Ali Sina, a man whose work I’ve followed for many years, has thrown his opinion on the Sam Harris Ben Afflek fight into the ring. Dave had a little dig into the facts they quoted and was pretty clear that Sam Harris and Bill Maher were correct in saying that there are more than few Muslims who hold extreme views.
Where it all gets sticky, however, is Sam’s statement that Islam is “the mother-load of bad ideas”.
And here’s the start of what Ali Sina has to say:
The debate between Sam Harris and Ben Affleck on Bill Maher’s Show generated a lot of controversy.
Harris said Islam is the mother-load of bad ideas and Ben Affleck retorted it is an ugly thing to say, it is racist. Of course Islam is not a race, but it helps to shout racist if you run out of arguments.
Islam is an idea and no idea, whether good or bad is above criticism. Good ideas welcome criticism. Bad ideas want to silence them because they have no defense against them.
Affleck is wrong. That does not mean Harris is right. Harris contended, “Hundreds of millions of Muslims are nominal Muslims, who don’t take their faith seriously, who don’t want to kill apostates, who are horrified by ISIS and we need to defend these people, prop them up and let them reform their faith.”
Reforming Islam, the way he envisions it is an illusion. His error drives from the fact that he equates Islam to Christianity and concludes that since Christianity was once upon a time a violent religion and then reformed, Islam can do the same.
Even though at one time the religion associated with Jesus had become violent and intolerant, there is nothing violent and intolerant in his teachings. The crusades were the response of the Christendom to jihad and the inquisition was the copycat of mihnah, a practice started by Caliph Ma’mun, which means inquisition. They have no basis in the teaching of Christ.
The Christian reformation aimed to get rid of un-Christian practices. They suggested that the Bible should be read literally and its allegorical interpretations should be rejected. An analogous reformation also took place in Islam. It is called Salafism.
Muhammad reiterated repeatedly that he is the best salaf, the best example to follow and after him, his companions are the best model for Muslims to emulate.
He raided villages and towns, massacred unarmed men, beheaded his captives, raped their women and sold them as slaves. His successors, the so called rightly guided Caliphs and their successors did the same. These are the very things the Wahhabis advocate and ISIS is doing.
ISIS is the true embodiment of Islamic reformation. Is this what Sam Harris has in mind? No, he is talking about people like Maajed Nawaaz, Irshad Manji and Zuhdi Yasser.
This is an immensely troubling viewpoint. Unfortunately I haven’t seen anyone argue conclusively against it. I too resisted these ideas when I first started looking at them more than ten years ago but everything that’s happened in the world since has reinforced this point of view. Turkey has slid further back toward the 7th century, much of the entire Arab world is in turmoil and groups like IS have arisen to do exactly what Muhammad did.
You should read all of Ali’s piece, but if you don’t, here are his conclusions. I agree with him: a film showing the Muslim authorised, approved and R-Rated version of the life of their prophet would open the eyes of many people, especially many Muslims.
Islam is what is. It can’t be molded. It can’t be reformed. It is rigid like fossil. You can’t reshape it, but you can break it. I have shattered the faith of thousands of Muslims. If I could reach all Muslims I could destroy this faith. Truth liberates.
There is a way. We need a biopic of Muhammad that depicts his savory life tastefully that can then be downloaded, even in Mecca, and can be seen by hundreds of millions of people. A truthful movie about Muhammad can change the course of history.
Islam is either from God or it isn’t. If it is then we have to accept it because that is what the Quran says. If we don’t, we should not complain when Muslims kill us. They are following the religion we acknowledged to be true. If Islam is not true, we better tell it fearlessly. Stop tiptoeing around it lest you offend Muslims’ sensitivity. Take side. Be either hot or cold for as tepid you are only good for a spit.
Truth hurts the petal delicate sensitivity of Muslims, but lies kill. Thousands are killed every day to uphold a lie. If this is not insanity what is?
I’ll end with two videos. The first is a song by Paulo Nutini – Iron Sky. I can’t stop listening to it. It’s got a message that could be directed at people suffering under the yoke of totalitarian Islam. And it contains within it a great speech about freedom. One of the great speeches about freedom. Made even more astonishing by the fact it was written and delivered not by a great leader but by a clown, a comedian and an actor. Charlie Chaplin. That’s the second clip.