Criticism of Islam Is Not ‘Islamophobia’

Sam HarrisThe End of Faith opens with a fictional account of a suicide bomber killing innocent people on a bus with the press of a button. We don’t know much about the bomber… but Harris suggests we do have a good idea of one thing: His faith.

Why is it so easy, then, so trivially easy — you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it easy — to guess the young man’s religion?

It’s writing like this, which has only grown stronger over the years, that has led many of Harris’ critics to call him “Islamophobic.” Harris, of course, contends that he’s criticizing faith and dogma, not people — and I agree with him. When I’m reading his books and blog posts, I see a writer who is raising controversial questions and answering them in ways that may not be politically correct, but none of those things are coming from a place of hate. Even when he suggested looking specifically for Muslims (or at least people who look like them) at airport security checkpoints, I didn’t get a sense he was being racist or anti-Islamic. Even if he ended up being way off the mark, his overall suggestion was more tactical and practical than anything racially motivated.

In the past couple of days, a number of people have singled Harris out for his comments on Islam. Like Murtaza Hussain at Al Jazeera:

Indeed, the most illustrative demonstration of the new brand of scientific racism must be said to come from the popular author and neuroscientist Sam Harris. Among the most publicly visible of the new atheists, in the case of Muslims Harris has publicly stated his support for torture, pre-emptive nuclear weapons strikes, and the security profiling of not just Muslims themselves, but in his own words “anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim”.

Again, while Islam is not a race, those who are identified with Islam are the predominantly black and brown people who would be caught up in the charge of “looking Muslim” which Harris makes. Harris has also written in the past his belief that the “Muslim world” itself lacks the characteristic of honesty, and Muslims as a people “do not have a clue about what constitutes civil society“.

His sweeping generalisations about a constructed civilisation 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 civilisation.

Nathan Lean at Salon also digs in:

For Harris, the ankle-biter version of the Rottweiler Dawkins, suicide bombers and terrorists are not aberrations. They are the norm. They have not distorted their faith by interpreting it wrongly. They have lived out their faith by understanding it rightly. “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,” he writes in “Letter to a Christian Nation.”

That may sound like the psychobabble of Pamela Geller. But Harris’s crude departure from scholarly decorum is at least peppered with references to the Quran, a book he cites time and again, before suggesting it be “flushed down the toilet without fear of violent reprisal.”

Both pieces take Harris wildly out of context — more on that in a moment. But even Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald got taken in by one of the pieces:

Harris believed the pieces to be “unworthy of a response” until he saw Greenwald’s tweet. Because he respected Greenwald, he wanted to set the record straight, so they had an email exchange. But it didn’t help. Greenwald stuck by his beliefs about Harris even after Harris explained why his criticism focused not on Muslim people but on the pernicious dogma itself:

There is absolutely nothing racist about my criticism of Islam. I criticize white, western converts in precisely the same terms — in fact, I am even more critical of them, because they weren’t brainwashed into the faith from birth. And one of my main concerns — always ignored by “trustworthy and diligent” people like Murtaza — is for all the suffering of women, homosexuals, freethinkers, and intellectuals in indigenous Muslim societies. One of my friends (and heroes) is Ayaan Hirsi Ali — whom I’m constantly having to defend from similarly tendentious attacks from my fellow liberals. How you get “racism” out of these convictions, I’ll never know. (But you know how Murtaza would summarize this point: “Harris says, ‘Some of my best friends are black’!”) The truth is that the liberal (multicultural) position on Islam is racist. If a predominantly white community behaved this way — the Left would effortlessly perceive the depth of the problem. Imagine Mormons regularly practicing honor killing or burning embassies over cartoons…

Incidentally, Greenwald has his own response to their conversation here.

Robby Bensinger of the Secular Alliance at Indiana University does a really nice job of pointing out exactly why Hussain is so off the mark by going through several of his statements and rebutting them one-by-one, so I suggest reading his piece to get an idea of how badly and unfairly Hussain distorts Harris’ words:

[4] Harris has also written in the past his belief [sic] that the ‘Muslim world’ itself lacks the characteristic of honesty,

No, he’s written that Muslims routinely refuse to honestly evaluate the doctrines of Islam. Quoth he: “Who will reform Islam if moderate Muslims refuse to speak honestly about the very doctrines in need of reform?

Summing Harris’ view up as “the Muslim world itself lacks the characteristic of honesty” is deliberately modifying Harris’ statements to sound maximally simplistic and culturally essentializing. This, of course, helps make it tie better into Hussain’s chosen narrative. But if Harris’ assertions reflect a skewed world-view, should it not be possible to critique them without going to the trouble of distorting them first?

As Harris suggests on his site, this is a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation for him. He writes about Christianity and his critics say he’s not brave enough to go after Islam. He writes about Islam and they call him a racist.

This is one of the main things many theists don’t understand about New Atheism (or, as the rest of us refer to it, “atheism”): We’re not against your god. We’re not against your religion. We’re critical of belief in all gods and all religions. We’re equal opportunity unbelievers.

These aren’t personal attacks, either. They’re, at best, persuasive arguments against rigid thinking. The atheists that Christians love to condemn are really after two separate things: They want to make sure religious beliefs have no role in public policy and, secondary to that, they want to persuade you that you’re better off not believing in faith without evidence. Criticizing the Koran doesn’t mean you hate Muslims just as arguing the legitimacy of the Bible doesn’t mean you hate Christians. Those critiques must continue even if religious people take them the wrong way.

You want to know what real Islamophobia looks like? It’s saying that Muslims ought to be deported. It’s arguing that a mosque shouldn’t be allowed to exist in your town because of 9/11. It’s using the word “Muslim” as a slur or suggesting that a practicing Muslim should never become President.

That’s Islamophobia and the New Atheists have never espoused any of those things. As conservative commentator David Frum said the other day, this anti-Harris animus implies that “it’s OK to be an atheist, so long as you omit Islam from your list of the religions to which you object.”

Jerry Coyne adds another important point to the discussion:

In truth, those who hurl charges of “Islamophobia” never define it. That’s because it is, at bottom, only “criticism of the tenets of Islam,” and that doesn’t sound so bad.

No doubt some atheists (myself included) will hit the wrong notes along the path. But Harris’ goals are honorable even if his statements are misinterpreted by his critics.

As Jackson Doughart and Faisal Saeed al-Mutar wrote last year, suggesting that criticism of Islam is a bad idea is a slippery slope that even Muslims should be wary of:

the creeping influence of terms like blasphemy and Islamophobia is undignifying to both Muslims and non-Muslims for two reasons. First, it colludes with Islam’s attempt to infantalize its adherents — convincing them that critical thought, especially about the matters of faith, is immoral. Second, it presumes that Muslims, particularly in the West, are not mature enough to handle criticism of their chosen beliefs, and that their subcultures are reducible to archaic texts and practices. This is the real injustice, involving the basest abandoning of scruple and succumbing to cowardice, and can only be rectified by ditching this thoroughly nonsensical expression.

Bingo — even the religious ought to be critical of faith. They should be thanking those who raise important questions about faith instead of throwing them under a bus because they might poke holes in religious logic.

The dust hasn’t settled on this argument yet, but the facts are on the atheist side even if eloquence doesn’t always accompany it. The people who want to portray Harris (and Richard Dawkins and others) as Islamophobic are adept at taking their words out of context and, when they can’t, taking the least generous interpretations of them. They have to work overtime to make it look like the New Atheists hate Muslims because the truth is there’s no real issue with Muslims at all. The atheists’ focus is strictly on the nonsense in which they (and all theists) believe and the enormously harmful consequences many of those beliefs bring about.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Mackinz

    It pains me to think about how much power Islam can (and likely will) gain in this world if people are so quick to defend it for whatever bad reason they can muster up. Islam contradicts all western societal principles… defending it and making the criticizer into a racist makes you the one in the conversation incapable of realizing what happens when things are left unchecked.

    I like to think that “Islam is a window into the ninth century that shows the present” and that anyone who thinks Muslims need a white knight is an ignoramus.

  • Crommunist

    You want to know what real Islamophobia looks like? … It’s arguing that a mosque shouldn’t be allowed to exist in your town because of 9/11


    But the margin between what is legal and what is desirable, or even decent, leaves room for many projects that well-intentioned people might still find offensive. If you can raise the requisite $100 million, you might also build a shrine to Satan on this spot, complete with the names of all the non-believing victims of 9/11 destined to suffer for eternity in Hell.

    The erection of a mosque upon the ashes of this atrocity will also be viewed by many millions of Muslims as a victory—and as a sign that the liberal values of the West are synonymous with decadence and cowardice

    I guess if you stop juuuuuust short of saying “it shouldn’t be allowed”, everything’s kosher.

    I also think it’s a shame that you skip over the Greenwald piece as quickly as you do. He specifically rebuts not only Sam’s frequent invocation of the “misinterpretation” canard, but also spends a great deal of time refuting the title (and thesis) of your response.

  • C Peterson

    I agree that there’s nothing wrong with criticizing Islam. The flaw I see in most arguments, however, is in treating Islam as if it’s somehow unique in the sort of behavior it produces. It isn’t. Islam is no more violent or corrupt than its cousins, Judaism and Christianity. All rest on a body of hateful, violent dogma. All have deities that explicitly advocate the death, enslavement, or pillaging of those who are outside their communities. All have rich histories of exactly that behavior. All three of these religions are corrupt, and corrupting, at their cores.

    The only thing that distinguishes Islam from the others is how that religious culture intersects governmental systems. The extreme violence of Judaism and Christianity disappeared when states ceased to be Jewish or Christian. In the case of Judaism, that came about by the Jewish state being conquered; in the case of Christianity, by societies maturing to secular states (modern Israel, of course, following the Western examples). But most countries with substantially Islamic populations remain theocracies, meaning that what constitutes legal behavior is defined by religion. So like the Jewish state of 2500 years ago, or the Christian states of 1000 years ago, they are brutal and savage.

    It is certainly appropriate that we point out the nastiness of Islam, just as we should point out the nastiness of Judaism and Christianity. But we can’t realistically fix any of these. They are fundamentally corrupt. All we can do is neuter their worst aspects by making it legally and culturally unacceptable to exercise many of their tenets. This has largely been accomplished with Judaism and Christianity (although we have only to look at the words coming from Christians in the Bible Belt, or Jews in Hasidic communities, to know just how close to the surface violence against outsiders remains), but there’s a long way to go with Islam. The only practical solution is to turn Islamic theocracies into secular states. Easier said than done, of course, but at least that’s possible. You can never reverse the dogma of Islam; you can never re-write the Koran.

    The especially promising thing is that it appears secular governments end up creating societies where people slowly move away from religion completely, so if we can secularize the Islamic states, we can ultimately marginalize Islam in the same way that Judaism and Christianity are slowly being marginalized in the more developed nations.

  • C Peterson

    All Abrahamic religions contradict modern western societal principles. In not the slightest way is Islam any different. All that is different is the behavior of Islamic people who live in societies that support violent behavior in the name of religion.

  • Dave K

    Greenwald specifically cites instances when Harris attacks Muslims as a people and not just Islam. That does seem a bit racist to me.

  • Al

    Exactly. Along with many other things, Harris endorsement of conspiracy theories about the breeding habits of Muslims is where you see evidence of serious bigotry: :

    “Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe. The demographic trends are ominous: Given current birthrates, France could be a majority Muslim country in 25 years, and that is if immigration were to stop tomorrow.”

  • Gus Snarp

    Why is it so easy, then, so trivially easy — you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it easy — to guess the young man’s religion?

    It couldn’t have anything at all to do with the fact that Christians dominate the most militarily and economically powerful nations on earth and therefore have little need for suicide bombing, could it? Or that it’s a fictional account, so we can’t really guess it any other way because Harris set it out that way?

    I mean, don’t get me wrong, Islam is exactly as stupid, backwards, misogynist, and violent as Christianity and Judaism, but if all these religions rely on violent teachings and a history of violence, what is it that singles out Islam as different? Is it really in the religion, or is it political and economic power? Someone else noted a chicken and egg problem, and there is a bit of one, but I think they got it slightly off. The problem is we can’t be sure that it is the practice of Islam that leads to undemocratic societies with troubled economies, or if undemocratic societies with troubled economies lead to widespread practice of violent fundamentalism. Maybe the reason it seems that fundamentalism is on the rise in American Christianity as well has something to do with economic inequality too.

  • Eli C-R

    “Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the
    Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable
    to protect civilization from its genuine enemies.”

    “The only future devout Muslims can envisage — as Muslims — is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed.”

    “In our dealings with the Muslim world, we must acknowledge that Muslims
    have not found anything of substance to say against the actions of the
    September 11 hijackers, apart from the ubiquitous canard that they were
    really Jews.”

    These are the Sam Harris Quotes that are the real problem. Harris, Dawkins and Hitchens are terrible spokespeople for Atheism, they constantly make statements that sound like they are from Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”. The best way to help the Islamic world get past its current religious issues is not to attack all Muslims and support the likes of Dick Cheney:

    “Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the
    Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable
    to protect civilization from its genuine enemies.”

    - Sam Harris

  • MD

    Very well put.

  • Lagerbaer

    Yes, indeed. When offended Christians complain that we wouldn’t criticize Islam the same way, they are not saying this because they want to show us how they are more civilized. They say this because they wish they could react just as violent.

  • Octoberfurst

    I totally agree that Glen Greenwald’s article rebuts Sam’s claims that he has not written Islamophobic screeds. I like Sam Harris but I think he has too often wandered over to the side of the bigots when it comes to Muslims. I understand Sam’s concerns but I very much disagree with some of his conclusions.

  • Paul Crider

    Greenwald at least did offer a definition of Islamaphobia:

    The meaning of “Islamophobia” is every bit as clear as “anti-semitism” or “racism” or “sexism” and all sorts of familiar, related concepts. It signifies (1) irrational condemnations of all members of a group or the group itself based on the bad acts of specific individuals in that group; (2) a disproportionate fixation on that group for sins committed at least to an equal extent by many other groups, especially one’s own; and/or (3) sweeping claims about the members of that group unjustified by their actual individual acts and beliefs.

  • novenator

    Thanks you Hemant. I’ve been trying to put the conversation back on track for days now from these smears.

  • randomfactor

    Why is it so easy, then, so trivially easy — you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it easy — to guess the young man’s religion?

    Because the author is allowing the reader to make the assumption that the bombing is in present-day Palestine, and not the Palestine of the late 1940′s?

  • Thegoodman

    Islam is not a race. I am not really defending him, I just don’t believe that attacking Mormons is racist any more than attacking Muslims.

  • RobMcCune

    “Defending” Islam:

    1.Not believing that other nations are too dangerous to exist and therefore must be nuked without warning or provocation because of the nations majority religion. India pursued deterrence, and look where it got them peace, prosperity, and no nuclear war.

    2. Not believing that someone should be tortured for information then held without trial based solely on suspicion. Even if the person “contradicts all western societal principles”, like the rule of law, habeas corpus, the right to a fair trial, innocent until proven guilty, etc.

    3. Not believing anyone who looks a certain, ill defined way should be treated as an enemy and a criminal because there is a higher, though still negligible chance they might be up to something.

  • baal

    I’ve defended Sam Harris from time to time but not because I agree with him (I generally don’t) but rather Sam’s critics inadvertent (and intended) quote mining undermine the critics legit points.

    What’s often missing from the discussion of Sam Harris is the noticing of Sam’s personal bias in support of fear based arguments. Said differently, Sam’s concern about remote but serious harms is overblown. Tweak that one setting, and I don’t think he’s any different from atheists who are not primary pillory targets. There isn’t any shortage of other bloghosts and commentors who are seriously overblown on their favorite fears either (so watch where you swing the scourge).

  • Wild Rumpus

    ISLAM IS NOT A RACE! (just typing it in large letters for you so the more thick skulled people here can get it through their heads.)

  • Gus Snarp

    Yes, well, we have a bit of a problem in that no one likes any of the terms, but it doesn’t mean the phenomenon isn’t real. Call it racism and you’ll tell us Islam isn’t a race. Call it Islamophobia and you’ll tell us you aren’t afraid. But the fact remains that when someone attacks Muslims as a people that has a mix of cultural, ethnic, and religious associations and is functionally the same as racism. I suppose the nitpicky, technically correct term is antisemitism, but that seems likely to confuse people.

  • Ewan

    It’s perfectly true that it’s possible to criticise Islam without being
    an islamophobic bigot, but that doesn’t mean that Sam Harris isn’t an
    islamophobic bigot just because he sometimes makes reasonable criticisms
    as well.

  • TimothyWells

    I thought Greenwalds recent article was well cited, understood the context to the quotes he was referencing. Dealt with the semantic issues of muslims not being a race, was fair to Harris in saying that while he was not a bigot, the way in which he has dealt with islam has been problematic. AND to top it off his article basically what the title of this article says, and says it better. Sorry Herman, New Atheism has a big problem with Islamophobia and this is coming from someone who’s not a fan of islam.

    Greenwalds article was fair.

  • Mark W.

    I don’t think I would disagree with much of your comment except for the inference that Christians aren’t suicide bombing due to their status in the world. This is entirely incorrect. In Christianity, suicide is a mortal sin, therefore suicide bombing would land you in Hell, not in Paradise with a bevy of virgins. Martyrdom is handled in somewhat different ways between Islam and Christianity.

  • Harrumph

    Hypothetically, what would happen to the United States if it became majority Muslim? Does anyone really think that we would continue to enjoys the freedoms established while the country was majority Christian?

  • Gus Snarp

    I suppose there’s some truth to that. So we have to take suicide out of the equation. Which got me thinking about what kind of terrorism Christians could engage it with suicide mainly off the table. Then I remembered the IRA. I wonder if the conversation would be different if the IRA was still active?

  • Dave K

    So, don’t use the term racist. Greenwald says “anti-Muslim animus.” Arguing semantics misses the point. Harris attacks a group of people, not just the concepts of their religion.

    I think all religions are silly. I welcome heavy criticism of the many, many terrible practices of some religions. The problem comes when Harris groups people who self identify as Muslims together regardless of their specific views on terrorism, free speech, etc.

  • Ewan

    That’s not necessarily important. A racist in a society in which racism is socially unacceptable may need to find an imperfect proxy through which to attack the people they dislike. Given the low proportion of Muslims who are white, attacking Muslims is a pretty good proxy.

  • RobMcCune

    Given the amount of time it would take for that to happen, we might actually enjoy more freedoms. American secular culture has a way of winning people over.

  • Paul Crider

    This seems like a pretty insightful comment, but I want to think about it more. I’ve been thinking about how much neoconservatism is based on fear–and a lot of what causes people to flinch in response to Sam Harris is really just those commonalities he has with neoconservatism.

  • Dangerous Talk

    Awesome and well articulated!!! Great job on this one Hemant. I am a big fan of Glenn Greenwald, but I think he is wrong on this one. I read Sam’s blog post on this yesterday and while I do applaud Sam for taking his dispute privately with Glenn, I think at one point he let his anger get the better of him and the conversation went sideways after that. Still. there is no doubt that Sam is right on this and Glenn is wrong. I really do hope that Glenn will apologize to Sam on this one.

  • randomfactor

    Unless you redefine it as martyrdom, Christian-style. That’s the trouble with religion, it supports any conclusion you want to end up with.

  • randomfactor

    Suppose the Scientologists came up on top? As much likelihood of that happening, and the results would be as bad if not worse.

  • Dangerous Talk

    “I guess if you stop juuuuuust short of saying “it shouldn’t be allowed”, everything’s kosher.”

    Yeah, pretty much. It seems you mean this sarcastically, but I have no problem saying that I wish there were no churches, synagogues, or mosques. But I support the right for all religious believers to build them. I am juuuuust short of saying “it shouldn’t be allowed.” I’m saying that they should be allowed, but I wish didn’t exist and I hope and will actively work toward a future in which they don’t exist by persuading religious believers to stop believing in ridiculous holy books on insufficient evidence. Does this make me Islamaphobic?

  • Wild Rumpus

    Is it fair to paint everyone in a group with the same brush?

    I mean, there are plenty of nice people in the Ku Klux Klan. Should we defend the KKK because some of their members don’t hate anyone, they are just proud of their white heritage? Should we dismiss the the violent history, and the hateful literature of the KKK because some of the members just like belonging to a cultural group that reflects their community values?

    Or, should we condemn the KKK and everyone associated with it, regardless of whether they are cross burners or nice family people proud of their heritage? Do we villify all members of the KKK because their history is one of violence and hate, or do we accept the KKK as an acceptable cultural group whose members we embrace in our multicultural communities?

  • Marco Conti

    Very good post. Very insightful.

  • Bells

    Please feel free to correct me if I am just ignorant on this matter, but I think it is a huge understatement to simply say “easier said than done” when talking about changing over the Islamic theocracies into secular states. It is my understanding that Islam is both a religion and a political system, unlike Judaism and Christianity (render unto Caesar), so it would be nearly impossible to separate the two. We only see Muslims living in secular societies when they move to one.

    I also think that in an effort to be tolerant and PC, we are too willing to say that Islam does not have more dangerous ideas in it than Judaism or Christianity. Again, correct me if I’m wrong, but I really think it is possible to use the Koran to justify worse atrocities than you can justify with the Bible.

  • Marco Conti

    Why don’t we ask Muslims to outline for us how and when we can criticize them.

    I am yet to read a comment from a Muslim saying “Well, actually you do have a point.”
    No matter how the criticism is articulated and no matter what prompts it, it is always out of line and branded as “Islamophobic”.

    The truth is that any criticism of a religion will always have people screaming “Persecution”. That’s mostly because the various religions have been persecuting one another for millennia, it’s not like they don;t have a valid justification to be paranoid, but at the same time I feel we have a right to criticize all and any religion and it is impossible to criticize every single adherent individually. We have to generalize, I don’t see any other way.

    If I saw at least a few instances of Muslims or Christians actually taking the criticism into consideration, then I would be a bit more concerned about gross generalizations, but in reality they never do. All criticism is unwarranted and offensive to somebody.

    Sam Harris may be a bit tactless and Pat Condell borders on outright hate, but I have seen the most carefully worded critiques being slammed down and condemned as bigotry.

    How are we supposed to criticize them? Should we submit a request in triplicate to the various churches before we do?

  • RobMcCune

    Also the freedoms in the United States have changed quite a bit in 200 years, they don’t correlate at all with christianity.

  • John

    A quick reading of the Old Testament clearly shows God condoning or even commanding genocide, honor killing, and many of the other things people blame modern Islam for.

  • aoscott

    I would point out Ann Coulter endorses the idea of profiling “Muslim-looking people.” I know this is a logical fallacy, character assassination or something…but really, seems like it would make you pause.

    Harris was also against what was nastily called the Ground-Zero Mosque. I think Greenwald’s overall point is that there’s nothing wrong with pointing out the fucked up things people do in the name of religion, but that singling out Islam as the worst of them is leading him to justify all sorts of garbage.

    Whether Islam is the more violent or “poses the most threat” is a different debate. No one is saying that debate can’t or shouldn’t take place, in fact Greenwald expressly states it’s a good debate to have. The issue I see at least is that by taking this position, Harris is using it to justify Western aggression in the Middle East. Contrary to what most right AND left-wing pundits will tell you, they don’t hate us because of “our freedom” (lol) or because Islam by its nature causes this; they hate us because we fucking murder their children, we have killing machines constantly in their skies, we drop cluster bombs on them, we raid villages in the dead of the night, kidnapping people in their homes and off the streets, lock their fathers brothers and sons in prison or worse – because they have a name that sounds like someone else, or they may have worked with someone, or they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    Harris effectively justifies all of that as Western Liberation while condemning the barbaric Muslims.

  • Art_Vandelay

    I’m not saying that you’re wrong but can you name one?

  • RobMcCune

    Are religious buildings secretly symbols of dominance that show the triumph of their respective religion that will embolden the black hearts of it’s evil followers? Or is just mosques?

  • Doc

    One can criticize Islam and really any other religion without going as far as Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris have. Other commenters have pointed out how a frightening amount of what Harris says about Islam is more than just honest, rational criticism. He singles out Muslims and paints them broadly as being dogmatic and attempting to impose worldwide Sharia law, something that is not that case for a number of Muslims, including Muslims in the Middle East. Having spent a considerable amount of time in the Middle East and having a number of Muslim friends, I know that Muslims who fit the description Harris gives for them are a minority and are seen as being extremists.
    What worries me is that you felt the need to defend Sam Harris. As Atheists we should critically evaluate any statement, regardless of the source. Too many Atheists are as dogmatic about what Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris have written as religious people are about their holy books. We shouldn’t have to defend them; their views are their own and it is up to us to accept or reject them after viewing them critically. It’s time for Atheists to point out when prominent Atheists are wrong or are spouting nonsense; after all, they are only human and their words should carry no more weight or be any more free of criticism than those of the Pope or any other religious figure.

  • RobMcCune

    Plenty of christians and jews advocate that their religion specifies a specific political system, and have done so throughout history. Islam has about as much to say about government as the bible, and like the bible it’s had a limited impact on government over the centuries.

  • RobMcCune

    Hate to break it to you, but there are over a billion muslims in the world. If your analogy had any resemblance to reality, things would be a hell of a lot worse.

    What you are doing is the equivalent of treating all southern whites as KKK members.

  • alconnolly

    To true, and in addition if the tools of destruction were only slightly changed or obscured “the person is carrying lethal weapons with which he intends to kill and maim civilians whose viewpoints he does not know to further his goals” we would have no idea of the killers religion or creed. But since those of the Muslim viewpoint are at this time using a specific approach to the terrorist actions, it is easy to identify when clearly spelled out. But what weapons are being used is completely irrelevant to the atrociousness of the behavior, a behavior evinced by many faiths creeds and otherwise disturbed individuals.

  • chicago dyke

    Sam, so much has been spread around about this, i doubt you’ll get to this comment. i’m not a fan, nor a critic; i don’t have time to read every atheist out there and (nothing personal, man!) you’ve never made the cut. but i wanted to offer you some advice, cause this is the sort of blog/tweet war that never, ever ends well and you want to avoid them in the future if possible. GG is just like you in his own way, his Flying Monkeys will come after your Flying Monkeys and the wars will go on and on and on… (and say FM affectionately, it’s what we call each other as fans of the gay blog i read).

    anyway: just say “monotheism.” all monotheisms share the same set of problems, behaviors, extreme positions and acts. all of them are ethnically and racially diverse, as well as diverse in terms of education, class, and other metrics by which we can evaluate their population. there are christian bombers, jewish misogynists, islamic freethinkers, and “nones” in nations that are officially any of those religions, etc.

    Hemant suggests you’re ‘damned if you do’ either way with Islam, and i offer the example of the man, his son and the donkey as a comeback to that. but if you really care about pleasing the greatest number of people, just point out that all monotheistic defenders fail to properly criticize their particular extremists. ALL of them. all the time.

    in my opinion there’s no need or benefit to focusing on just one. i can walk and chew gum at the same time, and find it productive to continuously compare the similarities and ask the more important and encompassing question of “what it is about monotheism” instead of “what is it about xtianity” or what is it about islam?”

  • alconnolly

    I disagree strongly with Harris and the above article gave him way to easy a pass. The Greenwald article was compelling and well reasoned. However you seem to have gone to far in the other direction with this comment. The implication that Harris supports nuking without warning or provocation is ridiculous, I have read the quote and it is irresponsible, but your characterization of it is completely off base. On torture I also disagree with his position but your implication was also unfair. Your third point was legitemate through and through.

  • C Peterson

    Islam is no more a political system than Christianity or Judaism- both of which have functioned in that capacity historically. There are Islamic nations that are largely secular (such as Turkey). And Muslims who move to secular nations do just fine without any governmental component. I’d wager that the U.S. generates more homegrown Christian terrorists than it does Islamic ones.

    I don’t think there is anything in the Koran that makes it or Muslims more dangerous than the Bible or Christians. In fact, taken literally, the Bible is far more violent and dangerous than the Koran.

  • Bells

    I think items 4, 5, 8, 11, 20, 21, and 22 are unique to Islam.

  • Dangerous Talk

    That wasn’t what I was objecting to.

  • Bells

    I don’t know how I managed to stay a Christian for the first 19 years of my life, with all the horrors in the OT. I think for the most part I was ignorant of the OT since, of course, it never occurred to me to actually read the Bible and I was only exposed to the nice, cherry-picked parts my church presented me with.

    But in any case, in the OT, God specifically tells his chosen people to kill certain towns or people. I don’t think there is a blanket command to take over places, though, which I think is the difference between Judaism & Christianity versus Islam.

  • chicago dyke

    it occurs to me that you may not know the fable, but it’s a great parable for internet writers:

    A man, his wife and his son live on a farm far from town. after harvest, the wife says to the man: take these fruits from our farm to market in town and sell them, and buy goods for the winter with the money, and come home. take the donkey to carry them for you.

    the man and son pack up the donkey with the harvest fruits and set off on the road to the town. on the way, they pass two nuns, who say, “shameful! boy, how can you let your tired old father walk, while there’s a donkey to carry him and your strong back to lift a few packs so there’s room for him on the donkey’s back? how lazy and disrespectful a boy you must be!” so the boy removes two packs and shoulders them, and the man sits atop the donkey and they return on their journey.

    later, they pass two priests. “Clearly, this one didn’t listen to the lesson of Christ. “Suffer the little children” did not mean, “make children suffer, you old sinner! Think of how tired that poor child must be, carrying two packs while your ride like a lord in luxury over him.” So the man stops the donkey, raises his son upon it, and shoulders the packs on its rump. Then they return on their journey.

    A short while later they pass a troupe of singers and actors, gaily adorned and singing and juggling their way along the road. One actor, tall and stern, steps in front of the man and his son and says, “Oh, how cruel they must be in this land! to burden a poor beast with packs and men, the road so long to town! Come, let us pass by this region, for we shall surely make no coin should we perform for such miserly folk.” And the troupe giggles and flounces away, leaving the man and his son sad, for they had never seen a show.

    They resolve to be prepared in case they meet another troupe along the way. So they dismount and remove all the packs from the donkey, and shoulder the burden themselves. Then, they take a long pole, and tie the donkey’s feet to the pole. the hoist the donkey on the pole on their shoulders, and struggle towards the bridge into town, which is not much further. They can hear the sounds of the town and think, “surely a troupe or musicians will see us, and perform for us, and the nuns and monks will be pleased by our intelligent and generous solution, and bless us!”

    but as they step onto the bridge, the donkey, being afraid of water, begins to bray and kick, and the man and son lose control. the donkey’s feet remain tied, and it slips over the side of the bridge and falls to the water, where it drowns. because they had used the same rope to hold the donkey to secure their packs, they lost most of those too. The people of the town, looking on at the spectacle, laughed and shouted and said “let us remember these humble faces, for anyone so foolish as to carry a donkey with their goods into market must be too foolish to sell anything worth buying!”

    The man and his son returned homeward, with nothing.

  • Claude

    Sam Harris is a paranoid, self defense and gun nut neocon battling the barbarians at the gate. He’s the last guy I’d go to for insight on Islam. Someone like Robert A. Pape has better to offer:

    New research provides strong evidence that suicide terrorism such as that of 9/11 is particularly sensitive to foreign military occupation, and not Islamic fundamentalism or any ideology independent of this crucial circumstance. Although this pattern began to emerge in the 1980s and 1990s, a wealth of new data presents a powerful picture.

    More than 95 percent of all suicide attacks are in response to foreign occupation, according to extensive research that we conducted at the University of Chicago’s Project on Security and Terrorism, where we examined every one of the over 2,200 suicide attacks across the world from 1980 to the present day.

  • Blacksheep

    No Christian that I know “wishes” they could react just as violently. Our book tells us to behave just the opposite of that.

  • Lori F – MN

    How can people Not criticize Islam when someone who is handed a business card with the name on the card being Mohammed something-or-other and they toss it into the trash, they are accused of a hate crime? If ‘defiling’ the name Mohammed is so grave a crime, then I would expect no son be called by such a name or have extra punishment against criminals with that name. After all, if your name is Mohammed, or one of the 100 or so diminutives, you have defiled your name and the name of the prophet with your convicted crime.

  • Blacksheep

    I disagree – the Koran makes statements about humans taking vengeance into their own hands, and punishing infidels, etc. The NT says no such thing – any punishment spoken about is always at the hand of God, while we are intructed to br tolerant, non-judgemental, and kind to our enemies. That distinction alone makes Islam far more dangerous than Christianity.

  • Blacksheep

    “I really think it is possible to use the Koran to justify worse atrocities than you can justify with the Bible.”

    - That’s 100% correct. It was main takeaway the first time I read it. For example:

    Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them”

    Quran (2:191-193) – “And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution [of Muslims] is worse than slaughter [of non-believers]…

    Quran (2:216) – “Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.”

    Quran (4:74) – “Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.”

  • Bells

    “Islam is no more a political system than Christianity or Judaism” – I’m just not so sure I agree with that. It seems to me that you are making a false equivalence between religions that have established theocracies and religious doctrines that call for it.

    “I’d wager that the U.S. generates more homegrown Christian terrorists than it does Islamic ones.” – Firstly, about 78% of the US population is Christian, whereas only 0.6% are Muslim (, so of course there will be more Christian terrorists than Muslims. I think it is also important to distinguish between the motivations behind the terrorism. If we are to compare the number of Christian terrorists to the number of Muslim ones (in the US), we have to make sure we are comparing apples to apples, and only count those that commit the acts of terrorism in the name of their religion (so, for example, the recent Sandy Hook incident would not be classified as an act of Christian terrorism since it was not done in the name of Christianity).

  • Blacksheep

    Think of it this way – the original followers of Christ were Jewish, and they only had the Old Testament. To them, Christ’s message was “Good News” – and in stark contrast to the OT.

  • Blacksheep

    I’m not a republican – and I don’t like Dick Cheney – but those first three statements are fairly accurate, albeit obnoxious. One doesn’t always have to shoot the messenger!

  • Blacksheep

    Abrahamic religions are the foundation of western societal principles.

  • RobMcCune

    Harris’ reason’s for opposing the proposed community center that includes the mosque had many of the same talking points as Fox pundits and Pam Geller. Ian’s point was that Harris echoed the thinking of people Hemant called real islamophobes even though he came to a different conclusion about whether the government should allow it to be built.

    Whether Harris came down on the side of freedom or not is irrelevant to whether or not his objections are islamophobic. It’s his reasons for disliking the project that paints muslims with a broad brush, and views the mere existence of the building as a sign of weakness to our enemies.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Actually, Jesus reiterates throughout the NT that all of the “Old Laws” or “The Laws of Moses” are still completely valid and in effect. If you’re only reading the bible so you can cherry pick any words attributed to Jesus, why wouldn’t you honor the OT?

    Then there’s that Trinity thing which certainly implies that Jesus and Yahweh are the same cat, anyway.

  • Art_Vandelay

    But that’s comparing modern day doctrine, not holy books. As CP points out, Islam hasn’t been infected by humanistic and secular ideas the way that Christianity has and that’s precisely what makes it more dangerous. There’s no divinely mandated ideas in the Koran that can’t be just as easily justified with a Bible.

  • RobMcCune

    I’ll admit I phrased 1 badly. As I understand it Harris’ position is that if an Islamic fundamentalist government develops the capacity to launch a nuclear weapon at the US (or presumably any country with the capability to launch nuclear weapons at said country) and we are sure they will launch on us then the best option is to nuke them first. A big part of his reasoning is that deterrence won’t work against people who think they will go to heaven anyway. Needless to say I don’t buy this us or them rhetoric. It is impossible to know the true intentions of the county in question, so any real world application of this policy is a preemptive nuclear strike based on fear and guesswork.

    A general objection I have to Harris’ arguments about this stuff is when he comes under scrutiny he always says he’s misinterpreted. Furthermore he elaborates making his scenarios become extremely specific (or in the case of profiling extremely broad) to try to eliminate objections. My interpretation is that Sam Harris has two positions these issues, his position, and his position when he gets called out.

  • Blacksheep

    Sorry, let me clarify. Yes – the old laws are in effect – but Christ came to fulfill them with his death, which would not have been necessary if the laws of Moses were not completely valid and if effect.

    Everything changed with Christ, and Christians don’t follow Christianity because they love Mosaic law, they follow it because they love Christ. That’s our leader, and he taught tolerance, peace, non-judgemental behavior, and love – even to enemies. The NT is radically different from the Koran in that way.

  • Blacksheep

    “And Jesus answering said unto them, Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s”

  • yohocoma

    The extreme violence of Judaism and Christianity disappeared when states ceased to be Jewish or Christian.

    The US is the prime example of a modern nation with Christian cultural roots which practices extreme violence around the world. It is surely the most violent nation in existence, by far, both in terms of casualties it causes (through military and corporate plunder) and in terms of overall misery it creates for people globally (increased wealth imbalance, environmental destruction, toxic ideologies of capitalism and endless growth, etc.). US official culture/government is more secular now than in the past. I’m not seeing what you’re seeing.

    I.e., I don’t think religion is the dominant factor in cultural behavior. Power and wealth are.

    But most countries with substantially Islamic populations remain
    theocracies, meaning that what constitutes legal behavior is defined by
    religion. So like the Jewish state of 2500 years ago, or the Christian
    states of 1000 years ago, they are brutal and savage.

    Ask yourself why the US wasn’t, for the most part, in a gigantic cultural conflict with Muslim nations 30, 40, or 50 years ago, on the scale we are today. Ask yourself why Muslims weren’t blowing themselves up trying to kill Westerners 50 years ago, like they are today. Muslim nations, including theocracies, have existed for many centuries, yet it is in today’s world that we have the “Islam is evil” meme taking such strong hold, even among the intellectuals.

    Are you truly willing to paint entire states as “brutal and savage”, without examining the power relations between those states and other, more powerful states? Don’t you think you’re dipping your feet into the same cesspool that Harris has, by thinking this way?

  • Claude


  • Blacksheep

    You can’t find a NT scripture that justifies killing someone – especially killing someone just because they have different beliefs. In the Koran, it’s easy to find. The Koran literally and specifically says to kill, maim, and destroy people for various reasons – Christianity teaches the opposite. Sure, one could extrapolate anything – but seeing it in print is much scarier.

  • Blacksheep

    Yes. And then Christ came and said things like:

    “21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”

  • RobMcCune

    And this has what to do with the history of christianity and it’s influence on government?

  • John

    “That’s our leader, and he taught tolerance, peace, non-judgemental behavior, and love – even to enemies.”

    And they sure did a good job of that with the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch hunts, and all the other atrocities that happened when Christians wielded absolute political power (just look at the shit people are trying to pull in places like Uganda even today).

  • RobMcCune

    Exactly, the major religions have had many different culture practices and understandings of their moral codes throughout the different centuries and cultures they existed in. Saying this stuff is the true essence of religion is cherry picking.

  • Art_Vandelay

    And as a Godless, apostate, heathen who is 99.99% sure that Jesus didn’t die for my sins and 80% sure that he never even existed as a man…what exactly does your tolerant, peaceful, non-judgmental Messiah have in store for me?

  • yohocoma

    Yes, this is exactly what it’s all about.

  • MNb

    @Jerry Coyne: “If there is Islamophobia in any meaningful sense, it’s not something practiced by New Atheists.”
    As I got banned by him for criticizing stuff like this (I admit it at once: I was not friendly) I will do it here.

    “those who hurl charges of “Islamophobia” never define it”
    I am tempted to call JAC a liar here. I posted twice a clear definition of islamophobia on his site. It’s really simple.
    Islamophobia is irrational fear of muslims. You link to a few excellent examples. Quite a few Dutch atheists vote on the islamophobe politician Geert Wilders, who also wanted muslims to be deported. So yes, atheists can be islamophobes and I don’t see why New Atheists can’t. JAC himself has some tendencies in that direction.

  • MNb

    “I really think it is possible to use the Koran to justify worse atrocities than you can justify with the Bible.”
    Empirical data prove you wrong, unless you pull off a No True Christian. A certain German politician did not have any problem using the Bible to justify one of the biggest crimes in human history.

  • Kevin Kirkpatrick

    No first grader I know “wishes” they could just run around and play all day. The rules on the wall tell them to behave just the opposite of that.

    Less snarky: Do you know the Christian/actor “Kirk Cameron” by chance? If so, your statement is refuted.

    Let me introduce you to what some “wishes” Christians expressed with respect to atheist High schooler Jessica Ahlquist:

    Let’s all jump that girl who did the banner #fuckthatho”

    “I want to punch the girl in the face that made west take down the school prayer… #Honestly”

    “hail Mary full of grace @jessicaahlquist is gonna get punched in the face”

    “Fuck Jessica alquist I’ll drop anchor on her face”

    “lol I wanna stick that bitch lol”

    “We can make so many jokes about this dumb bitch, but who cares #thatbitchisgointohell and Satan is gonna rape her.”

    “Brb ima go drown that atheist in holy water”

    “”But for real somebody should jump this girl” lmao let’s do it!”

    “shes not human shes garbage”

    “wen the atheist dies, they believe they will become a tree, so we shld chop her down, turn her into paper then PRINT THE BIBLE ON HER.”

    “May that little, evil athiest teenage girl and that judge BURN IN HELL!”

    “definetly laying it down on this athiest tommorow anyone else?”

    “yeah, well i want the immediate removal of all atheists from the school, how about that?”

    “If this banner comes down, hell i hope the school burns down with it!”

    “U little brainless idiot, hope u will be punished, you have not win sh..t! Stupid little brainless skunk!”

    “Nothing bad better happen tomorrow #justsaying #fridaythe13th”

    “How does it feel to be the most hated person in RI right now? Your a puke and a disgrace to the human race.”

    “I think everyone should just fight this girl”

    “I hope there’s lots of banners in hell when your rotting in there you atheist fuck #TeamJesus”

    “literally that bitch is insane. and the best part is she already transferred schools because shes knows someone will jump her #ahaha”

    “Hmm jess is in my bio class, she’s gonna get some shit thrown at her”

    “gods going to fuck your ass with that banner you scumbag”

    “I found it, what a little bitch lol I wanna snuff her”

    “if I wasn’t 18 and wouldn’t go to jail I’d beat the shit out of her idk how she got away with not getting beat up yet”

    “nail her to a cross”

    “When I take over the world I’m going to do a holocaust to all the atheists”

  • Bells

    I agree that MOST of the differences between Islam and Christianity nowadays are due to the fact that Christianity has been influenced by secular ideas, but I still find it hard to believe that at their core, in their purest form, that they are both EQUALLY evil.

    Both the Bible and the Koran have plenty of evil in them, so maybe to some extent it doesn’t matter since the secularization of one has calmed it down so much more, but what are the odds of 2 ideologies being exactly, perfectly, equal in the evils of their doctrines, and why are we so reluctant to acknowledge this?

  • C Peterson

    In comparison to many animals, humans are not all that violent. The U.S. does many things I disagree with, but I wouldn’t characterize it as particularly violent, and for the most part, what violence it commits is not driven by religious fervor. I don’t think anybody is suggesting that religion is the only source of violent behavior, but it’s certainly a potent one.

    Islamic states haven’t changed their ideals in recent decades. They’ve simply become wealthy enough to have some teeth (although not very big teeth, in my opinion. I don’t personally consider Islamic states or Islam itself to constitute much of a threat.)

  • C Peterson

    I fail to see how it matters who makes the decision to be violent. The Old Testament (which was not replaced by the New Testament) is full of people committing genocide because their god told them to. That’s no better (indeed, I’d argue it’s worse) than rules advocating people make this choice for themselves. Whatever the NT says, modern Christians overwhelmingly fall back on the OT to justify hate and oppression, and NT ideas enable bad behavior through the dogma of forgiveness by proxy.

    Personally, I’d feel safer around a legally unconstrained Muslim than around a legally unconstrained Christian who was unconditioned by modern society to be gentle.

  • Carmelita Spats

    Baloney…Jesus approved of his Father’s command that children who curse their parents are to be put to death (Matthew 15:3-4). Jesus chastised the Pharisees for failing to kill those children who defied their parents’ commands (Mark 7:9-13). Jesus told us we are to live our lives in fear of God for God has the power not only to kill us, but to torture us forever in Hell (Luke 12:5). Jesus never contradicted his Father’s word.

  • The Other Weirdo

    I know there is supposed to be a profound point in all that, but all I got from it was… men shouldn’t listen to women or priests.

  • Al

    There have been Christian suicide bombers: The PFLP in Palestine, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon have had Christian bombers. Going back a little further, The Luftwaffe also used suicide squads. Interestingly, American captain Richard Somers of the US Navy who in Sept of 1804, strapped bombs onto his ship and drove it into a harbor in Tripoli(now Libya). Unfortunately for him, as it often happens, the bomb wentoff prematurely. Since then, the US Navy has named six ships in Somers’ honor. Talk about a culture of suicide and martyrdom!

  • McAtheist

    “….he taught tolerance, peace, non-judgemental behavior, and love – even to enemies.” So, he was kind of like Gandhi?

  • Pseudonym

    I agree that there’s nothing wrong with criticizing Islam. The flaw I see in most arguments, however, is in treating Islam as if it’s somehow unique in the sort of behavior it produces.

    True enough, but this line of thinking doesn’t go anywhere near far enough.

    First off, deconstructing Harris’ hypothetical, we can also make some a pretty safe bets about where in the world the event didn’t happen. I would bet a large amount of money that the suicide attack on a bus didn’t happen in Turkey, or Morocco, or Malaysia, or Iran.

    Hell, I’d even bet that it didn’t happen in Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, despite there having been a small number of suicide attacks there. No Indonesian would attack a bus. Clearly this isn’t about Islam specifically.

    Now here’s another Harris-like hypothetical scenario: A man, armed with multiple high-powered guns, enters a school and fires on children and teachers, killing several, before he turns the gun on himself. Why is it so easy, so trivially easy — you-could-almost-bet-your-life-on-it easy — to guess the man’s nationality, his skin colour, and where in the world this event happened?

    If you were European, I could spin you a tale of someone involved in organised crime which didn’t mention race or ethnicity, but the picture in your mind would instantly be that the person was Romani. But I won’t, because you get the point.

    There are three points I want to make about this.

    The first is that there’s nothing special about Islam, but there’s also nothing special about religion. On one hand, there is no shortage of atrocities where religion clearly wasn’t the primary factor. On the other hand, there is no shortage of atrocity-free religion.

    As has been pointed out many, many times, the “war on terror” (the only example in living memory of torture and extrajudicial execution becoming the officially stated policies of a government, and a democratic one at that), was conducted in the name of “freedom” and “security”. That kind of corruption needs to be pointed out just as much as the corruption in institutionalised religion.

    The second point is that the reason why Harris’ hypothetical works is that one of the key things about the human mind which cognitive scientists have discovered is that we think in stereotypes.

    If I tell you that I saw a car which ran into a ditch, you have already pictured the road (it’s probably rural), the time of day (probably night, not full moon), the road conditions, the weather, the driver, and even the colour of the car. As I fill in more details of the story, your picture will be altered. Nonetheless, you’ve filled in all those details because that’s the way your mind works.

    Almost all stereotypes are based on a grain of truth, even the most horribly bigoted ones. Yes, even the dumb stereotypes that evangelicals have about atheists. But almost all stereotypes are deeply wrong, and we must hold them up to the harshest scrutiny.

    The third point, and perhaps the most important, is that in a very real sense, the modern trend for suicide attacks was inevitable and completely predictable, using evolution alone.

    Suicide attacks have occurred throughout history. They happened in antiquity, they happened in World War 2, they happened in Sri Lanka, and they happen around once a month in the United States by nutters armed to the teeth with high-powered firearms. There’s nothing really unusual about it.

    One of the reasons why the Cold War never erupted into a global war directly between superpowers was the notion of mutually assured destruction. Both the US and the USSR could destroy each other’s population with the push of a few buttons.

    With the end of the Cold War, the only superpower left in the world still retained this power of death on anyone who would challenge it. It was inevitable that an opposition would arise which didn’t own land which could be invaded, and, most importantly, which didn’t fear death.

    Think about that for a moment. It had to happen. No country was going to do it, because they have land which the US could attack if necessary, and besides, trade is good. There is only one niche which a new opposition group could fill, and it was inevitable that a group would evolve which would fill it.

    That it happened in the Wahhabi-influenced world is largely an accident of history; they happen to be the ones who are cashed-up thanks to the global demand for oil, and sufficiently pissed off at the United States (and the USSR, but they were for all intents and purposes gone) for throwing its weight around and chewing up and spitting out the developing world.

    That’s what bugs me about the insistence on focussing on Islam, or even religion. It is unbelievably wrongheaded, incredibly dumb and misses the big picture by about as wide a mark as it’s possible to miss a big picture.

    TL;DR: Harris may not be Islamophobic, but he is ignorant and an embarrassment. But you knew that already.

  • Pseudonym

    In comparison to many animals, humans are not all that violent.

    I’m sure you didn’t count industrialised meat production as being “violent”. I wouldn’t either, but then I’d extend the same courtesy to other animals by not describing the mere act of obtaining food as “violent”.

    I was also going to make a point about whether or not pest control counts as “violent”, but we could be at this all day.

  • Al

    That sounds like Jerry Coyne alright.

  • Pseudonym

    It is possible? I guess. So many conspiracy theories are based on what’s possible. It’s possible that there was a huge cover-up about 9/11, and every single official report and expert opinion is part of the conspiracy.

    Lots of things are possible. Why are the overwhelming majority of Muslims not violent?

  • Pseudonym

    Islam actually has more to say about government than Christianity, because of their histories.

    Christianity was originally a deeply personal religion, not tied to a single ethnic group or state.

    Islam, on the other hand, originally a religion of liberation, bringing a code of ethics, a code of laws and a new tradition of jurisprudence to a previously barbaric land.

  • Feminerd

    I disagree.

    “Next we headed for the land of Bashan, where King Og and his army attacked us at Edrei. But the LORD told me, ‘Do not be afraid of him, for I have given you victory over Og and his army, giving you his entire land. Treat him just as you treated King Sihon of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon.’ So the LORD our God handed King Og and all his people over to us, and we killed them all. We conquered all sixty of his towns, the entire Argob region in his kingdom of Bashan. These were all fortified cities with high walls and barred gates. We also took many unwalled villages at the same time. We completely destroyed the kingdom of Bashan, just as we had destroyed King Sihon of Heshbon. We destroyed all the people in every town we conquered – men, women, and children alike. But we kept all the livestock for ourselves and took plunder from all the towns.” Deuteronomy 3:1-7

    When the people heard the sound of the horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the city from every side and captured it. They completely destroyed everything in it – men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, donkeys – everything. Joshua 6:20-21

    When the Israelite army finished killing all the men outside the city, they went back and finished off everyone inside. So the entire population of Ai was wiped out that day – twelve thousand in all. For Joshua kept holding out his spear until everyone who had lived in Ai was completely destroyed. Only the cattle and the treasures of the city were not destroyed, for the Israelites kept these for themselves, as the LORD had commanded Joshua. Joshua 8:25ish-29

    So they sent twelve thousand warriors to Jabesh-gilead with orders to kill everyone there, including women and children. “This is what you are to do,” they said. “Completely destroy all the males and every woman who is not a virgin.” Among the residents of Jabesh-gilead they found four hundred young virgins who had never slept with a man, and they brought them to the camp at Shiloh in the land of Canaan. Judges 21:10-15ish

    “As soon as Jehu had finished sacrificing the burnt offering, he commanded his guards and officers, “Go in and kill all of them. Don’t let a single one escape!” So they killed them all with their swords, and the guards and officers dragged their bodies outside. Then Jehu’s men went into the fortress of the temple of Baal. They dragged out the sacred pillar used in the worship of Baal and destroyed it. They broke down the sacred pillar of Baal and wrecked the temple of Baal, converting it into a public toilet. That is what it is used for to this day.” 2 Kings 10:24ish-27

  • 3lemenope

    Domesticated Christians bark instead of bite.

  • Pseudonym

    Sam Harris has consistently failed to criticise gun nuts. There’s a lot of this going around, and there’s no reason to single out monotheism.

  • Pseudonym

    Or actors.

  • Feminerd

    Bahahahaha! No. Jesus doesn’t fulfill any prophecies from the OT. Not a single one. Jesus is also a-ok with killing disobedient children and sending people to hell, according to your own book. He also advocates people abandoning their families to be with him and hates, hates, HATES sex. Hates it with a fiery burning passion. He’s also somewhat anti-Semitic, which doesn’t make a lot of sense as he was Jewish, but oh well. He was also supposed to come back in the lifetime of the people writing the NT, which was ~2,000 years ago. Didn’t happen.

    Then again, that’s what happens when a bunch of dudes get together ~70-150 years after the events they’re writing about and make up a mythic birth story for a messiah they’d never actually met.

    EDIT: Yes, this is harsh. Probably overly harsh, but I get so damned tired of Christians misapplying the OT. If you claim the OT as your holy books, claim them and own their horribleness! If you don’t, then don’t point to them for anything. The Quran has some beautiful philosophy on peace as well, but Islam, like Christianity, is so intertwined between the good stuff and the bad stuff that you simply can’t separate them out. Just chuck the whole mess and be done with it.

  • C Peterson

    Of course, in this context, “violence” is intraspecies.

  • 3lemenope

    “Let me explain. No, there is too much; let me sum up.” :)

    I agree with you. We tend to focus too much on idiosyncrasies of the current iteration of a phenomenon, which obscures (occasionally I think intentionally) the similarities between iterations. We do this because, as you note, we think in categories, which we use to valuate and distinguish between otherwise similar things. Accentuating the distinctions is an important mental tool for thinking about a phenomenon, but it should be remembered that it itself is an intentional distortion of how much the phenomenon stands apart from the background.

  • Pseudonym

    That makes a bit more sense. I’d like to see some numbers to justify the claim, though.

  • Feminerd

    The Enlightenment is the foundation of western societal principles. It was a reaction against Christian principles.

  • 3lemenope

    I think the reluctance is less to do with the (probably correct) notion that when you put two ideologies side by side and evaluate them, they are unlikely to come out as equal in all things, and more to do with the simple fact that no sane person is arrogant enough to actually believe they have the data, experience, and ability necessary to definitively make the judgment call among these two in particular.

  • 3lemenope

    Consciously? Probably very few. But I daresay Nietzsche was onto something with that there ressentiment. Often what moves people is a mystery even to them, but I would suggest that it is hard to imagine a people restrained from venting their frustration at antagonists view another similar people not so restrained, and not be a teensy bit jealous.

  • Pseudonym

    You could always use the word “bigotry”. It’s all-encompassing.

  • wmdkitty

    I ain’t saying “nuke them”, or that any country is “too dangerous to exist”, but a credible case can be made for scrutinizing (with an intense scrute!) certain countries based on recent saber-rattling and noise-making by the leaders of those countries. You know, you’re gonna ignore the quiet guy in the corner, and pay attention to the fucker standing on the bar, waving a machete, and screaming, “I’m gonna kill you all!”

    I find torture highly distasteful, and have to agree that it is unethical and inhumane. I also agree that all people are entitled to due process. However, there are also some people who — because they cannot or refuse to be rehabilitated — need to be kept away from society for reasons of safety.

    As for this last one… what. Not all criminals or terrorists are visibly distinguishable from John or Jane Random Citizen. In fact, it benefits them to fit in with the rest of society. Instead of assuming a person is “up to something” because of a non-specific characteristic (rather than a distinct action or statement of intent to commit a crime) that is shared by a non-negligible portion of the population, one should base suspicions on actions and behavior. (And no, being non-white does not count as “suspicious”.) TL;DR: Profiling based on race or religion is a Bad Thing.

  • Pseudonym

    We can argue about this backwards and forwards, but let’s just say that you’ve made a statement that’s controversial and difficult to justify. The Enlightenment was, in a very real sense, a natural consequence of the Protestant Reformation, in the sense that denying the divine right of popes inevitably led to denying the divine right of kings, and a general questioning of authority.

  • Pseudonym

    Serious question: Does that happen a lot?

    Note that this is not the same question as “did it ever happen”.

  • A Guy Who Can Read

    So then you concede Harris’s *real* Islamophobia since he opposed the “Ground Zero Mosque”? Glad that’s all cleared up. Keep up the work!

  • TheBubrub

    Great article. Ignore the trolls. My favorite Harris quote:

    “There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable”

  • TheBubrub

    Yes, anyone can be anything. I’m sure there are also at least a couple of fire-fighters who are secretly arsonists. And every once in a while, a cop goes crazy and starts shooting civilians. Do you see where I am going with this?

    Anyway, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins do not fit the definition of having an “irrational fear of muslims.”

  • Gus Snarp

    Not women, nuns.

  • C Peterson

    Google “violence in primates”. There has been quite a lot of interesting work in this area in recent years, demonstrating a wide range of violent behavior, with humans in the middle somewhere.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Wow. They must have had too much wine at the Council of Nicaea that day.

  • TychaBrahe

    Most Islamic terrorists are also young (18-45) males. Why is acknowledging that not ageist or sexist?

  • Thegoodman

    “Arguing semantics misses the point.”

    Imagine if a 19 yr old spent 6 months in the county jail for Statutory Rape with his 17 yr old girlfriend. Then when he gets out he is labeled a sex offender (technically, he is). Then in casual conversation you refer to him as a child molester. Then when he corrects you, you claim he is “arguing semantics”.

    Being called a racist is a big deal. Don’t pretend that Racism = Islamophobia, they are entirely different.

  • Thegoodman

    “Call it Islamophobia and…” you have described it correctly.

  • Thegoodman

    That is not a logical conclusion. Many people of color in the US are terrified of Islam and have an irrational fear of Muslims.

    Islamophobia is the word. Pretending that it is the same as racism will turn the conversation in the wrong direction, since race is not the point.

  • Gus Snarp

    Oh good, that simplifies things.

  • alconnolly

    Romans one lists a whole slew of “thought and minor action “crimes” and finishes “knowing that they that do such things are worthy of death” sort of justifies killing if they are worthy of death doesn’t it?

  • Eric Bradley

    It takes a lot of cognitive dissonance to say that someone who advocates racial profiling is not a bigot. “He’s just being practical” give me a break.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Prove your statements about Jesus. I wager you can’t.

  • Rwlawoffice

    So let me understand, you reject Jesus and His teachings and its His fault? Would you blame the police for sending you to jail for breaking the law? Would you blame your teacher for sending you to the Principal when you rejected her teachings? The only people that do that are those that don’t accept responsibility for their own actions.

  • Art_Vandelay

    Wow. Do you have to work hard at being that vile of a human being or does it just come naturally to you?

  • Rwlawoffice

    I suspected you would avoid the question.

  • Feminerd

    Of course I can’t. There’s extremely slim to no evidence the man ever existed, let alone that he did a bunch of miracles. You’re asking me to prove a negative. What I am saying is there were prophecies made in the NT that (obviously) didn’t happen, which makes using the NT as a book of prophecy pretty silly. My point was that there are verses in the NT that support killing disobedient children, Hell, anti-sex, misogyny, and anti-Semitism. That’s not a good basis for any “religion of peace”.

  • Feminerd

    Oooh, I can play this game. I’m the actual next Messiah. Proof? I don’t need proof! I made a claim! I wrote a blog post about it too, which totally counts as ‘written word’. I command my faithful followers to live life to the fullest and stop giving a damn about an imaginary afterlife. In return, I’ll make their lives deliriously happy and they’ll all be rich and have the family life they want and love their jobs.

    What, you don’t believe me? Well then, it’s your fault your life is miserable. I can only make my followers happy. Why are you rejecting responsibility for your own actions; you could always choose to believe in Me.

  • Pseudonym

    Richard Dawkins does not fit the definition, but Sam Harris may.

    Harris may not personally have an irrational fear of Muslims, but he certainly does his darnedest to instil it in others.

  • 3lemenope

    I’d say, rather than instilling fear of Muslims in others, that it would be more accurate to say that he provides reasonable-sounding arguments that attempt to justify the pragmatic steps for acting upon pre-existing fears.

  • timberwraith

    Many people of color in the US are terrified of Islam and have an irrational fear of Muslims.

    I’ve seen black people manifest antisemitism. I’ve seen Asian people manifest hatred toward black people. I had an atheist Iranian friend speak of his dislike for black people. Being a member of one oppressed ethnicity/culture/race/religion does not preclude the ability to manifest prejudice against another oppressed ethnicity/culture/race/religion.

    In fact, I’ve seen members of nearly any oppressed group I can think of manifest some sort of prejudice against members of another hated/disempowered group. Sometimes in real life and sometimes on the internet. Sadly, hatred and prejudice know know color, creed, nationality, or religion. It is a universally shared flaw.

  • timberwraith

    You may, of course, generalize what I have said to atheists, as well.

    And I have to agree with Ewan. Direct, outwardly expressed racism is so frowned upon in US culture (and other cultures, as well), that regardless of the ethnic/racial membership of the bigot in question, using the cover of religion as an avenue to express racism is not at all far fetched. And as I mentioned above, racial/ethnic bigotry, whether expressed overtly or covertly is certainly not limited to the words of people who inhabit the dominant race/ethnicity of a culture.

  • Pseudonym

    If you’re just concentrating on primates, then you have a point. But I think it’d be hard to argue that humans are less violent on the whole than, say, insects.

  • Pseudonym

    That’s fair.

  • T.L. Winslow

    The term Islamophobia was invented by the Muslims to shut critics up. It was eagerly adopted by Western leftists for the same reason, because they rightly believe that Islam introduced to the West they hate so much will weaken it. If you love freedom, therefore, never shut up. Islam is the world’s most intolerant and supremacist religion, proclaiming that it has the absolute truth and everybody else has no rights next to them. It’s way worse than Christianity or Judaism because the former’s founder never taught jihad by Christians, and the latter’s founder only taught Jews to conquer one small area. Islam’s founder from day one called for the whole world to be conquered. The West has been ostriching about its resurgence, but for 3 years I’ve been running a blog for the serious linking to every article of importance worldwide daily, which is now over 50K posts, called the Historyscoper’s Islam Watch Blog. Got the guts? Try it.

  • Anti Harris

    I don’t think you could eliminate Muslims fast enough to keep Harris happy.

    Face it. He hates Muslims with a passion. No doubt about it.
    His latest screed on guns didn’t help…and his position on torture an profiling is beyond the pale.

  • Anti Harris

    Wow! Hate Jews much?

  • MJ

    Islamophobia simply does not exist for rational fear is not a phobia.


    If a cultural codex such as the Nazis Mein Kampf , Christain Bible, Muslim Quran, … whatever cultural codex, consistently informs within the variance of derived adherents behavior terror against Other and subjugation of woman particularly as the political power of such a construct increases then the fear of such an entity is rational on the part of Other and woman – it would be irrational to be otherwise.

    Is it the case Islam does not now or never has consistently informed terror against Other and subjugation of woman to mans will particularly when it obtains political power?

    Everyday since the seventh century empirical observation informs humanity genocidal constructs of Other lead irrevocably to terror against Other. Islamic text informs a genocidal construct against Other – the empirical proof – torn bodies each and every day.

    Just having witnessed a Muslim woman covered in black cloth being led by her master-and observing the outcomes this ethic is informing when Islam obtains sufficient political power means woman should not have a rational fear as to the consequences of Islam?

    The ethics which inform French school children being run down and shot and Thailand teachers being murdered and Church’s forced to close in Indonesia and ….. does not inform a rational fear? How many died today torn apart by Islamic codex?

    How many victims everyday since Mohammed poked his hearing voices head out of the cave?

    Islam is only a reality if Humanity allows it to be so to its own terrible detriment. Fear yes, justified yes, rational yes. How many more Muslims victims do you want?

    Islamophobia simply does not exist for rational fear is not a phobia.

    To say Islamophobia exists is irrational.

  • stormchaser1983

    get back to me when islamic states stop buring women children and homosexuals etc etc then we ll take up your valid points

  • + Yvonne Aburrow

    er, a close reading of the Bible does not support the doctrine of the Trinity. However, since Michael Servetus got burnt at the stake for pointing this out, it has been brushed under the carpet in most Christian theology.

  • joe smith

    “they wish”? who is “they” exactly? and when did mind-readers start posting here?

  • Michael Aune

    Very well said. I think it is far to easy for people to dismiss things once you categorize an argument or stance as “racist” or otherwise “phobic” and every effort needs to be made by the active atheist community to prevent others from defining our positions for us.

  • TheBubrub

    I disagree somewhat. I find his arguments to be *reasonable* and not just “reasonable-sounding.” That being said – Yes, some people, perhaps right-leaning politicians, may use his arguments as a cover to perform actions that are unjustifiable. And? If someone misuses Sam’s reasoning, the blame falls squarely on the misuser. It’s like blaming the inventor of the computer for the later creation of computer viruses by others.

    There are certainly pre-existing fears. But such fears are irrelevant to the rationality of an argument.

  • juliapr

    Moral equivalency here is both lazy and, in the end, untrue. Hasidic violence? I’d prefer that to being near an English pub on a Saturday night! There are a few factual concerns here too; around 2,500 years ago Judea and Sumeria were under Persian (Iranian) occupation and there was no Jewish state. When there was a Judean state, it was no more a theocracy than modern Britain (technically a Christian state whose Queen is on the throne by divine right;) the system of priests and king were accountable (not the case again for 1500+ years.) Its legal system stated ONLY an eye for an eye (not how the Christians interpreted it) and the law was enforced in open courts. The death penalty (by stoning) was incredibly rare. The education system was universal. These were standards of civilisation that took centuries for the West to reach. Oh, and one god? The idea was that all people were the same and no
    one’s god was better than any other. Good idea, huh? It stuck around
    except a few people claim the one god is theirs and off we go again… Judeans actually codified that all good people, under any god, were equals and did not need to become Jewish – a tenet that hold to this day and is not the same for Christians or Muslims.

  • wmdkitty

    [citation needed]

  • Michael Goodnight

    It doesn’t seem genuine to say atheists are only critical of the the beliefs of the religion but have no problem with religious people themselves. Personally, I fall into that area, but there are many others who are openly hostile to anyone of faith. They call these people names, question their intelligence and even their right to have a faith. It seems to me that atheists have to hold this people responsible for behaving this way, instead of pretending it doesn’t happen. Just as violent religious groups do not speak for all people of faith. Atheists, who are respectful to people of faith, do not speak for all atheists.

  • Adel

    In response to your out of context quotes.

    Quran (8:12)

    [Remember] when your Lord inspired to the angels, “I am with you, so strengthen those who have believed. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieved, so strike [them] upon the necks and strike from them every fingertip.”

    Seems like you left out the first part of the sentence. God is speaking to the angels here, telling them to strike the disbelievers necks and every fingertip. When do you remember angels fighting battles? God is referring to hell here, and the next line supports that. Here you go:

    Quran (8:12-13)

    That is because they opposed Allah and His Messenger. And whoever opposes Allah and His Messenger – indeed, Allah is severe in penalty.
    “That [is yours], so taste it.” And indeed for the disbelievers is the punishment of the Fire.

    Next Point:


    “And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for persecution [of Muslims] is worse than slaughter [of non-believers]…

    Yet again you pull something out of context to support your outrageous claims. In the line right before that God says to fight people who attack them first, and to not transgress. Right after that God also says to stop fighting them if they stop fight the muslims and to leave them be.

    Before your quote:

    Quran (2:190)

    Fight in the way of Allah those who fight you but do not transgress. Indeed. Allah does not like transgressors.

    After your quote:

    Quran (2:192-2:193)

    And if they cease, then indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.
    Fight them until there is no [more] fitnah and [until] worship is [acknowledged to be] for Allah . But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors.

    To clarify when it is said if they cease, that means to stop fighting not practicing other religions. Alluded to by the placement of “but” there showing it is an alternative.

    Quran (2:216)

    Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.”

    Nowhere here is it stated to go kill people, God is saying fighting is allowed for muslims along the context of the previous quranic verses. So you may not transgress or fight anyone who isn’t attacking you first. So only defensive in other words.

    Quran (4:74) – “Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.”

    Also nothing wrong with this. Simply stating that if muslims give their life to defend fellow muslims against attacks against us that they will be rewarded in the afterlife. This does not count for acts of violence against people who have not harmed us to begin with. And by harm I mean killing muslims, starting a war, ect.

    Once you look at the big picture these verses work together to prescribe what is right and wrong in the way of fighting. They only allow muslims to fight if they are being oppressed which is reasonable, and they are rewarded greatly for defending themselves and the religion, furthermore some may not like to fight but it is good to fight in defense for it reaps great reward. Who wants to die in battle? not many, but god knows that in the afterlife, dying for a cause to protect the innocent and defend yourself against oppressors is very honorable

  • Vincent Lovecraft Pricey

    Islam, the religion of hate.

  • veer

    Great Answer.

  • DatBus

    This illustrates beautifully how Liberals are making the problem of sexism, violence and killing of homosexuals in the Muslim world much worse. Why don’t the so-called Moderate Muslims (wherever they may be) start confronting the atrocities committed in their name?

  • Anonymous


    I am an atheist. Not that it matters.

    Your article is ridiculous.

    [We don’t know much about the bomber… but Harris suggests we do have a good idea of one thing: His faith.]

    Harris is wrong. Harris do have a good idea about how HE PERCEIVES Islam to be, not how this suicide bomber perceives it to be. Islam is NOT monolithic. Harris do not know how this suicide bomber interpret it’s religion. Harris ASSUMES based on this perception that his suicide bombing has to do with his faith while providing no evidence for it.

    [Harris, of course, contends that he’s criticizing faith and dogma, not people — and I agree with him.]

    It’s irrelevant what Harris claims. Many Islamophobes contend that they are criticizing Islam when they are really attack Muslim. Should we accept that claim because Harris said so or should we look at the evidence to make a sound conclusion?

    [When I’m reading his books and blog posts, I see a writer who is raising controversial questions and answering them in ways that may not be politically correct, but none of those things are coming from a place of hate.]

    Again, you are merely repeating your opinion. One can equally claim that when Harris attacks Islam, he is attacking Muslim. Why should we take your claim to be true?

    [Even when he suggested looking specifically for Muslims (or at least people who look like them) at airport security checkpoints, I didn’t get a sense he was being racist or anti-Islamic.]

    Again, your opinion. But also, Why you wouldn’t think that profiling people based on what they believe wouldn’t be considered racist? If you do not see anything wrong with profiling Muslims, then would you be okay, if people profiled atheists?

    [As Harris suggests on his site, this is a damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t situation for him.]

    You are lying again. Here is an example. You mentioned that Harris talked about profiling Muslim then how is this criticism of religion?

    [We’re not against your god. We’re not againstyour religion. We’re critical of belief in all gods and all religions. We’re equal opportunity unbelievers.]

    Who are you to speak behalf all atheists? More importantly, How do you know that “you” (I suppose you mean atheists when you said “we:) couldn’t possibly hate Muslims? Any proof?

    [they want to persuade you that you’re better off not believing in faith without evidence.]

    How do you know that one is better off without a religion? A person can be atheist and not be better off from a person who believes in a religion. HENCE, there is no proof that EVERYONE that follows a religion cannot be better off than atheist. Also, Religion is not the only thing that determines who can be better off.

    [Criticizing the Koran doesn’t mean you hate Muslims just as arguing the legitimacy of the Bible doesn’t mean you hate Christians.]

    Criticizing Koran is fine but that’s not the New atheists are doing. They are attacking Muslims. For instances, Richard Dawkins and how many Nobel Prize Muslims won.

    [You want to know what real Islamophobia looks like? It’s saying that Muslims ought to be deported. It’s arguing that a mosque shouldn’t be allowed to exist in your town because of 9/11.]

    If those are Islamophobia then why wouldn’t the support of building a mosque be an example of Islamophobia as Harris contends. BTW, Harris do not think Islamophobia exists. But no according to you, he is telling the truth of course.

    [As conservative commentator David Frum said the other day, this anti-Harris animus implies that “it’s OK to be an atheist, so long as you omit Islam from your list of the religions to which you object.”]

    David Frum is a vulgar propagandist. Let me know if you need example of that. The fact that you quoted David Frum makes you look like a fool.

    [No doubt some atheists (myself included) will hit the wrong notes along the path. But Harris’ goals are honorable even if his statements are misinterpreted by his critics.]

    Again that’s your claim that Harris goal is honorable when there is ample of evidence to suggest otherwise even one you mentioned which is profiling Muslim. You didn’t provide any reasonable reason other than ‘tactical strategy’. Right, I suppose we should profile Jews too or atheists for tactical strategy. BULLSHIT LOGIC.

    [First, it colludes with Islam’s attempt to infantalize its adherents — convincing them that critical thought, especially about the matters of faith, is immoral.]

    First, Islam is NOT a person so “it” cannot attempt to do anything.

    Second, When critic of Islam criticizes Muslim rather than criticizing Islam, then that should be called ‘Islamophobia”. No one is arguing that you can’t criticize religion however many of the cases they don’t.

    “it presumes that Muslims, particularly in the West, are not mature enough to handle criticism of their chosen beliefs, and that their subcultures are reducible to archaic texts and practices.”

    This is not very good argument because it depends on the context you are talking about. If the context is attacking Muslims then why shouldn’t they protest? How this is NOT maturity to NOT to protest?

    “even the religious ought to be critical of faith.”

    They ARE. For instance, there are plenty of Muslims critical of fundamentalism.

    “They should be thanking those who raise important questions about faith instead of throwing them under a bus because they might poke holes in religious logic.”

    Again. Depends on context. Many times these “critic” attacks Muslim, in that case, it is legitimate to attack the “critic” like you.

    All in all, a garbage article.