Is Sam Harris suffering from Islamophobia or is it inexperience of Muslim communities?
In his books, articles and public lectures and debates, Sam Harris engages in frequent 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. Extremist Muslims also rant against the West. Extremists of any persuasion live in fear and blame.
Sam Harris has much experience in insight meditation (referred to as Vipassana in the Buddhist tradition). He has attended short retreats of a week to three months in the West and Myanmar, as well as engaging in spiritual exploration in India. He has an interest in teachings of Non-duality (Advaita) but does not appear to have understood it given his extremist views of the duality of Pro-West and Anti-Islam beliefs, which he sees as reality.
Harris seems to have identified himself with certain Western governments and the media who stereotyped Muslims to 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, as the infidels.
The writings of Harris lack a 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 of Muslim countries.
This 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. Violent religious extremists often have a history of obsessive psychological problems, sometimes triggered by traumas in warfare USA or NATO launched. We need an understanding of the range of causes and conditions for those determined to inflict revenge on others when using political or religious motives.
As the English proverb states: “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” In his 300-page book, The End of Faith, Sam Harris devotes sections of his book to targeting Islam with 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 stereotype national psyche prominent in the USA. His views do not support wise and responsible approach to the Muslim community or US citizens.
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 the vitriolic attacks on their faith. Muslim leaders in the USA keep a low profile; otherwise, they face FBI questioning under the laws of Homeland Security.
Due his persistent dark perceptions of millions of Muslims, Harris shows a lack of experiential, cultural and philosophical depths of the benefits and limits of religious beliefs. Harris travels the USA, speaking on television, radio, and political chat shows propounding his anti-Islamic views and well as writing numerous articles condemning Islam and Muslims,
Quotations from Sam Harris
“There is no such thing as Islamophobia. Exchange between Sam Harris and Glenn Greenwald. 2 April 2013.
“Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thorough going cult of death.” Wikiquote 2004.
“The doctrine of Islam poses unique problems for the emergence of a global civilization.” Truthdig. February 2006
“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. Sam Harris. In Defence of Torture. June 2006
“The only future devout Muslims can envisage—as Muslims—is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed.” The Guardian 3 April 2013
“Honest reasoning declares that there is much that is objectionable—and, frankly, terrifying—about the religion of Islam.” Sam Harris. The Mosque 14 August 2010
“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.” Huffington Post. 25 June 2011
“All civilized nations must unite in condemnation of a theology that now threatens to destabilize much of the earth.” Sam Harris. The Reality of Islam 6 February 2006.
The idea that Islam is a “peaceful religion hijacked by extremists” is a dangerous fantasy. Huffington Post. 25 May 2011
What on Earth happened in the past of Sam Harris to trigger such violence in his views against Muslims?
Views change, become a different view, as much anything else changes, adapts or dissolves. In the years ahead, perhaps Sam Harris will have a turning point, gradual or sudden, enabling him to see how such views harm Muslims and how his views on Islam feed the violent prejudices of non-Muslims. This prominent public speaker reveals neither wisdom nor compassion.
The Buddha referred to such views as adharma - not the Dharma (teachings/practices for awakening), against the Dharma. Adhamma means a false doctrine leading to and endorsing suffering. (Numerical Discourses of the Buddha. Book of Fours, section 17-19).
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.” In Defence of Profiling. 28 April 2012.
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. 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 Islamophobia or inexperience of Muslim communities. Here are definitions of Islamophobia.
Encyclopaedia. "Prejudices and aversion to Islam and Muslims, as well as actions and practices that attack, exclude or discriminate against persons on the basis of being Muslim.
Commission of British Muslims. 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.
Commission stated that Islamophobia includes: “Opinions that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, that it is inferior to Western cultures. “
Around one in 20 people in Britain are Muslims making an important and precious contribution to the religious, cultural and social diversity, so needed here.
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 agreeable 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.”
I have much respect for the Muslim communities. I have had the opportunity to travel overland to Muslim countries - Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Malaysia, Sumatra/Java (Indonesia) plus numerous annual visits to Palestine between 1993 to 2019. I am a founder of Prajna Vihar School in Bodh Gaya, India - an inter-religious school which cultivates harmony and understanding between teachers and young people of different faiths and secular beliefs.
Despite the brutality of English colonialism, occupation and wars on most of the countries, Muslim communities treated me with traditional kindness and hospitality every step of the way. I am aware too of Islamic doctrines supporting violence and armed struggle.
The manipulation of the vulnerable minds to support such violence, terrorism and suicide bombers is abhorrent. I have had discussions on the issue of violence with Palestinians, challenged any Palestinian, who supported armed struggle, suicide bombers and stone-throwing at IDF soldiers. Figures show 87% of suicide bombers have lost a loved one under Israeli army occupation or have unresolved mental health issues, such as prone to rage. Families are worried sick every time their teenage children go out intent on throwing stones at soldiers.
Palestinian families and the Muslim community have succeeded in stopping loved ones intent on such revenge if they found out about a planned suicide attack. I have spoken to some of these families on my visits. I have listened to stories of arrests, imprisonment and torture of Palestinians as well as killings/nighttime assassinations in front of wife and children, and breaking bones of civilians. Uncivilised behaviour in conflict and warfare manifests in both directions.
Sam Harris needs to apply his critiques to the ideology of superiority of the USA government, NATO and the Israeli government and its infliction of immense suffering on the Arab world and Muslim communities.
I trust in my experience over years of the Muslim world rather than identify with views/doctrines that feed division and suffering.
MAY ALL BEINGS BE FREE FROM ISLAMAPHOBIA
MAY ALL BEING BE FREE FROM ANTI-SEMITISM
MAY ALL BEINGS LIVE IN PEACE AND HARMONY