Sam Harris, Glenn Greenwald, and the recent animus against 'New Atheism'
#13
(13-Apr-2013, 09:45 AM)Captain Mandrake Wrote: But do people on the left actually have a rosy picture of Islam? Can you give me some examples?

In fact there are some high-profile historical examples of atheists with socialist leanings who had a 'rosy' or at any rate relatively approving picture of Islam, emphasizing the egalitarianism in its organization while choosing not to mention less appealing aspects. C N Annadurai, founder of the DMK and an early protege of Periyar who hailed the Soviet model, in this speech excerpt (in Tamil) lists some aspects of Islam that appeal to him (i) the concept of shirk (which he mentions not by name but by definition), which to him trims away many trappings of religion (by which he probably implies idolatrous ritualistic ones) (ii) casteless social organization. In the speech he also says that these principles of Islam pending vindication by practice are of little avail and could even be counterproductive, as a diamond maybe used to fashion an ornament or be sold for gambling. He also cites Bernard Shaw's views of Islam, who applauds that doctrine for similar reasons.

Whatever other accomplishments some public intellectuals may have in their respective societies, they seem far from immune to the view that the grass is greener on the other side when it comes to religion. For participants in early Indian rationalist mobilization for whom dealing with casteism was a priority, the seeming castelessness of Islam (alas, largely in theory) made it seem a benign religion. Likewise, for many Western rationalists, the country-fair appeal of Hinduism that appears to accommodate pluralism with aplomb may make it seem a very benign religion in comparison to those where rules of apostasy are set in stone. A remedy for these distortions that occur from long-distance views is to accord due attention to some up-close views from individuals with an inside view, or worse, at the receiving end of their native faith's retribution.
[+] 1 user Likes arvindiyer's post
Reply
#14
Lije,

That was a great post. This Greenwald vs Harris topic has animated the liberal left and new atheist community for several days and your post comprehensively addresses all the important reasons why this topic gained so much traction.

I agree with almost everything you said. But I still want to nitpick a bit more.

(13-Apr-2013, 08:52 AM)Lije Wrote:
  • I agree that Islamophobia is a misused term. There is no justification to call Harris an Islamophobe (I’m assuming that the term means a Muslim hater, a bigot who judges a Muslim just because the Muslim is a Muslim)

........................

It is easier for Harris to say that he himself doesn’t object to being profiled. He is an US citizen with a non-muslim name and who doesn’t do what other Americans expect Muslims to do. Given that, I’d assert that he has little clue of what it is like to be a Muslim post 9/11. Hence his preference for profiling......

It is one thing to just propose profiling based on your own half-baked "happiness-maximization-algorithm" with out any feedback from others. But if you continue to support profiling for people who look like Muslims even after others have pointed out the negative effects such programs will have on the Muslim community then at some point people should start calling you an Islamophobe.

If you are not convinced then here is a cliched and oft-repeated thought experiment. What if someone for whatever reason were to propose similar programs for people who look like Jews? Will we not be justified in calling them an Anti-Semite?

So why can not we call Sam Harris an Islamophobe?
Reply
#15
(15-Apr-2013, 07:43 AM)Captain Mandrake Wrote: So why can not we call Sam Harris an Islamophobe?

Allow me to step back and instead ask: "When one is quite readily able to articulate objections to Harris' stances without lapsing into the use of smearing dysphemisms like Islamophobe that were coined and deployed to deflect criticisms of fundamentalism, then why painstakingly work them in?" A question, stepping further back, "Why call anybody, let alone Harris, an 'Islamophobe'?" The very coinage, attempting to recruit some of the contempt reserved for homophobes in liberal circles, seems based on two false equivalences which can be called out as follows (i) Criticizing people for beliefs they hold or demonstrably harmful behaviors they undertake is not the same as condemning people for their inborn nature and who they are. (ii) New Atheist critiques of radical Islam cannot by any reasonable commentator be called the Westboro approach to responding to radical Islam. An illustration, courtesy of another New Atheist who during his lifetime was criticized as a 'neocon', is his new Ten Commandments where he does say "Denounce all jihadists and crusaders for who they are : psychopathic criminals with ugly delusions." but not before saying "Do not condemn people on the basis of their ethnicity or their color." and "Do not condemn people for their inborn nature." In any of Harris' writings, there seems to be nothing that violates any of these Hitchens commandments and there seems no compelling reason for liberals on the left or elsewhere to feel obliged to slap on a label that rhymes with homophobe on him.

Also, if 'Islamophobia' was intended to be conflated with 'xenophobia' which apologists want to accuse New Atheists of, they would do well to be reminded of Hitchens' longstanding support to Kurdish self-determination and his approval of culturally Muslim democratic societies such as the fledgling states of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo (the founding of whom, he will add is owed in no small measure to the political will and military aid of Western democracies).

This does not of course mean that the Clash of Civilizations side-taking which Hitchens and Harris have supported is not problematic. Even devoid of its militarist component, even the narrative of Enlightenment 2.0 which appeared during the early waves of New Atheist mobilization, defaults to Eurocentrism. Such oversimplified narratives need correction at multiple levels, like what maybe called the 'many Enlightenments view' of Prof. Amartya Sen and exhortations to Muslim-majority societies to be inspired by Cordoba or indeed Baghdad in its heyday, rather than simply Badr. While engaging in such dialogue, name-calling such as 'neocon' and 'Islamophobe' seems best avoided, both so that the argument remains about ideas rather than people and also so that one doesn't play into the hands of apologists by resorting to their own obfuscating vocabulary. In an online setting where being a 'Shariah-phobe' or a 'burqa-phobe' elicits accusations of being an 'Islamophobe' by sections of the blogosphere that coined that term as a piece of verbal jiu-jitsu, it seems a good idea for liberals who oppose theological jurisprudence and forced veiling to avoid use of the term.

If a popular spokesperson of a cause one otherwise supports appears to reach conclusions that resemble those reached by bigots for other reasons, one may simply stick to pointing out the non-sequiturs as befits an advocate of reason rather join unwittingly in the excommunication cries of the apologists using their own chants without any sense of irony. In the profiling debate, Bruce Schneier has called out the non-sequiturs and little if any instructional value would be added by joining in the crowing and screeching of 'Islamophobe!".
[+] 2 users Like arvindiyer's post
Reply
#16
A google search for the term "Islamophobia" turns up the following information:

The UK based Runnymede Trust first defined the word which was then was recognised as a form of intolerance at the "Stockholm International Forum on Combating Intolerance" which was attended by Kofi Annan the then UN secretary general.

The trust in its report reports the following attitudes towards islam that in it's view constitute "Islamophobia"

Quote:The Runnymede report contrasted "open" and "closed" views of Islam, and stated that the following eight "closed" views are equated with Islamophobia:
Islam is seen as a monolithic bloc, static and unresponsive to change.
It is seen as separate and "other." It does not have values in common with other cultures, is not affected by them and does not influence them.
It is seen as inferior to the West. It is seen as barbaric, irrational, primitive, and sexist.
It is seen as violent, aggressive, threatening, supportive of terrorism, and engaged in a clash of civilizations.
It is seen as a political ideology, used for political or military advantage.
Criticisms made of "the West" by Muslims are rejected out of hand.
Hostility towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
Anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural and normal.[40]
These "closed" views are contrasted, in the report, with "open" views on Islam which, while founded on respect for Islam, permit legitimate disagreement, dialogue and critique.[41] According to Benn and Jawad, The Runnymede Trust notes that anti-Muslim discourse is increasingly seen as respectable, providing examples on how hostility towards Islam and Muslims is accepted as normal, even among those who may actively challenge other prevalent forms of discrimination.[42]

I'm not sure whether Sam Harris fulfills the above mentioned criteria or not, or whether he is aware of the deep relations that the US has had with the Islamic world for fulfillment of its political objectives.
What is more of concern is that : if someone does fulfill the above criteria, as many do In India and in the west, what then would an appropriate word be to describe such attitudes which would not be counted as a smear??

What could also be of interest is of some sort of dialogue between Harris and the author of this piece.
[+] 1 user Likes stupidseeker's post
Reply
#17
From the description of this important TED talk:
Quote:Karima Bennoune shares four powerful stories of real people fighting against fundamentalism in their own communities — refusing to allow the faith they love to become a tool for crime, attacks and murder. These personal stories humanize one of the most overlooked human-rights struggles in the world.





Earlier in this thread, it was discussed whether the attitude of the Left towards Islam can be problematic, besides the more obviously hostile stances of the Religious Right. The talk incidentally was published on the same day as this article by Nicholas Kristof. Neither end of the political spectrum is without fault in this regard according to the speaker.

Quote:In the West, it's often assumed that Muslims generally condone terrorism. Some on the right think this because they view Muslim culture as inherently violent, and some on the left imagine this because they view Muslim violence, fundamentalist violence, solely as a product of legitimate grievances. But both views are dead wrong. In fact, many people of Muslim heritage around the world are staunch opponents both of fundamentalism and of terrorism, and often for very good reason.
...
Western discourse has most often offered two flawed responses. The first that one sometimes finds on the right suggests that most Muslims are fundamentalist or something about Islam is inherently fundamentalist, and this is just offensive and wrong, but unfortunately on the left one sometimes encounters a discourse that is too politically correct to acknowledge the problem of Muslim fundamentalism at all or, even worse, apologizes for it, and this is unacceptable as well. So what I'm seeking is a new way of talking about this all together, which is grounded in the lived experiences and the hope of the people on the front lines.

Tellingly, one word that did not occur even once in the riveting 20-minute talk was Islamophobia. It goes to show that a compelling case for human solidarity and against prejudice can be made without resort to that distracting neologism. Is it too much to ask of the Left and Right in the Anglophone world to try and articulate their concerns and disagreements in a better-argued fashion than treating a dysphemistic buzzword as an argument?
Reply
#18
(12-Jul-2014, 11:13 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: Tellingly, one word that did not occur even once in the riveting 20-minute talk was Islamophobia.

I do not quite follow why you say that. In what context would she use that word when she is talking about local Muslim societies fighting against Islamic fundamentalism? Given that she is criticizing Islamic fundamentalism the question should be would people who call Sam Harris an Islamophobe also call Karima Bennoune an Islamophobe. I think not.

Also I am not sure where she stands on the use of the word Islamophobia. Wonder if she would hesitate to use that word to describe Sam Harris if we were to ask her to comment on this 2006 piece [1] , where Sam had this to say about Muslims in Europe.

Quote:Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe. The demographic trends are ominous: Given current birthrates, France could be a majority Muslim country in 25 years, and that is if immigration were to stop tomorrow.

Of course, he was making shit up to scare the Europeans (and the racists among his atheist audience) of Muslims out breeding the natives. But in the fact based world Muslim population in France is only expected to grow to 10.3% [2] by 2030, i.e. 24 years from 2006 when Sam wrote that piece. And that is including immigration.

(12-Jul-2014, 11:13 AM)arvindiyer Wrote: Is it too much to ask of the Left and Right in the Anglophone world to try and articulate their concerns and disagreements in a better-argued fashion than treating a dysphemistic buzzword as an argument?

Why can’t we do both? First point out Sam Harris’ racist views and then call him an Islamophobe for holding to those views? What really is lost in calling a spade a spade?

Ref:
[1] http://www.samharris.org/site/full_text/...y-of-islam
[2] http://www.pewforum.org/2011/01/27/the-f...opulation/

PS: Picked that quote about the population claim from a comment I saw on a recent blog post on Pharyngula. The comment also had another link that pointed out more of Sam Harris' BS about Islam and Muslims. Will post it once I find it.
Reply
#19
Quote:Is it too much to ask of the Left and Right in the Anglophone world to try and articulate their concerns and disagreements in a better-argued fashion than treating a dysphemistic buzzword as an argument?


On similar lines can I propose the disownment of the word "Anti-Semitic" since there are elements in the Zionist and Jewish far right who use the term to defend their actions in occupied Palestine ?

Another doubt I have is : Can I be an atheist and not be an "anti-semitic" ?? Zionists used the Bible and the Torah as property deeds amongst other "historical" and "legal" justifications to establish the settler state of Israel. This is unique as no other religious group,neither Islam or Hinduism or Christianity, has established statehood on the basis of divinely ordained "promised land". As an atheist, I cannot consider either religious scripture as sanction for establishing statehood over a very specific area of land. Thus by virtue of my worldview I have taken away a large part of the justification for the existence of the state of Israel. Clearly, can there be a more anti-Semitic stance than this ? Sam Harris for one sees no contradiction in being a professed atheist and a stringent supporter of the Zionist regime. The freethoughtblog disagrees with his assessments.Another atheist who supports the Zionist regime is Billy Maher for reasons that he lists out here.
Objections over the other aspects for the existence of the Zionist Israeli state were raised, ironically, by another Jew, Shlomo Sands in his book "Invention of the Jewish people".

While there will be very many takers for the disownment of "islamophobia" I can well imagine the uproar that will almost certainly follow any call for disownment of the term "Anti-semitism" . Why should there be an uproar ? Because the Jews had to suffer the holocaust, because the state of israel is culturally similar to the west compared to the arabs, because Jews have 150 Nobel prize winners, because the Jews are champions of drip irrigation technology, because its so brave to be such a tiny country surrounded by enemies on all fronts ??

My take is that, and I may be wrong, is that the Zionists have made use of every opportunity to convince the Western world, the world that mostly counts for anything in todays world, that they are everything that their arab cousins can never hope to be. If this is true then it's been a mammoth PR disaster for the Arabs in the Western world which has had horrendous consequences for the well being of the Arab world.

To end I'd like to quote Greenwald from the article posted at the beginning of the thread :

Quote:The meaning of "Islamophobia" is every bit as clear as "anti-semitism" or "racism" or "sexism" and all sorts of familiar, related concepts. It signifies (1) irrational condemnations of all members of a group or the group itself based on the bad acts of specific individuals in that group; (2) a disproportionate fixation on that group for sins committed at least to an equal extent by many other groups, especially one's own; and/or (3) sweeping claims about the members of that group unjustified by their actual individual acts and beliefs.

Thus if terms such as "sexism" , "racism" and "anti-semitism" reflect reality then so does "Islamophobia" and if one deserves to remain so does the other.
[+] 1 user Likes stupidseeker's post
Reply
#20
Similar arguments in this article https://www.jacobinmag.com/2014/12/new-a...ld-empire/

In my opinion, in much contrast to what has been said of a lack of moderate Muslims in finding their voice, there was the recent social media disowning of ISIS by moderate muslims, saying that they don't represent us, perhaps because of their overt use of violence and this could perhaps be viewed as a welcome move of treating violent regimes http://www.buzzfeed.com/rossalynwarren/m...o-not-repr . Of course this flies in the face of a forever static perception of Islam given by Harris. However, Harris and the like have made some pretty violence-endorsing statements on the lines of pre-emptive nuclear strikes to Arab countries or Hitchens' comments on Iran being wiped of the face of earth.

There was much furore recently as well about Dawkins' alledgedly sexist comments and how some freethinkers thought it necessary he take back his words else boycott as he was giving the movement a bad name http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree...s-bad-name . So if sexist statements deserve such consequences, doesn't violence-endorsing comments also deserve something similar? In the event that the Pope or Putin had made some of the statements that Harris or Hitchens have, surely there would be much condemnation from freethinkers of they being overtly fundamentalist yet few bat an eye when such violence-endorsing statements are made by mainstream irreligious heads? Do they represent us or the movement and is there a dearth of non-violent individuals?
[+] 1 user Likes garrethdsouza's post
Reply
#21
(06-Dec-2014, 12:48 AM)garrethdsouza Wrote: In my opinion, in much contrast to what has been said of a lack of moderate Muslims in finding their voice, there was the recent social media disowning of ISIS by moderate muslims, saying that they don't represent us, perhaps because of their overt use of violence and this could perhaps be viewed as a welcome move of treating violent regimes http://www.buzzfeed.com/rossalynwarren/m...o-not-repr .

IMO, this "moderate-Muslims should speak up" thing is entirely pointless. Originally I too thought they should. But after hearing Sam Harris and Bill Maher I have changed my mind. Now I am convinced that this is just another means of othering Muslims and generally making their lives miserable in western society. Imagine having to constantly stand up against and be apologetic about things you have no control over and do not agree with in the first place. What a burden that must be? Even if these moderate Muslims do that it is not going to convince the Xenophobes anyway. So what is the point?
Reply
#22
(08-Dec-2014, 05:37 AM)Captain Mandrake Wrote: IMO, this "moderate-Muslims should speak up" thing is entirely pointless. Originally I too thought they should. But after hearing Sam Harris and Bill Maher I have changed my mind. Now I am convinced that this is just another means of othering Muslims and generally making their lives miserable in western society.

I won't make any assumptions about your knowledge of Western history or sociology, but this is an issue that every minority group has to put up with.  Continuing this line of thinking further, is it futile for women to keep distancing themselves from the extreme positions of radical feminism because it won't convince the sexists anyway?  And what do you suggest black activists do about some of the more extreme positions of black nationalist groups?


Quote:Imagine having to constantly stand up against and be apologetic about things you have no control over and do not agree with in the first place. What a burden that must be? Even if these moderate Muslims do that it is not going to convince the Xenophobes anyway. So what is the point?

Whatever happened to doing the right thing for the right reason?  Or does your worldview leave no room for ethical conduct for its own sake because it does not provide any sort of "evolutionary advantage"?

My apologies for reviving an old thread, BTW.
Reply


Possibly Related Threads...
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Philanthropy and Atheism/Freethinking. United_Floyd 7 7,993 12-Sep-2013, 06:35 AM
Last Post: arvindiyer
  Lying and ethics (opening shot: my analysis and summary of Sam Harris' new ebook) karatalaamalaka 26 25,172 15-Sep-2012, 08:19 PM
Last Post: arvindiyer
  The Atheism Gender Gap,political correctness and freedom of expression. LMC 2 4,823 17-Apr-2012, 09:01 AM
Last Post: arvindiyer



Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)