Sam Harris explains a number of things in this article that clarified some of what I saw as discrepancies in his book End of Faith which by the way is both an excellent and important book in my opinion. This isn’t to say I agree with all of it or that it is proportional in its treatment of religious ideas. This lack of proportionality is well explained by these paragraphs by Harris:
“Our capitulations in the face of these threats have had what is often called “a chilling effect” on our exercise of free speech. I have, in my own small way, experienced this chill first hand. First, and most important, my friend and colleague Ayaan Hirsi Ali happens to be among the hunted. Because of the failure of Western governments to make it safe for people to speak openly about the problem of Islam, I and others must raise a mountain of private funds to help pay for her round-the-clock protection. The problem is not, as is often alleged, that governments cannot afford to protect every person who speaks out against Muslim intolerance. The problem is that so few people do speak out. If there were ten thousand Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s, the risk to each would be radically reduced.
As for infringements of my own speech, my first book, The End of Faith, almost did not get published for fear of offending the sensibilities of (probably non-reading) religious fanatics. W.W. Norton, which did publish the book, was widely seen as taking a risk–one probably attenuated by the fact that I am an equal-opportunity offender critical of all religious faith. However, when it came time to make final edits to the galleys of The End of Faith, many of the people I had thanked by name in my acknowledgments (including my agent at the time and my editor at Norton) independently asked to have their names removed from the book. Their concerns were explicitly for their personal safety. Given our shamefully ineffectual response to the fatwa against Salman Rushdie, their concerns were perfectly understandable.”
I’m reading this as, ‘While I do recognize that Islam is by far the greatest offender against reason and civilization today, my seemingly even handed attack on all religious faith was published and tolerated’.
Of course I could be way off base here. The article in its entirety is truly excellent and should be read from the link posted at the top of this page. Don’t take my word for his meaning and doubly so as he expresses himself very well.
He details how Nature Magazine has deleted clear statements of fact in articles about Islam for no reason other than fear of their own safety.
“I understood the editors’ concerns at the time: not only did they have Britain’s suffocating libel laws to worry about, but Muslim physicians and engineers in the UK had just revealed a penchant for suicide bombing. I was grateful that Nature published my letter at all.”
It makes one wonder why we bothered fighting WW2 at all doesn’t it? I mean the Nazi’s had a much greater capacity to inflict horror. Had we just surrendered to them it could have saved 60 million of some lives while costing several millions of others as the Nazis saw fit and probably less of a loss of freedom than people seem to be limiting themselves to now for a far lesser threat.
He then goes on to make a brilliant comparison between Islam and the Christian cult recently broken up in Texas….
“A point of comparison: The controversy of over Fitna was immediately followed by ubiquitous media coverage of a scandal involving the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS). In Texas, police raided an FLDS compound and took hundreds of women and underage girls into custody to spare them the continued, sacramental predations of their menfolk. While mainstream Mormonism is now granted the deference accorded to all major religions in the United States, its fundamentalist branch, with its commitment to polygamy, spousal abuse, forced marriage, child brides (and, therefore, child rape) is often portrayed in the press as a depraved cult. But one could easily argue that Islam, considered both in the aggregate and in terms of its most negative instances, is far more despicable than fundamentalist Mormonism. The Muslim world can match the FLDS sin for sin–Muslims commonly practice polygamy, forced-marriage (often between underage girls and older men), and wife-beating–but add to these indiscretions the surpassing evils of honor killing, female “circumcision,” widespread support for terrorism, a pornographic fascination with videos showing the butchery of infidels and apostates, a vibrant form of anti-semitism that is explicitly genocidal in its aspirations, and an aptitude for producing children’s books and television programs which exalt suicide-bombing and depict Jews as “apes and pigs.””
What I particularly like about the above quote, is that he clearly states Islam Vs. a fundamentalistChristian cult. The point being, while in Christendom this is the exception and one not tolerated by secular society, all its excesses are common to regular old normal Islam as well as a host of other objectionables.
Sam continues to make a point that I have observed very often as well especially by the regular Islamic callers to Ottawa’s talk radio station CFRA …
“Wherever “moderate Islam” does announce itself, one often discovers frank Islamism lurking just a euphemism or two beneath the surface.”
Generally when someone speaks on behalf of Islam and attempts to explain it in a sympathetic way to western ears, its usually just a matter of a question or two before they reveal the true beliefs and agenda’s at work. I do find many Muslim apologists (for lack of a better term) are becoming much more adept at covering the more objectionable aspects of it and more sophisticated at undermining freedom of speech in free nations. As Mark Steyn said in his interview on Michael Coren, (paraphrased) ‘Once they can stop him its a simple matter to stop any critic of the Islamic agenda in the west and most importantly, the freedom to criticise or even point out raw fact about Islam that Muslims may find objectionable will not be able to be published or spoken of anywhere in Canada.’
For Canada its not a stretch to substitute the western world.
Harris on Islam within the UK:
A recent poll showed that thirty-six percent of British Muslims (ages 16-24) believe that a person should be killed for leaving the faith. Sixty-eight percent of British Muslims feel that their neighbors who insult Islam should be arrested and prosecuted, and seventy-eight percent think that the Danish cartoonists should have been brought to justice. And these are British Muslims.
More on Islam in the UK. An excerpt from Hassan But:
When I was still a member of what is probably best termed the British Jihadi Network, a series of semi-autonomous British Muslim terrorist groups linked by a single ideology, I remember how we used to laugh in celebration whenever people on TV proclaimed that the sole cause for Islamic acts of terror like 9/11, the Madrid bombings and 7/7 was Western foreign policy. By blaming the government for our actions, those who pushed the ‘Blair’s bombs’ line did our propaganda work for us. More important, they also helped to draw away any critical examination from the real engine of our violence: Islamic theology.
This is a crucial point I think. That western leftists are incapable of believing that a ‘developing worlds’ people are capable of sophisticated and horrible acts. That any evil which befalls the west must be the result of western actions. Hubris indeed. A kind of smug superiority that any actions with real consequences must be western. I believe this is a central thought to irrational leftism. Its a kind of replacement for racism but with a veneer of benevolence.