Sam Harris has just written a blog post about the debate on Bill Maher’s show with Ben Affleck. He addresses when he mentioned that most Muslims do not take their faith seriously:
Although I clearly stated that I wasn’t claiming that all Muslims adhere to the dogmas I was criticizing; distinguished between jihadists, Islamists, conservatives, and the rest of the Muslim community; and explicitly exempted hundreds of millions of Muslims who don’t take the doctrines about blasphemy, apostasy, jihad, and martyrdom seriously, Affleck and Kristof both insisted that I was disparaging all Muslims as a group. Unfortunately, I misspoke slightly at this point, saying that hundreds of millions of Muslims don’t take their “faith” seriously. This led many people to think that I was referring to Muslim atheists (who surely don’t exist in those numbers) and suggesting that the only people who could reform the faith are those who have lost it. I don’t know how many times one must deny that one is referring to an entire group, or cite specific poll results to justify the percentages one is talking about, but no amount of clarification appears sufficient to forestall charges of bigotry and lack of “nuance.” [my emphasis]
Misspoke? In an earlier post (September 10 2014) Sam Harris had this to say about the 1.5 billion Muslims attitudes to Islam:
No doubt many enlightened concerns will come flooding into the reader’s mind at this point. I would not want to create the impression that most Muslims support ISIS, nor would I want to give any shelter or inspiration to the hatred of Muslims as people. In drawing a connection between the doctrine of Islam and jihadist violence, I am talking about ideas and their consequences, not about 1.5 billion nominal Muslims, many of whom do not take their religion very seriously. [my emphasis]
Harris still appears to be saying that Muslims who do not believe in blasphemy, apostasy, jihad, and martyrdom, are not taking their religion seriously.
Maybe Sam is just articulating himself badly in two blog posts, and a TV appearance. His writings however, suggest that a serious Muslim believes these things. Ergo you are not a serious Muslim if you do not.
As I pointed out in my previous post, this does not help the pluralist secular minded muslims to challenge the theocratic societies they live in if we call them not serious muslims ourselves. Just like the people who use that as a criminal charge against them. (For more on that read here)
Sam has put himself into a bind by suggesting that Muslims who do not believe these things are either ignorant of scripture, or not serious believers.
This makes his support rather problematic for Muslims fighting extremists when Sam’s view of Islam is in line with those very extremists.
Extremists that want to kill them for not being serious Muslims.
The reason this matters is the very concerns and critiques we have on Islam will be ignored if we continue to suggest that the extremist position is the serious one for muslims to follow. When most of them do not already.
But then Sam once said the far right were the only ones talking sense about immigration. Hitchens replied “not while I’m alive they’re not.”
I hope Sam starts talking sense soon about how Muslims can be serious about their faith and promote secularism. Otherwise, theocracy will remain much longer than it should.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog