Sam Harris on Islam(ism?)
My friend Kevin Kim recently quoted some provocative passages from the philosopher Sam Harris on "Islam and the Future of Liberalism," so I visited Mr. Harris's site and read the entire post, from which I draw the following bold words on Muslim 'extremism':
[W]e know that intolerance within the Muslim world extends far beyond the membership of "extremist" groups. Recent events in Afghanistan demonstrate, yet again, that ordinary Afghans grow far more incensed when a copy of the Qur'an gets defaced than when their own children are accidentally killed by our bombs -- or intentionally murdered. I doubt there is a more ominous skewing of priorities to be found in this world . . . . There must be at least 300 million Muslims spread over a hundred countries who think that a person should be put to death for [drawing cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad] . . . . This is based on every poll assessing Muslim opinion I have seen over the past ten years . . . . Should Ayaan Hirsi Ali be killed for her apostasy [from Islam]? Millions of Muslim women would applaud her murder (to say nothing of Muslim men) . . . . There are . . . many nefarious people, [apologists] in both Europe and the U.S., who are eager to keep well-intentioned liberals confused . . . , equating any criticism of Islam with racism or "Islamophobia." The fact that . . . [there are] critics of Islam [who are Islamophobic] . . . does not make these apologists [for Islam] any less cynical or sinister . . . . In every case it is essential to ask, "What would these people [defended by apologists] do if they had the power to do anything they wanted?"To help answer that question, Mr. Harris cites a statement in Article 8 in the Charter of Hamas, the democratically elected Islamist party that governs Gaza:
"Allah is its target [i.e., goal], the Prophet [i.e., Mohammad] is its model, the Koran its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah [i.e., martyrdom] is the loftiest of its wishes."In case this isn't enough to establish Hamas as "a death cult of aspiring martyrs," Mr. Harris then quotes from the same Hamas Charter a well-known hadith -- a tradition about Muhammad -- accepted by Muslims as the Islamic prophet's authentic words:
"The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla [O Slave of Allah], there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Muslim [two respected early compilers of traditions about Muhammad]).Based on this evidence from Hamas's own Charter, Mr. Harris concludes:
"It is only rational . . . for Israel [and Jews generally] to [infer that they are] . . . confronted by a cult of religious sociopaths."From my attention to the statements of Muslim leaders over the past 33 years, ever since the Iranian takeover of the US Embassy in Tehran, when I first focused on Islam and read the Qur'an, I have to reluctantly agree -- there are very many Islamist sociopaths in the world, the problem appears to be growing worse, and not only Jews need be concerned, but all non-Muslims as well as any Muslims who don't conform to Islamist views. You know things are truly bad when experts over the years offer such palliatives as, 'Things aren't quite so bad as they seem.' That's only half-way true -- they're worse.
What then must we do? Offer critique, at the very least. Keep in mind, as Mr. Harris insists, that "[t]he moral high ground here is clear, and we are standing on it" when we defend free speech, freedom of conscience, equal rights, and human rights generally. We need not apologize for our position on such rights, though we do need to be more articulate in defense of these classical liberal traditions.
Lest there be any doubt, we must also understand that our words in defense of human rights will often be met with extreme hostility, even violence, so we must be neither surprised nor intimidated, but continue to speak our minds.