is. However, whilst I may dislike religion – of which Islam is included – this does not make me an intolerant person, nor behave in a bigoted way toward those of faith. I do not hate or fear Muslim people, nor would I consider someone who is Muslim to be inferior to me and other such nonsense. Criticism of religion is not akin to hatred for the religious, and in the case of Islam it certainly is not akin to racism.

The TL;DR version of this post? All ideas, be they religious, political, philosophical, or otherwise, should be subject to open discourse, debate, and criticism, and to engage in such activity is not necessarily a hateful endeavour.

  • I think Islam is just as stupid as Christianity, Judaism, etc., and for a lot of reasons including that they’re made up fairy tales that people die over.

    • Robert

      I think it’s amazing how -every time- someone suggests the idea of being tolerant of each other, or even expresses dislike of the subject but still suggests respect and rational skepticism, then an uneducated bigot such as yourself always shows up going “NO I WONT CUZ CRISTIANS ARE RETARTED FOR BELIVING IN RETARTED FAERY TALES N LITERALY KILLING EACH OTER ALL THE TIME SO FUK U”, bringing us all right back to square one again. Every single time, without fail.

      • This Guy

        He didn’t say anything about muslims, just Islam. He didn’t say anything about Christians, just Christianity. He didn’t say anything about jewish people, just Judaism. I think you read waaaay too far into what SeanG said. And yes, people die over religion. That is fact. While it wasn’t tactful, his comment is not intolerance.

      • AtheistHumanist

        He is making a criticism. Criticism does NOT mean intolerance. Intolerance would be “HAHA FUCK U RELIGIOUS PEOPLE YOU SO FUCKING RETARDED HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”, not “I think Islam is just as stupid as Christianity, Judaism, etc., and for a lot of reasons including that they’re made up fairy tales that people die over”, . The first is obviously intolerant vitriolic hate speech, while the second one is pointing out a simple fact in a relatively civil way.

      • HumanistAtheist

        SeanG is civilly pointing out an inescapable reality that religion is not based in any kind of logic, and causes severe harm to humanity, while you are calling him a bigot for doing so and then making up a straw-man argument to attack his position.

      • Solitudinarian

        SeanG didn’t insult Christians, he criticized Christianity. Maybe he should have replaced the term with “the Christian belief system” to eliminate all confusion. But the point remains that people deserve tolerance and respect, whereas their beliefs do not. Beliefs, truth claims, ideologies and actions are subject to criticism, intellectual scrutiny, and even mockery if they’re found to be utterly ridiculous. That does not constitute an act of discrimination against the believer or truth claimant.

  • goulo

    Indeed. It’s a bit reminiscent of someone criticizing policies of the government of Israel and then getting accused of being anti-semitic, which happens quite often.

    Or for that matter, US citizens criticizing the US government’s policies, and then getting accused of being anti-US or unpatriotic or hating America, etc.

    PS: “Whoa”.

  • Vlad

    “Without God, man remains just a rational and talking animal, that comes from nowhere and goes nowhere”

    • Al-Shamar

      You’re saying just as if it’s a bad thing.

      • Vlad

        For me, personally, it would be a bad thing, feeling so alone, without a real purpose, not knowing where I come from, nor where I am going and what my existence really comes down to. Wouldn’t you?

        • Lady

          I come from my parents. Who live in Australia. Whose parent’s parents come from the UK and Iran.

          My purpose is to love my husband, children and be good at my job.

          Where I’m going?

          Well next year I’m planning a trip to Japan 😉

          That’s my existence. I don’t need a God to make me feel special. And I’m totally a-ok with that.

          • Vlad

            I’m happy for you, your family and I wish you a safe trip next year! 🙂
            I, personally, feel as if there must be more to life, and I cannot regard my existence as something that would eventually end. It would make no sense and I cannot find a sense in living such a life. Sure, I can take advantage of being alive and experiencing as much as I can, but in the end, when I die, if it all goes away, if I won’t remember anything, if I won’t feel anything, what benefit have I gained from it, what is the use of it?

          • staraffinity

            So, something is only of value if it lasts forever?
            Why? What makes things ”having a point” or ”being of use” just because they will last forever?

            Also, if you can’t remember anything I don’t se any problem. I mean, if things when you die will be the same as they were before you were born I think it will be quite alright. I mean time and space was around 13,8 billion years before your mind came to be and that wasn’t so bad was it? 🙂

          • Jeremy Stossel

            You hope to live forever in an afterlife, but nobody knows if such a thing exists. there is no evidence for such. What we do know is this life we now have is worth while, and we can make it better for others.
            If this is our one and only life, it makes it important that we make it worth while, rather than pretend that it’s just a trial for a magic pretend after life.

            With all the religions in the world, past and present, you seem to think you have come across the “true religion” that tells of an afterlife. It’s far more likely that your wrong. Most people get their religion by being born into it, which has nothing to do with if it is true or not.

          • Joseph

            Oh. I see a hubris based faith. The only way to leave anything behind is by art, writing, invention or philosophy. The fact is Vlad, if history is any indicator, no one will remember you for more that the time it takes to load up the limo at the cemetery and go to the brunch. Look back at all the billions of people that have died and try to find those remembered. Look back in your own family; go back a generation and find someone that left anything behind except used resources and refuse.

            Get over yourself. No matter how hard you try your life will be little more than dandelion seeds in stiff spring wind.

        • Atheist_Fruitcake

          Your purpose is to do something that you feel is good. Do something YOU want to do. You need to take hold of the reigns, and not let somebody else decide where you’re going. This is why I find the notion of a god silly, people feel like every little thing they do is part of “God’s Plan” and he has the ability to do whatever he wants to you, and you do not question it. You come from your parents, you go where you want. I have a question for you, does god do this to animals? Does he affect where a bird roosts or where a antelope runs?

        • Joseph

          Wow. It is sad that you have to rely on an imaginary being to give your life purpose. I suppose it is the way of the brain. There are billions of people all over the world that rely on externalities to give their lives meaning; All the religions, and all the totalitarian governments like communism … all give meaning to the lives of the folks they control.

  • Rochelle

    Everything is fiction until someone cares enough to make it reality.

    Who knows, maybe one day the loyal sect of Business Cat followers will go to war over whether he should have paws vs hands? 😉

    • Anti-Theist_Fruitcake

      I care about unicorns, so why do I not see them trotting along the side of the road in my city? Believing in something does not necessarily make it reality, it just means you see it as a fact of life, whether it really is or not.

      • Rochelle

        Believing in something is different from making it a reality.

        • Atheist_Fruitcake

          That is exactly what I’m saying. The act of caring about something or someone (whether that person or thing is real or not) is the act of believing in it or them. But if that person or thing does not exist, simply the act of believing in it, does not make it reality.

  • macdaddy357

    I think most people realize that Islam is a religion, not a race. A lot more are confused about whether Judaism is a religion or a race.

    • theodicy

      This depends where you are coming from. In the United States, I would agree. In the United Kingdom, nooooooooo. Religion and race are definitely conflated when it comes to Islam in the UK.

    • Jeremy Stossel

      Judaism can be both. There are cultural Jews, and religious Jews. Cultural Jews are (can be) atheists who follow various aspects of the culture. Religious Jews believe in God, and may follow one of the various sects of Judaism. Sects of Judaism run from those who believe in God and barely follow the dogma, to fundamentalist Jews who are very strict in following dogma. There are some frightening and strange fundamentalist sects of Judaism.

  • Phea1Mike

    One of the problems I see is people confusing “respect”, with “tolerance”. I’m an atheist, (actually, anti-theist), and no, I do not “respect” your religion or your beliefs. I tolerate them, so long as they don’t interfere with me living my life as I see fit. What I do respect, is the concept of people being allowed to live how they want, and do what they want, as long as they don’t harm others or their property.

    My view on this only angers those who do not fully understand the definition, (at least my definition), of respect, what it is and how it’s earned and maintained. To demand my respect, is as nonsensical as demanding my trust. Sorry, it just don’t happen that way.

    • HumanistAtheist

      Same. I tolerate religious beliefs, as in I won’t kill the holders of said beliefs and I respect their right to believe whatever the f**k they want to, but I do not respect any kind of religious belief, as religion is not based on anything rational, and does more bad than it does good.

    • pcgirl

      I too am an anti-theist, and tolerate religion – but I’m finding it harder and harder now that the religious masses can engage in communication and do their best to abuse and harass those that don’t “believe”.

    • RandomAnon

      Indeed. I wouldn’t have many problems with religion if religious people would just keep their religion to themselves. Don’t proselytize and shove your bible and chick tracts into people’s faces, don’t go around threatening hell and damnation, and for the love of FSM stop trying to shove it down people’s throats through politics and government.

  • HumanistAtheist

    I think a lot of people find it difficult to separate the ideologies of Islam from the middle eastern ethnicity of a majority of those who follow it, so when people hear a criticism of Islam, they think it’s a criticism of anyone who is from the middle east. I think it needs to be understood that most atheists who criticize Islam are honestly criticizing the ideology, unlike what some people (like the EDL) do which is use criticism of Islam as a cover for racism against middle eastern ethnic groups.

  • HumanistAtheist

    I think a lot of people find it difficult to separate the ideologies of Islam from the middle eastern ethnicity of the majority of its followers, so when people hear a criticism of Islam, they think it’s a criticism of anyone who is from the middle east. I think it needs to be understood that most atheists who criticize Islam are honestly criticizing the ideology, unlike what some people (like the EDL) do which is use criticism of Islam as a cover for racism against middle eastern ethnic groups.

    • RandomAnon

      You know what’s really funny? Arabs only comprise 20% of all Muslims, at least according to Wikipedia (it’s sourced, dunno if the source is good). 62% live in Asia, either in the Indian subcontinent (Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh), or in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, New Guinea, etc). In the Middle East, non-Arab countries present the largest concentrations of Muslims (Turkey and Iran).

  • Barlakopofai

    I had an idea for a comic. The characters don’t have necks so one of them could slowly pass their hand under the other’s head and it falls over :3 Of course that’s never gonna happen, no one likes when I give ideas for comics ._.

  • Laura Muncy

    I’d just like to mention that the advertisement at the top of the page for me was for an Islamic marriage site. I lol’d.

  • Anti-Theist_Fruitcake

    I enjoyed reading what you had to say, and am delighted to see that you understand where I am coming from. I try to be as kind to people who believe in a god as possible, but they blame us for so much. Atheists are of then ridiculed and when one of us strikes back, there is an uproar and people complain about us obstructing their right to religion.

  • Having seen how unquestioningly loyal many of the Richard Dawkins fan club are; I think it’s pretty fair to say that everyone has their fundamentalist moments.

    The trick is self awareness rather than standing around sniping at the stupidity of others. Well apart from Tories; but hell their just plain evil.

  • Zaywex

    It’s not that Islam is protected from criticism, it’s that Islamophobia interacts with criticisms of Islam and the intensity, frequency, and way Islam is criticized often is Islamophobic and/or racist, so many people are way uncomfortable with it. Especially with how the mainstream Atheist movement treats Muslim people, citing Richard Dawkins and his bs shpiel about Muslim people and awards in scientific progress, for example.
    Christianity is the majority religion and many of the people criticizing Christianity have suffered under Christianity and/or are formerly Christian.
    I would support treading carefully while criticizing Judaism because of antisemitism and that often anti-antisemitism comes from a racist place. And I would support being more critical of criticism of Hinduism because criticism of Hinduism is more tied up in racism and paternalistic “we need to save these people from themselves” type thinking than Christianity.

  • sz

    it’s sad that you feel the need to write such a detailed disclaimer on the fact that you are not islamophobic. but you are forced to, because we live in a world where the language used about islam and muslims is the same sort of language that was used about jews and judaism in 1930’s europe. it would be easy for some troglodyte to use your cartoon as a justification or a mask for their very real sectarian hate.
    i am an atheist- i have been since i was 9, and i have spoken out against religion, including islam, the religion of my family (whom i love, and who practice their religion privately, rather than trying to force it down the necks of others). however, in the last decade or so, i have been extra careful of the words i choose, because they affect different people differently. it has to do with the balance of power, intent and consequence. at the moment, making a joke at the expense of christianity is not the same as making one at the expense of islam, because christianity is the single most powerful religious organisation in the world and there is humour in subverting the powerful. the same joke about islam may well feed in to the prejudice and bigotry that surrounds all the language that is used about islam now. (a very small and crude example of this is how every attack by a muslim is a ‘terror’ attack by someone ‘brainwashed’ in a madrassa, while every attack by a christian is a ‘lone psychopath’ taking advantage of lax gun laws)
    this is not to say we must not make fun of islam, or call it out for it’s archaic practices, and call out the people who use it to subjugate, terrorise and generally behave like fucknuts. we must. we just have to be really careful about it, and not be lazy, and be very aware that our words and images are really powerful, and may disproportionately affect one segment of society more than others.

  • cRescRC

    I believe in a higher power. Because I am the higher power. (jk just kidding lol).

  • Jia

    There is a solution to clear hatred from the hearts of all. KILL-THEM-ALL and let the animals leave in love and peace.

  • Mike Paps

    Just the fact that you felt the need to clarify your intent speaks volumes.

  • BoGardiner

    Tom, you’ve made such an important point in such an elegantly simple cartoon, and in a way that makes us laugh at ourselves. Well done.

  • Joseph

    Mr. Fondler, yuoohave nothing to explain. The people that might need this explanation will not get it. they are beyond reason. I enjoyed the cartoon and the implications which are right on the spot.

  • Pray Hard


    Good cartoon, stupid explanation, equivocation apology or whatever it is.

    So, are Muslims who bomb mosques “Islamophobic”?

    Islamophobia …
    “a word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons.”
    Andrew Cummins

  • Pray Hard

    Believing in “Islamophobia” … the other path to delusional self-loathing.

    I wonder if the 10,228+ people slaughtered by Muslims during August, September and October were Islamophobic?

  • Pray Hard

    NEVER explain a joke or cartoon.

  • This is so well said. Thank you for making the liberal case for why criticizing Islam, or any other religion, is not only acceptable, but important.

    I do have one quibble, however. Perhaps “bigotry towards Muslims” is the correct term for what you are calling Islamophobia (and of course I thoroughly agree that such bigotry exists and it is a very serious problem that we should also tackle).

    A naive interpretation of the term Islamophobia is “fear of Islam.” Many people around the world have very good reason to fear Islam, and I would not want to automatically smear them as “bigots.” It’s not fear of Islam as a religion or as an institution that is the problem, rather bigotry toward Muslims as people. We should focus on that.