The Reality of Islam: The Views of Sam Harris

Sam HarrisSam Harris is an American author, philosopher, and neuroscientist. He is the co-founder and chief executive of Project Reason and the author of The End of Faith, which was published in 2004 and appeared on The New York Times Best Seller list for 33 weeks.

In the wake of the row over the Danish cartoons he wrote: “It is time we recognized – and obliged the Muslim world to recognize – that ‘Muslim extremism’ is not extreme among Muslims. Mainstream Islam itself represents an extremist rejection of intellectual honesty, gender equality, secular politics and genuine pluralism. The truth about Islam is as politically incorrect as it is terrifying: Islam is all fringe and no center. In Islam, we confront a civilization with an arrested history. It is as though a portal in time has opened, and the Christians of the 14th century are pouring into our world.”

Source: Truthdig, February 7, 2004

In the wake of the Hebdo Charlie murders he wrote: “The response of liberals – and it’s so depressing to have to use ‘liberal’ in a pejorative way, but liberalism has completely lost its moorings on the topic of Islam…. Needless to say, we have all the usual suspects – Glenn Greenwald, Reza Aslan, Chris Hedges, Karen Armstrong – and as unreadable as these people have become, you can’t help but notice the stupid things they say about Islam even in the aftermath of an atrocity like this.

“As will come as no surprise, they will tell you this has nothing to do with Islam or heartfelt religious convictions, but that it has everything to do with capitalism and oppression and minorities and the racism of white people in Europe, and the racism of cartoonists at a magazine like Charlie Hebdo.”

Harris’s podcast elaborates these ideas.


4 responses to “The Reality of Islam: The Views of Sam Harris

  1. I’m not sure what the point of the rant is. “They’re worse than us.”??
    Fascinating documentary, ‘Bitter Lake’, via BBC on some of the complexities. From a review: “It’s a story that includes the spread of Wahhabism; the oversimplification of the world, by Reagan and Bush (Sr) and Bush (Jr) and Blair, into a kind of fairytale of good v evil; the banks, inevitably; Bin Laden and 9/11 too, also inevitably; and now Islamic State, who want pretty much exactly what the Wahhabists wanted over half a century ago.”

    Islam has, like other religions, varied in its fundamentalism. Portraying the Prophet did not used to be prohibited. Saudi Arabia has spent $Billions spreading its Wahhabi version, aided by those in pursuit of oil.

    It’s not a liberal thing. It’s a very stupid thing.

  2. The appended excerpt from ‘Charlie Hebdo and the Project of French Identity’ is meant to juxtapose two possibly complementary ways of interpreting ‘secular identity’.
    ‘What does “universalism in one country” mean in successful practice? Just this: That the identity offering which you make to those who want to embrace the vision is real and will be realized: That anyone can belong to your community.
    As things stand, Britain and France, as preeminent colonial empires, have been less than successful in fulfilling the offering.
    Yet, the offering is everything. The risk in making such an offering, if not authentically realized, is exactly what we see in the Euro-flight of eager warriors to the Islamic State: Young Muslim Brits and Frenchmen look to another identity — another offering.
    This is nothing less than a transcendental failure of the national offering (universalism in one country), and it could undermine both the British and French national futures.
    What this suggests is the need for France to make — for want of a better characterization — a better offering made real.
    France really has no choice: Make the progeny of colonialism yours, embrace them truly, and all will [eventually] be all right. Continue to treat them like you do now — and the future promises only heartache and pain.’
    Source: The Globalist

  3. I support much of what Harris had to say in this podcast, but wrote a blogpost ( suggesting we need to turn our backs on the kind of disgusting “speech” that Charlie Hebdo represents. This is not to justify the massacre that occurred. German law gets it right when it requires that satire respect “human dignity”. Anyone who is serious about their faith would like to be respected, even if we disagree with them. There are ways to disagree without dragging what they hold most dear through the gutter.

  4. Extremely worrying to read voices defending the terrorists and attacking Charlie Hebdo as something disgusting. Charlie Hebdo was right, and courageous, and noble, and smart, we have Charlie Hebdo to thank for our freedom. Like all supernatural beliefs, islam is evil, but islam is more evil than most other religions because of its doctrine of martyrdom, jihad and paradise. Like Sisi told the leaders of the islamic Al-Ahzar university in Cairo last December, islam needs to grow up. Charlie Hebdo needs to continue its criticism of dogmatic thinking, nobody needs to live in fear.