Richard Dawkins wants to reach out to the Muslim world. The question is: how will he do it?
While copies of his books like The God Delusion and The Greatest Show on Earth (the former about atheism and the latter about evolution) routinely come off book store shelves in the western world, Richard Dawkins acknowledges that there is one place where his books don't sell nearl as well:
The Muslim world.
“To be a bestseller in a Muslim country would be a personal triumph,” he muses.
“I would like to see my books translated into Arabic," Dawkins insists. "They haven’t been. They are all translated into Hebrew. Persian, I’m not sure. My books are translated into Turkish and they regularly get censored and suppressed.
“The experience of my Turkish publisher of The God Delusion was that he was threatened with arrest for blasphemy," Dawkins continues. "He may even have been arrested, and my website has been banned in Turkey. I feel amused really. There’s something to be said for being suppressed, it makes people want to read you.”
Dawkins doesn't merely blame Islamic thought for hostility to the teaching of evolution in the Muslim world -- he also blames it for increasing hostility to the teaching of evolution in Britain.
“I hear that from colleagues at the coalface of teaching," Dawkins insists. "There has been a sharp upturn in hostility to teaching of evolution in the classroom and it’s mostly coming from Islamic students."
“It is nothing like as serious as it is in America, where the hostility comes from Christians, but the consequence can be very poor scientific education," he continues. "When I go to schools, as I occasionally do, I do get depressed when I see children coming out as evolution deniers. I don’t think they would have 30 years ago.”
Yet if Christianity has truly rendered the United States hostile to Dawkins' work, one may wonder how it is that his book spent three weeks as a New York Times bestseller. Compare this to Turkey, where Dawkins' website is banned and his publishers have been intimidated.
If Richard Dawkins intends to reach out to the Muslim world, an important question presents itself.
How, precisely, will he reach out? Will he reach out in good faith -- as he has failed to do with Christianity -- or will he reach out in hostility?
By his own rhetoric, Dawkins' choices seem to be firmly limited to "clash of civilizations" or "cultural jihad".
While Samuel Huntington's Clash of Civilizations thesis has often been used to justify hostility to the Muslim world, this is not necessarily anything that is inherent in its text. Rather, it's been a choice made by those who have interpreted his work and put it to its most popular use.
Meanwhile, there is a deeply-inherent hostility in provoking a cultural jihad. As noted from Dawkins' approach to Christianity, this seems like it would more likely be Dawkins' choice -- one that will be every bit as damaging to his actually-laudable goal of promoting the theory of evolution in a portion of the world where it seems sorely misunderstood.
As the creators (and re-publishers) of the infamous Prophet Mohammad cartoons can attest, perceived hostility to the Muslim world draws quite the reaction from it. It isn't an approach that will win Richard Dawkins many converts.