Richard Dawkins’ jibe about ‘Islamic barbarians’ sparks Twitter row

FOLLOWING reports that  fanatics had torched the Ahmed Baba Centre for Documentation and Research in Timbuktu, Mali, last week, Professor Richard Dawkins incurred the wrath of Muslims by describing the vandals as “Islamic barbarians”.

Two Malians survey the damage caused to the library by 'Islamist barbarians'

Two Malians survey the damage caused to the library by ‘Islamist barbarians’

His comments have been interpreted by some on the social networking site Twitter as being derogatory to Islam and and its followers.

Dawkins Tweeted that:

Like Alexandria, like Bamiyan, Timbuktu’s priceless manuscript heritage destroyed by Islamic barbarians.

His comments caused outrage, with many people condemning him of unfairly attacking Islam and ignoring the many acts of vandalism carried out by Christians.

But he hit back saying:

Some people (perhaps 1st language not English) think I was calling ALL Muslims barbarians. No. I was calling Islamic BARBARIANS barbarians.

The row is reminiscent of a storm he caused last year when he was accused of making a “profoundly anti-Semitic” remark by criticising the Old Testament.

Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, claimed that a remark in Prof Dawkins’s The God Delusion, likening God as portrayed in Jewish scriptures to a fictional villain, was based on centuries of prejudice.

Prof Dawkins, an Oxford evolutionary biologist, dismissed the allegation as “ridiculous” and said he was not “anti-Jewish” just “anti-God”.

It now appears that the damage caused by the zealots was not as bad is initially feared.

Hat tip: BarrieJohn

76 responses to “Richard Dawkins’ jibe about ‘Islamic barbarians’ sparks Twitter row”

  1. Tom80 says:


    It appears then that on this site you are classed to be “nutty as a fruitcake” if a factual comment is made about a debate between two academics. I presume that Professor Dawkins was speaking in favour of the resolution that “religion has no part to play in the 21st Century” and in this case he failed to win the majority of those attending over to his point of view. I would like to listen/watch the debate as when I read that this was taking place I thought that the resolution would be carried.

  2. 1859 says:

    christians, jews, muslims, hindus, buddhists, etc., – Whoever destrtoys the FREEDOM TO THINK is a retarded barbarian. This is one hair that CANNOT be split!

  3. Matt Westwood says:

    @Tom80: More to the point, anyone who follows a religion is a fucking lunatic and terminally stupid as well. Not to mention being irredeemably evil, discgusting and putrid as well.

  4. barriejohn says:

    1859: Spot on, but they’ll NEVER see it!

    Whoever destroys the FREEDOM TO THINK is a retarded barbarian

  5. David Anderson says:

    As no vote was taken before the debate, we don’t know if the audience was stacked against the resolution anyway.

  6. Don says:

    I’d question whether ‘barbarian’ is quite the right word. After all it just means not a speaker of Greek or more broadly people who are not like us. Many ‘barbarian’ peoples produced fine art and had sophisticted legal and social systems.

    Vandals might be better, except most modern historians reject the old portrayal of hairy wild men wilfully destroying what they can’t understand. They looted Rome, for sure, but there is no evidence that they went in for widespread destruction for its own sake.

    I think I’d go with ‘fanatics’ on the whole.

  7. Georgina says:

    All religions are selling a product that:
    a) does not appear to exist
    b) would not be theirs to sell even if it did

    However in this over polite ‘respect all religions’ 21st. century, comparing religions to con-firms or pyramid schemes is considered hate speech.

    Am I glad I am old, another 50 years and I would no doubt end up on the wrong side of a very stupid law.

  8. Ken says:

    Graham Martin-Royle – Ken said “Craig is a master debater.”

    No I didn’t! I was quoting John Loftus, who clearly sees the reasons Dawkins runs from debating Craig, so you can hardly say this is an attack by some fundamentalist you have never heard of.

    I’m not that bothered whether Craig of some other competent apologist were to debate Dawkins, but at least this would mean Dawkins’ disciples would get to hear the other side of the argument, which it is quite apparent they never have going by Dawkins’ combox.

  9. Angela_K says:

    @David Anderson. That is a valid point. When commencing a debate a vote should be taken BEFORE and after as a test of the speaker’s ability to change their opinion.

    I expect the religious did their usual cajoling of their cult members to ensure that they were over-represented.

  10. Broga says:

    @Ken: Dawkins often debates with prominent Christians and I think he does well to steer clear of a self seeking, howling, self publicist like Craig. Dawkins always wins, so far. Even in the fundamentalist southern USA states he debates. Ken you are either a misguided wishful thinking fantasiest or a liar or a bit of both. Have you read any of Dawkins’ books e.g. The God Delusion. Or does the title scare you too much.

  11. barriejohn says:

    If you don’t know the makeup of a group, any poll, before or after a debate, has little meaning.

    Here is Craig completely tying himself up in knots, as per usual. His so-called “proof” that there are no unknown objects, like china teapots, orbiting the earth is “evidence” that no one – human or alien – has ever put them there! What?

  12. Broga says:

    @barriejohn: Only those of limited perspective, narrow in their thinking and besotted with their imagined God are going to take Craig seriously. Ken, like others of his mindset, are scared of Dawkins. He doesn’t just make them unconfortable. He terrifies them. The reason being, of course, that his writing, to the extent that they dare to read it, pushes them towards thinking the unthinkable: that they have wasted their lives worshipping a non existent God and pursuing a cruel religion. They prefer the pap of the priests.

  13. Ken says:

    Broga – yes I have read quite a bit of The God Delusion, but not all of it. It doesn’t contain anything new, and above all – which is why I wish Dawkins would debate a conservative Christian apologist – it doesn’t really interact with evangelical Christianity at all. It’s not as though some of the problems he brings up for example against the bible haven’t been addressed before as though Christians are too scared to face them.

    It really isn’t a very good book.

  14. David Anderson says:

    Ken doesn’t think The God Delusion is a very good book. I’m sure Dawkins will be devastated.

  15. Ken says:

    Dawkins would be devastated if he were ever really challenged on it …..

  16. Broga says:

    Ken: You have read “quite a bit of the ‘God Delusion'” and it isn’t “a very good book.” I suppose in your God gifted certainty you consider yourself a competent judge. From all you write here you appear as an ignoramus with little knowledge of anything outside your fundamentalist tracts. I admit that I find myself irritated that someone as limited as yourself, who admits that he has not read all the book, judges the God Delusion to be not a very good book.

    The reason you think it isn’t a “very good book” is that it destroys your imagined certainties and inserts ideas that terrify you. My supposition is that people like you, Ken, are moral cowards who have closed their minds to anything that will erode their superstitions. And so you comfort yourself by imagining that Dawkins is wary of taking on a posturing clowns from the fundamentalists.

    I have long thought that at the core of people like you is a fear of death. And so, as the willing prey of priests, you embrace the insane idea of an afterlife with you in your fantasy heaven. Anything to escape the great end, the sudden nothingness, the infinite blank. By the greatest of ironies this means that you also have a fear of life. And that certainly shows with you Ken.

    Unlike many here you never reveal a sliver of joy, exuberance and the energy that makes tackling life worthwhile. You exhibit a terrible deathliness in life, a dull palour and weakness. You never give any indication, unlike many here, of any indication of life or relationships outside your pleading, whining posts. You do seem to be living a death in life while you await the fantasy of your heaven. You appear to have given up on life here in return for a non existent heaven. You are deserving of pity for your tragic error.

  17. David Anderson says:

    Ken; Dawkins has a website where you can challenge him. I think you had better take some better evidence than the babble though.

    Broga; I think you have nailed it. Brings to mind a quote from Hitchens. “If only religion were an opiate. No known narcotic rots the brain so fast.”

  18. Ken says:

    Broga – fair enough, what I have read of Dawkins’ book – and what I have read about it – makes me think it is not a very good book. I sometimes wonder if I could give Christians a harder time than Dawkins does.

    But I appreciate your concern for my well-being. I’m afraid though that your speculations of which there have been many have been almost entirely wrong!

    David Anderson – I’ve looked at Dawkins’ site a few times, but feel no desire to comment there. It’s a profoundly depressing place to go.

  19. Broga says:

    @Ken: So you have not even read “The God Delusion.” I would be interested to know the names of the books where “I have read about it.” Somehow, I don’t think you are going to tell me.

  20. David Anderson says:

    It’s depressing for you Ken because you know you have nothing to offer.

  21. Ken says:

    Broga – put your reading glasses on!! I’ve not read ALL of The God Delusion, but a large chunk of it.

    There are plenty of reviews in the Christian blogosphere. Doug Wilson’s is pretty good on his blog Blog and Mablog under “The Odd Delusion”.

  22. David Anderson says:

    So the Christian blogoshere didn’t think much about Dawkins’ book. ¡Qué sorpresa!

  23. Broga says:

    @Ken: Are you seriously saying that the only place you have read about “The God Delusion” is on Christian sites which no half sensible person takes seriously? And from these simpletons comes your opinions? I get a very clear impression that you have not the intellectual discipline to read an entire, and moderately demanding book, yourself. You prefer to cosset yourself with junk opinions from sites spouting Christian prejudice.

    I understood what you said. When someone says they have read a book in the dismissive terms you used it is fair to assume they read the entire book. Admit it. You started to read it. Found it convincing. The usual fear set in and you lacked the open mindedness, in your Christian mind forged shackles (that’s from William Blake, by the way), and you could not get the book shut quickly enough.

    You then spend a sleepless panic stricken night until you can provide for yourself the spurious comfort of what you describe as the Christian blogosphere and what I describe as semi literate and unthinking junk. Stop being so scared. Read the entire book. I know the ideas are so convincing that they terrify you but you might just learn something.

    I’m tempted to suggest you read the excellent “Why Evolution is True” by Jerry A. Coyne but, I’m afraid Ken, you couldn’t understand it. It contains ineluctable evidence for evolution, beyond your comprehension, and also diagrams. You would never cope with it.

  24. Angela_K says:

    Ken reminds of Malcolm Muggeridge and Mervyn Stockwood [Bishop of Southwark] who arrived late at a screening of Monty Python’s film “Life of Brian” missing the opening scenes that clearly show Brian isn’t a representation of the fictional Jesus; but Muggeridge and Stockwood still screeched how blasphemous the film was.

    Ken should read Prof. Dawkins books on Biology, he may learn something. Also “God is not Great” by the late Christopher Hitchens and Carl Sagan’s “The Demon Haunted World, Science as a candle in the dark” that blows away all sort of woo including religion.

  25. Broga says:

    @Angela_K: I have read all of those and would put Ken’s likelihood of reading any of them close to zero. Malcolm Muggeridge was a sucker for Stalin’s propaganda for a long time. He was also completely taken in by that cruelold fraud, hypocrite and lover of dictators and luxury travel Mother Theresa. Currently, I think, en route for sainthood complete with miracles.

    It is, of course, impossible to discuss with any semblance of sense anything with Ken. His convictions are as certain as they are mistaken. I know a couple of Christians where I can have a discussion. They tend to be of the “there must be something there” kind and, in fact, seem agnostic. Ken’s ignorant and blanket certainty embarassess himeself and does a great job in discrediting Christianity. He is, I’m afraid, a fool and I suspect leads a narrow and barren life.

  26. Ken says:


    You are very good at making assumptions. There is nothing new in Dawkins’ book, and no it didn’t cause me any lost sleep. My first acquaitence with it was from two sets of atheists, namely adoring fans who thought it would mean the end of Christianity and those who found it embarrassing for both its tone and content.

    Have you done any serious reading of the conservative Christian view? Just saying they are all prejudiced simpletons spouting illiterate junk is all very well, but that has not been my experience, and makes me wonder if you in turn are frightened of thinking outside the atheist box by avoiding the arguments. I still maintain Dawkins avoids apologists who would in minutes show that not all Christians are the spiritual buffons he likes to characterise them, and that he has failed to address/take seriously what evangelicals really believe. He should deal with men who have studied the bible for years, its original languages and content, history of the text etc.

    I might take the time the read the whole book when I have time. Your criticism of me not reading all of it would have more traction if a) I regularly quoted from it and made statements about it that are blatantly untrue based on ignorance, or b) could only ever unthinkingly parrot criticisms of it from Christian web sites. This is a regular feature of atheist criticisms of the bible. They haven’t read it and sometimes torture it into saying the opposite of what the text actually says, views often taken by faith from atheist web sites.

    Did you know, by the way, that the God delusion is mentioned in the bible?