Moderate Muslim Maajid Nawaz vilified by Left for trying to reform Islam

I’ll begin by quoting myself on a post I did about Maajid Nawaz this summer—a post about how the British left has vilified him:

“If anyone has the street cred and chops to comment on radical Islam, and on the shameful capitulation of Western liberals to the canard of “Islamophobia,” it’s Maajid Nawaz. Born in England, Nawaz became a radical Muslim early on, dedicated to establishing a caliphate with nuclear weapons. To this end he traveled in the Middle East to get converts for Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Muslim group. And for that he was ultimately jailed in Egypt. During his five years in prison, he became de-radicalized, and ultimately returned to England to found Quilliam, a think tank dedicated to fostering humanism and eliminating extremism. (I’m not sure whether Nawaz is still a believing Muslim, though I think he is.[JAC now: yes, he is]) Quilliam’s statement of purpose is this, and is largely instantiated by countering the narrative of extreme, radical, and violent Islam:

Quilliam is the world’s first counter-extremism think tank set up to address the unique challenges of citizenship, identity, and belonging in a globalised world. Quilliam stands for religious freedom, equality, human rights and democracy.

Challenging extremism is the duty of all responsible members of society. Not least because cultural insularity and extremism are products of the failures of wider society to foster a shared sense of belonging and to advance liberal democratic values.

I admire him immensely.”

That’s what I said, and I stand by my admiration of Nawaz. Lately he’s co-authored a nice book with Sam Harris, Islam and the Future of Tolerance, and engaged with Sam in a dialogue at Harvard University (watch the enlightening conversation here). As Sam said, after their interaction his opinions changed more than Nawaz’s.

For all of his efforts, Nawaz hasn’t received approbation, but rather vilification, which he documents in a saddening piece at The Daily Beast: “Don’t call me porch monkey.” For that’s one of the degrading names he’s been called for trying to reform Islam. First, here’s some vilifcation by journalist and scholar Nathan Lean, who first simply writes Nawaz out of his conversation (and book) with Harris. Apparently Lean didn’t bother to look up the book:

lean

When reminded that Harris wasn’t the only author, Lean doubles down, calling Nawaz Harris’s “Muslim validator.” That’s ironic in light of Nawaz’s report that “[Sam] feels our dialogue influenced him more than me.”
lean2

And then Lean calls Nawaz a “lapdog.”

lean3

To which Dave Rubin, comedian and political reporter, gave the only decent reply:

Here’s an excerpt from Nawaz’s “porch monkey” piece, which includes a few select instances of bigotry from the Left.

To suggest that a Muslim cannot think for himself sounds to me very much like an incident of anti-Muslim bigotry. A curious position to take for someone whose book is on “Islamophobia,” and who now sits on the advisory board of a UK-based “anti-Muslim hate” watchdog called TellMama. Indeed, who is watching the watchers.

Over at CNN’s blog, Haroon Moghul laid the blame for young Ahmed Mohamed’s profiling in Texas at my feet, tracing a line from anti-Islam activists Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, and Glenn Beck directly to me. Let us put aside the fact that Glenn Beck considers me a closet Jihadist and that I had already publicly expressed sympathy for Ahmed, I have been an opponent of racial and religious profiling for years, challenging  left-wing, Muslim, UK Labour government ministers on this practice since 2010.

But Murtaza Husain at Glenn Greenwald’s Intercept site felt so aggrieved, so agitated, so angry at my decision to talk to those with whom I disagree, about my own religion, that he posted a photo of Sam and me in conversation using the words “nice shot of Sam and his well-coiffed talking monkey.” When challenged the writer doubled-down, deciding that I was in fact a “native informant,” and nothing but Sam’s “porch monkey.”

Language that is designed to dehumanize, has consequences. And as secular bloggers are being hacked to death in Bangladesh, and secular writers such as Raif Badawi are being lashed in Saudi Arabia, merely for questioning their own culture, reforming voices must no longer acquiesce to this rising tide of intimidation and de-legitimization.

Indeed. The more I see this kind of stuff—liberals going after those Muslims who criticize and try to reform their violent and retrograde coreligionists—the more I despair of the Left. How dare they call Nawaz names like “lapdog,” “native informant,” “house Muslim” (that, of course, refers to “house Negroes”, a derogatory word for slaves who were allowed to work in the Big House rather than the fields), and “porch monkey:? Have we lost our way? Have we no shame, at long last?

And is it any wonder that Nawaz, as he did in his earlier piece in the same venue, spends perhaps too much time defending his bona fides? Yes, he’s a bit defensive, but what else can he do when he’s implicitly being accused by leftists of being anti-Muslim? The man is a Muslim! It’s quite sad that he has to say this kind of thing over and over again, and yet the liberals never hear it:

And finally, a message for my fellow Muslims: The truth is, Sam Harris has already—and generously—stated that he feels our dialogue influenced him more than me. I am not your enemy. Since co-founding my counter-extremism organization Quilliam as well as opposing UK ministers on ethnic and religious profiling, I have opposed President Obama’s targeted killings and drone strikes. I challenged Senator King in the UK Parliament on his obfuscation and justification for torture. I have been cited by the UK Prime Minister for my view that non-terrorist Islamists must be openly challenged, but not banned. I have spoken out against extraordinary rendition of terror suspects and against detention without charge of terror suspects. I have supported my political party, the Liberal Democrats, by backing a call to end Schedule 7, which deprives terror suspects of the right to silence at UK ports of entry and exit, something I have also been subjected to, whilst having my DNA forcibly taken from me among much else.

What I require, dear Muslims, is your patience. For it is due to precisely this concern of mine for universal human rights, that I vehemently oppose Islamist extremism and call for liberal reform within our communities, for our communities. I merely express my opinion about the future of our religion. I am not your enemy. I am not your representative. I am not your religious role model… but I am still from you, and I am of you. I have suffered all that you suffer. And I refuse to abandon you.

If Islam is to purge itself of its violence-prone, bigoted, and misogynistic elements, the reform will have to come from within Islam itself—from non-extremists like Nawaz. Non-Muslims like me and Harris, or even ex-Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, may influence people’s opinion about the dangers of radical Islam, but Muslims are surely most receptive to messages from other Muslims. For someone like Nawaz, who’s preaching a kinder and less violent version of his faith, one more in line with liberal values, it’s stupid to call him names for simply engaging in dialogue with critics of Islam like Harris. For if Islam and the West are to achieve any rapprochement, it is surely this kind of dialogue that we need.

136 Comments

  1. Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    It’s official! – – Nobody of any race, creed or colour can criticize aspects of Islam without being viewed automatically as racist and vile!
    This is a terrible time for Free-Speech!

    • gluonspring
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

      Very terrible. And when people attack speech not with argument but with vile epitaths like “porch monkey”, they have declared their allegiance not with enlightenment values but with thugs everywhere.

    • Hiya
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      So I JUST found out why some people were comparing feminism with this stuff.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted September 24, 2015 at 6:10 am | Permalink

      That is a good analysis. It isn’t catastrophic (yet), but worse than in years. :-/

      • Posted September 24, 2015 at 10:40 am | Permalink

        I can’t figure out why it’s gotten so bad over the past few years!

  2. Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    But is the goal a kindler, gentler, defanged Islam, or is it straight-up rationalism for all?

    Maajid is to be enthusiastically commended for embracing and promoting Enlightenment values, but I think he does himself and his coreligionists a disservice by continuing to swear fealty to Muhammad and Allah.

    b&

    • eric
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      Oh. My. God. You mean he isn’t perfect? I’m telling Amazon to remove his book from my kindle immediately.

    • Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      I think he does himself and his coreligionists a disservice by continuing to swear fealty to Muhammad and Allah.

      Declaring himself an apostate would give Muslims an easy excuse to dismiss everything he says about Islam. Maybe he considers that mission to be the important thing at the moment.

      • Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        Yes, Nawaz is trying to do a good thing. I’m not sure of his exact beliefs, but he should be commended right now instead of criticized for remaining a Muslim. And, as Coel said, if he declared himself a nonbeliever (and we’re not sure he IS, and I take him at his word), he simply be discredited.

        • Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

          But then why should we mention his continued religious allegiance at all? Is it not enough to simply commend him for the good he does without playing the accommodation card at the same time?

          b&

          • Tim Harris
            Posted September 23, 2015 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

            ‘playing the accommodation card all the time’ – We should mention his continued religious allegiance because, simply, it exists. Truth is important, and very much more important than indulging in an easy and adolescent moral posturing and putting on an appearance of heroic intransigence.

            • Posted September 23, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

              Sure, mention his religious allegiance if relevant — but not to make a virtue of it!

              I might be worng, but I would be very surprised to read from Jerry a paragraph such as what he ended this essay with but with Ken Miller and Catholicism and Evolution swapped for Maajid Nawaz and Islam and liberalism.

              b&

              • Tim Harris
                Posted September 23, 2015 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

                There are great differences between Maajid Nawaz and Ken Miller, so that it is hardly surprising that what one might say about them in particular circumstances would be different.

              • Torbjörn Larsson
                Posted September 24, 2015 at 6:22 am | Permalink

                I am not sure how we got from ‘it could be better’ to “why should we mention his continued religious allegiance – not to make a virtue of it”.

                I can agree with the former, but it is irrelevant.

                The latter however is disagreeable to me. As we say on accommodationist “STFU” – an analogy to the ‘islamophobiaphobia’ “STFU” Nawaz is subjected to – all useful ways are useful. (The trick would be to show it isn’t useful.)

                [If describing religious position becomes tedious, well, yes, I can agree with that. But that argument is on something else.]

              • Torbjörn Larsson
                Posted September 24, 2015 at 6:29 am | Permalink

                Oy, when I reread what I put up it was fuzzy indeed! What I wanted to claim is that _apart_ from “STFU” accomodationist ways may be useful.

                [I know Jerry has an inkling that accommodationism may not be useful, since it has been so much promoted but hasn’t moved opinions for a very long time. Maybe it can be rigorously shown by a longitudinal study, and something similar append to religious allegiance when reforming/criticizing religion.

                Seems a long shot to me though, at the current state of knowledge.)

        • Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

          I think he would immediately be discredited if he were a non-believer.

          He calls himself, “not very observant”.

          I strongly recommend the video (Sam and Maajid) on Sam Harris’s web site.

      • Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Maybe he considers that mission to be the important thing at the moment.

        Even so, that doesn’t mean that we should encourage people to remain within Islam.

        b&

        • Tim Harris
          Posted September 23, 2015 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

          Who is suggesting that we should? And who is ‘we’?

          • Posted September 24, 2015 at 11:44 am | Permalink

            That’s the thrust of Jerry’s last paragraph — that Islam needs to be reformed. But reformation means keeping it, just in a modified form.

            Sure, I’d “prefer” a world where Islam is more liberal than literal…but I’d also similarly “prefer” getting punched in the face to being stabbed in the chest.

            b&

      • Kevin
        Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        I agree. Islam needs role models like him.

        I used to to think that Catholics, particularly women, who disagreed with church dogma were deluded by staying in the Catholic church. But I am finding that the more of those people there are the better the capability of dismantling Catholicism form within its pews.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted September 23, 2015 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

          The Nuns on the Bus are a good example of this. They are a strong voice speaking out for women in favour of contraception and other things within Catholicism. While I take Ben’s point about accommodationism, I don’t see this as quite the same thing. Nawaz, unlike many leaders within Islam, is a strong supporter of freedom of speech, and that to me is the key. He doesn’t consider an atheist voice to be less valid than his own, unlike many theists.

          • rickflick
            Posted September 23, 2015 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

            Nawaz describes himself as a practicing but not a pious Muslim. I’m not sure I can parse that accurately, but the ambiguity is somewhat comforting.

            • Diane G.
              Posted September 24, 2015 at 2:56 am | Permalink

              That sounds as if it may be as close as he can get to “cultural Muslim” and still retain religious cred with other Muslims; knowing as he does the value of protesting from within Islam as opposed to as an apostate.

    • Stephen
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Ideally of course it would be rationalism for everybody. But let’s get real. A kinder gentler Islam is the realistic goal and even that will be extremely difficult.

      • Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        That’s the little people argument. Maajid himself went from a radical Islamist wanting to nuke infidels to somebody who fully embraces secular Enlightenment values. Why should we therefore cite him, of all people, as evidence that other Muslims, including the rabid Islamists, can’t do likewise?

        b&

        • Dermot C
          Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

          Here’s something that Maajid Nawaz has taught me. I quote from his facebook page, in which he links to some tw**t trolling:

          ‘Our uphill struggle. UK Islamists openly admit to working to “outcast” liberal & reform Muslims.
          1) ht.co/u2u4gAIl5R

          2) t.co/NZDfnWs9bi

          PS: “munafiq”, the last word used in the second image, is a Quranic term used for those pretending to be Muslims but who are really like enemy spies seeking to destroy the religion. To use it is an act of excommunication, and Munafiqs are the lowest of the low, “worse” than apostates. They are the very fuel for hellfire itself.’

          Chuffin’ Ada, when you think that you’ve found the worst of Islamic doctrine, another circle of hell opens up.

          By remaining a Muslim, Maajid opens himself up to becoming ‘worse’ than an apostate.

          Especially now, for political reasons, Maajid needs support over here in the UK. We have a new leader of The Labour Party who supports Hamas and Hezbollah, who appears on Iranian state-run Press TV, jibbering in semi-truther fashion about the killing of Bin Laden; we have members of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Great Britain protesting outside the Iranian Embassy and shouted down by an alliance of Islamists and Unite Against Fascism. We have civilized left-leaning intellectuals like Will Self and Michael Rosen refusing to face the coalition between the far left, and some elements of the moderate left, and right wing Islamists, home and abroad.

          5 days after Corbyn’s election Stop the War, of which he was Chair until a couple of days ago, held a meeting on Syria. The ex-Socialist Worker yahoos refused to have any Syrian speak. And that after Syria Solidarity, a democratic, pacifist organization requested to speak. That’s the insanity of the current political climate on the British left.

          In these circumstances, Maajid needs all the help we can give him. x

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

            A man who called Ibrahim Hewitt a great friend is now representing a worryingly large, unthinkingly quiescent segment of the left. The inane cheerleading of well-meaning numpties like Daniel Radcliffe, Mark Steel, etc.(as well as Frankie Boyle, comic genius and political cretin, the man who went on Russia Today to complain that British TV was censoring him.) is doing a lot to paper over the disturbing lefto-fascist leanings of Corbyn and his supporters.

            All this along with the appearances on Iranian state TV, the deeply regressive train-carriages suggestion, the pro-Putin apologetics and the statement that ‘everyone should respect religion’. And the only vaguely plausible alternative is the Lib Dems, whose leader is an evangelical Christian with thoroughly murky views on those issues that bump up against his doctrine. No wonder Cameron’s in hog’s heaven.

          • Posted September 23, 2015 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

            By remaining a Muslim, Maajid opens himself up to becoming ‘worse’ than an apostate.

            Then the best that we can do to support him is to treat him the same we would any other: welcome his rationalist positions and criticize his religious convictions.

            Which is going to put him at more danger: having atheists give him the kid glove treatment on religion, making him seem like he’s secretly one of us; or us honestly treating him as any other person deluded by religion? The former plays straight into the hands of the Islamists claiming he’s a munafiq; with the latter, they have no basis to falsely claim that even atheists think he’s one of ours.

            b&

            • Sastra
              Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

              Sure, but given that he’s currently advocating a rational position it makes sense for us to focus on (and praise) that.

              When Maajid brings up or comes out with Muslim apologetics then we’re not going to hold back because he’s “one of the good ones.” Nor will we refrain from our general criticisms of faith, religion, and Islam because of the Argument From Maajid — just as we remain unswayed by the Argument From Ken Miller.

              It’s not being inconsistent to pay main attention to the issue at hand, or recognize degrees of wrongness.

              • Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

                Agreed. I’m just taking issue with Jerry’s final paragraph that we need Muslims to persuade Muslims to be less Muslim-y. You and I and Jerry are on the same page, I’m pretty sure, that that logic doesn’t apply to Ken Miller arguing that Christians can have their Darwin and Jesus, too…so why should it apply to Islam?

                b&

              • Scott Draper
                Posted September 24, 2015 at 12:42 am | Permalink

                “Jerry’s final paragraph that we need Muslims to persuade Muslims to be less Muslim-y. You and I and Jerry are on the same page, I’m pretty sure, that that logic doesn’t apply to Ken Miller arguing that Christians can have their Darwin and Jesus, too”

                I think the social science has shown that people are more accepting of arguments from people that generally share their worldview.

                Now, whether Nawaz or Ken Miller can be seen that way by their religious compatriots or not is another question. By even advancing the arguments they make, they might have instantly relegated themselves to the not-like-us category.

              • Posted September 24, 2015 at 11:54 am | Permalink

                Then, again, all the more reason for honesty on our part, and for us to treat Maajid’s religious delusions the same way we would treat the religious delusions of anybody else. If his success at reform from within depends on him actually being within and being accurately perceived as being within, then we do him a grave disservice to treat him as if he is not within. And if the reform-from-within approach really doesn’t work, as I would suspect, then misrepresenting him as being without is again self-defeating.

                We don’t have to beat him up for still thinking that Muhammad rode off into the sunset on his flying horse. But neither should we pretend that such delusions are any more virtuous in him than in anybody else.

                b&

              • Diane G.
                Posted September 24, 2015 at 3:01 am | Permalink

                @ Ben — Have you read Heretic?

              • Posted September 24, 2015 at 11:55 am | Permalink

                Not yet….

                b&

              • Diane G.
                Posted September 25, 2015 at 1:02 am | Permalink

                “Not yet….”

                Her description of Islam precepts, imperatives, and how particular ideas are imprinted on followers’ brains is quite interesting even if you think you already know a lot about the religion.

              • Posted September 25, 2015 at 11:39 am | Permalink

                Oh, there’s no doubt but that the brianwashing is particularly effective.

                But it’s also damned effective in the buckle of the Bible Belt, and yet our response to Jerry DeWitt isn’t that we need a kinder, gentler form of Pentecostalism. And how could anybody be more brainwashed than Fred Phelps’s children? Yet our reaction to Nate Phelps again isn’t a call for a kinder, gentler Westboro Baptist Church.

                We can and should separate the calls for Enlightenment liberal values and for abandonment of superstition. But that also means that we shouldn’t re-entangle them.

                b&

        • Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

          I agree; but I’d be OK with Islam reforming itself (driving out doctrines like jihad and martyrdom and forced conversion and intolerance). It certainly needs that. If all Muslims were like the people I work with every day, Islam would be little different from the Anglican Church. Not ideal; but a much lesser evil.

        • Stephen
          Posted September 23, 2015 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

          No that’s the realistic argument. Sure people can change. They do all the time. But our strategy shouldn’t be predicated on the assumption that they will change.

          • Posted September 23, 2015 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

            But they’re far less likely to grow up if we pat them on the head and reassure them that they needn’t worry their poor widdle Muslim heads over such weighty matters, that they can’t handle the truth.

            No. Give it to them straight up. We’ll take what we can get from them, of course, but stop the mollycoddling, already!

            …and never forget the Overton Window, either….

            b&

            • Stephen
              Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

              So Ben your goal is convert all Muslims to be atheists? Good luck with that. I’ll settle for not getting shot at.

              • Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

                …and since when are the two goals incompatible?

                Especially considering that an ex-Muslim is much less likely to shoot you than a Muslim trying to figure out if it’s okay or not to condemn Muhammad’s rape of Aisha.

                b&

        • Tim Harris
          Posted September 23, 2015 at 11:50 pm | Permalink

          What is the ‘little people’ argument?

          • Posted September 24, 2015 at 11:49 am | Permalink

            The “little people” argument is the one that says that, in this case, Muslims are incapable of being persuaded by the same arguments we ourselves find persuasive…and, therefore, for their own good and everybody else’s, they should be permitted (and perhaps even encouraged) to retain their delusions. “Islam isn’t for me, but at least we can try to use it to manipulate the ignorant masses into more acceptable behavior.”

            b&

    • peepuk
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Agree.

      I was also a bit disappointed by the latest book of Ayaan Hirsi Ali; she is an atheist but promotes reform for Islam. Isn’t that a little bit dishonest?

      Both Ayaan and Maajid are 10 times more courageous than I am and I won’t complain if Islam could be modernized. I do recognize that Maajid promotes secularism, and I will support that. But I also will continue to criticize all religions for the false claims they make.

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 24, 2015 at 3:05 am | Permalink

        Hirsi-Ali just came to terms with the real world, rather than the ideal of complete change. She desperately wants to get rid of the most wretched parts of Islam, and if the only practical way to do so is to reform it, then that’s where to start.

        • peepuk
          Posted September 24, 2015 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

          I think compromising is a great thing in politics but not so great when you want to change minds.

          She is promoting a “reformation” for Islam but what she really seems to want is full blown enlightenment.

          She has left Islam, it was good for her, but doesn’t seem to recommend it anymore for other Muslims.

          Is communicating in such an ambiguous way really effective?

          Disclaimer:

          I have not read the book; my opinion is only based on what she said in the Jon Stewart interview.

          • Diane G.
            Posted September 25, 2015 at 2:00 am | Permalink

            O.M.G.

            The Jon Stewart interview, in which Stewart barely let her get a word in edgewise. Please, please, please read Heretic. Have Jerry give me your address & I’ll send you a copy. (But it would be even better to start with Infidel.)

            • peepuk
              Posted September 25, 2015 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

              It was indeed a very very bad interview, but Jon Stewart was able to top that in his Ayaan Hirsi Ali-bashing interview with Reza Aslan.

              I’ll give “Heretic” a read; will get it from my library. Maybe it will lead to a better informed opinion on my part.

              • Diane G.
                Posted September 26, 2015 at 2:04 am | Permalink

                I’d love to hear your thoughts afterward, although I’m sure this thread will be lost by then. 🙂

  3. darrelle
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Insanity.

  4. Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Off topic, but a heads-up to Brits that, according to a tweet, Richard Dawkins is scheduled to be on Channel 4 News tonight (between 7pm and 8pm), taking about his new autobiography.

    More on-topic, yes Maajid Nawaz is impressive. The “left” seem to severely dislike him because he is not angry and anti-West but instead sees the faults in Islam and wants to reform them.

    The impression from people like Lean is that the only “true” Muslim is an angry, radicalised, anti-West Muslim.

  5. Filippo
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I applaud Maajid Nawaz and his efforts.

    Would it be impolitic to ask what he learned (and how he learned it) in his five years of imprisonment – prompting him to change his ideology/world view – that he could not as easily have learned prior to his imprisonment?

    • Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      I think he wrote a book on it called “Radical”. Yes, it’s here, and it gets high ratings.

      • Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        It’s an excellent book, everyone should read it! It’s the first hopeful thing I’ve read on Islam in ages.

    • Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      He read Animal Farm and he realized things would not get any better if “his side” gained power.

  6. Stephen
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Well the political Left is just as mindless and robotic as the political Right.

    What is disturbing is the animus many atheists seem to have for Sam Harris. I don’t agree with him on every issue but I don’t understand the hysteria. Some folks like P Z Myers are completely batshit crazy on the subject.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      I tried to follow the threads on that. Sam is accused of saying that we should profile people who look Muslim to more efficiently identify potential terrorists. But others say he never really said that. I confess I have not followed the trail to its source to verify one way or the other.

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

        He did say that – his point was that, simply in order to appear fair, officials are allocating their attention to civilians in a non-discriminatory way, ie. taking aside and frisking a 90 year old white woman just as they would a twenty-five year old asian man with a long beard.

        When the allocation of time and attention by officials is stretched it becomes a zero-sum game and any attention devoted to the aforementioned granny is attention denied to more statistically plausible members of the public. Profiling is just a way of allocating resources sensibly.

        This was/is Harris’s argument. He also pointed out that he would, and should, be profiled, and thus “inconvenienced”, for the same reasons – he’s male, fits the general age-range of terrorists, etc.(he’s also white and a world-famous atheist celebrity so I can’t say I buy the idea that it’d inconvenience him a great deal.).

        Whatever you think about the morality of profiling versus the pragmatic allocation of resources(personally I think fairness, as well as the possibility of ‘outliers’, people who turn out to be terrorists even though they fit few if any of the stereotypes, trumps Harris’s arguments. It also seems likely to me that terrorists would respond to profiling by recruiting atypical, outlying candidates specifically to bypass security officials and carry out terrorist attacks.) I don’t think it’s misrepresenting Harris to say he’s in favour of profiling. It’s more nuanced than that of course but in the end that’s what it comes down to.

        • Kevin
          Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

          Bayesian statistics could easily quantify a solution that is probably aligned well with what Sam proposes. I have not followed his stance on this issue but it is pretty easy for the Department of Homeland Security to develop algorithms that minimize risk.

          How many faces can person remember? 200? How many faces can a person process at any time? ~ 2 or 3.

          How many faces can a computer scan per second? ~ 2 or 3. How many faces can a computer remember? 10^6. Narrow that list to probabilistic risks and put some level of randomness on searches and you have a really good optimized method that minimizes passenger risk and simultaneously saves time and always learns from its mistakes without reverence to race or ethnicity.

          • Posted September 23, 2015 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

            Computers have serious problems with face recognition. A bit of makeup or allergies or a cotton wad stuffed in the cheek or the like can confuse the hell out of them. And, again, you need to get into the 99.99999% accuracy range or else the system is worse than useless because it’s spewing out a non-stop stream of false positives.

            Appearance-based profiling is a disaster. Behavioral profiling is good, but it takes highly-skilled and trained security professionals to do, and they don’t come cheap, and they need time to do their work.

            The real answer is separate entrances for pilots and passengers with no physical connection between the two, and then no more security for air travel than for the grocery store. As it is, the lines at the security checkpoints are already more inviting targets than the planes themselves….

            b&

      • Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

        Sam makes two main points on profiling.
        (Please listen to the most recent podcast on his blog.)

        1. We are wasting our limited resources patting down 80-year-old blue-haired ladies from Hattiesburg Mississippi. Or young children. These routinely happen under the current protocols. (He refers to this as “security theater”. Of course, all bags have to go through the scanners.)

        2. The people everyone acknowledges are best at airport security are the Israelis. They profile, most energetically. Even Bruce Schneier acknowledges these facts: Saying that a combination of profiling and random checks is best.

        That’s really about it.

        • rickflick
          Posted September 23, 2015 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

          My take as well. Not really too complicated.

        • Diane G.
          Posted September 24, 2015 at 3:19 am | Permalink

          Thirded. I don’t see how so many would-be rationalists continue to ignore the data.

  7. DrBrydon
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    How is Nathan Lean’s determination of who is and is not an authority on Islam by calling Nawaz Harris’s “Muslim Validator” not also a non-Muslim deciding what is and isn’t Islam? And isn’t it racist to say that being white is one of the things that disqualifies same from discussing Islam?

    • Jonathan Dore
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

      Yes. And yes.

    • Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Yeah. The irony is intense. This is a white guy who wrote a book about Islam declaring that white people shouldn’t talk about Islam. The general rule here is “It’s ok when we do it.” That’s the only explanation for much of their hypocritical behavior. Of course, “It’s ok when we do it” is only true up until it suddenly isn’t, and then their allies turn on them and they get swallowed by the beast they helped create. It’s hard not to feel some schadenfreude while watching it happen to certain bloggers in real time.

      • Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

        Nawaz has some choice words for these guys in that video on Sam’s site.

        He says, how dare you, white, upper class, privileged, non-Muslim tell me, a practicing Muslim, former Islamist, former prisoner for Islam, father of Muslims, husband of a Muslim, child of Muslims, that I don’t have a valid viewpoint on Islam?

        • Diane G.
          Posted September 24, 2015 at 3:20 am | Permalink

          He has a point.

          😀

  8. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

    It is absolutely terrible that someone from the political left — from my side of thinking — to so glibly use infantilizing language about a person fighting for goddamm basic human dignity. I cannot understand the mind of Ann Coulter, and I cannot understand a mind from this other extreme.

    • darrelle
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

      This Lean character disparaging Sam & Nawaz sounds remarkably like Ann Coulter disparaging a liberal she has set her sights on.

    • denise
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      I’ve been a liberal all my life, but I’m starting to want to complete dissociate myself. Liberals are getting wackier and wackier and stupider and stupider. But what am I going to call myself now?

      • GBJames
        Posted September 23, 2015 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

        Call yourself a liberal! It is the wackier and stupider folk who have abandoned liberal principles!

      • Diane G.
        Posted September 24, 2015 at 3:23 am | Permalink

        Exactly! (What GB said.) Even if you have to be a “Traditional Liberal” to distance yourself from the current PC/SJW crowd, don’t disavow a time-honored word. We just need to take it back!

  9. GBJames
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    sub.

    It is the most I can bring myself to say about this sad topic.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      sub. Me too.

  10. Pat Mc Ginley
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Anyone who says that ‘Islamophobia’ doesn’t exist is lying or badly out of touch with reality. A bit like denying the reality of evolution, in fact. In both cases it stems mostly from the right-wing who are wedded to the status quo narrative.
    What reasonable person, not totally brainwashed by mainstream tightly controlled ‘news’, can deny that Western insatiable greed is responsible for the deliberate carnage in the Middle East? The demonisation of Muslims and fostering division amongst them played a major role in achieving that goal. As did, engineering the conditions which spawned ISIS.
    A huge dose of reality is sadly lacking here. Signed: an unapologetic old leftie!
    But, I thoroughly enjoyed and recommend ‘The Evidence For Evolution’.

    • GBJames
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Anti-Muslim bigotry certainly exists. Whether “Islamophobia” is the same thing is arguable. The term has been largely used as a slur against those of us who criticize Islam as a set of horrible ideas that the world would be better without. One can attack these bad ideas without being a bigot.

      • Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        Right on.

        (I think Islamophobia, as defined by the Greenwald’s of the world, doesn’t exist. Sure, there is racism against Muslims. But criticism of Islam’s ideas is not a phobia. Or a prejudice. However, a healthy fear of Islam becoming more influential in the world is very legitimate.)

        • Dave H
          Posted September 23, 2015 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

          “What reasonable person, not totally brainwashed by mainstream tightly controlled ‘news’, can deny that Western insatiable greed is responsible for the deliberate carnage in the Middle East? The demonisation of Muslims and fostering division amongst them played a major role in achieving that goal. As did, engineering the conditions which spawned ISIS.”

          I’m a reasonable person, not totally brainwashed by mainstream tightly-controlled (allegedly) news – and I deny all those things.

          Really, this hand-wringing “It’s all our fault!!” attitude should have died out years ago. The “deliberate carnage” racking the Middle East is almost entirely muslim-on-muslim violence. It isn’t caused by the west, or fostered by it. In fact, we in the West would be wasting our time trying to foster division among muslims – they already do a sterling job of that on their own. No-one “demonised” muslims until their jihadist self-appointed representatives started flying aircraft into buildings, setting off bombs on trains, massacring people for drawing cartoons, posting snuff videos on the internet and doing all the other hideous things that are now indelibly associated with Islam the world over.

          • Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

            Really, this hand-wringing “It’s all our fault!!” attitude should have died out years ago. The “deliberate carnage” racking the Middle East is almost entirely muslim-on-muslim violence. It isn’t caused by the west, or fostered by it.

            Though the current situation in Iraq is almost entirely Muslim v Muslim, the situation is basically entirely the fault of the US. We invaded a sovereign nation on false pretenses; we destroyed a stable SECULAR! government; and we not only left behind a power vacuum but all the weapons and similar resources that DAESH used to secure their current position of power.

            Whether through incompetence or malice — and I honestly can’t figure out which, not that it matters — we created the mess in Iraq and have nobody to blame but ourselves.

            b&

            • Dave H
              Posted September 23, 2015 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

              Yes, I suppose Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was “stable”, in the same way that Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia were, and North Korea is to this day. Hardly much of a point in its favour, though.

              I disagree that we left behind a power vacuum. We gave the people of Iraq the ability to vote for a government of their choice in a free, democratic election. They did so. The fact that Iraqis apparently prefer to vote along sectarian religious lines, and that their elected politicians turn out to be incompetent, corrupt and utterly incapable of acting for the common good of all their people, is not our fault. It’s a direct consequence of the primitive, barbaric, tribal, god-besotted mindset of the Iraqis – a cultural feature they share with virtually all their Arab brethren, and of which ISIS is just the most extreme manifestation.

              • Posted September 23, 2015 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

                Yes, I suppose Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was “stable”, in the same way that Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia were, and North Korea is to this day.

                Hussein’s Iraq was more stable and / or less repressive than all of its neighbors save perhaps for Jordan. Any argument you might make for invading Iraq would apply in spades to one or more of its neighbors.

                The fact that Iraqis apparently prefer to vote along sectarian religious lines, and that their elected politicians turn out to be incompetent, corrupt and utterly incapable of acting for the common good of all their people, is not our fault.

                I’m afraid you’re sadly misinformed on this count. Al Bagdadhi and his DAESH were not elected in Iraq; they said, “BOO!” and the elected Iraqi government and their volunteer army handed all their authority, weapons, money, and other resources to them with no more than token resistance, at most. We effectively installed a weak puppet regime, and our puppets handed the keys to the kingdom over to DAESH.

                b&

              • Jo5ef
                Posted September 24, 2015 at 9:02 am | Permalink

                I’m with Dave on this. Talk about denial. ‘Why on earth did Islam get demonised?’ Hmm let me think…

            • Posted September 23, 2015 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

              I disagree with much of this, but I don’t have the time or energy to get into it. I will, however, raise one point – since you put the word in ALL CAPS. Over the years, Saddam and his regime became increasingly less secular, and by the end he was either a true believer or convincingly pretending to be one.

            • Dermot C
              Posted September 23, 2015 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

              No, sorry Ben, Saddam’s post-1991 Iraq was a specifically Islamic state. Saddam introduced ‘Allahu akhbar’ – God is Great – for the first time onto the Iraqi flag. The Revolutionary Guards were mandated to read the Koran. See Saddam’s pathetic performance at his Iraqi trial, speaking of himself in the third person as if it is psychologically impossible for him to imagine inhabiting the same space as the monster he was, and declaring, “I fear only Allah.” His sons’ newspapers attacked minority sects wherever they were published – classic divide and rule.

              And let’s not forget how he repeatedly gave safe haven to international Islamist terrorists: Mr. Yassin who mixed the chemicals for the 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre, Abu Nidal, formerly the number one most wanted man in the world, to whom Saddam gave a villa and allowed to operate from Iraqi government offices, Muhammad Zaidan one of the hijackers of the Achille Lauro and murderers of Leon Klinghofer, given a diplomatic passport by Saddam himself.

              This is not a secular state.

              Stable? The stability of the ‘concentration camp above ground and the mass grave below it’.

              The first Head of State since WWII to use chemical weapons on his own citizens (Bashar al-Assad joined the club), the privatisation of the entire state – treasury and oil included – the 100% vote, written literally in the voter’s blood, in a 100% turnout referendum in January 2003, the penalty of death for owning a cellphone or a satellite dish, the sectarian divide and rule, the chopping off of hands for the most minor offence, the ecological catastrophes of the oil-well immolations and the draining of the land of the Marsh Arabs’ – 500,000 of them in the 1950s, 20,000 by the 2010s – the theft of the Oil for Food programme cash away from his starving population in order to build palaces in 18 provinces for his state mafia, the hugely inflated infant mortality rate of the 1990s by contrast with the relatively normal rates in the North over he which he had no control, the 1990s loss of his control of airspace in the north and south of Iraq, the shooting every day at those British, French and U.S. planes.

              Abu Ghraib was one of Saddam’s over-crowded torture chambers. One of Saddam’s sons, viewing the bureaucratic inconvenience decided that a cull was needed: about 12 a day. Executions, if I haven’t made myself clear. And they would take place in the execution pit, topped by beams from which several nooses dangled. Saddam’s gangster crime family would provide the guards with a list of who was to be executed. But for the guards this was an opportunity. So they would go to the prisoners’ families to ask how much they would be willing to pay to save their loved one from the rope.

              Or if you committed a less serious offence of dealing in dollars you would be treated more leniently, merely having your right-hand cut off and your forehead branded.

              And I have not even named the Islamo-fascist sectarian butchers who were happy to sabotage any attempt to build a functioning civil society, the restoration of public services, the creation of a democratic secular space where good government could thrive: groups such as the al-Abud Network, the Saddam Fedayeen, the Mahdi Army, the Badr Organization and al-Zarqawi’s al-Qaeda in Iraq.

              And the last named were in the northern Kurd areas before the war, no doubt fighting on behalf of Saddam to violently disrupt the semi-autonomous governance of the Kurds. And that’s the group that became ISIS: and ISIS was created by our enemies alone. x

              • Saul Sorrell-Till
                Posted September 23, 2015 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

                I genuinely can’t be bothered getting into everything that’s wrong with Pat’s and Ben Goren’s posts so thank you Dermot for doing so in such a thorough, sane way. I’m off to bed.

              • Posted September 23, 2015 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

                Dermot, if “Allahu akhbar” on the Iraqi flag meant it was an Islamic state, then “In God We Trust” on American money and “Under God” in the Pledge mean that the United States is a Christian theocracy. And the same or similar applies to the rest of your charges against Hussein; in many cases, the United States itself has crimes at least as heinous to its name, and all Iraq’s neighbors are far worse in such regards.

                Look, I’m not trying to paint Hussein as an angel or pre-war Iraq as a paradise. He was a monster and it was a shithole.

                But Hussein wasn’t as monstrous as the Saudi or Iranian or Syrian or other tyrants, and his Iraq wasn’t as nasty a shithole as those places remain to this day. Saudi Arabia in particular…if Hussain’s Iraq was deserving of conquest and destruction, today’s Saudi Arabia is far more deserving than his ever was.

                And that’s my point. You can bitch and moan about how awful Iraq was, but it was far from the bottom of the barrel…but not any more, and the precipitous decline from bad to insane is our fault.

                b&

              • Dermot C
                Posted September 23, 2015 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

                Ben, re: ‘In God we Trust’ and Saddam’s ‘theocracy’. Yes, it’s true Saddam did not claim Ayatollahship. But you may not know that British cities were littered in the 80s and 90s with new Mosques built with Saddam’s money and dedicated to him. There is no Mormon church in Britain dedicated the U.S. President: that’s the difference. Yes, in all likelihood Saddam used Islam, for his sons backed one sect in one area and, irrespective of their own beliefs, another sect in another region to terrorize the local population.

                Of course, the U.S. has heinous charges to defend. I remember in 1980 demonstrating against Saddam and his U.S. backers. Aren’t you glad that it stopped weaponizing Saddam and decided that a post-Saddam Iraq was a decent foreign policy? In these days the whataboutery argument about Saddam doesn’t cut it.

                I am glad that you don’t wish to paint Saddam as ‘an angel or pre-war Iraq as a paradise’. It’s good that you no longer see Iraq as ‘a stable SECULAR! government’ but as a state run by ‘a monster and it was a shithole’. But you could have known that 12 years ago. Or 35 years ago in my case.

                On the casus belli. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq broke every article in the UN Charter on the Rights and Duties of States (UNCRDS). Specifically Saddam broke more than once the 4 criteria by which states are judged to have lost their sovereignty.

                1. Aggression against neighbouring states- Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, Bahrain
                2. Genocide for which the UN sanction is immediate punishment and prevention – the Kurds, the Marsh Arabs
                3. Violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty – the nuclear programme of the 80s and the secret uranium enrichment programme of the 90s
                4. Hosting international terrorists – outlined in my previous post

                Explicitly, in those cases he broke at least 7 Articles in the UNCRDS. Repeatedly.

                There is no country on earth which has a similar record. And that is why Saddam’s Iraq was the ‘bottom of the barrel’. x

              • Posted September 23, 2015 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

                On the casus belli. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq broke every article in the UN Charter on the Rights and Duties of States (UNCRDS). Specifically Saddam broke more than once the 4 criteria by which states are judged to have lost their sovereignty.

                1. Aggression against neighbouring states- Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Qatar, Bahrain 2. Genocide for which the UN sanction is immediate punishment and prevention – the Kurds, the Marsh Arabs 3. Violations of the Non-Proliferation Treaty – the nuclear programme of the 80s and the secret uranium enrichment programme of the 90s 4. Hosting international terrorists – outlined in my previous post

                Oh, come now. Hadn’t you heard? Even the former Bush officials have admitted that Hussein didn’t have a nuclear weapons program.

                North Korea fits all those criteria and more, handily. Russia just militarily annexed Ukraine. Genocide wasn’t enough to merit invasion in Darfour or Rwanda. Pakistan is an Islamic state with nuclear weapons. And as for hosting international terrorists? Bin Laden himself was a Saudi prince, and all the other 9/11 hijackers Saudi nationals!

                So is it your position that war with or invasions of North Korea, Russia, Sudan, Rwanda, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia would be fully justified? If not, how do you reconcile what otherwise appears to be a blatantly hypocritical stance with respect to Iraq?

                Just because Hussein was an evil man doing terrible things in Iraq doesn’t justify the even worse evil we’ve since visited upon Iraq, especially when the excuses for our own huge litany of war crimes in this region — when our excuses so plainly only apply in the case of Iraq and are blithely ignored with respect to all the much worse cases elsewhere.

                And that is why Saddam’s Iraq was the ‘bottom of the barrel’.

                Hardly. Today’s Saudi Arabia is still far worse than Hussein’s Iraq ever was. Just one offhand example; women in Iraq went to and taught at Iraqi universities, but Saudi women today face torture if they dare show their faces in public without a male relative escort. North Korea is far worse than Iraq has ever been. Iran’s nuclear weapons program has always been far ahead of Iraq’s — and, again, North Korea and Pakistan already have nuclear weapons…and I could go on and on.

                Bush’s invasion was inexcusable, and Obama’s conduct in light of that invasion has been every bit as evil. That doesn’t excuse what Hussein did, of course…but neither do your by-now long-since-discredited Neocon apologia paint anything even remotely resembling a realistic picture of global politics.

                b&

              • Dermot C
                Posted September 24, 2015 at 3:58 am | Permalink

                Ben, these are the facts about WMD. In March 2003, the month of the coalition liberation of Iraq from Saddam, Saddam’s agents were in Damascus seeking to buy WMD off the shelf from North Korea via the nuclear physicist Abdul Qadeer Khan in Pakistan. They were double-crossed by Kim Jong-il.

                The anti-Iraq war New York Times reported late in 2003 that WMD materials had been found.

                Dr. Mahdi Obeidi, the scientist in charge of Iraq’s nuclear programme, was told by Saddam’s son-in-law to bury the plans and key equipment for uranium enrichment centrifuges in his back garden. And he did. To my knowledge they remain underground, unless they were dug up and reused by the insurgents to murder and maim their way across Mesopotamia.

                One month after the invasion, Saddam had been due to chair the UN committee on Security – what a prospect. In the sole example of Saddam publicly admitting an error he criticized himself for not obtaining nuclear weapons before the annexation of Kuwait, a fellow member of the UN and the ironically-named Organization of Islamic Cooperation. The UN condemned Saddam in resolution after resolution in the 90s for obstructing UN and IAEA inspectors, keeping them waiting for days in weapons equipment car parks while his goons inside shredded incriminating documents and moved equipment to mobile research labs.

                In the 80s Hans Blix of the IAEA signed off on Saddam not having a nuclear weapons programme. Saddam duped him. In the 90s the IAEA’s Rolf Ekéus, discovered and destroyed Saddam’s nuclear programme: after he refused a bribe of about $1.5 million from Tariq Aziz, Saddam’s Foreign Minister. Come the early 2000s who should France and Russia veto for the renewed UN weapons inspection programme? The incorruptible Rolf Ekéus. Who did they nominate? Saddam’s sock-puppet Hans Blix.

                In that light, it would have been irresponsible not to believe that Saddam was shamelessly seeking to rearm.

                I don’t think it’s true, Ben. None of those states or events you mention match my 4 criteria, not North Korea, not Russia, not Sudan nor Rwanda, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

                Take the case of Rwanda. The U.N. man on the ground, Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, warned the U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghalli of the impending massacre. 200 more U.N. peacekeepers would avert the catastrophe. The latter reprimanded the General for exceeding his mandate. Up to a million died in the next 6 months. That’s how rackety an organization the U.N. can be.

                Yep, there’s plenty wrong with those 6 states, but you should not make the best the enemy of the good. What if the liberation of Iraq had not taken place? Saudi Arabia and Iran, possibly Turkey, would have piled in and broken up Iraq into statelets, permanently in a cold or hot war. The Saudis would have even more of a grip on oil and a corresponding ability to defile western foreign policy. And the condition of the Kurds, who eternally struggle for democracy, would be even more hellish. x

              • Diane G.
                Posted September 24, 2015 at 4:05 am | Permalink

                The New York Times was pro Iraq War, much to its present ignominy.

              • Dermot C
                Posted September 24, 2015 at 5:37 am | Permalink

                My bad, Diane. I was referring to its self-contradictory assertion that it regretted its not investigating closer the pre-war WMD claim. That report from its own pages demonstrates its own inability to analyze all the news that’s fit to print. x

              • Posted September 24, 2015 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

                Dermot, you seriously owe it to yourself to move as far away from the neocon bubble as you possibly can.

                Start with these two sources:

                http://www.salon.com/2014/10/15/no_bush_was_not_right_about_iraq_how_conservatives_misread_new_times_bombshell/

                http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/feb/27/bush-administration-sold-iraq-war

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Dermot C
                Posted September 24, 2015 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

                You may not know, Ben, that the term ‘neo-con’ was probably coined by the bonkers type of Trotskyite who saw their ex-comrades recognize that sometimes the west had some ideas worth defending. It was only much later, I believe, that the term was applied to people like Wolfowitz. And Bush’s 2000 election campaign was isolationist and explicitly anti-neo-con in foreign policy. I wish leftists would remember that.

                As you know, my case for war is not based on Bush’s ideas: frankly, I couldn’t care less what he said. The fact that he made the argument for war through fear, rather than persuasion, is his mistake. x

              • Posted September 24, 2015 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

                Etymology is irrelevant; the original atheist didn’t worship Theos, aka Ζεύς. And Bush wouldn’t have needed fear had he had facts.

                b&

              • Dermot C
                Posted September 24, 2015 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

                I think this back-and-forth has run its course, don’t you, Ben? We disagree. x

              • Diane G.
                Posted September 24, 2015 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

                “My bad, Diane. I was referring to its self-contradictory assertion that it regretted its not investigating closer the pre-war WMD claim. That report from its own pages demonstrates its own inability to analyze all the news that’s fit to print.”

                Couldn’t agree more.

    • Saul Sorrell-Till
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Surely you’ve stopped long enough to hear us liberal critics of Islam define our terms? I don’t know how many times I’ve heard it said that criticism of the theology of a particular religion is different from criticising the people involved. There’s also a difference between opposition to religious tenets and opposition to human beings who believe those tenets. People will sometimes elide the two positions but in principle one of them is racist whilst the other is perfectly acceptable, reasonable and increasingly necessary.

      You say the west’s “demonisation of Muslims and fostering division amongst them played a major role in achieving (the) goal” of “deliberate carnage in the middle-east”. This is the grain of a point spun out into a web of genuinely idiotic, conspirational bullshit. Could you give me some evidence for the claim that the west demonised Muslims(deliberately remember) in order to bring about the “goal” of “carnage in the middle-east”? How did the west engineer “the conditions that spawned ISIS”? Again there’s the use of a word that implies intent – d’you want to supply some evidence that the west carefully brought about the existence of the world’s most barbaric organisation?

      “A huge dose of reality is sadly lacking here.” – you’re being ironic right? It seems like some people on the left are incapable of accepting the dissonance that comes with accepting it’s not just the west’s fault, that both sides share some blame, and the five year old Christian recently beheaded by ISIS was actually beheaded by ISIS and not us.

    • Michael Michaels
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      I don’t recall my own country, Canada or France and other Western countries joining the “Coalition of the willing”.

      Perhaps you meant something else by “Western insatiable greed is responsible for the deliberate carnage in the Middle East?”

      Your demonizing all us Westerners like some like to demonize all Muslims.

      I also recall Iran supporting terrorism in Iraq, against other Muslims using the opportunity to their advantage to gain political, economic and religious advantage.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted September 23, 2015 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

        ‘I don’t recall my own country, Canada or France and other Western countries joining the “Coalition of the willing”.’

        They didn’t, in fact as we know they all TOLD Bush and his poodle Bliar that invading Iraq was going to be a massive fuck-up and refused to go along with it. (Remember how ‘French fries’ were renamed to ‘freedom fries’ in a pathetic and childish retaliatory display of faux patriotism?)

        So ‘Western greed’ is actually code for ‘US greed and UK stupidity’.

        cr

        • Dermot C
          Posted September 24, 2015 at 2:44 am | Permalink

          Infinite…, I’m afraid you have your characterization of Bush and Blair the wrong way round.

          Blair was the ideologist of humanitarian intervention. It was he who persuaded Clinton to use NATO to stand by its principles and prevent the genocide of the largely Sunni Kosovo Albanians in 1999. Blair organized Operation Palliser in Sierra Leone in 2000 to save that benighted country from the war criminal Charles Taylor: told, by the way, by Kofi Annan to get on with it without a U.N. resolution. In 1999 he ordered the Gurkhas to support the East Timor peacekeeping operation.

          While Bush was Governor of Texas and before his isolationist Presidential campaign of 2000, Blair delivered the Chicago speech of 1999, outlining the humanitarian intervention doctrine. In a small field this was his best speech.

          I had plenty of disagreements with Blair but to call him Bush’s poodle is to ignore the facts of history. x

          • TJR
            Posted September 24, 2015 at 9:47 am | Permalink

            To quote a comedian from about 10 years ago (I forget who).

            “Blair isn’t Bush’s poodle. He’s his carer.”

    • Filippo
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

      Are you saying that the animosity between Sunni and Shia are caused solely by Western greed? Are you saying that there is no such thing as Islamofascism?

      I confess to experiencing Islamofascistphobia.

  11. Saul Sorrell-Till
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    As long as he continues doing what he’s doing his revolting critics will fail. He talks so reasonably, and holds to genuine, tolerant liberalism with such steadfastness, that people who call him a ‘lapdog’, etc. are making themselves look very bad indeed. There’s really nothing they can get a handle on either, unlike with Sam Harris or Dawkins – his views are straightforward, reasonable and entirely uncontroversial. I think the pondlife who’ve picked a fight here have severely underestimated their opponent.

    Just as further evidence of the shit he has to deal with from all sides I’d strongly recommend watching a YouTube clip of his Newsnight appearance where he was involved in a kind of mini-debate with Mo Ansar and Mehdi Hasan(the editor of Britain’s foremost left-wing magazine remember) about his tweeting a frame from a Jesus & Mo strip. It’s a riveting and illuminating nine minutes of footage. If you were a liberal, secular Muslim would you raise your head above the parapet after watching that?

    • Dermot C
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Saul, Mehdi Hasan is now in the U.S., taking the HuffPo dollar I think, last seen whining at Graeme Wood of Atlantic ‘What ISIS really wants’ fame. And lying about his non-existent scholarship in theology: he did PPE at Oxford. Mebbe he couldn’t face the Brit ridicule for his love of flying horses. x

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted September 23, 2015 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

        Does that mean he’s no longer editing the New Statesman? It baffles me that an avowedly left-wing, liberal publication like that would take on as editor someone whose politics are essentially conservative. The fact that he represents a relatively moderate version of Islam is irrelevant in my opinion – if he were a non-Muslim he’d be placed on the political right or the centre-right.

        It’s the deep conservatism of mainstream Islam that skews perception so much – by the lights of many British Muslims Hasan probably is moderate, but how is that relevant? If liberal values and human rights are to be considered universal then Mehdi Hasan is a conservative – the fact that he doesn’t openly advocate stoning people to death for leaving the faith shouldn’t be something he receives plaudits for. Opposing homosexuality, believing it to be immoral, but stopping short of calling it criminal or deserving of the death penalty doesn’t make you a liberal. It might make you relatively liberal by comparison with mainstream Islamic beliefs but that’s very different from actually being liberal.

        I’m not saying liberal publications should only employ liberal writers – that’d be insufferably boring. But I find it bizarre that a man who wrote to The Daily Mail to ask for a job could end up editing the NS, and be joined there by Myriam Francois-Cerrah, an even more conservative, dishonest, brittle apologist for Islamic intolerance. I don’t see non-Islamic conservatives turning up on the NS’s pages.

        I occasionally visited the Huffington Post because it had a section devoted specifically to ‘religion & science’. It was mainly woo and accomodationism so I stopped visiting. Apart from that I don’t know much about its politics except that Arianna Huffington is some kind of born-again liberal. Whether that affects the editorial stance, whether it even has a definable editorial stance – I don’t know. Hasan is obviously moving on and up though.

        • Dermot C
          Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

          Saul, on PuffHo, I do know of the scandal last month in its Arabic edition, attacking selfies, gays and atheists. The man in charge of the Arabic version, Wadah Khanfar formerly of al-Jazeera, is widely seen as a crypto-Islamist. You can look him up. Buzzfeed called them out and the liberal Arianna, whose liberality doesn’t extend to paying her contributors, performed a huge hand-brake turn, deleting the post to save the pedestrian liberal.

          He and the NS are no longer as one. There’s a youtube discussion of him with Graeme Wood, Steady Mehdi now of al-Jazeera doing his usual ‘can’t blame it on Islam’ schtick, from Washington D.C. I predict an appearance with Cenk Uygur soon. x

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted September 23, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

            This is all fascinating stuff. Thanks for the info.

          • Saul Sorrell-Till
            Posted September 23, 2015 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

            I have to say I find watching Mehdi Hasan in full flow almost physically injurious so I might have to take in the YT clip you mention in small doses.

    • Posted September 23, 2015 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      • Saul Sorrell-Till
        Posted September 23, 2015 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

        Thanks Ben – that’s the one.

  12. Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Werleman and Lean display the aggressive obtuseness and refusal to see their preconceived notions challenged that we are used to seeing in the highly religious.

    They “respect” and care about Muslims. Unless they are intelligent, well-educated ones who don’t hew to their line on Islam. Then, they become lap-dogs.

    Who the hell are they to decide when, whether, and how Islam needs to be reformed? Do they assert that it is currently perfect and needs no reform? Do they propose reform by force?

    Because they are pretty well left with those two options when they de-legitimize any moderate (e.g. Nawaz, Hirsi Ali) that speaks up from within the Muslim community (or former Muslims) with real ideas on reform.

  13. Posted September 23, 2015 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    I find this business of refusing to believe that someone is “really a Muslim” wholly contemptible. Anyone who doubts his sincerity should read his book and then consider whether or not they really have anything worth saying on the matter.

    Personally, I think there is a point at which we simply should respect someone’s statements about the way they want to identify themselves in public. It’s exactly the same boundary that people like Richard Dawkins respects when he distinguishes between a person and the beliefs they hold. It’s a distinction that many religious people could learn from atheists, and one that the “regressive left” needs to learn about too.

  14. Posted September 23, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    I had no knowledge of Nathan Lean before this ugliness. What a disagreeable character.

  15. Scott Draper
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Maybe the best way to handle this is through humor:

    Sam Harris, Nawaz’s lapdog

    • Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      I think Sam would enjoy that.

    • rickflick
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

      Is there such a thing as a lapkitten?

  16. Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    sub

  17. Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    The Islamophobia-mongers have completely lost the thread. It doesn’t seem to me that people like Lean or W****man are even interested earnest debate. They are all about signaling their leftist bona-fides and the smug little ego-boost they get from imagining they are superior to those they attack.

    • Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      That’s a good summary.

      They don’t want a debate of the issues. They want to shut up or de-legitimize anyone who disagrees with them.

      The exact same tactic as the far-right has used through history. As has been said here before: They are not Liberal, they are leftist totalitarians.

    • Dermot C
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      “James Bartholomew came up with the wonderful label ‘virtue-signalling’ to describe the narcissism of their gesture politics. You see it every day on the Web. (Every day? What am I talking about? Every minute.)

      The 140-character pronunciamentos. The activists who think they can deliver socialism with an angry Facebook status. The furious complaints all writers get from all sides demanding in outraged terms ‘what gives you the right to say this’. To which the only answer is ‘I have as much or as little right as you. If you disagree with me so violently, why don’t you write a book or make a film to put your point of view?’”

      From a recent Nick Cohen piece.

      blogs.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/2015/09/looking-good-nothing-corbyn-slackactivist-left/

  18. Posted September 23, 2015 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Ive been observing a civil war going on in the leftist circles. On one side theres the liberals who value traditional liberal values of free speech, press, etc and the other side who call themselves that but are merely apologists for Islam and shut down any criticism with cries of racism or islamophobia. This latter group includes people like Glen Greenwald, Reza Aslan, people over at Young Turks channel, and dozens of other groups and organizations.

    I think the term ‘regressive’ is very appropriate for this group. Half of this group reflexively shuts down debate over Islam because they see all Muslims as the poor colonized ‘brown’ people (the ultimate racism of low expectations), while the other half is truly dangerous (people like Aslan and Tariq Ramadan) because their objective is the spread and normalization of Islam within our society. Everyone should read Paul Berman’s excellent take down of these scumbags in his book “Flight of the Intellectuals”

    Like a frog placed in a pot of water with low heat gradually increased, the frog doesnt know its getting cooked until its too late. So it is with Islam and charges of Islamophobia and normalization Islam’s most horrendous aspects.

    • Dermot C
      Posted September 24, 2015 at 5:32 am | Permalink

      For French speakers, here is ‘The Battle for Human Rights’ an hour-long documentary by Caroline Fourest and Fiammetta Venner, on the hijacking of the U.N. Human Rights Council by dictatorships, Islamic and non-Islamic.

      It’s not the first time that the U.N. has put a dictatorship in charge of its proceedings. Libya ran the shop in the noughties. x

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sbd8ixGw2s&feature=share

  19. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Broadly speaking, it seems like Soviet Communism and militant Islam are the two issues in which neither the American right nor left have thought about very rationally.

    In both case, the left seems to be in denial that there is a significant menace at hand, while the right wing seems to see the evil entity in places where it is not.

    The John Birch Society’s ridiculous claim that fluoridation of water was a Communist plot and claim by some right wingers today that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim are cut from the same moth-eaten flimsy cloth. Likewise Joe McCarthy’s ruining the career of many innocent people is comparable to the unjust discrimination Muslim Americans face today.

    At the same time, abundant evidence that there was/is genuine danger posed by both entities was/is often ignored by liberals. Why in the 1960s were liberals unable to distinguish a piece of silly anti-Communist propaganda like J Edgar Hoovers “Master of Deceit” from a powerful and eloquent anti-Communist polemic like “The God that Failed” (a collection of pieces by six disillusioned ex-Communists)?

    Why do liberals today buy into a dishonest whitewashing of Islam like Reza Aslan’s “No God but God”, but ignore the powerful testimony of women in Islamic countries of the baleful influence of Islam on women as effectively testified by Alaan Hirsi Ali and in books like “Reading Lolita in Tehran” by Azar Nafisi or “A God Who Hates: The Courageous Woman Who Inflamed the Muslim World Speaks Out Against the Evils of Islam” by Wafa Sultan?

    • Dermot C
      Posted September 23, 2015 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know if I’ve linked to this before but this Iranian feminist art documentary from 2013 by Sheema Kalbasi is excellent.

      Despite the murderous sharia, Iranian oppositionists produce such classy, dignified and determinedly-humane documentaries as this. And women who understand the psychology of the torturer as acutely as Orwell.

      The Farsi for ‘régime change’ is ‘régime change’, as if to underline their ultra-modern sophistication. If anything can break the totalitarianists creating a Shi’a theocracy from the western border of Afghanistan to the Mediterranean coast, it’s the Iranian people. X

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXP8AXpPIuA

      • rickflick
        Posted September 23, 2015 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

        Great link. Thanks.

    • Diane G.
      Posted September 24, 2015 at 3:52 am | Permalink

      I’ve always seen the current far left stance on Islam as a repeat of their love affair with communism. Ideology poisons everything.

  20. Tim Harris
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    ‘If Islam is to purge itself of its violence-prone, bigoted, and misogynistic elements, the reform will have to come from within Islam itself—from non-extremists like Nawaz. Non-Muslims like me and Harris, or even ex-Muslims like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, may influence people’s opinion about the dangers of radical Islam, but Muslims are surely most receptive to messages from other Muslims.’

    I am very glad to read this.

  21. Posted September 23, 2015 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    It’s amazing that large elements of both sides of the political spectrum have been reduced to name calling in a competition to see who can win the crown of playground bully. While this ludicrous behavior must be confronted on occasion, I think the best consistent policy is to simply ignore the rhetoric in most cases. “Porch monkey” is no more an argument against the reform of Islam than “nigger” was an argument against the Civil Rights movement. Maybe one day these people will wake up and realize that.

  22. martin
    Posted September 23, 2015 at 9:57 pm | Permalink

    Good and necessary piece, and bravo for referencing Joseph Welch’s takedown of Joe McCarthy during the anti-communist army trials and turning it from right to left. The documentary, Point of Order, which contains Welch’s brilliant exchange with McCarthy (over McCarthy’s rotten attack on a man named Fred Fisher), is, or was, avalaible on YouTube.

  23. Ronald Portier
    Posted September 26, 2015 at 3:58 am | Permalink

    Please don’t blame the whole of the left for what some stupid people are saying. I have been a lifelong socialist (and marxist) and a big fan of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

    I think it is extremely important that believers in Islam adopt a more modern and tolerant version of their beliefs. Like many christians do by simple ignoring the more violent parts of the bible.

    I fight against using the very word “islamophobia” because it suggests wrongly that there is nothing to worry about radical islam. Well people are seeing the beheadings and floggins, not only in IS territory, but in Saudi-Arabia. They are seeing the violence against women, gay people, and even against other trends in islam.

    Kind regards,
    Ronald Portier

    Socialist Party Councillor in Dordrecht (Netherlands) (personal capacity)

  24. Dermot C
    Posted September 26, 2015 at 4:48 am | Permalink

    Change.org petition to have Maryam Namazie speak at Warwick, put up by Warwick Atheists, Secularists and Humanists.

    http://www.change.org/p/warwick-students-union-allow-maryam-namazie-to-speak-at-the-university-of-warwick?recruiter=392326527&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_twitter_responsive


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