Dear Fellow Liberal – An Exchange with Glenn Greenwald

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I’m up against a book deadline and have had to step away from blogging for a few months. One of the benefits of this time, as well as one of its frustrations, is that I’ve had to ignore the usual ephemera that might have otherwise captured my attention. For instance, in recent days bothSalon and Al Jazeera published outrageous attacks on me and my fellow “new atheists.” The charges? Racism and “Islamophobia” (again). Many readers have written to ask when I will set the record straight. In fact, I consider both articles unworthy of a response, and I was quite happy to have a reason to ignore them. But then I noticed that the columnist Glenn Greenwald had broadcast an approving Tweet about the Al Jazeera piece to his fans (above).

I’ve had pleasant exchanges with Greenwald in the past, so I wrote to him privately to express my concern. As you will see, I came right to the point. I was simply outraged that he would amplify this pernicious charge of racism so thoughtlessly. However, I am even more appalled by his response. The man actually has thought about it. And thinking hasn’t helped.

Here is our unedited exchange:

Written By: Sam Harris
continue to source article at samharris.org

75 COMMENTS

    • In reply to #1 by fuzzylogic:

      So disappointed in Glenn Greenwald, normally so clear thinking and on the side of good.

      If that is the case than it might be worth looking more deeply into what he says.

  1. Excellent piece from Sam Harris!

    Glenn Greenwald is not a liberal, he is a moral relativist. Lacking any real values of his own, he is thus unable or unwilling to perceive the fundamental ideological conflict between liberalism and Islam.

  2. Whilst I do not know of Greenwald or his work,it seems perfectly obvious to me what Sam is saying.He is absolutely correct in stating that it is only the extreme right-wing organisations in England such as the English Defence League that clearly spell out the dangers of Islam.They are rightly called racists for their general beliefs,but that is not to say that their statements should just be dismissed without examination.Islamists have been very successful in conflating any criticism with the invented term ‘islamophobia”.Cretinous apologists such as Warsi only serve to further conflate these two very separate ideas.There is no such thing as islamophobia there is simply a need for the rest of us to be able to clearly annunciate our opinions and if that opinion is that the tenets of islam are those of a primitive culture of pre-enlightenment ideas,so be it.

    • This whole spat seems to be about pigeonholing and generalizing unnecessarily, and then disagreeing on the terms. Liberalism and Islam are both, themselves, pluralities, and it is important to recognize that no one person or even single organization can be painted with the broad strokes that these words signify.

      Similarly, agreeing with a fascist front (is it actually fascist, or is fascism being used as a Godwin-style derisive term here? Are they literal fascists?) does not mean one agrees entirely with all the front’s positions, but that one. Saying that position is wrong because it’s a fascist front saying it is, well… obviously spurious.

      For instance, the word Islamophobia is tossed around a lot and I doubt if we have a clear delineation of what is Islamophobic. Sure, saying we have to abolish all of Islam is well within the term’s threshold, but is it also Islamophobic to recognize that the religion is instrumental in allow soldiers to perform suicide attacks, including the 9/11 attacks on the US in 2001? Is it Islamophobic to associate acts of violence by radicals with the Muslim faith? If so, would it not be equally Islamophobic to stay one’s own criticism of Islam for fear of reprisal by one of innumerable extremists? Is Salman Rushdie an Islamophobe for staying in hiding?

      Is it Islamophobic to favor the enforcement of social equality and tolerance of fringe groups even when it is contrary to Islamic ideology?

      Islam is not unique in cultivating radicals who are willing to risk life and liberty to take extremist, violent action, but it is one of the more successful tools used to manipulate people into doing so. Is this to say Islam generally should be outlawed? Hardly. People made desperate can be easily driven to do desperate things, and our best defense against this form of action is to give such people acceptable alternatives to achieve relief.

      And, I don’t think modern-era mores should be set aside for Islamic traditions any more than they would be for Hindu or Christian traditions.

      But these are the specific issues that fall somewhere in the umbrella of Islam. We should neither condemn the whole for a few disagreeable points, nor condone it as sacred ideology or cultural value.

      In reply to #2 by Peter Grant:

      Glenn Greenwald is not a liberal, he is a moral relativist…

      I am a moral relativist. I certainly believe that wasps are terrible in their treatment of caterpillars for their purposes of breeding. I can also recognize that without wasps, caterpillars might consume our crops and cut huge swaths into our world’s floral assets. On a cosmological scale, or even an ecological scale, there is no room for moral universalism.

      Labeling someone a moral relativist means very little since moral relativism is a matter of scale on two axes, specifically moral universalism and moral absolutism. Mr. Greenwald is a moral relativist, but compared to whom, and how? Again you’ll have to get specific, probably down to the particular position.

      Say, does Greenwald specifically accept policies oppressive of women or gays on the grounds of Islamic dogma? Does he specifically say, for example, that it is okay to require women to wear burqas and need male escort if it is the Koran specifying that it must be so?

      If he implies such somewhere, that would be the point at which to challenge him.

      In reply to #4 by Okeydoke:

      Greenwald is the kind of oblivious salon liberal that is so prevalent in western society…

      As someone who reads Salon articles on occasion, I’m not entirely clear what specific stances classify one as a Salon liberal. Does the Salon webmag hold a consistent position (say, regarding Islam) that defines Salon liberals versus (I guess) non-Salon liberals?

      It may be pedantic to require such accuracy from people, but I think this misunderstanding between Harris and Greenwald has emerged because they failed to be so exact.

    • In reply to #5 by Aber ration:

      Glenn’s replies speak for themselves. He obviously just doesn’t get it. This attitude is very worrying generally.

      He may not but then again he may well get it but having blundered in feet first he’s having to defend his lack of judgement

  3. Glen Greenwald is not a household name in my…uh…household, but this exchange reveals what a jerk he is. He sounds very much like the “reasonable” Christians who engage me in dialog on Facebook. After two or three polite exchanges, they reveal their blind, and vindictive side.

    I’ll remember his name now. And yes, I do like the notion “There is no such thing as Islamophobia” Like there is no such thing as a “Self-hating Jew” (applied to Jewish critics of Israel).

  4. I thought maybe I was hallucinating but no. While I was reading, shocked, the dishonest trash on the Salon website, an add popped at the top promoting shariah law of all things. This, plus looking at the author’s credentials at the end of the article, makes me wonder how much he gets paid for his turds, and by whom.

  5. “Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens suffocate their opponents with scientific hypotheses”

    What an incredibly stupid thing to say. Has the writer of the Salon article ever heard Sam or Hitch speak???? I just couldn’t read that Salon article beyond that point.

    • In reply to #10 by prietenul:

      “Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens suffocate their opponents with scientific hypotheses”

      What an incredibly stupid thing to say. Has the writer of the Salon article ever heard Sam or Hitch speak????

      Exactly what I thought. I remember Hitchens arguing with Turak saying something to the effect of “I don’t know how it started and neither do you. Stop pretending you do, you won’t get away with it” in relation to what existed before the Big Bang. What you see is Theologians trying to co-opt the big bang for their purposes “If the universe had a beginning it must have had a creator” or the fine tuning of the universe. etc. Everything I have heard from Sam and Hitchens has been centered around the religious claiming evidence when they have none. I have never heard either assert anything beyond there are more plausible explanations.

  6. I laughed at Greenwald’s accusation that New Atheists focus all their attention on Islam rather than Christianity and was delighted that Harris pointed out that they frequently receive the opposite accusation – and that he wrote a whole book specifically criticising Christians!

    Again, it reveals the complete failure of moral relativists to comprehend the issues that concern “New Atheists”. We don’t give a toss where people come from or what colour their skin is; what we care about is their opinions and how they treat their fellow humans.

  7. Although I don’t entirely agree with his comments about facists making the most sense (accepting something as a problem and making sense about it are two very different things. Also a fair portion of the hard left, the ones that get very little attention as they, unlike facists, are opposed to the current socio-economic system (and therefore the daily mail might get bankrupted, oh the horror!), do address the issue of immigration and religion sensibly, though obviously some do an “enemy of my enemy” thing and side with anyone disagreeing with the USA) I do understand where he comes from. The fact that he sees the “left” as not addresing the problem, to my mind, comes from the pro-business agenda that the traditional left (labour parties across europe for example) have developed by moving to the right. Immigration is good for business, because it means you can drive down wages, terms and conditions etc. by introducing more competition for jobs, from more desperate people. It’s never phrased like that, obviously, but that’s the aproximate logic as far as I can tell (the only one that makes sense at any rate, otherwise they’re just insane).

    The main problem is the conflation of islam with a race. Hence the EDL go “muzzie bashing” when they actually mean “find some asian people to harass/beat up”. Hence when that confusion is intentionnally used for the opposite purpose: when we critisize islam the above precendent is there to go “oh yes you’re just using islam as a pretext for racism against people of a certain religion: you islamapohobe”. Personally, in as much as the literal definition of the term goes: I am an islamaphobe, I despise the reactionary, patriarchal, patronising ideas espoused in the qu’ran, but I don’t hate the people who’ve been indoctrinated to believe it (or the people looking for meaning who think they’ve found it for that matter). I am a christianityphobe (there isn’t a nicer word for that due to the inguistic similarity between the religion and its practitioners) in exactly the same sense, and a judaismaphobe, but not an anti-semite.

    Islamaphobia is not racism. Racism is racism. Rant over.

  8. .I can’t say I could wholly agree or disagree with either of them. Sam Harris is right to attack the worst excesses of religion and to worry about the fact that fighting it has been outsourced to those who are just as bad like the EDL.

    Glenn is right to express concern that there does seem to be a fixation on Islam as an absolute, regardless of how or where it is practised, which does seem to be in evidence on sites like this. And I would add that ignores the fact that religions are not absolute entities so it is difficult to stereotype all religious believers into one pot. In Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt etc Islam is bad news, in other places less so. An intelligent muslim brought up in an educated household, whether here or over there, is very different to the one brought up in ignorance. Malalas father for example is very different to the Muslims of the taliban. And the muslim girls I knew at school, university and work are far from oppressed unlike those elsewhere.

    In the UK it is far more variable and Muslims ARE fighting its excesses and treatments of women elsewhere. When I was at school we had an Islamic society which concerned itself solely with trying to deal with that. Not effectively due to the age of the members but they were trying. They are largely ignored by atheists and their own.

    It was muslim women who started some of the refuges for women fleeing forced marriages here. And it was certainly muslim women not atheists who pointed out to me that allowing things like female genitial mutilation, honour killings or forced marriage to continue in the name of respecting multiculturalism was actually racism taken to extremes. Almost suggesting a girl from Somalia had less human rights than one from the UK because we had to respect her primitive culture more than her right to a life. And suggesting those primitive beliefs didn’t have to be challenged because in some ways they were all the perpetrators could understand.

    However I have found a tendency with a minority of atheists to blindly follow what their leaders say without actually doing research just because it fits a stereotype. And also a tendency to ignore any wider picture that doesn’t fit that stereotype and I would imagine that is why some people like Glen are becoming increasingly frustrated with them.

    Sam both gains and loses ground when he refers to the rights of women, homosexuals, free thinkers etc. He is right it is an issue in Islamic countries, but Glen is right that in concentrating so much on Islam he’s missing the fact that its an issue in very many other countries as well. Russia and China for example also have pretty poor reputations. Both refused to sign the UN declaration on womens rights alongside the Islamic theocracies and neither are particularly keen on criticism or free thought. So is poor human rights to do with Islam or all dictatorships? Is it just a different label for the same things? With the blinkers of Islam on any real analysis is lost.

    And Sam is wrong in thinking that all Muslims are alike. His argument solely against Islam because of its treatment of women or homosexuals is ignoring the fact they are Muslim women and homosexuals that may not actually want to stop being Muslims, but just to be Muslims who are accorded human rights to be what they are without discrimination.

    He also ignores the fact that in part they are a result of culture and upbringing and IQ.

    He ignores that where there are hardline Islamic theocracies they have often moved into areas where political vacuums have been left, not because they’ve been chosen by the majority of Muslims at all. And that they often succeed in seizing power in former dicatatorships where democracy hasn’t had time to evolve and mature. And that in part is due to things like US/UK intervention earlier on in the lives of those states. So he ignores other conflicts in the minds of the people involved. The picture is far more complicated than Muslim bad/atheist good and I think Glen might be starting to reflect on the more complex nature of situations and despair of atheisms oversimplifying of them..

    I think the problem is atheism needs to do what it used to do so well, that is be rational and consider the whole picture. It isn’t quite as simple as shouting religion bad/atheists good. It is never good to get into the postion of uncritically thinking your movers and shakers and leaders are always right because that is where all of the horrors of religion began. And sometimes the opposition may actually be right about some things or other.

    Even though Glen is largely in the wrong, I think it was far more healthy that he spoke out and criticised. And that those criticisms should have been at least looked at if only because it means that atheism will continue to focus and not become lazy and complacent and irrelevant.

    • In reply to #13 by atheistengineer:

      And Sam is wrong in thinking that all Muslims are alike.

      Can you point me to some evidence that shows that this is what Harris actually thinks?

      Having read quite a lot of his work, I would suggest that he does not ignore any of the things you claim he “ignores” either. Is your knowledge of Harris’s views confined to those contained in this short email exchange?

    • In reply to #13 by atheistengineer:

      .I can’t say I could wholly agree or disagree with either of them. Sam Harris is right to attack the worst excesses of religion and to worry about the fact that fighting it has been outsourced to those who are just as bad like the EDL.

      Couple of points

      Glenn is right to express concern that there does seem to be a fixation on Islam as an absolute, regardless of how or where it is practised, which does seem to be in evidence on sites like this. And I would add that ignores the fact that religions are not absolute entities so it is difficult to stereotype all religious believers into one pot. In Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt etc Islam is bad news, in other places less so. An intelligent muslim brought up in an educated household, whether here or over there, is very different to the one brought up in ignorance. Malalas father for example is very different to the Muslims of the taliban. And the muslim girls I knew at school, university and work are far from oppressed unlike those elsewhere.

      I would agree with this, however I would argue that like Christianity the degree to which they are moderate is to the exact extent which they ignore their infallible texts. I believe this is exactly the point Sam Harris has made a number of times and made less directly in this exchange.

      It was muslim women who started some of the refuges for women fleeing forced marriages here. And it was certainly muslim women not atheists who pointed out to me that allowing things like female genitial mutilation, honour killings or forced marriage to continue in the name of respecting multiculturalism was actually racism taken to extremes. Almost suggesting a girl from Somalia had less human rights than one from the UK because we had to respect her primitive culture more than her right to a life. And suggesting those primitive beliefs didn’t have to be challenged because in some ways they were all the perpetrators could understand.

      Sam has said much the same in his article, he sited that it was largely muslims effected by this particulary women and children.

      “And one of my main concerns—always ignored by “trustworthy and diligent” people like Murtaza—is for all the suffering of women, homosexuals, freethinkers, and intellectuals in indigenous Muslim societies. One of my friends (and heroes) is Ayaan Hirsi Ali—whom I’m constantly having to defend from similarly tendentious attacks from my fellow liberals.”

      Sam both gains and loses ground when he refers to the rights of women, homosexuals, free thinkers etc. He is right it is an issue in Islamic countries, but Glen is right that in concentrating so much on Islam he’s missing the fact that its an issue in very many other countries as well. Russia and China for example also have pretty poor reputations. Both refused to sign the UN declaration on womens rights alongside the Islamic theocracies and neither are particularly keen on criticism or free thought. So is poor human rights to do with Islam or all dictatorships? Is it just a different label for the same things? With the blinkers of Islam on any real analysis is lost.

      Islam in the West is trying successfully in many cases to maintain the same poor record of human rights Sharia, honor killings, genital mutilation. Can you show me a case where British-Russians have tried to get comparable things implemented in Brittan? Can you show me where British-Chinese have tried to stop free speech in Britain? Why not? Because there you are not looking at an overarching religious ideology. In the case of Russians and Chinese you are looking at dictatorships which people from Russia and China seem to be happy to leave behind.

      Yes, they probably bring some cultural baggage but Buddhism, Fen Shui in the case of the Chinese cannot be considered as much a threat to the West as Islam.

      As a teenager if you mentioned terrorism first thing that came to mind was the IRA. I didn’t hate the Irish then and I don’t hate Arabs now. I do hate Islam though now as I hated the IRA then, the degree to which I am prepared to tolerate it is the degree to which those who practice it practice it. The examples you give of moderate muslims seem to me to be similar to Catholics I know who break almost all the vows they made. The degree to which you are a tolerable Catholic is the exact degree to which you ignore Mother church and the bible itself.

      And Sam is wrong in thinking that all Muslims are alike.

      When has he ever said they are?

      His argument solely against Islam because of its treatment of women or homosexuals is ignoring the fact they are Muslim women and homosexuals that may not actually want to stop being Muslims, but just to be Muslims who are accorded human rights to be what they are without discrimination.

      As he pointed out the above exchange he wrote a whole book “Letter to a Christian Nation” this is hardly just focusing on Muslims.

      He also ignores the fact that in part they are a result of culture and upbringing and IQ.

      Where does he ignore this?

      He ignores that where there are hardline Islamic theocracies they have often moved into areas where political vacuums have been left, not because they’ve been chosen by the majority of Muslims at all. And that they often succeed in seizing power in former dicatatorships where democracy hasn’t had time to evolve and mature. And that in part is due to things like US/UK intervention earlier on in the lives of those states. So he ignores other conflicts in the minds of the people involved. The picture is far more complicated than Muslim bad/atheist good and I think Glen might be starting to reflect on the more complex nature of situations and despair of atheisms oversimplifying of them..

      This argument may work for explaining why a Muslim dictatorship may inflict certain restrictions on people under their regime, it does not explain why Muslims who have left these countries and are now living in the West choose to cut the clitorises off their little girls, or force their women to wear bags, or kill their daughters for shaming the fathers for dating – for that you need religion. It does not explain why young Muslim men in the West blew themselves up on Buses in London. Or well educated, affluent Muslim men from Saudi Arabia flew themselves into the twin towers-religion does. I fear you are in danger of oversimplifying Sam’s position.

      We should be able to criticize Islam for what it does on the basis of its texts and teachings which it holds to be absolute. The degree to which individual Muslims are either ignorant of their own texts or choose to cherry pick as much of Christianity has is the degree to which we don’t have to worry about them. Calling him a Bigot as the article does for doing so is not to take this point into account and attempts to cloud what Sam is actually trying to say by putting up a smokescreen of Bigot and just shouting it louder and louder instead of actually addressing direct and carefully considered criticisms.

    • In reply to #13 by atheistengineer:

      .I can’t say I could wholly agree or disagree with either of them.

      I agree and in general I hate these Tweet wars. I can’t really figure out exactly what they are disagreeing about in the first place.

    • In reply to #13 by atheistengineer:

      You do Harris a disservice and strawman his position. He is meticulous in distingishing between criticizing Islam (which he does vociferously) and criticizing Muslims which he only does on an individual basis, and for specific reasons.

      You, like so many on all sides of this issue, simply refuse to allow this distinction to be made. Harris makes valid criticisms of specific doctrines in Islam and their effects in the world, and he is accused of “thinking that all Muslims are alike.” That is a foolish accusation, and one I think you should back up or withdraw.

      This exchange between Harris and Greenwald is a prime example of what I mean.

      Sam takes exception to a mischaracterization of his position, and provides the exact quote in contention, with context: “The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.” [Emphasis added.]

      Glen replies: “You are indeed saying – for whatever reasons – that the fascists are the ones speaknig [sic] most sensibly about Islam.” [Emphasis added.]

      Sam made a very narrow point about one specific issue in which fascists (with whom he plainly disagrees as much as Greenwald in just about every other possible way) are speaking more honestly than certain liberals. Greenwald endorses an article which purposly misses Sam’s clear distinction. Even when called on it, Greenwald persists in mischaracterizing Sam’s obvious referrence to “the threat that Islam poses to Europe” as a blanket condemnation of all “Islam, and a sweeping endorsement of all fascist positions regarding it. To whatever extent Islam has non-threatening elements, Sam is not talking about them. He explicitly aims his critique at the parts which are a “threat.”

      It seems that NO criticism of harmful dogma, no matter how narrowly drawn, is immune from accusations of blanket bigotry.

      Of course there are a billion brands of Islam. It’s a ridiculously obvious point, yet apologists keep on making it – simply assuming that others don’t know it as well as they do. Well, the existence of certain weaker strains of Islam – or Christianinty, or whatever – can be taken as a given. But there still has to be a way for us to discuss the broad, distinct characteristics of a massive belief system [many of which are just clearly objectionable] without constantly repeating the phrase, “of course I excude athiestengineer’s very nice friends, who are really quite enlightened.”

      • Of course there are a billion brands of Islam. It’s a ridiculously obvious point, yet apologists keep on making it – simply assuming that others don’t know it as well as they do. Well, the existence of certain weaker strains of Islam – or Christianinty, or whatever – can be taken as a given.

        All of those brands, every single one (well, the ones I would feel comfortable describing as “Islam”, anyway), base themselves around the idea that the Quran is the perfect word of god. I think it’s reasonable to criticize literally all of them on their absurd notion that that book is anything other than a pile of man-made shit, which enables extremists to justify their terrible positions.

  9. I admit it; I have a phobia of Muslim men. They’d stick me in a burka if they had life all their way.

    I heard of a current study that shows that people refuse apologize get a boost in self-esteem. “The ones who refused to apologize felt boosted feelings of integrity and were more empowered.” We’ve hear other studies about people then digging their heels in more and defending their position with new fervor. I’m not familiar with Glenn Greenwald, but Harris responding and Greenwald’s reluctance to acknowledge Harris’ view has elevated him so that he is now on my radar. No win here.

    • In reply to #14 by QuestioningKat:

      I admit it; I have a phobia of Muslim men. They’d stick me in a burka if they had life all their way.

      I must admit it; I was at university with Muslim men, never found them any different to non Muslim men – i;e. most nice some crap. And now I work with Muslim men, can’t say they’re any different to non Muslim men either – most nice, some crap. And my best friend is married to a Muslim man and I’d like to see him try and stick her in a burkha or tell her what to do at all. Nor, I suspect, would he particularly want to if he had life all his way because she’s a very effective business partner for him as well.

      Then again I was at university with forgeign students from countries where the prevailing attitudes to women were different – they were different to the indigenous males.

      So struggling to see where your phobia has come from unless you’re planning to move to Saudi where I believe they do try and stick you in a burkha and then hit on you mercilessly even tho you’re covered up.

      Spiders are a much better phobia. :-)

      I’m not familiar with Glenn Greenwald, but Harris responding and Greenwald’s reluctance to acknowledge Harris’ view has elevated him so that he is now on my radar. No win here.

      I’d never heard of either of them if I’m honest. Sam may have won, but I still think Glens points were good in forcing Harris to think through his position more.

      • In reply to #16 by atheistengineer:

        I must admit it; I was at university with Muslim men, never found them any different to non Muslim men – i;e. most nice some crap. And now I work with Muslim men, can’t say they’re any different to non Muslim men either – most nice, some crap. And my best friend is married to a Muslim man and I’d like to see him try and stick her in a burkha or tell her what to do at all. Nor, I suspect, would he particularly want to if he had life all his way because she’s a very effective business partner for him as well.

        You make a fair point in reply to QuestioningKat, although I suspect she didn’t necessarily mean all Muslim men would literally put her in a Burka, but that they would impose at least some kind of restrictions upon her due to her gender.

        I’m interested to know in what way your best friend’s husband identifies as a “Muslim”, because unless he belongs to a branch of Islam that I’ve never heard of, he must endorse some kind of subjugation of women, such as no female Immams or mixed congregations in the mosque.

        • In reply to #28 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

          In reply to #16 by atheistengineer:I must admit it; I was at university with Muslim men, never found them any different to non Muslim men – i;e. most nice some crap. And now I work with Muslim men, can’t say they’re any different to non Muslim men either – most nice, some crap. And my best friend is married to a Muslim man and I’d like to see him try and stick her in a burkha or tell her what to do at all. Nor, I suspect, would he particularly want to if he had life all his way because she’s a very effective business partner for him as well.

          You make a fair point in reply to QuestioningKat, although I suspect she didn’t necessarily mean all Muslim men would literally put her in a Burka, but that they would impose at least some kind of restrictions upon her due to her gender.

          Except that not all muslim men would put restrictions upon her due to gender. And, unhappily, I would say some atheist men would put put restrictions on her, or judge her, due to gender. I’ve seen more backward looking feminist hating rants on this website than I’ve ever seen with the Muslim men (or any men) I’ve been friends with if I’m honest.

          .I’m interested to know in what way your best friend’s husband identifies as a “Muslim”, because unless he belongs to a branch of Islam that I’ve never heard of, he must endorse some kind of subjugation of women, such as no female Immams or mixed congregations in the mosque.

          He’s third generation Pakistani. He identifies as muslim but I couldn’t say for certain in what way as my exposure to his religious side is non existent – it has never been a topic of conversation and she loved him. His father is a doctor, his mother head of a sales team. I would imagine segregation in the mosque would be imposed by his iman but my friend hasn’t converted so it isn’t an issue. She celebrates eid with his family and xmas with hers. He fasts an ramadam but in all other respects I cannot really see how he differs and she is a very strong character.

          I am not naive, I do know the sorts of muslims you cite exist. And are a horrific blight on the world.

  10. Harris says:

    I wasn’t making common cause with fascists—I was referring to the terrifying fact (again, back in 2006), that when you heard someone making sense on the subject of radical Islam in Europe—e.g. simply admitting that it really is a problem—a little digging often revealed that they had some very unsavory connections to Anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant, neo-Nazi, etc. hate groups. The point of my article was to worry that the defense of civil society was being outsourced to extremists.

    Harris makes the point that, outside of those on the far-right, there are relatively few people suggesting that the growth of Islam may prove problematic for European democracies. Whether or not you agree that Islam may indeed pose such problems, this seems to be a fairly accurate summation of the situation.

    Figures such as Greenwald, Lean and Hussain seem to be utterly desperate to preserve this state of affairs, presumably because it allows those who may disagree with them to be conveniently dismissed as fascists, bigots, racists or Islamaphobes.

    Unfortunately, in order to achieve this, it seems that all they need to do is to continue to pretend that anyone who isn’t a fascist, bigot or racist, but has concerns about the growth of Islam, must be, in fact, a fascist, bigot or racist. How do we know that they are fascists, bigots or racists? Well, only fascists, bigots and racists ever raise such concerns!

  11. In any of these manner of exchanges those such as Greenwald need to be reminded of two main points and a conclusion: 1)The major religions make many fundamentally absurd claims and 2) there is not a bit of evidence for any of it.

    Conclusion: Basing decisions on these religions then is foolish.

    How is this racist?

  12. I am phobic of any religion that calls for my death. So if I am Islamophobic, it is only because they have proclaimed me a target of the most extreme violence. Almost any page in the Quran is a suitable excuse to practice Islamophobia. The same goes for Christianity. I am Christianophobic as well but only because they have proclaimed, in writing, to hate me and to desire torture and eternal damnation for me.

  13. “A few points that it would be nice to get into your brain”

    Comments like that from Sam Harris make clear to me why he seems so comfortable on FOX.

    I used to admire him for pointing out common sense concepts rarely heard on mainstream TV, but he has gone so far over the edge with his blanket statements about Islam that they are the very definition of bigotry.

    There were no Muslims behind “Shock n Awe” – a far, FAR worse act of terrorism and extremism than any I’ve heard carried out by the “Islamofacists” – but, in the world of Sam Harris, the far greater threat we face as a civilization is from followers of Islam – not those fine folks behind the drone attacks or the Iraq war.

    • In reply to #21 by LutherBrixton:

      “A few points that it would be nice to get into your brain”

      Comments like that from Sam Harris make clear to me why he seems so comfortable on FOX.

      I used to admire him for pointing out common sense concepts rarely heard on mainstream TV, but he has gone so far over the edge with his blanket statements about Islam that they are the very definition of bigotry.

      There were no Muslims behind “Shock n Awe” – a far, FAR worse act of terrorism and extremism than any I’ve heard carried out by the “Islamofacists” – but, in the world of Sam Harris, the far greater threat we face as a civilization is from followers of Islam – not those fine folks behind the drone attacks or the Iraq war.

      There should be an apostrophe in front of the “n” in “Shock n Awe”.

  14. Glenn Greenwald has a bad habit of re-tweeting THE DUMBEST slanders against “new atheists”. He does this with enough frequency, that I think a public debate is needed to delve into the depths of his hang-ups on the subject.

    Greenwald is brilliant when it comes to civil rights and constitutional law, but seems to be an idiot when it comes to the question of reality vs. fantasy.

  15. That Lean article was so badly written, one has to assume it is just trolling link-bait, like so many bad articles in the Guardian, etc… drop the names of prominent atheists, and slam them recklessly, and you’ll get plenty of web hits from both supporters and detractors.

    This is not about intelligent arguement: it is about drumming up ad revenue for dying, sub-standard publications.

    • In reply to #25 by McCourt:

      That Lean article was so badly written, one has to assume it is just trolling link-bait, like so many bad articles in the Guardian, etc… drop the names of prominent atheists, and slam them recklessly, and you’ll get plenty of web hits from both supporters and detractors.

      This is not about intelligent arguement: it is about drumming up ad revenue for dying, sub-standard publications.

      Exactly. Look at the burst of responses here. When things stop making sense following the money can often bring clarity. “New Atheist” slamming has become quite the cottage industry. One of the greatest fault lines in the culture wars is the science/religion divide. This inexhaustible source of contention, drama and (fake)controversy is the mother-lode of entertainment and the lust for entertainment is insatiable.

  16. Can’t help but see this as a contest about who has the bigger stick, in this case, who has the most violent and threatening enemy at the gate.
    Sure you can compare 911 to Shock ‘n Awe all you like, but the significance of these issues are largely cultural and dependent on your nationality. Yelling at each other that you’re perceptions are all wrong and I’m right isn’t getting anywhere.
    If I were an American, I think I would find it easy to side with Greenwald, the Americans have committed far worse attrocities in the name of western freedoms, and the muslim population in America is negligible.
    As a British homosexual atheist (and I’m well aware the British haven’t got clean hands either in this matter) the threat of Islam is far greater, the muslim population is growing and they’re begging for Sharia law.
    I honestly would not be surprised if we have a similar conflict here that the Irish have with Catholicism-Protestantism in as little as 20 years. Take into account the higher birthrate of muslims in the UK and you could even fathom a revolution in 50 years.

  17. As did I, until I read his subsequent Guardian article.
    Clearly frustrated at being shown up as the petty libelous chiuaua he is his only solution was to get his side of the story out first with a dumptruck more libel thrown on top to drown out Sam’s coherent argument.

    In reply to #34 by lewis.breland:

    I felt so embarrassed for Glenn when I read this exchange.

  18. There’s a common feature of the ‘faith’ based mind: The conflation of the following two statements:

    1 – I think X is true.

    2 – I like X and want it to be true.

    The basis of faith is the act of conflating those two together and treating them as identical. One of the effects this has is that people who want world peace and cooperation between peoples of differing religions in the world, and happen to be faithy-minded people, will end up convincing themselves that religions are all about peace and love and niceness. They’re thinking it because they see it as an ideal they’d like to be true, so their faith-based mind makes them speak as if it was already true regardless of any evidence to the contrary.

    This is what makes it very hard to make the case against the religions that have human rights abuses in their doctrine – you often only get support from the people who WANT religious strife and hate the religion for bigoted reasons – in other words the sort of people who would criticize Islam because its foreign, regardless of its tenets.

  19. What’s so strange to me is, it would seem that reinterpreting someone’s words would take some effort. I imagine I could mine quotes if I wanted to, but I’d be doing it consciously. Greenwald seems truly unaware that he’s not reading Harris correctly. It reminds me of the way people in the West, at least, look at a person who had one great-great grandparent who was black, and immediately classify them as “black.” Greenwald sees something in Harris’ writing that is “other” than the liberal writing he’s used to; therefore, Harris must be a conservative.

  20. From ‘Jihadwatch’ (Robert Spencer)

    “these charges are merely tactics designed to demonize and marginalize all who dare to criticize Islam, jihad and Islamic supremacism. I have no idea what Sam Harris thinks of me — he may have bought the propaganda that his friends have been pumping out like sewage for years, but after this exchange with Greenwald I hope he realizes how exactly that process works. And after reading this I can say to him: Welcome to my world, Sam. Keep this up, and before too long you, too, will be a “far-right, racist, bigoted Islamophobe.”

    There is no ‘moderate Islam’, nor is there ‘extremist Islam’. There are moderate Muslims but they are under threat from the REAL Islam just as are Jews, Infidels, Kuffar or any other group, from the Religion of Peace. The Islamic concept of Dar al-Islam and Dar al-Harb says it all. 1400 years of jihad and yet we in the west still cannot bring ourselves to admit the truth and call the spade a spade. And Islamists love this weak response.
    Islamophobia exists and rightly so- to NOT fear it is suicidal.

  21. My sympathies are definitely with Sam Harris on this one… very little difference between Glen Greewalds comments and what one can frequently expect if one presumes to criticise israeli foreign policy, suddenly you’re an anti-semite! Dishonest, disingenuous and duplicitous. Such thinking is indulged in in my experience so individuals can safely dismiss the real argument that they may find hard to refute or inconvenient.

    I must confess to being increasingly irritated by those who call atheists such as Harris, Dawkins etc too strident and just as bad as their opponents. What absolute lying rubbish. When Dawkins and Harris start toting Kalashnikovs and shooting Christians in the face for basing their lives on the selfishly subjective criteria of faith then their detractors might have a point and be comparing apples with apples.

    Greenwald and Co should try something truely revolutionary. Try refuting Harris and others with reason and logic and perhaps refrain from setting up racist strawman arguments that are a misrepresentation of the truth even if easier to demolish. While most Muslims, Christians etc may be decent human beings hard put to hurt a fly, for all they good they are restraining their fundamentalist brethren, they might as well not exist.

    Greenwald is essentially taking a rhetoricla base ball bat to the boy who had the timerity to point out that the emperor of relgion has no cloths. No, can’t send that message… might hurt the dear little darling feelings, as though they’ve ever given a damn about ours.

  22. You make a fair point in reply to QuestioningKat, although I suspect she didn’t necessarily mean all Muslim men would literally put her in a Burka, but that they would impose at least some kind of restrictions upon her due to her gender.

    Yes, that’s correct. I didn’t mean it literally. The US wouldn’t tolerate it. I have seen a few women wearing burkas in my own city and each time the sight took my breath away. The fact is I know Muslim men think about me the same way some old men have antiquated cultural biases. (You have no idea the type of limiting crap some of these old guys have tried by imposing their view of correct female behavior and endeavors. If you’re not at least 45 or so, you may never have seen any of this.) Years ago when I did not have health care I needed to see a gynecologist who ended up being a middle eastern male. His attitude toward me was judgmental and I wondered why he would ever pick such a profession. I also had to deal with my dying mother’s middle eastern doctors. I even recall a middle eastern boy (back when I was a student teacher.) His attitude was apparent. The regular classroom teacher informed me that even his father supported his son’s view of being superior to his own mother. What do you think he thought about me? What some men don’t realize is the subtle difference in which women are treated by certain types of men. Put that man in a power position and she is set back several generations that women fought hard to achieve.

    Over the last couple of years, I feel that there has been an attack on women even in my own country. I can’t help but feel that the wingnuts in various religions are inspiring each other. For years, I have seen a gynecologist at a Catholic hospital and now wonder if I would be given adequate health care if I was ever raped. So “struggling to see where your phobia has come from unless you’re planning to move to Saudi where I believe they do try and stick you in a burkha and then hit on you mercilessly even tho you’re covered up.” is overlooking how people’s attitudes sneak their way into society. To think that Muslims living in a liberal culture would suddenly change all their spots is naive.

    Spiders are a much better phobia. :-)

    Nah, If you ever see a spider in your house don’t kill it, they are excellent at keeping control over other insects. Spiders may be ugly, but they are shy little ones who provide us with a valuable service.

    • In reply to #43 by QuestioningKat:

      You make a fair point in reply to QuestioningKat, although I suspect she didn’t necessarily mean all Muslim men would literally put her in a Burka, but that they would impose at least some kind of restrictions upon her due to her gender.Yes, that’s correct. I didn’t mean it literally. The US wouldn’t tolerate it. I have seen a few women wearing burkas in my own city and each time the sight took my breath away. The fact is I know Muslim men think about me the same way some old men have antiquated cultural biases. (You have no idea the type of limiting crap some of these old guys have tried by imposing their view of correct female behavior and endeavors. If you’re not at least 45 or so, you may never have seen any of this.)

      You are right. And I agree some men from antiquated cultures are vile. And I know how hard things were for women in the past and I really do fear there are attempts to return us to that. But not just from Islam.

      Muslim sexism exists for sure, but I’d only read about it, for me actually the first place I’ve truly encountered sexism it is here on this website. From atheists. Which was perhaps the biggest shock I’ve ever had.

      Years ago when I did not have health care I needed to see a gynecologist who ended up being a middle eastern male. His attitude toward me was judgmental and I wondered why he would ever pick such a profession. I also had to deal with my dying mother’s middle eastern doctors. I even recall a middle eastern boy (back when I was a student teacher.) His attitude was apparent. The regular classroom teacher informed me that even his father supported his son’s view of being superior to his own mother. What do you think he thought about me?

      I agree with you, and that attitude sadly still prevails with certain middle eastern males. The law needs to block it.

      What some men don’t realize is the subtle difference in which women are treated by certain types of men. Put that man in a power position and she is set back several generations that women fought hard to achieve.

      Again agreed, but is it religion or just some men can’t cope with not being top dog? I would be as loathe to put some atheists or christians I’ve met in power if I’m honest. It comes down to certain types of men, usually older more arrogant ones with traditional attitudes I’d guess. And that isn’t just a muslim problem.

      Over the last couple of years, I feel that there has been an attack on women even in my own country. I can’t help but feel that the wingnuts in various religions are inspiring each other.

      IN the states I’d agree. Over here the problem seems to have different roots and causes. Here there has been an increase in sex attacks by non religious gangs, by muslim men from different countries and from younger and younger children who have had access to porn at ages when it was far from appropriate. Our national society for the protection of children (very much secular) and our teaching unions have cited that early unregulated access and the attitudes of some lads mags as their biggest concerns not the growth of Islam. Plus our low conviction rates when people are caught. Different places different issues I guess.

      For years, I have seen a gynecologist at a Catholic hospital and now wonder if I would be given adequate health care if I was ever raped.

      Again very different in the UK where we have an NHS which is just secular and treats everyone – all treatments available (subject to cost) to all. Nobody allowed to judge based on personal beliefs. So I cannot imagine what it is like to have a catholic hospital or for the church to have a say in care. That is an abomination as far as I’m concerned.

      I would say state health care and a welfare system are the biggest protectors against religion as they free people from needed to rely on religious run charities or healthcare.

      So “struggling to see where your phobia has come from unless you’re planning to move to Saudi where I believe they do try and stick you in a burkha and then hit on you mercilessly even tho you’re covered up.” is overlooking how people’s attitudes sneak their way into society. To think that Muslims living in a liberal culture would suddenly change all their spots is naive.

      But to think that it is only muslims is an oversimplification. In the UK they are a small part of a much bigger subtle push from a largely irreligious population to reverse the gains made by women. Its subtle but its there and its scary.

      Spiders are a much better phobia. :-)Nah, If you ever see a spider in your house don’t kill it, they are excellent at keeping control over other insects. Spiders may be ugly, but they are shy little ones who provide us with a valuable service.

      I do cherish spiders really. Just I’m so often cheif spider remover wherever I’ve lived. Even with my husband.

  23. Hi RecklessMonkey, you’ve raised some interesting points.

    would agree with this, however I would argue that like Christianity the degree to which they are moderate is to the exact extent which they ignore their infallible texts. I believe this is exactly the point Sam Harris has made a number of times and made less directly in this exchange.

    I’d agree to a certain extent, except I’d add that those texts are far from infallible in that they were written over a period of time by fallible and changeable human beings. By multiple people over what seems to be a period of 1000 years for the bible and over Mohammeds lifetime and vastly changing circumstances for the Qu’ran. And hence if you look you’ll find huge contradictions that are often nigh on impossible to reconcile. So it does actually become a matter of pick and choose, intrepret to suit and ignore the bits you don’t like. A little like atheism – there are things that atheists here (like Sam Harris and guns for example) stand for that I don’t.

    They are books written with expediency and leadership in mind. Mohammeds to deal with the changing nature of the community he was leading through various wars and periods of peace and the bible ditto I’d guess. Which means if you read those so called infallible texts you can pretty much find what you want. Dress modestly can be interpreted to mean the horror of the burkha or not wearing your skirt less than an inch below your pants. I know people who’ve interpreted it both ways. Covering hair? I know muslims that think that came from covering your jewels which they claim means literally cover your jewels as it was written in dangerous times and they were going to be nicked. The bible is even worse, we have killing enemies in some parts and loving them in others. Retribution in some parts and forgiveness in others. I’ve tried to be a believer but couldn’t partly due to those contradictions.

    So I think it is difficult to say what actually makes a religious believer believe in what they do. What I can say is that one religion encompasses a huge range of different ideas and peoples and behaviours.

    It was muslim women who started some of the refuges for women fleeing forced marriages here. And it was certainly muslim women not atheists who pointed out to me that allowing things like female genitial mutilation, honour killings or forced marriage to continue in the name of respecting multiculturalism was actually racism taken to extremes. Almost suggesting a girl from Somalia had less human rights than one from the UK because we had to respect her primitive culture more than her right to a life. And suggesting those primitive beliefs didn’t have to be challenged because in some ways they were all the perpetrators could understand

    your response was

    Sam has said much the same in his article, he sited that it was largely muslims effected by this particulary women and children.

    Again, it is muslim women and children from particular cultures that are effected not all. That needs to be recognised and what should be focused on is the abuses and changing them. With the full force of the law.

    And again what Sam seems to fail to recognise in his concentration on Islamic abuse is that those abuses are fairly universal – they are far from being just an Islamic problem. I guess that was my point, focus on Islam and miss the same going on elsewhere. And more crucially miss picking up what is really the common factor.

    Islam may have forced marriage but we have a growing real similar problem with sex trafficking that has nothing to do with Islam at all. In fact if you wished to categorise it in the same way you’d have to call it an atheist problem. Which we agree would be ridiculous.

    In some states the subjugation of women is a political thing rather than religious, in some a catholic thing. But at the end of the day what might be more useful is looking at what all these abuses have in common as that might be a better key. As far as I can see, political unrest and large populations of disaffected young males seem to be common factors.

    And it doesn’t negate the fact that I went to a girls grammar school that churned out feminists who were career minded and a significant number of those were muslim girls whose muslim fathers had worked very hard to ensure they had a place.

    It is very difficult to categorise people by religion. The cultures in which they or their parents grew up. A lot of the muslims I know are at least a generation away from their grandparents cultures in places like Pakistan.

    • In reply to #45 by atheistengineer:

      Hi atheistengineer

      This could get quite long so I will cut out just small bits and trust anyone else viewing to go back to look at the context.

      By multiple people over what seems to be a period of 1000 years for the bible and over Mohammeds lifetime and vastly changing circumstances for the Qu’ran. And hence if you look you’ll find huge contradictions that are often nigh on impossible to reconcile.

      Agree with this, I think so would Sam. Only you’ll be hard pressed to find a representative that will admit to this or any suicide bomber. This seems at this time to be a particular problem with Islam at this moment. I’ve recently been re-reading the Bible still not up to the new testament and it is truly horrific however at the moment Christians seem to be able to ignore this and work around the bad bits and generally get on with each other in the West for the most part exceptions to this would be witch mania in Africa being driven by Christians. Islam has a particular problem with things like genital mutilation and particularly horrendous treatment of women. That they are doing this in the West where there is a choice shows there is a problem with Islam that needs addressing in the West. This is Sams Point.

      A little like atheism – there are things that atheists here (like Sam Harris and guns for example) stand for that I don’t.

      I disagree with Sam’s stance about guns and have said so this site and emailed Sam’s site to express my disagreement there also. However Sam is expressing an opinion not threatening to hack someones head off for offending him is he, when he does a fair comparison can be made.

      So I think it is difficult to say what actually makes a religious believer believe in what they do. What I can say is that one religion encompasses a huge range of different ideas and peoples and behaviours.

      I don’t disagree, neither does Sam. The point of the article in question was Sam’s criticisms were not directed at all Muslims and he has been at pains to point this out continually. He says that the fundamentalists in Islam hold a view that is consistent with the Koran which they (and Mohamed) claim was the absolute word of God. That this poses a particular problem at this time. For this reason people like those in this article who create a Straw man of Sam’s position are doing so deliberately. Can you site a single example where Sam has exhibited the racism he is accused of? Saying there are other problems does not excuse Islam of its issues.

      It was muslim women who started some of the refuges for women fleeing forced marriages here. And it was certainly muslim women not atheists who pointed out to me that allowing things like female genitial mutilation, honour killings or forced marriage to continue in the name of respecting multiculturalism was actually racism taken to extremes.

      That’s great, So Sam is a bigot because he finds cause with these women who reject the Koran and their religious leaders? Again the problem here is not that we disagree but you think Sam disagrees with you. You are criticizing Sam for something he has not done. He has never said all Muslims are guilty of these crimes, he wishes more will do the same and reduce the threat that Islam offers when it tries to import its beliefs into countries that have been generous enough to adopt them into their countries.

      Again, it is muslim women and children from particular cultures that are effected not all. That needs to be recognized and what should be focused on is the abuses and changing them. With the full force of the law.

      Show me where Sam says all Muslim women are subjected to genital mutilation, or where he says all Muslim countries are equally plagued by these nutters. I never said he did neither has he. Explain to me the secular path to female genital mutilation. Show me a person who has cut the clitoris off a small girl who is an atheist and I’ll show you someone who would universally be condemned as a monster, show me the same from a religious community and you’ll get comments about moral relativism. It is an almost entirely religiously driven motivation. Noticing it is almost entirely Islamic cultures that do this is not to be a racist.

      And again what Sam seems to fail to recognise in his concentration on Islamic abuse is that those abuses are fairly universal -

      Where are you getting from Sam that he only focuses on Islamic Abuse? Have you read “letter to a Christian nation?”, “the end of faith” he has plenty to say about Christianity.

      Islam may have forced marriage but we have a growing real similar problem with sex trafficking that has nothing to do with Islam at all.

      Let me not dismiss the horror of sex trafficking. However, can you give me a example of a single country in which every daughter is going to abducted and sold into the sex trade. Where is this not only legal but encouraged by the state? Arranged marriage may not be mandated by the Koran but its views of women as with the bible are clear in making women essentially sex slaves to men (if taken as intended-and this is the whole problem). Islam treats women as inferior to men, this has produced whole cultures (not all but many-arguably most) in which this is what the average Muslim girl can expect. The sex trade in the West is illegal, it is pursued by the law and condemned by the State. In which Muslim country does the state of its religious leaders condemn arranged marriage? In which has it made it illegal?

      In fact if you wished to categorise it in the same way you’d have to call it an atheist problem.

      How exactly would sex trafficking be atheistic?

      As far as I can see, political unrest and large populations of disaffected young males seem to be common factors.

      The pilots who flew the planes into the trade center were well educated and not poor. They were motivated by religion in this case Islam. I’d like to see you try to give me a good secular reason for killing myself and a few hundred others by flying a plane into a building.

      And it doesn’t negate the fact that I went to a girls grammar school that churned out feminists who were career minded and a significant number of those were muslim girls whose muslim fathers had worked very hard to ensure they had a place.

      I’m genuinely pleased, so would Sam be. Now can you show me the passages in the Koran that support Feminism?

  24. Hi RecklessMonkey: To continue to respond to you, as sometimes long posts don’t post. I pointed to other human rights abusers and you responded.

    Islam in the West is trying successfully in many cases to maintain the same poor record of human rights Sharia, honor killings, genital mutilation. Can you show me a case where British-Russians have tried to get comparable things implemented in Brittan? Can you show me where British-Chinese have tried to stop free speech in Britain? Why not? Because there you are not looking at an overarching religious ideology. In the case of Russians and Chinese you are looking at dictatorships which people from Russia and China seem to be happy to leave behind.

    Partly I’d agree and partly disagree here. Female Genital mustilation occurs only in certain cultures and Islam seems to be confused about it. It may be in the Koran but is not practised by all muslim cultures and it predates Islam by about a 1000 years. I don’t know of anyone that has suffered it but I know it is a growing problem as immigrants come into the country from places where it is common. But to just imply it is all muslims and nobody else is dangerous. It isn’t all muslims and where it is common it is practised by all religions.

    Secondly I have a muslim friend whose parents fled Iran. Her family certainly does not want to replicate anything they fled from. The UK is home to many groups who actively fled Saria law and certainly do not want to see it replicated. That is an overgeneralisation, many have fled such horrors and never want to see them again.

    When you look at the growth of newer radical Islamists that ARE trying to impose sharia law yet another picture arises. That of politicised second and third generation muslims that have never lived under it. Again its difficult to put them into general categories but by and large what I’ve noticed they attract large numbers of disafffected young males in areas of relative disadvantage (not all admittedly) who are already primed to listen to people like Anjem Choudhary who can give their anger a focus.

    But is that an Islamic thing? Couldn’t the IRA in the past be similarly categorised? The EDL or BNP certainly could. A group of equally disaffected young males just waiting for a Nick Griffin to tell them to bash some muslims? And other gangs? When I lived in Birmingham we had the post code gangs. Very similar in their attitudes to things like women (whores or good girls) to muslims. Yet they had no religion at all. Would you categorise all atheists by them?

    Watch the Islamists and the EDL shouting at each other at Wooten Basset and the only thing that differentiates them is their uniforms and the names of their ideologies. It seems to be a more complex thing than Sam is willing to consider.

    And I’d agree with you about Chinese British. There were loads of Chinese girls at my school as well, who managed to retain the interesting parts of their culture and leave the horrors behind. But Russian British? Aren’t they behind a lot of organised crime (including horrendous Islamic style abuses of womens rights)? And aren’t Russians in Britain still quite happy to carry out some of Putins killings in a way that suggests they haven’t quite left their ideologies behind?.

    I don’t disagree with Sam totally just think in focusing on Islam you risk missing the larger picture.

    • Watch the Islamists and the EDL shouting at each other at Wooten Basset and the only thing that differentiates them is their uniforms and the names of their ideologies. It seems to be a more complex thing than Sam is willing to consider.

      Except that white nationalists and neo-nazis are kept under control in the west by secular entities like the police, the lawmakers, mass-popular liberal/progressive movements of the people! Nazi ideologies are mocked and ridiculed in the public discourse. The same should be applied to islamic doctrine or catholic dogma and hindu fascism. So until secular forces of muslim/hindu nations defend progressive ideals and universal human rights we have every right to mock, ridicule and denigrate the ideologies that these culture hold dear to their hearts.

      I don’t disagree with Sam totally just think in focusing on Islam you risk missing the larger picture.

      Again, for the millionth time, he is not just targeting Islam! And we dont give a flying fuck about the larger picture. If there is an ideology that says half of our species should be covered in cloth bags to be be “pure” and “modest” so the other half of the species don’t go around raping them, we are entitled to mock it. If their sensibilities are affected by it, so be it.

      But is that an Islamic thing? Couldn’t the IRA in the past be similarly categorised?

      Have some intellectual honesty please! IRA and jihadists? Really?

      In reply to #46 by atheistengineer:

      Hi RecklessMonkey: To continue to respond to you, as sometimes long posts don’t post. I pointed to other human rights abusers and you responded.

      Islam in the West is trying successfully in many cases to maintain the same poor record of human rights Sharia, honor killings, genital mutilation. Can you show me a case where British-Russians have tried to get comparable things implemented in Brittan? Can you show me where British-Chinese have tried to stop free speech in Britain? Why not? Because there you are not looking at an overarching religious ideology. In the case of Russians and Chinese you are looking at dictatorships which people from Russia and China seem to be happy to leave behind.

      Partly I’d agree and partly disagree here. Female Genital mustilation occurs only in certain cultures and Islam seems to be confused about it. It may be in the Koran but is not practised by all muslim cultures and it predates Islam by about a 1000 years. I don’t know of anyone that has suffered it but I know it is a growing problem as immigrants come into the country from places where it is common. But to just imply it is all muslims and nobody else is dangerous. It isn’t all muslims and where it is common it is practised by all religions.

      Secondly I have a muslim friend whose parents fled Iran. Her family certainly does not want to replicate anything they fled from. The UK is home to many groups who actively fled Saria law and certainly do not want to see it replicated. That is an overgeneralisation, many have fled such horrors and never want to see them again.

      When you look at the growth of newer radical Islamists that ARE trying to impose sharia law yet another picture arises. That of politicised second and third generation muslims that have never lived under it. Again its difficult to put them into general categories but by and large what I’ve noticed they attract large numbers of disafffected young males in areas of relative disadvantage (not all admittedly) who are already primed to listen to people like Anjem Choudhary who can give their anger a focus.

      But is that an Islamic thing? Couldn’t the IRA in the past be similarly categorised? The EDL or BNP certainly could. A group of equally disaffected young males just waiting for a Nick Griffin to tell them to bash some muslims? And other gangs? When I lived in Birmingham we had the post code gangs. Very similar in their attitudes to things like women (whores or good girls) to muslims. Yet they had no religion at all. Would you categorise all atheists by them?

      Watch the Islamists and the EDL shouting at each other at Wooten Basset and the only thing that differentiates them is their uniforms and the names of their ideologies. It seems to be a more complex thing than Sam is willing to consider.

      And I’d agree with you about Chinese British. There were loads of Chinese girls at my school as well, who managed to retain the interesting parts of their culture and leave the horrors behind. But Russian British? Aren’t they behind a lot of organised crime (including horrendous Islamic style abuses of womens rights)? And aren’t Russians in Britain still quite happy to carry out some of Putins killings in a way that suggests they haven’t quite left their ideologies behind?.

      I don’t disagree with Sam totally just think in focusing on Islam you risk missing the larger picture.

    • In reply to #46 by atheistengineer:

      Partly I’d agree and partly disagree here. Female Genital mustilation occurs only in certain cultures and Islam seems to be confused about it. It may be in the Koran but is not practised by all muslim cultures and it predates Islam by about a 1000 years. I don’t know of anyone that has suffered it but I know it is a growing problem as immigrants come into the country from places where it is common. But to just imply it is all muslims and nobody else is dangerous. It isn’t all muslims and where it is common it is practised by all religions.

      I don’t disagree, for example the Massi practice a form of it again for religious reasons. But you seem to think Sam picks on or implies it is only Muslims. He does not. Please read his stuff before accusing him of this, it is in the West almost exclusively a problem with Islamic groups it needs to be addressed, now.

      Secondly I have a muslim friend whose parents fled Iran. Her family certainly does not want to replicate anything they fled from. The UK is home to many groups who actively fled Saria law and certainly do not want to see it replicated. That is an overgeneralisation, many have fled such horrors and never want to see them again.

      Again Sam is supporting these Muslims who do not want to see Saria Law in the West for the exact same reasons you state above. The fact is it is not catholics trying to bring in Saria Law it is some Muslims Accusing him of bigotry for supporting these people is not helpful or accurate.

      When you look at the growth of newer radical Islamists that ARE trying to impose sharia law yet another picture arises. That of politicised second and third generation muslims that have never lived under it. Again its difficult to put them into general categories but by and large what I’ve noticed they attract large numbers of disafffected young males in areas of relative disadvantage (not all admittedly) who are already primed to listen to people like Anjem Choudhary who can give their anger a focus.

      But is that an Islamic thing? Couldn’t the IRA in the past be similarly categorised?

      The EDL or BNP certainly could. A group of equally disaffected young males just waiting for a Nick Griffin to tell them to bash some muslims? And other gangs? When I lived in Birmingham we had the post code gangs. Very similar in their attitudes to things like women (whores or good girls) to muslims. Yet they had no religion at all. Would you categorise all atheists by them?

      Yes my point in my original post to you, the IRA is a good example. In all cases these people are following an ideology, a dogma that claims absolute knowledge. I and Sam (remember we are primarily talking about what Sam has said here) would argue that there are good and bad atheists but there is no direct way of linking my disbelief in God to calling women whores or cutting off their genitals. It takes dogma to do that and the Koran provided that in spades as does the bible. In the same way you cannot derive my preferences for cars or music by weather or not I believe in Santa. Once again Sam says only that the Muslim extremists have a defensible position given the texts they follow. He is not suggesting all Muslims follow the texts.

      Regards

      Watch the Islamists and the EDL shouting at each other at Wooten Basset and the only thing that differentiates them is their uniforms and the names of their ideologies. It seems to be a more complex thing than Sam is willing to consider.

      And I’d agree with you about Chinese British. There were loads of Chinese girls at my school as well, who managed to retain the interesting parts of their culture and leave the horrors behind. But Russian British? Aren’t they behind a lot of organised crime (including horrendous Islamic style abuses of womens rights)? And aren’t Russians in Britain still quite happy to carry out some of Putins killings in a way that suggests they haven’t quite left their ideologies behind?.

      I don’t disagree with Sam totally just think in focusing on Islam you risk missing the larger picture.

  25. And again RecklessMonkey sorry:
    I said

    “His argument solely against Islam because of its treatment of women or homosexuals is ignoring the fact they are Muslim women and homosexuals that may not actually want to stop being Muslims, but just to be Muslims who are accorded human rights to be what they are without discrimination.

    you responded

    As he pointed out the above exchange he wrote a whole book “Letter to a Christian Nation” this is hardly just focusing on Muslims.

    Which missed my point which was that those women and homosexuals who are being abused do not want to stop being muslims. They just want to be muslim women and homosexuals whose rights are respected.

    Whether that is rendered impossible by the Koran or not is moot as they are respected AND muslims elsewhere. I’m not sure Sam recognises that not all people wish to leave their faith like Hirsan Ali they just want rights within it. I don’t know who the hell Sam Harris is so can’t speak for what he’s written only from this article.

    • In reply to #47 by atheistengineer:

      There’s nothing to stop you continuing to post anecdotes about the Muslims that you know, who are, of course, perfectly nice, and haven’t been the victims (or perpetrators) of honour killing. Or about how some of the other people that you’ve met, who are not Muslims, are not really very nice.

      But, please, stop making assumptions about you think Sam Harris thinks/ignores/over-simplifies/misses/is-unwilling-to-consider, after admitting that you don’t even know “who the hell Sam Harris is”. If you want to know what Sam Harris thinks, then you are going to have to do some further reading and stop guessing.

      Here’s a little fragment for you:

      Many people appear to believe that the remedy for my bigotry is for me to meet real Muslims—as though I have never met Muslims or doubted for a moment that most Muslims living in America are really nice people. This misses the point entirely.

    • In reply to #47 by atheistengineer:

      And again RecklessMonkey sorry:
      I said

      “His argument solely against Islam because of its treatment of women or homosexuals is ignoring the fact they are Muslim women and homosexuals that may not actually want to stop being Muslims, but just to be Muslims who are accorded human rights to be what they are without discrimination.

      you responded

      As he pointed out the above exchange he wrote a whole book “Letter to a Christian Nation” this is hardly just focusing on Muslims.

      Which missed my point which was that those women and homosexuals who are being abused do not want to stop being muslims. They just want to be muslim women and homosexuals whose rights are respected.

      Whether that is rendered impossible by the Koran or not is moot as they are respected AND muslims elsewhere. I’m not sure Sam recognises that not all people wish to leave their faith like Hirsan Ali they just want rights within it. I don’t know who the hell Sam Harris is so can’t speak for what he’s written only from this article.

      Ah, this is the problem. The articles have quote mined Sam’s positions out of context to make him sound like he is against all Muslims which he is not. He has responded to a journalist who has tweeted to these asking for him to justify why he has clearly pointed people in the direction of articles which claim he is saying things he hasn’t. You have then responded to the discussion between Sam and the Glen supporting some of Glens positions and throwing your own examples. Can I suggest you you tube Sam and look at what he actually says and doesn’t. here’s a good start http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vi8h_7Z0dFI

      • In reply to #57 by Reckless Monkey:

        In reply to #47 by atheistengineer:And again RecklessMonkey sorry: I said”His argument solely against Islam because of its treatment of women or homosexuals is ignoring the fact they are Muslim women and homosexuals that may not actually want to stop being Muslims, but just to be Muslims who are accorded human rights to be what they are without discrimination.you respondedAs he pointed out the above exchange he wrote a whole book “Letter to a Christian Nation” this is hardly just focusing on Muslims.Which missed my point which was that those women and homosexuals who are being abused do not want to stop being muslims. They just want to be muslim women and homosexuals whose rights are respected.Whether that is rendered impossible by the Koran or not is moot as they are respected AND muslims elsewhere. I’m not sure Sam recognises that not all people wish to leave their faith like Hirsan Ali they just want rights within it. I don’t know who the hell Sam Harris is so can’t speak for what he’s written only from this article.Ah, this is the problem. The articles have quote mined Sam’s positions out of context to make him sound like he is against all Muslims which he is not. He has responded to a journalist who has tweeted to these asking for him to justify why he has clearly pointed people in the direction of articles which claim he is saying things he hasn’t. You have then responded to the discussion between Sam and the Glen supporting some of Glens positions and throwing your own examples. Can I suggest you you tube Sam and look at what he actually says and doesn’t. here’s a good start http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vi8h7Z0dFI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuuKItFxJo

        Thanks I will try it. Unfortunately all I had to go on was the article and one I found when I searched for him here as the first comments I found suggested he was well known. Unfortunately the only one I found was extolling the virtues of gun ownership. I probably shouldn’t have judged on that alone though was shocked by it.

        I guess I shouldn’t have commented without checking more facts but when you haven’t a clue who the people in question are it is very easy to take at face value what is said in one article.

        Plus, though I know Islam is not a feminist ideology, it is hard to hear people you know and like apparently described as sexists and lumped with some pretty horrendous people – when they aren’t they are just friends and bosses. Expecially when the most sexism I’ve come across is on this website where people have clearly stated their hatred of feminism.

        But if Sam Harris also feels that way then I should have given him a chance.

        Thanks for the links and for your patience. You are a credit to atheism.

        • In reply to #59 by atheistengineer:

          In reply to #57 by Reckless Monkey:

          In reply to #47 by atheistengineer:And again RecklessMonkey sorry: I said”His argument solely against Islam because of its treatment of women or homosexuals is ignoring the fact they are Muslim women and homosexuals that may not actually want to stop being Muslims, but just to be Muslims who are accorded human rights to be what they are without discrimination.you respondedAs he pointed out the above exchange he wrote a whole book “Letter to a Christian Nation” this is hardly just focusing on Muslims.Which missed my point which was that those women and homosexuals who are being abused do not want to stop being muslims. They just want to be muslim women and homosexuals whose rights are respected.Whether that is rendered impossible by the Koran or not is moot as they are respected AND muslims elsewhere. I’m not sure Sam recognises that not all people wish to leave their faith like Hirsan Ali they just want rights within it. I don’t know who the hell Sam Harris is so can’t speak for what he’s written only from this article.Ah, this is the problem. The articles have quote mined Sam’s positions out of context to make him sound like he is against all Muslims which he is not. He has responded to a journalist who has tweeted to these asking for him to justify why he has clearly pointed people in the direction of articles which claim he is saying things he hasn’t. You have then responded to the discussion between Sam and the Glen supporting some of Glens positions and throwing your own examples. Can I suggest you you tube Sam and look at what he actually says and doesn’t. here’s a good start http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vi8h7Z0dFI http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MuuKItFxJo

          Thanks I will try it. Unfortunately all I had to go on was the article and one I found when I searched for him here as the first comments I found suggested he was well known. Unfortunately the only one I found was extolling the virtues of gun ownership. I probably shouldn’t have judged on that alone though was shocked by it.

          I guess I shouldn’t have commented without checking more facts but when you haven’t a clue who the people in question are it is very easy to take at face value what is said in one article.

          Plus, though I know Islam is not a feminist ideology, it is hard to hear people you know and like apparently described as sexists and lumped with some pretty horrendous people – when they aren’t they are just friends and bosses. Expecially when the most sexism I’ve come across is on this website where people have clearly stated their hatred of feminism.

          But if Sam Harris also feels that way then I should have given him a chance.

          Thanks for the links and for your patience. You are a credit to atheism.

          Thanks, I too completely disagree with Sam on Guns, considering the more fundamentalist religious types have sent Sam plenty of death threats and he lives in a country where guns are readily available to almost anyone then I understand why he feels the way he does about this I just happen to think he is conflating his feelings with what is in the best interests of his country. So I can understand your feelings given this blog response from Sam, many on this site where shocked. He does have very critical things to say about Islam as a religion but if you get a chance to read his books you’ll find he is very clear to point out that this is not all Muslims. He is also very critical of all religions he doesn’t just focus on Muslims, in fact the Christians accuse him of focusing on them and not taking on Islam. They can’t both be right.

          Cheers

  26. RecklessMonkey next point:

    This argument may work for explaining why a Muslim dictatorship may inflict certain restrictions on people under their regime, it does not explain why Muslims who have left these countries and are now living in the West choose to cut the clitorises off their little girls,

    Except you could make those arguments for many other things as well. Female Genital Mutilation I’ve already mentioned. Not all muslims do it only those from certain regions. From those regions everyone does it. Its grevious bodily harm and should always be treated as such.

    or force their women to wear bags,

    Again some muslims force but some women choose to wear those bags. Without giving it too much thought. So I’d guess a different or more pertinent question is do you support that free choice or do you question the brainwashing behind it?

    And if you question the brainwashing behind that do you also equally question the sorts of brainwashing that makes non muslim girls choose to become what lads mags want them to be without thought, or to choose to mutilate themselves with plastic surgery. Or self harm.

    In both cases I’d say the reasons behind the choices are to please men for culturally defined reasons – not necessarily religion nor freedom of real informed choice. Just different male ideals. So fight against force and question the choices made by muslim women. But question dubious choices from non religion as well and make sure that all women are choosing for themselves not others.

    Also Sam misses the new burkha wearers. Because the reasons women wear the burkha are numerous – from force which is always wrong, by blind choice which should be challenged or the newer ones making clear choices to wear it as part of the same politicisation that is seen with muslim men blowing themselves up. Because round here it used to be only women from certain cultures that wore it. It was rare. Now it seems to be taking hold as some kind of wierd gesture of political defiance in women whose parents would never have touched it with a barge pole. Women who are calling it empowering for some bizarre reaason. And a symbol of freedom which it isn’t.

    Sam is oversimplifying it.

    or kill their daughters for shaming the fathers for dating – for that you need religion.

    Agreed but that still doesn’t explain why there are huge numbers of muslim fathers who don’t kill their daughters! Who are into their education and want them to have careers. I would estimate that every one of the muslim girls I was friends with at school is now divorced. Their choice. And are now with men they’ve chosen. And not one has been killed.

    It isn’t just religion that is required it is evil. Religion is just a convenient label

    The of course there are the numbers of non muslim fathers who kill their children for other reasons. Mick and Maraid Philpott didn’t need religion to kill their six children, just a desire for a bigger council house and to get back at his ex. Lots of children are killed without any need for religion.

    It does not explain why young Muslim men in the West blew themselves up on Buses in London. Or well educated, affluent Muslim men from Saudi Arabia flew themselves into the twin towers-religion does. I fear you are in danger of oversimplifying Sam’s position.

    No it doesn’t. But Islam doesn’t explain why Irish men blew innocent people in London, Birmingham and Manchester either. Nor why there have been massacres in places like Newtown. Nor does it explain why now particularly? Nor does it explain all the religious people who were horrified by such acts.

    I don’t disagree with everything Sam says but I do think he is in danger of simplifying things.

  27. Where does the term racist have any place in a discussion about Islam. It is not a race. It is a religion and it is chosen…well at least you can choose to leave once you’re an adult. And, yes, I know this is difficult. It is however, not impossible and I can’t change being white any more than a black person can change being black or an asian can change being asian. Those are races. This should tell us right off the bat that the person making the claim hasn’t thought it through at all.

    Sam you are absolutely right in calling this guy out. Now, get back to your book. I’m looking forward to reading it!

  28. I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time debating this issue under Glenn Greenwald’s article in The Guardian today.

    I had one comment removed by the Guardian moderators without explanation. Wondering why they might have removed my comment, I looked at their Community Standards. Their Community Standard Number 5 reads:

    We recognise the difference between criticising a particular government, organisation, community or belief and attacking people on the basis of their race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age.

    So, The Guardian, in all its wisdom, has identified a difference between criticising a person’s “belief” and criticising their “religion” (religion being equated to unchangeable physical characteristics).

    Liberal-political-correctness-gone-mad served up on a platter.

    • In reply to #60 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

      I’ve spent an unhealthy amount of time debating this issue under Glenn Greenwald’s article in The Guardian today.

      I had one comment removed by the Guardian moderators without explanation. Wondering why they might have removed my comment, I looked at their Community Standards. Their Community Standard Number 5 reads:

      We recognise the difference between criticising a particular government, organisation, community or belief and attacking people on the basis of their race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age.

      So, The Guardian, in all its wisdom, has identified a difference between criticising a person’s “belief” and criticising their “religion” (religion being equated to unchangeable physical characteristics).

      Liberal-political-correctness-gone-mad served up on a platter.

      It’s corrosive enough when it occurs in our media as you noted. However, when it rears its ugly head in a project that’s supposed to become one of our civilization’s greatest repositories of knowledge ever, it might not be hyperbole to speak in terms of a failure of civilization. Behold these “behavioral guidelines” from the Wikipedia etiquette page for people who wish to contribute to the online encyclopedia:

      “Wikipedia articles are supposed to represent all views, instead of supporting one over another, even if you believe something strongly. What you think is not necessarily right or necessarily wrong—a common example of this is religion.”

  29. Dawkins is also on record praising the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, a man who says that he “hates Islam” and that Muslims who desire to remain in the Netherlands should “rip out half of the Koran” (Later, he blabbed that the Muslim holy book should be banned entirely). The peroxide-blonde leader of the Party of Freedom, who faced trial in 2009 for hate speech, produced an amateurish flick called “Fitna” the year before. The 17-minute film was chockablock with racist images such as Muhammad’s head attached to a ticking time bomb and juxtapositions of Muslims and Nazis. For Dawkins, it was pure bliss. “On the strength of ‘Fitna’ alone, I salute you as a man of courage who has the balls to stand up to a monstrous enemy,” he wrote.

    Am I the only one who’s slightly appalled to find out that Richard made the above statement?

    It reminds me of the time George Galloway said “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability” to Saddam Hussein.

    Granted, Galloway is an idiot. But what’s Richard’s excuse for fawning over the neo-Nazi Geert Wilders?

    I always assumed Professor Dawkins was pretty much on the left of the political spectrum, and his giving a platform to people like the British National Party-affiliated Pat Condell was done with the intent of provoking interesting and heated debate. It honestly never occurred to me that he might have some sympathy with the views of the loathsome Condell.

    Richard has taken on a slightly sinister aspect since I found this out. I hope I’m wrong and the guy was just having a bad day.

    But when the world’s poster boy for atheism makes a statement in support of a prominent fascist, I don’t think the claim that New Atheism is flirting with Islamophobia can be easily dismissed.

    We may kid ourselves we’re only attacking religious institutions – that our beef is with the faith and not the faithful – and this is generally true. For instance, rank-and-file Catholics tend to be treated somewhat generously on this site; we recognise that the bulk of them are not particularly homophobic and are okay with birth control. Most of our ire is rightly directed at the Vatican and its satellites around the world.

    Jews also get a pass… or at least I imagine they would if any articles about Judaism or Israel were ever included here (yes, there’s Herb) . I think I remember a thread about a year ago which concerned orthodox Jews and pornography, but it may have been a mental will-o’-the-wisp.

    We don’t extend this tolerance towards ordinary Muslims, though. Or at least many of us don’t. Perhaps if Islam had its own equivalent of the Holy See, an ultimate authority, things would be different; the atheist ‘community’ would have something on which it could focus its outrage.
    We regularly criticise the Catholic Church and its hierarchy; but it manages to keep a leash on about a billion people through having the answers to questions, even if they’re madey-uppy answers. And these are not your English, crumpet-sucking milquetoasts; a lot of them are hot-blooded latin types.

    I confess to having not read any of Sam Harris’s books, and after viewing his exchange with Glenn Greenwald, I don’t think I’ll be doing so in the future. He comes across as rather whiny when compared to the more reasonable-sounding Greenwald. What do I know, though? The only Dawkins book I’ve read is The God Delusion, and I got about halfway through God is not Great before losing interest and picking up the most recent Alex Delaware novel.


    From the link provided by Murtaza Hussein.

    Liberals ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder non-combatants, while we and the Israelis seek to avoid doing so…

    there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground.

    We are entering an age of unchecked nuclear proliferation and, it seems likely, nuclear terrorism. There is, therefore, no future in which aspiring martyrs will make good neighbors for us. Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies.

    Isn’t the U.S. the only country ever to have deployed atomic weapons against another sovereign nation? Does your man think the quarter million Japanese killed in 1945 were all combatants? I guess he’s just talking about recent history.

    Civilisations come and go. If they’re lucky, they won’t be entirely wiped out and may even get a few casinos as compensation before they disappear into oblivion. Smallpox-covered blanket, anyone?

    I’d like to see the evidence that the Israelis seek to avoid killing non-combatants. If that’s the case then there’s a shedload of oopsies they should be apologising for.

    Muslims use human shields, and this accounts for much of the collateral damage we and the Israelis cause… there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground.

    Collateral damage? Harris sounds like he’s talking about cars or buildings. People are not ‘damaged’; they’re injured or killed. I don’t think Muslims use human shields.

    Oh, I stand corrected. Apparently, some of them do.

    • I am dumbfounded by your post. You sound like someone who is on the left. So do I but we have exactly opposite views on almost everything you have discussed in your post.

      “On the strength of ‘Fitna’ alone, I salute you as a man of courage who has the balls to stand up to a monstrous enemy,” he wrote. Am I the only one who’s slightly appalled to find out that Richard made the above statement?

      What is wrong with stating the truth? Who among us have the courage to make a film about third-world faiths like islam or hinduism. Should I remind you of Salman Rushdie and his struggle? Or of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her struggle?

      his giving a platform to people like the British National Party-affiliated Pat Condell was done with the intent of provoking interesting and heated debate. It honestly never occurred to me that he might have some sympathy with the views of the loathsome Condell.

      Here is Pat Condell on the question of BNP, http://www.patcondell.net/page9/page9.html

      Q: Do you support the BNP?

      A: No. I don’t support any form of racism

      I confess to having not read any of Sam Harris’s books

      Then please don’t comment on issues you have no idea about! Having read almost all his books, from Letter to a Christian Nation to Free Will, I can assure you that you are being close minded and not open to looking at facts. How could you judge someones works before reading them?

      We don’t extend this tolerance towards ordinary Muslims, though.

      What exactly does that mean? Tolerance towards homophobia? Tolerance towards misogyny? Tolerance towards child abuse?
      In fact I am of the opinion that tolerance towards superstition is a bad thing. My own country, India, prides itself on being tolerant. We have a million different civil codes for multitude of faiths. Hundreds of marital and divorce laws. Rampant superstition and irrational attitudes. We should NEVER tolerate dogma and superstition. How do we react, write blogs, books and lecture people about. Not strap bombs and blow up people. If you think, even that is offensive, i do not know what else you have got in mind for bring about social change.

      The only Dawkins book I’ve read is The God Delusion, and I got about halfway through God is not Great before losing interest and picking up the most recent Alex Delaware novel.

      Fair enough. And you know what, you are more than welcome to call rest of us as neo-nazi & fascists. We will respond with logic and facts, and you are more than welcome to ignore them. But when someone tries to censor our right to free speech and expression, do not for one second, think that we would back down. We support Geert Wilders with the same vigour we support Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salma Rushdie.

      In reply to #62 by Katy Cordeth:

      Dawkins is also on record praising the far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, a man who says that he “hates Islam” and that Muslims who desire to remain in the Netherlands should “rip out half of the Koran” (Later, he blabbed that the Muslim holy book should be banned entirely). The peroxide-blonde leader of the Party of Freedom, who faced trial in 2009 for hate speech, produced an amateurish flick called “Fitna” the year before. The 17-minute film was chockablock with racist images such as Muhammad’s head attached to a ticking time bomb and juxtapositions of Muslims and Nazis. For Dawkins, it was pure bliss. “On the strength of ‘Fitna’ alone, I salute you as a man of courage who has the balls to stand up to a monstrous enemy,” he wrote.

      Am I the only one who’s slightly appalled to find out that Richard made the above statement?

      It reminds me of the time George Galloway said “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability” to Saddam Hussein.

      Granted, Galloway is an idiot. But what’s Richard’s excuse for fawning over the neo-Nazi Geert Wilders?

      I always assumed Professor Dawkins was pretty much on the left of the political spectrum, and his giving a platform to people like the British National Party-affiliated Pat Condell was done with the intent of provoking interesting and heated debate. It honestly never occurred to me that he might have some sympathy with the views of the loathsome Condell.

      Richard has taken on a slightly sinister aspect since I found this out. I hope I’m wrong and the guy was just having a bad day.

      But when the world’s poster boy for atheism makes a statement in support of a prominent fascist, I don’t think the claim that New Atheism is flirting with Islamophobia can be easily dismissed.

      We may kid ourselves we’re only attacking religious institutions – that our beef is with the faith and not the faithful – and this is generally true. For instance, rank-and-file Catholics tend to be treated somewhat generously on this site; we recognise that the bulk of them are not particularly homophobic and are okay with birth control. Most of our ire is rightly directed at the Vatican and its satellites around the world.

      Jews also get a pass… or at least I imagine they would if any articles about Judaism or Israel were ever included here (yes, there’s Herb) . I think I remember a thread about a year ago which concerned orthodox Jews and pornography, but it may have been a mental will-o’-the-wisp.

      We don’t extend this tolerance towards ordinary Muslims, though. Or at least many of us don’t. Perhaps if Islam had its own equivalent of the Holy See, an ultimate authority, things would be different; the atheist ‘community’ would have something on which it could focus its outrage.We regularly criticise the Catholic Church and its hierarchy; but it manages to keep a leash on about a billion people through having the answers to questions, even if they’re madey-uppy answers. And these are not your English, crumpet-sucking milquetoasts; a lot of them are hot-blooded latin types.

      I confess to having not read any of Sam Harris’s books, and after viewing his exchange with Glenn Greenwald, I don’t think I’ll be doing so in the future. He comes across as rather whiny when compared to the more reasonable-sounding Greenwald. What do I know, though? The only Dawkins book I’ve read is The God Delusion, and I got about halfway through God is not Great before losing interest and picking up the most recent Alex Delaware novel.

      From the link provided by Murtaza Hussein.

      Liberals ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder non-combatants, while we and the Israelis seek to avoid doing so…

      there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground.

      We are entering an age of unchecked nuclear proliferation and, it seems likely, nuclear terrorism. There is, therefore, no future in which aspiring martyrs will make good neighbors for us. Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies.

      Isn’t the U.S. the only country ever to have deployed atomic weapons against another sovereign nation? Does your man think the quarter million Japanese killed in 1945 were all combatants? I guess he’s just talking about recent history.

      Civilisations come and go. If they’re lucky, they won’t be entirely wiped out and may even get a few casinos as compensation before they disappear into oblivion. Smallpox-covered blanket, anyone?

      I’d like to see the evidence that the Israelis seek to avoid killing non-combatants. If that’s the case then there’s a shedload of oopsies they should be apologising for.

      Muslims use human shields, and this accounts for much of the collateral damage we and the Israelis cause… there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground.

      Collateral damage? Harris sounds like he’s talking about cars or buildings. People are not ‘damaged’; they’re injured or killed. I don’t think Muslims use human shields.

      Oh, I stand corrected. Apparently, some of them do.

      • In reply to #63 by kbala:

        I am dumbfounded by your post. You sound like someone who is on the left. So do I.

        Sorry, but no. You don’t sound like you’re on the left at all, kbala. I’ve read some of your comments, mate.


        Here is Pat Condell on the question of BNP, http://www.patcondell.net/page9/page9.html

        Q: Do you support the BNP?

        A: No. I don’t support any form of racism

        Oh well that’s the end of it then. If someone says they aren’t racist then they’re clearly not. Paulo Di Canio isn’t a fascist; Mel Gibson and Nick Griffin don’t hate Jews. I know because they said so.


        What is wrong with stating the truth? Who among us have the courage to make a film about third-world faiths like islam or hinduism.

        Plenty of people have the courage, if that’s what you want to call it, to create material which criticises other ideologies. I don’t think the ability to film a video about people you loathe is necessarily a benchmark of heroism. If it were, we’d all be humming this.


        Should I remind you of Salman Rushdie and his struggle? Or of Ayaan Hirsi Ali and her struggle?

        Salman Rushdie is on Twitter here. I’m sure he’d be delighted to hear that in your eyes he and Geert Wilders are comparable. Please tweet him this. For my sake. Or just for the craic.


        I confess to having not read any of Sam Harris’s books

        Then please don’t comment on issues you have no idea about! Having read almost all his books, from Letter to a Christian Nation to Free Will, I can assure you that you are being close minded and not open to looking at facts. How could you judge someones works before reading them?

        May I refer you to what Richard Dawkins said when he admitted ignorance of the Qur’an:

        Of course you can have an opinion about Islam without having read Qur’an. You don’t have to read Mein Kampf to have an opinion about nazism.


        We don’t extend this tolerance towards ordinary Muslims, though.

        What exactly does that mean? Tolerance towards homophobia? Tolerance towards misogyny? Tolerance towards child abuse?

        Um… no, no and no. I addressed this in my previous comment on this thread.


        In fact I am of the opinion that tolerance towards superstition is a bad thing. My own country, India, prides itself on being tolerant.

        My goodness, it must be hell over there. Euchhh, all that tolerance.


        The only Dawkins book I’ve read is The God Delusion, and I got about halfway through God is not Great before losing interest and picking up the most recent Alex Delaware novel.

        Fair enough. And you know what, you are more than welcome to call rest of us as neo-nazi & fascists. We will respond with logic and facts, and you are more than welcome to ignore them.

        Thanks, but I think I’ll reserve those terms for neo-Nazis and fascists. Logic and facts are music to my senses. They’re soul food to me, kbala. I’m a vampire for truth, baby.


        But when someone tries to censor our right to free speech and expression, do not for one second, think that we would back down. We support Geert Wilders with the same vigour we support Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Salma Rushdie.

        That’s an admirable sentiment. I just don’t understand how someone who says he’s on the left can support a far-right politician. Thank God for cognitive dissonance, eh?

    • In reply to #62 by Katy Cordeth:

      I confess to having not read any of Sam Harris’s books, and after viewing his exchange with Glenn Greenwald, I don’t think I’ll be doing so in the future.

      Had I not read Sam Harris’s books (I have read all of them), I would probably feel the same as you, on the strength of Greenwald’s article. But because I am very familiar with Harris’s work and ideas, I immediately saw that Greenwald was, through selective quoting/quoting out of context etc., seriously misrepresenting Harris; his article was wrong if not libelous in saying that Harris has ‘anti-muslim animus’. This kind of mischaracterisation happens all the time with atheist authors, the attacks being especially directed at Harris and Dawkins. The sad thing is that it puts off people, understandably, from reading these author’s excellent books and thereby correcting the misinformation. It may be too much to expect you to read Harris books, but perhaps you could read Harris’s own response made to clarify his position on some of the contentious issues: (http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/response-to-controversy2)
      - If you have time I would also recommend these excellent blog responses to the recent attacks on Harris 1) (https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/playing-the-islamophobia-card) and 2) (http://saiu.org/2013/04/03/greenwald-and-hussain-on-sam-harris-and-racism)

    • In reply to #62 by Katy Cordeth:

      Katy, I have to say I found your whole post to be a curious and incoherent ramble. It starts as a laudable (if misguided, in my view) attempt to take the moral high ground, but then you make the following extraordinary statement:

      We regularly criticise the Catholic Church and its hierarchy; but it manages to keep a leash on about a billion people through having the answers to questions, even if they’re madey-uppy answers.

      Please could you explain what you mean by that, because it sounds as if you’re implying that (a) the people of the world need to be controlled, and (b) it’s OK if the the small group doing the controlling are using bullshit to do so.

      • In reply to #67 by Jumped Up Chimpanzee:

        Of course the people of the world need to be controlled. That’s why we have governments, armies, police forces, television… and the opiate of the masses that is religion.

        There’s about seven billion of us on this blue marble. Were you under the impression that we’re all autonomous? The aforementioned institutions are essential if the planet isn’t to descend into anarchy.

        The presence of an ultimate authority on all matters Islamic would have the same effect on the world’s Muslims that the Vatican has on Catholics.

        Think of it as a parenting situation if that helps.

        Catholics may bicker among themselves like children, but if the bickering gets out of hand, the parental figure of the Church can step in and bring order. It’s no coincidence that priests are referred to as Father. If these surrogate parents are not able to handle their wayward offspring, they can go to their superiors, and so on, until it reaches the final authority, the Vatican. The fact that Grampa V is senile and full of crap is irrelevant, because his word is still final.

        Islam doesn’t have this heirarchical structure, which may explain why it’s so volatile. If it had its own equivalent of the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Dalai Lama or whomever, I think it would calm down a bit, and when morons made deliberately provocative cartoons or videos under the aegis of freedom of speech, instead of all this unfocused, anarchical rage that always manifests at such times, there would be a symbolic parent available to handle events diplomatically and not let them get out of hand.

        If we know anything about Islamists it’s that they love nothing more than submitting to authority.

        • In reply to #69 by Katy Cordeth:

          Of course we need laws for societies to function. But you’re suggesting another set of (religious) controls beyond that.

          When you say that Catholics bicker among themselves and need the Vatican to keep them in check, and that Muslims could do with a similar centre of power to keep them in check, you appear to be acknowledging that these religious groups create their own problems (which need their own solutions).

          I don’t see that atheists need any special control beyond state laws, nor indeed do most non-fundamentalist religious people.

    • In reply to #64 by mr artist:

      People have rights. Ideas don’t have rights.

      Here’s a simple graphic to save you explaining the conflation yet again:

      http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=583151235036902&set=a.384813711537323.93631.145778818774148&type=1&theater

      A conflation that The Guardian expicitly makes, as pointed out by Jumped Up Chimpanzee: “I had one comment removed by the Guardian moderators without explanation. Wondering why they might have removed my comment, I looked at their Community Standards. Their Community Standard Number 5 reads:
      We recognise the difference between criticising a particular government, organisation, community or belief and attacking people on the basis of their race, religion, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability or age.

  30. Where is this liberal stronghold of power that can change things? The USA left’s political best is a philosophically liberal Republican administration and legislative leadership with a small group of pundits making points against each other rather than promoting reform. There is no viable left political movement, only the Democrats holding the most advance political dogma of the time with a agenda of holding the line on the social justice reforms and no discussion of advancement. .

    New and/or political atheists would hopefully stop beating the dead horse of liberals being able to be agents of change. I am on the side of secularists in government but the left today is having a hard time saving itself as a political force. The next generation could change that, I don’t know.

  31. Sigh, this sucks. Glenn Greenwald has been a very good journalist but if this exchange is what really happened, then he’s being idiotic and naive when it comes to defending so called “moderate Islam” (pseudo-Islam) and using the idiotic term “Islamophobia”. :-(

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