Sam Harris: Islam and the Future of Liberalism

The word “liberalism” denotes two almost opposite set of ideas. To distinguish between the two, it has become necessary to qualify the term. “Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets.” In contrast to that, “social liberalism is the belief that liberalism should include social justice. It differs from classical liberalism in that it believes the legitimate role of the state includes addressing economic and social issues such as unemployment, health care, and education while simultaneously expanding civil rights. Under social liberalism, the good of the community is viewed as harmonious with the freedom of the individual.” It is social liberalism that Sam refers to in a piece on his blog. Excerpts below the fold, for the record.

March 13, 2012
Islam and the Future of Liberalism

My criticism of Islam, as of any other religion, is aimed at its doctrine and the resulting behavior of its adherents. I am not talking about races of people, or nationalities, or any other aspects of culture. And yes, there are more moderate strands of the faith: The Ahmadis, for instance, resemble what many liberal Westerners imagine the “true” face of Islam must be like. I still find their creed disconcerting: According to one of the websites affiliated with this movement, Ahmadis believe that the “Holy Qu’ran is the word of God which is to guide mankind forever, and the Holy Prophet Muhammad was the perfect model of Islamic teachings whose example shall forever be binding on every Muslim to follow.” To my ear, the words “forever” and “perfect” and “every” and “binding” convey the scent of despotism about as well as “a thousand-year Reich”—especially when one considers the actual contents of the Qur’an and the example set by Muhammad. However, the Ahmadis at least claim to believe that jihad “primarily signifies a spiritual, intellectual and moral struggle to reform oneself and others” and to condemn “all use of force except in unavoidable self-defense.” I’m not sure I would want to put these assertions to the test by venturing into an Ahmadi mosque with a fresh batch of cartoons of the Prophet, but the Ahmadis are at least disposed to make the sorts of conciliatory sounds that the religious must make in order to live peacefully in a pluralistic world where most people do not share their favorite superstitions.

[. . .]

. . . we know that intolerance within the Muslim world extends far beyond the membership of “extremist” groups. Recent events in Afghanistan demonstrate, yet again, that ordinary Afghans grow far more incensed when a copy of the Qur’an gets defaced than when their own children are accidentally killed by our bombs—or, indeed, than when they are intentionally murdered. I doubt there is a more ominous skewing of priorities to be found in this world.

Should people be free to draw cartoons of the Prophet? There must be at least 300 million Muslims spread over a hundred countries who think that a person should be put to death for doing so. (This is based on every poll assessing Muslim opinion I have seen over the past ten years.) Should Ayaan Hirsi Ali be killed for her apostasy? Millions of Muslim women would applaud her murder (to say nothing of Muslim men). These attitudes have to change. The moral high ground here is clear, and we are standing on it.

Of course, millions of Muslims are more secular and are eager to help create a global civil society. But they are virtually silent because they have nothing to say that makes any sense within the framework of their faith. (They are also afraid of getting killed.) That is the problem we must keep in view. And it represents an undeniable difference between Islam and Christianity at this point in history. There are also many nefarious people, in both Europe and the U.S., who are eager to keep well-intentioned liberals confused on this point, equating any criticism of Islam with racism or “Islamophobia.” The fact that many critics of Islam are also racists, Christian fascists, or both does not make these apologists any less cynical or sinister.

The only way to know which way is up, ethically speaking, is to honestly assess what people want and what they believe. We must confront the stubborn reality of differing intentions: In every case it is essential to ask, “What would these people do if they had the power to do anything they wanted?”

India is not an Islamic state but the UPA & its “secularists” camp followers play it as one for getting the “minority” votes. Salman Rushdie is not welcome and his book is banned. The Pakistani cricketer turned politician, Imran Khan, refused to attend the India Today Conclave (why the hell have him there in the first place, I wonder) when he learned that Mr Rushdie is somehow involved in it. But he is being true to his faith as a fundamentalist Muslim. In all likelihood, if given the opportunity Mr Khan would send Mr Rushdie to meet his maker and he would become an instant hero of the Islamic world and the prime minister of Pakistan.

But aside from genuine Muslims like Mr Khan, there are quasi-Muslims like Mr Akhilesh Yadav, the newly elected CM of some state. His party won the recent state assembly elections because Muslims voted for it. Mr Yadav is a quasi-Muslim and therefore had to also boycott the India Today conclave (and I again wonder what sort of a dog and pony show that conclave is that it has to invite fundamentalist Muslims and wannabe quasi-Muslims.)

That’s just the way it is.

5 thoughts on “Sam Harris: Islam and the Future of Liberalism

  1. The Mindset Thursday March 15, 2012 / 9:08 pm

    Loved the word – quasi-Muslims


  2. The Mindset Friday March 16, 2012 / 1:26 am

    Taliban Raj in India
    DuD were issued a dangerous threatening letter to the Hindus of India through internet. The letter dictates as under:

    “”[[This Country ‘India’ was never a nation of Hindus. It was ruled and governed by Muslims for hundreds of years. And we the students of tahreek-e-taliban-hindusthan, demand that the Muslim majority areas should be and must be ruled according to the Sharia Law.
    Threatening letter to Hindus by Talibans.
    Therefore we pass This verdict from today onwards that all the non-muslim living in muslim majority areas should start paying ‘JIZYA’- A tax that every non-muslim has to pay to Live and Work under Muslims.

    You have only three choices:

    1) Convert to our great faith ‘Islam” and u will be safe.
    2) Or pay the Jizyah on our terms and conditions and live.
    3) Or accept our challenge and fight us on the battle field.

    Ten % of your monthly income must be deposited to the local Mosques on the 1stdate of every month. Failing to do so Or taking this verdict lightly will result in very harsh and serious punishment and it will be considered as act of treason and provocation to War.

    INSHALLAH!!! We will make you sure in a way you can never imagine.
    Darul Uloom Deoband, India.


  3. Dhruva Friday March 16, 2012 / 4:14 am

    So damn true
    “In all likelihood, if given the opportunity Mr Khan would send Mr Rushdie to meet his maker and he would become an instant hero of the Islamic world and the prime minister of Pakistan.”
    Quasi-Muslims – There are quite a few of ’em. If all of them are taken out of census, Hindu population might shrink to half of its present 🙂


  4. bragoonanan Friday March 16, 2012 / 6:47 am

    There are only asuric and daivic religions in Sanathan Dharam world. Both Islam and Christianity are combinations of asuric abd daivic principles. They both compete for membership at any cost. Islam competes diffrently from Christianity in that their end justifies their means.

    Forty thousand Christian sects and seventy two Muslim sects leave one to wonder about the truth of these two religions, and what really justifies these many many sects.


  5. tstm Saturday May 19, 2012 / 8:34 pm

    bragoonanan: lets all pretend that there are no sects in Hinduism?


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