Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Kaaba Rainbow and the resulting kerfuffle.

After the historic Supreme court decision in the United State there was something of a global flood, although it wasn't a torrent of water sent from the sky by an angry god wanting to wipe out humanity. Instead it was a flood of colour. Rainbows to be precise. 

Social media was awash with profile pictures that now had a rainbow coloured overlay. I made the change to my Facebook picture, but decided I'd save changing my twitter picture for when Australia finally catches up and legalises same-sex marriage here. 

The changes weren't limited to regular users of social media either. The New York City mayor's office changed its avatar, as did the twitter accounts of the 500px photography group, the Australian bank Westpac, and a host of other companies including heavy weights Apple, Google, Facebook and Twitter positively acknowledged the decision in one way or another. 

The rainbows were seen in the real world too. Several landmarks were beautifully lit up in rainbow colours, 

Including the Empire State Building: 

and not insignificantly the White House temporarily became the Rainbow House. 
The building that, from what I saw, caused the biggest stir on twitter, and I later learnt it caused a big stir on Facebook too, was a building that wasn't lit up in rainbow colours at all. At least not really. It was a photoshopped image of the Kaaba at Mecca in Saudi Arabia. 

It was posted by the Twitter account @AtheistRepublic and you may not be surprised to learn that the reaction wasn't completely favourable. Here's the image: 

Who gets offended by rainbows? You know who. Muslims. Not all, but plenty. 

Atheist Republic have shared some of the responses at a post on their website. There are some graphic images, but you can see it here

I saw the tweet myself and retweeted it. I let @AtheistRepublic know that I liked what they'd done and then, after it had been up for a while, I tweeted the picture myself saying it was some fine work by @AtheistRepublic. 

It didn't take long before I was receiving responses from Muslims too. 

The first was (I think the original has been deleted): 
And this 

Pretty tame compared to what @AtheistRepublic were receiving. 

What I find ironic was in some of the tweets I was being insulted at the very same time that Muslim's were demanding that I respect their religion. 

A friend of mine asked me what I get out of insulting someone else's religion. I told her that my goal was not to upset Muslims, but for Muslims to realise that this was not worth being upset about. But as for what I get out of it, I told her, that another religious person learns that not everyone treats their religion as special. Not everyone bows to their demands that their religion should be respected. 

Out of curiosity I approached Armin Navabi from Atheist Republic for his reaction to the reaction. 

I started by asking Armin why he created the picture. Armin replied, "Legalizing gay marriage in the United States was a step in the right direction. This image was meant to serve as a reminder that there are many others that still living under fear of persecution, physical violence and even death for who they are." Fair enough, if you ask me. 

When I asked Armin if he was aware, when he posted it, Muslims would be offended, he said "Not as much as this. We usually remind people that if our content is offensive to them, a good solution is for them to just not look at it." 

I thought the question my friend asked me about what I get out of insulting someone else's religion was a good one, so I asked Armin the same. "We wanted to encourage our fellow activists to keep fighting for equality everywhere." Concluding "Our audience are atheists not Muslims." It does raise the question what, if anything is sacred? 

I tend to agree with Tim Minchin:  
"If you want to imbue earthly objects with supernatural agency that’s your right, and for that matter I would do a shitty placard and march beside you in the streets to defend your right to hold sacred what you will but I personally don’t think that that means you get to tell other people what they should hold sacred."
So as much as Muslims might find the Kaaba sacred, they don't get to demand that atheists also find it sacred. We're under no obligation to treat it how they demand. 

People might want to make the point here that not all Muslims have reacted like this, and they're right. One of them left a comment: 

Ahmed got it right. Fahad, not so much (highlight, mine)

Was it the intention of Atheist Republic to upset Muslims with this picture? 

"This was posted on an atheist Facebook page, an atheist Twitter account, website etc. Offended Muslims that come to atheist websites and get offended are either looking for reasons to get offended or need to learn how to block content that they wish not to be exposed to." 

Armin seems unapologetic, and I must say, I agree with him. Firstly, it's okay for atheists to make content for atheists. There is certainly enough religious content being made for religious people. Secondly, this isn't insulting a person. It's not telling someone they're the son of a whore or that they're so fat they have their own climate. 

The picture in question is not, in fact, insulting anyone. As with the Empire State Building, The White House or any of the other landmarks that were lit up to be rainbow coloured, this picture is a celebration. Rather than being offended, Muslims should be making moves to have it happen for real. 


  1. Then light up YOUR landmarks with rainbow colors. You have no right to Photoshop pictures of a structure which is of utmost significance to the Muslims. Nevertheless you are still doing it as a sign of disrespect for their religion and saying that Muslims should not be offended? This is preposterous.

    1. Actually we have every right to do it, hence the above picture. People have the right to find sacred whatever they wish to. They don't have the right to tell me or anyone else what we need to find sacred.

      And although I do respect some Muslims as individual people, I don't respect Islam and I have no obligation to. A belief does not become worthy of respect just because someone holds it. A idea, believe, ideology, religion etc.. needs to earn respect, they don't deserve respect automatically. I'm yet to find a religion that has earned my respect.

  2. I am an atheist and pro-equality. However, the person who made this clearly intended it to poss off Muslims. He of course has a right to do so, but it was an asshole move.

    If we ever have any hope of getting along, we should probably stop pissing each other off on purpose.

    1. Whether or not you are right about the motives, I'm not sure. But I think the best resolution to this situation is for Muslims to not get pissed off with symbols of love an equality, rather than rational people bowing to the irrational demands of the religious.

  3. I agree -- an absolute bloody travesty that we no longer have same-sex-marriage rights. We did, until Little Johnny changed the law in 2004, completely against the people's wishes.

    But thankfully there are same-sex couple adoption-rights now, so we're getting there.