Is “Islamophobia” Real?

This post is a member’s response to a current event. The opinions expressed in this piece are not necessarily those of the SAIU.

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My previous post on the Sam Harris / Glenn Greenwald clusterfuffle was mostly procedural. I restricted myself to assessing the authenticity of Murtaza Hussain’s citations, barely touching on the deeper issues of substance he and Greenwald raised. But now that we’re on the topic, this is a great opportunity to pierce through the rhetoric and try to get a bit more lucid and careful about what’s actually being disputed.

My biggest concern with the criticisms of Harris is that they freely shift between a number of different accusations, often as though they were equivalent. At the moment, the most salient seem to be:

A. He’s a racist, and has a racially motivated hatred of Muslims.

B. He has an intensely irrational fear and hatred of Muslims.

C. He has an intensely irrational fear and hatred of Islam.

D. His concerns about Islam are exaggerated.

E. He doesn’t appreciate just how harmful and dangerous the United States is.

F. He advocates militarism and condones violence in general.

I’d like to start disentangling these claims, in the hopes of encouraging actual discussions — and not just shouting matches — about them. Although I’ll use Harris and his recent detractors as a revealing test case, the conclusions here will have immediate relevance to any discussion in which people strongly disagree about the nature and geopolitical significance of Islamic extremism.

Racism?

In “Scientific racism, militarism, and the new atheists“, Hussain focuses on [A], trying to pattern-match Harris’ statements to trends exemplified in 18th- and 19th-century pseudoscience. It seems chiefly motivated by the fact that Harris, like a number of historical racists, opposed the aims of a disadvantaged group and, well, is a scientist.

Commenting on my previous post, Hussain appeared to shift gears and back off from accusing Harris of racism:

[T]he point of the post [I wrote] is not “Sam Harris is racist”. Indeed, as he accurately noted, he has a black Muslim friend. The point is that he conciously [sic] lends his scientific expertise to the legitimation of racist policies. He is also an avowed partisan and not a neutral, disinterested observer to these issues. .He [sic] is not speaking in terms of pure abstraction, and he is not as a scientist immune from the pull of ideology (as the racist pseudoscientists I compared him with illustrate). [...]

Politics is my field, science is his field, and I would not make dangerously ignorant comments about neuroscience. He on the other hand feels little compulsion [sic] about doing the same politically and using his authority as a scientist and philosopher to justify the actions of those who would commit (and *have committed*) the most utterly heinous acts in recent memory.

I couldn’t care less about his atheist advocacy, I couldn’t care less if he blasphemed a million Quran’s, what I care about is policies of torture and murder not being once again granted a veneer of scientific protection

I’d make two points in response. First, although I grant that someone’s scientific background doesn’t automatically make her a reliable political commentator, it should equally be noted that experience with the sciences doesn’t invalidate one’s future work in political or ethical theorizing. It is possible to responsibly specialize in more than one thing in life.

Moreover, interdisciplinary dialogue is a good thing, and there really are findings from the sciences of brain and mind that have important implications for our political tactics and goals. Reflexively rejecting someone’s views because she has a Ph.D. in neuroscience is nearly as bad as reflexively accepting someone’s views just because she has a Ph.D. in neuroscience!

But to my knowledge Harris has never made anything resembling the claim ‘I am a scientist, ergo my views on geopolitics must be correct’. So I think Hussain’s fixation on Harris’ scientific background is somewhat arbitrary, and is a primary reason why even one of Harris’ detractors might find the analogy forced. Although I agree that we should usually trust political scientists’ political views much more than we trust brain scientists’ political views, the difference is quantitative and not qualitative.

My second response is that Hussain’s attempt to backtrack from accusing Harris of racism is transparently inconsistent with his earlier statements. If he’s changed his mind, he should just say so, rather than pretend that his article is devoid of bald assertions like:

[T]he most prominent new atheists slide with ease into the most virulent racism imaginable. [...]

Harris engages in a nuanced version of the same racism which his predecessors in scientific racism practiced in their discussion of the blanket characteristics of “Negroes”. [...]

[Harris is in a] class with the worst proponents of scientific racism of the 20th century – including those who helped provide scientific justification for the horrors of European fascism.

That certainly doesn’t sound like an effort to maintain neutrality on Harris’ personal view of race, to merely criticize his support for “racist policies“. If such was Hussain’s intended message, then he failed rather spectacularly in communicating it.

In point of fact, I agree with Hussain and Greenwald that racism directed at Muslims is a very real problem, and that it really does lurk in the hearts of a distressingly large number of critics of Islam. (Harris agrees, too.) As Hussain rightly notes, the fact that Islam is not a race is irrelevant. It happens to be the case that most Muslims aren’t white; and for most white supremacists, that’s enough.

The point here isn’t that it’s impossible to oppose Islam for bad reasons, including hideously racist ones. It’s that there may be good reasons, or bad but non-racist ones, to oppose Islam as well. In the case of Harris, we have no reason to think that any race- or skin-color-specific bias is responsible for his stance on Islam. All the undistorted evidence Hussain cites is only relevant to charges [B]-[F] in my above list. This is perhaps why Greenwald, who followed up with a much more measured article, sets the race issue aside before proceeding to make his case against Harris.

 

Xenophobia?

Let’s follow Greenwald’s lead and bracket race, for the moment. Is there any cause to be concerned more generally that the tone or content of criticism of Islam may have a causal origin in some latent fear of the foreign, the unknown?

Not in all cases, no. Plenty of critics of Islam have all too intimate and first-hand an understanding of the more oppressive and destructive elements of Islamic tradition.

But in some cases? In many cases? Perhaps even, to some extent, in Harris’ case, or in mine?

Sure.

I’m just trying to be honest and open here, and do a little soul-searching. I’m trying to understand where writers like Greenwald and Hussain are coming from. I’m trying to extract my own lessons from their concerns, even if I disagree strongly with their chosen methods and conclusions.

I can’t 100% dismiss out of hand the idea that part of the explanation for the degree and nature of our aversion to Islam really is its unfamiliarity. That’s just human psychology: When apparent dangers are weird and foreign and agenty, we’re more attentive to them, and we respond to them more quickly, strongly, and decisively. I am woefully ignorant of what day-to-day life is like nearly everywhere in the world, and no matter how much I try to understand what it’s like to be a Muslim in different societal or geographic settings, I’ll never bridge the gap completely. And that ignorance will inevitably color my judgments and priorities to some extent. I hate it, but it’s true.

Although on introspection I detect no traces of ethnic animus or cultural bias in my own head — if I did, I’d have already rooted it out, to the best of my ability — I can’t totally rule out the possibility that some latent aversion to the general Otherness of Islam is having some effect on the salience I psychologically assign to apparent threats from militant Islamism. Being biased doesn’t feel a particular way. Particularly given that we’re hypothesizing small, cumulative errors in judgment (‘micro-xenophobia’), not some overarching, horns-and-trumpets Totalitarian World-View. Everyone on the planet succumbs to small biases of that sort, to unconscious overreliance on uneducated intuitions and overgeneralized schemas.

And to say that these sorts of errors are common, and are very difficult to combat, is in no way to excuse them. I’m not admitting the possibility so that I can then be complacent about it. If I am in fact systematically biased, then I could cause some real damage without even realizing it. It’s my responsibility as a human being to very carefully and rigorously test whether (or to what extent) I am making errors of this sort.

… But the coin has two sides.

It’s just as possible that people whose experience with the positive elements of Islamic culture and tradition have quieted or moderated their criticisms are the biased ones. It’s just as possible that generally valuable heuristics like ‘be culturally tolerant’ are resulting in a destructive pro-Islam bias (‘micro-relativism’?). It’s just as possible that small (or large) attentional and inferential errors are coloring the views of Islam’s defenders, making them ignore or underestimate the risks Harris is talking about. Benevolent racism is just as real as malevolent racism.

The take-away message isn’t that one side or the other is certainly wrong, just because bias or bad faith could account for some of the claims made by either side. It’s worthwhile to set aside some time to sit quietly, to try and really probe your reasons for what you believe, see whether they are as strong as you thought, place yourself in the other side’s shoes for a time. But a general skepticism or intellectual despair can’t rationally follow from that. Perhaps we’re all biased, albeit in different directions; but, given how high the stakes are, we still have to talk about these things, and do our best to become more reasonable.

Importantly, one thing we can’t automatically take away from a discovery that some person is being irrational or bigoted, is the conclusion that that person’s arguments or conclusions are mistaken. Someone’s reasoning can be flawless even if the ultimate psychological origins for his belief are ridiculous. And, for that matter, purity of heart is no guarantor of accuracy!

It’s not good enough to feel righteous. It’s not even good enough to be righteous, or have the best of intentions. We have to put in the extra hard work of becoming right. So, with that moment of quiet reflection behind us, we must return with all the more urgency to determining the grounds of, and relationships between, charges of “racism”, “Islamophobia”, “militarism”, and so on.

 

Islamophobia?

In “Sam Harris, the New Atheists, and anti-Muslim animus”, Greenwald writes:

Perhaps the most repellent claim Harris made to me was that Islamophobia is fictitious and non-existent, “a term of propaganda designed to protect Islam from the forces of secularism by conflating all criticism of it with racism and xenophobia”. How anyone can observe post-9/11 political discourse in the west and believe this is truly mystifying. 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. I believe all of those definitions fit Harris quite well[.]

The definition Greenwald constructs here seems rather ad-hoc, indeed tailor-made to his criticisms of Harris. It is not the ordinary definition of “Islamophobia”; its parallelism with sexism, anti-semiticism, homophobia, and clinical phobias is unusually tenuous; and it certainly isn’t the definition Harris had in mind when he criticized the term. Greenwald’s clause (3) is uselessly vague: if I made sweeping and unjustified positive claims about Muslims, that would surely not make me an Islamophobe! Adding his clauses (1) and (2) helps, but the focus on a subminority’s “sins” or “bad acts” is a complete red herring; if no Muslims had ever done anything truly wrong, Islamophobia would still be possible.

Let’s attempt a more to-the-point and generally applicable definition. If I’d never seen the word before, I’d probably expect “Islamophobia” to mean an unreasonable, pathological fear or hatred of Islam. And it’s often used that way. But it’s also used to mean an unreasonable, pathological fear or hatred of Muslims — as Greenwald’s puts it, “irrational anti-Muslim animus”. (For a historical perspective, see López 2010.)

Already, this duality raises a serious problem: Writers like Harris happily identify as anti-Islam, but strongly deny being anti-Muslim. If “Islamophobia” is used to conceal leaps between criticisms of Islam (as an ideology or cultural institution) and personal attacks on Muslims, then it will surely produce more heat than light in debates, and make inferences between [B] and [C] in my list above seem deceptively easy.

Compare the sentiment ‘I hate the United States’ to ‘I hate all Americans’. Or compare ‘I want to destroy racism’ to ‘I want to destroy racists’. If freely equivocating between assertions like these could be incredibly misleading in debates about the U.S. or about racial bias, then we should also expect it to be misleading in debates about Islam. For precisely the same reasons.

The best summary I’ve seen of potential problems with the term “Islamophobia” comes from Robin Richardson, a seasoned promoter of multiculturalism and education equality. He writes:

The disadvantages of the term Islamophobia are significant. Some of them are primarily about the echoes implicit in the concept of phobia. Others are about the implications of the term Islam. For convenience, they can be itemised as follows.

1. Medically, phobia implies a severe mental illness of a kind that affects only a tiny minority of people. Whatever else anxiety about Muslims may be, it is not merely a mental illness and does not merely involve a small number of people.

2. To accuse someone of being insane or irrational is to be abusive and, not surprisingly, to make them defensive and defiant. Reflective dialogue with them is then all but impossible.

3. To label someone with whom you disagree as irrational or insane is to absolve yourself of the responsibility of trying to understand, both intellectually and with empathy, why they think and act as they do, and of seeking through engagement and argument to modify their perceptions and understandings. [...]

7. The term is inappropriate for describing opinions that are basically anti-religion as distinct from anti-Islam. ‘I am an Islamophobe,’ wrote the journalist Polly Toynbee in reaction to the Runnymede 1997 report, adding ‘… I am also a Christophobe. If Christianity were not such a spent force in this country, if it were powerful and dominant as it once was, it would still be every bit as damaging as Islam is in those theocratic states in its thrall… If I lived in Israel, I’d feel the same way about Judaism’.

8. The key phenomenon to be addressed is arguably anti-Muslim hostility, namely hostility towards an ethno-religious identity within western countries (including Russia), rather than hostility towards the tenets or practices of a worldwide religion. The 1997 Runnymede definition of Islamophobia was ‘a shorthand way of referring to dread or hatred of Islam – and, therefore, to fear or dislike of all or most Muslims’. In retrospect, it would have been as accurate, or arguably indeed more accurate, to say ‘a shorthand way of referring to fear or dislike of all or most Muslims – and, therefore, dread or hatred of Islam’.

Crucially, Harris isn’t claiming that there’s no such thing as anti-Muslim bigotry. He isn’t even claiming that no one criticizes Islam for bigoted reasons. Instead, his reasons for rejecting “Islamophobia” are:

Apologists for Islam have even sought to defend their faith from criticism by inventing a psychological disorder known as “Islamophobia.” My friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali is said to be suffering from it. Though she was circumcised as a girl by religious barbarians (as 98 percent of Somali girls still are)[,] has been in constant flight from theocrats ever since, and must retain a bodyguard everywhere she goes, even her criticism of Islam is viewed as a form of “bigotry” and “racism” by many “moderate” Muslims. And yet, moderate Muslims should be the first to observe how obscene Muslim bullying is—and they should be the first to defend the right of public intellectuals, cartoonists, and novelists to criticize the faith.

There is no such thing as Islamophobia. Bigotry and racism exist, of course—and they are evils that all well-intentioned people must oppose. And prejudice against Muslims or Arabs, purely because of the accident of their birth, is despicable. But like all religions, Islam is a system of ideas and practices. And it is not a form of bigotry or racism to observe that the specific tenets of the faith pose a special threat to civil society.

These are identical to Richardson’s concerns 1 and 8. Harris objects to rhetorical attempts to blur the lines between attacks on Islam and attacks on Muslims, particularly without clear arguments establishing this link.

More, he objects to dismissing all extreme criticism of Islam using the idiom of clinical phobias, because he doesn’t think extreme criticism of Islam is always unreasonable, much less radically unreasonable. If harsh critiques of Islam are not deranged across the board, then demonstrating [D] ‘His concerns about Islam are exaggerated.‘ will not suffice for demonstrating [C] ‘He has an intensely irrational fear and hatred of Islam.‘, independent of the fact that neither establishes [B] ‘He has an intensely irrational fear and hatred of Muslims.

Greenwald says that he deems Harris “Islamophobic”, not because Harris criticizes Islam, but because Harris criticizes Islam more than he criticizes other religions. But he gives no argument for why an anti-religious writer should deem all religions equally bad. It would be amazing if religions, in all their diversity, happened to pose equivalent risks. And neither racism nor xenophobia can explain the fact that Harris opposes Islam so much more strongly than he opposes far less familiar religions, like Shinto or Jainism. As Harris puts it,

At this point in human history, Islam simply is different from other faiths. The challenge we all face, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, is to find the most benign and practical ways of mitigating these differences and of changing this religion for the better.

Ockham’s Razor suggests that we at least entertain the idea that Harris is just telling the truth. He’s unusually critical of Islam because his exegetical, psychological, and geopolitical assessment of the doctrines, practices, and values associated with contemporary Islam is that they’re unusually harmful to human well-being. He could think all that, and be wrong, without ever once succumbing to a secret prejudice against Muslims.

There remains the large dialectical onus of showing that Harris’ most severe criticisms of Islam are all false; the even larger burden of showing as well that they are outright irrational; and the even larger burden of showing that they are, each and every one, so wildly irrational as to rival sexism, homophobia, or clinical phobias.

That’s quite a project. Importantly, if any of these burdens can’t unambiguously be met, then resorting to immediate name-calling, to accusations of bigotry or malice, will remain an irresponsible tactic, one deeply destructive of reasoned debate. In contexts where it has yet to be demonstrated that someone’s concerns about Islam are unfounded, rushing to accuse that person of “Islamophobia” shuts down nuanced and productive discussion. It serves the function only of undiscriminatingly silencing critics of Islam, not of demonstrating to anyone that the original anti-Islam claims are mistaken.

The fact that there are cases where criticisms of Islam are manifestly ridiculous, without the slightest basis in scripture, tradition, or contemporary practice, does not change the fact that “Islamophobia” is rarely reserved for those open-and-shut cases. It is indeed routinely employed as a replacement for substantive rebuttals, as though the very existence and use of the word constituted a reason in its own right to dismiss the critic of Islam! And even when accompanied by actual argument, as in Greenwald’s case, the term surely does not enhance the discussion’s potential to change and open minds.

If there’s one thing contemporary political discourse does not need, it’s a greater abundance of slurs and buzzwords for efficiently condemning and/or pigeonholing one’s ideological opponents. As such, although I’m happy to grant that Islamophobia exists in most of the senses indicated above, I am not persuaded that the word “Islamophobia” is ever the optimal way to point irrational anti-Muslim or anti-Islam sentiment out.

 

Jingoism?

I’ve focused on “Islamophobia”, but I doubt that’s the real issue for Greenwald. Possibly it isn’t even the main worry of Hussain. Instead, I gather that their main objection is to Harris’ apparent defenses of U.S. foreign policy.

Would Greenwald and Hussain consider it a positive development if Harris demonstrated his lack of bias by equally strongly and insistently endorsing a variety of other U.S. military campaigns that have no relation to the Muslim world? Surely not. Greenwald’s fundamental complaint is not that Harris is inconsistently bellicose or pro-administration; it’s that he’s bellicose or pro-administration at all. Likewise, for Hussain to fixate on whether policies like war or torture are “racist” is to profoundly misunderstand the strength of his own case. Even if they weren’t racist, they could still be cruel and grotesque atrocities.

And admitting that fact is an important step in the right direction. Hussain has already begun to move in that direction in my comments, commending biologist and antireligious activist P.Z. Myers for criticizing Islam without endorsing violence. (Greenwald has also cited Myers, with wary approval.) But Myers claims to “despise Islam as much as Harris does” (!). Writes he:

I would still say that Islam as a religion is nastier and more barbaric than, say, Anglicanism. The Anglicans do not have as a point of doctrine that it is commendable to order the execution of writers or webcomic artists, nor that a reasonable punishment for adultery is to stone the woman to death. That is not islamophobia: that is recognizing the primitive and cruel realities of a particularly vile religion, in the same way that we can condemn Catholicism for its evil policies towards women and its sheltering of pedophile priests. We can place various cults on a relatively objective scale of repugnance for their attitudes towards human rights, education, equality, honesty, etc., and on civil liberties, you know, that stuff we liberals are supposed to care about, Islam as a whole is damnably bad.

It is not islamophobia to recognize reality.

If we admit that Myers’ view of Islam is not manifestly absurd or bigoted, then we must conclude that the entire discussion of racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia was a red herring. It is Harris’ pro-U.S., pro-Israel militarism that is the real and substantive locus of criticism.

It doesn’t take nationalism, imperialism, sadism, or white supremacism for two otherwise reasonable people to disagree as strongly as Greenwald and Harris do. Given how messy and complicated religious psychology and sociology are, different data sets, different heuristics for assessing the data, and different background theories are quite sufficient.

The simplest explanation for Harris’ more “unsettling” (as he puts it) views is that he…

  • (a) … thinks religious doctrines often have a strong influence on human behavior. E.g.:

Many peoples have been conquered by foreign powers or otherwise mistreated and show no propensity for the type of violence that is commonplace among Muslims. Where are the Tibetan Buddhist suicide bombers? The Tibetans have suffered an occupation every bit as oppressive as any ever imposed on a Muslim country. At least one million Tibetans have died as a result, and their culture has been systematically eradicated. Even their language has been taken from them. Recently, they have begun to practice self-immolation in protest. The difference between self-immolation and blowing oneself up in a crowd of children, or at the entrance to a hospital, is impossible to overstate, and reveals a great difference in moral attitude between Vajrayana Buddhism and Islam. [...] My point, of course, is that beliefs matter.

  • (b) … thinks Islam has especially violent doctrines.
  • (c) … thinks that if Islam is a significant source of violence, then the best way to respond is sometimes militaristic.

Greenwald strongly rejects (b), claiming that singling out Islam for special criticism is outright bigoted. He may also doubt (a), inasmuch as he thinks that militant Islamism is fully explicable as a response to material aggression, oppression, and exploitation. Myers, on the other hand, grants (a) and (b) but strongly rejects (c). In all these cases, rational disagreement is possible, and civil discussion may lead to genuine progress in consensus-building.

Certainly, accusing Harris of harboring a special anti-Muslim bias would be a useful tactic for discrediting his policy analysis overall. But I think Greenwald and Harris are both arguing in good faith. Why, then, has Greenwald neglected such a simple explanation for Harris’ stance? Unlike Hussain, Greenwald isn’t a sloppy or inattentive reader of Harris.

My hypothesis is that Greenwald is succumbing to the reverse halo effect. It’s hard to model other agents, and particularly hard to imagine reasonable people coming to conclusions radically unlike our own. When we find these conclusions especially odious, it’s often easiest to imagine a simple, overarching perversion that infects every aspect of the other person’s psyche. Certainly it’s easier than admitting that a person can be radically mistaken on a variety of issues without being a fool or a monster — that, here as elsewhere, people are complicated.

As more evidence of human complexity, I’d note that although Greenwald paints a picture of Harris as a kneejerk supporter of Israel and of U.S. militarism, it is Greenwald, and not Harris, who thought that the Iraq War was a good idea at the time. And while Harris has defended Israel on a number of occasions, he has also written:

As a secularist and a nonbeliever—and as a Jew—I find the idea of a Jewish state obnoxious.

and:

Judaism is as intrinsically divisive, as ridiculous in its literalism, and as at odds with the civilizing insights of modernity as any other religion. Jewish settlers, by exercising their ‘freedom of belief’ on contested land, are now one of the principal obstacles to peace in the Middle East. They will be a direct cause of war between Islam and the West should one ever erupt over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Perhaps his views are quite off-base. But they are not cartoonish, and he has argued for them. His opponents would make much more progress if they spent as much time on rebuttals as they currently do on caricatures.

The innumerable sins of the United States may be relevant to the pragmatics of (c), but recognizing these sins should not automatically commit us to dismissing (a) and (b). Likewise, writes Harris:

[N]othing about honestly discussing the doctrine of Islam requires that a person not notice all that might be wrong with U.S. foreign policy, capitalism, the vestiges of empire, or anything else that may be contributing to our ongoing conflicts in the Muslim world.

There are lots of ways to reject Harris’ doctrine (c). Myers makes a pragmatic argument (improving lives, not destroying them, mitigates dogmatism) and, I gather, a principled one (pacifism is the most defensible ethos). Greenwald might add that who we’re relying on to prosecute the war makes a vast difference — that enhancing the power and authority of the U.S. would have more costs and risks than Islam ever did, even if Islamic extremism were a serious threat.

Those aren’t utterly crazy positions, and neither is Harris’. I can say that, and endorse civil open discussion, even knowing that whichever side is the wrong one is very, veryvery wrong — and that the future of human happiness, liberty, and peace depends in large part on our getting this right.

It is precisely because the question is so important that we must not allow public disagreement over the answer to degenerate into banal mud-slinging. It is precisely because our biases — be they micro-xenophobia, micro-relativism, or the halo effect — threaten to vitiate our reasoning that we must put our all into practicing self-criticism, open-mindedness, and level-headed discourse. And it is precisely because our intellectual opponents, if wrong, threaten to do so much harm, that we must work every day to come to better understand them, so that we can actually begin to change minds.

It is not an easy task, but the need is great. If we’re serious about the underlying problems, and not just about scoring points in verbal debates about them, then there is no other way.

 

[UPDATE, April 11: Hussain and I appeared with human rights advocate Qasim Rashid and Center for Inquiry president Ronald Lindsay on the Huffington Post Live to discuss whether the recent attacks on Harris are overblown. Click here to watch.]

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Further reading
Greenwald, Glenn (2013). “Murtaza Hussain replies to Harris and his
defenders”. GGSideDocs.
Greenwald, Glenn (2013). “The racism that fuels the ‘war on terror’”. The Guardian.
Harris, Sam (2013). “Response to Controversy”. Sam Harris Blog.
Harris, Sam (2012). “Wrestling the Troll”. Sam Harris Blog.
Myers, P.Z. (2013). “Both wrong, both right”. Pharyngula.
Richardson, Robin (2009). “Islamophobia or anti-Muslim racism — or what?” Insted.
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Robby Bensinger posted this on April 8, 2013

Robby has been a member of the Secular Alliance since its inception.

164 responses

  • Mike Hitchcock said on April 9, 2013 at 2:03 am

    Thanks Robby for a very perceptive article. As a big fan of Sam Harris (although I don’t by any means agree with him on some points) I find it frustrating that his critics appear to launch their attacks without actually reading what the man says; instead, reading into his work what they think he ought (not) to have said.

  • Ed said on April 9, 2013 at 2:11 am

  • Lars said on April 9, 2013 at 2:20 am

    Sanity prevailed! Thank you. Sam’s own piece on all this is crystal clear also, but maybe the Greenwalds, Hedges and Aslans of the world will finally admit their slandering, double standards and intellectual dishonesty “agenda” is futile, as they have been exposed from several flanks now.

  • Chris H said on April 9, 2013 at 2:22 am

    Fine writing Robbie. Lively and clear. Keep it up!

  • Michaelella said on April 9, 2013 at 2:28 am

    I appreciate the effort in this article to take an even handed look at these differences in views. Especially helpful is looking honestly at biases and heuristics that play a part in shaping our perceptions. Frankly I think both sides have raised legitimate points that are worthy of consideration…and as the last paragraph and sentence suggest, it is worth avoiding a devolution into a mud slinging match, and efforts to understand our intellectual opponent, especially in the midst of heated disagreement, is as worthwhile as it is challenging.

  • Robby Bensinger said on April 9, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Our comments system has been down, so if you haven’t been able to post here, it should be working again.

  • Ricky said on April 9, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    Another well though out explanation, Greenwald should have the common sense to error of his views on Sam Harris and how wrong using the word “Islamaphobia” is…

  • Jonathan said on April 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Truly a great analysis. I am a fan of both Greenwald and Harris, and I never thought of their projects as incompatible but just concerned with different targets. I was surprised by Greenwald’s view, though, as you point out, his article was more a great deal more measured and more accurate than Hussain’s.

    It’s odd that they both mischaracterize Harris’s view on tortutre. In the Guardian article, Glenn claims that that Harris’s view of torture proceeds from a hatred of Islam. But this is not just supported by a fair reading of Harris’s work. It’s a thought experiment: the act of someone testing their assumptions – in this case, the assumption that torture is always wrong – against devising hypothetical situations. It’s certainly to possible to think of objections to his argument – there are other systems of ethics besides consequentialism – but it still remains a tricky and testing case.

    I don’t think it’s wrong of Hussain to point out that this public exercise might have been untimely, given the public debate at the time. It wouldn’t surprise me if torture advocates have used the notion of the ticking bomb to defend the necessity of torture, of, in fact, the entire torture regime. But Harris is not offering a wholesale endorsement of torture, or of those horrendous policies. It’s a very specific and finely calibrated argument, to which Harris supplies a host of caveats. I’d like to see Hussain respond to the actual content of the article because the thought experiment does make me uncomfortable and is not easy, at least for me, to answer.

    Hussain claims he’s not interested in Harris’s psychology. Odd then, that he speculates about Harris’s level of political knowledge and awareness of certain debates. This is just another way of implying that his real motivation was an anti-muslim animus, that there was something damning about the timing of the piece. The tenor of Hussain’s comments makes me very uncomfortable, castigating someone for an exercise of reason, rather than actually dealing with the content of his argument.

    It’s just not true that the Harris’s view on torture would necessarily have horrendous practical implications. Again, it’s a finely calibrated argument. If he was actually endorsing what Hussain seems to think he is endorsing I very much doubt he would have so many defenders, many of whom would count themselves liberal.

    Thanks again for this piece of writing. I look forward to reading more of your thoughts.

  • Zach Sears said on April 9, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    Is Islam more of a threat to civilization than climate change and ecological destruction or the largest military and industrial complex in the world, the US government, which has killed over a hundred thousand civilians and has had top officials saying the deaths of a half a million Iraqi children was worth a foreign policy objective?

    Radical Islam is indeed a threat but the majority of Muslim leaders came out against the 9/11 attacks and do not support groups such as Al Qaeda. When Harris makes claims about “tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney,” he is callously overlooking the fact that a suicide bomber neither has control over an army worth trillions nor has he killed and justified the killings of over a hundred thousand people because there hasn’t been that many killed by suicide bombers. He also overlooks the facts that many Muslims (some polls obviously suggest a majority) do not support religious based violence, are not extremists, and criticize both US aggression and terrorist acts. This is why Muslim’s cannot be vilified or condemned simply by adhering to a faith in a manner which supposes that tens of millions of them pose more of a threat to civilization than Dick Cheney or other US radicals who indeed have many times more force under their influence. Harris’ views on just what is civilization and what is barbaric are in my minds confused as he constantly makes the dichotomy between the civilized world and Islam. Did he forget that for decades in the 60s and 70s liberal movements came about bringing more equality while the US backed Islamic extremists such as the Muhajadeen (many of whose members became the Taliban) and continues to back “Islamic” regimes in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, etc.

    The points made against Harris are simple and straightforward, he overly demonizes Islam as a threat to the civilized world while ignoring the realities that; A)Not all Muslims are extremists or even the majority of them, but construes all adherents of the faith as adherents of a doctrine that the best examples of which are “the jihadists, the murderers of apostates, and the men who treat their wives and daughters like chattel” while ignoring the fact that not all Muslims support all or any of that and B) There is much more data suggesting that Islam is not the greatest threat to civilization, and instead climate change, and the US military hegemony on display since WWII cause both more deaths and suffering (with a mostly supportive US public) and pose more of a threat to civilization. For Harris to focus in on Islam as the prime evil while ignoring the facts that the western states and belief in their doctrines has killed far more than Islam has over it’s entire existence. It should go without saying that his claims on the threats of Islam are therefore overhyped (albeit there is a threat) and in the wake of so much violence done to Muslims in the middle east over the last century by western states can be construed as being either islamaphobic -Greenwald’s definition suffices for me- or having an anti muslim animus which overly blankets the beliefs of all Muslims and deems adherents to the faith simply enemies of civilization.

    The distinction Harris’ makes between civilization and the “backwards” muslims is super clear when he defends both the US and Isreal saying that “Muslims intentionally murder noncombatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so,” when it is clear that the US and Israel have killed more noncombatants with excessive military force than we could ever blame on Islam. Personally I view dropping cluster bombs on Iraq, taking out public works infrastructure in Iraq, and bombing the civilian populations of Germany, Japan, Vietnam, and Laos as strong refutations to his claim of avoiding noncombatants. However, it is ludicrous to insist that we have some sort of higher moral distinction than them because we don’t target non combatants when we first of all do just that -signature strikes anyone?- and have killed more noncombatants than Islam has. Not to mention if the extremists who attacked the US on 9/11 had drones, laser guided missiles, and the most advanced military ever seen I would bet that they would wage their war in an entirely different manner. “Human shields” as an argument to justify the collateral damage of sending a bomb that will surely kill many to target specific individuals is not only unjustifiable as it is often used by Israel as an excuse for killing civilians. The fact is that Israel by definition is a terrorist state, that captures civilians in other countries (much like the US) and brings them over borders to rot in prisons without trial. How anyone who considers themselves reasonable or rational support Harris’ comments on Israel having the moral high ground when it is so obviously clear that Israel and the US kill so many more non combatants is beyond me.

    That said the best way to deal with the real threat Islam and radical Islam poses to a civil society are not to either bomb them out of existence or declare a war on Islam (which Harris has claimed is who we really are at war with), but to cooperate with those who seek to end extremist violence and by following the hippocratic oath to do no harm ourselves. The radicalization of US foreign policy (whether it’s the torture Harris “hypothetically” supports or the preemptive invasions and wars that are now the doctrine of the most powerful military on earth) has led increasingly to a more radical Islam. We kill innocent people through drone strikes constantly as well as cruise missile attacks, and we support brutal regimes which do great harm to their own people. This only bolsters the recruitment of radical muslims towards pursuing violence against the US. If we’re serious about helping Muslim people in the world as they are most assuredly the ones who suffer the most from radical Islam (as Hussain writes) then we must first stop killing them and making overly blanket like statements about Islam due to just as faith based beliefs in our own country.

    Lastly I find it funny that climate change and ecological destruction which IMO is the biggest threat to not just civilization but the entire earth as we know it has strong ties to the reasons why the US is in the middle east with bases, client states, and economic sanctions in the first place. That reason is oil which is one of the primary fossil fuels being burned that’s causing climate change. While Harris is busy insisting and building up the threat that Islam poses to civilization we bomb and kill to ensure more US control over foreign resources while at the same time many seek extracting all energy resources from the US to burn every fossil fuel we can find leading us further down the path of destruction. It’s not that I disagree completely with Harris’ critique of Islam, far from it, but when the western world is busy destroying the lives of so many innocent people while seeking some measure of control over fossil fuel resources globally I question how sound his reasoning is to the threats that Islam really poses. So is Islam a bigger threat than our addiction to fossil fuels, a seemingly unstoppable military industrial complex, or the extremism of those like Cheney who have supported wars against international laws that kill many times more than Islam?

  • Robby Bensinger said on April 9, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I noted above that Harris doesn’t think we need to criticize the U.S. less in order to criticize Islam more. “[N]othing about honestly discussing the doctrine of Islam requires that a person not notice all that might be wrong with U.S. foreign policy, capitalism, the vestiges of empire, or anything else that may be contributing to our ongoing conflicts in the Muslim world.”

    Similarly, I’d be amazed if he thinks that a realistic stance on Islamism requires us to ignore the problem of climate change. In many of these cases, addressing one of these problems requires (or helps) us to address several of the others. So I don’t understand objecting to Harris’ anti-religious project on the grounds that there are urgent non-religious problems too. Everyone accepts that.

    This, for instance, is not a valid argument:

    1. Harris thinks Islam is the most serious problem we’re facing.
    2. But some other problem, X, is a more serious problem than Islam.
    3. Therefore Islam isn’t as bad as Harris claims.

    I’m not completely sure 1 is actually true, but even if it is, the conclusion doesn’t follow. Islam might be just as bad as Harris claims in absolute terms, even if he’s wrong about how bad it is relative to other maladies. I suspect it would be much more productive to talk about solutions and collaborative action than to spend all our time arguing about whose existential threat is the threatiest.

  • matt said on April 9, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    another excellent post. bookmarked! thank you for your insight.

  • Tim Jones said on April 9, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Zach, there are a few points that stood out for me as having succumbed to the kind of interpretation mistakes that this article is about.

    Firstly, Sam Harris does not claim that all, or even most, Muslims are extremists. However, he cites polls which suggest that a disturbingly large minority are.

    Secondly, as far as I’m aware, Harris’ view is not that Islam is the single greatest threat the world has ever faced across all categories; it is merely that it poses more of a threat than the world’s other religions, notably Christianity.

    Thirdly, I don’t think your historical analysis of the USA’s civilian death toll vs that of jihadists is valid because you are not comparing like with like. You are pitting the casualties caused by jihadists in a recent and relatively short period against those inflicted by the USA since it entered World War Two seventy years ago, many of which were inflicted using weapons and tactics that have since been scrapped precisely because of their human cost. If you look at the civilian death toll in Afghanistan since 2006, you will note that the proportion inflicted by the Taliban dwarfs that inflicted by US and allied forces (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/aug/10/afghanistan-civilian-casualties-statistics#data).

    Fourthly, since we are now in a period of our history in which large scale inter-state conflicts are relatively rare *compared to earlier points in our history*, it stands to reason that the threat of terrorism is larger in relative terms than it was previously. A country that considers terrorism to be its number one defence priority is one that doesn’t have many conventional threats (i.e. belligerent nation states) to worry about.

  • Murtaza Hussain said on April 9, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Thanks for taking the time to craft a thoughtful response. I wrote a full response to your previous article over here which was widely disseminated (more comprehensive than a few message board posts on the train): http://ggsidedocs.blogspot.com.br/2013/04/murtaza-hussain-replies-to-harris-and.html

    If you’re interested in building a comprehensive defense of this individual I’d suggest you to use the arguments contained therein as opposed to what you have used, especially as these were publicly disseminated to a large number of people.

  • Robby Bensinger said on April 9, 2013 at 7:16 pm

    Murtaza: Great! I’ll link to that document. If you’d like to talk more, send me an e-mail at rbensing@indiana.edu. I tried to get in touch with you via comments and Facebook before writing this follow-up, but those aren’t very reliable channels. I’m also happy to edit out the typoes in my quotations, since your blog comments were off-the-cuff. (I didn’t want to make any edits without permission.)

  • Sam Rosen said on April 9, 2013 at 7:48 pm

    In conversations about Islam, we should make conscious effort to highlight the distinction between Muslimophobia and Islamophobia. If we put pressure on that point, a lot of these confusions will evaporate.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 9, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Robby,

    There was this quote from Harris:

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

    I think that is a pretty “Islamophobic” comment. I am defining Islamophobia here as being an “irrational” fear of Islam or Muslims who are following Islam.

    If someone was to say that the only way orthodox Jews can envisage the world is one in which all non-Jews have been killed (this is after all in The Old Testament), do you think it would be wrong to call them anti-Semitic?

    So, yes, Harris is definitely being irrational in his comment, and is, thus by definition, being Islamophopic.

  • Sam Rosen said on April 9, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    Islam is a set of ideas!

    We need to constantly emphasize this. The more we emphasize that Islam, at base, is merely a whole bunch of beliefs about how the world works, the easier it will be to get people in the frame of mind to change their mind.

    Criticizing bad ideas is a duty.

  • Zach Sears said on April 9, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    @ Robby I don’t think we need to criticize the US more to criticize Islam more either and never made that point. Since Harris’ article on The End of Liberalism (http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/the-end-of-liberalism/ which is the article the “fascist” quote came from) argues that Israel and the US hold a moral high ground because they intentionally kill noncombatants while we seek to avoid killing noncombatants, then I believe it is fair game to look at his views on “them vs us”. I don’t see how in any way if Harris is first making the dichotomy between violence done by us vs violence done by them that it is off the table for discussion especially when my main claim is that he is over sensationalizing and over hyping the threat of Islam. His specific claim about the noncombatants completely ignores that the US has been killing at far greater numbers than Islam has. Case and point is that the chance you will be killed by a terrorist attack is about 1 in 20 million. The chance of dying at the hands of the US military is over 600x greater when you consider the massive amounts of death doled out by the US in the middle east in just the last decade (if we included death and health issues from the 2,000 metric tons of depleted uranium as well the odds may be higher). Even today we are finding out that Obama’s drone program is targeting unidentified people via signature strikes and that they’re targeting non high level “operatives” and that a wider array of people than previously expected. For someone who lives in a country where these strikes occur regularly there is a much more real threat to them from the US than we experience from Islam or even Islamic extremism. For Harris to say “The truth is that there is every reason to believe that a terrifying number of the world’s Muslims now view all political and moral questions in terms of their affiliation with Islam. This leads them to rally to the cause of other Muslims no matter how sociopathic their behavior. This benighted religious solidarity may be the greatest problem facing civilization”, while at the same time applauding our higher moral ground is for me to blow a huge hole in his argument to the legitimacy or extent of the threat he supposes Islam of having. Keep in mind I’m not disavowing Islam as a threat merely claiming Harris distorts and over inflates.

    Further Harris makes the claim that there are tens of millions of people more scary than Cheney which I discussed above as well, but it’s worth noting again that that claim is false. Whether their ideas may be frightening and their beliefs outright scary when comparing them with the views and very real threat that a radical like Cheney who supported and supports preemptive unilateral invasions of countries they pale in comparison especially when you’re trying to defend that 10 million people are more scary than him. First he had influence and control over the most advanced military ever known with a very real and scary killing force. Second he actually used that force to kill over a hundred thousand in Iraq and enriched his corporate “friends” in the process. While the thought of a radical detonating a bomb is indeed scary the suggestion that there are ten million of them ready to do something that would be as deadly or dangerous to innocent human beings as invade a country is completely laughable as it is entirely based on presumption rather than evidence.

    This is a hard conversation to have as I think people on both sides hate the violence done by Islamic fundamentalists (and condemn it) but I think you’re mischaracterizing my argument. I would say:
    1 Harris says Islam is the greatest problem facing civilization
    2 There are obviously greater threats facing civilization than Islam both for US citizens and those in the middle east. First and foremost the US military occupation and killing of noncombatants (which mind you is who we try not to kill which gives us a moral high ground)
    3 Harris claims of Islam being such a threat are therefore overinflated because there isn’t evidence for Islam being the greatest problem facing civilization (especially when you consider he uses the lack of morals or ethics of the suicide bombers to justify our attacks that kill in far greater numbers)

    However, I totally agree that it makes little sense to argue back and forth on whose threat is greater and makes far more sense to talk about solutions to the problem. That’s why I’m not a fan of Harris when it comes to these specific topics because I don’t think his primary aim is helping muslims. I don’t think that Islam is as big of a threat as Harris has made it out to be. There are far worse threats, and Harris actually is endorsing some policies (hypothetically or otherwise) which I disagree with, that are further destabilizing the possibility a rational solution to radical Islam or to US hegemony in the region (which like it or not is a huge factor in the rise of radical Islam). Instead of making statements like “we’re not at war with terrorism, we’re at war with Islam” he could spend his energy on fighting radical Islamists by explaining that even most Muslim’s didn’t support their attacks and that it was condemned by many Islamic leaders (it should be noted that Bin Laden had no religious authority to either declare a Jihad or to interpret scripture) instead of positing that adherents of the muslim faith “rally to the cause of other Muslims no matter how sociopathic their behavior.” That’s simply not true and it’s blanket statements like that that he was called out for making. He could also call out US policies that are driving recruitment numbers up for radical Muslims instead of spending his time of philosophical penchants to advocate for torture (albeit hypothetically) or the case of a nuclear first strike while driving up over sensationalized fears of radical Islam and talking about western states having a higher moral ground. He could also suggest the US pulling support from states like Saudi Arabia citing any number of human rights abuses. However, his arguments seem to mostly fall against against Islam and for western civilization which is a duality I cannot support.

    It’s all controversial and agree or disagree with Harris’ opinions and work I think the best way to help Muslims is to first stop harming them and control our own government. Along the lines of what Chomsky has noted it is more our moral imperative to stop what is being done in our name than it is to be calling out the evils of the other. While I think the work Harris is doing to expose Islam as a faith based on no evidence with very heinous results in the real world (violence often being involved as is extreme patriarchalism) which probably does more harm than good is worthy of reading and important, it’s far more important to realize our own countries crimes and that they greatly outnumber those of Islam. To Harris’ credit his line about both sides being played by a sort of religious extremism is entirely true, but often especially since Obama is in power the massive support for state sanctioned violence is based on faith not in god but in country or in the goodness of western civilization.

    I’m interested in what exactly you would think is the best solution to Islamic extremism and would rather hear Harris’ thoughts on the same subject, much than more refutations and claims of libel and slander.

  • Simon F said on April 9, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Well done on not slinging back the mud but instead cleaning up the victim (Sam Harris).

  • Fred M said on April 9, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Murtaza,

    When I asked you in the previous thread to suggest the name of a critic of Islam you consider to reasonable and fair, you recommended that I look up PZ Myers and Chris Stedman. When I looked up PZ Myers, he says he agrees with Harris about Islam, that Islam is as bad as Harris says it is. (See Robby’s quote of PZ in the above article). Yet you reject Harris as unfair and unreasonable (and worse) in his criticisms of Islam. Secondly, I’ve read some of Stedman’s work and have viewed/listened to some of his videos. I can’t find any instance where Stedman actually criticizes Islam, beyond, perhaps the obvious criticism of any theistic religion, i.e., that he rejects the belief in a deity. Surely it would be reasonable and fair for him to criticize more than that in regards to Islam!

    A follow-up on my questions:

    1. Given that PZ Myers says he agrees with Harris’ view of Islam, do you still recommend PZ Myers as a reasonable critic of Islam?

    2. Given that Stedman probably (from what I’ve gathered over the years, and thus far since your suggestion) either does not criticize Islam at all or does so only very rarely, can you direct me to the examples of Stedman’s criticisms of Islam which led you to believe that he is, and to recommend him as, a fair and reasonable critic of Islam?

    Also, my other questions in the previous thread, questions which you apparently ignored,

    Do you reject the torture in the punishment commanded in Qur’an 24:2, whipping male or female fornicators with 100 stripes “without mercy”?

    Do you reject the wiping out, killing, and subjugating of non-Muslims as commanded in many of the Qur’an’s verses I cited, such as 9:29, 9:123, 8:67, 8:39-40, 8:12, etc.?

    These latter questions were asked, of course, in the context of assessing your consistency in condemning torture and mass killing and subjugation, viz. your criticism of Harris.

    Answers to these questions would give me and possibly the other readers a better idea of what you believe about Islam, which sources you as a self-described believing Sunni “traditional liberal Muslim” regard as valid (e.g., which hadiths, which aspects of fiqh, etc.), and so on. If we have some more statements from you on what you believe about Islam, then we might get a better understanding of your objections to Harris’ criticisms of Islam.

  • Zach Sears said on April 9, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    Also I find it extremely interesting that Harris writes about gun control that a few rare event can change our perception of danger and makes the point that in fact more people die from a failure of doctors and nurses to wash their hands to put the threat of guns into perspective. In reality since the threat of being killed by a terrorist is so low (1 in 20 million) then it is a very fair tactic to use a similar argument against Harris’ claims of Islamic threats. After all the day Islamic extremists perpetrated an attack on the US killing over 3,000 people hundreds of millions were just fine. However, as Harris pointed out in his article on guns “our perception of danger is easily distorted by rare events.” He then goes on to say how simple body counts don’t do justice to the pain and tragedy or suffering from gun violence especially when children are involved. Considering Obama in his first attempt to kill Alawki he killed 52 other people over half of which were women and children. Also the US is responsible for half a million deaths in Iraq due to sanctions before the Iraq war ever started in 03. How can we compare Islam as a credible threat as strongly as Harris does when the body count and the toll on children and seriously seriously culturally traumatic events to those waged by our own country? Further how can Harris even begin to imply that the US and Israel have the higher moral ground? I would argue that the real threat from Islam is miniscule to what Harris supposes it is even though I fully admit that it is both a threat and a religion that is used more for evil than good. If we hold Harris to his own logic on guns it also deflates his own arguments on the threat of Islam.

  • Malowsski said on April 10, 2013 at 10:48 am

    @zach

    >There is much more data suggesting that Islam is not the greatest threat to civilization, and instead climate change, and the US military hegemony on display since WWII cause both more deaths and suffering (with a mostly supportive US public) and pose more of a threat to civilization.

    The problem with this argument is that it simply isnt true, Islamic civilizations have indeed racked up a far higher body count than the US.

    Tamerlane in his life time likely killed more people than the US did in two centuries.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 10, 2013 at 10:53 am

    Fred M, you also came on Robby’s last thread and destroyed the comments section with off topic ramblings. If you want to address Murtaza, please do so privately, and do not spoil the very interesting and thought-provoking discussion here.

  • David Fuchs said on April 10, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    I didn’t take the time to go through all of this. Sam is right that these debates are “long & tedious.” (He includes his own writings in that assessment.)

    You ask why Glenn is assuming that all religions are *equally* harmful. Wrong! Glenn’s religion (Marxism) dictates that he attack the West. That he NOT THINK about Islam. 4 times, I quoted Glenn, “I don’t spend much time sitting around thinking about Egypt’s political parties.”

    You guys don’t even know that these Hussain’s are at war w/ you. You think that it will help if you write more.

  • speakingsensibly said on April 10, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    David Fuchs, Glenn is an atheist, and Marxism isn’t his religion, no matter how much you wish it was. Please do not pollute an intelligent debate that is happening here with your conspiracy theory nonsense.

  • JN said on April 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Robby,

    I’m going to second SpeakingSensibly’s earlier request that you address this quote from Harris:

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

    And I’m going to add this one, which was posted in the other thread, but as far as I can tell, not addressed:

    “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.”

    You are correct that Sam’s statements are often taken out of context and mischaracterized, but I don’t see how that applies to these two particular quotes, which speak to the core of his views about Islam and Muslims.

    Do you acknowledge that these are gross overgeneralizations built on false premises? Do you really think that it’s such a logical jump to accuse someone of having an irrational fear of a group of people when they make statements like this?

  • Zach Sears said on April 10, 2013 at 1:02 pm

    @ Malowsski http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ 111,903-122,408 dead Iraqi civilians.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/may/20/afghanistan.comment 20,000 dead Afghan civilians

    That’s just in two wars over the last decade (plus a few years actually) but going back to WWII as I suggested in my quote we see up to a million dead Japanese on top of that. Add on a million and a half in Germany. Add on another half a million in the Korean war. Add another well over a million deaths in Vietnam during the Vietnam war. However, other estimates are much higher http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2011/deaths-of-others.html “Between six and seven million people died in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq alone.” If you take in to account that even though Tamerlane or Timur was living in the 14th century and engaged in holy wars against christians as well as conquering numerous lands like Egypt, Syria, Ottoman Empire, etc. you have to understand that world population was much smaller then. In the 14th century the middle east population has been estimated at around 20 million total. However, some data suggests that Tamerlane killed anywhere from 7 to 20 million depending on whose estimate you take. Considering populations at that time I’m inclined to push it closer to 12 million. Even if I granted that the number was higher we’re talking about something in the 14th century which is long past and THE PRESENT or immediate history doesn’t reflect such violence from Islam. I also find it repugnant to blame those killings on religion completely rather than a tyrant. Firstly, Ghengis Khan killed more. So did Stalin and Mao Zedong (atheists mind you) both killed over double (at the least) what Tamerlane did. They did so because they were corrupt and evil tyrants. While I’m not saying religion played no role, I don’t think we can simply blame Islam for the deaths anymore than it’s wrong for christians and others to believe atheism was a cause of Stalin killing so many.

    Stepping into the 20th and 21st centuries we see a very different story in regards to the threat posed by the US military force which derives its powers from a faith like belief by the US public in the goodness of our actions -patriotism is alive and well- which receive mostly overwhelming support from US citizens until our own casualties often change opinion. Iraq was one war that was sold on very little or zero evidence of WMD’s and Iraq being a threat to the US which killed over a hundred thousand -some say that it is much higher but that number is documented- because the people believed in the ridiculous threat of Iraq and the claim of WMDs. Consider that higher percentages of Muslim’s came out against the 9/11 attacks than US citizens came out against the Iraq war and that still a majority of Muslims do not condone violent terrorist attacks. So when we are comparing evils or threats in the world as Harris himself does to justify the west’s “moral high ground” in the war on terror, one has to concede the facts don’t seem to support Harris’ claim of “This benighted religious solidarity may be the greatest problem facing civilization.” Meanwhile US citizens insist we’re killing terrorists and evil doers in drone strikes while it’s being revealed that we have no idea who the Obama administration is killing (as he’s lied about it only being top operatives) and yet the public still BELIEVES and supports the program. Democrats support it at a rate of like 76% and yet irrational Islam becomes the focus because they’re so deluded and irrational evidently…

    As for climate change every degree this earth rises in temperature will mean 10% less in grain yields with severe weather patterns and we’re on pace for getting at least 4 degrees in and MIT says 5 by 2100. That’s a drop of 40 to 50% in grain yields and when you couple that with the already massive amounts of ecological damage done (mostly by western civilization) there is no comparison to the problem or threat of Islam.

    GG wrote “many terms can be used to accurately describe the practice of depicting Islam and Muslims as the supreme threat to all that is good in the world. “Rational”, “intellectual” and “well-intentioned” are most definitely not among them.” I along with Greenwald and others welcome the aggressive critiques of faith by Harris, Dawkins, and other atheists, but it seems so obvious that the threat or problems posed by Islam are way over hyped by Harris. Also I do believe that we have more of a duty to right the wrongs of our own state as they are being committed in our name than decry the evils of the others. We could spend a lot of time denouncing Mao or Stalin as evil but they weren’t committing evils in our name and the over focus on Islam by Harris not only puts undue pressure on Muslims but in fact he excuses several actions of the US state while stating we have the moral high ground.

    Let’s not forget he’s said “I am one of the few people I know of who has argued in print that torture may be an ethical necessity in our war on terror.” and “We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.” Should we also raid every Mormon’s home to make sure polygamy is in check or should we concede that only a small amount of fundamentalists are really involved in it just as a small fraction of Muslim’s are actually radical enough to attack the US (mostly within their own borders)? 1 in 20 million of you will die from such evil terrorist attacks, yet it’s such a threat..

  • Fred M said on April 10, 2013 at 3:20 pm

    SpeakingSensibly,

    My apologies; certainly I agree many of my later comments in the other thread strayed from the original topic. However, the questions to Murtaza here are directly relevant to the subject matter of this thread, and were not answered (re his views on torture and mass killing etc.), or were not adequately answered (re his suggestions of fair and reasonable critics of Islam) in the previous one. It would be of no use to me or anyone else here to ask Murtaza privately. We need to see his forthright publicly stated answers to these questions about his views on Islam.

    You allege: “So, yes, Harris is definitely being irrational in his comment, and is, thus by definition, being Islamophopic.”

    Support for your conclusion would require on your part a presentation of the empirical evidence which indicates that “devout Muslims” do not want to do the things that Harris suggests they want to do “as Muslims” following Islamic doctrine. Step 1 would be to find out what Harris means by “devout Muslims,” step 2 would require an examination of the policies of sharia and jihad in mainstream Islamic doctrine; step 3 would be to examine the polls and surveys on Muslims’ beliefs relevant to the issue of converting, killing, or else subjugating non-Muslims, etc.; and so on, and present your case. As it stands, your comment claiming Harris is being “Islamophobic” in his statement about “devout Muslims” remains an unsupported allegation. You do have to demonstrate that Harris’ statement is wrong empirically, or is to an extent sufficiently wrong empirically, to conclude that he is being Islamophobic.

  • Fred M said on April 10, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Correction to my previous statement: “….that “devout Muslims” do not want to do the things that Harris suggests they want to do “as Muslims” following Islamic doctrine.”

    Should say: “….that “devout Muslims” do not want to have in the future the conditions that Harris suggests they want “as Muslims” following Islamic doctrine.”

    Wanting to have something is not necessarily the same as wanting to do something oneself.

  • Matt said on April 10, 2013 at 4:54 pm

    Wow, incredible rebuttal. Score one for the good guys!

  • Robby Bensinger said on April 10, 2013 at 6:39 pm

    JN and SpeakingSensibly ask about the “as Muslims” quotation. The “as X” locution is a bit unclear, but I think Harris’ point is less mysterious when considered in context:

    “While there are undoubtedly some ‘moderate’ Muslims who have decided to overlook the irrescindable militancy of their religion, Islam is undeniably a religion of conquest. The only future devout Muslims can envisage — as Muslims — is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed. The tenets of Islam simply do not admit of anything but a temporary sharing of power with the ‘enemies of God.’” (Italics in original)

    The point here is not that Muslims all accept such a goal. It’s that insofar as they don’t accept such a goal, they’re beginning to part ways with the very thing that makes them Muslims — their acceptance of Islam. This is equivalent to a statement Harris has expressed elsewhere: “A future in which Islam and the West do not stand on the brink of mutual annihilation is a future in which most Muslims have learned to ignore most of their canon, just as most Christians have learned to do.” So the ‘as Muslims’ qualifier in Harris’ claim is intended to single out people whose beliefs can be reasonably grounded in the canon of Islam.

    I don’t know where Harris is getting the claim that no Muslims have given substantive, successful criticisms of the 9/11/01 hijackers. His citations are from Feb. 2002 at this part of the book, so perhaps this was true at an earlier date. But it’s obviously not true today.

  • JN said on April 10, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    Robby,

    I appreciate the response. However, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that Sam is placing Christianity on an equal footing with Islam in terms of doctrine, as he’s made it clear in the past that he doesn’t see this to be the case:

    http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/honesty-the-muslim-worlds-scarcest-resource

    “Yes, the Bible contains its own sadistic lunacy—but the above quotations can be fairly said to convey the central message of the Qur’an—and of Islam at nearly every moment in its history. The Qur’an does not contain anything like a Sermon on the Mount. Nor is it a vast and self-contradictory book like the Old Testament, in which whole sections (like Leviticus and Deuteronomy) can be easily ignored and forgotten. The result is a unified message of triumphalism, otherworldliness, and religious hatred that has become a problem for the entire world.”

    The message would appear to be that a Christian or a Jew can ignore the violent and oppressive elements of the religion and still be “devout,” but a Muslim cannot. And that is nonsense.

    Putting aside the fact that it relies on sweeping and arbitrary generalizations about the texts — all of which contain commands for violence and oppression — it is obvious that large numbers of moderate Muslims who consider themselves devout have no trouble picking and choosing from it. Just like Jews and Christians do. For Sam to simply brush that aside because he has decided for Muslims what defines “devout” is not a particularly rational or compelling argument. At best, it is a largely semantical argument with questionable relevance to the real world. But that is clearly not what Sam is trying to present it as. Rather, it is “a problem for the entire world.”

    As far as the date of his comments on “substance” are concerned, I will direct you to this page:

    http://kurzman.unc.edu/islamic-statements-against-terrorism/

    The majority of statements on that page were made between 9/11 and February 2002. So his claim was obviously wrong at the time, and while more evidence against it has amassed over time, I’ve never seen him retract this claim or state anything to suggest that he has changed his position one bit.

    So while it’s all well and good to take people to task for misrepresenting Sam’s ideas about Islam, the fact remains that when judged fairly and objectively, they still don’t speak very well for his intellectual honesty on the subject.

  • Robby Bensinger said on April 10, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    I didn’t say anywhere that Harris thinks Christian and Islamic scripture are equally bad. I said that Harris thinks Islam needs to moderate itself by the same general means Christianity did — taking its scripture and traditional doctrines less seriously.

    “The message would appear to be that a Christian or a Jew can ignore the violent and oppressive elements of the religion and still be ‘devout,’”

    No, the message is that escaping devoutness is easier for Christians and Jews than for Muslims, because their scripture makes duplicity much easier.

    “Putting aside the fact that it relies on sweeping and arbitrary generalizations about the texts — all of which contain commands for violence and oppression”

    I don’t see what’s arbitrary about the (true) generalization that Islamic scripture has a higher ratio of violence-to-nonviolence than does, e.g., Christian scripture. Or did you have a different generalization in mind?

    “it is obvious that large numbers of moderate Muslims who consider themselves devout have no trouble picking and choosing from it.”

    ‘No trouble’ may be overstating your case. But certainly I (and Harris) agree that moderation is possible. The next step is to make it much more common, and much more vocal.

    Regarding his 9/11 claim: I agree with you. This is the only quotation I haven’t seen a fairly reasonable explanation for.

  • JN said on April 10, 2013 at 11:37 pm

    “No, the message is that escaping devoutness is easier for Christians and Jews than for Muslims, because their scripture makes duplicity much easier.”

    But Harris doesn’t actually demonstrate this. And actually, you haven’t either; you posted links to two heavily biased sources that don’t have any real credibility on the subject.

    And those links deal with the Christian Bible. Taking away the New Testament, you are left with the Old Testament, which is rife with war, conquest and mass murder on a mind-boggling scale. And yet Jews don’t seem to have a much harder time living as moderates than do Christians. Why is that? Harris offers no better explanation than his unsubstantiated, handwaving assertion that one can “ignore” entire sections of the Bible — which both Christians and Jews, historically speaking, have a less-than-stellar track record of doing — but that the same somehow doesn’t apply to Islamic scripture, because Sam says so. This, again, is not rational or persuasive argumentation. It’s someone trying to make the evidence fit their conclusions rather than the other way around.

    I am glad you agree that Harris is wrong in his 9/11 comments. And I don’t at all think it’s the only unreasonable claim he’s made But surely, given how central such a claim is to his views about Islam and Muslims in general, you can acknowledge that not everyone who questions his credibility on the subject has failed to understand him.

  • Robby Bensinger said on April 11, 2013 at 12:44 am

    I agree the sources I linked to aren’t reputable as Qur’anic studies authorities. I link to them for their arguments and consolidated data, not for their authority.

    If y’all have better citations for the issue of violence in Islamic scripture, send it my way!

    “Harris offers no better explanation than his unsubstantiated, handwaving assertion that one can “ignore” entire sections of the Bible — which both Christians and Jews, historically speaking, have a less-than-stellar track record of doing”

    Have you read The End of Faith? The chapter preceding the one on Islam is about Christianity, and argues that Christian doctrine, and in particular Christianity’s endorsement of the virtue of faith, has caused atrocities in the past. He juxtaposes this with Islam to argue that Islam is a lot like Christianity was a few hundred years ago, hence that the key to moderating Islam is for Muslims to become more secular and less attached to a close reading of their holy texts, much as most Christians today take their scripture less seriously than they did a few centuries ago as an autonomous be-all-end-all authority, relying much more heavily on secular values and facts and on a loose, metaphorical, hand-wavey interpretations of their holy books.

    If Christians and Jews didn’t have a less-than-stellar track record, as you note, then Harris’ case would be undermined, because he would have fewer examples to point to of the moderation he’s calling for occurring in the real world. The Judeo-Christian reformations are a proof of concept.

    “But surely, given how central such a claim is to his views about Islam and Muslims in general”

    I see no evidence that this claim is central, or even particularly important, to his other views.

  • Fred M said on April 11, 2013 at 1:38 am

    “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.” –Harris, in The End of Faith, p 134.

    I think a likely explanation for this statement is that it is just more of Harris’ rhetorical excess. It appears to me to be wild exaggeration to make a point, not intended as a literal dry factual claim. The part of it that is most clearly false, if taken as a straight literal statement, is where he says “…apart from the ubiquitous canard that they were
    really Jews.” That’s obviously false, as is the claim that that canard was “ubiquitous.” It was disturbingly common, but nowhere near ubiquitous.

    This, btw, is by no means a defense of Harris’ statement. It’s a reckless, irresponsible, false statement, whether he intended it literally or not.

    I’ve read other statements by Harris that suggests he is skeptical of the kind of denunciations we typically see from Islamic apologists, be they Muslim or non-Muslim, after every major well-publicized attack involving Islamist terrorists. That may have been what he was getting at when he, misleadingly, suggested there were no denunciations of substance. That is a poor choice of words on his part. I suspect he meant he hadn’t seen substantive denunciations that were satisfactory or convincing to him. I have a hard time believing that Harris was actually unaware of the existence of such denunciations. It is one thing to say there were no substantive denunciations, and quite another to say there were no denunciations. Harris does not claim the latter.

    He does shoot himself in the foot by claiming that the Jewish conspiracy canards were the only substantive denunciations.

    As far as his other statements on this topic, I am in agreement with Harris insofar as many if not most of these denunciations are unsatisfactory, if not downright misleading, when held up under closer scrutiny. While I believe there are many sincere denunciations from moderate Muslims, many of the individuals and groups who make such denunciations, such as many of those in the list provided above by JN for example, are highly suspect. For example, Qaradawi denounced the 9/11 attacks, yet he endorses attacks against Israeli civilians, and argues in favor of the death penalty for apostasy, homosexuality, etc. Hezbollah is also on the list, yet Hezbollah intentionally attacks civilians. Some of the people on the list are Islamists, one of whom (Tahir ul Qadri) supported Pakistan’s death penalty and other harsh penalties for blasphemy. I’ve read and heard many of these denunciations over the years, and none of them contains an acknowledgement and rejection of the Islamic textual elements that are used to inspire and justify terrorist attacks. I find these denunciations are often loaded with dubious Islamic apologetic propaganda.

    The bottom line, though, is that I don’t think rhetorical excess to the point of lampoon or caricature constitutes a symptom of a phobia–even if one grants that the term Islamophobia is unproblematic–especially in instances such as this one, where the writer probably does not literally believe his own rhetoric.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 11, 2013 at 7:18 am

    Robby,

    You provided the full quote by Harris, which is below.

    “While there are undoubtedly some ‘moderate’ Muslims who have decided to overlook the irrescindable militancy of their religion, Islam is undeniably a religion of conquest. The only future devout Muslims can envisage — as Muslims — is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed. The tenets of Islam simply do not admit of anything but a temporary sharing of power with the ‘enemies of God.’”

    But it still doesn’t change anything. What about the Muslim guy who believes every bit of the Qur’an and Hadith, and spends all his time praying, but has interpreted his religion in a peaceful context when it comes to warfare, and believes Jihad should only be done in defense, and not offensively. Yet whenn it comes to other aspects of Islam, he is very conservative, so he doesn’t believe in sex before marriage, he thinks homosexuality is wrong, and he believes women shouldn’t have the same rights as men.
    There certainly are Muslims who are like this, because I know quite a few who are very conservative, but when it comes to Jihad, they do not believe in conquest, and they’re happy to let others live the way they want to.

    These people are clearly devout (I mean, no one would consider them to be “moderates” considering how conservative they are), so Harris is clearly wrong in his statement.

  • JN said on April 11, 2013 at 7:20 am

    “If Christians and Jews didn’t have a less-than-stellar track record, as you note, then Harris’ case would be undermined, because he would have fewer examples to point to of the moderation he’s calling for occurring in the real world. The Judeo-Christian reformations are a proof of concept.

    I agree. But the fact that that less-than-stellar track record exists, and that more important factors independent of the scripture itself are responsible for changing it, suggests that there are similarly more important factors than scripture at play in the Muslim world, even when one is discussing things like violence, suicide bombing, intolerance and the like. And the fact that Jews and Christians seem to be equally capable of achieving this moderation despite vast differences in scripture bodes poorly for Sam’s suggestion that scriptural differences in Islam — even if one accepts his questionable assessment of them — are necessarily responsible for challenges faced by moderate Muslims now, or that it will necessarily be more difficult for them in the future. Simply put, his conclusions don’t logically follow from his premises or the historical evidence, yet that doesn’t stop him from charging ahead with them.

    “I see no evidence that this claim is central, or even particularly important, to his other views.”

    The idea that his false observation about Muslims failing to substantially condemn 9/11 is something we “must” acknowledge in dealing with the Muslim world sounds like a pretty central claim to me.

  • Fred M said on April 11, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Re Harris’ opinion on the lack of substance in Islam apologist denials of an Islam-terrorism connection, see pp. 33-34 of The End of Faith. He describes these sorts of apologetic claims as “just playing a game with words,” “magician’s patter,” and “leaves many loopholes large enough to fly a 767 through.” In other words, he thinks these apologetic denials lack real substance.

    Whether or not they are lacking adequate substance is of course debatable. The mere presentation of a list of such apologetics, then, does not refute Harris’ claim that the apologetics lack substance. To refute Harris’ claim, one would have to demonstrate that at least some of the apologetics are substantive, credible, well-supported, convincing, etc.

  • JN said on April 11, 2013 at 7:28 am

    “The bottom line, though, is that I don’t think rhetorical excess to the point of lampoon or caricature constitutes a symptom of a phobia–even if one grants that the term Islamophobia is unproblematic–especially in instances such as this one, where the writer probably does not literally believe his own rhetoric.”

    The quote may or may not be proof of Islamophobia in and of itself, but we both agree that it is irresponsible and wrong. And it is uncomfortably close to the rhetoric of many people who clearly are Islamophobes and/or bigots.

    And while I don’t think Sam hates Muslims, as someone who personally knows a lot of moderate Muslims who abhor violence, I find statements like that one offensive. So if Sam wants to posit as some kind of rational thinker and be taken seriously by others who consider themselves as such, I think he needs to be more careful with his rhetoric.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 11, 2013 at 7:29 am

    “I don’t know where Harris is getting the claim that no Muslims have given substantive, successful criticisms of the 9/11/01 hijackers. His citations are from Feb. 2002 at this part of the book, so perhaps this was true at an earlier date. But it’s obviously not true today.”

    No, it wasn’t true then, because I clearly remember 9/11, and I clearly remember the dancing Palestinians, and then I also clearly remember how so many Muslims came out in support of the victims of 9/11 and denounced the terrorists.

    So, this is another reason why Harris gets called Islamophobic. For him to have made that statement, he must have done some research on it – do we agree? I mean, surely if I had never heard George Bush say that he loves his wife, before making a statement “George Bush has never declared his love for his wife” the sensible thing for me to do would be to actually go and do some research, just to make sure – do we agree? Similarly, if Sam Harris is making a statement that no Muslims came out and spoke out against the 9/11 hijackers, surely the sensible thing would be for him to do a google search – do we agree? And if he did, he would have found many, many statements from Islamic leaders and politicians that denounced the 9/11 hijackers. So we have two possibilities 1) Sam Harris did not do any research 2) Sam Harris knew his statement was wrong, but he still made it.
    If we take 1) to be true, then it puts serious threat to Harris’ credentials as an academic, and it shows he is happy to say things without researching them – which means his works cannot be taken seriously. If we take 2) to be true, it shows Sam Harris is being dishonest, and is Islamophobic. Either way, it doesn’t look too good for Harris.

  • JN said on April 11, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Fred, you said

    “This, btw, is by no means a defense of Harris’ statement. It’s a reckless, irresponsible, false statement, whether he intended it literally or not.”

    Do you stand by this or not?

    One can argue whether a scriptural argument condemning 9/11 is valid or not, but the fact that huge numbers of Muslim organizations and scholars have, in fact, condemned 9/11 in no uncertain terms renders the claim that Muslim have said “nothing substantive” against 9/11 except to claim that it was carried out by Jews to be simply false. If you’re talking about word games, trying to argue that such a statement could possibly be considered accurate would require far more word games than one could engage in and still be appear to be arguing logically.

  • Fred M said on April 11, 2013 at 7:54 am

    JN,

    “…except to claim that it was carried out by Jews to be simply false.”

    As I said, that part is definitely false; and the “[no] substance” part was misleading, requiring some investigation into what he probably meant.

    It’s rhetorical excess, which is typical with Harris.

  • Robby Bensinger said on April 11, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    I’ve updated the above post to link to a HuffPostLive round-table that includes Hussain and me. I showed up late and the two of us didn’t have time to get a real back-and-forth going, unfortunately, but it’s nice to see a growing awareness of the disutility of these rhetorical excesses: http://huff.lv/ZP73aZ

    SpeakingSensibly: The religious believer who is devoted in many respects, but picks and chooses which passages to take seriously, is both possible and desirable. Harris considers such a person dramatically less ‘devout’ than more radical believers, but I think this point of dispute is merely terminological; we can agree here on the questions of fact.

    Harris thinks that in a theological argument that presupposes the authority of the Qur’an, extremists have the upper hand. Luckily, he doesn’t think that theological arguments have to determine the actual beliefs of Muslims; the humanistic criticisms and arguments of moderate (or moderate-in-some-respects) Muslims and non-Muslims can guide the religion towards greater and greater sanity even where purely Qur’an-based hermeneutics cannot. Similarly, I’d expect Harris to think that Jewish moderates are by and large simply Jews who don’t take Jewish scripture very seriously.

    “So we have two possibilities 1) Sam Harris did not do any research 2) Sam Harris knew his statement was wrong, but he still made it.”

    A third possibility is that Harris misspoke. He said “Muslims have not found anything of substance to say against the actions of the September 11 hijackers”, where what he meant to say was “Muslims have not given any theologically sound arguments against the actions of the September 11 hijackers”. That would bring it more in line with his other statements criticizing the Qur’an and hadith. If that was his meaning, then he certainly failed in communicating it clearly.

  • David Fuchs said on April 11, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    SpeakingSensibly told me that Glenn is not Marxist, that I “wish” he were, that my “conspiracy nonsense” is “polluting intelligent debate.”

    He is right–and wrong. He is right that Middle-East history is not my field, my only interest is “good-argument.” I can cite the places in Sam’s Aug 7th post where he writes that these essays are not “good,” he calls them “boring & tedious” (he includes his *own* responses).

    I haven’t even read these comments yet (they are boring), I noticed his attack on me. I thought that *Hussain* polluted w/ conspiracy theories–the cabal consisting of fascist parties in Europe, racist scientists, & Sam Harris. Glenn linked to the FB of Matt Cockerill, then I clicked on Glenn’s FB.

    The one thing that is not *boring* is the one thing you guys *never* talk about. Glenn admitted, on FB, that he doesn’t care about any Islamist atrocities, “I don’t spend a lot of time sitting around thinking about political parties in Egypt.” He admitted that his agenda is to fight big-business. He said that Sam is aiding big-business

    Sam is on defense, not offense. He’s losing, he says that he can’t get the taint of “racism” off him. I use phrases such as “lye-lovers” for apologists who support people who throw lye in girls’ faces. I use “Marxist” for the extreme anti-corporate position. I’m a centrist who wants business to be regulated, I’m not Marxist.

  • Fred M said on April 11, 2013 at 10:06 pm

    Robby, thanks for the link to HuffPostLive. Well done, and congrats on getting recognized as a voice of reason in this controversy.

  • Tujays said on April 12, 2013 at 1:18 am

    “A third possibility is that Harris misspoke. He said “Muslims have not found anything of substance to say against the actions of the September 11 hijackers”, where what he meant to say was “Muslims have not given any theologically sound arguments against the actions of the September 11 hijackers”. That would bring it more in line with his other statements criticizing the Qur’an and hadith. If that was his meaning, then he certainly failed in communicating it clearly.”
    – Robby Bensinger

    Robby:

    What SpeakingSensibly said is correct. Your suggestion that if what Harris said was meant to convey a lack “theologically sound arguments” from Muslims then it would still fall under categories 1) and/or 2) above.

    “[The survey] shows that the overwhelming majority of Muslims condemned the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 and other subsequent terrorist attacks, the authors of the study said in Washington…Some actually cited religious justifications for why they were against 9/11, going as far as to quote from the Koran — for example, the verse that says taking one innocent life is like killing all humanity,” she said.”
    http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5iZlsZRgzHmgwj6sKpA7PR5F5Ecsw

    However, it’s clear what Sam Harris intended to convey — his meaning was unambiguous when you read his complete quote:

    “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. Muslim discourse is currently a tissue of myths, conspiracy theories, and exhortations to recapture the glories of the seventh century. There is no reason to believe that economic or political improvements in the Muslim world, in and of themselves, would remedy this.”
    – Sam Harris

  • David Fuchs said on April 12, 2013 at 2:02 am

    I have now read through all these comments. Robby, Fred thanked you for being “a voice of reason.” I will be your bit bull, I will “go negative” on Sam’s enemies. Sam called Hussain the “joker,” you said he is more “sloppy & inattentive” than Glenn.

    No, Hussain does not see “the disutility of …excess.” At HuffPost, he was surrounded by enemies. He did what he wanted. He switched! Glenn made up a lie about American Christians and “Corpus Christi.” But Hussain switched. He admitted that Muslims are not Mormons, but he gave a reason–guilty w/ an explanation. So he flip-flopped, & no one called him on it. (He said “Western” cartoons. Ask him about Muslim women, they are NOT Western.)

    Sam says that he does *not* mean, “Hirsi is my Muslim friend.” So the troll, Hussain, said, “Harris says he has a Muslim friend.” He is laughing, bc Sam is hurt when the liar calls him “racist.”

    Sam is on defense, but I go negative. Robby, you agonize–self-flagellation. You agonize over “unfamiliarity.” You say, “I hate it but it’s true.”

    I am one of your fans. You can, Socratically, unpack an argument!! But Hussain is not an opponent–he is an enemy. Even Sam & Glenn exchanged *only* hate & name-calling.

    But SpeakingSensibly made no sense. Fred went on offense, he trapped Hussain. So “Sensibly” told Fred to trap him “in private” so that weasel can weasel out of it. So we can get back to the *real* issue: Do Brooklyn Hasidics stone you when you break the Sabbath? You know–like the Old Testament.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 12, 2013 at 7:00 am

    “A third possibility is that Harris misspoke. He said “Muslims have not found anything of substance to say against the actions of the September 11 hijackers”, where what he meant to say was “Muslims have not given any theologically sound arguments against the actions of the September 11 hijackers”. That would bring it more in line with his other statements criticizing the Qur’an and hadith. If that was his meaning, then he certainly failed in communicating it clearly.”

    I don’t think that is likely. Muslim Imams were going around denouncing the attacks immediately after they occurred.

    “Muslims and non-Muslims can guide the religion towards greater and greater sanity even where purely Qur’an-based hermeneutics cannot.”

    But that isn’t true. There do exist devout Muslims who using Qur’an-based hermeneutics alone, come to conclusions that are against “all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed”.

  • Robby Bensinger said on April 12, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    Tujays, your latest responses require that pacifism be more hermeneutically justifiable, in light of what we know about the Qur’an and hadith, than any alternative view. Similarly, SpeakingSensibly, your view requires that the moderates have the better theological arguments. But that is controversial at best. If there exists overwhelming evidence to the effect that Muhammad and his earliest followers were secretly pacifists, or that the advocacy of violence in the Qur’an and hadith was meant to be metaphorical or to lapse by the year 2000 , then to date no one has successfully uncovered such evidence. Arguments to the contrary exist, such as the claim that verses advocating peace are abrogated by 9:5′s “Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free.”

    There are certainly arguments that can be made for moderate Islam, and arguments that can be made against the above exegesis. The question here is whether they are winning arguments. Certainly it is not completely obvious that they are, even though one very much wishes that they were. I would say very similar things about Jewish arguments for pacifism or moderation.

  • Tujays said on April 12, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Robby,

    In the quote from Sam Harris that I posted above, he unequivocally states that Muslims have not objected to 9/11 except to blame the Jews. This is an absurd statement that has no basis in fact as I pointed out. Harris then closes with the proclamation that “there is no reason to believe” that Muslims will “remedy” his false claim. As I said, there is no ambiguity in what he said unless you ignore his statements. Harris quite clearly expressed his ignorance and bigotry — no amount of theological discussion can disguise that fact.

  • Fred M said on April 12, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Tujays,

    You quote:
    “[The survey] shows that the overwhelming majority of Muslims condemned the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 and other subsequent terrorist attacks, the authors of the study said in Washington…”

    Yes, the same survey that was cited by Greenwald in his attack on Harris. The mysterious Gallup survey, the data for which are not available for analysis (unless you can raise 20000 dollars to pay for access to the data), that is cited there, does not show that the overwhelming majority of Muslims condemned the attacks of 9/11. When questioned, Dalia Mogahed admitted that the numbers could be much higher, depending on how the results are classified. The dangerously misleading Mogahed-Esposito presentation has been subjected to devastating critiques. For example, Satloff, writes:

    “The cover-up is even worse. The full data from the 9/11 question show that, in addition to the 13.5 percent, there is another 23.1 percent of respondents–300 million Muslims–who told pollsters the attacks were in some way justified. Esposito and Mogahed don’t utter a word about the vast sea of intolerance in which the radicals operate.”

    Satloff’s critique:
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/015/066chpzg.asp?page=1

    Also see this critique by Hillel Fradkin:
    http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/mesh/2008/04/who_does_speak_for_islam/

    If Satloff is correct, that means that the Mogahed-Esposito survey found that 13.5% + 23.1%, or 46.6% of Muslims, were willing to tell these pollsters that the 9/11 attacks were at least in some way justified.

    Your quote continues: “Some actually cited religious justifications for why they were against 9/11, going as far as to quote from the Koran — for example, the verse that says taking one innocent life is like killing all humanity,” she said.” ”

    That obviously doesn’t satisfy Harris’ requirement for a substantive denunciation. The verse in question, 5:32, does not clearly condemn the taking of “innocent” life, as a non-Muslim might understand the concept of innocence. Here is what it, with 5:33, says:

    5:32 “For that cause We decreed for the Children of Israel that whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind. Our messengers came unto them of old with clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty), but afterwards lo! many of them became prodigals in the earth.
    5:33 The only reward of those who make war upon Allah and His messenger and strive after corruption in the land will be that they will be killed or crucified, or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, or will be expelled out of the land. Such will be their degradation in the world, and in the Hereafter theirs will be an awful doom;”
    http://tanzil.net/#trans/en.pickthall/5:32

    Those who “spread mischief/corruption in the land” are excluded from whatever protections 5:32 can be deemed to offer. This is a prime example of the sort of loophole Harris was referring to. The Qur’an itself indicates that disbelief and expression of disbelief is the worst crime. Disbelievers are referred to as “guilty,” and “traitors” because of their rejection of Islam. It would be reasonable to surmise that the numerous verses in the Qur’an which call for the slaying of disbelievers were written on the assumption that the disbelievers are not innocent; otherwise slaying them wouldn’t be justified. Some Islamic countries today still put people to death for “corruption on earth,” which can include a wide range of offenses, including some non-violent offenses, against Islam.

  • Fred M said on April 12, 2013 at 4:41 pm

    correction to my previous post: 36.6%, not 46.6%.
    The point remains: The actual percentage of Muslim support for the 9/11 attacks is far higher than 7 percent according to their responses to the Mogahed-Esposito survey.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 12, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    Robby,

    I am not an expert on Islam, and neither are you. I am assuming your knowledge of Islam has come from secular websites – how do you know they’re neutral and unbiased?

    Just doing a quick Google search, I came to this about 9:5

    http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Islam/2002/08/What-The-Quran-Really-Says-About-Violence.aspx?p=2

    “Frequently, columnists and pundits who try to smear Islam quote verse 9:5 incompletely and out of context. The full verse reads as follows: “But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them: seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, establish regular prayers, and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.”

    If one reads on in the ninth chapter, the reasons for “slaying the pagans” is clearly outlined: “Will ye not fight people who violated their oaths, plotted to expel the Messenger, and took the aggressive by being the first (to assault) you? Do ye fear them? Nay, it is God Whom ye should more justly fear, if ye believe!” (9:13) When sincere scholarship and exegesis is applied, it becomes quite clear that verse 9:5, and all others similar to it, is one of self-defense and not a carte blanche to kill all non-believers, as some would want us to believe. ”

    So here we have you, Robby, who accused others of selectively quoting Harris, selectively quoting the Quran – you’re happy to quote a verse that shows Islam as wanting to kill everyone else, but you’re not happy to quote a verse four verses after that puts this killing in context – that these people you’re supposed to fight are the ones who broke their oath and were aggressive towards the Muslims first. Now I am willing to give you the benefit if the doubt, and say that the reason you did not quote lower down was because you read about this verse on a secular website, and that because the secular website dislikes religion, it wants to portray all religions badly, and so the secular website was selectively quoting the Quran to put Islam in a bad light. Fair enough. But that then raises the question that why are you trying to go around acting like an authority on Islam, when you’re not?

    “SpeakingSensibly, your view requires that the moderates have the better theological arguments. But that is controversial at best”

    Please define moderate, because I cannot respond to that without knowing exactly what you consider to be a moderate.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 12, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    “If Satloff is correct, that means that the Mogahed-Esposito survey found that 13.5% + 23.1%, or 46.6% of Muslims, were willing to tell these pollsters that the 9/11 attacks were at least in some way justified.”

    But how is this different to the surveys you see conducted over here, where we in the West say it is justifiable to kill civilians in certain cases.

    As Glenn once quoted George Orwell, “All nationalists have the power of not seeing resemblances between similar sets of facts. A British Tory will defend self-determination in Europe and oppose it in India with no feeling of inconsistency. Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side … The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

    And this is true. When we say killing citizens can be justified (like Hiroshima, the bombing of Dresden, the firebombing of Tokyo, using cluster bombs (which we know will result in civilian casualties too)), it is because the end justifies the means. We say we do not like to do it, but we have no choice left, and that in the long-run, it will result in the loss of less lives.
    But when THEY justify killing civilians (and they might have their reasons that in the long-run it might mean we’re less aggressive towards them and kill less of their civilians or show less support for countries like Israel which they perceive (whether rightly or wrongly) to be oppressing them), we start crying that they support terrorism.

    It won’t be until that we start judging them and us using the same criteria that we’ll ever be able to have an honest debate.

  • Robby Bensinger said on April 12, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    “I am not an expert on Islam, and neither are you.”

    Certainly. However, it sounds as though I’ve read more about it thus far than you, since I’m already familiar with the arguments cited thus far for and against the militant interpretation, whereas you seem to think that no Muslims have ever defended any interpretation of the Qur’an that confers any importance upon the Verse of the Sword. Interpreters to the contrary generally appeal to the 14th-century scholar Ibn Kathir, who (in turn citing Ad-Dahhak ibn Muzahim) said that this verse abrogated all “agreements of peace” between Muhammad and unbelievers. If those “agreements of peace” include all the general pacifist verses, then the theological argument shifts toward the jihadist again.

    “I am assuming your knowledge of Islam has come from secular websites”

    You mean secularist websites? No, very little of it does.

    “how do you know they’re neutral and unbiased?”

    No one is completely ‘neutral and unbiased’. And issues like this are especially polarizing. So I take your point that it’s important to be skeptical here. I’ll happily change my mind if someone shows that there’s a serious error here. But since my original point was not that I’m certain moderates have a weak theological case, but only that they haven’t made their case definitively as yet, my view is more compatible with agnosticism than is its negation.

    “So here we have you, Robby, who accused others of selectively quoting Harris, selectively quoting the Quran – you’re happy to quote a verse that shows Islam as wanting to kill everyone else, but you’re not happy to quote a verse four verses after that puts this killing in context”

    That’s one particular interpretation of the verse. But the contextualization is an interpolation; the verse itself does not say ‘oh, and stop following this when this particular siege is over’, nor does any later verse say that either. If we dismissed the applicability of every verse of the Qur’an that occurred at a particular time and place, then the entire book would have no relevance except as a historical artifact. It’s because these passages are supposed to have applicability beyond the context in which they are written that Muslims turn to the Qur’an for guidance, hence it is a difficult and important hermeneutical task to figure out where the Qur’an is intended to be generalized and where it is not. I don’t take seriously writers who think it’s self-evident and beyond the slightest doubt that the Verse of the Sword abrogates all peaceful verses; but I also don’t take seriously writers who think that the Verse of the Sword is self-evidently irrelevant to the present day just because it occurs in the context of a particular military conflict. This issue is more difficult than that. If Harris thinks the jihadists have the stronger theological arguments here, I very much hope it’s because he thinks that after a lengthy debate the weight of evidence would turn up in favor of them, and not because he thinks objections like ‘this was written in a particular context’ are self-evidently or manifestly absurd. They’re worth talking about too.

    The statement “columnists and pundits who try to smear Islam quote verse 9:5″ is disingenuous, because it suggests that militaristic interpretations of Islam are a recent Western fabrication. The original supposed importance of the Verse of the Sword comes from Muslim exegetes, not from “columnists and pundits”. Perhaps columnists and pundits overstate how widely accepted those exegeses are, but which is the Best Interpretation of Islam is not a wholly settled question, and certainly has not been settled in favor of pacifism, though I very much wish it were.

    “Please define moderate”

    By “moderate” here I just mean people who think violence against unbelievers and apostates is never (or almost never) justifiable. That’s a pretty low threshold, obviously — most fundamentalists and radicals in other religions qualify as ‘moderate’ by that definition — but it’s fine for the purposes of the present discussion.

  • Tujays said on April 12, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Robby,

    Do you think that the quote below from Sam Harris is sufficiently contextualized?

    “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. Muslim discourse is currently a tissue of myths, conspiracy theories, and exhortations to recapture the glories of the seventh century. There is no reason to believe that economic or political improvements in the Muslim world, in and of themselves, would remedy this.”
    – Sam Harris

  • Robby Bensinger said on April 12, 2013 at 6:46 pm

    Tujays, have you not read the above discussion of this? I already criticized that claim by Harris. I’ve seen no evidence that immediate textual context is relevant to any defenses of or attacks upon it.

  • Brent S said on April 12, 2013 at 7:05 pm

    As little purpose as it serves to volley against this reductio ad absurdum game with mined Harris quotes, the quote being thrown around at the moment is yet again missing its context. Allow me to shed a BIT more light, though even this does not convey the rhetorical inertia that had been accumulated at this point in the reading:

    “But Muslim terrorists have not tended to come from the ranks of the uneducated poor; many have been middle class, educated, and without any obvious dysfunction in their personal lives. As Zakaria points out, compared with the nineteen hijackers, John Walker Lindh (the young man from California who joined the Taliban) was “distinctly undereducated.” Ahmed Omar Sheikh, who organized the kidnapping and murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl studied at the London School of Economics. Hezbollah militants who die in violent operations are actually less likely to come from poor homes than their nonmilitant contemporaries and more likely “to have a secondary school education.27 The leaders of Hamas are all college graduates, and some have master’s degrees.28 These facts suggest that even if every Muslim enjoyed a standard of living comparable to that of the average middle-class American, the West might still be in profound danger of colliding with Islam. I suspect that Muslim prosperity might even make matters worse, because the only thing that seems likely to persuade most Muslims that their worldview is problematic is the demonstrable failure of their societies.29 If Muslim orthodoxy were as economically and technologically viable as Western liberalism, we would probably be doomed to witness the Islamification of the earth.
    As we see in the person of Osama bin Laden, a murderous religious fervor is compatible with wealth and education. Indeed, the technical proficiency of many Muslim terrorists demonstrates that it is compatible with a scientific education. That is why there is no cognitive or cultural substitute for desacralizing faith itself. As long as it is acceptable for a person to believe that he knows how God wants everyone on earth to live, we will continue to murder one another on account of our myths. In our dealings with […]”

    Excerpt From: Harris, Sam. “The End of Faith.” W. W. Norton & Company, 2005. iBooks.
    This material may be protected by copyright.

    While I can appreciate the sentiment regarding “the power of not seeing resemblances”, rigorous debate surrounding this quote is simply missing the forest for the trees. What we have is a fundamental dissonance between reason and unreason, where the etymological primacy claims of unreasonable systems of thought (religion) are precluding us from being a reasonable species. Furthermore, the *available manifestations* (e.g. suicide terrorism) that can be argued as coherent with these systems of thought vary in degree across various topics. Selecting this quote and hammering upon it as being done here is simply distraction from these truths.

  • Tujays said on April 12, 2013 at 7:11 pm

    Robby,

    With regard to that same quote, would you also agree that it was ignorant and bigoted?

  • Robby Bensinger said on April 12, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    … Good grief.

    I’m starting to get an ever-increasing sense that this discussion is not being had completely in good faith. Have y’all already forgotten 95% of what I wrote in the blog post above? The whole point was that replacing substantive debates with ad hominems and accusations of bigotry is deeply destructive. It was that using bias as an accusation for slurring your opponents, whether accurately or not, is far less valuable than using it as an opportunity to look inward and to work with others on eradicating our prejudices together.

    Many of Harris’ critics, and many of his defenders, seem still to have not yet internalized that message. I gather I’ll have to just keep re-making the point until it sinks in.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 12, 2013 at 7:27 pm

    “whereas you seem to think that no Muslims have ever defended any interpretation of the Qur’an that confers any importance upon the Verse of the Sword”

    Wrong. I have been looking into the Salafist ideology for some time now, as I got interested in it after 9/11. The Salafist ideology places great emphasis on early Islam, and it is one of the most conservative interpretations of Islam, so I am rather familiar with it, and well aware of those Muslims who have a very violent interpretation of their religion.

    “No one is completely ‘neutral and unbiased’”

    Just because you’re not, it doesn’t mean “no one” is. Many people choose to look at the facts presented to them, and come to a conclusion based solely on that. I know you don’t approach things this way when it comes to Sam Harris – your conclusions are formed beforehand (like Sam Harris is a “good guy”, he treats all religions equally fair etc), and then you try and find arguments that can justify your conclusions. So when someone points out just how wrong Sam Harris was regarding his comment about 9/11 and Muslims, instead of saying “yes, he might have been unfair to Muslims”, you try and come up with scenarios to defend him, like he might not have come across any Muslim Imams critcizing the 9/11 attacks.

    “The statement “columnists and pundits who try to smear Islam quote verse 9:5″ is disingenuous, because it suggests that militaristic interpretations of Islam are a recent Western fabrication. The original supposed importance of the Verse of the Sword comes from Muslim exegetes, not from “columnists and pundits””.

    I disagree. Yes, throughout early Islam and even into the medieval ages, Islam conquered a lot of lands via “the sword”. But we have to put this in historical context, was the world a very peaceful place where everyone lived happily together, and then these Muslims came along and started conquering everyone? No, if you read your history, the world was rife with warfare at that time. The early Islamic Empire had as neighbours the Persian Empire, and the Roman Empire, both who had been at war with one another for many years. So it is very possible that the early Muslims felt under thread from these Empires, and that is why they decided to attack them. So naturally, to justify the conquests, militaristic interpretations were needed. So the question is, were Muslim conquests driven by Islam, or was the interpretation of Islam driven by the need to conquest? I don’t know the answer, it requires a lot of research. However, when you have people who have not studied it, yet they insist it was Islam that was driving the conquests and not the other way around (or even a mixture), well, that is the perfect definition of the Islamophobe – the inability to look at the facts in front of you to come to a conclusion, but to keep insisting that anything that shows Islam in the worst possible light is correct.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 12, 2013 at 7:30 pm

    “It was that using bias as an accusation for slurring your opponents, whether accurately or not, is far less valuable than using it as an opportunity to look inward and to work with others on eradicating our prejudices together.”

    I agree, Robby. Yet Harris is happy to slur Muslims with statements to the effect that none of them spoke out against 9/11, or that all devout Muslims want to convert, kill and subjugate non-Muslims – instead, he should be looking inwards as to why he is happy to come out with factually incorrect statements about Muslims.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 12, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    “perfect definition of the Islamophobe” – I mean, the perfect definition of Islamophobia.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 12, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    “There remains the large dialectical onus of showing that Harris’ most severe criticisms of Islam are all false; the even larger burden of showing as well that they are outright irrational; and the even larger burden of showing that they are, each and every one, so wildly irrational as to rival sexism, homophobia, or clinical phobias.”

    Why all? Why would we need to show all of Harris’ criticisms of Islam are false to show he is an Islamophobe?

    If 90% of what someone says about black people is correct (like their bodies seem to be built for sprint racing, they excel in basketball), but the person then comes out with statements like “blacks are less intelligent than whites, look at the IQ test results”, and that “blacks are more primitive, they like to fight, look at the wars in Africa”, would this person not be called a racist because only 10% of what they’re saying comes from prejudice? I think most people would agree that whilst this person doesn’t necessarily hate blacks, and he might even have black friends, some of his views are racist. And usually, if some of your views are racist, then you get called a racist.

    Similarly, if some of Harris’ views are Islamophobic, then it is natural for him (whether rightly or wrongly) to be called an Islamophobe. But what I am interested in knowing is, why do you have the criteria that ALL of Harris’ criticisms of Islam have to be shown to be Islamophobic for him to be considered an Islamophobe?

  • Robby Bensinger said on April 12, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    “No one is completely ‘neutral and unbiased’” – Just because you’re not, it doesn’t mean ‘no one’ is.”

    That’s a childish rejoinder. People differ in how neutral and unbiased they are, but no one is a perfect, emotionless fact-crunching machine. No human is a perfect Bayesian updater. Bias is a fact of life. As human beings, stuck with this human biology and enmeshed in culture, our realistic goal should be to minimize bias (particularly harmful and compounding bias), not to fixate disproportionately on abstract ideals of perfection.

    “Many people choose to look at the facts presented to them, and come to a conclusion based solely on that.”

    The human brain doesn’t work that way. It’s true that given many weeks, months, or years of focused training you can markedly improve your ability to interpret, evaluate, and draw inferences from facts, but there is no such thing as coming to a conclusion based “solely” on the facts. The necessity for interpretation, for starters, rules that out.

    “I know you don’t approach things this way when it comes to Sam Harris – your conclusions are formed beforehand (like Sam Harris is a ‘good guy’, he treats all religions equally fair etc), and then you try and find arguments that can justify your conclusions.”

    And how do you know that? Cite your evidence. I’ve both criticized Harris and praised him. I’ve updated my beliefs and my presentation of the issues as new information and arguments have come in. One has to ask: Can as much be said for Greenwald or Hussain’s interest in the facts as for mine? Have they been as honest about the uncertainties and nuance involved? If I’m guilty of any factual errors in my presentation, or am missing some crucial piece of the puzzle, that has yet to be demonstrated in the last 100+ comments, and it would be perverse to hold out on us and rely on insinuations rather than just letting me know if you’ve found a problem so I can fix it and apologize to my readers. (Something, again, I would dearly love to see from Harris’ critics, so that I can in better conscience promote their articles without fear of deceiving anyone.)

    “So when someone points out just how wrong Sam Harris was regarding his comment about 9/11 and Muslims, instead of saying ‘yes, he might have been unfair to Muslims’, you try and come up with scenarios to defend him, like he might not have come across any Muslim Imams critcizing the 9/11 attacks.”

    Actually, I did both. (How have you already forgotten that…?) I came up with a possible hypothesis for why he might have said what he did; several readers pointed out that my hypothesis was implausible, so I retracted it and conceded that Harris had importantly bungled this assertion. That’s where the discussion of import ended.

    You then insisted on pushing further and saying “So we have two possibilities 1) Sam Harris did not do any research 2) Sam Harris knew his statement was wrong, but he still made it.” Since this obviously did not exhaust the possibilities, I was obliged to point out that there are other options. Certainly these other options are unlikely, but so are the options you raised; so the question becomes one of selecting which of a set of unlikely possibilities is the least unlikely.

    I’m perfectly willing to entertain any of those possibilities, as long as we do so in a fair-minded way and acknowledge our uncertainty. To demonstrate your good faith, you should exhibit an equal willingness, and not try to skew the discussion at the outset by refusing to list possibilities that disagree with your prior model of Harris. You can also demonstrate it by not misrepresenting my earlier comments; you should already know that I criticized Harris for the same thing you did, since I stated it multiple times on this very thread in response to your very arguments.

    “However, when you have people who have not studied it, yet they insist it was Islam that was driving the conquests and not the other way around (or even a mixture), well, that is the perfect definition of the Islamophobe”

    You made four very big mistakes here:

    1. You forgot that Harris’ own view (and mine) is the “mixture” position. Islam contributes to violence, but independent motives for violence also impact how Islam is interpreted and used. Islam isn’t being criticized for causing every act of violence ever perpetrated by a Muslim; it’s being criticized for causing a nontrivial number of them.

    2. You forgot my entire post above (!) about how “Islamophobe” should not be defined as ‘anyone who has really false beliefs about Islam’ or otherwise as one’s ideological opponents in discussions of Islam, for the same reason we would not want to define ‘homophobe’ as ‘anyone who has really false beliefs about gay people’. Since you’re responding to this post, it would be a very good idea for you to read it. And really think about it; don’t just sift through it for weapons you can use against ideological opponents. Try to gain something from it, even if you don’t agree with it all.

    3. You neglected my point above that ‘Islamophobe’ has multiple incompatible definitions, hence that relying on it as a rhetorical tool can only lead to confusion.

    4. Likewise, you forgot my point above about how even when ‘Islamophobe’ is carefully defined and applicable to some situation, relying on slurs is a conversation-stopper and kills any potential for human growth. Read my quotation from Robin Richardson above. I object to terms like ‘Islamofascist’ for the very same reason; their only purpose is to destroy discussion and make progress and collaboration impossible.

    I hope you will take this to heart and adjust your tactics, since I don’t think that doing so will compromise the more important points of substance you raise, e.g., about the difficulty of definitively establishing a particular interpretation of Islam as the Only Right One. (Indeed, I would agree with many of your points of substance, and I strongly suspect that Harris would as well. If you aren’t sure, I’d suggest e-mailing him to find out.)

  • Robby Bensinger said on April 12, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    “Why all? Why would we need to show all of Harris’ criticisms of Islam are false to show he is an Islamophobe?”

    Greenwald claimed that Harris is an Islamophobe because he criticizes Islam more than he criticizes other religions. The argument goes:

    1. To think Islam is worse than other religions, one needs to be a bigot.
    2. Harris thinks Islam is worse than other religions.
    3. Therefore Harris is a bigot.

    The only way to accept premise 1 is if you think that Islam is so obvious harmless (relative to other religions), that only a bigot could think otherwise. Thus for Greenwald’s charge to succeed, he needs to show that Islam is demonstrably and obviously no worse than other religions. Mild criticisms of Islam don’t need to be refuted for that to be possible, but all harsh criticisms do need to be refuted — and refuted so strongly that the only way to think especially poorly of Islam would be to be a bigot — since their truth would block Greenwald’s inference.

  • Brent S said on April 12, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    SpeakingSensibly said:
    “I disagree. Yes, throughout early Islam and even into the medieval ages, Islam conquered a lot of lands via “the sword”. But we have to put this in historical context, was the world a very peaceful place where everyone lived happily together, and then these Muslims came along and started conquering everyone? No, if you read your history, the world was rife with warfare at that time. The early Islamic Empire had as neighbours the Persian Empire, and the Roman Empire, both who had been at war with one another for many years. So it is very possible that the early Muslims felt under thread from these Empires, and that is why they decided to attack them. So naturally, to justify the conquests, militaristic interpretations were needed. So the question is, were Muslim conquests driven by Islam, or was the interpretation of Islam driven by the need to conquest? I don’t know the answer, it requires a lot of research. However, when you have people who have not studied it, yet they insist it was Islam that was driving the conquests and not the other way around (or even a mixture), well, that is the perfect definition of the Islamophobe – the inability to look at the facts in front of you to come to a conclusion, but to keep insisting that anything that shows Islam in the worst possible light is correct.”

    —–

    It is utterly astounding the flaming hoops through which you are willing to jump through in what honestly appear as deliberate attempts to migrate attention away from the fundamentally more reasonable perspective from which Harris communicates ideas. The history you describe here does *nothing* to refute, and in fact demonstrates, the idea that we absolutely must become dramatically more reasonable at species-scale if we are ever to succeed as a global society. If you cannot join the conversation at the level of mutual agreement on this point, please address this idea directly rather than working to undermine one of its proponents. If you *can* do so, you should be noticing the counterproductive costs of arguing such a silly and wholly unrelated topic by now.

  • Tujays said on April 12, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    “The whole point was that replacing substantive debates with ad hominems and accusations of bigotry is deeply destructive.” — Robby Bensinger

    Robby,

    Should I take your response to mean that it’s your opinion that Sam Harris’s comments above were not bigoted? Or are you saying that people who make bigoted, racist, islamophobic, xenophobic, homophobic, etc., remarks in general shouldn’t be criticized for making such ignorant and prejudicial claims?

  • Brent S said on April 12, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Tujays,

    You should take his response to mean that you are being deeply destructive to the discussion.

  • Tujays said on April 12, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    “The whole point was that replacing substantive debates with ad hominems and accusations of bigotry is deeply destructive.” — Robby Bensinger

    Robby,

    I’ll ask you again since it’s a valid question:

    Should I take your response above to mean that it’s your opinion that Sam Harris’s comments below were not bigoted? Or are you saying that people who make bigoted, racist, islamophobic, xenophobic, homophobic, etc., remarks in general shouldn’t be criticized for making such ignorant and prejudicial claims?

    * * * * *

    “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. Muslim discourse is currently a tissue of myths, conspiracy theories, and exhortations to recapture the glories of the seventh century. There is no reason to believe that economic or political improvements in the Muslim world, in and of themselves, would remedy this.”

    – Sam Harris

  • Fred M said on April 13, 2013 at 3:36 am

    SpeakingSensibly,

    “But how is this different to the surveys you see conducted over here, where we in the West say it is justifiable to kill civilians in certain cases.”

    Surveys that ask vague questions aren’t particularly useful for settling debates of this sort. We would have to know what the conditions were in the “certain cases.” We would have to have defined what is an innocent civilian, and so forth. Probably, to the majority of Muslims, those non-Muslims who criticize Islam publicly are not innocent civilians. Also, in the Qur’an, Allah wipes out whole populations of non-believers; it would strain credulity to suppose that every man, woman, and child, and infant, in such a population was not an innocent civilian in the sense understood in the modern West.
    There is a variety of experiments in studies of ethics, for example, wherein conditions are specified such that it is necessary to kill (or allow the deaths of) some smaller number of civilians in order to save a larger number. If a ship is sinking, one rule is that women and children are put onto the lifeboats first; any civilian males stand a higher chance of being sacrificed. In a war, when your own country’s civilians are being bombed, you (if you are the leader) may be faced with a choice between allowing your own country’s civilian population to be wiped out, versus launching attacks on the enemy country that might probably cause some collateral damage, i.e., civilian deaths. So, yes, it’s important not to read too much into ambiguous findings.

    For that matter, asking Muslims if they condemn the 9/11 attacks isn’t all that useful either, unless we have additional information, e.g., Do they [Muslim respondents] classify the attackers as Muslims or non-Muslims? Do they assume the attacks were an inside job by the American government ? Do they assume the attacks were carried out by the Israelis, the Mossad, etc.? Do they condemn the 9/11 attacks, but approve of any other terrorist group’s attacks on civilians? Do they completely deny that Islamic doctrine had any role whatsoever in motivating or justifying the attacks? And so on.

  • Fred M said on April 13, 2013 at 3:50 am

    SpeakingSensibly,

    “As Glenn once quoted George Orwell,[...]”

    Glenn Greenwald seems to have the same kind of inability to look in the mirror as regards his one-sided attacks against the U.S. (primarily the policies of the Bush and Obama administrations in their conduct of the so-called war on terror) and his lack of criticism of Islam. In contrast, Sam Harris criticizes both the U.S. and Islam (and other religions, especially Christianity as it manifests in the U.S. population).

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 13, 2013 at 8:54 am

    “Greenwald claimed that Harris is an Islamophobe because he criticizes Islam more than he criticizes other religions. The argument goes:

    1. To think Islam is worse than other religions, one needs to be a bigot.
    2. Harris thinks Islam is worse than other religions.
    3. Therefore Harris is a bigot.”

    No, stop skewing facts. Greenwald has never stated his reason for believing Harris and the other “New Atheists” are Islamophobes is because they criticize Islam more than other religions.

    He believe the reasons they are Islamophobes is because “I do, however, absolutely agree with the general argument made in both columns that the New Atheists have flirted with and at times vigorously embraced irrational anti-Muslim animus.”

    So it is their irrationality that makes them Islamophobes to Greenwald. He then goes on to state “The key point is that Harris does far, far more than voice criticisms of Islam as part of a general critique of religion. He has repeatedly made clear that he thinks Islam is uniquely threatening”.

    So, in Greenwald’s opinion, the reason Harris is an Islamophobe isn’t because Harris criticizes Islam more. No, the reason is because Harris has “embraced irrational” views of Islam, (and the criticizing Islam more is a result of this).

    Considering you were saying Harris deserves an apology from Greenwald, are you going to make an apology to Greenwald for misrepresenting his words and attributing something fals to him?

    PS, I will respond to your other post when I have more time – whilst I disagree with some of the things you say, you do make some valid points in it, and I will have to issue an apology for attributing some false statements to you (I had scan-read your article, and was then responding to your comments in the comments section, and upon reading your article again, I concede that I made some mistakes regarding you views).

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 13, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Here is another example of this Islamophobia we speak about, Robby.

    [Quoting: “I seem to remember a very bright young muslim lad”], Richard Dawkins says: “You mean a bright young child of muslim parents.”

    In other words, Dawkins is implying that you cannot be very bright and a Muslim. Now, would you say that is bigoted, or not?

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 13, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    “It is utterly astounding the flaming hoops through which you are willing to jump through in what honestly appear as deliberate attempts to migrate attention away from the fundamentally more reasonable perspective from which Harris communicates ideas. The history you describe here does *nothing* to refute, and in fact demonstrates, the idea that we absolutely must become dramatically more reasonable at species-scale if we are ever to succeed as a global society. If you cannot join the conversation at the level of mutual agreement on this point, please address this idea directly rather than working to undermine one of its proponents. If you *can* do so, you should be noticing the counterproductive costs of arguing such a silly and wholly unrelated topic by now.”

    I don’t really know what to make of your post – it just seems a case to me that you’re saying that everyone should agree with what you consider to be reasonable.

    This article was about whether Harris has unfair, irrational criticisms of Islam. As all of Harris’ critics make it clear, for the millionth time, no one is saying Harris should not have criticisms of Islam, and no one is saying Harris cannot criticize Islam more than other religions. The only thing Harris’ opponents are saying is that Harris often has, as Glenn Greenwald puts it, criticisms that stem from his tribalism, and that Harris is all to happy to decontextualize wrong-doing by Muslims.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    “That’s a childish rejoinder. People differ in how neutral and unbiased they are, but no one is a perfect, emotionless fact-crunching machine. No human is a perfect Bayesian updater. Bias is a fact of life. As human beings, stuck with this human biology and enmeshed in culture, our realistic goal should be to minimize bias (particularly harmful and compounding bias), not to fixate disproportionately on abstract ideals of perfection.”

    I wasn’t saying no one is literally biased. I was saying that there exist many people who realize that they might have subconscious biases, and so they make a conscious effort to fight against these. So for example, if an individual has been brought up in a society where black people are living in poverty (and are thus disproportionately represented in crime and other nasty things), and where white people are a lot more civilized and are doing well, and then this individual has to interview a black person and a white person for a job, and this person finds they feel a lot more “comfortable” in the presence of the white person, but the individual recognizes that this is probably due to his bias, and thus makes a conscious effort to not let his bias have any part in his decision making, then this individual has, for all intents and purposes, made his bias irrelevant. In fact, it might even be the case that because this individual wants to fight his subconscious bias so badly, he actually ends up being biased towards the black candidate.

    Therefore I am disappointed by your apologist defense that secularist websites might me biased against Islam because no one is truly unbiased and neutral. All websites (whether they be secularist, Islamic or have you what), when criticizing someone else’s belief, should state both sides of the argument, and then leave the reader to make up their mind. In fact, this is what of the things that was supposed to set atheism apart from religion – whereas religion is interested in telling you what you must believe, atheism is supposed to let the individual make up their own mind as to what is right. However, this cannot be possible if you’re only giving one side of the argument that makes something look bad, and so atheism seems to have gone the same way as religion.

    “And how do you know that? Cite your evidence. I’ve both criticized Harris and praised him. I’ve updated my beliefs and my presentation of the issues as new information and arguments have come in.”

    You have indeed, so please accept my apologies for accusing you of something wasn’t true.

    “You neglected my point above that ‘Islamophobe’ has multiple incompatible definitions, hence that relying on it as a rhetorical tool can only lead to confusion.”

    Yes, there is no definition that everyone agrees on – which does make one wonder, when Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins say there is no such thing as Islamophobia, what exactly is the definition they’re using? The definition I am using is “an irrational fear of Islam”. So the perfect example to me that comes to mind was when I was reading about how Pakistani gangs are grooming young girls (post-pubescent), the majority of who are white, in the UK. The British media were referring to them as “Muslim men” – and the comments sections were full of comments that the religion of these men played a part in their grooming. This was despite the fact these men were clearly not practising Muslims – after all, they were drinking (forbidden in Islam), taking drugs (forbidden in Islam), having pre-marital sex (forbidden in Islam), and not praying. This is a perfect example of an irrational fear of Islam – even when Islam has no part to play in some wrongdoing, people are saying it does, and therefore, to me, this is Islamophobia.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 13, 2013 at 1:49 pm

    “I wasn’t saying no one is literally biased” – I mean, “I wasn’t saying no one is literally UNbiased”

  • Fred M said on April 13, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    A few miscellaneous points:

    It’s often been claimed in this discussion that the U.S. is the worst offender in post-9/11 history, with the body count in Iraq and Afghanistan cited as the primary evidence. A few problems with this:

    I believe it is likely that the death toll and other atrocities (slavery, torture, systematic rape, massive population displacement) carried out by the Islamist Omar al-Bashir in Sudan (including with weapons supplied by China) were higher, perhaps double or triple the death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. It is difficult to get accurate estimates for Sudan, though, with which to make the comparison.

    In terms of apportioning blame for massive numbers of unnecessary civilian deaths, some blame must go to the U.S. and allies, particularly in their initial bombing campaigns. The U.S. in particular should be blamed for initiating a war of choice against Iraq, and Britain (well, its leaders anyways) especially should be blamed for going along with it. But some blame must also go to the Islamic militant groups, rival Islamic sects, gangs, etc., who have caused a significant percentage of the deaths of civilians after the initial U.S.-led campaign, and who have contributed to greatly prolonging the U.S. and allied involvement in the region. We can also blame Pakistan for it’s double game viz. the conflict in Afghanistan, and Iran for indirectly waging war against the U.S. (and allies) and NATO, in Afghanistan and Iraq respectively.

    We must blame the Islamic leaderships of Iraq and Afghanistan for insisting on including Islamic provisions in their constitutions, which assert that sharia is the main source of law, and we must blame Bush and Blair (and others, including their advisers and academics) for their deluded approval of this travesty, which will contribute to great continued suffering especially for women and minorities in these countries. Without basic freedoms like true freedom of expression (freedom to criticize Islam and Islamic leaders in public and in the press) and freedom of conscience, it is difficult to see how these democracies will flourish, and easy to see how they will tend toward becoming even more strictly oppressive and theocratic.

    In assessing the extent of the problem of Islamic militancy, one must also take into account the numerous ongoing deadly conflicts and insurgencies involving Islamist militant groups, from Indonesia and the Philippines, to Nigeria, Somalia, Mali, and so on. These diffusely-spread smaller conflicts and terrorist activities, and the war in Syria, all add up to a large number of civilian deaths and injuries, and atrocities.

    Who’s scarier than Dick Cheney and in what respects? If I were to take the rhetoric of Greenwald and Hussain seriously, I would conclude that Harris, Dawkins, and the New Atheists are scarier than Dick Cheney. Anyways, seriously, I believe Harris was talking about beliefs and intentions, not an individual’s current or future (or in the case of Cheney, past) political power to enact destructive and deadly policies. There are certainly, according to the polls and surveys (see PEW, World Public Opinion, etc.), more than “tens of millions” of Muslims in the Muslim world who, based on their beliefs, would be much scarier than Cheney if they had the power to act on those beliefs. On average, it appears from these polls that the majority of Muslims want a “strict” application of sharia in every Muslim country, and want all Islamic countries to be unified under a single caliphate. Large minorities, pluralities, to majorities of Muslims want apostates and adulterers to be put to death, and want corporal punishments such as cutting off of hands and whipping/lashing. (Even in Western countries, pluralities to majorities of Muslims do not believe criticism of Islam and Muhammad should be protected as free speech, but instead should be criminally prosecuted and punished; and the majority think homosexuality should be illegal). However, as for those scarier than Cheney in actions, Omar al-Bashir, the late Saddam Hussein, (potentially) the Ayatollah Khamenei and others in the Iranian regime…there are definitely some Muslim despots and dictators who are (or were, or could be) scarier than Cheney. If they had Cheney’s power, they could have done a lot more damage than Cheney; and at least two of those I listed–Saddam and al-Bashir–already have done so with far less means at their disposal.

    Harris thinks militant Islam is becoming increasingly dangerous to global security as the probability increases with each passing decade that one Islamist regime after another will acquire nuclear weapons of some sort, and then use them on a civilian population. There is also the problem of terrorist groups getting a hold of nuclear weapons. It’s not that they could realistically win a war against the U.S.; it’s that they could cause an awful lot of death and destruction in the attempt.

    It has often been said in this controversy on both sides that the people most victimized by Islam, or Islamic extremism, are Muslims. While it is indeed true that moderate Muslims are victimized by hard-line implementations of Islam, militant activity, and Western military campaigns, actually the greater victims tend to be the non-Muslim minorities living in Muslim countries. Whatever the Muslim populations in these Islamic countries suffer, the non-Muslims there also suffer the same, plus additional persecution from the especially hard-line or intolerant Muslims. By persecution, I mean terrorist attacks, bombing and burning of churches and temples etc., beheadings, rapes, kidnapping, slavery, pogroms, death threats, imprisonment for expressing un-Islamic views (or for merely being accused of such), torture, etc.

    Based on the above sorts of considerations, I believe that hard-line and militant Islam is the biggest religious/political threat today, and that this threat will gradually increase with each passing year into the near future. It does not follow however that I would refrain from criticizing or discussing the policies of Western governments, or other dangerous physical and biological trends (e.g., pollution, global warming, depletion of natural resources, overpopulation).

    I also reject the possible implication that could be taken from Greenwald’s (and Murtaza’s) critique that one cannot, as a non-Muslim, specialize in criticizing Islam. (He doesn’t say that outright, but it’s implied; and, conspicuously, neither he nor Murtaza have given credible examples of Islam critics they consider to be reasonable and fair). They seem to regard specialization in this particular case as an unhealthy or toxic fixation. But in any field, a significant amount of specialization is needed to become sufficiently knowledgeable about a political ideology or religion to be able to criticize it properly. Greenwald himself focuses mostly on a limited range of policies. It also helps to have some comparative knowledge, but to really become an expert in Islam or any other religion from a critical perspective requires a lot of time and focus. It would indeed seem odd, when it is put this way, that there is nothing wrong with specializing in criticizing some ideology–as long as it is not Islam. But the fact that polls suggest that the majority of Muslims today want critics of Islam to be criminally prosecuted and punished is one of the most important justifications for criticizing it. Greenwald and co. don’t seem to appreciate this point.

  • Fred M said on April 13, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    SpeakingSensibly,

    “In other words, Dawkins is implying that you cannot be very bright and a Muslim. Now, would you say that is bigoted, or not?”

    You misunderstand, probably because you are not familiar with Dawkins’ ideas. Dawkins has been arguing for years that’s it’s not appropriate or ethical to refer to children, who are too young to make a mature informed intelligent decision about which religion (if any) they want to follow, as “Christians,” or “Muslims,” or whatever. This label is assigned to them by the parents, even though the child is really too young to make a proper free and informed consent to be a member of such-and-such a religion. It’s as ridiculous and inappropriate, as Dawkins would argue, to call the child a monetarist or a Keynesian. At least give the child a chance to get educated and to mature, before deciding freely, without pressure, on a religion or no religion, argues Dawkins. Sounds reasonable to me.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 13, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    I tried to find the context of Dawkins comments (I ended up at it via a link Glenn Greenwald tweeted, but I could not find it). But it does seem that Dawkins wasn’t being bigoted here, although there are many instances he is.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    “It’s often been claimed in this discussion that the U.S. is the worst offender in post-9/11 history, with the body count in Iraq and Afghanistan cited as the primary evidence. A few problems with this:

    I believe it is likely that the death toll and other atrocities (slavery, torture, systematic rape, massive population displacement) carried out by the Islamist Omar al-Bashir in Sudan (including with weapons supplied by China) were higher, perhaps double or triple the death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined. It is difficult to get accurate estimates for Sudan, though, with which to make the comparison.”

    Do you realize that the Sudan Civil War ended in 2005, and that the bulk of the killings were before 2001? That doesn’t make it right, but for you speculate that the Sudan war killed more people than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined without having any facts to back up your claim is just astounding.

    Either you have some figures, or you don’t. If you do, then you’re entitled to come to a conclusion, and if you don’t, then you should not make your speculation public, because speculation doesn’t bring anything to the discussion. In future, it might be more appropriate to go and do your research and then post the findings instead of wildly speculating.

  • David Fuchs said on April 13, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    You guys are so funny! Robby asks whether Glenn is open to criticizing both sides equally. I was *specific*: Glenn is not the extreme *relativist* who defends FGM, He said “It’s disgusting.” But he refuses to hear about more atrocities, he told Matt Cockerill, “I don’t spend time [on that].” Robby says that people forget everything he writes, they also forget everything I write. My critics hate it when I say, “amnesia.”

    Robby says that you should *always* be in re, *never* ad-hom. Robby, at least now I know why you hate my comments. But where do you draw the line? Sam did characterize them, “trolls, joker,” etc. Will you respond to the KKK *only* in re, & never point out which biased position they represent? You were right that we need “interdisciplinary.” You are right about “human bias” & the research on it is growing every day. So will you forget the “bias” of Hussain & the other hacks? You are right to “look inward,” but I wrote about “self-flagellation”

    SpeakingSensibly does not make sense. He says, “Stop skewing facts. Sam is racist bc of ‘irrationality,’ not bc he criticizes” too much.

    No, Irrationality is the “general,” the examples are the “specifics.” Each example is *an instance of* irrationality. Robby does not need me to point this out, Robby can do logic in his sleep.

    Glenn gives an “example,” & Robby refutes it. “Irrationality” is gone.

    Oh. no! Dawkins is a bigot! Dawkins does not think that I was once a 5-yr-old Jewish kid. He thinks my parents are Jewish. this proves Dawkins is Islamaphobic.

    There is more comedy here, I need to re-read it to remember it all.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 13, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    “SpeakingSensibly does not make sense. He says, “Stop skewing facts. Sam is racist bc of ‘irrationality,’ not bc he criticizes” too much.”

    I think you’re the one not making sense, considering I never said Sam Harris is racist.

    As for the Dawkins is a bigot quote, I retracted it – but that doesn’t change the fact there are many cases out there that shows Dawkins is a bigot.

  • David Fuchs said on April 13, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Sorry, I should have clicked “Submit Comment” sooner. But there were no Saturday comments. Now I see a million new comments, & my comments are “plagiarizing” them.

  • David Fuchs said on April 13, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I will wait till rush hour is over. Every second there is a new comment. On Fb, I always say that I write so slowly that people respond bf I click “enter.” You are right that you retracted it.

    I just finished scrolling, you did not say “racist,” you said “Islamaphobe.”

    Whiole scrolling, I noticed an important word Robby wrote. He said you should not REPLACE in re with ad-hom. I agree w/ him. I believe ad-hom is necessary but not sufficient. Sam marshals *evidence*, then he concludes that they are “trolls, jokers.” He does not “replace”–his ad-hom is not *instead of* in re.

  • David Fuchs said on April 13, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    I mostly stay out of it. The discussion is mostly political, so I mostly stay out of it. I care only about the “dramatis personae,” the characters. Science has found that we are more biased than we ever imagined (neuro-economics), we are not reasonable people having a disagreement. Sam was wrong that Glenn is his “fellow-liberal,” their e-mail exchange conveyed mutual hate. Glenn’s FB is all about how “vile” Sam is. I won’t mince words, these are enemies. These libs don’t sit down w/ the KKK, & they say that Sam is a bigot. Jackson Lear was pretty clear.

    You guys devoted all your time to one statement, the Muslim response to 9/11. If Sam made one mistake, you highlight that one mistake. You ignore everything else, & your enemies are laughing. If you don’t know that those writers are enemies, they’re laughing more.

    A play is ad-hom, it looks at the “character.” A psychotherapist is ad-hom, she looks at the “patient.” First, we look in re, we collect evidence. then we evaluate the person. At HuffPost, Hussain gave himself away–the key to the character. But you guys ALWAYS refused to look at FB–the key to Glenn’s character.

    SpeakingSensibly was sensible when he told Fred not to “make your speculation public.” He was not sensible when he told Fred to pin Hussain down “in private.” I don’t know politics, I’m just watching the play.

    Robby says he is starting to doubt “good faith.” This thread is intellectual, but Sam’s enemies are political partisans, lobbyists, advocates who shill for their own.

    The British media are not as precise as Sam, they referred to the Pakistani gang as “Muslim men.” They meant immigrants from the Muslim countries. They did not mean, “Hey! My irrational fear of Islam makes me believe that the Koran did it.”

    But Sam is “tribal?” If US Evangelicals had the power to do violent things, Sam would say EXACTLY what he is saying about Muslims.

    Dick Cheney? You disagree w/ his politics, that’s all. It has nothing to do w/ the subject of atheism, of Faith v Reason. The New Atheists target *only* religious groups. Glenn is mad that they don’t target corporations. That they don’t target Republicans. It’s all politics.

  • Tujays said on April 13, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.”

    – Sam Harris

    * * * * *

    They [Harris and Hitchens] are religious fanatics. They happen to believe in the State religion which is much more dangerous than other religions for the most part.

    So they — both of them — happen to be defenders of the State religion; namely the religion that says we have to support the violence and atrocities of our own state, because it’s being done for all sorts of wonderful reasons which is exactly what everyone says in every state. That’s just another religion like the religion that “markets know best”. It doesn’t happen to be a religion that you pray to once a week; but it’s just another religion and it’s very destructive.

    – Noam Chomsky
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zt9QCAUPPeY

  • Tujays said on April 13, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    “Before I address the issue of Richard Dawkins, it is worthwhile highlighting some key information about his ally Sam Harris…”

    – Jai Singh
    http://www.loonwatch.com/2013/04/richard-dawkins-anti-islamanti-muslim-propaganda-exposed-the-facts/

  • David Fuchs said on April 14, 2013 at 1:27 am

    I thought Chomsky is scientific. He gave us a definition. Is he committed to it? If you “support the state,” you regulate business, you tax the wealthy in order to spend on entitlements–that’s “State religion.”

    Is he committed to it, or only when it suits him? Only the “violence & atrocities?” If you take power out of private hands & grow the gov’t, you are “supporting the state.” That was his criterion.

    The other religion is “markets know best.” Chomsky rejected Hitch’s religion, “supporting the state” (public). Chomsky & Romney chose the other religion, “markets know best” (private).

  • Fred M said on April 14, 2013 at 2:25 am

    SpeakingSensibly,

    “That doesn’t make it right, but for you speculate that the Sudan war killed more people than the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined without having any facts to back up your claim is just astounding.”

    Your faux outrage is amusing. Quite a performance. You remind me of “Ahmed” in the thread previous to this one…now tell me, why is that?

    Actually the atrocities in Sudan under al-Bashir are pretty well known, and anyone can readily look it up. Here’s a start:
    “So far, over 2.5 million civilians have been displaced and the death toll is variously estimated from 200,000[39] to 400,000 killed.[65] These figures have remained stagnant since initial UN reports of the conflict hinted at genocide in 2003/2004.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudan

    That’s obviously higher than any of the credible death toll estimates for Iraq and Afghanistan combined, where a significant percentage of deaths were actually caused by Islamic militants and terrorists, gangs, etc.
    Secondly, note that the violence has continued well after the so-called peace agreement in 2006. Moreover, al-Bashir is involved in another war with neighboring Chad between 2005-2010.

    Al-Bashir, unlike Cheney, is still active in his position of power. While the Iraq war is over as of 2011, the human rights abuses, violence, etc., in Sudan continues.

    I suggested to you earlier, after you apparently became outraged that I asked Murtaza Hussain some follow-up questions, the following [corrected statement] “Support for your conclusion would require on your part a presentation of the empirical evidence which indicates that “devout Muslims” do not want to have in the future the conditions that Harris suggests they want “as Muslims” following Islamic doctrine.” [see the rest for details].

    How about it? Are you going to support your conclusion or not?

  • Fred M said on April 14, 2013 at 3:24 am

    Glenn Greenwald’s article implies that he is in a position to judge whether or not Sam Harris’ critical assessment of Islam is fair. What does Greenwald know about Islam? Has he read the Qur’an? Is he aware that the Qur’an says that to obey Muhammad is to obey Allah (4:80), and that Muhammad is said to have an excellent character (68:4), and that he is deemed by Allah a good example for Muslims to follow (33:21)? Has he read mainstream Muslim commentary (tafsir) on, explanation of, the Qur’an? Has he read much from the Hadith, which describes the words and deeds of Muhammad, which Muslims are supposed to follow and emulate? (There are so many hadiths, in all the collections in total, that it would not be possible for one individual to read them all. Enough would be to read some relevant material from the main collections that are considered most authoritative, specially those hadiths pertaining to jihad warfare, treatment of non-Muslims, women, slaves, homosexuals, etc. A good way to start is to examine the policies of interest in Islamic law, then examine the hadiths relevant to those Islamic laws). Has he read the Sira literature, which discusses in some detail the life of Muhammad, especially his conflicts with the polytheists, Jews, and Christians. Has he read any introductions or overviews on Islamic law? Is he familiar with laws in Islamic countries today? Is he familiar with the highly developed policies of offensive and defensive jihad warfare? Has he studied dhimmitude, or the condition of non-Muslims under the terms of the pact of surrender imposed upon non-Muslims, a pact known as the dhimma? Is he aware of the approximately 1300 years of slavery under Islam? Is he aware that slavery is still practiced in some Islamic countries? Is he aware of the massive death death tolls in areas such as South Asia (primarily in and around what is now known as India) and Africa due to Islamic imperialist conquest and slavery? Is he aware of the treatment of women, minorities, and homosexuals in Islamic countries? Has he reviewed the polls that ask precise questions about Muslims’ support for specific elements of Islamic law, such as the penalties for apostasy, blasphemy, adultery, etc.? Has he examined voting patterns of Muslims since 9/11, which consistently show significant support for Islamist political parties, resulting in the election (or re-election) of Islamist governments in Turkey, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon (Hezbollah), Palestinian territories (Hamas), Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, etc.? Is he aware of the harsh laws against criticizing Islam in supposedly moderate Muslim majority countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and Bangladesh? Is he aware of the extent of the practice of FGM, and is he aware of the endorsement in the Hadith and Islamic jurisprudence of this practice?

    I could go on, but you get the idea. From what I’ve seen thus far, Greenwald doesn’t know much of anything about Islam. And yet his judgement of Harris requires that his knowledge of Islam is as good as or better than Harris’. Harris is no expert on Islam, but he has at least read the Qur’an, some of the Hadith; he has read mainstream scholars of Islam such as Bernard Lewis, is familiar with current events pertaining to the Islamic world and the growing Islamic communities in the West, and so on. Greenwald almost certainly has little familiarity with any of this information. His perspective on Islam is apparently based on some of the most unrepresentative Muslim views and Islamic apologetics and pro-Islam polemical talking points. But Greenwald does know at least one thing about Islam today, namely, that by writing the article that he did, and by endorsing Murtaza’s absurdly over-the-top libelous hatchet job in Al-Jazeera, he has dramatically increased the odds of Harris and other Islam critics being killed, by effectively putting a target on Harris’ back and framing Harris’ as villainous for his critique of Islam.

    I’ve asked Murtaza Hussain to provide the name of an Islam critic whom he considers to be reasonable and fair. Murtaza apparently grasped at two quick suggestions, then vanished before I could report my finding that these two weren’t satisfactory because one of them (Stedman) apparently didn’t criticize Islam and the other (PZ Myers) was disqualified because he says he agrees with Harris, who Murtaza judged to be unreasonable and unfair about Islam.

    My request remains open for Greenwald or Hussain: Provide us with the name of a critic of Islam you consider to be fair and reasonable. Also, Do Greenwald and Hussain have any criticisms of any policies suggested in the Qur’an, and if so which one(s)?

    Also, Murtaza Hussain still has not answered my questions about Qur’an 24:2 (torture), and 9:29, 9:123, 8:67, 47:4 (etc., about wiping out, killing, subjugating and enslaving non-Muslims). What ails Murtaza Hussain that he cannot answer these questions? He wants us to learn more about Islam? He wants us to talk to Muslims and learn more about them? I’m doing that, and have been doing that for the past several years. However, Murtaza himself thus far refuses to participate in this process, instead choosing to snipe, to gun-and-run, against critics of Islam such as Harris and Dawkins.

  • Fred M said on April 14, 2013 at 3:33 am

    Looks like my response to “SpeakingSensibly” has disappeared. I provided a quick reference to sources for the estimate of 200000 to 400000 deaths in Sudan under the Islamist al-Bashir up to 2004, and that the violence is ongoing.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 14, 2013 at 6:51 am

    “Looks like my response to “SpeakingSensibly” has disappeared. I provided a quick reference to sources for the estimate of 200000 to 400000 deaths in Sudan under the Islamist al-Bashir up to 2004, and that the violence is ongoing.”

    al-Bashir has been in power since 1989. Did your sources show that 200,000 to 400,000 were killed between September 2001 and 2004? In any case, judging by pure numbers is quite silly, some estimate that Mugabe’s economic policies have led to hundreds of thousands of deaths during the past decade.

    “Glenn Greenwald’s article implies that he is in a position to judge whether or not Sam Harris’ critical assessment of Islam is fair. What does Greenwald know about Islam? Has he read the Qur’an?”

    That is all totally irrelevant. Glenn Greenwald has never claimed that the Quran is a peaceful book. He is an atheist. His claims are that Harris and the New Atheists are Islamophobes, not because they criticize Islam, but because they make statements about Muslims that are simply not true.

    I saw you totally destroy the discussion on the other thread started by Robby, please don’t do that here. You have some fixation with Murtaza, why not go and start your own blog about him if you dislike him, but don’t spoil the dbate here/

  • Fred M said on April 14, 2013 at 8:22 am

    SpeakingSensibly,

    Glenn Greenwald’s Islamic spokesman Murtaza is one of the subjects of the article.

    “I saw you totally destroy the discussion on the other thread started by Robby, please don’t do that here.”

    Destroy the discussion in this thread? My comments are relevant to the thread. If you don’t think my comments are relevant, then you can easily stop responding to them or ignore them. If you don’t like reading my comments in this thread, you don’t have to read this thread. If you are so hurt and offended, maybe having these kinds of discussions is not for you? You are Ahmed from the previous thread, right?

    “…some estimate that Mugabe’s economic policies have led to hundreds of thousands of deaths during the past decade.”

    The comparison in question is Islam vs. the U.S. post 9/11, a time period in which some are claiming the U.S. is the bigger evil, and the bigger threat.

    Greenwald can’t judge if Harris is in error about Islam and Muslims if he doesn’t know the first thing about Islam and Muslims. Greenwald can get started by reading the Qur’an, and learning about all the other things I talked about.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 14, 2013 at 9:14 am

    “Destroy the discussion in this thread? My comments are relevant to the thread.”

    No they’re not. You keep pointing to what are violent verses in the Quran. That has got nothing to do with this thread – everyone, including Glenn, knows that the Quran has violent verses, and that some Muslims use these verses to justify their killing. So when you keep throwing in that this verse states this and another verses states something else, it is totally irrelevant, because everyone is aware of that. Furthermore, Greenwald has never made an apology for the violent verses in the Quran. Greenwald has stated that there is a threat from Islamic terrorists. What Greenwald argues is that Sam Harris and the other New Atheists have an irrational fixation with Islam, that they’re happy to simplify things and blame everything bad that Muslims do as being tied in with Islam.

    “You are Ahmed from the previous thread, right? ”

    Actually, I am Glenn Greenwald’s alleged sock-puppet that Harris has a fixation with!

    “Greenwald can’t judge if Harris is in error about Islam and Muslims if he doesn’t know the first thing about Islam and Muslims. Greenwald can get started by reading the Qur’an, and learning about all the other things I talked about.”

    Wrong.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 14, 2013 at 9:15 am

    “I thought Chomsky is scientific”

    Chomsky isn’t a scientist.

  • Malowski said on April 14, 2013 at 9:26 am

    >@ Malowsski http://www.iraqbodycount.org/ 111,903-122,408 dead Iraqi civilians.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/may/20/afghanistan.comment 20,000 dead Afghan civilians

    The majority of deaths in both of these nations were caused by radical muslims attacking their own people.

    >“Between six and seven million people died in Korea, Vietnam and Iraq alone.”

    Yes, but how many were killed by the us, in vietnam for example the war was going on for quite some time before the us sent in ground forces, the war continued after they pulled out, in korea the deaths were caused by a number of different sources such as the koreans themselves and the Chinese.

    As pointed out before most of the iraqi deaths were caused by iraqis themselves, however your source seems to think that 1 million iraqis died, this was shown to be unlikely for the survey which found this was highly flawed.

    https://ojs.ub.uni-konstanz.de/srm/article/download/2373/3973

    >Stepping into the 20th and 21st centuries we see a very different story in regards to the threat posed by the US military force.

    No doubt the us military has killed many people, however the numbers killed by Muslim extremists is even higher, in both iraq and afghanistan insurgent actions have been the main cause of civilian deaths.

    >Iraq being a threat to the US which killed over a hundred thousand -some say that it is much higher but that number is documented- because the people believed in the ridiculous threat of Iraq and the claim of WMDs.

    Iraq Body Count has come to that figure, but it never claimed that the us killed all those people.

    >Consider that higher percentages of Muslim’s came out against the 9/11 attacks than US citizens came out against the Iraq war

    Two very different things, initially even the polling evidence from iraq showed that most of its citizens felt the war was just.

    >So when we are comparing evils or threats in the world as Harris himself does to justify the west’s “moral high ground” in the war on terror, one has to concede the facts don’t seem to support Harris’ claim of “This benighted religious solidarity may be the greatest problem facing civilization.”

    Not exactly, when one looks at the facts we see that muslim religious extremists have indeed killed more people than the us military in the last decade, and in history they have killed vastly more overall.

    >Meanwhile US citizens insist we’re killing terrorists and evil doers in drone strikes while it’s being revealed that we have no idea who the Obama administration is killing

    Studies looking into the matter have found that the majority of those being killed are militants.

    >Democrats support it at a rate of like 76% and yet irrational Islam becomes the focus because they’re so deluded and irrational evidently…

    The support of the drone program is pretty easy to understand, it is a low cost weapon which enables the us to attack militants that they are in conflict with whilst keeping civilian casualties to a minimum.

  • Brent S said on April 14, 2013 at 10:59 am

    We have to stop allowing ourselves to be led into absurdly specific conversations about whether or not the canon of a given religion can be construed in destructive ways. We already know this to be true, as history reveals this to us. Our belief systems, regardless of whether they posit deities, have been consistently unreasonable and incoherent in ways that became obvious to us over time. As the systems of thought we generally agree upon lose their coherence with what we come to *know* about existence we must revise, edit, or supplant those systems with better ones if we are to achieve a reasonable existence.

    It is patently obvious that all religious canon is fundamentally incompatible with the known nature of the cosmos, and as such *any and all* belief in their claims of absolute truth must be discarded. We must regard these meme collections as containing much useful philosophical/ethical wisdom within primitive and unreasonable containers. We must approach the works within the religious canons of the world in the same manner we do The Iliad, Beowulf, Gilgamesh, et al.

    We have yet to generally agree that our belief systems, and the resulting algorithms for approaching problems of all kinds, must be based upon reasonable thinking that is functional and reproducible in the medium of our shared existence. This is a *huge* problem, and is where the discussion must begin at this moment in our history. Failure to reach this agreement may very well be our end. When parties such as Ahmed from the last thread, SpeakingSensibly, and Tujays attempt to branch a conversation like this they are refusing to enter the discussion at this level, which reveals their points as worthless distractions. At this point in the course of human history, the voices for reason must learn to stay on message.

  • David Fuchs said on April 14, 2013 at 11:46 am

    SpeakingSensibly, I’m glad you’re talking about the subject of “dialogue” bc the subject of the Quran is beyond me, it’s not my thing.

    Finally, you told us why you want Fred to pin Hussain down in *private*, you don’t know that he IS the topic. Sam said, “Robby took Hussain’s feet…”

    Fred knows that Hussain can’t answer why the unbigoted PZ agrees w/ Sam that Islam is so “bad.” When did Glenn agree w/ PZ about “everything bad that Muslims do?” Glenn “proved” that they DON’T do any more bad than some isolated Christian who threatened Corpus Christie.

    That’s why Sam can challenge Glenn to the cartoon contest! Bc Glenn has never agreed w/ PZ & SpeakingSensibly on “everything bad that Muslims do.”

    If Hussain is good at “dialogue,” he’ll say, “I announced at HuffPost that Glenn is wrong, that PZ is right. That Muslims are ‘more bad’ about cartoons than Mormons. I explained that ‘it was the last straw.’”

    Sam is great at humor & logic (like Jon Stewart), and Robby is great at logic. Robby can explain to you that Fred is not irrelevant. That Sam’s enemies have not made one claim, they have made two:
    A) Sam is claiming that Muslims “do more bad.”
    B) That “the bad is tied in w/ Islam.”

    SpeakingSensibly responds only to B, & he tells Fred that A irrelevant.

  • David Fuchs said on April 14, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    “Chomsky isn’t a scientist.”

    I’m willing to forget that linguistics is a science, that Chomsky made the scientific discovery that language is innate, that he is in the psychology textbooks, that he destroyed the top Behaviorists (BF Skinner).

    Even if Chomsky had never done scientific work, we would say that he is a scientific thinker, that he committed himself to the criterion, “supporting the State.”

    We use this language. Glenn was taught in law school to “be Socratic,” to “spot the issue.” Robby is great at it, philosophers have heard of Socrates! Lawyers call it “legal thinking,” scientists call it “scientific thinking.”

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 14, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    “Your faux outrage is amusing. Quite a performance. You remind me of “Ahmed” in the thread previous to this one…now tell me, why is that?

    Actually the atrocities in Sudan under al-Bashir are pretty well known, and anyone can readily look it up. Here’s a start:
    “So far, over 2.5 million civilians have been displaced and the death toll is variously estimated from 200,000[39] to 400,000 killed.[65] These figures have remained stagnant since initial UN reports of the conflict hinted at genocide in 2003/2004.”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudan

    That’s obviously higher than any of the credible death toll estimates for Iraq and Afghanistan combined, where a significant percentage of deaths were actually caused by Islamic militants and terrorists, gangs, etc.”

    I guess next I’ll be reminding you of Glenn!

    I am just asking you to clarify a point. Earlier on you wrote “It’s often been claimed in this discussion that the U.S. is the worst offender in post-9/11 history, with the body count in Iraq and Afghanistan cited as the primary evidence. A few problems with this:

    I believe it is likely that the death toll and other atrocities (slavery, torture, systematic rape, massive population displacement) carried out by the Islamist Omar al-Bashir in Sudan (including with weapons supplied by China)”

    So you were clearly stating that post 9/11, Sudan killed more civilians. I don’t know the Sudan conflict well, other than the fact that the Sudanese probably did commit genocide, and that there was a peace agreement in the mid 2000s, and that is why I was interested to know where you got your figures from of the casualty figures in Sudan post 9/11. It now seems that your casualty figures are for the whole of the war, and not post 9/11 Sudan, which means your comparison is a little unfair.

    As for the personal attacks, please keep the discussion civilized, because I could then state that your outrage of the civilians killed in Iraq or Afghanistan is faux – and then it’ll just disintegrate into a silly mud slinging contest.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 14, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    “I’m willing to forget that linguistics is a science, that Chomsky made the scientific discovery that language is innate”

    Sorry, you are correct, I have a tendency to disregard “soft science”, but it is still technically science.

  • David Fuchs said on April 14, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    SpeakingSensibly, that’s what Robby calls “forgetting 95%” of it! You forgot everything you said to Fred. You think you said, “I’m just asking you to clarify a point.” Neuro-economics knows that you “unconsciously remember” & “consciously forgot.” You attacked Fred every time:

    Don’t talk to Hussain in public.

    Don’t speculate in public.

    Don’t say Muslims did “bad”–say that it is “not tied in w/ Islam.”

  • David Fuchs said on April 14, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Sorry, I clicked “Submit” bf I read your comment. Thanks for your most recent words.

  • Fred M said on April 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    SpeakingSensibly/Ahmed,

    You write: “So you were clearly stating that post 9/11, Sudan killed more civilians. I don’t know the Sudan conflict well, other than the fact that the Sudanese probably did commit genocide, and that there was a peace agreement in the mid 2000s, and that is why I was interested to know where you got your figures from of the casualty figures in Sudan post 9/11. It now seems that your casualty figures are for the whole of the war, and not post 9/11 Sudan, which means your comparison is a little unfair.”

    No, the estimated figures I cited are from the war in Darfur, which started in 2003. There has been much conflict in Sudan since then, and it continues.

    Here is more context for my above quote from the section on the conflict in Darfur:
    “On 9 September 2004, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell termed the Darfur conflict a genocide, claiming it as the worst humanitarian crisis of the 21st century.[64] There have been reports that the Janjaweed has been launching raids, bombings, and attacks on villages, killing civilians based on ethnicity, raping women, stealing land, goods, and herds of livestock. So far, over 2.5 million civilians have been displaced and the death toll is variously estimated from 200,000[39] to 400,000 killed.[65] These figures have remained stagnant since initial UN reports of the conflict hinted at genocide in 2003/2004. Genocide has been considered a criminal offense under international humanitarian law since the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.[66]”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sudan

    The war in Darfur:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_in_Darfur

    Again, note that the figures are probably now much higher than the 200000 – 400000 estimated deaths I cited, because of the various continued conflicts in Sudan.

    From a helpful BBC site timeline:

    “2008 April – Counting begins in national census which is seen as a vital step towards holding democratic elections after the landmark 2005 north-south peace deal.
    UN humanitarian chief John Holmes says 300,000 people may have died in the five-year Darfur conflict.”
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-14095300

    Another estimate:
    http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2809%2961967-X/abstract
    “We estimated the excess number of deaths to be 298 271 (95% CI 178 258—461 520).”

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 14, 2013 at 1:16 pm

    “You attacked Fred every time:

    Don’t talk to Hussain in public.

    Don’t speculate in public.”

    I did nothing of the sort. After reading the other thread by Robby, what was an interesting discussion descended into something totally irrelevant – Islamic scriptures. Why was it irrelevant? Because Glenn has never said that Islamic scriptures do not contain violent passages, neither has he ever said that Muslims do not use them to commit crimes. This thread is about whether there is an IRRATIONAL fear of Islam and Muslims, for instance, the case where I cited that gangs of secular Pakistani men who were grooming teenage girls in Britain were being accused of doing so because of their religion – these guys were secular!!! That is irrationality.

    As for Hussain, well, neither of these threads are about Hussain. The first one was about Sam Harris, and this one is about Islamophobia. Whether Hussain is a hypocrite, or an Islamic extremist doesn’t really matter, because you could be a hypocrite and make a valid point about someone, or you could not be a hypocrite, and make an invalid point about someone. So in the previous thread, what mattered was whether Hussain made valid criticisms about Harris, and not what Hussain’s own personal beliefs are, and in this thread, what matters is whether Islamophobia is real, and that is why I asked to stay on topic in this thread.

  • Tujays said on April 14, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    “For a man who likes to badger Muslims about their “reflexive solidarity” with Arab suffering, Harris seems keen to display his own tribal affections for the Jewish state. The virtue of Israel and the wickedness of her enemies are recurring themes in his work…”

    – Theodore Sayeed
    http://mondoweiss.net/2012/06/sam-harris-uncovered.html

  • David Fuchs said on April 14, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    SpeakingSensibly, it’s a long thread, I wrote very little till we got near the end. The details of the Middle East is not my field. I would hate to take the time scrolling through it & giving you every citation.

    I agree w/ Robby that you “forgot 95%.” I always ask people not to be offended when I say they have amnesia. Why? Bc most people forget dialogue, Robby is one of the exceptions.

    You can’t circle that square, you can’t say that Fred attacked you when “all I did was ask you to clarify one statement.” Do you want me to cite the comments where you scolded him?

    I scrolled through it–and it was worth it! Apr 13 @2:41 PM. You returned his exam paper w/ red ink all over it. A long tongue-lashing about WILD SPECULATIONS in public!

    I could go on correcting every point you made. I could tell you that Fred already apologized for the previous thread.

    You know politics, but now you’re talking about “dialogue.” Sorry, but every sentence is wrong. “Neither thread was about Hussain, the first was about Sam.”
    Why is Hussain posting comments? Why did Sam say that Robby is debating Hussain?

    But, David, it’s about Hussain’s “point,” not Hussain personally, not his “hypocrisy.”

    Robby would get exasperated if he read that!!
    You don’t understand that Hussain more than *disagrees* w/ Sam, he says that Sam is “bigoted,” Sam says he’s a “joker.” Glenn says he’s “irrational.” I told you that “each example is an instance of irrationality,” we need to look at each point, each example. Robby pointed out that PZ agrees w/ Sam’s point & Fred asked Hussain to defend that.

    I told you that you talk about B & then you forget A.

    If we are as logical as Robby, we’ll say:
    1) Scriptures have violence, that doesn’t mean people adhere to it.
    2) Muslim people don’t do “more bad” w/ cartoons than Mormons
    3) Yes, they do. But it’s “not tied to Islam.”

    You forgot 95% of it, you think that it’s about the “irrationality” of the British media who called the Pakistani gang “Muslim.”

    You forgot again! I wrote, “The British media are not as precise as Sam. They meant that the gang is from a Muslim country. They did not mean ‘It is tied to Islam.’”

    Your comment would get red ink ALL OVER IT. You forgot every point from the previous comments.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 14, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    “Your comment would get red ink ALL OVER IT. You forgot every point from the previous comments.”

    I didn’t. I don’t know where you get this “you forgot 95%” from. I said I had scan-read Robby’s article, and then moved straight onto the comments, and that is why I missed some of the things Robby had said. It wasn’t really a case of forgetting, it was more a case that missed them out.

    Fred made a claim of what he believes is likely – but I don’t care what he believes is likely, just as I am sure others don’t care what I believe is likely. That is why I said, either come with facts, or if you don’t have facts, don’t come here speculating what you think is likely, because that is a waste of everyone’s time.

    “You forgot again! I wrote, “The British media are not as precise as Sam. They meant that the gang is from a Muslim country. They did not mean ‘It is tied to Islam.’””

    Your apologist argument can easily be disproved. The only time you mention someone’s religion in a crime is, if their religion played a part in that crime, or, if that person is somehow related to a religious body. So if you get a suicide bomber who did it because of what he read in the Quran, then it is perfectly acceptable to refer to him as a Muslim in a newspaper article. If you have a Priest who was caught stealing, then it is perfectly acceptable to state his religion, as this is relevant. If however you have a normal person doing some crime, you won’t see their religion mentioned, because it is not relevant.
    It is for this reason you will not see articles referring to the drug cartels in Mexico as Christians – even though many of them identify themselves as Catholics. It is for this reason you will not see an article on a bank robber state he is a Christian – even though he might go Church on Sundays. It is for this reason you won’t see an article on a rapist state he is Christian – even though he might go to Church on Christmas. It is for this reason you will not see any article on some Polish immigrant refer to him as a Christian – even though he comes from a Christian country. So for you to suggest that the British press were referring to them as Muslims because they come from a Muslim country (actually, I believe they were all born in the UK), is one of the worst apologist arguments I have read for a while.

  • David Fuchs said on April 14, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    Bf, when you were talking about politics, you did better than I can do–and Robby was engaging you.
    Now, that you’re talking about dialogue, I have the choice of pulling the punches, or risk offending you. Why? Bc I believe that what you’re saying is *very* wrong!

    I wouldn’t blame you if you had said that my last response offended you. But what can I say when you:

    scolded Fred on 3 separate occasions, then you said that he should refrain from “personal attacks” when you never attacked him, when you were humble. When you confessed that “I don’t know the Sudanese conflict well & I needed clarification. I thought you were a little unfair.” You didn’t only, humbly, ask for claification–you told him that Hussain was off-topic. Now you say, “Fred believes it is likely. If you don’t have facts, don’t come here speculating!”

    You told me that you “did nothing of the sort.” That you did not give Fred 3 “Don’t” commands. That you did NOT say “don’t speculte in public.”
    Then you say that you DID tell him bc he deserved it. I never said he didn’t deserve it. You said that HE attacked you.

    Pick one:
    Either Fred did the first strike, or
    You did bc he deserved it.

    (I will respond to the question of the British media.)

  • David Fuchs said on April 14, 2013 at 5:58 pm

    As I scrolled back, I saw that “astounding” morphed into “a little unfair”–as you were denying that you gave Fred “the first strike.” This is what Jon Stewart laughs at, the way people revise dialogue.

    The British media said, “Muslim men.” You said that I was “an apologist.” I said they were wrong, I said that Sam is precise & that he would not have called them Muslim men. You said that Sam is “irrational, he ties the bad things Muslims do to Islam., to the verses in the Quran.” I said the Br media did not tie the secular gang to the Quran.

    I don’t want to launch into the details. The media exist on a spectrum of PC. At one end of the spectrum, they will not say Muslim or Pakistani, or anything! If a black man commits a crime, they will say, “He was wearing a green shirt w/ blue jeans.” They will say every dumb thing–he already changed his clothes! But they will never say “black.”

    The Fort Hood shooter took orders from the terrorist. They say it was “a workplace shooting.” A Muslim? What? I didn’t notice.

    At the other end of the spectrum, the Br media referred to the immigrants from Muslim countries who did not assimilate. I did not defend that end of the spectrum. If you scroll, there is 0 chance that you will find me writing that Sam would call them “Muslim men.”

  • Tujays said on April 14, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    “As an atheist myself, I’ve found these “new atheist” writers to be an embarrassment.

    “First, none of the prominent ones are genuine religious scholars, historians of religion, or cultural anthropologists who can, for instance, examine  the cultural, historical, literary, or linguistic contexts in which the varying parts of the Bible were written to provide an explanation of why fundamentalist biblical literalists are, well, mistaken and ignorant.

    “There are plenty of genuine scholars of religion whose work examines religious beliefs and sacred texts within their proper framework, such as Robert Price, John Loftus, Daniel Barker, Hector Avalos, Bart Ehrman, and D.M. Murdoch. These are the skeptics who are worth paying attention to.

    “Second, they typically conflate atheism with stereotypical liberal or radical left-wing politics when there’s no inherent relationship whatsoever. See Machiavelli, Hobbes, Hume, Nietzsche, and Mencken.

    “Third, like the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair, they come across as narrow-minded and ill-informed bigots whose only purpose is to antagonize religious people…”

    – Noam Chomsky
    http://attackthesystem.com/2012/03/11/noam-chomsky-on-the-new-atheism/

  • Tujays said on April 14, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    “Worse, even in its early stages, Harris casually dismissed the US attack on Iraq as a “red herring”; that war, he said, was simply one in which “civilized human beings [westerners] are now attempting, at considerable cost to themselves, to improve life for the Iraqi people.”

    “Western violence and aggression is noble, civilized, and elevated; Muslim violence (even when undertaken to defend against an invasion by the west) is primitive, vicious, brutal and savage. That is the blatant double standard of one who seeks not to uphold human rights but to exploit those concepts to demonize a targeted group.”

    – Glenn Greenwald
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/03/sam-harris-muslim-animus

    http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/bill-clinton-condoleezza-rice-2003-invading-iraq-would-be-morally-right-thing-do
    Madeleine Albright Defends Mass-Murder of iraqi Children (500,000 Children dead)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4PgpbQfxgo
    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/3/20/ten_years_later_us_has_left
    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/3/22/new_expos_links_torture_centers_in

    * * * *

    “[Assange] is a creepy bastard.”

    – Sam Harris

    Collateral Murder – Wikileaks – Iraq
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rXPrfnU3G0
    http://www.salon.com/2010/12/24/wikileaks_23/
    http://www.salon.com/2011/10/23/wikileaks_cables_and_the_iraq_war/
    http://www.cjr.org/critical_eye/qa_with_goodale_obama_press_fr.php?page=all

  • Brent S said on April 14, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    You forgot the conclusion, Tujays.

    “Without going on, I haven’t found it thrilling, though condemnation of dangerous beliefs and great crimes is always in order.”

    None of what you quote applies to Harris’ fundamental position that unreason must always be replaced with reason. Learning to set aside our dogmatic impulses in favor of reasoned and properly scoped discourse is self-evidently the correct path forward. Harris chooses to point out that what *should* be clear as low-hanging fruit continues to infect our thought processes, desires, and actions with deadly consequences. This is not the same as a “religion of the state” or of any other kind. It is simply choosing the richest target WRT what we could achieve in repairing our thought processes at scale.

  • Tujays said on April 14, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    Brent S,

    Chomsky was referring to the litany of “great crimes” committed by the state and the “dangerous beliefs” that make them possible; this is evident when you read what precedes his concluding remark. The whole passage is directly applicable to Harris. I like your phrase “low hanging fruit” — it perfectly describes Harris’s bigoted predisposition and requisite intellectual laziness.

  • Brent S said on April 14, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    Again, none of what he mentions is applicable to Harris’ positions. In fact he assumes the general truth of Harris’ positions (not your distortions thereof), labeling them “old hat” for atheists and “a waste of time” spent on the radical. The problem Chomsky fails to adequately appreciate, however, is that there are other categories that together encompass the majority of humanity. *These* people must be exposed to the choice between reason and unreason, and this exposure must happen quickly. You know, before a religious radical regime harboring apocalyptic desires gets its hands on nuclear weaponry. If you cannot or refuse to participate at this level of debate, I accept this as concession and admission of your refusal to choose reason over unreason. Your descent into madness is better spent elsewhere.

  • Fred M said on April 15, 2013 at 3:54 am

    SpeakingSensibly,

    You keep complaining that I haven’t posted the evidence. I have. It doesn’t appear. I posted further information and sources and links indicating that the War in Darfur started in 2003. I’m not sure why my comments are disappearing, or whether the moderator is removing them. Perhaps there is some technical issue with the posting of links. Anyways, you can easily verify the estimates and the time frame by doing a couple of minutes of searching.

  • Fred M said on April 15, 2013 at 4:25 am

    Tujyas,

    From Chomsky: “There are plenty of genuine scholars of religion whose work examines religious beliefs and sacred texts within their proper framework, such as Robert Price, John Loftus, Daniel Barker, Hector Avalos, Bart Ehrman, and D.M. Murdoch. These are the skeptics who are worth paying attention to.”

    The quote is irrelevant because, for one thing, we’re talking about the charge of “Islamophobia” and criticizing Islam. The people Chomsky lists focus with a critical perspective on Christianity, not Islam. At most, I think Barker has on occasion participated in a debate, aside from his main work on Christianity, about Islam and whether it is rational. Ehrman says he won’t examine the Qur’an because, among other things, he values his life. These people aren’t Islam critics; they aren’t researching the Qur’an or discussing the problems with Islam today.

  • Fred M said on April 15, 2013 at 4:58 am

    More from Tujays quote of Chomsky:

    “As an atheist myself, I’ve found these “new atheist” writers to be an embarrassment.”

    Empty ad hominem. Substance of the argument to this point = 0

    Continuing….

    “First, none of the prominent ones are genuine religious scholars, historians of religion, or cultural anthropologists who can, for instance, examine the cultural, historical, literary, or linguistic contexts in which the varying parts of the Bible were written to provide an explanation of why fundamentalist biblical literalists are, well, mistaken and ignorant.

    Not relevant to the discussion about Islam, see my post above. Also, Chomsky simply assumes religion as a phenomenon can only be studied in disciplines such as those he lists. He seems to assume that the so-called New Atheists all have expertise in areas that is not relevant and not helpful to a critique of religion. I disagree. Sam Harris’ psychological research on belief and his background in philosophy is relevant. Dawkins’ knowledge as a biologist, including the analysis of memes, and his training as a scientific thinker, is relevant. Christopher Hitchens’ education and experience as a journalist and a writer is relevant. Daniel Dennet’s background in cognitive science and philosophy is relevant. Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s education in political science (including research on the Muslim community and the immigration system in the Netherlands), her experience in politics, and her human rights activist work, is relevant. Those are the five most prominent so-called “New Atheists” that I can think of.

    “There are plenty of genuine scholars of religion whose work examines religious beliefs and sacred texts within their proper framework, such as Robert Price, John Loftus, Daniel Barker, Hector Avalos, Bart Ehrman, and D.M. Murdoch. These are the skeptics who are worth paying attention to.”

    Again, tendentious at best: “genuine,” “proper.” No basis. Cumulative relevant substance of argument at this point = 0.

    “Second, they typically conflate atheism with stereotypical liberal or radical left-wing politics when there’s no inherent relationship whatsoever. See Machiavelli, Hobbes, Hume, Nietzsche, and Mencken.”

    No they don’t; at least not the five most prominent ones (and above he says he’s talking about the prominent ones) I’ve cited. Cumulative substance = 0.

    “Third, like the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair, they come across as narrow-minded and ill-informed bigots whose only purpose is to antagonize religious people…”

    Empty ad hominem, appeal to his own personal impressions, personal insult. Sbnstance = 0. Cumulative substance to Chomsky’s argument = 0.

  • Fred M said on April 15, 2013 at 6:54 am

    More wisdom and careful statements from Chomsky:

    http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2530.htm

    American Linguist Noam Chomsky to Iranian TV: The US More Fundamentalist than Saudi Arabia and the Taliban

    “even more fundamentalist than Saudi Arabia or the Taliban”

    Chomsky interview [my brackets]:
    “[...] A Batalha: What do you see as they main causes of the growth of
    fundamentalist Islamic groups in the Arab world for example in
    Algeria and Egypt? Do you think these movements have a local cause
    or are due to religious fanaticism?
    Noam Chomsky: I would be wary of the tern ‘religious fanaticism’ and ‘
    fundamentalism’. [compare with his own use of it] I think that one of the most fundamentalist countries
    in the world is the US, perhaps on an even footing with Iran. The most
    extreme Muslim fundamentalist country in the world is Saudi Arabia, an
    intimate ally of the US and which is not considered a problem because
    it obeys orders. [...]”
    http://www.spunk.org/texts/writers/chomsky/sp001092.txt

    Good thing Chomsky is keeping the rhetorical excess about the U.S. in check.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 15, 2013 at 7:56 am

    “You keep complaining that I haven’t posted the evidence. I have. It doesn’t appear. I posted further information and sources and links indicating that the War in Darfur started in 2003.”

    Ok, it seems there was confusion between The Sudan Civil War and War in Darfur. Yes, it does seem the War in Darfur has definitely resulted in more civilian deaths than the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

    Which raises the question, why were we going in Iraq when we could have been going into Darfur?

  • Brent S said on April 15, 2013 at 8:54 am

    Fred M:

    Please spend this moment noticing:

    1. what you and “SpeakingSensibly” are and have been arguing.
    2. how the discussion devolved to this point.

    The salient conversation topic is now so far out of focus as to be indiscernible from background noise. This is a triumph for unreason, occupying your thoughts and actions, precluding you from successful discussions with the more earnestly inquisitive minds of our species.

    It appears you have studied and learned *a lot* on this topic, and that is commendable. That knowledge is being used against you here, however, by drawing you into a dialectic void. We need to remind ourselves that the conflict we are seeking to resolve is one between ideas.

  • SpeakingSensibly said on April 15, 2013 at 9:26 am

    “1. what you and “SpeakingSensibly” are and have been arguing.
    2. how the discussion devolved to this point.”

    I am sorry – this is why I had said to Fred M earlier: “Fred M, you also came on Robby’s last thread and destroyed the comments section with off topic ramblings. If you want to address Murtaza, please do so privately, and do not spoil the very interesting and thought-provoking discussion here.”

  • Tujays said on April 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    “The whole point was that replacing substantive debates with ad hominems and accusations of bigotry is deeply destructive.” — Robby Bensinger

    Robby,

    Should I take your response above to mean that it’s your opinion that Sam Harris’s comments below were not bigoted? Or are you saying that people who make bigoted, racist, islamophobic, xenophobic, homophobic, etc., remarks in general shouldn’t be criticized for making such ignorant and prejudicial claims?

    * * * * *

    “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. Muslim discourse is currently a tissue of myths, conspiracy theories, and exhortations to recapture the glories of the seventh century. There is no reason to believe that economic or political improvements in the Muslim world, in and of themselves, would remedy this.”

    – Sam Harris

    * * * *

    It seems to me that ACTUAL bigotry is “deeply destructive”, not the valid “accusations” of such. Can you not see the “deeply destructive” nature of this comment from Harris when coupled with his other bigoted comments regarding Muslims?

    “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.”

    – Sam Harris

    Your article, in essence, is a well thought out piece on semantics, not substance. How does it make you feel that a charlatan like Harris uses it to substantiate his demonization of Muslims?

  • Fred M said on April 16, 2013 at 5:35 am

    Tujays,

    Harris in the quote in question — “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.” [pp. 52-53, and see note 5] — is referring to members of Al-Qaeda, for example, in the context of the war on terror. If you are a currently committed participant in al-Qaeda, you are committed to killing civilians or helping to do so. Harris’ argument would apply to killing Nazis in the context of fighting in WW II. He notes that it is not always possible to apprehend such people, or to peacefully persuade them out of killing people. If this is this case, then the active members of such a deadly militant group would have to be killed. If not, the risk that they will kill civilians, quite possibly large numbers of civilians, is a level of risk that cannot responsibly be ignored. He is not talking about killing members of al-Qaeda who surrender or who turn themselves in to the authorities.

    If you disagree with Harris that there are some circumstances in which we need to kill such active al-Qaeda members as he describes (active members who aren’t captured or who don’t turn themselves in or surrender and who can’t be persuaded out of it), then what do you propose we do? Allow them to kill yet more civilians? Allow them to become an even larger threat looming over people’s lives? How do you propose to stop such active members of al-Qaeda? To judge that Harris is morally wrong here, you’ve got to come up with an alternative that is better ethically, based on our current practical and technological limitations.

  • Fred M said on April 16, 2013 at 8:48 am

    For those who don’t have access to Harris’ The End of Faith, the quote I discussed in my previous comment, in response to Tujays’ comment, is in the chapter on The Nature of Belief, in the context of a section titled “Beliefs as Principles of Action.”

    Harris, at his site in response to this controversy with Greenwald et al., provides some further context. I will provide that with a bit more of the preceding context:

    “…In adaptive terms, belief has been extraordinarily useful. It is, after all, by believing various propositions about the world that we predict events and consider the likely consequences of our actions. Beliefs are principles of action: whatever they may be at the level of the brain, they are processes by which our understanding (and misunderstanding) of the world is represented and made available to guide our behavior.
    …The link between belief and behavior raises the stakes considerably. Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live. Certain beliefs place their adherents beyond the reach of every peaceful means of persuasion, while inspiring them to commit acts of extraordinary violence against others. There is, in fact, no talking to some people. If they cannot be captured, and they often cannot, otherwise tolerant people may be justified in killing them in self-defense. This is what the United States attempted in Afghanistan, and it is what we and other Western powers are bound to attempt, at an even greater cost to ourselves and to innocents abroad, elsewhere in the Muslim world. We will continue to spill blood in what is, at bottom, a war of ideas.”
    pp.52-53.

    It’s important to understand what a writer means in usage of specific terms in a particular context, before launching into criticisms. Harris makes clear he’s talking about “beliefs” in this context as “principles of action.” (There are areas of psychology and neuroscience where beliefs are thought of by some researchers as action plans, intentions, and so on. Harris touches on that view in his discussion and notes in this context). With the example of killing active al-Qaeda members, then, Harris is talking about killing terrorists who are committed to a principle of action that permits the targeting and killing of civilians, active members who remain dangerous because they are still actively committed to that principle of action.

  • Tujays said on April 16, 2013 at 9:32 am

    “The whole point was that replacing substantive debates with ad hominems and accusations of bigotry is deeply destructive.” — Robby Bensinger

    Robby,

    Should I take your response above to mean that it’s your opinion that Sam Harris’s comments below were not bigoted? Or are you saying that people who make bigoted, racist, islamophobic, xenophobic, homophobic, etc., remarks in general shouldn’t be criticized for making such ignorant and prejudicial claims?

    * * * * *

    “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. Muslim discourse is currently a tissue of myths, conspiracy theories, and exhortations to recapture the glories of the seventh century. There is no reason to believe that economic or political improvements in the Muslim world, in and of themselves, would remedy this.”

    – Sam Harris

    * * * *

    It seems to me that ACTUAL bigotry is “deeply destructive”, not the valid “accusations” of such. Can you not see the “deeply destructive” nature of this comment from Harris when coupled with his other bigoted comments regarding Muslims?

    “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.”

    – Sam Harris

    Your article, in essence, is a well thought out piece on semantics, not substance. How does it make you feel that a charlatan like Harris uses it to substantiate his demonization of Muslims?

  • David Fuchs said on April 16, 2013 at 10:52 am

    Value exists on a spectrum. The highest value? Jon Stewart destroyed Morsi of Egypt, his words made news all over the world. The lowest value? Your comments.

    Sam & his opponents are enemies, they don’t have common ground. They can’t persuade each other, they must destroy each other. How? They each must persuade the public that the other is evil, not only wrong, but evil. There is nothing new about that. Every political foe does that. I said that Sam was wrong when he thought that Glenn is a “fellow-liberal,” he’s an enemy.

    An ally may, or may not, call his ally “a liar.” Gingrich said that he didn’t change his mind, that his ally Romney really is a liar. Enemies ALWAYS call each other names. You guys are the most extreme naive cloistered intellectuals. You think this is a math problem, that emotion & bias are irrelevant, that no one should be “ad-hom,” that we shouldn’t talk about Hussain’s “hypocrisy.”

    For brevity, I won’t write “Speaking Sensibly,” I’ll write “SS.” SS, you forgot everything. You said that Hussain is irrelevant to both of Robby’s posts, and especially the personal comments (about Hussain’s “hypocrisy”). Not only are Robby & Hussain engaging each other IN DEPTH, but Robby said, “Why doesn’t Hussain just *say* it instead of pretending…?” Robby called him a liar, it wasn’t Fred’s fault. It’s not Fred’s fault that Tujays brought up Chomsky, Fred is not off-topic. Glenn cited the same Chomsky quote. SS, you forgot everything. All you do is switch back & forth between saying that Fred attacked you first, when you were humbly asking him to “clarify” one point–and agreeing w/ Brent that you should attack Fred first. You switch back & forth between insisting on “civilized” & agreeing w/ Brent, who hurls insults at Fred (& especially Tujays).

    Since I know “dialogue,” not politics, I can tell you that you forgot everything. That it’s not worth it for me to cite the 10 different places that this happened. Let us do the *opposite* of what SS says. If SS says, “Robby did not talk about Hussain,” let us scroll up & find that Hussain was Robby’s main topic & debating partner.

    (Yesterday, the site wasn’t working, I hope the “Submit” tab is working now.)

  • David Fuchs said on April 16, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Worthless debate: Tujay says, “No, Robby, Sam’s bigotry is ‘destructive,’ not my valid ‘accusation.’”

    I wrote that Sam has humor & logic (like his friend Bill Maher, like Jon Stewart) & that Robby has logic. Maybe Robby is worse than just “non-Stewart,” maybe he’s “anti-Stewart.” Tujays is right to accuse Sam of bigotry. I told you that Sam is right to name-call them, “joker, trolls…” Robby should stop the nonsense of stifling the debate.

    And I can proceed to show that Sam is right. I already eviscerated Chomsky, who agreed w/ Paul Ryan that “supporting the State is religion.” Fred is right that Chomsky is ad-hom, not substance, that Chomsky likes some atheists. He likes their views on Islam–only if they have no views on Islam. Chomsky likes atheists who are boring & can’t reach people. I hope to god that Robby is not as humorless as Chomsky!

  • Tujays said on April 16, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    The Boston bombing produces familiar and revealing reactions

    “As usual, the limits of selective empathy, the rush to blame Muslims, and the exploitation of fear all instantly emerge…”

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/16/boston-marathon-explosions-notes-reactions

  • Fred M said on April 16, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Tujays,

    You quote Harris: “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.”

    You then say to Robby: “Your article, in essence, is a well thought out piece on semantics, not substance.”

    What do you mean that Robby’s article doesn’t have substance? Earlier, you objected to Harris’ quote above containing the phrase “no substance” and tried to refute it by citing the existence of some Islam apologetics denying a connection between Islamic doctrine and terrorism. As I noted, Harris would consider those apologetic denials to be lacking in substance; he says as much in his book, as I showed. Hence, by merely citing the existence of the apologetic denials, you aren’t refuting what Harris said (and meant) in his claim about the apologetic denials lacking “substance.” Yet you treated his statement as though he were claiming that such apologetic denials from Muslims did not exist.

    If you do not mean that Robby literally said nothing, then surely you are saying something similar to what Harris said about the “no substance” statements from Islam apologists. (See your use of the term pejorative, dismissive use of the term “semantics”). If that is the case, then you are tacitly admitting that you not only understand what Harris really meant in that quote, but that you yourself find it perfectly sensible to say someone else’s statements have “no substance” without worrying that someone will assume you are accusing Robby of having posted a blank article. In other words, you realize what Harris meant, but you are pretending that he meant something else.

    You are as dishonest as Murtaza Hussain was in his article attacking Harris.

  • Fred M said on April 16, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    correction: If you do not mean that Robby literally said nothing, then surely you are saying something similar to what Harris said [in his] “no substance” [claim regarding] Islam apologetic denials. (See your pejorative, dismissive use of the term “semantics”).

  • Fred M said on April 16, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    second, hopefully last correction: containing the phrase “not…of substance”.
    Same point though.

  • Tujays said on April 16, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    “In our dealings with AMERICA, we must acknowledge that AMERICANS have not found anything of substance to say against the PERPETRATORS OF WAR, apart from the ubiquitous canard that they were really BUSH’s. AMERICAN discourse is currently a tissue of myths, conspiracy theories, and exhortations to recapture the glories of the PRE-VIETNAM ERA. There is no reason to believe that economic or political improvements in AMERICA, in and of themselves, would remedy this.”

    http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/bill-clinton-condoleezza-rice-2003-invading-iraq-would-be-morally-right-thing-do
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4PgpbQfxgo
    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/3/20/ten_years_later_us_has_left
    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/3/22/new_expos_links_torture_centers_in
    http://dirtywars.org/the-film

  • David Fuchs said on April 16, 2013 at 8:36 pm

    I will add that Robby is wrong when he says that it wouldn’t matter if Sam were bigoted. He said that we would still listen to him & judge the *ideas*, not the *person*. No, if he were the KKK, we would not listen to him. It’s the *person* that matters.

    Glenn is a dumb person. He thinks US drones target children. It is collateral damage. Good or bad, there was never a country in history that was able to avoid collateral damage. Glenn conflates it all, he lacks Robby’s precision.

  • Tujays said on April 17, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Sam Harris is an inspiration to our nation’s treasured deep thinkers:

    independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/muslims-are-evil-lets-kill-them-all-fox-news-guest-erik-rush-provokes-furious-reaction-with-boston-bombing-twitter-rants-8575176.html

    And how about these darn kids these days?! Ha, ha, ha!! Oh, my goodness…

    I’m so glad Sam Harris is out there being a good intellectual role model. Why, in my day we had people like MLK and Joan Baez preaching their anti-war and love and what not. YUK!! Sam’s got it dialed-in, amiright?! “C’mon on people now, smile on your broth…..” JUST KIDDING! HA, HA, HA!! Let’s get some!! Ha, ha, ha!!! What religion are you?! HA,HA,HA ha!…LOL…LOL…oh heavens…LOL…

    Is this thing on?

    Forget the sixties! It’s exciting to be a hipster…TODAY!! Ask Sam Harris, he’s got this atheist thing all wrapped up pretzel-logic-like. You know, like, it’s MASSIVE irony, man! Yeah, he goes “Your religion bags, man…” Way cool. He’s all like, ‘god doesn’t imbue humans with a moral compass because it’s innate’ and he’s got the moral IQ of Lester Maddox. I know!! Sooo ironic…snap…snap…snap…

    Check it out…all the kids are down*:

    publicshaming.tumblr.com/post/48093470152/two-explosives-went-off-at-the-boston-marathon-on

    You can keep your Leary’s, your Kesey’s, your Watts’s, your Vidal’s, your Chomsky’s…we got Sam Harris yo!

    Hey man, you don’t talk to Sam Harris. You listen to him. The man’s enlarged my mind. He’s a poet-warrior in the classic sense. I mean, sometimes he’ll, uh, well, you’ll say “Hello” to him, right? And he’ll just walk right by you, and he won’t even notice you. And suddenly he’ll grab you, and he’ll throw you in a corner, and he’ll say “Do you know that ‘if’ is the middle word in life?

    ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you, if you can trust yourself when all men doubt you’…”

    I mean, I’m no, I can’t — I’m a little man, I’m a little man, he’s…HE’S A GREAT MAN. I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across floors of silent seas — I mean…

    Trust Sam y’all. Fun times ahead.

    * Down: urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Down&defid=1309618

    * * * *

    michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/bill-clinton-condoleezza-rice-2003-invading-iraq-would-be-morally-right-thing-do

    500,000: youtube.com/watch?v=x4PgpbQfxgo

    democracynow.org/2013/3/20/ten_years_later_us_has_left

    democracynow.org/2013/3/22/new_expos_links_torture_centers_in

    Muslims: youtube.com/watch?v=8PyWvnco2-E

    dirtywars.org/the-film

  • Fred M said on April 17, 2013 at 7:45 am

    Tujays,

    I think it’s safe to say that with all of your incoherent babbling in the previous comment, which somehow passed the moderator, you have excused yourself from even the most minimally sentient discussion of the subject matter.

  • Tujays said on April 17, 2013 at 11:22 am

    “You are deluded; and your delusion is dangerous…”

    – Adam Kokesh

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSdRNDbB27E

  • David Fuchs said on April 17, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    I always say that Sam knows that we need humor. Logic is necessary but not sufficient, & Sam has both.

    But after all that babbling, I realize that there’s one thing worse than saying that you don’t have humor–saying that you *do*.

  • Fred M said on April 17, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    Tujays,

    After posting incoherent babble, you post a link to some screaming lunatic spewing foul language and unsubstantiated allegations. You aren’t accomplishing anything, other than (further) sabotaging your own credibility.

  • Tujays said on April 17, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    The “Saudi suspect” turned out to be teenager who was tackled to the ground while fleeing with the others after being wounded by the blast. His apartment was tossed and his stuff bagged while his roommate was jacked-up by the cops; afterwards being hounded by a fox reporter.

    Racial slurs of the worse kind were freely hurled on twitter accounts from people who consider themselves to be proud Americans. What they don’t know is that they’re not proud of anything except their willful obtuseness which they use in order to allow themselves to indulge in blind tribalism that is, at its core, racist. It is endemic to the American white nationalism and is the basis for the founding of this country starting with the almost complete extermination of the red-skinned Native Americans and the enslavement of blacks Africans.

    This racist mind set continues to this day and reveals itself on some days more than others. However, for those not lucky enough to have been born white, it’s an everyday occurrence as evidenced with the humiliating degrading stop-and-frisk policy. This uniquely American racist mindset also expresses itself in the form of U.S. imperialism that’s responsible for the wars and sponsored coups which has slaughtered countless yellow and brown people in places like Vietnam, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

    These things are made possible by Americans desire to see people of color as Others and their deliberate blocking of empathy. This collective dysfunction is perpetuated by their government which seeks to fuel and exploit these repulsive and predicable human qualities in order fulfill their geo-political interests, which are ultimately to the exclusion of those who they claim to serve. It is the Oligarchic control of oil and wealth that is the governing apparatus in American society, not the democracy that people think it is.

    The only thing more pathetic than the corporate puppets who pretend to be “leaders” are the turncoats who shill for them. Whether intentional or not, Sam Harris fulfills that obligation,. He is a vapid clown who thinks that he’s got big ideas with his bigoted views. It’s the same old s*** disguised as “cutting-edge” thought. What’s truly pathetic though, is witnessing those who jump to his defense, signifying their allegiance to the corrupt status-quo and their own moral depravity.

  • Tujays said on April 17, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    A clip from Hearts and Minds:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huFh760p-MA

  • Fred M said on April 18, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Tujays,

    Again, you are simply spewing unsubstantiated allegations, ad hominem, guilt by association, misconstruing and misrepresenting others’ views, etc.

    Same question to you as to Murtaza Hussain and Greenwald:

    Can you name a non-Muslim Islam critic–someone who actually has criticized Islam and the Qur’an etc.–who you consider to be reasonable and fair in his/her criticisms?

    Your answer, if you provide one, will help us start to get some idea of the boundaries of your concept of Islamophobia, racism, etc., or if indeed it has boundaries.

  • Tujays said on April 18, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Fred M,

    Islamophobic incidents are dramatically rising in the U.S. and commenters like Harris only exacerbate this trend with their UNAMBIGUOUSLY bigoted statements about Muslims. I know that you think that “he’s a great man” *. That’s precisely why he needs to be put in check for his groundless accusations and absurd vitriolic assertions regarding Muslims. If people don’t do this then legitimacy is established within the collective social framework, further perpetuating the marginalization and castigation of Muslims within the U.S. and elsewhere.

    As I mentioned in my last post, this animus reaches far beyond domestic social strive and extends into our corrupt and murderous foreign policy as well. This repellent assimilation of racism and bigotry was on full display in the aftermath of the Boston bombing. Unless Harris repudiates his previously expressed slurs, wretched generalities, and speaks out against Muslim/Islamic animus in real terms, then people of conscious need to speak out against him and what he stands for.

    * https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPG3VDMfMes

    http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/09/26/916141/islamophobic-incidents-hit-ten-year-high/
    http://www.democracynow.org/2013/4/18/a_rush_to_misjudgment_cnn_faulted
    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/comment/2013/04/the-saudi-marathon-man.html
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/96/Gathering_of_eagles.jpg/220px-Gathering_of_eagles.jpg

  • Tujays said on April 19, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Watch and learn about U.S. and Israeli benevolence:

    4-19-13. Exclusive: Allan Nairn Exposes Role of U.S. and New Guatemalan President in Indigenous Massacres

    democracynow.org/2013/4/19/exclusive_allan_nairn_exposes_role_of?autostart=true

    4-17-13. Venezuela Accuses U.S. of Plotting Coup After Deadly Post-Election Protests

    democracynow.org/2013/4/17/venezuela_accuses_us_of_plotting_coup

  • Fred M said on April 19, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    Yes, keep changing the subject, Tujays, just like Greenwald.

  • Tujays said on April 19, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Fred M,

    It’s not my fault your dot-connector is on the fritz. Btw, I sent you a response yesterday but was mod-blocked by a rogue Secularist.

  • Fred M said on April 19, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Can’t explain why it’s blocked. Could be technical. I have two posts hung up in moderation probably because of multiple links.

    Anyways, the stuff you’re posting is off-topic. We aren’t arguing over whether it is or is not “phobic” to criticize the conduct of the U.S. gov’t. I think everyone is in agreement that the U.S. gov’t should be subject to critical scrutiny. Why not Islam?

  • Tujays said on April 21, 2013 at 12:02 am

    An astoundingly flaccid attempt at ironic humor by prolific Islamophobe, Sam Harris:

    “If nothing else, I hope we can all agree that the U.S. must stop its brutal occupation of Chechnya.”

    – Sam Harris

    * * * *

    Excerpted from ‘How The World Works’:

    Teaching Nicaragua a Lesson

    “When his [Somoza] rule was challenged by the Sandinistas in the late 1970s, the US first tried to institute what was called “Somocismo [Somoza-ism] without Somoza” — that is, the whole corrupt system intact, but with somebody else at the top. That didn’t work, so President Carter tried to maintain Somoza’s National Guard as a base for US power.

    “The National Guard had always been remarkably brutal and sadistic. By June 1979, it was carrying out massive atrocities in the war against the Sandinistas, bombing residential neighborhoods in Managua, killing tens of thousands of people. At that point, the US ambassador sent a cable to the White House saying it would be “ill advised” to tell the Guard to call off the bombing, because that might interfere with the policy of keeping them in power and the Sandinistas out.

    “Our ambassador to the Organization of American States also spoke in favor of “Somocismo without Somoza,” but the OAS rejected the suggestion flat out. A few days later, Somoza flew off to Miami with what was left of the Nicaraguan national treasury, and the Guard collapsed.

    “The Carter administration flew Guard commanders out of the country in planes with Red Cross markings (a war crime), and began to reconstitute the Guard on Nicaragua’s borders. They also used Argentina as a proxy. (At that time, Argentina was under the rule of neo-Nazi generals, but they took a little time off from torturing and murdering their own population to help reestablish the Guard-soon to be re named the contras, or “freedom fighters.”)

    “Reagan used them to launch a large-scale terrorist war against Nicaragua, combined with economic warfare that was even more lethal. We also intimidated other countries so they wouldn’t send aid either…

    “If anything like that were ever done by our enemies…I leave the media reaction to your imagination…”

    – Noam Chomsky
    books.google.com/books?id=D4ZxhXwx19gC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

    * * * *

    Nicaragua: An unfinished revolution – 17 Jul 09 – Part 1

    “Since the 1800′s the United States had been calling the shots, invading Nicaragua no less ten eight times; overthrowing and installing successive governments. And their interests extended to their control of land and agricultural production; meaning that the rural poor were essentially tenants on their own land.”

    youtube.com/watch?v=LpEhi9XYllA

    * * * *

    Secrets of The CIA – Nicaragua
    youtube.com/watch?v=zKXZfwG43pU&playnext=1&list=PLFBA4C9F55D26D879

    Secrets of The CIA – Chile
    youtube.com/watch?v=nJwrW2I5lmA&list=PLFBA4C9F55D26D879

    Secrets of The CIA – Bolivia
    youtube.com/watch?v=wAUfWxt0q4M&list=PLFBA4C9F55D26D879&index=11

    Secrets of The CIA – Indonesia
    youtube.com/watch?v=_Rrjf-UaANA&list=PLFBA4C9F55D26D879

    Secrets of The CIA – Cambodia
    youtube.com/watch?v=1Rkk3lKM8bo&list=PLFBA4C9F55D26D879

    Secrets of The CIA – Laos
    youtube.com/watch?v=wXkF5YgZAX8&list=PLFBA4C9F55D26D879

    Secrets of The CIA – Congo
    youtube.com/watch?v=olVADbv7Wts&list=PLFBA4C9F55D26D879

    Secrets of The CIA – Iran
    youtube.com/watch?v=cgpyuBya8Kg&list=PLFBA4C9F55D26D879

    Secrets of The CIA – Iraq
    youtube.com/watch?v=803apgVhMDQ&list=PLFBA4C9F55D26D879

    * * * *

    “[Assange] is a creepy b*****d.”

    – Sam Harris

    Collateral Murder – Wikileaks – Iraq
    youtube.com/watch?v=5rXPrfnU3G0&list=PLFBA4C9F55D26D879

    salon.com/2010/12/24/wikileaks_23/
    salon.com/2011/10/23/wikileaks_cables_and_the_iraq_war/
    cjr.org/critical_eye/qa_with_goodale_obama_press_fr.php?page=all

  • Robby Bensinger said on April 21, 2013 at 6:21 am

    ‘SpeakingSensibly’ wrote: “No, stop skewing facts. Greenwald has never stated his reason for believing Harris and the other ‘New Atheists’ are Islamophobes is because they criticize Islam more than other religions. He believe the reasons they are Islamophobes is because ‘I do, however, absolutely agree with the general argument made in both columns that the New Atheists have flirted with and at times vigorously embraced irrational anti-Muslim animus.’”

    That’s not an explanation of why Greenwald believes Harris is an Islamophobe. It’s just a statement of that belief. If you’d read either my post or Greenwald’s with more diligence, you’d have seen the portion of Greenwald I was citing:

    “The key point is that Harris does far, far more than voice criticisms of Islam as part of a general critique of religion. He has repeatedly made clear that he thinks Islam is uniquely threatening: ‘While the other major world religions have been fertile sources of intolerance, it is clear that the doctrine of Islam poses unique problems for the emergence of a global civilization.’ He has insisted that there are unique dangers from Muslims possessing nuclear weapons, as opposed to nice western Christians (the only ones to ever use them) or those kind Israeli Jews: ‘It should be of particular concern to us that the beliefs of devout Muslims pose a special problem for nuclear deterrence.’ In his 2005 ‘End of Faith’, he claimed that ‘Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death.’ This is not a critique of religion generally; it is a relentless effort to depict Islam as the supreme threat. [...]

    “Yes, he criticizes Christianity, but he reserves the most intense attacks and superlative condemnations for Islam, as well as unique policy prescriptions of aggression, violence and rights abridgments aimed only at Muslims. As the atheist scholar John L Perkins wrote about Harris’ 2005 anti-religion book: ‘Harris is particularly scathing about Islam.’

    “When criticism of religion morphs into an undue focus on Islam – particularly at the same time the western world has been engaged in a decade-long splurge of violence, aggression and human rights abuses against Muslims, justified by a sustained demonization campaign – then I find these objections to the New Atheists completely warranted. That’s true of Dawkins’ proclamation that ‘[I] often say Islam [is the] greatest force for evil today.’

    So Greenwald’s argument is, indeed, that anyone who thinks that Islam is significantly worse than other religions is, for that reason alone, an Islamophobe. Greenwald quotes Harris’ “At this point in human history, Islam simply is different from other faiths.”, and analogous assertions, as proof of Islamophobia. But the assumption that only a bigot could think that all religions aren’t roughly equivalent is ridiculous, and shows that Greenwald simply hasn’t thought carefully or with a level head about the issue.

  • Tujays said on April 21, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    Bill Maher’s getting mad love over at the Blaze, Daily Caller, and Breitbart, etc. with his “liberal Bull****” remark. We’re evolving as a nation….can you feel it?

  • Tujays said on April 21, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    I’ll get back to Harris a little later. I just want to point out that Bill Maher posted his vile “interview” with Brian Levin on his Facebook page and it looks like the majority of people who responded to it were repelled by his disgusting performance. Rightly so. It makes me happy that there are still sane Americans out there who can still spot an ignoramus bigot and are motivated to call the person out on it. It gives me hope.

    Bill’s forced and reactionary posturing made him look like a constipated Strom Thurmond trying purge himself. For me, Bill had long ago lost his liberal cred given his anti-Islam, pro-zionist, pro-SOPA, anti-OWS, pro-killing, etc. views. Bill’s once cutting-edge humor has been replaced with old-fart sensibilities. Which is too bad — I used to really enjoy watching his show. On the other hand, all things eventually have to come to an end I suppose. He is now a fossilized and crusty relic. His Time is Over. [frowny face]

  • David Fuchs said on April 23, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Robby, because I care what you think, I wish you didn’t think my writing is worthless, not worthy of a response. No, Glenn will not think “carefully or with a level head.” I told Matt Cockerill that I told you many times that Glenn ADMITTED it on Matt’s FB. Glenn said that he will criticize only the West, “I don’t spent a lot of time sitting around criticizing political parties in Egypt.”

    Robby, regarding Islam, Glenn will always censor the facts, he’s a fundamentalist. He decided that the reaction of a few American Christians to “Corpus Christie” is equivalent to the reaction of the Muslim world to cartoons!

  • David Fuchs said on April 23, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Sorry, I meant, “Sitting around thinking about political parties in Egypt.”

  • Tujays said on April 24, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    * * * Another stunningly ignorant tweet from veteran Islamophobe, SAM HARRIS * * *

    “Is there any doubt that religion is the cause of this behavior? And if so here, why not for Islamic terrorism?”

    — Sam Harris

    Is he REALLY that vapid?? Apparently so. Like all raging bigots, his intellectual laziness is surpassed only by his obstinate tenacity. The fact that he still thinks “Islamic terrorism” is caused by “religion” fully demonstrates his ignorance and gross arrogance in making such a twisted suggestion.

    Harris is apparently oblivious to what’s going on in the Middle East; neither does he show even the slightest inclination in trying to understand. Presumably, Harris frames his bigotry in the form a rhetorical question so as to imply a causal connection. Instead, Sam Harris reveals that he’s a one-trick-pony with his Islamophobic slurs. Sam can’t help but continue to flog his dead horse with all the furry of a fundamentalist preacher. Have at it, Hoss…see how far you get.

    Maybe Sam will get a regular spot on Fox news. He can be Sean Hannity’s side-kick. That will be Sam’s crowning intellectual achievement. It’ll be his 15-minute LEGACY before he’s forgotten and relegated into the scrap-heap of bigoted blabber-mouths claiming to have a new quasi-intellectual spin for the justification for prejudice.

    Religion IS NOT the motivating factor for the hatred of America. It is caused by the infliction of continuous violence and U.S. imperialist policies in Muslim countries:

    1) The overthrow of a democratically elected government in Muslim Iran

    2) Thousands slaughtered in the 8 year Muslim Iraq war/occupation

    3) The installation of U.S. military and drone bases on Muslim land

    5) Deaths of thousands Iraqi Muslim children due to sanctions

    6) The murder hundreds of Muslim civilians with drones that’s still ongoing in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

    7) Indefinite detention of Muslims placed in cages for over 11-years

    8) U.S. export of torture and death-squads into Muslim regions

    9) Support of tyrannical puppet regimes in Muslim countries

    10) Support of Israeli oppression, racist apartheid, brutalization, and murder of the Palestinian and Arab people

    11) Thousands of Muslims killed in 12 year war/occupation in Afghanistan

    12) Intervention in Libya

    * * * * *

    They hate us for what we DO. America spits on Muslim sovereignty.

    Sam Harris uses their religion as an excuse to justify animus against Muslims. He continually indulges himself in a putrid display of public wallowing in his self-righteous BIGOTRY.

    Would YOU fight back if a foreign power invaded your country, starved your children or killed them with hellfire missiles? How about if they installed a puppet leader in your government or forced you to live an open-air prison on your own land? It surprises me that ‘terrorist’ attacks against the U.S. don’t occur much more frequently. Sam Harris’s task in life is to make sure that this does happen by perpetuating false dogma which alienates people from each other, further enabling the corrupt and murderous status-quo . Sam Harris is the quintessential fundamentalist bible-thumper. He is so blinded in his bigotry that he’s completely oblivious to this irony.

    Sam Harris needs to grow up and stop flaying his fetid dead horse so that he can start to see the world as it really exists instead of persistently attempting to distort reality so that it conforms to his narrow and bigoted view, which is both grotesque and shallow. Harris is a charlatan who doles out heaping spoonfuls of Muslim animus for his devout following who, like Harris, are so intellectually lazy that rather than read the goddamn news, would rather malign one-quarter of the world’s population based upon the non-representative actions of a few that the U.S. is largely responsible for. It beats having to be accountable, doesn’t it?

    guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/24/boston-terrorism-motives-us-violence
    democracynow.org/2013/4/24/as_obama_shuns_hearing_yemeni_says?autostart=true
    democracynow.org/2013/4/23/jeremy_scahill_the_secret_story_behind
    democracynow.org/2013/4/24/the_world_is_a_battlefield_jeremy?autostart=true

    guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/20/us-drones-strikes-target-rescuers-pakistan
    cnn.com/2012/09/25/world/asia/pakistan-us-drone-strikes/index.html
    washingtonpost.com/2012-05-29/world/35456187_1_aqap-drone-strikes-qaeda

    livingunderdrones.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Stanford_NYU_LIVING_UNDER_DRONES.pdf

    thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/02/04/obama-terror-drones-cia-tactics-in-pakistan-include-targeting-rescuers-and-funerals/

    thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/06/04/cia-revives-attacks-on-rescuers-in-pakistan/
    thebureauinvestigates.com/2012/05/29/analysis-how-obama-changed-definition-of-civilian-in-secret-drone-wars/

    truth-out.org/opinion/item/12635-noam-chomsky-my-visit-to-gaza-the-worlds-largest-open-air-prison

    guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/17/israel-gaza-us-policy
    salon.com/2012/11/26/6_chilling_testimonies_from_occupied_palestine/

    guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/15/obama-guantanamo-hunger-strike-moqbel
    guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/31/dirty-wars-terrorism-victims
    guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/08/us-export-dirty-war-iraq
    fair.org/extra-online-articles/we-think-the-price-is-worth-it/
    stpeteforpeace.org/us.iran.timeline.html

    theamericanconservative.com/articles/exporting-tyranny-through-foreign-aid/
    guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/12/us-saudi-arabia-libya-freedom
    guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/26/drones-yemen-fbi-occupy-terrorism

    policymic.com/articles/4288/america-s-cozy-relationship-with-saudi-arabia-shows-hypocrisy-of-u-s-foreign-policy-in-the-middle-east

    newstatesman.com/international-politics/2011/02/bahrain-british-middle-egypt
    guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/31/cameron-galloway-saudis-bahrain-dictators
    guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jan/19/riedel-brookings-saudi-tyranny-mali
    huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/01/18/britain-algeria_n_2501658.html

  • Tujays said on April 24, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    Glenn discusses motive with Bill Moyers:

    http://vimeo.com/64737890

  • Tujays said on April 25, 2013 at 12:32 am

    In Yemen, U.S. airstrikes breed anger, and sympathy for al-Qaeda:

    http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-05-29/world/35456187_1_aqap-drone-strikes-qaeda

  • Tujays said on April 26, 2013 at 1:44 am

    Sam Harris is in a quandary: he can’t decide who’s the superior intellectual heavyweight over at Fox, Bill O’Reilly or Greg Gutfeld. You know…like the ‘Batman vs. Superman’ thing. Let’s hope that Sam can figure this puzzle out soon!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jbDlI-HE3w&list=UU1yBKRuGpC1tSM73A0ZjYjQ
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=suIIMjIPM1o&list=UU1yBKRuGpC1tSM73A0ZjYjQ&index=8

  • Tujays said on April 26, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    Sam Harris has linked to a couple of articles written about him in the Atlantic. They’re both about his jiu-jitsu prowess. Are you trying to tell us something, Sam?

    From the first article:

    “Harris is more open to esoteric arts such as meditation, which he has practiced daily for nearly three decades. He claims that certain types of meditation, such as the Buddhist practice of metta, or “loving-kindness,” so overwhelm him with compassion that their effect can closely resemble that of Ecstasy, the club drug that makes users want to hug strangers.”

    That must be how Harris learned to cultivate his Chi energy which elevated him to making this transplendid [1] comment,

    “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them.”

    – SAM HARRIS

    So much for the warm-fuzzies! I guess maybe the “E” wore off. [frowny face]

    The article provides more insight into Sam Harris — the stoic warrior — by amplifying the striking paradox that’s innate in this very complicated man:

    “Less well known is Harris’s other enthusiasm: cutting off the blood supply to other people’s brains by using techniques learned in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or BJJ.”

    Yikes!! I guess the take away here is that if we see Sam walking down the street we better just back the F off…him being a ball of rolling-thunder and all. We’re also notified as to what martial arts he specifically practices: Brazilian jiu-jitsu, or BJJ for short we’re told. Which reminds me of Steven Colbert’s testimony he gave on behalf of migrant farm workers before a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing,

    “I don’t want a tomato picked by a Mexican. I want it picked by an American. And sliced by a Guatemalan, and served by a Venezuelan, in a spa, where a Chilean gives me a Brazilian” – Steven Colbert [2]

    The article continues and describes Sam’s perilous flirtation with auto-erotic-asphyxiation. I hope that Sam will be careful!

    “Last year, he [Harris] posted an essay on his Web site about his experience with BJJ, in which he rhapsodized about the pleasures of being nearly “choked out”—squeezed by the neck to the point of almost losing consciousness—or forced to cry uncle when a superior fighter cranks his head or limb in an unnatural direction. (BJJ teaches mercy: before you are maimed or killed, you “tap out,” typically by gently touching your opponent’s body to ask him to stop.)”

    Effing *yawn*…

    Citations:
    [1] youtube.com/watch?v=Zlb2axuDmOk (I didn’t like Allen bagging [3] on Dylan here, btw)
    [2] cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-20017543-503544.html
    [3] urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=bagging&defid=6112172

    * * * * *

    Sam Harris is in a quandary: he can’t decide who’s the superior intellectual heavyweight at Fox: Greg Gutfeld [1] or Bill O’Reilly [2]. You know…like the ‘Batman vs. Superman’ thing. Let’s hope that Sam can figure this puzzle out soon!

    Citations:
    [1] youtube.com/watch?v=4jbDlI-HE3w&list=UU1yBKRuGpC1tSM73A0ZjYjQ
    [2] youtube.com/watch?v=suIIMjIPM1o&list=UU1yBKRuGpC1tSM73A0ZjYjQ&index=8

  • Tujays said on April 27, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    I’m thankful that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) is crawling on this planet as a lesson to others. Thanks, Dana!

    From the article:

    “Islamophobia has seen a resurgence in the aftermath of the Boston attacks, with Fox News [wink, wink] leading the charge in promoting a new wave of fear towards Muslims. Rohrabacher is no stranger himself to controversy surrounding Islam…”

    http://thinkprogress.org/security/2013/04/26/1928321/rohrabacher-boston-islam/

  • Simon Jm said on April 28, 2013 at 10:52 pm

    Robby maybe Islamaphobia is the wrong term to use, but given the geo-political, cultural and patriarchal aspects linked to Islamic extremist violence his lack of nuance and contextualization, a few quotes on Israel and US foreign policy doesn’t make up for it. Plus his primary focus on Islam, does make me question is motives.

  • Simon Jm said on April 28, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    Maybe Islamaphobia is the wrong term to use, but given the geo-political, cultural and patriarchal aspects linked to Islamic extremist violence, his lack of nuance and contextualization -a few quotes on Israel and US foreign policy doesn’t make up for it – plus his primary focus on Islam, does make me question is motives.

  • Tujays said on April 29, 2013 at 1:15 am

    * * * Cowardice Redefined, The New Face of American Serial Killers by Vic Pittman * * *

    “(SAN BLAS, Mexico) – A little after 10:00 p.m., and a serial killer is getting ready to make his move. He has watched and waited for this moment for some time…”

    http://salem-news.com/articles/april182013/american-killers-vp.php

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