Maajid Nawaz on the Big Think: “No idea is above scrutiny; no people are beneath dignity”

Here’s Muslim reformer Maajid Nawaz on The Big Think discussing “How the PC regressive left can manifest bigotry and prejudice.” What he calls the “zero-sum” game of Authoritarian Leftists is the fact that people like him can’t win, for their criticism of Islam is automatically construed as criticism of Muslims, aka people of color, and that’s racism.

Nawaz’s bona fides to criticize Islam are impeccable, as are Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s. The former spent five years in an Egyptian jail as an Islamist before deciding that he needed to change and become a moderate reformer; Ali was subjugated, mutilated, and hounded by death threats. And both are “brown” people. Yet both are called Islamophobes. It’s a severe indictment of both atheism and humanism that people like these are demonized rather than admired for their courage and commitment.

If there’s one flaw in this talk, it’s that Nawaz seems a bit defensive, overly touting his credentials. But I suppose that’s critical for him to establish credibility in a world of identity politics.

h/t: Cindy


  1. Posted March 3, 2016 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I strongly recommend everyone read Nawaz’s book, Radical. And excellent read and a good view into how Muslims in the west can be radicalized — and maybe de-radicalized.

    • Scott Draper
      Posted March 3, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      Damn you people….my “to read” list keeps getting longer and longer. Makes me want to cry.

      • Posted March 3, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        Me too! But that book is a quick read.

  2. GBJames
    Posted March 3, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it is an indictment of atheism or humanism. It’s an indictment of regressive leftists, some of whom are atheists or humanist, but many of whom are believers of one sort or another.

    • Diane G.
      Posted March 3, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      Excellent point! One we need to propagate widely!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 4, 2016 at 3:37 am | Permalink

      To be honest, I think it’s more an indictment of people who think that the variety of “people” can be meaningfully split (taxonomy sense) on the basis of trivialities like skin tone, limb count, religious or political opinion, eye colour etc. “People” can be split into two categories: those who have proved themselves not worth communicating with and everyone else.
      I had to fill out one of those interminable taxonomic “diversity” keys yesterday, and it “keyed” me off (other past participles are available). Am I white, black, pink, green (no, they missed that one, buy I know guy with some serious green tattooing) or brown; am I Welsh, Irish, Carribean, Asian (that applies to my Siberian wife, I guess?), European (my Capo Verdean sailor friend is definitely European, though as black as the Ace of Spades, while my Trinidadean friends aren’t, despite covering the whole black to white axis).
      It put me into a foul mood, as much for the obvious pain of the database designer. So I ticked the box for Other and put in Homo sapiens sapiens . Stupid questions deserve difficult and useless answers.
      Yes, I did put down ‘Pastafarian’. To complicate their assessment process.

  3. Posted March 3, 2016 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    Nawaz is a model of Classical Liberalism, a hero. Big fan of his work.

  4. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted March 3, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Impressive, honest, thoughtful, humorous.

    I wonder about the history of the “smoke bad, smoker not necessarily bad” juxtaposition, since I have used it before. It goes around!

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 4, 2016 at 3:43 am | Permalink

      With e-cigs, the “smoke =bad” equality is challenged. Not that the Health Nazis can handle any form of challenge.
      By coincidence, just stopping at Bletchley Station. If the Illegitimati hadn’t carborundumed Alan Turing balls and driven him to suicide, we’d probably be 20 years ahead of our current position in computation.

  5. Posted March 3, 2016 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  6. tubby
    Posted March 3, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    It’s deeply saddening that he has to defend himself like that and prove he’s liberal. It’s like the same thing that’s going on with the far right where you have to pass a purity of ideology test before you’re properly conservative.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 3, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      I know he sounds repetitive and defensive, but I think he’s probably addressing new listeners. People who are hearing from him for the first time. He’s widening his base of support. Like politicians running for office, the only way to get known and win acceptance is to repeat your story many times. Also, he is undoubtedly misquoted often. This is one way of fighting that problem.

  7. Alexander Hellemans
    Posted March 3, 2016 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    “Yet both are called Islamophobes.” Perhaps we should use the term “Abrahamophobe.” Too many Christians in Europe secretly love the Islamic influx because it is an influx of “religion” in a society becoming secular.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted March 4, 2016 at 3:48 am | Permalink

      Evidence required.
      Though I’ll grant that in this context, 2 is probably “too many”.
      Evidence that the level of such people is above sampling uncertainty -say 3%

  8. Heather Hastie
    Posted March 3, 2016 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I always wonder how anyone on the left can argue with Nawaz when he says things like he does in this video. When the Authoritarian Left criticize him for things like having a conversation with Harris, it just exposes their own intolerance and hypocrisy imo.

    • Randy Schenck
      Posted March 3, 2016 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      It reminds me of the recent dust up at the Oscars and the R word. But, at least they had Chris Rock to set them straight and make the liberal left squirm around in their seats for a few hours. The best part was Chris asking the question – why now? After 88 years it was just discovered the Hollywood leftist might just be racist. The only way to take it is head on.

      That is what Nawaz & Harris have been doing.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted March 3, 2016 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        Good point. As far as the Oscars go, I always thought it would have been more effective if the many extremely talented black actors had turned up en masse. They would have been pretty hard to ignore then and made their point better. The value of that image to the cause would have been much higher than a few whines I think.

        • Randy Schenck
          Posted March 3, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

          Yes, Boycotting something like that is more – out of sight, out of mind. Rock had another idea that maybe they should try – black actor Oscars. He reminded them that they have separate Oscars for male and female? Why? This is not Tennis or Basketball.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted March 3, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

            That’s interesting. Though at least they call the awards “best male” and “best female”. I get irritated every time I see the car park signs at the golf club over the road: “Club Captain” and “Ladies Club Captain”; “Club Secretary” and “Ladies Club Secretary” etc.

            • Diane G.
              Posted March 3, 2016 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

              It gets even sillier with school team names. Vikings/Lady Vikings, Gladiators/Lady Gladiators…

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted March 4, 2016 at 3:58 am | Permalink

                Hmm. I’d have to check for names, but the Eddas and the Orkneyingasaga have some cracking Lady Vikings. I may be conflating a couple of characters here, but I remember one Irish lass, kidnapped as a sex slave at about 13, chopped the balls off her Lord Rapist when their son was old enough to take the throne, lead a few hundred shield-biters into glorious (and gory-ously described) victory, and generally had a riotously successful career. What is not to like about a character like that? Shouldn’t mothers be telling their daughters “this is a model to emulate!”
                [Winces from anatomically male half of the audience]

              • Diane G.
                Posted March 4, 2016 at 5:36 am | Permalink


                (Had to Google Orkneyingasaga.)

              • gravelinspector-Aidan
                Posted March 5, 2016 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

                The only deconstruction it really needs is knowing that “ing” is a placename element meaning “the people of …”.
                Cracking good yarns.

        • Diane G.
          Posted March 3, 2016 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

          Do you mean, “attend the show?” It’s not exactly open admission, AFAIK.

          • Heather Hastie
            Posted March 3, 2016 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, I though they should attend, and arrive together.

            • Diane G.
              Posted March 4, 2016 at 12:02 am | Permalink

              Would have been quite the statement indeed!

  9. keith cook + or -
    Posted March 3, 2016 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me, to be immersed in this unholy doctrine is dangerous (Shia/Sunni WTF) to pacify or reform it is equally dangerous and to be of some other persuasion, whatever it is and perhaps depending on your location could be bloody dangerous.
    Maajid Nawaz and the like are good news, their courage is evident but the message he, in this case, wants to hold on to, I condemn and will never support. On the other hand,
    it could be and I hold this view, in a more reformed version of Islam, the doors and opportunity for those born into it would be more open to scrutinising it’s doctrine and pave the way to rejecting it (or not)and hopefully on to enlightened secular values.
    In this way I do support Maajid Nawaz and those like him.

  10. Posted March 3, 2016 at 4:03 pm | Permalink


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