Sam Harris vs Noam Chomsky: Breaking Down Harris’ Islamophobic Prejudices

Sam Harris vs Noam Chomsky: Breaking Down Harris’ Islamophobic Prejudices May 15, 2015

Guest Post by Taha Najeeb Khan

 

Chomsky & Harris

Sam Harris is butting heads again – this time with Noam Chomsky. He recently blogged an email exchange he had with the great man himself; an exchange which, as with most things with Harris, quickly degenerated into crassness.

That this torture-advocating anti-theist would, of his own accord, publicize such classless piffle over the web, expecting quite possibly a tsunami of approval from his fans, betrays a curious audacity one may only encounter in a special breed of omniscience-claiming cult-runners. Of course Harris can be absolved of such an indictment – no cult-runner is he. But he may well be drifting perilously close to the shores of something resembling a cult operation.

Let me explain. Anyone familiar with Harris’s writings will know he advocates the profiling of Muslims or people who look like Muslims – you know, those bizarre folks with two eyes, two ears, a nose, among other ‘Muslim’ markers – at airports. And that’s just one of Harris’s more charitable, less lethal, proposals. Stoic and measured as always, Harris in his chilling matter-of-factness has proposed ideas more lurid; for instance, a preemptive first strike on people who hold dangerous beliefs.

Being quite the charmer, Harris’s charm is exceeded only by his predictability. Take any matter involving Muslims and you can rest assured Harris won’t disappoint – if you’re a card-carrying Islamophobe, that is. Some of Harris’s commentary on Islam and Muslim societies could effectively serve as a sacred text of its own kind for hate groups across the world. His fans would, of course, take issue with such characterization. They will immediately evoke the tried-old refrain that Islam is not a person; it doesn’t have rights and is open to criticism.

This, by the way, would be a perfectly legitimate point if that were really the case. Unfortunately, Harris doesn’t just stop at criticizing Islam, he goes further. Take the case of the ground zero mosque which he opposed vehemently. This will be seen as a victory by the Jihadists, he insisted. Never mind the said mosque is a multi-faith community centre; a decent initiative to bring people – yes, people, not Jihadis – together in peaceful solidarity. But where Imam Abdul Rauf, head of the mosque initiative, saw warm handshakes and friendly embraces, cynical and clinical Harris saw jihadi high-fives.

Or just take the Israel-Palestine conflict. Surprising no one, Harris came out strongly in support for Israel in the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian confrontation (2014) where Israel maintained its impressive 30:1 kill ratio.

And this is why Harris’s half-decent attempt at a dialogue with Chomsky was such a thorough buzz-kill. Instead of stepping up his game, Harris persisted with the same non-contributing reductionist arguments and absurd hypotheticals that, granted, reverberate with orgasm-inducing force within his chosen echo chambers, have little to no relevance beyond.

No wonder Chomsky called it a ‘non-interaction’.

 

But for the sake of argument, let’s just briefly examine Harris’s position. Intention more than the death toll matters to Harris. So even if the al Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan was hit with cruise missiles under Clinton’s orders, causing drug shortages in the country that killed tens of thousands of civilians, per Harris’s calculus Clinton can be exempted because the poor guy suspected the factory to be an Al-Qaeda operation. Contrast this to Bin Laden’s diabolical actions designed to inflict maximal death toll, and you have a clear winner in absolute sadism and depravity.

Chomsky, of course, effortlessly exposed the weaknesses in Harris’s puerile premise:

  1.  To evoke intentions when dealing with mass murderers is moot because mass murderers like Hitler, Pol Pot and the likes often think they are justified in their actions. Besides, to determine intentions in complex matters is in itself a near impossible task, and
  2. The kind of ‘collateral killings’ America is infamous for “are arguably more immoral than purposeful killing, which at least recognizes the human status of the victims, not just killing ants while walking down the street, who cares?” in Chomsky’s own words.

Chomsky also raised another interesting question regarding the Al-Shifa episode, that if Clinton mistook it for an Al-Qaeda operation, then why did he order the missile strikes immediately after the US embassy bombings in Sudan? This along with other examples of Clinton’s war crimes that Chomsky mentions in the exchange, raises serious doubts over Clinton’s apparently ‘good intentions’, accessible somehow telepathically to Harris alone. Mild and measured, Harris quickly changed the topic.

And this is what’s so dark about the new anti-theists. Under the patina of ‘measured rationalism’, they happily skip over vast tracts of nuance, to do exactly what they accuse their opponents of – clumsy reductionism.

Yes, this is what has elevated hate-merchants like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller and just legions of folks crowding the Islamophobia band wagon to positions of prominence. This elite brigade of ‘West-is-superior’ chanting blowhards will practically go to insane lengths to peddle a narrative the perpetuation of which is most profitable in the eerie Huntington reality of today’s clash of civilization – Islam versus West – world.

However, let it be clear: to recognize that there are profiteers in the Islamophobia industry is not to deny that Islamic reform is very much a necessity. The punishment for apostasy and blasphemy in many Muslim countries is death. One need not be a libertarian to recognize what is wrong with this.

Such edicts – drawn from centuries old Islamic jurisprudence – are dangerously incompatible with modernity and point to the desperate need for more contemporary jurisprudence. Times have changed. Few centuries ago, people claiming witchcraft and sorcery were dispatched to the gallows. Now they’re promptly committed to lunatic asylums.

Reform in Muslim societies will need to emerge from within and cannot be forced from without. The good news is there are people actively involved in this project. The bad news is that hate sells. Nuance doesn’t. And this would surely make Mr Harris happy.

 

This blog first appeared in The Express Tribune

Taha Najeeb Khan is a freelance writer, and a featured columnist at Pakistan Today. He tweets @ tahankhan01

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Scotty Long

    This is exactly the sort of twisting of his arguments that he criticizes Reza Aslan and Glenn Greenwald for. The mere fact that you brought up the “preemptive first strike” issue shows that you either haven’t read his writings, haven’t understood them, or purposefully haven’t understood them.

    Sam published the exchange between him and Chomsky to show how unfroitunate it was that neither of them could discuss the issue. He admitted he wasn’t trying to show “how he won”… so to say that he published it as if it was a victory is just dishonest.

  • Shawn

    Obviously this dude doesn’t read, listen to, or understand Sam Harris. He doesn’t suggest profiling Muslims at airports. Do some real research and quit twisting his views.I couldn’t get past the second paragraph, there was no point.

    Most liberals will probably eat this up though.

    (I’m liberal, not hating)

  • Scotty Long

    Well… I think he does suggest profiling muslims at airports, Harris says like we would profile the irish to look for IRA bombers. But besides that, what you said is very true. This is just a bunch of ramble. Garbage.

  • Al

    You’re right he does not only suggest profiling Muslims; he suggests profiling those who look they could be a Muslim too.

  • Scotty Long

    Well, just like his IRA example. Would it make sense to purposefully ignore the Irish?

  • Shawn

    Anyone who could be a terrorist. White, black, brown. He suggests we don’t waste our time profiling people who are obviously not Muslim terrorists. I know we’re all sensitive these days. Be real.

  • Al

    You mean those who look Irish too of course?

  • Scotty Long

    Well… I think that kind of goes along with finding out if someone is Irish as you look up and down a waiting security line. You’re not going to pick out someone who looks Mexican and see if they’re Irish. What’s your point?

  • Casey Smith

    However, lets be clear: your last three paragraphs undermine the rest of your article. If there were still people burning witches in salem, you bet your ass we’d profile them. And if they armed themselves and demanded the destruction of our nation for not agreeing with them, we’d preemptively dispan, lock up or kill the ones who fought back.

  • Al

    Splendid ideas. Now, if you can just explain how someone can look Irish and how someone can look Muslim, we can get this system in place.

  • Scotty Long

    It’s about looking, sounding, acting in different ways. Sam Harris’ point is just that it’s a waste of time to do full body inspections on little ol’ grandmothers from Iowa while purposefully ignoring the clean shaven men who shaking, for fear of being called out as racist. It’s about putting your time in inspections towards the most likely causes. So guess what, most women can be ignored for the time being, as can heavily bearded men, or people who are speaking Spanish and carrying Mexican souvenirs. Why? Because they’re probably not on a Jihad. Sam’s point is all about not wasting your time and being honest about what you’re looking for.

  • Spinoza

    What pathetic and opprobrious article. Poorly written and ignorant. Mr. Waseem – by all means, keep evoking “Islamophobia” and pandering to political correct drones. Islam, in particular the holy texts, is barbaric, homicidal, suicidal and regressive. No amount of rationalizations and justifications can spare you from an “inerrant” claim by an illiterate peasant. If you wish to believe this then have at it. However, don’t claim a fallacious phobia. Defend your claim of infallibility – of the last, final, and true revelation from god! Let’s hear it! Have enough guts to stand for your faith! No? Then I suppose you will continue claiming how racist individuals are for criticizing and lambasting literature! It is amusing that individuals could get so bent out of shape about literature – let alone that the divine being of the universe, or so claimed, prefers to write books. Lovely. You have succumb to myth and superstition, congratulations! Please, though, for your own sake – defend what you believe by the claims of the text itself. Otherwise, you just end up sound like a disgruntled child who doesn’t want to be challenged, but would rather have everyone bow to his opinions as irrevocable truth. Shame, for shame.

  • Chris Buckley

    Obviously, only a bigoted Democracophobe would use ad hominem attacks and fail to realize that it would be great to criticize western ideas if only they weren’t people.

  • ronmurp

    Yep, agree with others, he hasn’t read Harris. Which makes this laughable, “Anyone familiar with Harris’s writings will know…”

    I’ll fix it for him: “Anyone unfamiliar with Harris’s writings but very familiar with what his #PseudoLiberal critics say about him will know…”

    And, then there’s this:

    http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/final-thoughts-on-chomsky

    I actually have some sympathy for Chomsky’s point about intentions, but it’s not as cut and dried as Chomsky makes out. But, #PseudoLiberals, like SJWs in feminism, are very much with-us-or-against-us – no debate.

    The thing about Harris is he really does try to stick to the point. Other than his exasperation at people like Greenwald, Aslan and Wereleman he’s always respectful to people he engages with – far more so than they are. He might even be wrong, but I’ve never seen evidence of him being as dishonest in discourse as many of his opponents are.

    The OP here, and the other one on Patheos about Reza Aslan (http://www.rawstory.com/2015/05/reza-aslan-its-not-gods-fault-if-you-use-religion-to-justify-hate-youre-just-a-bigot/) have a familiar pattern to them:

    – Harris makes some criticism of Islam.

    – Opponents deny the problem.

    – Harris gets specific and gives examples.

    – Opponents vilify Harris for demonising all Muslims.

    – Harris points out how often he’s been clear in not doing so.

    – Opponents accuse him of racism.

    – Harris explains race/ideology difference, gives examples of Muslims and Ex-Muslims he respects and has dialogue with.

    – Opponents: well, they are Uncle Tom

    – Harris points out how demeaning and disrespectful of Muslims his opponents are: they belittle those that agree with Harris, and set a low bar of humane behaviour for devout Muslims, in not accepting that they believe what they say they believe.

    And, as this plods on the opponents start making the very same points that Harris has been making. Except for denying belief can lead to action, much of what Aslan is now saying is what Harris has said. And her in this OP we have “Islamic reform is very much a necessity”

    These people lose track of their own arguments, they are so intent on nailing Harris. They go out of their way to not listen to him and to misrepresent him. And they have the nerve to call him, what?

    Bigot: a person who is intolerant towards those holding different opinions.

    That pretty much sums up Rea Aslan, Cenk Uygur, Noam Chomsky, and also it seems Taha Najeeb Khan.

  • Chris Buckley

    I actually agreed with some of what Chomsky said too. His low point, however, was simply dismissing the YouTube video that has him saying precisely what Harris claimed he had said. The question was posed about Harris and Hitchens, and Chomsky replied with something to the extent of, “They have a secular religion…” Of course, the key word here is “they.” If he were talking solely about Hitchens, why use a plural pronoun? Surely, an accomplished linguist knows the distinction.

    As for his dismissals that Harris should read more of his work; okay, again, to an extent that’s a fair point. But it’s also a dodge. At least point out which works and stop with the credential-mongering (really, an indirect argument from authority) about having “spent decades” on the issue. So what? Grand Wizards have spend decades promoting white supremacy, that doesn’t make them right. Anyone should be able to give a brief summary of a viewpoint in an exchange and then point out the applicable reading that extensively deal with the nuances, especially with a simple question like whether intentions count at all.

  • dale ruff

    The 30:1 kill ratio of Palestinians to Israelis is actually 500:1 if you look at civilians deaths 1500 Palestinians, 3 Israelis.

    Such ratios suggest not a war but a massacre, like the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising which had 13,000 killed Jews and 18 Nazis. Such ratios are what can fairly be called fascist logic.

    This is decimation (killing every 10th person) on steroids.

  • dale ruff

    I only have one criticism of this article: the emphasis on anti-theism. I am an atheist for the past 61 years. Most atheists do not support Islamophobia or support Israel.

    Pam Geller and others are not atheists but people motivated by a hateful religion. Sam Harris may be an atheist but that has zero to do with his hate speech against Muslims. Most anti-Muslim hate speech comes from Christians.

    Atheists are the most independent thinkers in the world, skeptical towards state and corporate propaganda. The most intolerant people in the world tend to cluster in religions.

  • rais

    Sure, its Israel’s fault its stronger than Hamas. Perhaps it should have let some of the rockets kill Israelis to be fair. (do you even hear yourself?)

  • Darin

    I’m willing to read all points of view. Ro’s “About Ro Waseem” says, “Ro Waseem is a Progressive Muslim blogger who wishes to offer a different narrative of Islam.”

    Narrative…That is not a discussion or conversation. It’s an offering of another point of view, story, or perspective. The frustration I see from Harris is his attempt to engage Chomsky in a discussion. Chomsky appears to have a narrative.

    An honest discussion from any two parties would be a conversation about their respective narratives. I wish there had actually been a conversation.

  • Bubbles

    Like Judaism, Islam i a legalistic religion. That is probably the best way to understand Islam. According to Bernard Weiss “The Spirit of Islamic Law” (a purely neutral and academic book) Islamic jurisprudence works like this:

    That there is a God is not a matter of faith, but of certainty. God is the creator, man is the created, God is the ruler, the sovereign, man is the subject. Mans duty is to discover God’s laws and follow it dutifully. The sources of law are the Koran. The Koran says to follow Mohammed’s example. So Mohammed’s biography, sayings and habits are also sources of law. Like all legal regimes, Islam follows a last in time doctrine – where to notions contradict the last in time prevails. This creates a problem.

    For 12 year Mohammed preached Islam in Mecca. There he had no political power or authority so he preached an inclusive message – but in all that time he attracted less than 200 followers. In his last 10 years he moved to Medina where he gained political office and traction. In Medina Mohammed embraced banditry, then extortion and coercive force, dishonesty (taqqiyya, kitman) murder and eventually genocide. People were given a choice to join and share in the spoils, pay extortion or die. In essence Mohammed ran Medina like a mafiosa don. The use of coercion proved effective, and in 10 years Mohammed controled all of Arabia. Mohammed’s last surmon and the final Sura of the Koran extols Muslims to fight nonbeliever until they are under the yoke of Islam. 100 years later Islamic power stretched from the Atlantic to the boarders of China and India. No Muslim will deny this narrative, though they might deny the characterization.

    In Medina Islam became a political movement first, with a strong religious component to reinforce the poitical. Politics is more important than the religion. The Islamic calendar begins not with Mohammed’s birth nor with his revelations but with his ascent into power. Morever, all the divisions in Islam are base upon politics – who gets to lead the community – not theology. The name of the religion itself is political in nature: Islam means surrender. Finally the crime of apostasy is a death penalty because apostasy equates politically to treason which is always punished by death in premodern times.

    When they want to advance Islam politically they play the religion card, and when they want to advance Islam religiously they play the political card. Muslims will feign acceptance of secular law, until they have a large enough plurality to insist on their system. And famously the only sure way to paradise is to die fighting for the expansion of Islam.

    For those outside of Islam “reform is very much a necessity” but Muslims don’t see it that way. Islam is considered by Muslims perfect and complete. The Koran is God’s creation and he would not utter otherwise. A reformed Islam is a transcendental Islam that rejects politics and Jihad and essentially Mohammed after he arrived at Medina. But that means rejecting the core tenants of the religion, that means rejecting Mohammed, and the last in time doctrine and that all means apostasy. This is the problem Islam: Islam cannot reform and remain Islam. Furthermore Islam doesn’t see any need to reform. Our discomfort with Islam is not a reason impelling Islam to reform so it will not reform.

    One atheist friend of mine who has lived all over the world told me, he doesn’t care one way or another about any religion, but Islam leaves in its wake a trail of poverty and ignorance that no other system does. Nevertheless, it’s just a matter of time before Mohammed wins and the whole world becomes Muslim. As a different friend of mine who immigrated from the former Soviet Union said, The ideology that has the most control over uterus is most likely to spread. It is a matter of simple reproduction,and population dynamics. If you control women, you control birth rates. No other major religion exerts more control over women than Islam does. So it will be increasing difficult to contain its spread as Muslims will multiply faster than other denominations, agnostics or atheists. In 1993 at the time of the first World Trade center bombing there was only 700 million Muslims. At the time of 911, there was just barely a billion. Today there are 1.7 billion Muslims. The world will be entirely Muslim soon enough and the mass of people will live in ignorance and poverty in an Islamic dystopia – In the United States people are increasingly living in poverty and ignorance without the help of Islamic ideology. It will be like that everywhere. There really is no point to Sam Harris’ Islamophobia as Islam is going to win whether anyone dislikes Islam and its norms or not. Probably neither Harris nor Chomsky realize it yet.

  • Shawn

    Not specifically Muslims. Potential Muslim terrorists. He doesn’t make any qualifiers as in race and dress. Obviously they fall under the umbrella, but so would he and so would I.

  • weetam2

    Not any Phobia to hate/ despise a vile, evil so-called religion called islam its 100% normal to hate as it is to love. Pigs like Mu-Ham-Mad were perverted little lying a-rab turds

  • weetam2

    Islam in man is like rabies in a Dog.
    Sir Winston Churchill.
    islam~~ evil, repulsive, sick, rotting…. like the porker muham-mad POSN.. and his fellow dogs who wrote the crap/ shit/ koran

  • weetam2

    Brilliant…. here-here, such brainwashed sheep as the wanker bubble is a complete meathead…. actually swallowing the pig-dung-words those arab dopes wrote 600 years after Christ, they copied and made an Arab-brand of religion….. full of shite of course.. hate and threats, follow or die! kill all who don’t or ones who Think!
    The muslim Disease will not last too long, nature has ways of wiping-out such sickness, Israel has ways also!!

  • weetam2

    Wow~~~ thou art so smart!…… You…..are a good head,..If one likes Cabbage.

  • s k

    I once heard someone say ‘ Hate the Hater’. A ghetto zen thing.
    Chomsky has more of a solution than Harris…

  • Jay Int

    This article is garbage.

  • Jay Int

    I have followed Harris’ work closely for the past several years and have yet to hear or read a single instance of “hate speech” against Muslims. This article is founded on a gross mis-reading and misunderstanding of Harris’ work and statements.

  • dale ruff


    The ISIS beheadings and torture and murders of journalists and aid workers and women are not examples of an excessive use of force by a few deranged individuals. This is entirely normal behavior within the context of standard Islamic doctrine. This is what they consider bestabout themselves. The butchery is what they use to advertise. Video footage of them cutting off the head of an aid worker is part of theirrecruiting materials. This does not cause them em barrassment. Quite the opposite. This is a bold expression of their worldview — a worldview fully supported by Islamic scripture. Not just supported but demanded by their religious scripture. They consider their behavior entirely ethical.”
    This rant of Harris implicates all Muslims in the brutality of a small group. I too am an atheist but I would call terrorism “normal behavior within the context of Islamic doctrine.” Islamic imams and scholars reject this view, which I would say is a form of hate-speech, because it incites people to view Islam in a way that invites hatred, discrimination, and even violence.

    To say that terrorism is normal Muslim behavior is both false and dangerous speech. He has repeated this accusation many other times.
    It can only promote a false view of the vast majority of Muslims, the way most Muslims understand their scripture, and and hatred. It is a naked example of Islamophobia.

  • Jay Int

    Dale, thank you for your reply.

    Harris is pointing to the fact, as he frequently does, that within the Islamic canon as in the Judaeo-Christian canon you can easily find a basis for the violent views and beliefs which inform and direct the behavior of extremists. If you accept that beliefs inform behavior, then you must consider the source of those beliefs. Harris is continually pointing out the difference between criticizing a belief system versus disparaging or hating a people. He also cites several polls that reveal how much support there is in several premoninantly Islamic nations for the literal interpretatton of those beliefs and implementation thereof through the institution of sharia law.

    In the End of Faith he discusses his views on the differences and relationship between moderate religious and the extremist religious. He acknowledges the differences and also acknowledges that the majority of Muslims do not support extremist practices or violence. However, the polls he cites do indicate that the number in the minority who do support extremist views is extremely high – that is to say it is a large minority of perhaps two to three hundred million people, not a few thousand insurgents.

    In the End of Faith Harris goes after all supernaturalist belief systems. It just so happens that Islam and it’s extremist / literalist wing seems to be calmoring for the most attention these days and thus is the subject of most conversations.

    Harris’ concerns are centered around the impact of dangerous beliefs of all sorts on civilization. Not just Islam. If you watch his debates, I believe you’ll find that he consistently conducts them in a courteous and professional manner. A debate is a battle of sorts, so naturally he works to make his point and win the day, but I have never seen him speak against a people, only their bad ideas.

    EDITED: Additionally, Dale, the snippet quote you included is excerpt from a larger interview with Harris in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo murders and he is talking about ISIS and the perpetrators of those murders. He again is trying to make the point that a literalist reading of doctrine informs and empowers those that would use their religion as a basis for violent extremism. They don’t need to warp their faith in order to reach those views. On the contrary, to achieve a moderate view, those violent bits have to be edited out, just as they would have to be done by all other Old Testament religions.

    Unfortunately, Harris is routinely taken out of context by both the far left and far right in this country and used to either bolster genuinely Islamophic views (on the far right) or bolster a demonization of the new Atheists (on the far left)

  • dale ruff

    The fact is that Christians, from Hitler to Bush II, have used state terrorism, killing millions, dwarfing the Muslim-inspired terrorism.

    Another fact is that Muslims oppose terrorism and killing civilians much more than Christians. First, lets look at the FBi data on terrorist attacks in the US: ” On the FBI’s official website, there exists a chronological list of all terrorist attacks committed on U.S. soil from the year 1980 all the way to 2005. 6% are by Muslims.”

    In Europe, according to Europol, the European Union’s law-enforcement agency, less than 1% of terrorist attacks have been committed by Muslims. “Europol publishes an annual report entitled EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report. On their official website, you can access the reports from2007, 2008, and 2009. (If anyone can find the reports from earlier than that, please let me know so we can include those as well.)

    The results are stark, and prove decisively that not all terrorists are Muslims. In fact, a whopping 99.6% of terrorist attacks in Europe were by non-Muslim groups;” (reported at loonwatch.com)

    Now how about the average Muslim’s view of terrorism? A 2007 Pew poll found that

    “Support for suicide terrorism among Muslim Americans is similarly rare: 78% believe that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets to defend Islam from its enemies can never be justified, and another 5% say these types of attacks are rarely justified. Fewer than one-in-ten American Muslims say that suicide bombing is sometimes (7%) or often (1%) justified.”

    By contrast, only 68% of Christians believe killing civilians is never justified.

    By all accounts, Muslim terrorism is a very small fraction of the total terrorism and most Muslims, despite the claims of Harris about how terrorism is accepted as normal behavior by Muslims, are more peaceful than Christians, Jews, and such groups as separtsts.

    Inflaming fear of Muslims incites hatred, and thus such speech, however spun, is hate speech and contributes to a misperception which incites discrimination and violence against Muslims.

    Focusing on Muslim terrorism and claiming that the Koran justifies terrorism (which most Muslims, lay and clerical, reject) is a form of hate speech which rationalizes hatred and violence. It is not true and it is dangerous.

  • Jay Int

    There is no argument from Harris, or from me disagreeing with the numbers you cite regarding Christianity violent past and present. All of these beliefs are composed at least in part of supernaturalist delusions which are fundamentally irrational, antiquated, mind warping and dangerous. At this particular point in history, however, terrorist Islamists are making the biggest and scariest noise and as requested are receiving the most attention. There are certainly many other examples of the same sort of pathology in non-Muslim categories.

    I disagree and severely object to Harris’ work being dismissed as hate speech. It most certainly is not. Unless you consider expression of hatred of a belief as hate speech. If that is the case, we have a much more fundamental disagreement about the nature of freedom.

    Harris and company have done some very critical work towards starting a conversation about how beliefs impact civilization. They’ve written many books and engaged in countless quite formal and courteous debates to further that conversation. After nearly two millenia of irrational belief driven madness having retarded human progress and brought untold sufferrings to the people of the Earth, we are finally at a point where that irrationality can be civilly questioned and called to account for itself, without the questioner being immediately silenced (at least in some non-theocratic Muslim nations). It is a difficult conversation to have, but an absolutely critical one. To dismiss this as simply hate speech, in my opinion, is woefully incorrect.

    I appreciate you taking the time to share your views, Dale.

  • dale ruff

    “At this particular point in history, however, terrorist Islamists are making the biggest and scariest noise and as requested are receiving the most attention. ”

    The evidence I reported totally refutes that assertion. Islamist terrorists get the most attention but that is based on Islamophobia and propaganda,for which Harris gives an intellectual cover.

    Goebbel’s intellectual work about propaganda was not itself hate speech but it created a context to justify hate speech. Likewise Harris’s specious arguments create a context by which to rationalize hate speech.

    Sartre once wrote that those who justify violence (ie the intellectuals) are more guilty than those who carry it out.
    I find Harris guilty of promoting a false view of Islam which rationalizes incitements to discrimination and violence, which is the definition of hate speech.

    As an atheist, I do not support religion, but at the same time, I condemn those who are intolerant of religion, and espcially those, like Harris, Maher, and the Christian right, which promote the hateful view that Islam is worse than other religions because it “promotes terrorism.”

    Harris hides his bigotry behind an intellectual facade, which, if the facts are examined, is revealed as a mask for a deep-seated hatred of Islam. Claiming that I hate the doctrine but not the believers is a bad faith claim on two counts:
    1. It misstates the way that the vast majority of Muslims understand their religion
    2. It assumes that believers support an evil scripture, which makes them complicit in crimes flowing from it.

    Harris’s views have the tendency to create fear and hatred of Muslims, which are the preludes to discrimination and violence. They do this in a rather sneaky way, by attacking the scriptures but then claiming that these scriptures (against all the evidence I cited) normalize terrorism. They do not. That is a lie. And hate speech always is based on lies, no matter how much lipstick you apply.

  • Jay Int

    Dale, I apologize for not taking as much time as I’d like to dig into every point as much as it deserves (life, kids, work getting in the way) but in brief, I will reply with the following. The polls you cite are of Muslim Americans and of terrorism in Europe, both of which I believe are misleading – take the following for example:

    “….more than 80% of deaths from terrorism in 2013 occurred in just five countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria and Syria”

    from: http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/nov/18/religious-extremism-main-cause-of-terrorism-according-to-report

    It sounds like you’re echoing Chomsky’s sentiments which Harris was attempting to discuss with him, reducing all war and terrorism to the same thing based on body count, ignoring the motivations of the parties involved.

    While I did not support the war in Iraq and still consider it to have been a mistake, I do not agree that it should be regarded as state sponsored terrorism.

    Unfortunately, I cannot continue this discussion any further as life is calling me back, but thank you once again for your considerate and thoughtful replies. Take care.

  • dale ruff

    What you are ignoring is that 95% of the killing in Muslim nations have been by the “Christian” US and its “Christian leaders, with 500,000 killed (mostly civilians) in Iraq and elsewhere. If it were not for these US aggressions, the number of “Muslim” killings would be very small.

    I appreciate you have other things to do (I am retired so this is my hobby, researching and sharing what I learn).

    If you add up Muslim killings and killings by Christian nations, Israel, etc. you will find that Muslims are still among the most peaceful and non-violent people on earth. Harris presents the opposite picture, which is why his writings and pronouncements serve to fuel anti-Islam fear and hatred, the very definition of hate speech.

    Ok, get on with your life. I remain an atheist for over 60 years but one who objects to Islamaphobia and hate speech of all varieties, including against particular religions. Europe is full of hate crimes and murders of Muslims, but the rare “Muslim” act of terror gets all the press, because the media is also Islamophobic.

  • ryan

    Basically this entire blog is a giant No True Scotsman.

  • Ricardo Hotatio

    Just common sense: If God appoints a man who would at age 53 marry a 9-year old ‘woman’, there is either something disturbing wrong with ‘God’ or there is something disturbing wrong with the prophet and his religion. Both assumptions can be easily explained by accepting the only rational conclusion possible; Mohammed was not inspired by God at all but by the opponent of God, this makes Islam as an ideology into the killing-machine we are witnessing today, justified by the illusion that Muslims are serving God. (John 16:2)

    It is our own urgent responsibility to research this falsehood:

    Islam’s ‘Reformation’ Is Already Here—and It’s Called ‘ISIS’ – http://tinyurl.com/lrphrdc

    Are Judaism and Christianity as Violent as Islam? – http://tinyurl.com/qxudh6

    Violence and Context in Islamic Texts – http://tinyurl.com/kc5zc2r

  • ugluk2

    No it isn’t. Your response is an example of someone too lazy to deal with the argument in front of him.

  • ugluk2

    Harris is the typical American in that “good intentions” argument. Some Americans can support policies that kill hundreds of thousands of people, often knowing this is the likely outcome, and feel no sense of guilt because of their “good intentions”. Their “good intentions” play the same role as the violent verses in some holy book do for a religious fanatic. They excuse everything.

    Islamophobes like Harris are much closer to the Islamic extremists than they realize. They are both very good at seeing the evil in others and not in themselves.

  • KoreanKat

    ” profiteers in the Islamophobia industry”

    The thing is when I read this line, I think of Reza Aslan, Karen Armstrong, and others who profit mightily by hurling accusations of Islamophobia in an attempt to bully non-Muslim into silence.

  • Stuart M.

    Aha, Osama bin Laden’s reading list was just declassified and guess who one of his favorite authors was? Yes, Noam Chomsky. That shows you how revered Chomsky is among the America-hating crowd. Sam Harris was wiping the floor with Chomsky, that’s why “the great man himself” got so testy.

  • Justin

    Wow. Just… wow. Ro Waseem, I imagine there is quite a bit we’d disagree on. But, in whatever capacity I have as a Catholic, a former atheist, and a human being who cares about my fellow humans, I apologize for the incredible hate and vitriol you get in the comments on your blog. Not reasoned, civilized arguments, mind you, but flat-out, locker-room bullying. You’re putting yourself out there and absorbing things that would make anybody feel sick. Please don’t take it as patronizing when I say I will be praying for you, and thank you for trying to be a voice of understanding between diverse world views!

  • memike

    funny you mention cult figures. isn’t Muhammad the second greatest cult runner in the history of the world? soon to be the first. at least by 2070.

    good to hear that you see the desperate need for reform. yes muslim countries have the death penalty for apostasy and sorcery. funny thing. I was just talking with an American muslim woman online the other day, and she said she had no problem with muslims holding the view that an apostate should die. also, I’ve spoken with a local iman who also said that death is the penalty for apostasy.

  • narciso
  • John Young

    “The great man himself” No bias here.

  • OG Matt

    Terrible terrible journalism. Completely simplified and distorted Harris’s argument for profiling, first strike policy, among others.
    The author should be truly ashamed that he clearly hasn’t even attempted to understand Harris’s argument before trashing it. You might as all substitute someone else’s name in for Harris’s in your article because you either lack an ability to understand his positions or are just too lazy to actually consume his content.

  • Graham

    Stop taking Harris’ writing out of context. And stop using that stupid term “Islamophic.”

  • Ferrissalt

    “They will immediately evoke the tried-old refrain that Islam is not a person; it doesn’t have rights and is open to criticism.

    This, by the way, would be a perfectly legitimate point if that were really the case.”

    Yes Taha it is a legitimate point because Islam isn’t a person and in a free society, we have a right to examine and critique ideas. I would say we have a duty in this particular case because there’s some very violent ideas in the Koran particularly in relation to how to deal with non-believers.

    It’s exactly this kind of thinking that is accommodating and emboldening extremist views.

  • astoriacub

    Beheading 2 Muslim women for sorcery is peaceful and non violent?

  • Jeremy Zhou

    Ok, so i had a bad taste in my mouth once i had realized this article was most apparently biased against Sam Harris. Then it turns out that you are simply a Muslim that simply wanted to defame Sam Harris for speaking against what you believe in. I find it extremely distasteful for a writer to abuse his power to mislead the public and try to degrade anothers name simply because their beliefs are somehow insulted. DON’T retweet “a critique of any idea should never be construed as a personal attack” and then be such an open hypocrite. Journalism isn’t for writers to shove their shit down peoples throats and defame people they disagree with.

  • DrakhorT

    “Sam Harris vs Noam Chomsky: Breaking Down Harris’ Islamophobic Prejudices”

    islamophobic? This is gonna be interesting…

    “May 15, 2015 by Ro Waseem”

    I see where this is heading…

    “Guest Post by Taha Najeeb Khan”

    -closes tab-

  • bob kahm

    completely one sided…. Just like the debate