I have just finished watching both Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz discuss their book Islam and the Future of Tolerance and was pleasantly surprised.
I don’t recall reading anything by Maajid Nawaz but my introduction to Sam Harris was his 2005 book The End of Faith, a book that disturbed me for reasons I explained in my review back in 2006. Since then I have written a few times in response to anti-Muslim bigotry that has sometimes referred to Harris for its backing. But after viewing the above video I really do hope for something more positive to be coming through Sam Harris in this wider discussion. Harris continues to struggle with his painfully ill-informed views on the nature of religion and the relationship between beliefs and behaviour but — and this is a major step I think — he has moved in his understanding of the difference between Islam and Islamism.
Thanks to his dialogue with Maajid Nawaz. As I said, I don’t recall reading anything by Nawaz but I have from time to time heard negative things. If anything I suspected Nawaz may have been one of those ex-religionists/ex-cultists who turns on his erstwhile faith with as much venom and ignorance as any other bigot could possibly muster. But no, — without knowing any of the background or reasons for criticism, I have to say I agreed with almost everything Maajid Nawaz said in the discussion with Sam Harris. (I maintained my reservation on one detail that I am currently exploring through wider reading.) (Jerry Coyne, sadly, has not moved forward very much, it seems, and is still preoccupied with the negatives of his “apologists for Islam”…. Still, there is hope…. a little…?)
As I listened to the video I took a few notes. The minute markers are only a rough guide — Where I write, say, 12 mins, the relevant section could appear anywhere between 12 and 13 mins or even a little later.
Here are my notes for anyone who wants to see a reason to watch the video for themselves …
My own comments are in [ ]. Notes are rough and ready.
0 mins —
Harris is self-taught in religion, from reading various religious traditions in his 20s.
[Not really understanding how religion works but critical modern studies were not being undertaken and published until around 2000 e.g. Boyer’s Religion Explained]
Harris was pulled up when “people started flying planes into buildings on the basis of explicitly held religious beliefs.”
[Still speaks of this act and its reason as an explanatory fact. Not a good start… but wait…]
3 mins —
Harris decided it doesn’t make much sense to talk about religion generally. There are specific beliefs in specific religions that need addressing — problems are not all just because of U.S. adventures in the Holy Lands.
[Harris’s “doesn’t make much sense” leap has not been informed by the studies. Perhaps he really hasn’t read anything of the research and advances being made in this field since 2001.]
MN: Sam not a bigot because likes Sufi music