Such Obvious Islamophobia…

This explains the criticism against Sam Harris:

(via Jesus & Mo)

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.

  • mikmik


  • Houndentenor


  • beatonfam

    One could say the same about some Christians I have heard recently. Don’t mock others beliefs and then turn around and scream when someone says negative things about your beliefs. Do unto others.

  • James Lindsay

    Greenwald and company seem to be confusing the rightwing hysteria, which might accurately be called Islamophobia, with what many Islamists are trying to pass off as Islamophobia: criticism of the ideas in their religions and the behaviors of exponents of Islam. In other words, they’re on a crusade wherein they are unable to distinguish actual problems from actual attempted solutions.

  • Sean lissemore

    Clearly you people are either to ignorant to understand the criticism of Sam Harris or are arguing in bad faith.

    Leaders in the new atheist movement have not just criticized Islam (which is something I do as an atheist and is legitimate) but have said that Islam is inferior to other religions. That is necessarily bigoted.

  • Gus Snarp

    The cartoon is funny, and I think it accurately describes some people’s way of thinking. But to argue that it is explains all the criticism of Sam Harris? I guess maybe that’s a joke too, because otherwise it’s either a gross oversimplification or rank intellectual dishonesty.

  • TheG

    I disagree. I can say that Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, and Filet-O-Fish are bad for your health, but I can also say that out of these junk foods, Big Macs are more unhealthy than others. That isn’t necessarily anti-meat.

  • The Captain

    No, this doe not fundamentally explain the criticisms against Sam Harris. This explains a STRAW MAN of the criticisms of Sam Harris.

    None of Harris’s atheist critics have ever said that critisisiming/calling out/ making fun of Islam is the problem. His critics don’t care about his views of Islam, his critics call him out on his views of brown people!

  • James Lindsay

    That word “inferior” you’re using….
    Funny how you’re saying we aren’t understanding Harris. Maybe you’ll take his cartoon-drawing challenge for Glenn, then?

  • Matt

    I think the death penalty is bad. I also think death by electric chair is worse than death by lethal injection. Damn me and my bigoted electric chair-o-phobia.

  • The Captain

    This is also a misrepresentation of the criticism against harris. No one cares if he says Big Macs are worse, the problem is he goes an extra step and says that since Big Macs are worse we should limit the rights of those that may have eaten a big mac or at the least treat them differently than those that do not. And since the only way to tell if someone eats a big mac is by that persons weight we should just treat all fat people as big mac eaters.

  • Gus Snarp

    78% of Americans are Christian. 0.6% are Muslim. Just to keep things in perspective a bit.

  • Ders

    That is not necessarily bigoted. If I started a new religion (but immediately had a billion followers) where I promoted chopping the limbs off of any child born on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays….but everything else was exactly like Islam then my religion would be inferior to Islam. That’s how that works. You can make things worse and you can make them better. To ignore basic things like ‘how a religion generally treats women’, ‘how a religion generally treats children’, and ‘how a religion generally treats apostates/infidels/nonbelievers’ is unwise. Now if you’re starting to say that Arab people are bad, you have a problem. Ideas are ALWAYS fair game for criticism.

  • James Lindsay


  • The Captain

    Please try to pay attention.

  • James Lindsay

    Oh, and atheism isn’t a thing. There’s no atheism movement. There’s no “new atheism movement” either. There are people saying “enough is enough.” There are atheists that are also antitheists. There are atheists that are secularists but not antitheists too. These could be put under the umbrella term of “atheist movement” or “new atheist movement” (but only if “militant” enough). The BS gets deep up in here fast.

    Some movements that get called the “atheism movement”:
    1. Secularist movement
    2. Freedom from religion movement
    3. Antitheism
    4. Atheism+ (pretty unfortunate there)
    5. Evidentialist/empiricist movement.
    6. Rational skepticism.

    I don’t claim my list is exhaustive. Please feel free to add to it. Don’t add in “movements” that are based upon a null hypothesis, though. They aren’t real movements.

  • C Peterson

    I don’t necessarily agree that Islam is “inferior” to other religions, but I don’t see how making that argument is bigotry. Furthermore, I don’t see Harris making that claim; rather, he has claimed that Islam and its consequences are more dangerous to the world right now than other religions- debatable, certainly, but hardly bigotry.

  • James Lindsay

    I paid attention. Your analogy was too bogus to give more attention to–especially that last sentence. Holy crap.

  • James Lindsay

    And while you were writing out your ill-conceived point about Big Macs and overweight people and accusing not-bigoted people of bigotry against Islam, hundreds of Islamic girls were beaten, perhaps some killed, thanks to the realities of how Islam is practiced in the real world by real Muslims motivated by their understanding of… Islam.

  • Gus Snarp

    Harris doesn’t just criticize the beliefs of Muslims. He argues for racial profiling (but don’t call it that because Muslim is not a race, and he would include people who look like him, so it’s totally OK, and I guess that means everyone who looks like they might be Muslim, so is it completely useless because it’s so broad, or just horribly unethical because it can be used to target anyone who just isn’t lily white enough?) But here’s what it looks like when you’re an injured victim who happens to be in that nebulous category of people who look like they might be Muslim:

  • The Captain

    So was TheG’s original big mac analogy (the one I was replying too) crap too? Or are only food analogies that criticize Harris bad?

  • The Captain

    No shit sherlock! But does that mean the DFCS can just walk into my neighbors house and take their kids away for an investigation because they are brown and kinda look like those people you mention????? Because that’s what Harris says should happen.

  • James Lindsay

    No. “Particularly the last sentence.” Pay attention, remember?

  • James Lindsay

    Show us where Harris said that or you’re a liar.

  • The Captain

    It’s not my job to educate you. Harris has on several occasions advocated racial profiling. You have google. Go learn.

  • James Lindsay

    Racial profiling, particularly under Harris’s nuanced argument about it, is not nearly what you accused him of advocating: “But does that mean the DFCS can just walk into my neighbors house and
    take their kids away for an investigation because they are brown and
    kinda look like those people you mention????? Because that’s what Harris
    says should happen.”

    Show us where Harris advocated that or you are a liar. Feel free to retract your lie whenever. And it is your job to educate us here… you made a claim about something Harris said, and the burden of proof of that claim is on you. Trying to deflect that burden is the theologian’s game. Step up.

  • chicago dyke

    i guess the problem i have (and i have no opinion on the Harris thing, not having followed it at all) is that so many americans and western folks speak about Islam and have no idea about the reality of it. the diversity, the complicated relationships between religious leaders and individual muslims. the differences in the way it is practiced, by nation, region, class, race… Islam is as complicated as Christianity, as diverse, and it takes years of study just to be able to completely grasp the basics of “what being a Muslim means” to most Muslims.

    i once saw an Islamic cartoon that really stuck with me. it showed a Muslim man in prison (i don’t know if the implication was supposed to be that he was jailed by non-Muslims or not) looking at photographs. he was looking at a photo of his beloved, a woman in a hijab, and the look on his face showed how much he missed her. the next panel showed him looking into the next cell, where a western/non-muslim man had photos of nude women plastered all over his cell, and the other prisoner was leering at them.

    my point is that many muslims feel that we don’t respect women in the west and exploit and mistreat them, as strongly as a lot of westerners will claim “islam in general oppresses women.” i am not making a claim one way or the other, i just want people to remember there are different ways of thinking about things.

  • aoscott

    Glad to see most people are already pointing out that this is not anywhere near explaining the criticism against Harris

  • Al

    “We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it”. That is a nuanced argument, is it?

  • Ders

    More than any other religion at the present moment, Islam is creating theocracies where dissent is punished, and religious leaders are using scripture to incite violence. Is that a fair statement? If it is not, please educate me, because I’ve looked around and haven’t found any evidence to refute it. If it is, then we have to do something about it and stop pretending everyone is the same. We are not all the same, but we should all have the same opportunity. That opportunity is being denied many people in Islamic theocracies as far as I can see.

  • James Lindsay

    I’ve read the few-thousand word piece in which he explained this in detail. Nice quote-mining there. Where, pray tell, does it tell us that it’s just fine to go take kids away from “brown” parents on no evidence? Don’t lose the plot.

  • James Lindsay

    Indeed, this particular quote refers to behavior of our security teams in airports. I don’t see you mentioning that context here. Do you understand statistics? Limited resources?

    I’m not saying Harris is right with his claim that we should profile. I’m saying that his argument doesn’t make him a racist. It also does absolutely nothing to support the claim, which is libel without proof, that Harris suggests we should take away the children of “brown” parents for “investigations,” made by our good friend “The Captain.”

  • Mike De Fleuriot

    Or maybe it could be that the people he has a problem with, also are “brown” people. You go to the swimming hole to catch fish.

  • The Captain

    Now that’s some white privilege right there!

    Did you vote Duke?

  • Summer Seale

    I don’t see how calling Islam an “inferior” religion to some others (and I doubt he has ever said or written this – I have seen him say that it is currently of greater concern) is not bigoted. The cult of Thugee was an inferior religion, and I’m fairly glad that the British did everything they could to destroy it. I know that many Indians at the time were exceedingly happy that they did, as would you if you had been at risk for being murdered in the middle of the night by some religious fanatics.

    Sam is right to point out that all religions are based on supernatural fluff, but they don’t all preach the same things. There is a vast difference between the Jainism and Islam, as he likes to point out. To not notice the difference is to simply close your eyes to the realities simply for the sake of being politically correct in some twisted fashion.

    All in all, it is clear that Sam Harris is not a bigot. People who make him out to be really need to get a fucking grip. He’s a liberal who supports equal rights for all people of all creeds, colors, sexual orientations, and whatnot. To make him sound like he’s some sort of extremist right-wing wacko is just beyond the pale. No atheist which I have read has *EVER* criticized him for how he describes right wing evangelicals as crazy people, as insane, as dangerous. And yet the moment he even dares to touch Islam with the same measuring stick of rational thought, some people go absolutely fucking nuts on him. A lot of us are not blinded to this fact, and neither is Sam Harris. It’s right for him to call people out on it, it’s right for him to try to take back the conversation *away* from the wackos and the nutbags on the other side, and it’s right for him to try to inject that conversation with reason.

  • Theseus

    What? C’mon, what he said is that not all religions are the same. He always uses certain eastern religions as an example of how even between religions, the morality is not the same. This is a perfectly legit observation.

  • Theseus

    C’mon your comment above was a gross distortion of what Harris has said, at the very least.

  • The Captain

    O.k., first off stop playing your coy little gotcha word game of “lier”. Harris advices for the racial profiling of brown people. There is no difference then in the profiling for one type of crime than another since all crimes are.. well crimes. If you feel it is appropriate to use an example of child abuse to show that harris is correct in his assessment of “muslims” as being bad people then child abuse is also worthy of being profiled for. Did he say any of those words specifically.. no, and I never claimed he did. All I said was he advocates racial profiling, which is fundamentally basing someones rights in society off ones race. If racial profiling is not apropriot in the case of child abuse, perhaps you should not have brought it up as an example. You are the one twisting and contorting your argument so as to advocate for racial biases yet trying to look like you are not.

  • Al

    “It is not enough for moderate Muslims to say “not in our name.” They must now police their own communities. They must offer unreserved assistance to western governments in locating the extremists in their midst. They must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling.” (Sam Harris, Bombing Our Illusions, Huff Post 2005)

  • Theseus

    No you put words in his mouth and claimed he was for breaking into people’s homes and taking their kids.

    This is a skeptical website. James is the one using reason and critical thought. Please “step up” and prove him wrong.

  • Theseus

    The problem with what you just wrote (BTW I usually agree with you) is that you were all about proportionality, nuance, understanding, and tolerance when it comes to Islam. However whenever the topic is focused on Christian theocrats in this country, you jump all over their shit….. as you should! I’m right there with you, cuz I jump all over their shit too.

    Is it important to point out the diversity and complexity of hundreds of millions of people that follow Islam? Absolutely….same with Christianity. However even though you don’t know all the details, an obviously bright person such as yourself has to be aware of the theocracies and veritable mountain of human rights issues in middle eastern Islamic countries; yet there is no mention of this in your post. I seriously doubt that you would talk about western Christianity in the same context, without bringing attention to the actions of all these evangelical conservative nut jobs that have a disproportionate amount of political clout, and want to oppress, gays and atheists.

    This disconnect with some folks in the west is a lot of what Harris talks about.

  • Glasofruix

    Leaders? New atheism? Movement?

  • Theseus

    To hell they haven’t. A lot of the same critics jump Harris’s shit because they say he is intolerant and overly critical of Islam, not brown people. It’s almost the same reasoning we get as atheists. The brown people argument is just more fuel for the fire.

  • Feminerd

    I have to disagree with this one. Sam Harris has a lot of very valid criticisms of Islam. He’s also Islamophobic. He’s advocated racial profiling (or religious profiling, which basically boils down to the same thing). He advocated for torture in the middle of the Iraq war and debate over Guantanamo. Islamic theocracies are currently some of the most repressive, awful places to live in the world, and it’s totally valid to criticize the religion that’s in charge. The focus needs to be less on the specific religion and more on the theocracy, though. All theocracies are pretty awful.

    I also think a line needs to be drawn between “religion as it is practiced” and “what the book says”. Islam is pretty clearly the worst religion as practiced right now. The Qu’ran and hadiths as documents, though, are no worse than the Bible. Harris has said or implied, more than once, that Islam is inherently worse than other religions, and I just can’t agree with that statement.

    So where do I come down on this? Some of the criticism of Harris is clearly warranted, and some of it is just as clearly not. Not all the people criticizing Harris are just oversensitive Muslims, though, that’s for sure.

  • Theseus

    Very important distinction. We just had virtually the same debate about how religious folks in this country think atheists are offensive, rude, and intolerant simply because we criticize their belief system. .

  • The Captain

    It is clear YOU are the one lying. I never put any words into anyones mouth. I NEVER said Harris advocated sending DFCS in to peoples homes and you know it! YOU brought up child abuse as an example. Since YOU brought up child abuse, I asked if DFCS should be able to enter someones home based on them sharing a race with someone who abuses children (a question to a topic YOU brought up but yet you have not anwserd) The exactly quote is “But does that mean the DFCS can just walk into my neighbors house and take their kids away for an investigation because they are brown and kinda look like those people you mention?????” That is a question I asked! YOU are now LIYING by saying I attributed such statement to Harris. Pathetic!

  • Theseus

    Great distinctions for the most part. I agree with Harris on some issues regarding Islam, and others in particular torture, I vehemently disagree with.

  • Theseus

    First off that wasn’t me about the lying. Secondly you need to re-read your post above. You followed this quote with: “Because that’s what Harris says should happen”. Now what in the Jehosephat are we supposed to take away from that?

    Dude, dial it back a bit. This is a skeptical and secular site. There is nothing wrong with admitting that you made a mistake or there was a misunderstanding. I’ve done this plenty of times before. Relax and take a deep breath. This is not Faux News, MSNBC, or a rigid political/ideological blog.

  • The Captain

    The only “mistake” I made ways replying to the wrong person on a thread that gets convoluted after a certain number of post. Also he accused me of “lying”, sorry but that IS a personal insult. Tell him to dial it down a bit!

  • The Captain

    Here, since I’m getting too many emails from Disqus about this from too many people I’ll reword my stamens for how It should have been to you the first time. That was my fault.

    “No you put words in his mouth and claimed he was for breaking into people’s homes and taking their kids.” No I did not!

    I NEVER said Harris advocated sending DFCS in to peoples homes and you know it. JAMES LINDSAY brought up child abuse as an example. Since JAMES LINDSAY brought up child abuse, I asked if DFCS should be able to enter someones home based on them sharing a race with someone who abuses children (a question to a topic JAMES LINDSAY brought up but yet has not answered) The exactly quote is “But does that mean the DFCS can just walk into my neighbors house and take their kids away for an investigation because they are brown and kinda look like those people you mention?????” That is a question I asked! JAMES LINDSAY you are now lying by saying I attributed such statement to Harris. Or you can just admit you made a mistake?

  • Matt

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t he argue for the morality of torture in a completely *philosophical sense*? Obviously torture is practically unfeasible, and I doubt Harris ever did / ever would advocate for its use in a real scenario…

    It seems like Harris has a habit of merging abstract thought experiments with real world examples which enrages people who don’t read carefully enough.

    just my 2c though

  • Theseus

    ???? What’s your point though?

  • Theseus

    This is all true. The cartoon however also implicates some of the inconsistency and absurdity of non-Muslims that are completely comfortable with mocking Christianity, but don’t apply that same attitude towards mocking Islam.

  • Theseus

    Hmmm. You could be right. I heard him give the ticking bomb scenario for justification. Is this philosophical? Sure. Would this situation be rare? Absolutely. So yeah, good point.

  • James Robbins

    When I saw the headline “Such obvious Islamophobia” I cringed a little bit. But then I read the comic. Haha! So true! By the way I agree with Harris’ supposed controversial stance.

  • James Robbins

    Considering that islam is well known for honor killings, public stonings, child brides and other heinous practices, then yes, it must be considered inferior. Sorry if facts hurt your sensibilities.

  • Feminerd

    Technically, yes. But you simply can’t have a “hypothetical” in the midst of a real, practical debate about the morality of torture. Context matters, and that “hypothetical” took place at a time and place where it was quite obviously not going to be taken as what it is on the surface. Some of the scenarios in which Harris advocated torture were, in fact, very similar to situations in which torture was used.

    It’s like the economics professor who “just happened” to use rape in a thought experiment dealing with whether personal moral outrage ought to drive policy if no one gets hurt. The situation he mentioned is as follows: unconscious victim, no memory of the occurrence, rapist never tells anyone, no pregnancy or STD afterwards. Thus, the utility the rapist got from the rape, combined with the fact the victim wasn’t harmed, means this sort of activity shouldn’t be illegal. And then he defended himself by saying it was just a hypothetical. Um, no, a time period when Steubenville is in the news and we’re just getting a good conversation started on rape culture, that is NOT the time to go all rape-apologetics. We know what you’re doing, even couched in hypotheticals. Well, Harris’s arguments on torture have to contextualized just the same, and in that context, they are inexcusable.

  • James Lindsay

    If you read what he wrote about it in detail, it’s rather clear that he’s essentially attempting to compare it with collateral damage. His essential argument is that collateral damage, as we perpetrate and even acecpt it, is a bigger ethical failure than torture in certain circumstances. He is also arguing that people are quick to categorically label torture unethical and is using certain extreme thought experiments (he calls them “corner cases”) to illustrate that categorical rejection isn’t necessarily warranted.

  • McAtheist

    I am suddenly interested in ‘average’ religions, ‘superior’ religions and if there is maybe an ‘elite’ level of religions.

  • Theseus

    Wow. Did you really say “rape….culture”? Like it’s a real phenomena or something? You had me up until that point because you were making sense.

    I would have expected something like that on radfem, but here?

    You do know what the gender feminist definition of “rape culture” is don’t you?

    You do understand a lot of this stuff is distorted and disproportionate in the extreme don’t you?

    That skeptics and critical thinkers roll their eyes at this stuff because it’s completely irrational and falls apart upon inspection don’t you?

    To be clear here: Rape exists and culture exists, but there is no culture of rape in the west. There are no significantly large wide spread groups of males in the west that “promote, laugh about, condone, and normalize” rape, especially to the degree that would be required for it to be a culture among the general male population. And no, a bunch of idiot frat boys don’t count.

    Us guys that have been around the block several times know that rape is not a compulsion in any way shape or form for most of us. Sex? Hell yeah. Rape ? Hell no!

    Wow. Just….wow.

  • Feminerd

    Riight. We have no culture that normalizes or laughs at or condones rape. Just a couple of high school boys in Ohio who raped a girl in public and only didn’t get away with it because they were dumb enough to take pictures. Just a gang rape in Canada where the boys weren’t arrested until their victim committed suicide. Just a case in California that’s almost identical. Just a culture in which rape victims get asked what they wore, how much they drank, how they dared be in a room alone with a man or boy. Just a culture in which we tell women “don’t get raped”, instead of telling men “don’t rape”. Just a culture in which women don’t feel safe jogging alone, in which they have their keys in hand as they walk to their cars at night, in which ponytails are described as handles by which a potential rapist can grab you. Just a culture in which people describe domination over others in terms of “making hir your bitch” or “I just RAPED you!!!”.

    But no, we don’t have a rape culture. I’m just making all this up to hurt the poor widdle males fee-fees.

    EDIT: So no, most men aren’t rapists. But you know some rapists. Everyone does. Approximately 1 in 60 men are self-described rapists. That’s a scary high number. You want to know what’s scarier? Approximately one quarter of American women have been raped or sexually assaulted. You have met women, and are friends with women, and are related to women who have been raped. You can’t argue rape is not part of the cultural background when it affects over 1/8th of the population of the country (men get raped too, after all).

  • Theseus

    Right, so giving some examples of rape or “a couple of high school boys” constitutes a “culture” of rape. Got it.

    Your whole post proves my point. Rape, or bad people exist therefore it is a culture. Broad assumptive leaps across a chasm all the way around.

    The “culture” doesn’t tell women “don’t get raped”. Individuals may do so, not the culture at large. We already tell men and boys not to rape everyday as part of the whole package when we are being raised to not “hit girls, be mean to girls, or disrespect girls”; actually to give them special treatment over our male peers. This is not perfect there will still be assholes and bad people out there due to dysfunction and various other reasons.. And no, you do not single out little boys and teach them “not to rape”; that’s ass backwards, no reputable mental health professional would condone it, and it’s child abuse…..and I will go out on a limb here and say if you condone this, then you are for child abuse as well.

    I see in your edit some attempt to back up a little. I will give you some points for that. However, the 1 in 4 stat is a myth that has been blown to shit ad naseum many times over; particularly in that studies criteria and methodology. And being “part of a cultural background” is not anywhere near the same as a culture itself; anything under the sun is part of a cultural background.

  • Theseus

    Downvote. Sure.

    Yeah any skeptic worth their salt wouldn’t have immediately noticed the huge back pedal in Feminerds edit by trying to change the argument from “rape culture” to “part of a cultural background”. Uh huh.

    I am sure after applying Occam’s razor that a critical thinker would conclude that I am actually the one that is being irrational here for pointing out the gaping holes in Feminerds logic and argument. Right.

    Sorry, I do not display much patience when feminists exhibit reasoning skills and a proclivity for dogma similar to a religious right fundie; the very people that they claim to abhor.

    Being atheist and feminist does not automatically make one part of the rational crowd.

  • Leah Feinman

    Ever since Boston attacks, I am saddened that so many Americans are automatically jumping to the conclusion that the bombers must be Muslims.