And the Prize for the Narrowest Mind Goes To…

That great genius for inter-religious tolerance, Richard Dawkins, has finally come out and tweeted it: “All the world’s Muslims have fewer Nobel Prizes than Trinity College, Cambridge. They did great things in the Middle Ages, though.”


Apart from the obvious steps that will surely ensue, the official banning of Islam in all European nations for being counter to human development, the jetting of all outlaw Muslims to the moon (while the far right complains that it was their tax money that built them the interstellar asylum centre), and the honouring of this day in history as Democracy Day, I have a few points I’d like to make to Signeur Dawkins.


Firstly, how much would he expect to have achieved if his nation was the colonised, rather than the colonising? (Repeat argument ad infinitum regarding various Muslim countries and various, in some cases nearly incessant, occupations).


Secondly, what kind of achievements was he hoping we’d make? The invention of the atom bomb? For all the ‘achievements’ of the non-Muslim world (and that is about as laughably reductive a label as ‘the Muslim world’ is), it has succeeded in destroying more of our natural resources in 100 years than in the entire history of humankind, with no sign of that rate slowing. Nice work.


Alfred Nobel, chilling.

Alfred Nobel, chilling.

Thirdly, what does a Nobel Prize actually constitute? Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 and celebrated it by instigating drone strikes on Pakistan. Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres won it in 1994 for their efforts in establishing peace in the Middle East; not sure we saw much of that. Nelson Mandela had to share his in 1993 with the then South African president Frederik W. de Klerk, who sure as hell didn’t have to suffer as much for ending apartheid as Mandela did (and who only seemed to allow it because it was interfering with the country’s economy). How much are Nobel prizes genuine reflections of truly marvellous work, rather than simply reflections of what people want to see?


Come to think of it, the number of women who have received Nobel Prizes are markedly low, too. Could it be that – don’t take this the wrong way – they aren’t up to much either? Did womankind peak in the Middle Ages, as well?


I am frankly astonished that anyone widely considered to be intelligent could judge people’s ‘achievements’ in such grotesquely blunt terms as how many prizes they win. The logical next step is to judge them for how many letters after their names they have, how much money they earn, how many followers on Twitter they have. Could it be that this is the criteria by why Richard Dawkin’s own achievements are judged?


He might as well ask how many Far Eastern countries they have chemically defoliated/nuked, how many massively polluting conglomerate companies they run, how many politicians kowtow to their industries, how many diseases they cure whilst a dozen super-resistant ones emerge, how many useless theories they come up with, how many tons of plastic junk they have to ship to other countries to bury each year, how obese their population is, or how mentally ill they are. If any of these things are a measure of a given society’s value, then the West wins first prize for Unflinching Devotion to the Cause of Humanity’s Destruction.


Regardless of the fact that Muslims are not immune to the odd Nobel (or indeed any of the bozo-like behaviour cited above), I am deeply suspicious of any argument that seems to judge the worth of a people’s existence by the sort of thing one might put on a CV to impress a future employer. If that is all you have achieved, you have really achieved very little.


The 'achievement' involved in this family crest was apparently subduing a badger with nothing more than a couple of ostrich feathers.

The ‘achievement’ involved in this family crest was apparently subduing a small zoo with nothing more than a couple of ostrich feathers.

You might have written bestsellers, but do you friends trust you? You might have a PhD but do your children hate you? You might have millions of fans but are you incapable of having a loving relationship? You might earn a ton of money, but is it all sitting in high-interest accounts or shares in unethical mining or arms companies, while the people around you are eating tinned dog food? You might have earned the praise and admiration of your peers, but does the old lady at the Post Office secretly call you ‘that pompous, rude git who swans about like he owns the place and couldn’t tell a joke if it bit him in the arse’?


Achievement has about as much to do with what looks good on paper as beauty has to do with plastic surgery. What have Muslims contributed in the last 500 years or so? Many millions of tiny acts of kindness that no newspaper would bother printing and no organisation would bother stumping up the cash for an awards ceremony to celebrate.


Dealing with your own self – though most Muslims certainly don’t spend a whole lot of time doing that – is a far more difficult task than going to university, getting a job, and rising up the career ladder, gathering accolades on the way. You can employ all sorts of underhanded methods in the latter, but in the former, only ruthless self-accounting and discipline will work – and that doesn’t get you any certificate.


Humility, disinterested acts of kindness, generosity, service to others, being the kind of everyday hero that doesn’t demand a medal – these acts are elevated in Islam to the rank of achievement, far more than winning a battle or having your critics pat you on the back for that paper you just published.

The higher you climb in this world, the further you have to fall. In contrast, practising non-attachment to the world whilst caring for it is surely the greatest challenge humanity faces.


Living on a floating island of human debris certainly keeps all the undesirables away, though I can't say it's got a stable real estate value

Living on a floating island of human debris certainly keeps all the undesirables away, though I can’t say it’s got a stable real estate value

Dawkin’s statement rings so loudly with hubris that surely it is only a matter of time before everyone but the far right (who will have to build a high-security settlement on one of those floating islands of plastic in the Atlantic, in order to be free from all these underachieving Muslims and that horribly contagious plague, Shariah law) begins to see through the flimsy smokescreen that worldly success presents.


Now wouldn’t that be an achievement?

21 thoughts on “And the Prize for the Narrowest Mind Goes To…

    • Thanks White Pearl! I can’t help but yell out against this kind of xenophobic bull. Not sure if it works to fight criticism with criticism but anyway, it gets it off my chest.

    • Thanks Matthew! I was just reading an essay by George Orwell from 1940 you might like – Politics and the English Language – look it up, it rather blew my mind.

  1. Love this, Medina. THANKY YOU! I read another article on the same topic which just left me feeling depressed. Could I send this to my paper and see if they’ll print it next week?

  2. You make a good point.

    I would add to it that we are indebted to Muslims for Algebra and the preservation of a great amount of mathematical knowledge, and may be the reason we use a system of numerals that has a time-saving zero in it. I also suspect they are to thank for our practice of bathing with soap now in the Western world, but I am not up enough on my history of trade to say that definitively. Yes that was all 500 years ago or more, but in the greater scheme of things 500 years is really not all that long.

    Richard Dawkins is just stupid.

    • Yup, in fact Mehdi Hassan makes an excellent point in his amazing presentation in an Oxford University debate about how the arguments from the other side (the debate was about whether Islam was a violent religion) had been written up on computers, which work on algorithms, which would not exist if it weren’t for the contributions of Muslim scholars in the Middle Ages. The list of essential elements of the European enlightenment that came via medieval Baghdad is actually immense. And it is true that the Muslim world (there’s that reductive phrase again) has been in decline for 600 years – partly why it is an exciting time for us now, in the West, as there is a real upsurge of good will and interest and beautiful art and poetry and interesting thought emerging. But in any case, there are millions of people around the world who are not ‘achieving great things’ in the eyes of academia, and they are every bit as important to humanity. And in a way, I think that the oppressed of the world have much more to teach us than we realise (and probably more than we have to teach them, in qualitative terms). I am reminded of the teaching of a man from the Sahara, who points out a pair of men arguing, raising their voices, to his students. He asks them why they raise their voices when they are angry. After numerous incorrect answers he says, ‘Because when we are angry, our hearts become very distant from one another, so we shout to get our voices across. When we love, we speak softly, because our hearts are close’. That is the sort of knowledge I think ranks way higher than any discovery in physics, or any bestselling book, or any technological advance. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and respond, I always value your replies! xxxx

  3. Ah the punchlines, knockout blows and hilarity of this article have made this the BEST article i have read from anyone in a very long while…”that horribly contagious plague, Shariah law”. Haha

    Medina your writing is absolutely superb and the way you delivered your response to his ignorance is incredible. The last couple of Nobel Peace prizes have been rather a shambles indeed. The many acts we as Muslims witness everyday are exactly the ‘swarm of fireflies unseen’ and the ‘uncollected beach stones’ I have always talked about. People like him, to be frank, are actually a touch less infuriating than the average islam-badgering joe out there. Once, i watched a short clip of the indisputable EDL supporters in which one if them was saying, and i quote, “these muslims are building mosques everywhere, we’ve had enough of it. They are even building mosques in Mecca and all these places”….riiiight.

    Anyway Medina thank you so much for sharing this with the world. Your writing has always been flawless to me and this one is the best by a mile.

    Yasin C

    • Thankyou as ever Yasin for your responses! It helps me carry on when there is so much bonkersness in the world…I haven’t seen that EDL clip but it had me laughing out loud. Oh and I am working on getting Poetic License a night at Rumi’s Cave. Are you within reach of North London, in about mid-September? We have to have a real-life reunion, go from the virtual to the actual! Poetry, music, soul…couldn’t think of a better night out.

      All the best with your wonderful writing brother, Medina

  4. This is spot on! The man is living proof of someone who, although widely considered to be “academically” intelligent, lacks any resemblance of emotional or social intelligence. You’ve shown him up for the bigot that he is. I’ve just shared it on Facebook!

    • Thanks Hunnybee! I just feel very strongly that it is time for social and emotional intelligence to be recognised the way that book-learning is. Any old idiot can be clever. I just read a Rumi quote: “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment”. Somehow I don’t think Dawkins would dig Rumi…haha…thanks for taking the time to sharing and commenting.

  5. Oh dear. Richard Dawkins is such an embarrassment. He has demonstrated his ignorance of religion at length and now he goes on to show that he is devoid of any sense at all. His views are so foolish that it’s difficult to get annoyed with him rather than just pat him on the head and tell him to go and play. On religion his lack of scholarship is breathtaking. He has no book-learning to speak of on this topic, or he shows no evidence of it, and, as cavemum surmises, the chances of him ever understanding Rumi are almost certainly lower than they are for him winning the lottery. He does not even understand metaphysics, which makes his views on religion mere guesswork. I cannot understand how he retains any respect in academia.

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