Sam Harris modifies his views on Islam — Encouraging step forward

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by Neil Godfrey

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.]

5 mins —
Harris’s views have been more modified by the conversation with Maajid Nawaz than Maajid’s have been modified.
[Yes. Here is where the movement has happened…. watch what follows…]
6 mins —
Harris admits to different instincts from Maajid — “My instincts are to defer to Maajid” . . .
Responding to the question of whether Islam is a religion of peace or war. Harris explains that the aim of the conversation with Nawaz was to see a way forward. Maajid says it’s neither a religion of war or peace. If we only listened to Nawaz at this point we would think he is indistinguishable from apologists like Reza Aslan — but Maajid doesn’t stop there and admits there is a link between specific ideas and what follows.
12 mins —
Maajid Nawaz [MN] speaking: For some it’s a religion of war, for others it’s a religion of peace. It’s like the US constitution. Today, by majority view of adherents, it’s a religion of peace. But the concern is about a very vocal and organised minority…..
15 mins —
MN: Sam doesn’t stigmatize all Muslims
[These words from MN surprised me; it’s not the message of End of Faith — as I noted in my review. Has SH changed since his discussions with MN?]
18 mins —
Reference to ideas and their consequences
[?Yes and no…?]
19 mins —
MN: The meme of Islamophobia has been thrown up to shut down this necessary conversation.
20 mins —
MN: The moment you try to shine a light on “Islamism” for the purposes of this conversation…. people are upset.
[Is MN talking about a conversation I am not very aware of? My experience has been that Islamophobia applies to bigotry and those who are more interested in angry denunciations — not real discussion of the actual issues from an informed base.]
22 mins —
MN: Emphasis of the book is on reasserting liberalism and civll liberties and human rights – … (majorities to respect minorities but minorities have responsibility to respect majority too)
23 mins —
SH: MN took some time to convince me — But through this keyhold aperture he finally led me to see that there is no true Islam. Islam does not have a pope, etc. …. Such and such a rule or understanding doesn’t apply to all Muslims throughout all time.
24 mins —
MN: the way forward from is secularism
26 mins —
MN: Sometimes out of the most conservative interpretation can come a very liberal result. An example to illustrate– ancient Muslim interpreter took a very literalist meaning of the word for “alcohol”. This originally meant only grape wine. Therefore the ruling was that all other alcohol was legal. There was much greater pluralism in the early years of Islam. The only way forward is to recognise that, and that no-one has the right to claim they have the definitive view on any text.
[This flies agains what many critics of Islam have said in the past, including SH — e.g. that the text can be interpreted only one way and this means that Islam is violent/ ]Muslims will . . . . etc.]
28 mins —
A hope SH has recognized as well
29 mins —
Mention was made of a “straight line in Islam from grievance to violence” — the question raised whether radicalization is caused by western policies and therefore we need to change our policy, or is it caused by ideology or something else?
30 mins —
MN: Humans are all different – MN lists 4 factors that usually combine to lead to radicalisation. In the book he lists them as
1. angry grievance,
2. identity crisis,
3. charismatic recruiter,
4. role of ideology
31 mins —
MN’s own political biases are on centre to centre-left. It’s a terrible explanation to say that a person who is angry at a policy wants to blow something up. — Al Qaeda peddles this myth in order to change policy so they can overthrow the Arab regimes.
32 mins —
What caused ISIS? It is too simplistic to put all blame on foreign policy and Invasion of Iraq.
34 mins —
SH is against religion because religion speaks of this knowledge that has a taboo on clear thinking, based on false claims to evidence. A religion believer tells me there are certain things you know to be true but the way you know them is not based on any publicly available mode of evidence or reasoning. And you say these are the most important things in your life — this is divisive in society— bad.
[Harris’s understanding of religion and religious thinking is not informed by studies since 2000, I think.]
SH: But not true of all religions that they are divisive — we are not going to see Jain terrorists.
SH: “Fundamentalism” is a red-herring — fundamentalism is not a problem if your fundamentals are totally benign…. — the crazier you get as a Jain the less anyone has to worry about you.
[Problems here — but this is another discussion.]
35 mins —
SH: But this is not true of Islam; we have to admit that some grievances are just born of religion.
[Again — this is simplistic. One thing to have an intellectual grievance; but another to act violently on it. SH cannot see this.]
36 mins —
SH: drawing a cartoon leads to threat to be killed — This is not based on foreign policy but only on specific religious ideas. — Liberals confused here. We do not want a society where we cannot draw cartoons because that is living under a theocracy.
[Again — SH cannot discern the difference between an intellectual idea/belief and the generation of personal hostility and actions to violence. Still a long way to go. Keep talking with NM… Keep talking…. and with others who have even more updated understanding….]
38 mins —
MN: Islamophobia is an unhelpful as a term– shuts down the debate, confuses critiquing the religion with critiquing the people — I prefer the phrase “anti-Muslim bigotry” which is real….. and a problem — No idea and no people are beyond scrutiny.
[If Islamophobia is being bandied about to cover something other than bigotry then that’s a problem I am unaware of. If that’s the case “over there” then certainly, “anti-Muslim bigotry” is fine as the term of choice.]
40 mins —
MN: Sam not a bigot because likes Sufi music
[Okay….. mmm….. but I take MN’s point, and SH’s own words at beginning of the video, that SH is no longer confusing Islam and Islamism. That’s a big and important step forward — however far there is to go in the other strands of the discussion.]
44 mins —
MN: I don’t say “the Muslim world” — but “Muslim majority countries” – important to respect the minorities and differences…
49 mins —
SH: Why does a British doctor go off to join ISIS and saw off heads — “that goes back to the texts…. not purely economics and politics”. MN adds, “though it includes that (i.e. economics and politics)”…
[SH still can’t see beyond the idea of text putting an idea in a head and that idea then making people go off and join ISIS and cut off heads! MN fortunately did add his own point there– I sense room for a much deeper discussion to be ongoing here. Does MN himself really understand — or is he even aware of — the current research into religion and Islamism and terrorism etc?]
50 mins —
Someone in audience said the Koran teaches that violent jihad is last resort or the lowest form of jihad….
53 mins —
SH: Protests against those who try to put benign spin or interpretation of Koran. Because Koran doesn’t say anything like that– Muslims are struggling to do acrobatic theology — to labour to find a benign interpretation — SH says MN thinks Muslims have the tools to do this.
[SH doesn’t see it himself, but he at least acknowledges the views of a Muslim (MN is a Muslim) who says this can and should be done. That’s progress.]
54 mins —
MN: you don’t want to doctor/change/rewrite a historical text…. But the problem is that there are others who read passages in Koran to cut off a limb or flog for punishments, etc. and there are regimes who take these passages vacuously. We need to open up that debate as Muslims…
[This is great — that the moderate and liberalising voices within the Muslim religion are being encouraged and supported. And it’s great that SH is hearing this argument and engaging with it.]
56 mins —
MN: Example of what can be done. In the Ottoman caliphate the sheikh of iIslam announced that “through religious reasoning we are not going to use these (Islamic) penal codes anymore” …. So historically there have been attempts to do this, to interpret and enact a benign Islam.
MN: Islamism for me is the attempt to enforce any version of Islam over society, and the other force of concern is fundamentalism — those Muslims conservative in practices even if don’t want to enforce on others — We need to confront these head on…. We need to engage their own societies and how to improve them. The focus on cartoons in foreign lands is a distraction from the real place to wage the fight.
1:00:00 –
SH: you can reason people out of their deeply held beliefs…. It’s just based on conversation …. If they don’t change it’s a failure of conversation….
[Oh my! Really? Still a way to go for SH!]
1:05: …
MN: “If we don’t name the problem it increases the hysteria. . . . “
[I think this must be talking about those who want to say Islam has nothing to do with terrorism. . . . . I spoke of this well-intentioned but counterproductive tactic recently….. Apparently this is a bigger issue in Europe/North America than here?]
[See last paragraph of this post– afterthought added there.]
1:06 —
MN on Whether we should use term Islamism or not… –
— [I quoted this bit carefully so can put it in the quote box….]
If we as Muslims don’t isolate Islamism from Islam and then define what we mean by Islamism and then say that Islam by definition isn’t definable because it’s a religion like any other — it has all the denominations and sects and interpretations and disputations that all other religions have.
But Islamism is this thing here and we define it as a desire to impose any version of Islam over society. And that’s what we’re worried about, and that’s what we’re challenging. If that’s a Muslim led conversation you will find eventually that that understanding spreads . . .
MN: “I’d like to think Sam’s conversation around this has developed more nuance since we began our dialogue”
Somewhere in there MN made another point I somehow missed in the above notes. He was stressing the need (as at the end in the quote above) to allow the Muslim moderate/majority voices to be heard. This was the reason he was stressing the need to name and identify the enemy- — Islamism — We can’t just say the evils have nothing to do with Islam — we need to identify what we are talking about — otherwise the hysteria is all the greater — — see the point at 1:05:00 above.
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44 thoughts on “Sam Harris modifies his views on Islam — Encouraging step forward”

  1. I follow Maajid on twitter because his writing as a liberal Muslim is usually thoughtful and balanced.

    “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”

    He tends to refer to his western critics as as a “regressive Left” who deny agency to Muslims and exhibit the racism of low expectations.

    And then a writer at Glen Greenwald’s site called him “Sam Harries’s Porch monkey” and “a native informant”.

    Always good when they prove your point for you.

    1. His “centre/centre-left” affiliation is no asset in my view and I have not seen the exchanges in which he has been involved. There is no single “Left” so I don’t know if he means all the Left is regressive or if he is referring to one strand that is regressive. There are some who do want to dissociate Islam from the extremist violence and I have nothing more to say about that than what I have already and in the link to my earlier post on that.

      I also wonder about exchanges when people refer to commenters on blogs rather than the views of the owner of the blog or website. Maurice Casey did that with me in his book — creating the impression that I supported views I really opposed but had allowed to be posted.

      Sam Harris has done a lot of harm; his book End of Faith has fanned a lot of social division and anti-Muslim feeling. I can understand an instinctive reaction that anyone collaborating with him must be his stooge. I was expecting the worst when I began to watch the video but was very surprised at some very welcome shift in Sam Harris’s position.

      One can see how he is still struggling with these new understandings, but that he has made a small step in their direction is a very welcome move. Perhaps some of us can learn from Maajid Nawaz in how to lead him to further understanding. (Or must our credentials be that we are of the centre in politics before we can be let through the gate?)

      1. Dont get me wrong, I think Harris is an arse. I completely disagree with his privileged ultra libertarian politics/philosophy before we get any where near his views on Islam.

        Nawaz has a very definite section of the left in mind when he talks of “regressive”, ie: those that would share a platform with Hammas or Hizb ut-Tahrir for ideological reasons while ignoring their views on homosexuality and women’s rights.
        Nawaz had a pop at me on twitter for my support for the “regressive” Jeremy Corbyn but as my support for Corbyn is based on anti-capitalism not any M.E consideration (in it narrowest interpretation) I pointed out it isn’t relevant(as an aside, my voting for Corbyn might suggest my views on “centrist” politics)

        I agree it would be unfair to paint the blogger with the comments of his readers but the “porch monkey”,”native informant” and “lapdog” came from Glen Greenwalds staff writer Murtaza Hussain. I’m sure the Informant has an editorial policy.

        1. Thanks for filling me in with a little of the background. I am not one of those who is opposed to anyone who dialogues with or speaks up for the central political causes of Hamas and Hezbollah. Hamas after all won an internationally monitored free and fair election. Their political voices need to be heard and engaged. And Corbyn is a great standard bearer for democratic hopes. I have only heard snippets about his views on certain groups in the Middle East. I’d prefer to read something more comprehensive before commenting.

          1. Forgive me for being a little defensive on Maajids behalf.

            For years we have complained that the only Muslims we see in the media are the the scary, shouty jihadi hate figures and that moderate voices are pushed aside, then when someone like Nawaz comes along he gets attacked by a branch of the left for not being authentically Muslim (because he’s not a scary jihadi?).

            It’s confusing the fuck out of me.

            1. There have been many moderate voices of Islam that have been backed by names many would characterize as “of the Left”.

              The media, from my experience, has not found those stories as useful for drawing audiences to their advertising financiers and therefore have not been as widely known.

              But people like Coyne and many others have accused those “Left” voices as being “apologists for Islam” — for trying to promote the idea that “mainstream Muslims” have nothing to do with extremist violence.

              I don’t know how many (or who) really are “attacking” Nawaz. I don’t know the history.

              I did see a youtube video of George Galloway also expressing pleasant surprise that he found himself agreeing with much of what Nawaz has said:


  2. ” My experience has been that Islamophobia applies to bigotry and those who are more interested in angry denunciations — not real discussion of the actual issues from an informed base.”

    I work on a major US university campus and I can assure you the despite the origin of the term (surely misconstructed) and your experience, that the term is being throughout to any who will an any way open a dialogue where there is criticism of any in the islamic community. It is used to categorize all questioning and criticism as hate speech that makes people uncomfortable.

    1. We have every right to be very concerned about human rights abuses in any religion and especially towards those living alongside us. But people like Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins and, yes, Sam Harris, have regularly attacked some of these abuses within the Muslim communities in a manner that I think has fanned bigotry and done more damage than good. Too often — and Maajid Nawaz said this in the discussion — the Coynes, Dawkins’s, Harris’s complain about the lack of mainstream Muslim voices condemning some of these practices when in fact it is their criticisms that are in effect too often silencing and alienating them. The Muslim leadership on the side of civil and human rights need to be supported, not silenced, ignored, alienated.

  3. “But Islamism is this thing here and we define it as a desire to impose any version of Islam over society. And that’s what we’re worried about”

    What is term for the desire to impose any version of Christianity over society? Dominion Theology certainly as his aspiration. But there are many Christians who don’t identify as Dominionists who have a desire to impose their pet aspects of Christianity over society. So should we be talking about Christianism? What then is Judaism? Buddhism?

    1. At this very moment the Pope is addressing US Congress. Has any other religion’s leader been afforded this opportunity to attempt to promulgate their theological beliefs as law?

    2. There is every reason to be concerned about Christian extremism, too. The difference with the Muslim community, though, is that many more people are not only being threatened but are experiencing suffering right now and their problems need to be addressed — especially so given that it is “us”, “our community” that in significant measure has been responsible for their fears and suffering.

      1. Are not most of those suffering living in countries with Muslim majority populations with Muslim leaders and influential Muslim clergy? What influence do new atheists have over those situations? To the extent that “Jerry Coyne, Richard Dawkins and, yes, Sam Harris, have regularly attacked some of these abuses within the Muslim communities in a manner that I think has fanned bigotry” their influence certainly has not been felt in any meaningful way where the greatest numbers of Muslims are suffering. Muslims abuse many more Muslims than any one influenced by the above mentioned.

        ” the Coynes, Dawkins’s, Harris’s complain about the lack of mainstream Muslim voices condemning some of these practices when in fact it is their criticisms that are in effect too often silencing and alienating them.” I don’t see how anything they write or say silences moderate voices in Muslim countries. And that is where they are needed. It is not clear to me how in countries with free speech, how they silence any voices at all.

        What silences voices, well, on today’s campuses charges of Islamophobia on today’s campuses does silence voices including moderate ones with a genuine desire to offer constructive criticism and a path out of this morass. Who levels the charge, often those with the most to gain from the status quo.

        On the other hand, many new atheists have done a good job in bringing the issues related to organized Christianity’s desire (and to a great degree success) to impose its moral codes on the population as a whole in a manner inconsistent with human rights as enshrined in international law. This seems to have been completely ignored in this whole discussion.

        1. Nawaz addresses some of the points you raise in the video — and how “we” do silence their voices. Go to the bit from 1:05:00.

          I was thinking of the Muslims in our communities who have suffered from “our” anti-Muslim bigotry (there have been real violence, public abuse and threats against Muslims in our community — it’s always in the news); and “we” have not been without responsibility for the installing and support of various despotic regimes in the Middle East and their suppression of democratic movements — going back many decades and most recently with the “Arab Spring” uprisings.

          1. I will listen, learn and think. Thanks for the pointer.

            It’s not clear to me that Muslims where I am (California) face any extra bigotry for their religion than they would anyway because they are mostly brown-skinned. There is much more bigotry here against Christian brown-skined Latin Americans there there is against Muslims.

            I spent my first 20 years in The Lebanon and my social group is tightly integrated with many Muslims I grew up with. I don’t hear any particular complaints of bigotry from them. This may be related to their social-economic position as they tend to be educated professionals and very good at what they do.

            As far as despots, there are two types in the Middle East, the types we put in power and the types we didn’t. Depending on the decade or century, the mix is different. In Lebanon the the issue is more of a clan issue than a religion issue and the clans have periodically slaughtered each other since long before the Brits and French arrived.

            I do agree that the West’s support of zionism contributed significantly to the misery many Muslims (and also oriental Jews and Christians) are experiencing in the Middle East today.

            An yet, I am proudly an antitheist and new atheist.

    1. Good question. I should try to put together at least a small bibliography of works (online and in print) that I have found helpful. Anyone else is welcome to contribute their references here, too — but preferably with an explanation against each title explaining the work’s slant, coverage, etc. A list of titles alone is not usually helpful.

  4. I don’t like the way Islamism is portrayed as some great evil – just like anything, you can have have a very intolerant form of Islamism and you can have a more tolerant version too. Why should all brands of Islamism be painted with the same brush? What if a moderate Islamist party is voted in – what do we do? Do we say they cannot rule because they are a great evil and then work to get them overthrown in a coup? At the end of the day, religion is malleable – that’s why you have Muslims, who using their texts, come to conclusions that gays shouldn’t be persecuted and apostates shouldn’t be killed. Therefore, it is possible to have an Islamist government whose Sharia Law is tolerant, and therefore, IMHO, instead ot labelling Islamism as some evil ideology that must always be fought, we should instead be encouraging Muslims to have more toletrant views.

    1. I think, iirc, Maahid Nawaz expressing the idea that if the majority of a country really want sharia law then that should be fine. Some countries do run by sharia law but without the hand-chopping and beheadings. Sharia law is not a monolithic thing any more than the Muslim religion is a monolith. But human rights as enshrined in international law must govern all — that’s me talking, not MN now. Where any cultural law violates the rights of minorities or any others it must be condemned.

      1. Sure, I agree, but what if the people DO want hand chopping? I HATE the though of someone having their hand chopped off, but I also HATE the thought of people being incarcerated for life. Why are we so outraged by one but not by the other?

        Of course in the majority of cases, being incarcerated for theft is less worse than having your hand chopped off. However, what about the case like Bernie Madoff where he will die in prison? If I was in his position, and I was given the choice of having my hand chopped off or living the rest of my life in prison, I would choose to have my hand chopped off – at least I would be free to go and spend the remaining 10, 20, 30 years of my life as a free person instead of being locked up.

        i therefore think it is a lot more complicated than many people make it out to be.

  5. 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.

    I don’t think Nawaz is actually a Muslim – I think he is an ex-Muslim who goes around acting as if he is still a Muslim to have credibility, pretty much like Ed Husain. I believe Ayaan even asked him when he is going to make it public and he gave an answer of something to the effect of soon.

    I think some of the things he says do make sense, but others don’t. I think the reason some people dislike him is simply because of his association with people like Harris, Ayaan and Dawkins.

      1. I don’t like using the word “lying” as it has negative connotations attached to it, but I would say he is being “misleading”. He might have legitimate reasons e.g. an ex-Muslim criticising Muslims can make him more suspectible to attack. or he might have nefarious reasons e.g. he is just an opportunist who realises that a Muslim criticising other Muslims would always be in the public sphere. I am not here to judge him, however, I think it is very likely he isn’t a Muslim by faith, but just a Muslim by name. I don’t think this is a “conspiracy theory”, history has shown us again and again how individuals in the public sphere can portray themselves as something completely different to what they actually are in private.

          1. No, unfortunately not. However, for me, a generalisation of how people can be categorised when it comes to a particular religion is:

            1) devout – believe in it and use it for guidance in everything
            2) non-devout/practising – believe in it and avoid what is forbidden but don’t necessarily follow everything that is prescribed either
            3) religious but not spiritual – do not really believe in it but still follow the teachings
            4) spiritual but not religious – believe that parts of it might be true but don’t follow the scriptures
            5) sceptical – don’t really believe in it and so don’t follow it
            6) non-believer – don’t believe in it and don’t follow it

            So for me, even someone who is non-devout still “believes” in the religion, and at least follows some of the teachings – they are simply not devout. To me, Maajid is either 4, 5, 6, and I think this is what many other people also think.

            I actually find it quite strange that New Atheists keep on calling him a “Muslim”, if he was a great Physicist who had just made a great discovery, and Muslims were going around saying they are proud a Muslim has made such a great contribution to science and that Muslims can be great scientists too, I bet New Atheists would be saying that just because he is born into a Muslim family and says he is a Muslim, it doesn’t mean he is, and his actions show he isn’t a practising Muslim!!!

  6. I am not familiar with Nawaz….but I found the dialogue somewhat shallow on some points….Nevertheless, dialogue is much better than one-sided condemnation….

    for example—-The cartoon (Danish cartoon)….From what I understood—-occurred in an atmosphere of Islamophobia. Europe has laws against anti-semitism/Holocaust to various degrees (I think, Denmark has laws about use of symbols that offend Jews if there is malicious intent). The Muslim groups (which are a minority) took their case to THEIR own government for redress—but were ignored and told to “live with it” because of “freedom of speech”.

    From Wiki
    Judicial investigation of Jyllands-Posten (October 2005 – January 2006)

    On 27 October 2005, representatives of the Muslim organisations which had complained about the cartoons in early October filed a complaint with the Danish police claiming that Jyllands-Posten had committed an offence under section 140 and 266b of the Danish Criminal Code, precipitating an investigation by the public prosecutor.

    Section 140[30] of the criminal code, known as the blasphemy law, prohibits disturbing public order by publicly ridiculing or insulting the dogmas of worship of any lawfully existing religious community in Denmark. Only one case, a 1938 case involving an anti-Semitic group, has ever resulted in a sentence. The most recent case was in 1971 when a programme director of Danmarks Radio was accused in a case involving a song about the Christian god,[31] but was found not guilty.

    Section 266b[33] criminalises insult, threat or degradation of natural persons, by publicly and with malice attacking their race, colour of skin, national or ethnic roots, faith or sexual orientation.

    On 6 January 2006, the Regional Public Prosecutor in Viborg discontinued the investigation as he found no basis for concluding that the cartoons constituted a criminal offence because the publication concerned a subject of public interest and Danish case law extends editorial freedom to journalists regarding subjects of public interest. He stated that in assessing what constitutes an offence, the right to freedom of speech must be taken into consideration, and said that freedom of speech must be exercised with the necessary respect for other human rights, including the right to protection against discrimination, insult and degradation. In a new hearing resulting from a complaint about the original decision, the Director of Public Prosecutors in Denmark agreed with the previous ruling.

    Basically—Denmark decided that the right to “freedom of speech” of the majority was more important than the right of the minority to safety and protection….

    So while freedom of speech was a value that some Europeans thought they were protecting—Human dignity, respect, was a value and a right that some Muslims thought they were protecting….(politics—on both sides– played a role in making this a big issue too)
    (this is a time when whistle blowers like Snowden, Assange and others are in trouble with the law and their own governments because of their critical views—the hypocrisy of “freedom of speech” is plain to see…as is the stance of protecting human dignity by countries who are themselves offenders of human rights and dignity….)

    When Charlie Hebdo occured—some of the conversation in both Europe and outside, among some Muslims and Non-Muslims had gained more nuance….

    Within the Muslim Ummah, there were also conversations about how the depiction/non-depiction of the Prophet had changed across history/geography…as well as conversations about how to counter the present negativity about the Prophet in healthy and peaceful ways……

    I agree that all human beings and their endeavors have room for improvement—I disagree that there is only one road to that improvement….to make all others into our own image—whether that sentiment comes from a secularist or an “Islamists”—is the wrong way to go forward….

  7. He has a long way to go, still. But let him first come to the point where he no longer has to struggle with conceding at least that one major point made by Maajid Nawaz.

    The interviewer’s question demonstrates much of the problem, too. Asking if we think Islam is compatible with the American constitution is like asking if we think Christianity is compatible — how many interviewers would think to ask that on American TV? Both are compatible if they are kept right out of politics and don’t violate any of the State laws in their religious practices.

    Can American secularists (not just atheists) find leverage in the current Islam debate to push back against the Christian Right who seem to me to be more a threat to the US Constitution than Islam at the moment. (But I speak as an outsider.)

    1. “Can American secularists (not just atheists) find leverage in the current Islam debate to push back against the Christian Right who seem to me to be more a threat to the US Constitution than Islam at the moment.”

      Bingo! It is really only the group that classify themselves as New Athiests that are doing this speaking out.

      1. There is a difference between the freedom to practice or to criticize religion, and the imposition by government of a specific religion upon the population. The US Constitution comes closer to the former than the practice of many Islamic nations. Of course, a free society may have religious or other sectional interests in sufficient numbers or influence to shape the cultural or moral ethos of a society or the political actions of elected representatives. Personally I think some cultural and moral influences of a largely Christian origin have been quite welcome, such as the discouragement of gross hedonism and the encouragement of reasonable compassion. On the other hand, a problem with some Islamic groups is sharia entrenchment, which is incompatible with western laws and also interests.

        As for Christian Zionists, these groups create a foreign policy problem in the Middle East alongside some Jewish lobbies. There is a Biblical connection in both cases.

        A UK example may be instructive. An Anglican clergyman, Stephen Sizer, has refuted arguments of Christian Zionists from “inspired scripture”, and taken the side, perhaps with over-enthusiastic naivety, of Palestinians, though not that of Muslims generally. His main publication is “Zion’s Christian Soldiers” (IVF 2008). Apparently he foolishly put on his website a link to a site critical of the 9/11 orthodoxy (which, we are now told, is – fatally – shared by the newly elected leader of the British Labour Party). At the request of Zionists, the Church of England promptly banned him from speaking or writing about the Middle East and its history (!), or defending his position in public, on pain of losing his parish living. He has been prevented by intimidation, and his own personal agreement, in effect from responding publicly to defamation that he is an “antisemitic hate preacher”. He has been under “verbal house arrest”.

        Could/would something like this happen in the USA or Australia?

            1. I shall wait to see what The Jewish Chronicle says this weekend.

              Corbyn reportedly sent an expression of support for the silenced Sizer, but I do not know the details.

              I leave the technical forensics of the collapse of all the three towers to others. The “explosions” ignored in the original government report have since been explained by molten aluminum from the planes inside the twin towers hitting water on the way down. Anyway it was a bit of luck that the owner of the buildings didn’t go to work there on that one particular day.

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