Thursday, April 04, 2013

Sam Harris throws a hissyfit

Glen Greenwald responded to the recent articles about Sam Harris including the one in Salon I linked to the other day. And Harris threw a fit.

Greenwald posted the exchange. For one thing Harris claims that he can't be an Islamophobe because:

There is no such thing as "Islamophobia." This is a term of propaganda designed to protect Islam from the forces of secularism by conflating all criticism of it with racism and xenophobia. And it is doing its job, because people like you have been taken in by it. 

Greenwald responded with an article in The Guardian:

...Harris' self-loving mentality amounts to this: those primitive Muslims are so tribal for reflexively siding with their own kind, while I constantly tout the superiority of my own side and justify what We do against Them. How anyone can read any of these passages and object to claims that Harris' worldview is grounded in deep anti-Muslim animus is staggering. He is at least as tribal, jingoistic, and provincial as those he condemns for those human failings, as he constantly hails the nobility of his side while demeaning those Others. 
Perhaps the most repellent claim Harris made to me was that Islamophobia is fictitious and non-existent, "a term of propaganda designed to protect Islam from the forces of secularism by conflating all criticism of it with racism and xenophobia". How anyone can observe post-9/11 political discourse in the west and believe this is truly mystifying. 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. I believe all of those definitions fit Harris quite well, as evinced by this absurd and noxious overgeneralization from Harris: 
The only future devout Muslims can envisage — as Muslims — is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed." 
That is utter garbage: and dangerous garbage at that. It is no more justifiable than saying that the only future which religious Jews - as Jews - can envision is one in which non-Jews live in complete slavery and subjugation: a claim often made by anti-semites based on highly selective passages from the Talmud. It is the same tactic that says Christians - as Christians - can only envisage the extreme subjugation of women and violence against non-believers based not only on the conduct of some Christians but on selective passages from the Bible. Few would have difficultly understanding why such claims about Jews and Christians are intellectually bankrupt and menacing...


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