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Sam Harris and ‘New Atheists’ Upset that their Anti-Muslim Animus is Being Scrutinized

Sam Harris

by Garibaldi

We have long detailed that Islamophobic pop-Atheist gurus Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens were, in varying degrees, apologists for imperialism, colonialism and torture (after experiencing water boarding himself Hitchens spoke out against the practice).

In the past week both Nathan Lean in Salon.com and Murtaza Hussain in AlJazeera English have written scathing critiques of the New Atheist movement leaders. These critiques are not the first of their kind, many have written very well about the views and beliefs of the likes of Harris and Dawkins, including Chris Hedges, PZ Myers, RJ Eskow, Theodore Sayeed, Jeff Sparrow, Scott Atran and a host of others.

It appears both Lean and Hussain’s articles afflicted Harris particularly badly, but apparently when Glenn Greenwald retweeted Hussain’s article it drew a special ire from Harris that he could not ignore; he subsequently shot off an angry email to Glenn Greenwald (read their exchange here).

In today’s Guardian, Glenn Greenwald has written a devastating article exposing Sam Harris’ long and detailed track record of hostile anti-Muslim animus.

by Glenn Greenwald (Guardian)

Two columns have been published in the past week harshly criticizing the so-called “New Atheists” such as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens: this one by Nathan Lean in Salon, and this one by Murtaza Hussain in Al Jazeera. The crux of those columns is that these advocates have increasingly embraced a toxic form of anti-Muslim bigotry masquerading as rational atheism. Yesterday, I posted a tweet to Hussain’s article without comment except to highlight what I called a “very revealing quote” flagged by Hussain, one in which Harris opined that “the people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists.”

Shortly after posting the tweet, I received an angry email from Harris, who claimed that Hussain’s column was “garbage”, and he eventually said the same thing about Lean’s column in Salon. That then led to a somewhat lengthy email exchange with Harris in which I did not attempt to defend every claim in those columns from his attacks because I didn’t make those claims: the authors of those columns can defend themselves perfectly well. If Harris had problems with what those columns claim, he should go take it up with them.

I do, however, absolutely agree with the general argument made in both columns that the New Atheists have flirted with and at times vigorously embraced irrational anti-Muslim animus. I repeatedly offered to post Harris’ email to me and then tweet it so that anyone inclined to do so could read his response to those columns and make up their own minds. Once he requested that I do so, I posted our exchange here.

Harris himself then wrote about and posted our exchange on his blog, causing a couple dozen of his followers to send me emails. I also engaged in a discussion with a few Harris defenders on Facebook. What seemed to bother them most was the accusation in Hussain’s column that there is “racism” in Harris’ anti-Muslim advocacy. A few of Harris’ defenders were rage-filled and incoherent, but the bulk of them were cogent and reasoned, so I concluded that a more developed substantive response to Harris was warranted.

Given that I had never written about Sam Harris, I found it odd that I had become the symbol of Harris-bashing for some of his faithful followers. Tweeting a link to an Al Jazeera column about Harris and saying I find one of his quotes revealing does not make me responsible for every claim in that column. I tweet literally thousands of columns and articles for people to read. I’m responsible for what I say, not for every sentence in every article to which I link on Twitter. The space constraints of Twitter have made this precept a basic convention of the medium: tweeting a link to a column or article or re-tweeting it does not mean you endorse all of it (or even any of it).

That said, what I did say in my emails with Harris – and what I unequivocally affirm again now – is not that Harris is a “racist”, but rather that he and others like him spout and promote Islamophobia under the guise of rational atheism. I’ve long believed this to be true and am glad it is finally being dragged out into open debate. These specific atheism advocates have come to acquire significant influence, often for the good. But it is past time that the darker aspects of their worldview receive attention.

Whether Islamophobia is a form of “racism” is a semantic issue in which I’m not interested for purposes of this discussion. The vast majority of Muslims are non-white; as a result, when a white westerner becomes fixated on attacking their religion and advocating violence and aggression against them, as Harris has done, I understand why some people (such as Hussain) see racism at play: that, for reasons I recently articulated, is a rational view to me. But “racism” is not my claim here about Harris. Irrational anti-Muslim animus is.

Contrary to the assumptions under which some Harris defenders are laboring, the fact that someone is a scientist, an intellectual, and a convincing and valuable exponent of atheism by no means precludes irrational bigotry as a driving force in their worldview. In this case, Harris’ own words, as demonstrated below, are his indictment.

Let’s first quickly dispense with some obvious strawmen. Of course one can legitimately criticize Islam without being bigoted or racist. That’s self-evident, and nobody is contesting it. And of course there are some Muslim individuals who do heinous things in the name of their religion – just like there are extremists in all religions who do awful and violent things in the name of that religion, yet receive far less attention than the bad acts of Muslims (here are some very recent examples). Yes, “honor killings” and the suppression of women by some Muslims are heinous, just as the collaboration of US and Ugandan Christians to enact laws to execute homosexuals is heinous, and just as the religious-driven, violent occupation of Palestine, attacks on gays, and suppression of women by some Israeli Jews in the name of Judaism is heinous. That some Muslims commit atrocities in the name of their religion (like some people of every religion do) is also too self-evident to merit debate, but it has nothing to do with the criticisms of Harris.

Nonetheless, Harris defenders such as the neoconservative David Frum want to pretend that criticisms of Harris consist of nothing more than the claim that, as Frum put it this week, “it’s OK to be an atheist, so long as you omit Islam from your list of the religions to which you object.” That’s a wildly dishonest summary of the criticisms of Harris as well as people like Dawkins and Hitchens; absolutely nobody is arguing anything like that. Any atheist is going to be critical of the world’s major religions, including Islam, and there is nothing whatsoever wrong with that.

The key point is that Harris does far, far more than voice criticisms of Islam as part of a general critique of religion. He has repeatedly made clear that he thinks Islam is uniquely threatening: “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.” He has insisted that there are unique dangers from Muslims possessing nuclear weapons, as opposed to nice western Christians (the only ones to ever use them) or those kind Israeli Jews: “It should be of particular concern to us that the beliefs of devout Muslims pose a special problem for nuclear deterrence.” In his 2005 “End of Faith”, he claimed that “Islam, more than any other religion human beings have devised, has all the makings of a thoroughgoing cult of death.”

This is not a critique of religion generally; it is a relentless effort to depict Islam as the supreme threat. Based on that view, Harris, while depicting the Iraq war as a humanitarian endeavor, has proclaimed that “we are not at war with terrorism. We are at war with Islam.” He has also decreed that “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.” “We” – the civilized peoples of the west – are at war with “millions” of Muslims, he says. Indeed, he repeatedly posits a dichotomy between “civilized” people and Muslims: “All civilized nations must unite in condemnation of a theology that now threatens to destabilize much of the earth.”

This isn’t “quote-mining”, the term evidently favored by Harris and his defenders to dismiss the use of his own words to make this case. To the contrary, I’ve long ago read the full context of what he has written and did so again yesterday. All the links are provided here – as they were in Hussain and Lean’s columns – so everyone can see it for themselves. Yes, he criticizes Christianity, but he reserves the most intense attacks and superlative condemnations for Islam, as well as unique policy proscriptions of aggression, violence and rights abridgments aimed only at Muslims. As the atheist scholar John L Perkins wrote about Harris’ 2005 anti-religion book: “Harris is particularly scathing about Islam.”

When criticism of religion morphs into an undue focus on Islam – particularly at the same time the western world has been engaged in a decade-long splurge of violence, aggression and human rights abuses against Muslims, justified by a sustained demonization campaign – then I find these objections to the New Atheists completely warranted. That’s true of Dawkins’ proclamation that “[I] often say Islam [is the] greatest force for evil today.” It’s true of Hitchens’ various grotesque invocations of Islam to justify violence, including advocating cluster bombs because “if they’re bearing a Koran over their heart, it’ll go straight through that, too”. And it’s true of Harris’ years-long argument that Islam poses unique threats beyond what Christianity, Judaism, and the other religions of the world pose.

Most important of all – to me – is the fact that Harris has used his views about Islam to justify a wide range of vile policies aimed primarily if not exclusively at Muslims, from torture (“there are extreme circumstances in which I believe that practices like ‘water-boarding’ may not only be ethically justifiable, but ethically necessary”); to steadfast support for Israel, which he considers morally superior to its Muslim adversaries (“In their analyses of US and Israeli foreign policy, liberals can be relied on to overlook the most basic moral distinctions. For instance, they ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder noncombatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so. . . . there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground in their conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah”); to anti-Muslim profiling (“We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it”); to state violence (“On questions of national security, I am now as wary of my fellow liberals as I am of the religious demagogues on the Christian right. This may seem like frank acquiescence to the charge that ‘liberals are soft on terrorism.’ It is, and they are”).

Revealingly, Harris sided with the worst Muslim-hating elements in American society by opposing the building of a Muslim community center near Ground Zero, milking the Us v. Them militaristic framework to justify his position:

“The erection of a mosque upon the ashes of this atrocity will also be viewed by many millions of Muslims as a victory — and as a sign that the liberal values of the West are synonymous with decadence and cowardice.”

Harris made the case against that innocuous community center by claiming – yet again – that Islam is a unique threat: “At this point in human history, Islam simply is different from other faiths.”

In sum, he sprinkles intellectual atheism on top of the standard neocon, right-wing worldview of Muslims. As this superb review of Harris’ writings on Israel, the Middle East and US militarism put it, “any review of Sam Harris and his work is a review essentially of politics”: because his atheism invariably serves – explicitly so – as the justifying ground for a wide array of policies that attack, kill and otherwise suppress Muslims. That’s why his praise for European fascists as being the only ones saying “sensible” things about Islam is significant: not because it means he’s a European fascist, but because it’s unsurprising that the bile spewed at Muslims from that faction would be appealing to Harris because he shares those sentiments both in his rhetoric and his advocated policies, albeit with a more intellectualized expression.

Beyond all that, I find extremely suspect the behavior of westerners like Harris (and Hitchens and Dawkins) who spend the bulk of their time condemning the sins of other, distant peoples rather than the bulk of their time working against the sins of their own country. That’s particularly true of Americans, whose government has brought more violence, aggression, suffering, misery, and degradation to the world over the last decade than any other. Even if that weren’t true – and it is – spending one’s time as an American fixated on the sins of others is a morally dubious act, to put that generously, for reasons Noam Chomsky explained so perfectly:

“My own concern is primarily the terror and violence carried out by my own state, for two reasons. For one thing, because it happens to be the larger component of international violence. But also for a much more important reason than that; namely, I can do something about it.

“So even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world instead of the majority of it, it would be that 2 percent I would be primarily responsible for. And that is a simple ethical judgment. That is, the ethical value of one’s actions depends on their anticipated and predictable consequences. It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else. That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.

I, too, have written before about the hordes of American commentators whose favorite past-time is to lounge around pointing fingers at other nations, other governments, other populations, other religions, while spending relatively little time on their own. The reason this is particularly suspect and shoddy behavior from American commentators is that there are enormous amounts of violence and extremism and suffering which their government has unleashed and continues to unleash on the world. Indeed, much of that US violence is grounded in if not expressly justified by religion, including the aggressive attack on Iraq and steadfast support for Israeli aggression (to say nothing of the role Judaism plays in the decades-long oppression by the Israelis of Palestinians and all sorts of attacks on neighboring Arab and Muslim countries). Given the legion human rights violations from their own government, I find that Americans and westerners who spend the bulk of their energy on the crimes of others are usually cynically exploiting human rights concerns in service of a much different agenda.

Tellingly, Harris wrote in 2004 that “we are now mired in a religious war in Iraq and elsewhere.” But by this, he did not mean that the US and the west have waged an aggressive attack based at least in part on religious convictions. He meant that only Them – those Muslims over there, whose country we invaded and destroyed – were engaged in a vicious and primitive religious war. As usual, so obsessed is he with the supposed sins of Muslims that he is blinded to the far worse sins from his own government and himself: the attack on Iraq and its accompanying expressions of torture, slaughter, and the most horrific abuses imaginable.

Worse, even in its early stages, Harris casually dismissed the US attack on Iraq as a “red herring”; that war, he said, was simply one in which “civilized human beings [westerners] are now attempting, at considerable cost to themselves, to improve life for the Iraqi people.” Western violence and aggression is noble, civilized, and elevated; Muslim violence (even when undertaken to defend against an invasion by the west) is primitive, vicious, brutal and savage. That is the blatant double standard of one who seeks not to uphold human rights but to exploit those concepts to demonize a targeted group.

Indeed, continually depicting Muslims as the supreme evil – even when compared to the west’s worst monsters – is par for Harris’ course, as when he inveighed:

Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies.”

Just ponder that. To Harris, there are “tens of millions” of Muslims “far scarier” then the US political leader who aggressively invaded and destroyed a nation of 26 million people, constructed a worldwide regime of torture, oversaw a network of secret prisons beyond the reach of human rights groups, and generally imposed on the world his “Dark Side”. That is the Harris worldview: obsessed with bad acts of foreign Muslims, almost entirely blind to – if not supportive of – the far worse acts of westerners like himself.

Or consider this disgusting passage:

“The outrage that Muslims feel over US and British foreign policy is primarily the product of theological concerns. Devout Muslims consider it a sacrilege for infidels to depose a Muslim tyrant and occupy Muslim lands — no matter how well intentioned the infidels or malevolent the tyrant. Because of what they believe about God and the afterlife and the divine provenance of the Koran, devout Muslims tend to reflexively side with other Muslims, no matter how sociopathic their behavior.”

Right: can you believe those primitive, irrational Muslims get angry when their countries are invaded, bombed and occupied and have dictators imposed on them rather than exuding gratitude toward the superior civilized people who do all that – all because of their weird, inscrutable religion that makes them dislike things such as foreign invasions, bombing campaigns and externally-imposed tyrants? And did you know that only Muslims – but not rational westerners like Harris – “reflexively side” with their own kind? This, from the same person who hails the Iraq war as something that should produce gratitude from the invaded population toward the “civilized human beings” – people like him – who invaded and destroyed their country. Theodore Sayeed noted the glaring irony pervading the bulk of Harris’s political writing:

“For a man who likes to badger Muslims about their ‘reflexive solidarity’ with Arab suffering, Harris seems keen to display his own tribal affections for the Jewish state. The virtue of Israel and the wickedness of her enemies are recurring themes in his work.”

Indeed. And the same is true of the US and the West generally. 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 – and Dawkins and Hitchens – 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.

Worse still, these claims from Harris about how Muslims think are simply factually false. An AFP report on a massive 2008 Gallup survey of the Muslim world simply destroyed most of Harris’ ugly generalizations about the beliefs of Muslims:

“A huge survey of the world’s Muslims released Tuesday challenges Western notions that equate Islam with radicalism and violence. . . . It shows that the overwhelming majority of Muslims condemned the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001 and other subsequent terrorist attacks, the authors of the study said in Washington. . . .

“About 93 percent of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims are moderates and only seven percent are politically radical, according to the poll, based on more than 50,000 interviews. . . .

“Meanwhile, radical Muslims gave political, not religious, reasons for condoning the attacks, the poll showed. . . .

“But the poll, which gives ordinary Muslims a voice in the global debate that they have been drawn into by 9/11, showed that most Muslims — including radicals — admire the West for its democracy, freedoms and technological prowess.

“What they do not want is to have Western ways forced on them, it said.”

Indeed, even a Pentagon-commissioned study back in 2004 – hardly a bastion of PC liberalism – obliterated Harris’ self-justifying stereotype that anti-American sentiment among Muslims is religious and tribal rather than political and rational. That study concluded that “Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies”: specifically “American direct intervention in the Muslim world” — through the US’s “one sided support in favor of Israel”; support for Islamic tyrannies in places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia; and, most of all, “the American occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan”.

As I noted before, a long-time British journalist friend of mine wrote to me shortly before I began writing at the Guardian to warn me of a particular strain plaguing the British liberal intellectual class; he wrote: “nothing delights British former lefties more than an opportunity to defend power while pretending it is a brave stance in defence of a left liberal principle.” That – “defending power while pretending it is a brave stance in defence of a left liberal principle” – is precisely what describes the political work of Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens and friends. It fuels the sustained anti-Muslim demonization campaign of the west and justifies (often explicitly) the policies of violence, militarism, and suppression aimed at them. It’s not as vulgar as the rantings of Pam Geller or as crude as the bloodthirsty theories of Alan Dershowitz, but it’s coming from a similar place and advancing the same cause.

I welcome, and value, aggressive critiques of faith and religion, including from Sam Harris and some of these others New Atheists whose views I’m criticizing here. But many terms can be used to accurately describe the practice of depicting Islam and Muslims as the supreme threat to all that is good in the world. “Rational”, “intellectual” and “well-intentioned” are most definitely not among them.

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  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    Islam is not a person. Suicide is strictly forbidden in Islamic texts. Have you heard of the Tamil Tigers? Have you read the work of Robert Pape?

    How can we have a serious discussion on this topic when you’ve come to the lazy conclusion “it’s the way it is.” Sounds like a cop-out.

  • Pingback: Harris v. Greenwald: Is there an Anti-Islam Bias in New Atheism? | Tragic Farce()

  • Tanveer Khan

    Ssssshhhhhhh. I really want that fizzy grape juice T_T

  • Leftwing_Muslim_Alliance

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/glenn-greenwald
    There you go
    A nearly left wing newspaper in Britain .
    That must make it a rabid communist one in the eyes of Fox news
    Sir David

  • Seeker

    They don’t ? That’s news. So who does then ?

  • Seeker

    Oh come on ! Most of them are your whines to Solid to let you out of your submarine prison ! I think we need to discount those. 😛

  • Al

    That response he wrote really left me with my face in my palms because it is was just rubbish. I really hope Greenwald reponds and intellectually smashes him to pieces. The thing about Harris is that he is thin skinned and not willing to defend his actual positions when criticsed.

    What Harris does is move the goal-posts and engage in some serious dishonesty by changing the meaning of his remarks. His comments about the fascists is a key example. The accusation is not that Harris is a fascist but that he feels that the fascists speak most sensibly about the threat of Muslims. If you look at Harris’ remarks they have shown a real similarity to the far right. Just look up some of his remarks about Muslim immigrants and their birthrates ( the Eurabia conspiracy theory). These are some real anti-Muslim diatribes not enlightened critiques. Now, he is saying that all he means is that he is worried that the far right will highjack debate which is rubbish.

    There are many issues that he is also being dishonest about but the ethnic profiling thing is a real whopper. He pretends that he is not an advocate of ethnic profiling in airports or elsewhere. Yet in his own words

    “It is not enough for moderate Muslims to say “not in our name.” They must now police their own communities. They must offer unreserved assistance to western governments in locating the extremists in their midst. They must tolerate, advocate, and even practice ethnic profiling.”

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/bombing-our-illusions_b_8615.html

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    What a jackass, really all that can be said and then today he wrote a very long article defending himself from the criticism. Of course, once again, everybody is wrong except Sam. He also stepped into some more shit with a few of his meandering paragraphs.

  • Al

    Every 13 out of 10 know that to be true.

  • Razainc_aka_BigBoss

    Thanks JSB couldn’t have said it better myself

  • Just_Stopping_By

    Steve Jones 4/4, 4:27 pm: “Ilisha talks about muslims apologising for acts carried out in the name of islam yet who has asked for that?”

    Steve Jones 4/5, 2:58 am: “Yet the EDL get a lot of scrutiny on here, choudary not so much.”

    While cognizant of the difference between apologizing and scrutinizing, going back to your question of “who asked for that?”, I think the answer is now effectively you.

    (And, to note, LW has scrutinized and condemned wrongful actions by Muslims supposedly carried out in the name of Islam. Yes, groups like the EDL get more scrutiny here, but every site has its own focus. The fact that LW focuses more on Islamophobes is not an indication that it approves of wrongful acts by Muslims any more than the fact that any other advocacy site focuses on the goal of its advocacy. See Razainc’s comment as well.)

  • Razainc_aka_BigBoss

    Loonwatch has condemned Anjem but LW does have an objective that is too expose Islamophobia and media bias so they highlight things that the media and the Islamophobes pretend does not exist /ignore. So they focus on the EDL and their type more especially since Anjem constatly get’s media attention and in the Neo-Con media especially as a legitimate spokesman for Muslims.

  • Al

    This is perfect new example of what I was saying. Now Harris is accusing Greenwald of supporting the Iraq War.

    https://twitter.com/SamHarrisOrg

    What an ass. So he accuses Greenwald of misrepresentation and then does the same thing himself.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/01/30/1182442/-Glenn-Greenwald-Responds-to-Widespread-Lies-About-Him-on-Cato-Iraq-War-and-more

  • Géji

    Lol JSB, lest just say damn you Muhammad! you scared kaftan wuss! If it hadn’t been for him refusing to face God in a third row argument, maybe we could have gotten 3 daily prayers instead of 5 thanks to the Hebrew prophet! But also try understanding the poor guy, since while the older prophet had build-up experience with God (by living so close to Him in heaven after his passing), this new kind on the block had to be very careful in what he was dealing & tempering with, and maybe with aforementionned experience had it been another coming after him, the followers would have gotten half of a prayer!! .

  • Tanveer Khan

    You could say that they are “stealing” Islam I guess and yeah, i do believe it is in interpretation. For example, they use the “verse of the sword” in an excuse that perpetual warfare is OK against kaafirs/non-muslims whereas i see it as a command against people who break treaties.

  • Tanveer Khan

    I thought it wouldnt be a coincidence 😛 But yeah, i guess we do have strong views against bidah.

  • bill reitzes

    Tanveer, are the politically radicals therefore somewhat stealing Islam? Is it in interpretation? They act in a way that I’m sure you do not agree with.

  • Just_Stopping_By

    Tanveer:

    No need to apologize. I am not at all offended or upset.

    I think there are differences in how religions view change, and that is something learned in studying Islam. Islam has strong views against bid’ah, whereas Judaism really does recognize or believe that it changes or evolves as part of an interaction between man and God. The differences lead to some interesting divergences in theology, though I find the two religions still remarkably similar.

    And, yes, I knew there was a hadith about 50 prayers that involved a more Muslim viewpoint or prophet and a more Jewish viewpoint or prophet. Some things are coincidences, but my reference was not. 😉

  • Tanveer Khan

    Sorry about that. I think you’re basically saying that most religions “change” in the way they are interpreted and practiced by people, right? Im writing this in a rush so i might have misunderstood some of your comment. If so, i agree. I even think its a necessity. How we practice our religion changes as times change.

    There were some people who called for the rewriting of the Quran etc. My comment was more directed at those types of people.

    BTW: Did you know that there is a hadith about 50 prayers? Is that why you included that example?

  • Just_Stopping_By

    I think you want to be careful on wording and interpretation here.

    In some sense, most religions “change,” but may think of many changes as adaptations or applications of prior ideas without changes to the true fundamentals. For example, considerations of how to apply concepts of slander and libel to the Internet would be, at some level, a change, but often just an application of an unchanged principle. Changes in the relationship between state and religion also occur. It also seems that between the Sunni and Shi’a, something has “changed” since the original in at least one theology, though both argue that they are just applying the original unchanged principles.

    I will also point out that in Judaism, we view change very broadly as a positive application of man’s ability to work with God in shaping the religion. Changes still have to conform to original principles, but there is much more of a view of a dialogue and a continual building of the religion together. Let’s just say that if God suggested having prayers fifty times a day, I think the more Muslim view would be to quickly submit while the more Jewish view would be to discuss and debate to change that suggestion to a more reasonable number in the single digits.

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