The Harris-Nawaz bromance and more Islam-bashing

Sam Harris has another article about Islam, coinciding with his new book.

We start with the bromance. He was a former radical Muslim extremist(a la Walid Shoebat), I was a rational free-thinker. Our eyes met. I said to him, “let’s make beautiful hate-literature together.” Five years later, we are proud to celebrate our first-born.

Congrats, Sam and Maajid on your recyclable mass of tree-pulp. I look forward to facepalming at it like your previous recyclable masses of tree-pulp.

Let’s start with this latest bit of drivel, shall we?

Talking about Islam today is a dangerous business. Disagreements about the role this religion plays in the world have become a wellspring of intolerance and violence.Cartoonists have been massacred in Paris to shouts of “We have avenged the Prophet!”…Western politicians and commentators have struggled to understand this phenomenon

The “disagreement” here is purely one-sided. Muslims do bad things, non-Muslims don’t do bad things to Muslims. There haven’t been a bunch of wars and other nasty things done by Western governments that would make Muslims angry. In fact, it couldn’t be that the terrorists are motivated by revenge and anger toward such great advances in Western Civilisation as drone strikes, disastrous wars, and funding apartheid Israel.

I agree, Western politicians don’t understand, obviously – that’s why we have calls for military intervention in Syria which, like previous interventions will bring much human misery which will be ignored the next time a terrorist cites his brother being killed by a Western drone in Syria, because Islam.

Honest conversation about the need for reform within Islam has become a necessity.

This is the latest PC line from the “liberal” hate-mongers. We don’t hate Muslims, we just want to reform Islam. But what does reform mean?

Some frame it as “Islam needs a reformation like Christianity had.”  A few problems with that. The Christian reformation was a political manoeuvre because the Catholic Church, very much more a government than a religious body, had control over most of Europe. The reformation was the European intifada – a shaking off of Catholic hegemony and occupation. The reformation was resistance against an imperial oppressor and like most revolts against a super-power, it cost many lives.

Islam has no such central authority, there is no Muslim Vatican controlling most of the Muslim world. There is the well-funded, Western-supported Saudi regime that supports extremist Wahhabis and funds terrorism but I haven’t seen Harris, or Hirsi-Ali or Dawkins seriously advocate for revolution against the Saudi regime or even clamour for an end to funding and military support. Curious that.

The other framing is having a bunch of non-Muslims, ex-Muslims come and revise the Quran and Hadiths, tell Muslims what is and isn’t acceptable to worship – which, is not only not going to happen, but is rather offensive. New Atheists complain all the time that people are defining New Atheism for them, yet have no qualms about stepping in and declaring themselves to be the righteous arbiters of Islam, more righteous than the believers.

Since 9/11, the whole focus of the international community has been on destroying terrorist organizations like al Qaeda and ISIS, as if they were mere criminal gangs that needed to be disrupted operationally.

There is so much wrong with this I don’t even know where to start. To battle Al Qaeda, the U.S. invaded a country, then left that country to invade another country which had no Al Qaeda presence, that, thanks to that intervention now has ISIS controlling entire provinces. Worst and weirdest “criminal gang operation” I’ve ever seen. Far from disrupting them operationally, our brilliance has only strengthened them and we’re now on the verge of supporting Al Qaeda again, in Syria.

Islamism, often referred to as “political Islam,” is the desire to impose a version of Islam on the rest of society.

Ah, the new favourite word, “Islamism.” “Islamophobia” is a bad word because it is made up and can’t be used because we say so but “Islamism” is necessary, because there’s no term describing the phenomenon…. oh wait, except there is. “Theocracy.” Now, theocracy is a terrible form of government and should be opposed by all believers and non-believers because it is bad for society and bad for religion – but why do we need “Islamism?” Oh right, because we single out Islam as a unique evil because hate sells.

Islamism, often referred to as “political Islam,” is the desire to impose a version of Islam on the rest of society. Political Islamists, like the Muslim Brotherhood, generally do not believe in resorting to violence…..Political Islam is an offshoot of religious Islam and draws much of its inspiration from the Quran and the hadith (the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad).

Right, so basically right-wing religious conservatism that promotes a theocratic agenda. Again, this is not a new phenomenon, not restricted to Muslims and in the West, given the Muslim population, not a big deal compared to other theocratic movements.

Of course, the Bible contains barbaric passages, as well. But there are historical and theological reasons why Christians and Jews can now easily ignore them.

Would be lovely to list those historical and theological reasons. Oh wait, to Harris, Judaism is an atheist religion and right-wing fundamentalist Christians totally ignore the bloody bits of the Bible.

To call ISIS “un-Islamic,” as President Obama has repeatedly done, and as Prime Minister Cameron recently stopped doing, is to play a dangerous game with words.

But is it? Or is it honest. Muslim scholars repeatedly say that ISIS’ actions violate fundamental tenets of Islam. Oh, but the Saudis, the Saudis, the “Islamic” Saudis – the same Islamic Saudis that ignore the very clear words of the Quran to not hoard wealth, to provide charity, to not kill civilians and start wars of aggression. Yes, the Saudi leadership is so very serious about Islam and isn’t using its control over Mecca as a way to justify its Arabic imperialism and isn’t using repressive laws against the population and women in particular to entrench a monarchy and prevent revolt.

Holding Islam up to scrutiny, rationally and ethically, must not be confused with anti-Muslim bigotry. Cries of “Islamophobia,” which have become ubiquitous on college campuses and in much of the liberal press, have been used to silence legitimate criticism.

And yet, cries of “Islamophobia isn’t real” are used to silence Muslims(and non-Muslims) who are targets of anti-Muslim bigotry. Those cries are used to devalue and de-legitimise very real hate faced by Muslims every day, often at the hands of the same people who look up to Harris and Nawaz as role models. Government surveillance, profiling, Orwellian anti-terrorism efforts silence Muslims politically and in communities.

Criticism of Islam is often reduced to crass, often sexualised, bigoted caricatures – not dissimilar to the antiSemitic cartoons and publications of the early 19th century. This is what Harris and Nawaz are fighting so hard for? This is what is going to stop ISIS and fundamentalists?

It isn’t and that’s the point.

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9 thoughts on “The Harris-Nawaz bromance and more Islam-bashing

  1. The way you see “new” atheists is the same as the way anti-Muslim bigots see Muslims — as a monolith. One set of people they can make sweeping generalizations about instead of recognizing them as individuals with different attitudes, thoughts and opinions. You may think your bigotry is justified, but guess what? So do they.

    Maybe you should consider whether it would be better to give up crass, bigoted caricatures for all people, not just the ones you’ve decided are on your side.

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    1. For better or worse, the New Atheist label exists and that label is used to describe a certain segment of society. Unlike the broad sweeping category of “Muslim” which encompasses nearly 2 billion people around the world, or every race and every political and ideological persuasion – New Atheist is a much narrower label referring to secularists who hold neoconservative/fundamentalist views of foreign policy as well as anti-theist attitudes towards religion.
      So, no, I don’t think it is a caricature any more than if I were to write an article criticising fundamentalist Christians or Muslims on their illogical and bigoted views of society.
      Isn’t one of the mantras of New Atheism is that all ideas should be up for scrutiny? Why are New Atheist ideas off limits?

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      1. Perhaps you should reconsider your highly bigoted view of what a ‘new atheist’ is, or doesn’t that fit your narrow minded agenda? As ‘ new atheists’ are a certain sector of society, covering many countries and cultures, ideological and political flavours by your definition they shouldn’t be painted with the same brush. Oh, but only Muslims have that kind of diversity? Really?
        ‘ New Atheism is a social and political movement that began in the early 2000s in favour of atheism and secularism promoted by a collection of modern atheist writers who have advocated the view that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises”.[1] There is uncertainty about how much influence the movement has had on religious demographics worldwide. In England and Wales, as of 2011 the increase in atheist groups, student societies, publications and public appearances coincided with the non-religious being the largest growing demographic, followed by Islam and Evangelicalism.[2]

        New Atheism lends itself to and often overlaps with secular humanism and antitheism, particularly in its criticism of what many New Atheists regard as the indoctrination of children and the perpetuation of ideologies.’

        What you fail to realise is atheists question all religions. Currently Islam is in the spotlight. If you want to talk about the stupidity of any religion, it isn’t a problem. Islam is not singled out, it has arguably made itself the poster boy/girl for those who question the relevance of religion in the 21st C.

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      2. If you’re going to quote something, you might want to give a source as to where you got it from.
        New Atheism is a specific term, you conflate it with ordinary atheism/anti-theism, it is not and the definition you provide is not the definition most critics of New Atheism use.
        And no, you are wrong when you say Islam is not singled out – it is singled out, both in the intensity and the type of criticism – often racist, often sexualised, often extremely crude and stolen right from the pages of Geller’s Atlas Shrugged or Spencer’s Jihadwatch.
        New Atheism is not more akin to secular humanism, in fact, most of New Atheism’s most strong sceptics are secular humanists because of the right-wing conservatism and often the outright racism.

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  2. To quote your good self (remind me to use this in arguments more often, very convincing!) , ‘for better or worse’ different definitions of new atheism exist. It seems that you are more than happy to condemn everyone you consider to be a new atheist whilst fiercely contesting the same principle applied to a different section of society. A generalising ‘label’, as you put it, is perfectly acceptable for ‘new’ atheists, but abhorrent for others. Rather smacks of hypocrisy, n’est pas?

    You ask why atheist ideas aren’t up for scrutiny. Last time i checked they were. Nobody will be beheaded for drawing a cartoon of an atheist, or questioning what an atheist believes, so please, crack on.

    You claim that Islam is picked on. It certainly has the media spotlight currently. Now, why is that? Could it be that people are behaving rather badly in the name of Islam in greater numbers than other fairy believing dimwits? Or is there really a conspiracy against the one true religion?

    Belittling a cordial conversation between two intelligent people from very different backgrounds who had a conversation about an issue that concerns the whole world…….your motivation/intelligence is beyond me. If you actually had something intelligent/constructive to say it would be a whole different story, but your Daily Mail headline portrays the quality of what followed.

    And finally, as i find these debates futile, and i thoroughly do not understand how anyone with half a brain can call people like Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris anything other that brilliant, thinking humanists, you will find some people who are racist/anti muslim bigots (insert whatever other negative adjective you like) and just so happen to be atheist too, so please stick to calling an individual spade a spade without trying to stigmatise and at the same time showing yourself to be a screaming hypocrite.

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    1. I use a consistent definition of New Atheism throughout my writings – unlike the 1.7 billion Muslims on Earth – New Atheists, defined as anti-theists with a reactionary, bellicose leaning make up a specific, identifiable group with specific identifiable beliefs.
      The fact that you consider Harris or Dawkins intelligent on politics says much about your own intelligence. They may be fine scientists, but historians and political scientists they are not. My essay was to point out the hypocrisy and logical failings of these Dear Leaders. Just because New Atheists aren’t beheading anyone(as though that is the one true measure of evil – drone strikes are ok?) doesn’t mean their bad and toxic ideas get a pass.
      According to you I am a blathering idiot, why you continue to read me and respond to me is beyond me.

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      1. Let’s deconstruct your last response, sentence by sentence:
        -‘I use a consistent definition of New Atheism throughout my writings…’ And? Others exist, yours isn’t the only one, as i showed with the definition from Wikipedia. Your definition of a New Atheist makes you guilty of exactly what you accuse them of. You are a bigot, making sweeping generalisations about a diverse group of people.
        -‘…the 1.7 billion Muslims on Earth’. You quote this several times. Somehow, by being 1.7 billion, shear weight of numbers trumps logic and reason? You can only have diversity in a number that large? There is no diversity in 1.7 million, 1,700, 17 or 7 people?
        -‘New Atheists, defined as anti-theists with a reactionary, bellicose leaning make up a specific, identifiable group with specific identifiable beliefs.’ I want you to read that statement a couple of times. You will probably have to read it many times, but let me know when you spot the stupidity and raging hypocrisy 🙂
        -‘The fact that you consider Harris or Dawkins intelligent on politics says much about your own intelligence.’ Please, show me where i said Harris (Peace be upon Him) or Dawkins (Peace be upon Him) were intelligent with regards to politics!? I consider them to be generally intelligent, as i stated, but don’t let that get in the way of you making things up! Now that you mentioned it, I would take either of their political views into serious consideration, as they are both highly logical, ethical, fact based people. I like facts, logic and ethics. Call me strange. You are right on one thing though, I am not particularly bright, but i try 🙂
        -‘They may be fine scientists, but historians and political scientists they are not.’ Gees, where do i start with this? As far as i know, neither of them have ever claimed to be anything other than scientists with opinions on other subjects. It is a pretty well known that Harris has spent a lot of time reading religious texts. Generally when people read a lot, they tend to learn about a subject. (Try it, you might like it!) His scientific qualification is in neuroscience, and listen carefully cause this is where it gets really interesting. He has a PhD in cognitive neuroscience, his area of interest is beliefs, and freewill. Now given his qualifications, combined with the amount of reading/research the man has done, I personally feel his opinion might just, maybe, carry some weight when talking about religion. You charge him/them with not being historians or political scientists? And? Are you an expert on Islam, Maajid Nawaz or ‘bromances’. Should you be commenting on them? Should anybody listen to your comments?
        -‘My essay was to point out the hypocrisy and logical failings of these Dear Leaders’ You need to go back to hypocrisy 101, and i am not sure if there is any hope for you in logic so attending logic 101 might be a waste of time. Read a little more about the people you are criticising, you will get some logic lessons and will be pleasantly surprised, if you can look beyond your bigotry. If by ‘Dear Leaders’ you mean ‘respected, prominent people’, we are in agreement! 🙂
        -‘Just because New Atheists aren’t beheading anyone(as though that is the one true measure of evil – drone strikes are ok?) doesn’t mean their bad and toxic ideas get a pass.’ Another absolute pearler! Please, stay on the topic. You said: ‘Isn’t one of the mantras of New Atheism is that all ideas should be up for scrutiny? Why are New Atheist ideas off limits?’ I said: ‘Last time i checked they were. Nobody will be beheaded for drawing a cartoon of an atheist, or questioning what an atheist believes, so please, crack on.’ The point was, and still is, that atheist’s ideas are up for scrutiny. I encouraged you to scrutinse, and pointed out that you are perfectly safe in doing so. You won’t be beheaded, crucified (well your ideas will be, but not your body), hacked to death with machetes, immolated, taken into slavery, raped….shall i continue? So how did you get to drones? What is their relevance?…..Ok, i will let you take this point off on a tangent (also called a ‘straw man’ in argument language). No, you won’t be attacked by a drone either. Last time i checked, it was Christians who had control of the drones. Are drone strikes ok? I would prefer to live in a world where they weren’t deemed by anyone as necessary. Until the world is secular, there are going to be drone strikes, wars and stupidity.
        -‘According to you I am a blathering idiot, why you continue to read me and respond to me is beyond me.’ I have perhaps been quite harsh in my jibes at your intelligence, of that I am not particularly proud (read: ‘i apologise’). I have a thing about logic, and i despise hypocrisy. I read a lot about the religion/secularism subject and rarely comment, as it is futile. Your article drew a response from me, take from that what you will.

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