Sam Harris

During a television show with Bill Maher, actor Ben Affleck suggested that comments made by Sam Harris were (among other things) “gross,” “ugly,” and “racist.” What did Harris say that so offended Affleck? Addressing the modern “liberal” (i.e., leftist) movement, Harris said:

Liberals have really failed on the topic of theocracy. They’ll criticize white theocracy, they’ll criticize Christians. They’ll still get agitated over the abortion clinic bombing that happened in 1984. But when you want to talk about the treatment of women and homosexuals and free thinkers and public intellectuals in the Muslim world, I would argue that liberals have failed us. . . . The crucial point of confusion is that we have been sold this meme of “Islamophobia,” where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people. . . . We have to be able to criticize bad ideas, and Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas.

In his follow-up essay on the incident, Harris recognizes that, although many Muslims around the world do not fully embrace the tenets of their faith, and although many Muslims oppose Islamic State and other violent organizations, many of these same Muslims nevertheless hold bad, religiously motivated ideas, and many support (if not actively participate in) violence against infidels, blasphemers, gays, adulterers, and so on. Harris makes this point eloquently with a hypothetical:

I agree that all condemnation of ISIS [Islamic State] is good. But what do you think would happen if we had burned a copy of the Koran on [that night’s television] show? There would be riots in scores of countries. Embassies would fall. In response to our mistreating a book, millions of Muslims would take to the streets, and we would spend the rest of our lives fending off credible threats of murder. But when ISIS crucifies people, buries children alive, and rapes and tortures women by the thousands—all in the name of Islam—the response [among Muslims] is a few small demonstrations in Europe and a hashtag.

Here and elsewhere, Harris states in plain language the truth about the nature of Islam in today’s world. Hopefully many people are hearing him—and will follow his lead.


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