Archive for Sam Harris

Chris Stedman: Sam Harris, Will You Visit A Mosque With Me?

Posted in Anti-Loons, Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2012 by loonwatch

Chris_Stedman_2011

Chris Stedman

A vey good piece by Chris Stedman. He invites Sam Harris to leave his comfort zone, the bully pulpit of his blog, and come experience meeting real, life Muslims, the one he’s eager to have profiled (H/T: CriticalDragon):

by Chris Stedman (Huffington Post)

Sam Harris–I know you’re a busy man, but I’d like to ask you out. Will you go to mosque with me?

I’m not trying to convert you to Islam. Like you, I’m not a Muslim. Like you, I don’t believe in any gods. I’m happily, openly atheist. A queer atheist, even. Like you, I have many significant concerns about Islamic beliefs and practices. But still, I want to visit a mosque with you.

We don’t have to go alone–we could go with Mustafa Abdullah, a young community organizer in Winston-Salem, North Carolina who is currently campaigning against the state’s proposed anti-gay Amendment One. We could attend with Najeeba Syeed-Miller, a teacher and activist who has dedicated her life to peacebuilding initiatives. Or we could go with Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, who is committed to promoting pluralism and opposing bigotry, and who regularly speaks up for atheists as a religious minority in the United States.

Why am I inviting you to visit a mosque with me and my friends? Since I’m asking you publicly (I couldn’t find your phone number anywhere and I’m pretty sure this MySpace page isn’t really you), I should probably give some context.

A few weeks ago I saw you speak at the Global Atheist Convention in Melbourne, Australia. Before I go on, I need to confess: your remarks blew me away. In a weekend full of incredible intellects, your frank, contemplative, eloquent speech on death, grief, and mindfulness was easily my favorite. So I was not prepared for the crushing disappointment I felt when, just a few weeks later, you published a piece called “In Defense of Profiling” in which you unequivocally stated: “We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.”

Never mind that your argument doesn’t hold water–to quote my friend Hind Makki: “What does a Muslim look like? The 9/11 hijackers didn’t have beards and ‘dressed Western.’ The shoe bomber wasn’t Arab or South Asian. Sikhs wear turbans. The majority of American Muslim women don’t wear hijab. The majority of Arab Americans are Christian–though they often share the same names as their Muslim counterparts. Perhaps Harris would support an initiative that required all Muslims to sew a crescent and star onto our clothes. It would make his airport security time a more pleasant experience. (Though, I suppose, it wouldn’t have stopped McVeigh or Breivik.)” Though as a frequent traveler I share your frustrations with the TSA, profiling doesn’t make sense as a solution to its problems.

Instead, while we’re en route to mosque, I’d like to talk to you about something else. As I read your piece, which (along with the clarifying addendum you tacked on a few days later) failed to explain how you would determine who “looks… Muslim,” I thought back to another moment at the Global Atheist Convention a few weeks ago. As you were speaking, rumors began to fly that a group of extremist Muslims would be protesting the convention. Sure enough, a group of less than a dozen appeared just a short while later, holding signs that said “Atheists go to hell” and shouting horrible things. But to my dismay, their hate was mirrored by hundreds of conference attendees, some of whom shouted things like “go back to the middle east, you pedophiles,” tweeting ”maybe the Muslim protesters [are] gay so [they] don’t have wives? … A lot are/were camel shaggers,” and wearing shirts that said “Too stupid for science? Try religion.” Watching the scene unfold, I was reminded of how much work there is to be done in combating prejudice between the religious and the nonreligious.

I’m not sure you share my concerns about this divide. In fact, last year you wrote this about the 2011 attacks orchestrated by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway that resulted in the deaths of over 70 people:

One can only hope that the horror and outrage provoked by Breivik’s behavior will temper the growing enthusiasm for right-wing, racist nationalism in Europe. However, one now fears the swing of another pendulum: We are bound to hear a lot of deluded talk about the dangers of “Islamophobia” and about the need to address the threat of “terrorism” in purely generic terms.

In the wake of an atrocity of unimaginable proportions–one perpetrated by an anti-Muslim terrorist who was influenced by anti-Muslim writers–I could not believe that you decided to write a blog suggesting that the real problem is the fight against Islamophobia.

Whether you think so or not, Sam, Islamophobia is quite real. The American Muslim community experiences disproportionately high rates of discrimination and violence, and Islamophobic rhetoric has a significant bearing on this. This from a detailed report on the network of Islamophobia in America: “According to former CIA officer and terrorism consultant Marc Sageman, just as religious extremism ‘is the infrastructure from which Al Qaeda emerged,’ the writings of these anti-Muslim misinformation experts are ‘the infrastructure from which Breivik emerged.’”

As a society, we need to acknowledge the reality of the consequences of Islamophobia. As one Norwegian Muslim recently said:

“I think it is good and healthy that this comes out,” he told AFP in a telephone interview, arguing that Breivik built his ideology largely on the basis of Islam-critical writings in the media and online and rumors he has heard about violent Muslims. “This should help show people that this kind of rhetoric can be very, very dangerous. It is a wake-up call, and I think many people will moderate the way they talk about these things.”

We desperately need to discuss these things. An argument I frequently hear from atheists is that if moderate Muslims really exist, they need to speak out more. The problem is that Muslims are speaking out against extremists who cite Islam as their inspiration. Need some examples? ThereAreSoManyThat.ICan’tLinkToThemAll. (But those eleven are a good start.)

The real problem is the Islamophobic misinformation machine, supported by our conflict-driven media. Stories of Muslims engaging in peaceful faith-inspired endeavors don’t sell nearly as well as stories of attempted Times Square bombings. Yet even coverage of violent stories is skewed against Muslims: for example, the mainstream media largely ignores violence against Muslims, such as when a mosque in Florida was bombed. (Just imagine the media frenzy if that had been a Muslim bombing a church.) The press also ignores stories of Muslim heroism, such as the fact that the man who stopped the Times Square bomber was himself a Muslim. Perhaps we perceive Islam as inherently violent, and imagine that an “Islam versus the West” clash of civilizations is inevitable, because our perspective is shaped by the warped way the media reports on Islam.

The feeling that we need to profile “Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim,” as you wrote–that Muslim Americans are dangerous and should be viewed with suspicion–is an outgrowth of the Islamophobic misinformation that proliferates our culture. I’m proud to say that nontheist organizations like the Center for Inquiry, the American Humanist Association, and the Institute for Science and Human Values recognize this, which is why just last week they signed on to a letter (alongside many interfaith and religious organizations) decrying racial and religious profiling.

The idea that we should single out Muslims is a misguided and damaging one, and it has serious ramifications for the Muslim community. After the thwarted “Christmas tree” bombing by a young Muslim in Portland, OR, Eboo Patel wrote:

It would be perfectly understandable if, in this time of Muslim terrorism and Islamophobia, everyday Muslims tried to slink into the shadows, to hide in the mosque. But it would be a huge mistake. Now more than ever, we need Muslim community leaders to be loud and proud about Islam’s glories, to inspire a new generation to follow in the footsteps of the Muslim heroes who bent the arc of the universe towards justice.

As Muslims become more and more marginalized, that will be increasingly difficult. When I posted a link to Patel’s column on my Facebook page, a friend commented on the FBI’s involvement in the Portland incident, and a subsequent arson attack on a Portland-area mosque: “I’m starting to wonder how any of this makes our country more secure or keeps our citizens safe. It certainly made things more dangerous for Muslims in Corvallis.”

I look around and I see a country deeply divided over the place of Muslims in America’s civic landscape–a nation roiling with fear and uncertainty, where hundreds of people will crowd outside of a benefit for a Muslim relief organization and scream things like “go home” and “terrorist” while waving American flags. That despicable display of anti-Muslim hate didn’t really make the news either, by the way.

Profiling feeds this fear and paranoia, and it plays right into the notion held by the tiny percentage of Muslims who are extremists that all Muslims are under attack and need to be defended. It is truly dangerous territory, and not just for Muslims–the recent congressional “Muslim radicalization” hearings in the U.S. echo the anti-gay “lavender scare” and the explicitly anti-atheist undertones of the “red scare” in the 1950s. As a gay atheist, I recognize that it could just as easily be me who is targeted.

But I do have hope, Sam. I’m currently reading a wonderful book called The Young Atheist’s Handbook by Alom Shaha–I could lend it to you after our mosque visit. In the book, Shaha writes about growing up Muslim and later becoming an atheist. In the fourth chapter of the book, he touches on the tragedy in Norway and delves into a lengthy, must-read exposition of the ugly reality of Islamophobia in the U.K., Australia, and the United States. In it, he points to the major role the media has played in guiding the narrative that says that Muslims are a monolithic, loathsome bloc–or as Shaha wrote, a perspective that “see[s] all Muslims as the same, and completely fail[s] to acknowledge the diversity and differences in values that are held by the millions of Muslims in the world.” Shaha goes on to write:

You may wonder why, if I no longer identify as Muslim, I care so deeply about this… Although I am an atheist, I nevertheless find it distressing that people can be contemptuous of all Muslims based on their own prejudices about what it means to be Muslim. Some atheists are guilty of this ideological categorization, too, and it bothers me that some of those who really should know better feel that Muslims and non-Muslims cannot, by definition, get along. I suspect this is a point on which I differ from more-hardline atheists, but perhaps my own experience of being judged for my skin colour has made me acutely sensitive to such judgments being exercised upon others.

Shaha is definitely on to something. Over the last few years, I’ve watched with despair as an increasing, increasingly-less-subtle xenophobic anti-Muslim undercurrent has spread throughout the atheist movement, cloaked by intellectual arguments against Islam’s metaphysical claims and practices and rallying cries in defense of free speech. Though it has been spreading throughout our broader culture, I’m especially disheartened to see it among my fellow atheists. At my first American Atheists conference, for example, I witnessed a crowd of people shout things like “show us some ankle” at three women wearing burkas for a satirical musical performance. It’s one thing to critique Islam; but the glee I saw in some of their faces as people whistled and shouted “take it off” was something else.

Writing about an incident where an American Atheists State Director posted an Islamophobic rant to their official Facebook page, atheist blogger Hemant Mehta said:

It’s always a touchy subject when atheists go after Islam… because people have to be very careful that they don’t stereotype all followers of Islam as if they’re all extremists. Our society does a terrible job of this. Atheists, especially when they’re ‘leaders’ among us, ought to know better than to fall into that trap.

You ought to know better, Sam. Your insistence that Islamophobia isn’t a problem and your willingness to play into the irrational anxieties of those who fear Muslims is irresponsible and dangerous. With your great reach, you have the opportunity to build bridges of understanding–instead, you have chosen to make the dividing lines that keep our communities apart that much thicker.

Read the rest….

Sam Harris, “Profile the Muslim Looking People!”

Posted in Feature, Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 2, 2012 by loonwatch

Sam Harris continues the absurdist act that he has something intelligent to say when it comes to topics other than Neuroscience. We also learn that he possesses a 9mm, and travels with 75 rounds of ammunition, if the religion-bashing industry doesn’t work out maybe he can be the new spokesman for the NRA?

In a recent blog post, the pop Atheist guru writes that “we” should specifically profile Muslims at airports, and “be honest about it.” He is sick of the “tyranny of fairness” in which airport security searches people randomly when we all know that it’s the “Mooslims” who want to kill everyone on the plane. He concedes that he hasn’t “had to endure the experience of being continually profiled…”, and that he would find it “frustrating” if he had, but if someone looks like they may commit a crime (based on their ethnic appearance), they should be targeted for extra scrutiny.He uses the comedian Ben Stiller’s appearance as an example:

“But if someone who looked vaguely like Ben Stiller were wanted for crimes against humanity, I would understand if I turned a few heads at the airport. However, if I were forced to wait in line behind a sham search of everyone else, I would surely resent this additional theft of my time.”

Attempting to speak on behalf of the very people he wants profiled, he implies that Muslims should “welcome” profiling, at the very least it would “save them time!”

He goes on;

We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.

Maybe Sam will want Muslims to wear crescent and star badges so as to be identified as “Muslim?” By saying “conceivably be Muslim” Sam is really saying any Brown, Middle Eastern or South Asian looking person, perhaps someone with a turban?

In a very poor attempt to soften the racialist tone, he adds this caveat;

And, again, I wouldn’t put someone who looks like me entirely outside the bull’s-eye (after all, what would Adam Gadahn look like if he cleaned himself up?)… (emphasis added)

As with most advocates of procedures that single out specific people for harassment, Sam Harris himself doesn’t have to experience the frustration that comes from this harassment. It’s easy to say, “Muslims should just cooperate and make it easier on themselves and everybody else” when one doesn’t have to experience such situations, multiple times, themselves.

He recounts earlier in the blog post an ironic experience he had at the airport whereby he “accidentally” smuggled nearly 75 rounds of ammunition past the inspectors, while a three-year old was momentarily taken from her family so that her sandals could be inspected.

I once accidentally used a bag for carry-on in which I had once stored a handgun—and passed through three airport checkpoints with nearly 75 rounds of 9 mm ammunition.

Question: What the hell is Sam Harris doing with 75 rounds of ammunition?

As of today (May 1st), he has added an addendum to his blog, complaining that some people didn’t take too kindly to his simply presenting the “facts” as he sees them. One of those basic “facts” is;

“…that, in the year 2012, suicidal terrorism is overwhelmingly a Muslim phenomenon. If you grant this, it follows that applying equal scrutiny to Mennonites would be a dangerous waste of time.”

He must have not read the report which stated that only 6% of terrorist acts committed in the United States from 1980-2005 years were committed by Muslims, and that even in 2012 an American is more likely to get struck by lightning than to be killed/hurt by a Muslim terrorist.

He goes on;

“1. When I speak of profiling “Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim,” I am not narrowly focused on people with dark skin. In fact, I included myself in the description of the type of person I think should be profiled (twice). To say that ethnicity, gender, age, nationality, dress, traveling companions, behavior in the terminal, and other outward appearances offer no indication of a person’s beliefs or terrorist potential is either quite crazy or totally dishonest.”

Well that’s a sigh of relief! It’s not “just” dark-skinned Muslims that he wants to be profiled, but all Muslims! What universalistic spirit!

It has already been established that the more “Muslim” a person looks at the airport, the less likely they are to attempt anything violent on the plane. It simply would make no sense for a person to raise a thousand red flags in the minds of airport security, before they even board the plane. The entire point of a terrorist is to accomplish their goal, not to raise the suspicions of everyone around them before they get the chance to do so.

Since the stereotypical image of a Muslim in the minds of many is that of a “dark-skinned man of the Orient,” Muslim profiling is for all practical purposes racial profiling.

Juan Cole wrote about this on his blog nearly a year ago, when two Muslim clerics were forced to exit a plane because the pilot refused to fly if they were still on board;

“The terrorist costume is a simulated reality, circulated in Hollywood and countless news broadcasts, that evokes a causal relation between appearance and action. The terrorist costume is familiar to nearly all Americans: a thick beard, an ashen robe, brown skin, sandals holding dirty feet, and some sort of headgear, usually a turban (Sikh style, of course). The terrorist wearing this costume often sports a Qu’ran, so the audience can be certain that he is a Muslim.

Yet the acts of terrorism that have been committed by radicals of Muslim heritage involved perpetrators, like Mohamed Atta, who didn’t at all resemble the image of the Hollywood terrorist. Rahman and Zaghloul dressed in a way that set off alarms in some of their American co-passengers because the latter entertained Orientalist fantasies. Ironically, Muslim-American clerics are among the more law-abiding people in the country.”

Harris’s pro-profiling views are not shocking to anyone who knows his history of loonieness. Harris after all is the same unprincipled and bigoted individual, who has, as Bob Pitt noted;

backed Geert Wilders, joined the hysterical campaign against the so-called Ground Zero mosque and claimed that “the people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.”

Anti-Muslim and Faux Liberal Sam Harris to Debate Dr. Robert Pape Soon?

Posted in Feature, Loon People with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 18, 2012 by loonwatch

Sam Harris, considered one of the “four horsemen” (now perhaps the “three horsemen” after the death of Christopher Hitchens) of the cult of new age atheism may be set to debate Dr. Robert Pape, or so he claims on his website:

Almost invariably, I am urged to read the work of Robert A. Pape. Pape is the author of a very influential paper, “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism” (American Political Science Review 97, no. 3, 2003), and the book Dying to Win, in which he argues that suicide bombing is best understood as a strategic means to achieve certain well-defined nationalist goals and should not be considered a consequence of religious ideology. No one has done more to convince my fellow liberals that if we just behaved ourselves on the world stage, our problems with Islam would go away. I am happy to say that Pape has agreed to discuss these issues with me on this page in the coming weeks. Stay tuned…

I don’t believe Sam Harris belongs on the same stage or platform with Pape discussing these issues. He has no study in the field of “suicide terrorism,” he is a novice going up against an academic who has researched and critically analyzed the issue from various angles, and whose work has been the subject of intense scrutiny and peer review.

The tone and tenor in which Harris discusses his possible future encounter with Pape is revelatory in the sense that it exposes the fact that Harris’s mind is already made up. He is not interested in a real dialogue or conversation nor does he seem to be open to the possibility of changing his mind. Harris, like all dogmatists, has already arrived at his conclusion, he is entrenched in his belief that suicide terrorism is largely, if not completely a “consequence of religious ideology.” This is mostly the case because “suicide terrorism” being linked to religious ideology is vital to his claim that Islam is “uniquely” violent and should be held to a different level of scrutiny than other religions.

This recalls a prescient point Reza Aslan made in his interview with us when questioned about his encounter with Sam Harris:

There is no doubt Sam Harris is a smart guy, he has a PhD in neuro-science. You can be a smart guy and be ignorant about particular topics and issues. The problem with Sam Harris is that he tends to write about the things he is ignorant about, (laughs) I think Sam Harris should stick to writing about neuro-science, I think his last book was great. When Sam Harris writes about neuro-science, in other words his expertise, I think it’s great, I love reading his work. When he talks about religion, a topic he knows nothing about, that he’s never studied as an academic discipline, that he’s done no field research in whatsoever, and in which he frankly is unqualified to opine about, that’s the problem. I don’t write about nero-Science because I’m not a neuro-scientist.

Either way, it seems Pape has accepted Harris’s request to debate and it will be interesting to see the correspondence between the two. For Harris it may turn into a similar humiliation as the one he received when going head-to-head with Scott Atran:

******************************************

Lastly, I want to say a few words about the article in which Harris reveals he may be debating Pape. Harris titled the article, Islam and the Future of Liberalism, in it he essentially repeats many of his common, uncritical, and by now, well worn attacks on Islam and Muslims.

Like the predictable Islamophobe that he is, he illustrates his post with this image:

Orientalism 101 anyone?

Yes Sam, Afghan women in burqas is a really great way to illustrate the “threat” of  liberalism accommodating “evil Islam.” Can somebody send Harris, Edward Said‘s Covering Islam? He’s got some readin’ to do.

Harris writes,

I appear to have left many viewers with the impression that I believe we invaded Afghanistan for the purpose of rescuing its women from the Taliban. However, the points I was actually making were rather different: I think that abandoning these women to the Taliban is one of the things that make our inevitable retreat from Afghanistan ethically problematic. I also believe that wherever we can feasibly stop the abuse of women and girls, we should. An ability to do this in places like Afghanistan, and throughout the world, would be one of the benefits of having a global civil society and a genuine regime of international law.

Here is another instance of Harris posturing as an expert on an issue that he is wholly unprepared to discuss, mostly due to his lack of understanding.

Here are some facts for Sam to ponder: 1.) Afghanistan is a tribally based culture, following tribal customs and norms that are ingrained within society and which formed over thousands of years, you are not going to transform that over night, and you are definitely not going to do so with ‘smart bombs’ 2.) Who did the US replace the Taliban with? Northern Alliance war lords, many of whom are the most egregious violators TO THIS DAY of women’s rights. When they ruled before the Taliban child rape was endemic, as it has become once again today. 3.) Changing attitudes towards women can only happen from within society, unless Harris is advocating the removal of women and girls from their husbands, fathers and brothers? Oh wait, he has pondered such stupidity in the past.

Harris is not finished with the inanities, he writes,

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.

Excuse me for how inarticulate I am about to become, but this must be said: Sam Harris is a S**THEAD. Harris dehumanizes Afghans, to him they are a bunch of dirty savages who cannot even properly mourn or balance their outrage. Regardless of what Harris says, yes, Afghans are very upset that they are being occupied and murdered by an invading foreign nation. The recent protests were not only in response to Qur’an burnings as Harris would have us believe, but as we noted: the murder, maiming and jailing of innocent Afghan civilians!

Harris continues the Islamophobic, anti-Muslim drivel in the rest of the article. He pushes the myth about the silent “millions” of moderate Muslims who are too “afraid” to speak out against violence in the name of their faith. He says that he finds the concept of a Jewish State “obnoxious,” but he immediately contradicts himself writing, “But if ever a state organized around a religion was justified, it is the Jewish state of Israel, given the world’s propensity for genocidal anti-Semitism.”

Profound double standards but that is something Harris has in common with the rest of his Islamophobic buddies in the anti-Muslim movement and hence comes as no surprise.

Exclusive Loonwatch Interview with Reza Aslan

Posted in Anti-Loons, Feature with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 22, 2011 by loonwatch

Recently we sat down with Muslim scholar and best selling author Reza Aslan for an in-depth interview on a wide range of issues. This is the first in what will hopefully be a longstanding series of interviews that are planned with high profile scholars and movers and shakers in pop culture.

We covered Reza’s days as a break dancer, conversion to Christianity and return to Islam, his thoughts on Islamophobia, Robert Spencer, the Arab Spring, reformation of Islam and the current saber-rattling with Iran.

It was a fascinating and hilarious interview and I think you will find we covered new ground, such as the breaking news that Reza is willing to finally reciprocate Robert Spencer’s man crush!

Loonwatch (LW): I heard you used to break dance?

Reza Aslan (RA): Yes, (laughter) I used to be a break dancer. My name used to be El Penguin, because I was so bow legged.

LW: Did you ever graduate to doing head spins and flares?

RA: I could do a really poor head spin but it was definitely not my forte with my footwork. I was in a (laugh) break dance troupe called Etron, which was Norte spelled backwards because we were on the north side of Fresno.

LW: Do you still break once in a while?

RA: Hell no. If I tried to break dance today I would definitely break something. Oh, I could still pop-block with the best of them but break dancing, no.

LW: We heard in the course of one of your interviews that you converted to Evangelical Christianity at one point in your life?

RA: Yes, when I was 15 years old…

LW: Were you practicing taqiyyah?

RA: Yes. (laughter) My entire life is just one big practice of taqiyyah. Like everything I do as a human being.

Actually, it was part of this group called Young Life, pretty famous nation-wide group. They go into High Schools and Junior High Schools and they evangelize. I went to this summer camp where you hear the Gospel message, and yeah when I was 15 years old, a sophomore, and so it was before my sophomore year of HS. Yeah, I found Jesus, he was awesome.

LW: How was that, what was that experience like when you were an Evangelical?

RA: It’s magical! The thing about Evangelical Christianity and why I think it is so appealing, particularly to young people is that I mean it is just such a brilliant and profoundly moving story. There is a reason why it is called the greatest story ever told, right? That God had this physical son, like His little baby boy you know that came down to earth and because you yourself are such an awful human being, because of all the terrible things you do, God decided to have His son tortured and murdered in order to save you from yourself and that if you don’t accept that story, not only are you spitting in God’s face but oh yeah you are also going to burn in hell for all eternity.

It’s an amazing story, that’s why it is so appealing. Now the important thing to understand is that is what it precisely is, a story. I am not by any means discounting it or criticizing it. All religion is story, all mythology is story but that is a particularly good one, and it’s a story, I think particularly for young people looking for easy answers to complicated questions can flock to, and the last 2000 years are testimony to that.

LW: That is quite profound. I was wondering, going from that to becoming an Islamic scholar and someone who regularly speaks on Islam, how did you return to Islam? Was it a going back to your roots?

RA: Well, after High School, like most people who are introduced to Evangelical Christianity when they’re kids then go to college you realize, “oh wow, a lot of the stuff that I was told by my youth leaders and my pastors was kind of nonsense actually” and so you begin to question those issues, question those ideas.

I went to a Catholic College, a Jesuit Catholic College and began studying the Bible and particularly the New Testament from a scholarly perspective and the more I kept studying the more I realized almost everything I was told about the Bible and about the New Testament and frankly about the Gospel story was false. More importantly the truth behind the Gospel story, the truth behind who Jesus was and what Jesus really said was far more interesting, far more profound and frankly far more appealing than the false notions of it that I was fed as a kid. So throughout my early years in college I decided to get a degree in Biblical Studies. I became fluent in Greek and became a young scholar about the origins of Christianity and the historical Jesus and then when I graduated I was heading off to Harvard to get a Masters degree in that topic when one of my undergraduate professors, one of my mentors, Katherine Bell sat me down and basically said, “Why aren’t you studying Islam?” and I said “what do you mean?”

She basically said something at the time that really changed my life, which was by the time I get my PhD in Bibilical Studies no one is going to care about Biblical Studies anymore, everyone is going to want to have scholars and experts on Islam. You know, this was in 1995 when she said this, she obviously was quite prescient in what she was talking about. She gave me a couple of books and obviously my family was nominally Muslim, well not really, culturally Muslim, just as most Christians are culturally Christian and I had grown up surrounded by Muslim culture, so I was somewhat familiar with it, but of course like most people of a particular religion I really knew nothing about the religion that I “called my own.”

I spent the summer before I went off to Harvard just reading some books about Islam, reading the Quran really for the first time as an adult and the more I started reading about it, the history, the theology, the Quranic studies, the more I was just kind of excited about it. I always talk about how I had an emotional conversion to Christianity but a rational conversion to Islam. Reading about the way Islam talks about the divine and the relationship between human beings and God and conceptions of the universe and ideas of the transcendent, these made a hell of a lot more sense to me cosmologically speaking than some old man in the sky impregnated a virgin and His son came out and died for us.

It’s just that the symbols of Islam suddenly broke through and made sense to me in a way that traditional Protestant Christianity never really did, and then when I entered Harvard the first day of class I had to get all new classes and change my advisers and tell everyone, “by the way I am not here to do what I told everyone I was going to do, instead I am going to study Islam.”

LW: Wow, fascinating, you don’t hear today, discussion about Islam and rationality often…

RA: There is no more rational religion than Islam. Islam is founded upon reason and rationality, very much like Judaism. You have to understand that Islam and Judaism are legalistic religions, Christianity is a creedal religion. Christianity is all about belief, right? In fact, if you are a Catholic that creedal formulation is a complex formula, “I believe in God the Father maker of heaven and earth, I believe in Jesus His only begotten son, I believe in the Holy Spirit, I believe in the Holy Apostolic Church, etc. etc.”

In Judaism and Islam there is no creedal statement as such. In Islam the creedal statement is as simplistic as it possibly can get. “There is no god but God, Muhammad is God’s messenger,” that’s the sum in total of creed when it comes to Islam, as a result both Islam and Judaism developed as highly legalistic religions. In legalistic religions the people who usually control the interpretation are scholars. In a creedal religion the people who control interpretation are preachers, priests and pastors, you see what I mean?

In other words, and by no means am I saying priests aren’t intelligent, of course they are, and often times they go through enormous amounts of religious training, but their job is to shepherd a flock, not to deal with the very high rational concepts of legal theory that is born from a religion founded on orthopraxy, correct practice instead of orthodoxy, correct belief.

It’s just another wide spread misperception in the United States about Islam, that Islam is a religion that cannot reconcile reason and faith.

The only real global religion which has dealt with that problem really is Christianity. I mean if you are talking about Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine and all the way to Paul Tillick and Reinhold Niebuhr, these are the great Christian theologians that for thousands of years have been struggling to reconcile faith and reason. That hasn’t really been that strong of an argument in Judaism and Islam, the argument has been about the different “rational answers” that are possible to the various questions, theological questions that Islam and Judaism bring up, but the question is not should reason even play a role.

LW: It seemed the Pope didn’t help that case with the Regensburg Address. What was he after with that? When Pope Benedict made that speech, he used Islam as a counter example to Christian rationality.

RA: Yeah, that’s the thing. Of course the Pope was advancing an old Papal argument against Islam that goes back to the Crusades, but again what the Pope is talking about is it took Christianity 1600-1700 years to reconcile  reason and faith and so therefore Islam needs to do the same, without recognizing that during those 1700 years in which reason and faith were divorced in Christianity, they were married very well in both Islam and Judaism.

LW: This might be a good time to segway to the Anti-Muslim Catholic polemicist Robert Spencer, one of the premiere Islamophobes today. He is funded by the David Horowitz Freedom Center, which in turn is funded by right-wing foundations, you’ve probably read about this in the Fear Inc. report already. We’ve been tracking him and what he says about you…

RA: Oh yeah he is in love with me.

LW: (laugh)He calls you all sorts of names, calling you a “metrosexual,” “boy Reza Aslan,” “Bright Young Muslim Thing,” “little boy Reza,” “pathetic little Islamic Supremacist Reza,” “pseudo-Moderate,” etc. What is behind all this name calling, he seems to have a crush on you?

RA: I do think he has a crush on me. As a lot of people know, this guy is someone who poses as some sort of pseudo-scholar because he has a one year Masters degree from a school in North Carolina and because of that a lot of people let him get away with the asinine things that he says. I think I was probably the first person to utterly embarrass and shame him on national television and since that time he has taken all the internal feelings of inadequacies that I am sure he has, poured it all out on me and I am perfectly happy with that. The fact of the matter is that if Robert Spencer thinks you are wrong then you got to be right.

I am pleased as punch, every word that Robert Spencer writes about me puts a gigantic smile on my face. You know he used to actually email me his columns as though I actually care, you know, to read the drivel that he writes. We reply to him just making fun of him.

In fact, I’m going to say right now, and you can publish this, I’m kind of in love with Robert Spencer.

(laughs)

There’s something about that giant beer gut and the furry face, there’s this kind of walrus quality to him, that, I don’t know how to say this, that just turns me on, and I think I am pretty sure, that he feels the same about me.

LW: He definitely has a man crush on you.

RA: He definitely has a man crush on me and I guess what I am trying to say is that for the first time I am ready to publicly admit those feelings are reciprocated.

LW: (laughs)This is breaking news.

RA: And I know Robert Spencer reads Loonwatch and I just want him to know: “Robert, I think we may have something here. Robert I think there is a possibility for the two of us to have a future together, this could really be a beautiful love story.” And, if he is willing to finally admit to his true feelings for me, I am in the position now where I can reciprocate those feelings.

LW: Amazing, maybe he will finally admit what he has been feeling all this time.

RA: I think he is ready to admit it. But only if his mom lets him…and by his mom I mean Pamela Geller…

(laughs)

LW: Who in this relationship, between him and Geller, who holds more sway?

RA: Are you kidding me! I’m surprised that in pictures of the two of them that she is not holding a leash.

(laughs)

LW: He is enthralled by her, always defending her loony comments, such as her advocating the nuking of Tehran, Mekka and Medina.

RA: Of course Pamela Geller is known  most for her rationality.

(laughs)

It’s not a surprise to hear those comments. No look…

LW: How does she get away with it?

RA: What do you mean!? This is how the world works, the more insane you are the more attention you get, exhibit A: Herman Cain…this is how it works, but in all honesty I do just want to say I make fun of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer because they are clowns and you are supposed to laugh at clowns.

This idea that these are people who deserve engagement (laughs)…Spencer’s fans email me all the time and say “you’re afraid to debate Robert Spencer.” No, I don’t debate Robert Spencer for the same reason I don’t debate a four year old child because this is not about a conversation. You cannot have a rational conversation with a clown and the fact of the matter is that the reason Robert Spencer is constantly begging people like myself to debate him is because he knows that appearing on the same platform legitimizes his view.

You are not going to have a debate about the African American experience in the United States with the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan (laughs), that person does not belong in that debate. To have him there by definition legitimates his position.

So Spencer, Geller, Emerson, these guys belong in the gutter where they are. That’s where they are, that’s where they belong. They get a lot of attention because Fox News keeps inviting them and good for them. Fox News has become the go to Islamophobic network for these kinds of guys, and that’s great, and they are going to keep preaching to the same choir that watches Fox. Good for them but the notion that these guys somehow belong in the mainstream, that they belong  on a dais debating socio-religious matters with an actual scholar is absurd.

LW: As you know we have been trying to debate Spencer, and as you say he tries to get you guys so he can legitimate his views. However, he has been avoiding our entreaties to debate, why do you think that is.

RA: I’ll tell you why because you’ll make fun of him. You know, I call this the Colbert Principle. People always ask me how do I respond to these anti-Muslim clowns like Geller and Spencer and my answer is I don’t respond to them, I make fun of them. It’s the Colbert Principle, if you respond to the inanities that come out of Robert Spencer’s mouth by definition you are saying that it’s worth a response and it’s not, what it is, is worth making fun of, and in this case I would really like to thank Geller and Spencer for being so easy to make fun of. It’s really effortless.

Robert Spencer and Julius Streicher

LW:   Recently we posted a piece comparing quotes Spencer has made about Islam and Muslims to those by a precursor to the Nazi era, Julius Streicher’s quotes about Jews and Judaism. It’s interesting because if you just change “Jew” to “Muslim” or “Judaism” to “Islam” they are identical. Yet Spencer in one of his posting calls you the modern day “Fritz Kuhn,”  the leader of the American Nazi party. Would you consider this unintended projection on his part?

RA: One thing we shouldn’t forget about these guys is that they have been accused by organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish organizations of being anti-Semitic. It’s not only that they hate Muslims, they like to pretend that they are supporters of Israel, etc. but the statements they have made about Jewish politicians, look at what they have said about Elena Kagan.

Alicia Rosenberg, the Atlantic writer who just wrote a piece on All American Muslim was called a dhimmi Jew by Pamela Geller, I mean these guys are anti-Semites. Again that’s not me, that’s the Southern Poverty Law Center calling them anti-Semites, that’s the anti-Defamation League calling them anti-Semites. I think their words speak for themselves.

LW: I don’t want to spend too much time on Spencer but one thing I did want to bring up is Spencer’s frequent attempts to link you to the “Mullahs” of Iran. He casts aspersions on really what seems to be a great organization that you are a board member of named, NIAC, National Iranian American Council.

RA: It’s a council actually that is trying to keep Iran and the United States from engaging in a global war, so of course they are obviously agents of the Iranian Republic. You know, come on, don’t we all know this.

Yes, I am also ready to admit that my parents brought me here at 7 years old as a sleeper agent and I am going to be activated any moment now, my code word is Cello Kabob, if I hear Cello Kabob then I am immediately activated and then my training as an agent for the Islamic Republic kicks in, so be careful.

LW: (laughs) He links to this group called the Pro-democracy Movement of Iran, I don’t know if you have ever heard of this group, PDMI, we went to their website and it’s a ridiculous website. It has articles on there supporting the Mujahideen-e Khalq.

RA: Exactly, which is all you need to  know. These “pro democracy sites” are run by neo-conservatives, by people with a very clear agenda, the same agenda that they had for Iraq, so the very fact that they support a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of a number of American citizens as well as Iranian citizens, Iranian non-combatants. An organization that has repeatedly been cited for torturing its own members, for brainwashing its own members, for taking children and turning them into armed militants, but the idea that these pro-democracy movements in the United States are supporting the MEK is really the only thing you need to know about these organizations.

LW: All of this exposes a deep hypocrisy when they are badgering Muslim organizations on the flimsiest of guilt by association smears. Regularly calling Muslim Advocates, CAIR, ISNA “Hamas-linked,” this is their favorite trope.

RA: But again this is what I’ve been trying to say, this is just an indication of why these groups do not deserve a response because when they say NIAC is a Hezbollah supporting group, you can’t respond to idiocy, you can’t respond to those kinds of moronic statements, because again that sort of bigotry does not reside in the mind, that bigotry resides somewhere more visceral. It’s much more, it’s something that exists in the gut, in the chest and that kind of feeling can not be deflected by logic, by reason. It’s immune to reason.

LW: Staying on the topic of Iran, there has been a lot of discussion about Iran in the media. Of course not too long ago we had the case of the alleged car dealer mastermind terrorist. One day it was news and the next day it wasn’t, you said about it, “It’s sloppy. It’s uncharacteristic,” … “It really does not serve Iran’s interest in any legitimate way.”

Do you think all this activity regarding Iran is just a preliminary way to pave the way for war with Iran, much in the same way as was done with Iraq?

RA: No. We are not going to war with Iran. Nobody is going to war with Iran, neither the United States or Israel. I can tell you for a fact that Israel is not going to war with Iran because Israel keeps talking about it. If anybody who has studied Israeli politics at all can tell you anything is if Israel talks about bombing Iran then that means it has no intentions of doing it. When the Israelis want you dead you just die, OK.

No one sends an invitation first, no one issues a press release and this is exactly what is going on and I love it, it’s like the media is a monkey that sees something shiny in the corner. There was this great piece that I circulated not too long ago in which it was just a collection of headlines from major newspapers and magazines: the Atlantic, Harpers, New York Times, Los Angeles Times.

A collection of headlines describing imminent war, the imminent bombing of Iranian nuclear sites by Israel and or the United States, the collection was from the last fifteen years, so again, all we have to remember is the cover of Atlantic last month, Jeffrey Goldberg’s article that Israel is six months from bombing Iran. This is every few months, people start to raise this specter that Israel is going to bomb Iran. Israel, America these aren’t stupid countries. They know better than you and I the repercussions of such a conflict. I can show you half a dozen quotes from Ehud Barak himself, the defense minister of Israel stating in no uncertain terms the idiocy of such a campaign. So the idea that he has all of a sudden changed his mind and is planning to bomb Iran is ridiculous, I think this is just what Israel does every few months to ratchet up the pressure on the United States to be more aggressive and robust in trying to counter Iran’s nuclear program.

LW: Well  that really puts it in perspective. So you think it is only saber rattling and positioning within the region.

RA: That’s all it is and that’s all it’s ever been for the last 20 years.

LW: Interesting. OK, to pick your theological brain for a second, Joel Rosenberg wrote this article for Fox News about why Iran’s leaders believe the end of days has come, and this is a regular idea thrown out there by Islamophobes; that we have to fear a dangerous off shoot of Shia’ Eschatology. Is there any truth to this idea?

RA: No. It’s as true as George Bush thinking that Jesus made him president so to bring about the Messiah’s return, people were saying that as well. It doesn’t mean that George Bush didn’t believe that Jesus made him president, it’s not that George Bush didn’t believe the Messiah would return some day, but the notion that, that belief predicated his foreign policy is nuts and the same thing with Iran.

Mahdi

It’s just part of this fear-mongering that has been going on for a very long time and again predicated on this idea that Iran is this irrational actor, that if they manage to get a nuclear weapon, the first thing they would do is commit suicide with it. Of course, don’t you know it! That’s all they want, so that all 75 million Iranians could be nuked off the face of the earth as soon as possible.

Again, the stupidity of that statement speaks for itself. Iran is an oppressive, autocratic, blood-thirsty government that tortures and murders its own citizens, that supports terror organizations around the world because it feels as though it benefits from doing so, but it is not stupid. What your readers should understand more than anything else about the Iranian government is that they care more about their own survival than they care about anything else. So again, these kinds of statements are not the kind made by foreign policy experts, these are not statements by experts in the region, these are statements by the amateurs who read an article one day about the fact that the Shia believe in a Messiah and then continued to regurgitate the same nonsense over and over again and in any case it doesn’t matter because these people have no effect whatsoever on what our government does.

It’s not as though the state department is sitting around wondering what Frank Gaffney thinks about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

LW: One of the topics that you hit upon in your work in No God but God and in speeches and lectures is that Islam is in a reformation period. Seeing the events in the Arab Spring, and the changes sweeping the region how do you see that idea of reform playing a part in these protests, if any?

RA: The reformation of Islam is not something that is new or unique, it has been going on for over one hundred years, and again you have to remember reformation is an actual, technical term. It doesn’t mean reform, what it means is the inevitable conflict that arises in all religious institutions over who has the right to define faith, is it the individuals, or is it the institution itself.

That conflict is ever present, it exists in all religious traditions, but in times of societal stress, in times of social ruptures that conflict jumps to the surface as it did with Temple Judaism in first century Palestine that ultimately resulted in the destruction of the Temple and the construction of Rabbinic Judaism. As it did in the fifteenth and sixteenth century in Europe, in which the conflicts over the Pope’s authority to define Christianity ultimately fractured Christianity into competing sects and schisms based on sola scriptura; that individuals should define what scripture means for themselves, not have the Pope tell them what it means, and it’s been going on in Islam since really the end of the 19th century as a result of the colonial experience in the Middle East and the rapid rise of literacy and education.

So this idea that the Islamic reformation being something new or unique is really borne out of a misunderstanding of what that even means, and so the relationship to what is happening with the so called Arab Spring and the phenomenon that I am talking about and writing about is very clear.

These are kids, these are young people who because of their education, because of their literacy, because of their access to new ideas, new sources of information are no longer interested in the answers given to them about religion and society, whether its by religious institutions, the clerics, the Mullahs or even political organizations such as the Muslim Brotherhood or the National Islamic Front.

Nor are they interested in their governmental institutions at all. What you saw on the streets of Tunisia, Egypt, Syria is not an Islamic Awakening by any means, these people are not calling for Islam, on the contrary the traditional Islamic authorities have been totally left behind by these protests, they didn’t have anything to do in starting them, they didn’t have anything do in perpetuating them and they have nothing to do with defining them so this generation of young people is the inevitable result of a century long process whereby individuals in the Muslim world have begun to decide for themselves without the mediation of any institutional authority, whether religious or governmental, what it means to be Muslim in the modern world, what the answers to Islam are as a result of the rapid changes that are taking place in their society.  I’ve been saying it’s going to happen for over a decade and so those people who were saying the Arab Spring came as a surprise or it wasn’t going to happen weren’t paying attention.

LW: You wrote in Tablet and Pen “The United States has displaced the old colonial powers to become, for better or worse, a dominant and unavoidable presence in the lives of the people of the Middle East. The consequences of American involvement in the region will be felt for many years to come.” How do you think America and our government in particular has reacted to this, do they know what they are doing over there?

RA: No, of course not. The American public? Of course not. I think the American public recognizes that we have had a fairly destructive presence and influence in the Middle East and in the pursuit of our national security and economic interests we’ve made a lot of enemies in that region. So i think most young people know that now, it’s kind of part of the national narrative, whether those young people know how embroiled we still are in the region, and how we still are making disastrous choices not just for the peace and stability of the Middle East, but when it comes to our own safety and security I think for the most part young people are more interested in Snookie’s panties than they are in what is going on in Yemen or Syria.

(laughs)

LW: You debated one of the New Atheists, Sam Harris. Is Sam Harris a smart guy? What were your thoughts about him?

RA: There is no doubt Sam Harris is a smart guy, he has a PhD in neuro-science. You can be a smart guy and be ignorant about particular topics and issues. The problem with Sam Harris is that he tends to write about the things he is ignorant about, (laughs) I think Sam Harris should stick to writing about neuro-science, I think his last book was great. When Sam Harris writes about neuro-science, in other words his expertise, I think it’s great, I love reading his work. When he talks about religion, a topic he knows nothing about, that he’s never studied as an academic discipline, that he’s done no field research in whatsoever, and in which he frankly is unqualified to opine about, that’s the problem. I don’t write about nero-Science because I’m not a neuro-scientist.

LW: On a random note you compared Osama Bin Laden to Freddie Mercury, (laughs) can you expand on that?

RA: Yes, I did, the point I was making was that what made Bin Laden attractive to young people was his personal charisma not his intellectualism or writings on Islam. Again Bin Laden was an engineer. He cannot talk intelligently about Islamic Law, or Philosophy and for the most part he doesn’t do that, what he has, and everyone knows this, even his biggest enemies know this about him, he had this intense magnetic appeal, this charisma that drew people to him.

People like Peter Bergen and Fawaz Gerges, who have met Bin Laden, who have spoken to his followers, who have spoken to people who were on their way to commit suicide on his behalf but were caught, what they find is the same thing, that Sheikh Bin Laden is this mystical being. People talk about dreams in which Sheikh Bin Laden comes to them and tells them to pick up a gun and join the fight, it’s that intense mystical quality that has transformed Bin Laden even after his death into a pop culture phenomenon like Freddie Mercury or the other person I compared him to was Che Guevara. Like Freddi Mercury or Che Guevara who have entered the pop culture zeitgeist in a way that goes beyond their particular talents or their particular ideas.

LW: There is a quote In your book No God but God, you wrote that in 2005…

RA: That’s when it was published…

LW: I found this quote in which you write:
“Simply put, Islam in the United States has become otherized. It has become a receptacle into which can be tossed all the angst and apprehension people feel about the faltering economy, about the new and unfamiliar political order, about the shifting cultural, racial, and religious landscapes that have fundamentally altered the world. Across Europe and North America, whatever is fearful, whatever is foreign, whatever is alien and unsafe is being tagged with the label ‘Islam.’”


RA: That is from the new introduction from the updated version that just was released in 2011…

LW: This is of course still the case today. Are you encouraged that Muslims are breaking through this concept of being “otherized” or their religion being “otherized”?

RA: This is not the first time in America’s history that a religious minority has been otherized and told they are the internal enemy, that they are not American. Every single word that is being said about Muslims today by these radical anti-Muslim zealots was said by anti-Semites in the 1920′s and 30′s about Judaism, by anti-Catholic activists in the 19th century by the Know Nothings and preachers like Lyman Beecher. This is not a new thing, this is what we do in this country, we so often define ourselves, what it means to be American which is of course a malleable and slippery identity by defining ourselves in opposition to somebody else whether: Catholics, Jews, Japanese or Germans and now it is just Muslims.

There should be no question in anyones mind, anyone who has bothered to study  for even a few minutes should know that in a generation from now we are going to look on the anti-Muslim zealots of today, these clowns like Pamlea Geller, Robert Spencer, Frank Gaffney and Steven Emerson with the same exact shame, disdain, mockery and derision that we look back at the anti-Jewish and anti-Catholicism of our past. That’s guaranteed. These guys have always been there, they have always been around, they have always been on the fringes and on the margins and you know in a generation from now when Muslims become as much a part of the American religious fabric, as much as Jews and Catholics have become, I am sure these guys will show up again and start picking on some other religious or cultural minority. This is an issue that they have themselves. They have a psychic problem, bigotry is a psychic problem and it’s part of the human condition, and you know lets not kid ourselves, it’s always going to be around, it’s just that it’s target is going to change.

LW: I think this is good place to wrap up, we have a lot to unpack here. Thank you for your time!

RA: Awesome. Thank you, it’s been my pleasure.

Richard Dawkins: “Islam” is an “Unmitigated Evil”

Posted in Feature, Loon-at-large with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 11, 2011 by loonwatch

Richard Dawkins, well known biologist and pop-atheist-guru (add goofball) recently brought up thequestion of whether or not atheists should support Christian missions in Africa. (hat tip: Rob)

He believes the answer is “still no,” (he doesn’t say why) but since Islam according to him is an “unmitigated evil” and atheism is not going to be making any inroads into Africa anytime soon it is a question worth “raising.”

His logic is based on a crudely partitioned breakdown of religious affiliation in Africa designed by aChristian site:

(Isn’t Dawkins supposed to question these sorts of things?)

Dawkins also believes ‘supporting missions’ may be justified on the basis that ‘the enemy of our enemy is our friend.’ That’s the extent of profundity provided by Dawkins! Such crass and cynical sentiments expose the bankruptcy of ideas and strategy in the leadership of the so-called New Atheists.

The statement is similar to “exposed as a fraud” Ayaan H. Ali’s call for Christian missionaries to evangelize Muslims. Such a call is really just a variation on the well worn Crusader-esque theme best expressed by the likes of Anne Coulter, “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.” (Or the recent statement by Christian Evangelical Bryan Fischer, “Muslims can either convert, or die”).

Don’t you love how some of these loony-out-for-a-buck-and-some-notoriety atheists are so quick to compromise their principles and sit at the table with the most hardcore Bible Thumpers out there? Does anyone think George Carlin would stand for that? Or Tariq Ali? Or As’ad Abu Khalil? Or Cenk Uygur? It just goes to show you that where you are born, your culture and history do have an impact on the decisions and positions you take, no matter how much you claim to be “objective” and motivated by “reason,” and the “scientific method.”

As for his comments that it is a “given” that Islam is “an unmitigated evil in the world today”…wow. First of all, what does that mean about the practitioners of Islam? Does it mean that they are all or mostly or significantly practitioners of “evil?” Because that is the import of Dawkins’ statement, I mean who else puts into reality what Islam is other then the followers of Islam?

Secondly, is anyone else taken aback by the quasi metaphysical language used here by Dawkins? “Unmitigated evil,” is the type of phrase one would expect in the sermon of a Puritan minister or perhaps as one commenter on Dawkins site asks,

Is the Professor now auditioning for a guest shot on Pamela Geller’s website for the barking mad and openly hostile? Very few things in this world are ‘unmitigated evils’: of all the things that might be unmitigated evils, I can absolutely guarantee that a major world religion practiced in a thousand different ways in a thousand different social and cultural contexts is not one of them. The chances of no good at all coming out of such a diverse multiplicity of contexts and forms of practice (that is, of any ‘evil’ not being mitigated) are almost zero. — CallumM

Thirdly, piggy-backing off of the “multiplicity” mentioned by the commenter, is Dawkins totally oblivious to the Arab Spring for instance? You know that thing sweeping the Middle East for the past 5 1/2 months, that many, including Dawkins’ friend Christopher Hitchens thought would fail or sizzle out?

Is it “unmitigated evil” when protesters in Tahrir Square mobilized in the hundreds of thousands, inspired by and chanting the Quranic verse, “God does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves?” Was it “unmitigated evil” when they withstood the worst kinds of state violence and barbarity in prayer together, shoulder to shoulder? Was it “unmitigated evil” when Christians and Muslims united to protect each other?

Dawkins is out of touch with current events, and lets just say he won’t be playing in any Philosophy World Cups any time soon. The man’s field is Biology, he doesn’t know much about anthropology, sociology, history, comparative religions, or philosophy, that is why he and his buddy Sam Harris get their arse handed to them by real intellectuals such as Scott Atran and Robert Pape.

Maybe it is time for Dawkins to spend a little more time humbly learning about Islam and Muslims, engaging with critical intellectuals instead of rabid Islamophobes and probably dissecting a frog or two in the lab he’s been neglecting while pontificating on matters he has no grasp over.