No, Sam Harris is not Islamophobic

Cue the liberal freak-out over the title of this post.

Frequently antagonistic comedian Bill Maher made news last week when he and Ben Affleck got into a Fox News style shouting match over Islam. Maher was joined by fellow atheist and famous neuroscientist Sam Harris. Both of them made the argument that while most Muslims are peaceful and moderate, the main problem with Islamic jihad is Islam itself.

Ben Affleck’s first response to the completely valid point was predictable: That’s racist!

“[It’s] the only religion that acts like the mafia that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book,” Maher said. “There’s a reason why Ayaan Hirsi Ali needs bodyguards 24/7.”

Harris’ response was more eloquent and – I’d argue – relevant…

“[Muslim cultures] often keep women and homosexuals immiserated…we have to empower the true reformers in the Muslim world to change it,” he told Affleck. “And lying about doctrine and this behavior is not going to do that.”

He’s absolutely right.

Islamophobia exists. I’m not debating that. Far-right leaders and talking heads proposing the abolition of First Amendment freedoms for Muslims is probably the best example. It is ludicrous to think that most Muslims are fanatical jihadists, too. The Muslim faith has a-billion-and-a-half adherents worldwide. Incredible and brilliant people are among its followers. Islam – like the world’s other large religions – is also full of different theological interpretations of the Qur’an. Liberal and moderate Muslims exist, despite most press coverage.

But the Qur’an, like the Christian Bible, is also an incredibly violent book with troubling morality. Calling for the death of blasphemers or stoning women and homosexuals can be found in both. Genocide, sexism, homophobia, racism….these are all central themes of the Old Testament and the Qur’an. Pointing this out is not Islamophobic or anti-Christian – it’s a fact. It also has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that most Muslims have darker skin than Europeans and Americans.

Even though I’m not religious, I have immense respect for religious leaders who recognize Bronze Age religious texts for what they are – too-frequently barbaric. Just like Harris, I believe that these brave men and women should continue to be empowered to fight fanaticism and savagery within their cultures. Progressive Muslim Akmal Ahmed Safwat of the Democratic Muslims of Denmark says it best for religious reformers: “The Qur’an’s divine instructions were interpreted and explained by fallible and mortal men who were the product of their time and culture.”

If secular liberals and progressives are to continue to fight the spread of fundamentalist Christianity (as we should definitely continue to do), we have to be intellectually honest and continue to denounce radical and fundamentalist Islam as well. That’s not racist, bigoted, or neoconservative. It’s vital to maintaining a pluralistic society.

Sam Harris

 

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Crazy In The Name of God & Country – “American Family Association” Edition

In 21st America, one would expect ignorance and bigotry to be nearly extinct. Sadly, this is not the case; Bigotry, ignorance, hate and hypocrisy are still alive and kicking from “purple mountains majesty” to “the fruited plains.”

Don’t misunderstand me: America is exceptional. Our constitution enshrines freedom, liberty and equality and our people have always overcome adversity and pushed through to better ways of life. We have the freedom to choose our own destinies and express our views publicly.

Freedom of Speech is one of the greatest American values. However, like anything, this value is abused. People and groups use their constitutionally protected freedom to spread hate, lies and venomous insults to other people and groups. This is the definition of “hate group.”

According to the FBI, a hate group is defined as any group whose “primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons belonging to a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin which differs from that of the members of the organization.” The American Family Association (AFA) fits this definition like hand in glove.

Don’t be fooled by the words “American” and “Family.” The AFA has made it their goal to stigmatize and bully homosexuals, feminists, Muslims, the irreligious, and essentially anyone else who isn’t a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, all in the name of God and Country. Their vitriol and hate is only outdone by the lunatics of Westboro Baptist Church.

I could put down in words some of their craziest, hateful statements. However, in the Age of the Internet, I think it would be much more productive and beneficial for you, the reader, to see and hear what the AFA has said.

 

The AFA thinks Muslims are stupid, inbred morons….

 

Last year (2010) during the controversy surrounding the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” misinformation ran rampant after a Muslim group wanted to open a Muslim community center blocks away from Ground Zero in New York. Many said that it was all a part of a conspiratorial plot by Muslims to destroy America…..seriously. The AFA had plenty to say…

 

The AFA’s hatred of Muslims goes furthur…they don’t want any Muslims in the military OR coming in to the country…

 

The AFA thinks homosexuals are Nazis…

 

The AFA thinks that gays are responsible for the Holocaust (even though he says that’s not what he thinks). Just follow his warped logic and outright lies…

 

The AFA says that liberal gays and Muslims have joined together in a plot to take down Western Civilization…

 

You can’t make this garbage up.

 

American Family Association logo

 

Blacklist: 2010 Edition

I’m so sick of hearing about the “controversy” surrounding the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.”

For the record, it’s not only a mosque – which has been there for over a year in an abandoned retail space – but a community center that is not even on the Ground Zero site itself but rather blocks away. “Park 51” or “The Cordoba House” is the proposed name for the facility by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.

Of course, all sorts of people have come out of the woodwork to protest the project. Halting construction of all mosques in the US and carrying offensive signs has become all the rage with these xenophobic fringe groups.

Pat Robertson has declared that all Muslims intend to take over the nation and there’s even a fundamentalist pastor in Gainesville, Florida who is planning an annual “Burn a Koran Day” on the ninth anniversary of the attacks.

Playing on prejudice and extremely negative stereotypes, men like Robertson and the Gainesville pastor are helping create a toxic atmosphere where equality and reason are not present.

This kind of bigotry and intolerance represent a common theme that has remained throughout American history: scapegoating an entire group of people when times are turbulent.

Jews, Catholics, Blacks, communists, socialists and gays are just a few of the more notable groups to be stigmatized and bullied in American history. Now, Muslims have joined the blacklist.

The United States is the best country on the planet. We should all take pride in the fact that our democratic republic is the longest-surviving in history. With over 300 million citizens, we’re a melting pot of tradition, art, religion and language. We’ve sent men to the moon and cured diseases that once devastated countless lives.

We don’t always agree with each other and that’s one of the most beautiful things about this country: We’re free to disagree and protest amongst ourselves and our government.

However, when irrationality and bigotry cloud one’s judgement, the end result is ugly. Instead of peaceably having an enlightened discussion, some resort to name-calling and prejudice and while we do have the freedom to protest this way, it doesn’t change the fact that behaving in such a manner is an embarrassment to the nation.

While many are using fear and an “us vs. them” argument, my hope is that those who have remained silent during this controversy will speak up. Together, let’s drown out the ignorance.

Correction to my post on the “Ground Zero” mosque

On my last post, I expressed my personal view of the supposed “Ground Zero” mosque that has been all over the news recently.

I must correct an embarrassing error: The mosque is actually not on the Ground Zero site itself but a few blocks away. And not only is a mosque planned, but an Islamic cultural center as well.

In the light of this updated information and after giving the issue some more thought, I have to say that my opinion has changed.

Peaceful Muslims are trying to bridge the vast gap  between two different cultures. In a way, they are showing that they are not only sorry for the extremists who murdered thousands of Americans but also very interested in showing a brand of Islam to the American people that is frequently forgotten: A peaceful religion that is able to coexist with Western society.

In the name of peace, I hope that this works. I have nothing but disdain for the violence and brainwashing that fundamentalism and extremism preach…and that goes for all religions. Whenever the Mother Teresas and Benazir Bhuttos of the world speak up and make a difference, progress is made. In order for the world to move forward, the twin demons of extremism and fundamentalism must die out like the dinosaurs.

That’s my two cents.

My Two Cents on the Ground Zero Mosque

I don’t have too much to say about the Ground Zero Mosque controversy, only that I think it’s horribly ironic.

On the very site where religious fanatics slaughtered thousands of Americans in accordance with their warped teachings, a mosque is being built.

Before I start getting hateful mail, let me clarify: Yes, I am aware that not all Muslims are terrorists and yes, I realize that peaceful, moderate Muslims are wanting the mosque constructed at the site. It should also be noted that I support their right to freely practice their religion. If they have the money and authorization to build the mosque then by all means, they can build it.

However, I have personal “reservations.” In my opinion, Islam is one of the most bloodthirsty, cultic and fanatical religions in the world. Not only does their holy book tell them to murder infidels, but it makes the goal of Islam to conquer the world.

Look to Islamic societies: Women are seen as inferior, weak, stupid, child-bearing objects. In some Muslim cultures, pre-pubescent girls have their clitoris violently removed in barbaric rituals. People of other religions, particularly of the Jewish and Christian variety, are seen as vermin that must be exterminated. Gays are killed or imprisoned for life for being gay.

At its worst, Islam is a dangerous cult that is responsible for the deaths of countless numbers. Holy wars, regional conflicts, societal extremes…this is what Islam is in its purest form.

American Muslims have every right to practice their religion (without the Klingon-esque barbarism) here in the United States. They have the right to build mosques. However, just because they have the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s necessarily the right thing to do. I wonder how the 3,000 Americans who lost their lives on September 11 to extremism would feel about this.