Sam Harris, a prominent American atheist and neuroscientist,
seems to be suffering from Islamophobia.
Is Sam Harris suffering from Islamaphobia and is in denial?
In his books, articles and blog, Sam Harris engages in frequent extremist diatribes against Muslims. He appears obsessed with the undermining of the Islamic faith in every fault finding way he can dig up. While occasionally, he makes a mild acknowledgement to moderate Muslims, he pursues his condemnation of Islam in rather similar language that extremist Muslims use to rant against the West.
Sam Harris and certain violent Islamic ideologues have more in the common than they realise. Both live in the spell of fear and blame. Both justify war.
Harris seems to have identified himself with certain Western governments and the media who initially stereotyped Islam in order to make and justify invasions of Islamic nations. Yes, Harris criticises other Middle East religions but he preserves his tirades against Islam which he perceives as a unique threat. He sees the West as the civilised world and Muslims as a threat to global civilisation.
The writings of Harris lack an meaningful critique of violence and war, whether inflicted by the nation state, such as the USA/UK or organisations such as NATO. He offers hardly anything in the way of insight into the terrible suffering inflicting on millions of Muslims, as well as thousands of Western troops in the battlefield.
His personal hubris blocks any opportunity for shedding light on the wilful invasion of the USA’s attacks on 14 Muslim countries. Harris focuses on the murderous intent of Islamic extremists and the savagery of terror in the Islamic world without any understanding of the range of causes and conditions that give rise to these wars and regional conflicts.
As the English proverb states: “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” In his 300 page book, The End of Faith, he devotes half his book to targeting Islam with relatively little reference to a critique of other faiths. (See the Index for the number of references to Islam/ Muslims compared to Judaism and Christianity). His attitude feeds into the fearful national psyche prominent in the USA.
Numerous thoughtful Muslims in the USA would feel understandably concerned at this concerted put down of their faith by a Jewish intellectual. Voices in the Muslim community in the USA fear to make their concerns heard in the public about such possible expressions of Islamaphobia. Muslim leaders know in the USA know they have to keep a low profile; otherwise they face an FBI arrest under the laws of Homeland Security.
Due his persistent dark perceptions of millions of Muslims, Harris shows a lack of spiritual, cultural and philosophical depth about the immense benefits and severe limits of religious beliefs. Harris travels the USA, speaking on television and radio, political chat shows and writing articles for the media propounding his anti-Islamic views.
Quotations from Sam Harris
Below are quotations from Sam Harris to be found in his book The End of Faith and on his blog. The Title of Harris’s latest book is The Moral Landscape. The views of Harris reflect his own moral landscape.
“There is no such thing as Islamophobia.”
“Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death.”
“While the other major world religions have been fertile sources of intolerance, it is clear that the doctrine of Islam poses unique problems for the emergence of a global civilization.”
“I am one of the few people I know of who has argued in print that torture may be an ethical necessity in our war on terror.
“If there is even one chance in a million that he will tell us something under torture that will lead to the further dismantling of Al Qaeda, it seems that we should use every means at our disposal to get him talking.”
“The only future devout Muslims can envisage—as Muslims—is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed.”
“This is not to say that we are at war with all Muslims, but we are absolutely at war with millions more than have any direct affiliation with Al Qaeda.”
“The people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.”
“Honest reasoning declares that there is much that is objectionable—and, frankly, terrifying—about the religion of Islam.”
“It is time we admitted that we are not at war with “terrorism”; we are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran.”
“All civilized nations must unite in condemnation of a theology that now threatens to destabilize much of the earth.”
When Muslims wanted to establish a large community centre for prayer for more than 1000 New York Muslims, an area for interfaith dialogue and a memorial for victims of 9/11, two blocks away from Ground Zero, the site of the Twin Towers in New York, Harris wrote
“The claim that the events of September 11, 2001, had “nothing to do with Islam” is an abject and destabilizing lie. This murder of 3,000 innocents was viewed as a victory for the One True Faith by millions of Muslims throughout the world.”
On airport passengers: “We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it.”
On a Muslim country acquiring long-range nuclear weaponry, Harris writes:
“If history is any guide, we will not be sure about where the offending warheads are or what their state of readiness is, and so we will be unable to rely on targeted, conventional weapons to destroy them. In such a situation, the only thing likely to ensure our survival may be a nuclear first strike of our own. Needless to say, this would be an unthinkable crime—as it would kill tens of millions of innocent civilians in a single day—but it may be the only course of action available to us, given what Islamists believe.
What is Islamophobia?
Readers can make up their own mind whether the views of Sam Harris constitute Islamaphobia. If Harris is not suffering with Islamophobia, then readers need to determine what does constitute Islamophobia. Here are three definitions of Islamophobia.
- Distilled from Encyclopaedias and Dictionaries: “Prejudices and aversion to Islam and Muslims, as well as actions and practices that attack, exclude or discriminate against persons on the basis that they are or perceived to be Muslims.
- The Commission of British Muslims. Chaired by the Vice-Chancellor of Sussex University, UK, defined Islamophobia as: “An outlook or world-view involving an unfounded dread and dislike of Muslims, which results in practices of exclusion and discrimination.
- The Commission stated that Islamophobia includes: “Opinions that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, that it is inferior to Western cultures. “
- The British Government put into law the Equality Act 2010 which states: The law makes it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of religion or belief in employment and the provision of services.
- The breaking of the law of the UK Equality Act includes: Direct discrimination occurs where a person is treated, or would be treated, less favourably than another person on grounds of religion or belief,
- The Act also states: Harassment occurs where a person is subjected to unwanted conduct on the grounds of religion or belief with the purpose or effect of violating his/her dignity, or creating an intimidating hostility for him or her.
- The Equality Act recognises the rights of Muslims in the UK to live free from Islamophobia, for people in the Jewish community to live free from anti-Semitism and similar legal protection for people of other faiths, cultures and orientations.
Around one in 20 people in Britain are Muslims who make an important and precious contribution to the spiritual, religious, cultural and social diversity so needed here.
If Sam Harris comes to Britain and expounds his anti-Islamic views, he may well fall foul of the law of the United Kingdom and find himself dealing with a police prosecution and deported as persona non grata.
Within the safe confines of US studios and universities, he can propagate his views which permits free speech and freedom of information, as long as it is agreeable to those in the White House (ask Edward Snowden and Julian Assange about the consequences when the White House objects to freedom of speech and freedom of information).
Sam Harris, a Vipassana meditator
In his blog, Sam Harris tells his readers he is a Vipassana meditator. He wrote:
“I spent two years on silent retreat myself (in increments of one week to three months), practicing various techniques of meditation for twelve to eighteen hours a day.
I believe that such states of mind have a lot to say about the nature of consciousness and the possibilities of human well-being.
Buddhism in particular possesses a literature on the nature of the mind that has no peer in Western religion or Western science.
For beginners, I usually recommend a technique called vipassana (Pali for “insight”), which comes from the oldest tradition of Buddhism, the Theravada. One of the advantages of vipassana is that it can be taught in an entirely secular way.
My friend Joseph Goldstein, one of the finest vipassana teachers I know, likens this shift in awareness to the experience of being fully immersed in a film and then suddenly realizing that you are sitting in a theater watching a mere play of light on a wall. Your perception is unchanged, but the spell is broken.”
It would appear that Sam Harris is abiding in the spell of Islamophobia or, at the very least,is anti-Muslim. As a Vipassana teacher for 40 years and an atheist, I have some words of advice for Mr. Harris (and for any Vipassana teachers or meditators who share his views).
Two years of silent retreats have done nothing to break your perception or your spell of projections and transference onto the worldwide Muslim community. Vipassana meditation practice is not working for you. Give it up.
Reflect deeply on the most basic and preliminary of ethics, namely to treat others as one wishes to be treated.
Observe a specific form of Noble Silence until the very end of 2015, namely the renunciation of speaking or writing two words – ‘Muslims’ and ‘Islam.’ See in January, 2016 if your attitude has changed before using the words. If you know your career, income and self-worth depends on frequent use of these two words, then make a strong resolution to support the words with loving kindness (metta) every time you employ them. Currently, you have not gone deep enough within in your meditation practice to use such words as ‘Muslims’ or ‘Islam’ with any depth of mindfulness, clarity, compassion or wisdom.
Engage in a deep inquiry into the Buddha’s teachings of dependent arising – namely seeing into causes and conditions for what arises. Examine if you have an emotional and intellectual addiction to fear and blame which seems to have a grip on your consciousness. Ask yourself: “Am I part of the problem between the West and the Arab world?”
Ask yourself if there is any similarity in your mind to the dark underworld of successive UK/NATO governments towards the Arab world. Try not to be afraid of being honest with yourself. Why are millions of Arabs against years of occupation and exploitation of their natural resources? Inquire into the causes and conditions for terrorism, murderous assaults and suicide attacks.
Examine the various causes and conditions for widespread human suffering between the West and the Arab nations. Meet with Muslims. Spend weeks or months with Muslims in their homes from Palestine to Pakistan. Experience Muslim hospitality. Spend time in homes, community centres and mosques of Muslims in the USA.
Is this endless violence and killing among Muslims fuelled by fear/blame, traumatised children from war who have become adults seeking revenge, adoption of obscene extremism corrupting religious beliefs and submission to a political/religious authority that is identified with military conquest? Go deep into this inquiry. What views contribute to fuelling fear and blame onto others and subsequent horror. What has to change? Who has to change?
Offer a humble apology to many millions of kind Muslims, who show incredible hospitality to people of all faiths and backgrounds. Make a public statement to them expressing your deep regret for what you have written and said about them.
Then go back to the meditation cushion. You are now ready to sit a Vipassana retreat.
Go into a long term retreat to transform your perceptions, consciousness and see if you can dissolve any lingering spells, projections and transference onto people of faith. Develop insight, practice deep loving kindness (metta) meditations on a daily basis and discover liberation of the heart.
Write and speak when you know you can express wisdom and compassion. Write and speak when you know you can offer a profound critique of religion and secularism and their harmful impact.
You will then be in the company of the Noble Ones.
MAY ALL MUSLIMS BE FREE FROM ISLAMOPHOBIA
MAY ALL JEWISH PEOPLE BE FREE FROM ANTI-SEMITICISM
MAY ALL BEINGS LIVE IN PEACE AND HARMONY