Sam Harris supporting Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Posted: 11 October 2007 02:06 AM   [ Ignore ]
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Hi,

Just found this article about the ‘Hirsi Ali case’, written by Sam Harris and Salman Rushdie: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/10/09/news/edrushdie.php.
It seems to me that Harris and Ali make the same mistake: identifying the root of extremism in religion itself. They offend people that do not support the inhuman extremes of their religion, and pushes them to extremist positions themselves. There are so many examples that oppressing people generates extremism. One might even see the whole problem we have with moslim extremism now, as caused by the colonial past of the west, which it still can’t get rid of. Islam is then just the banner under which the islamic countries unite.

In my opinion the west (or atheists) should not yell around that they are right, but act in a way that gives them right in the long run. Labelling others as ‘the enemy’ (as evil) makes them ‘real enemies’ (or devils).

GdB

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Posted: 11 October 2007 01:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I have mixed feelings about your point, GdB. I agree that vicariously insulting people is pointless and inappropriate. And I can see how it gives some ammunition to extremists, though I am not really convinced people go from moderate to militant just because other people say bad things about their religion. There’s got to be more to it than that.

And I agree that religion provides the form of expression and the justification for bad behavior, but even if religion didn’t exist people would find ways to be cruel to each other. Still, religion does much to encourage extremism and violence (it’s easier to do crazy, anti-social things when the creator of the universe says it’s ok and will reward you with eternal life for it), and precious little to discourage it. SO I’m not especially sensitive to the idea that religion is a neutral bystander and all the hatred and violence in the world is post-colonial trauma. There are legitimately bad ideas about the nature of the universe, forms of government, the role of women in society, how to treat people who disagree with you, etc, and religion needs to be challenged when it give the ultimate endorsement, that of God, to these kinds of ideas.

So yes we should live our principles as an example, but doesn’t that include speaking out about injustice? And all injustice, both that of our own culture today and in the past, and that perpetrated in and by other cultures?

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Posted: 11 October 2007 10:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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GdB - 11 October 2007 02:06 AM

Hi,

Just found this article about the ‘Hirsi Ali case’, written by Sam Harris and Salman Rushdie: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/10/09/news/edrushdie.php.
It seems to me that Harris and Ali make the same mistake: identifying the root of extremism in religion itself.

One might even see the whole problem we have with moslim extremism now, as caused by the colonial past of the west, which it still can’t get rid of. Islam is then just the banner under which the islamic countries unite.

I disagree with this interpretation as it applies to this SPECIFIC CASE. I see no mitigating excuses for fatwahs on Salmon Rushie,  executing Theo van Gogh, or being manipulated into going bezerk over rumours of Danish cartoons.

I think it is a somewhat philosophical point as to whether religion is the “root” of the problem or whether it just facilitates it—we have gun control laws but sure, the guns aren’t the “root” cause of the armed bank robbery.  It would seem that Religion has made a bad situation much worse.

Here is a book review of “Infidel” in the NY Times
[ “Infidel” by Ayaan Hirsi Ali ]
Here she is mentioned in the interesting NY Review of Books discussion by Ian Buruma of the recent book on the coming [War with Islamofascism] . It notes that her book is ghostwritten, but in general admires her position on individual freedoms.

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