photo blog_head_zpsfzwide7v.jpg
Valar Qringaomis

Get email updates of new posts:        (Delivered by FeedBurner)

Monday, July 04, 2016

Sam Harris on Blaming the West for Everything, Islam, Intentions and Salon

Sam Harris: The ‘Salon’ Interview: Sam Harris

"You can make the list of U.S. crimes and missteps as long as you want, but it still doesn’t explain ISIS. The fact that we invaded Iraq is merely a background condition for a local explosion of jihadist triumphalism and horror—one that is fully explained by a commitment to a specific interpretation of Islamic scripture. Unfortunately, these same ideas are currently addling the brains of people throughout the world who have no terrestrial grievances whatsoever. Medical students and engineers, who are second- and third-generation British citizens, have joined ISIS. There is nothing about Western foreign policy, global capitalism, or white privilege that explains this...

After World War I, for example, countries like Britain and France and Russia constructed the modern Middle East, for reasons of self-interest and without concerns for sectarian rivalries. These agreements prepared the way for much of the political chaos we’ve seen since. In Iraq, for instance, where ISIS was born, the British imposed a Hashimite monarchy which marked the boundaries of the country irrespective of ethnic and religious tensions. We can’t sidestep this history when talking about these problems today; it’s only part of the story but it absolutely matters. Do you agree?

But the religious lunacy and tribalism was already in place—and that is why the West’s careless partitioning of the region was so problematic. I agree that the history of colonialism isn’t pretty. But the example you raise just proves my point. In fact, this practically became a science experiment that dissected out the crucial variable of religion. There are (or were) Christians living in all these beleaguered countries. How many Christian suicide bombers have there been? Where are the Pakistani, Iraqi, Syrian, Egyptian, and Palestinian Christians who are blowing themselves up in crowds of noncombatants? Have there been any? I’m guessing there must have been a few, but the Muslim supply of such people is apparently inexhaustible. In every case, we’re talking about the same people, speaking same language, living in the same places, enduring the same material deprivation. In fact, the Christians of the Middle East have it worse. They’ve not only suffered the legacy of colonialism, they’ve been hounded out of their countries and often killed outright by their Muslim neighbors—and they still haven’t organized themselves into a death cult. What’s the difference that makes the difference? Religion.

We can also look outside the Muslim world to see that mere injustice and inequality rarely produce such destructive behavior. Many countries in Latin America have legitimate grievances against the U.S. Where are the Guatemalan suicide bombers? Where are the Cherokee suicide bombers, for that matter? If oppression were enough, the Tibetans should have been practicing suicidal terrorism against the Chinese for decades. Instead, they practice self-immolation, for reasons that are totally understandable within the context of their own religious beliefs. Again, specific beliefs matter, and we deny this at our peril. If the behavior of Muslim suicide bombers should tell us anything, it’s that certain people really do believe in martyrdom. Let me be very clear about this: I’m not talking about all (or even most) Muslims—I’m talking about jihadists. But all jihadists are Muslim. If even 1 percent of the world’s Muslims are potential jihadists, we have a terrible problem on our hands. I’m not sure how we deal with 16 million aspiring martyrs—but lying to ourselves about the nature of the problem doesn’t seem like the best strategy.

A key difference I see is that Islam is bound up with a civilization and a culture in way that Christianity isn’t, or isn’t any longer. The enlightenment project, the modern scientific revolution – these things prepared the way for secular politics in the West; they made possible Jefferson’s wall. And I don’t think there’s a “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” equivalent in Islam – though perhaps I am mistaken. How significant is this difference and do you think it matters in terms of our expectations and our approach to dealing with the Muslim world?

Yes, these are points I’ve often made. Islam hasn’t suffered the same collisions with secularism and science that Christianity has. And there are also doctrinal differences that make it more impervious to these collisions than Christianity and Judaism were. Unfortunately, the Qur’an doesn’t contain anything like that line from Matthew, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s.” To the contrary, it is difficult to find an Islamic rationale for truly separating religion and politics. Finding a durable basis for such a separation is one of the great challenges of our age, and that’s why I support reformers like Maajid Nawaz, who is attempting to do just that...

You’ve been critical of liberal commentators like Glenn Greenwald, Reza Aslan and Nicholas Kristof. Do you not take any of their points, especially as it relates to blanket condemnations of Islam?

Unfortunately, these people are consistently on the wrong side of the issues. For instance, each of these men, with varying degrees of malice and stupidity, has publicly attacked Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a bigot. And yet Ayaan is a pure victim of Islamic theocracy. She is also a humanist hero who fully recapitulated the Enlightenment project, having been given almost no intellectual tools with which to do it..

People like Greenwald, Aslan, and Kristof attack her for the stridency with which she criticizes the misogyny and intolerance of free thought that are endemic to Islam. Not only do they get the ethics of the situation absolutely wrong, they make her life more dangerous in the process. It is an absolute scandal.

These people are part of what Maajid Nawaz has termed the “regressive Left”—pseudo-liberals who are so blinded by identity politics that they reliably take the side of a backward mob over one of its victims. Rather than protect individual women, apostates, intellectuals, cartoonists, novelists, and true liberals from the intolerance of religious imbeciles, they protect these theocrats from criticism.

The profundity of this moral blindness seems to have achieved an almost crystalline form in the person of Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald is a gay, Jewish atheist who would be murdered three times over in scores of Muslim communities for reasons that are unambiguously religious. And yet, he considers any focus on this particular brand of theocracy—even by someone who has suffered under its shadow as much as Ayaan has—to be a sign of malice toward innocent people. When cartoonists get butchered in Paris to shouts of “We have avenged the Prophet!” Greenwald races to his keyboard to castigate the dead, liberal cartoonists for their (nonexistent) bigotry. He allies himself with a group like the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and works tirelessly to blur the line between legitimate civil rights concerns and theocratic bullying. These are the people who get Ayaan blacklisted from speaking at universities, and Greenwald has publicly stated that there is no group he is prouder to have collaborated with...

I don’t offer any “blanket condemnations” of anything or anyone. I speak about the specific consequences of specific ideas, in so far as they are believed. If 68 percent of British Muslims believe that anyone who “insults Islam” should be prosecuted and punished—then when criticizing the disastrous consequences of that idea for the U.K., I’m talking about those 68 percent. If 30 percent want to live under shari’ah, then I’m talking about precisely those people in that context. These are real poll numbers, by the way, and they’re very troubling...

Intentions are hugely important. In many cases, intention is the only thing that differentiates a truly evil person (or regime) from one who is a mere victim of circumstance. A surgeon performing an appendectomy is not the same as Jack the Ripper just because he’s cutting another person with a knife—and this remains true even if the patient dies. Needless to say, we make such distinctions in our criminal justice system all the time. The difference between first-degree murder, manslaughter, and a tragic accident is largely a matter of what the defendant intended to do and why...

I’m not saying that the Palestinians don’t have any rational grievances against Israel. Of course they do. But their culture has also been poisoned by religious hatred. And this same hatred exists throughout the Muslim world. Ayaan Hirsi Ali remembers being instructed as a teenager in Somalia to pray for the destruction of the Jews. Needless to say, neither she nor her teachers had ever met a Jew. In fact, they had very likely never met anyone who had ever met a Jew. And yet this annihilationist hatred was still central to their worldview...

When four children are blown up on a beach in Gaza by an Israeli missile, one thing should be absolutely clear: The missile went astray. Children were not the target because, even by the most self-interested and cynical calculus, killing Palestinian children is disastrous for Israel... The Israelis currently have the power to kill as many Palestinian children as they want. The fact that they kill so few, amid circumstances that have all the hallmarks of “collateral damage,” tells us something about them. The fact that the Taliban enters a school in Peshawar and methodically butchers 132 kids, after forcing them to watch their teacher being burned alive, tells us something about them.

The regressive Left is blind to these distinctions. For instance, we recently bombed a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, killing 22 doctors, nurses, and patients. This was an utter tragedy—for the bombed, obviously, but also for U.S. foreign policy. It was obviously a mistake (on some level), because bombing this hospital was totally against our interests. The details are still unclear. Perhaps it will prove be a case of criminal negligence. But, judging from my Twitter feed, fans of Noam Chomsky reacted as if President Obama had called a meeting and declared his intention to destroy one of the most beloved charities on earth by murdering its staff en masse.

We are better than our enemies. And the horror is that even such a simple statement of moral fact will be derided as wartime propaganda by many of our readers. Indeed, many will think that even using a term like “enemy” in this (or any) context is a kind of jingoistic outburst. These people take civilization for granted—which is a luxury we can’t always afford. As impossible as it may be to believe, many of our readers think that we are worse than the jihadists. I am long past imagining that there is anything I can say to rectify this sort of moral confusion. (But here goes…)

Simply recall who we’re fighting—groups like al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS. These people kill doctors, aid workers, and journalists on purpose...

The crucial irony to notice here is that it’s people like Greenwald and Aslan who have abandoned the most vulnerable Muslims to theocracy and intolerance. This is what Maajid Nawaz calls the problem of “the minorities within the minorities”—the women, gays, intellectuals, apostates, within the Muslim world who can’t even speak freely for fear of being murdered by their neighbors. I am explicitly making common cause with these people whenever I criticize the Islamic doctrines that are putting their lives in jeopardy...

As long as we’re talking about the regressive Left, it would be remiss of me not to point out how culpable Salon is for giving it a voice. The problem is not limited to the political correctness and masochism I’ve been speaking about—it’s also the practice of outright deception to defame Islam’s critics. To give you one example, I once wrote an article about Islamist violence in which I spoke in glowing terms about Malala Yousafzai. I literally said nothing but good things about her... in response to this encomium, Salon published a piece by the lunatic Murtaza Hussain entitled, “Sam Harris Slurs Malala,” which subjected my views to the same defamatory and dishonest treatment that I’ve come to expect from him. And this sort of thing has been done to me a dozen times on your website. And yet Salon purports to be a forum for the civil discussion of important ideas.

Most readers simply don’t understand how this game is played. If they read an article which states that Sam Harris is a racist, genocidal, xenophobic, pro-torture goon who supported the Iraq war—all of which has been alleged about me in Salon—well, then, it’s assumed that some journalists who work for the website under proper editorial control have actually looked into the matter and feel that they are on firm enough ground to legally say such things. There’s a real confusion about what journalism has become, and I can assure you that very few people realize that much of what appears on your website is produced by malicious freaks who are just blogging in their underpants...

By conflating any focus on Islamism and jihadism with bigotry, there may come a time when only real bigots and Christian theocrats will be willing to address the problem. And they could gain political power because then even sane, secular people might feel that they have no other choice. Just imagine how our political landscape might change if we ever suffered a terrorist attack worse than 9/11...

If you’re going to call me an asshole for publicly doubting that Jesus was born of virgin, please stop complaining that most Americans don’t believe in climate change."
blog comments powered by Disqus
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Latest posts (which you might not see on this page)

powered by Blogger | WordPress by Newwpthemes