CAIRO - Leading anti-religion rhetoric for years, world leaders of atheism have swung their attitude towards a populist and crude hatred of Islam, using an already deeply misunderstood and much maligned faith.
Conversations about the practical impossibility of God's existence and the science-based irrationality of an afterlife slid seamlessly into xenophobia over Muslim immigration or the practice of veiling, read a recent article by Nathan Lean on the Salon website was cited by The Independent newspaper.
The New Atheists became the new Islamophobes, their invectives against Muslims resembling the rowdy, uneducated ramblings of backwoods racists rather than appraisals based on intellect, rationality and reason, he added.
The article wrote by Lean, a Washington DC native and Middle East specialist who has recently written a book about the Islamophobia industry, was one of a series of columns that have been written recently about the New Atheism.
The articles followed a series of tweets last month by Professor Richard Dawkins attacking Islam.Haven't read Qur'an so couldn't quote chapter & verse like I can for Bible. But often say Islam [is the] greatest force for evil today, the Cambridge evolutionary biologist wrote.
The fact that the author of the God Delusion hadn not studied Islam's holy book surprised many and led to a flurry of responses from both fans and critics alike.
Muslims are a group that have come to occupy a special place in his line of fire and in the minds of a growing club of no-God naysayers who have fast rebranded atheism into a popular, cerebral and more bellicose version of its former self, Lean wrote of Dawkins.
Though few atheists in the western world historically paid much attention to Islam, the new attacks by atheists were employing a past-9/11 hatred, flirting with Islamophobes and using an already deeply misunderstood and much maligned faith.
Sam Harris, a neuroscientist by trade whose atheist tracts The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation have made him one of the leading anti-religious polemicists of his age, has also involved in new atheism anti-Islam trend.
The idea that Islam is a peaceful religion hijacked by extremists' is a fantasy, and is now a particularly dangerous fantasy for Muslims to indulge, is just one he wrote in Letter to a Christian Nation.
Harris also wrote in favor of torture, pre-emptive nuclear strikes and the profiling not just of Muslims but anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be a Muslim.
The atheists' attacks on islam drew harsh criticism from many analysts.
[Harris'] sweeping generalizations about a constructed civilization encompassing over a billion people are coupled with fevered warnings - parallel with the most noxious race propaganda of the past - about the purported demographic threat posed by immigrant Muslim birthrates to Western civilization, Murtaza Hussain, a Toronto based Middle East analyst, wrote in a scathing critique on Al Jazeera website recently.
Citing Muslims as a solid monolith of violent evil - whilst neglecting to include the countless Muslims who have lost their lives peacefully protesting the occupation and ongoing ethnic cleansing of their homeland - Harris engages in a nuanced version of the same racism which his predecessors in scientific racism practiced in their discussion of the blanket characteristics of Negroes, he added.
Being a vocal critic of New Atheism himself, left-wing US columnist Glenn Greenwald retweeted Hussain's article, blaming writers like Harris for using their particularly anti-Islamic brand of rational non-belief to justify American foreign policies over the last decade.
When criticism of religion morphs into an undue focus on Islam - particularly at the same time the western world has been engaged in a decade-long splurge of violence, aggression and human rights abuses against Muslims, justified by a sustained demonization campaign - then I find these objections to the New Atheists completely warranted, Greenwald concludes.
In sum, [New Atheism] sprinkles intellectual atheism on top of the standard neocon, right-wing worldview of Muslims.