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Sam Harris’ Taqiyya

By Jonas Spooner & JB Stubbings

George Orwell, introduced The Ministry of Truth’s colloquially named ‘memory hole’ in the work 1984. His novel described the process where hidden from view the Ministry would destroy records of past realities so as to better reflect the propaganda of the day. Today, two decades post Orwell’s dystopian future, the new atheist ideologue Sam Harris has developed his own memory hole for the digital age; he secretly edits his own published works.

The most recent known case of this unethical practice is the transcript of a discussion Harris had in 2014 with author Andrew Sullivan which was published on Harris’ site. Harris made the following claim in the original:  “In fact, there is a doctrine of deception within Islam called Taqiyya, wherein lying to infidels has been decreed a perfectly ethical way of achieving one’s goals”. The current doctored version has been secretly altered. Harris gives no indication to his readers of the transcript’s post hoc edit. His asinine “Taqiyya” slur against Muslims at-large has gone down the memory hole.

This questionable practice is known as “scrubbing” and runs contrary to all universally accepted journalistic codes of conducts. For example, the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Conduct states that:

“Ethical journalism means taking responsibility for one’s work and explaining one’s decisions to the public…Journalists should…Acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently. Explain corrections and clarifications carefully and clearly”

While Harris’s description conjures up images of swarthy and villainous Arab Muslims guided by their religion to cheat the Jews through Taqiyya, the reality is rather different.  Taqiyya is interpreted differently by the various Islamic sects, loonwatch has written several articles on the topic you can read here and here. Its essence is akin to the Jewish George Soros surviving the holocaust through passing himself off as a Christian. The Islamic Dictionary defines it thusly:

“Dissimulation – to conceal, partially conceal or disguise one’s true feelings, beliefs or information when there is threat of death or serious harm and when there is a threat of great evil.

Harris appears to draw on anti-Muslim extremist Robert Spencer’s erroneous taqiyya definition wherein dastardly Muslims are mandated by their evil religion to deceive the infidel. This would be unsurprising as Harris believes that the man banned from Britain has a unique role to play in this war of ideasand Spencer is just one of the many right-wing kooks and bigots that have littered the pages of Breivik’s manifesto that Harris considers fellow-travellers.

Canadian Spencer-a-like Ezra Levant was successfully sued for libel for falsely conflating taqiyya with lying in a series of attacks he made on a Muslim student.

This now uncorrected but (unethically) scrubbed error of the dishonest Muslim stereotype is shamelessly used as the basis for Harris towing the Israeli-Right’s line of “no genuine partner for peace” amongst the Palestinians. The reality, even according to pro-Israel American diplomats involved in the negotiations, is that the Palestinians were bending-over-backwards with concessions while the Israelis acted in bad faith throughout and continued to expand their illegal settlements.

Harris’ adoption of the Israeli-Right’s narrative is predictable. Ironically, given his obsession with the lack of honesty in the Muslim world, Harris sanctifies the outed Neocon war propagandist Christopher Hitchens and is a donor to the Israeli-Intelligence linked MEMRI who amongst their other transgressions doctored a Norman Finkelstein interview to portray him as a Holocaust denier.

The Taqiyya incident wasn’t Harris’ first venture into the unethical world of scrubbing. He had previously secretly deleted his demand that American Muslims be “ethnically-profiled”:

  • May 25 2011: Sam Harris launches a diatribe against Muslims entitled “Bombing Our Illusions” in which he openly calls for the “ethnic profiling” of Muslims. It is published in The Huffington Post.  He calls for no compromise on not only Muslims being ethnically profiled by the State but insists Muslims must also profile their fellow Muslims within their communities.
  • 2011-2015: Harris repeatedly speaks out of both sides of his mouth on the issue of racial/ethnic profiling, often contradicting himself. (“Ethnic” profiling is “racial” profiling ). March 12, 2015: Arthur Chu of Salon denigrates Harris for his advancement of “Islamophobic racism”. He attacks Harris for his “racial profiling” advocacy.
  • Between March 8th and March 20, 2015: The Web Archive shows that  Sam Harris secretly edited his website to remove his call to “ethnically profile” Muslims. No notification is given to his audience of this amendment occurring four years after Bombing Our Illusions was first published.
  • March 16, 2016: Harris’ secret editing is spotted by a Twitter user.
  • April 2016: Caught red-handed, Harris excuses himself for his lack of transparency. He publishes “his editorial policy

As a cult-figurehead Sam Harris has profited handsomely from his projection of self as quasi-infallible to his dogmatic and mouth-foaming herd. Harris’ memory hole functions for the same purpose as The Party’s memory hole in Oceania – To preserve the all-knowing status and associated power. His ignorant followers, ill-equipped to see through sophistry, need to be informed by Harris himself if he has mistakenly been spreading anti-Muslim tropes and advocating racist policies.

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  • NotAMuslamic

    No I couldn’t find it anywhere, plus I don’t watch TV that often.

  • Just curious – have you checked and found this quote from the episode of new Prison Break?

  • You continue to quibble over the matter of secret editing and I truly can’t fathom why. Sam’s work said X and he went back and changed it to Y without making any note of the update. How is that not secret editing???

    Now, you can argue that he was within his rights, that he’s made no express nor even implied promise NOT to do that. Fine. That’s your opinion. Why do you feel the need to repeat this same point over and over? I don’t think repetition of the same point strengthens your argument.

    I made the point that we can post whatever we want because you seem to imply we have some obligation. I think if we stated our mission was to inform the public of news in a fair and unbiased manner, then we should live up to that promise. But what we’ve said is our mission is to defend Muslim civil rights, so I think you can reasonably expect our content is going to reflect that mission. For example, we are NOT likely to post an equal number of articles criticizing/defending Islam.

    We are a niche blog. Not a part of the fourth estate of journalism devoted to generally informing the public and we don’t pretend otherwise.

    I don’t lack backbone here. I simply disagree with you. I believe the article makes a reasonable case Harris’ conduct was unethical. I don’t have to admit to anything, both because it’s not my article and because I’m not convinced by your counter argument. Anyone who has been here for a long time knows that we openly make updates when we feel criticism/corrections warrant changes.

    I think you’re aware of the weakness of your argument, or you’d have simply let it stand on its own merit long ago. If this is a nitpicking argument unfairly targeting Sam Harris, then readers should be able to pick up on that themselves. Or if not, those reading comments have had a chance to weigh your argument, and if it’s valid, to have recognized its validity for themselves.

    Why are you belaboring this?

  • Joshua Pickett

    No im sorry that just is not correct.

    I don’t want to get bogged down in definitions, but maybe you guys should be more careful about what you say.

    Definition of secretive

    : disposed to secrecy

    Definition of secrecy
    plural secrecies

    : the condition of being hidden or concealed

    Okay so what exactly was hidden or concealed? You have chosen to hold sam to being a journalist, though he is not a journalist.

    It is fine for you to have the opinion that public service announcements need to be made on any minor editing of articles, but understand that it is an opinion and the second you make the judgement of calling it secretive you are not dabbling in facts.

    And the onus is not on me or sam to explain why updates and edits of articles without public service announcements is not secretive, it is on you to make an argument for why it is. This scrubbing spiel is rubbish. Sam is not a journalist. If you want something set in writing, get his book. You believe you are entitled to public announcements for any changes an author might make to their own articles, yet you are entitled to nothing.

    If your so concerned with FACTS do not call something SECRETIVE when you have not shown anything to be hidden or concealed in accordance with the definition and common understanding of that word.

    “We posted this article because we wanted to and it’s our blog”

    Good for you champ. What is your point? Am i telling you not to post articles? Am i telling you to take this article down? Would it matter if i did?

    What can happen when you have an open comment section is that some people may disagree with what you write. That is all that has happened here. I’ve disagreed. If you can’t handle that then don’t have an open comment section or give people the heads up that non agreeing opinions aren’t appreciated.

    I would query why you are so concerned about the facts concerning Mr. Harris’s character and that of his company and fan base, rather than the facts of Mr. Harris’s ARGUMENTS.

    But that is your decision, all i am here to say is don’t condemn people of secrecy and unethical conduct when it is undue. Or if you do at least have the backbone to admit you are condemning them.

  • If one day your transcript or article says X and you then scrub it to say Y without noting that as an update, that’s secret editing and the standard by which the author has concluded that’s unethical is stated in the article. Usually people note updates to articles.

    If you don’t believe that needs to be a standard, then that’s your opinion. There is no reason we have to agree or act in accordance with your opinion.

    I didn’t weigh in on whether it was “passive, neutral, unbiased,” etc. The article states true things about what Sam Harris has said and written, and draws some conclusions which you’re free to evaluate for yourself. There is no inherent promise that we’re unbiased in our conclusions. No one is purely unbiased and that applies even to the major news media which overtly claims to be “fair and balanced.”

    I’m more concerned with whether or not what we’re stating as facts are true or false. For example if we said, “Sam Harris wrote X,” but in fact he never wrote X, then I would feel obliged to correct that, and openly, not secretly, because that would be factually false. As for what conclusions are reasonable based on FACTS, that’s opinion, which you’re free to evaluate for yourself.

    We posted this article because we wanted to and it’s our blog. There is no justification necessary, though as a general guideline, we post things we believe support our core mission, which is promoting and protecting Muslims civil rights. That said, what’s awesome about being a private, non-profit blog is that we don’t answer to anyone other than our editor/site owner. If visiting guests don’t like the content here, they are free to leave.

    What is it you want? We’re not taking this article down, nor are we going to any way modify it based on your comments. You’ve expressed some vague reasons why you don’t like it, and your points are duly noted. Going round and round and round over your personal opinion is pointless.

  • Joshua Pickett

    But you haven’t just pointed out what he has done. You have called it secretive, when it is not secretive. And you have called his behaviour unethical. Is calling someones behaviour unethical and sectetive “just pointing out what someone has done”?

    Will i find as many articles on this site criticizing islam as i will defending it? Do you really expect me or anyone else with an ability to think to believe you and the author are passive, neutral, unbiased commentators, merely reporting your findings as if you just by happenchance found all this information one day and being a good citizen felt it your duty to share it?

  • His editing lacks transparency. As I said, whether or not you view that as a problem is a matter of opinion. We merely pointed out that’s what he’s done. If you’re right and what he did is perfectly okay, then readers can just shrug and move on, dismissing this point as nitpicking or whatever. Why are you making such a huge case of it when if you’re claim is right, it should be self evident?

    I can’t say what the objective of the article is, as I’m not the author. But I personally have no burning grudge against Sam Harris., and have at times even praised his pristine logic. I agreed with Sam Harris rather than Omar Aziz with respect to their debate, after Harris decided to allow public access to the content. Not because of any personal feelings toward either man, but based on what each actually said.

    What is your argument exactly? That we can’t point out his editing tactics or his calls for ethnic profiling?

    The question here, as I see it, should be, “Is what is in the article true or false?” Has Sam Harris engaged in secret editing and has he called for ethnic profiling? If yes, then I see nothing wrong with pointing out this truth. Readers can make of it what they will.

  • Joshua Pickett

    For starters, its not a ‘secret’ editing. Unless sam has somewhere said whatever online articles he posts are to be chiselled into stone and taken as law forever, it seems to be a reasonable assumption that for various reasons he may over time delete and edit articles, or post new articles as his views evolve over time. It is not secret editing because he does not make public service announcements every time he makes an edit.

    What WOULD be dishonest is if he made these edits, and they were fundamental to an oppositions argument, and he tried to deny doing it.

    But we can see that this is not the case, they are not foundational to anything he said, nor does he deny making edits when he has. If you would like to petition him to make public announcements whenever he changes an online article, that is fine. But to do what you have done concerning his ‘secret’ and ‘unethical’ behaviour, says more about your character than his.

    It’s obvious what your trying to achieve with this narrative. It is also obvious what the goal is when you talk about his apparently bad company, robert spencer and hitch. And talk of his ignorant dogmatic mouth foaming cult followers.

    If you honestly don’t see the tactic being used here then i have to assume it is your normal mode of argumentation.

    Sam harris is an ideas man. Battle his ideas if you want to be taken seriously. If he has bad character as you guys seem to suggest by his unethical conduct, and his betrayal of journalistic code (sam harris is not a journalist)

    Maybe i wouldn’t trust him in a business deal, or babysitting kids, or to pay me back 50$ i might lend him. But however successfully you tarnish his character, it won’t make his ideas wrong. And it won’t persuade anyone who isn’t already toting the party line.

    And then you go on to

  • I don’t see anywhere in the article where it’s suggested someone’s views can’t evolve.

    Rather there is the question of whether or not older positions should be secretly scrubbed. Maybe that’s okay and maybe it’s not, but it’s a matter of opinion, and I see nothing wrong with pointing out that’s what Harris has done.

    In terms of the “meat of his arguments,” what exactly are those arguments? Here it’s mentioned how he has called for ethnic profiling of Muslims. We can highlight his positions, just as I would expect there would be people who raised the matter for public scrutiny if, for example, someone argued police should be more inclined to consider black people as crime suspects as opposed to people of other races. A lot of people view racial/ethnic/religious profiling as unfair and unhelpful, and so we’re going to call out Harris if he is advocating that sort of policy.

    How does the article boil down to saying Harris should be written off or is a bad guy?

  • Joshua Pickett

    What is your argument here?? That if a public figure makes it known they hold a certain position, they must hold that position for life? Or that they must make public service announcements whever their position does change? The thing is, you aren’t entitled that. If you want something set in stone by someone so that you can hold an evolving and changing being at one moment in time, buy their books, and scan their books for character assasination opportunities.

    This tactic is not effective for anyone who really sees what is going on here. You are essentially saying, i have written him off, and you should write him off, because he is a bad guy, or has character flaws. Rather than dealing with the meat of his arguments.

  • I put it under quotation marks, however I was, actually, paraphrasing. Nevertheless, that’s basically what has been said. I really have no idea about actor, I was like few minutes at it before changing the channel. Since FOX airs all its premieres uniformly at the same time/day across the world I think you can easily check which episode was last night, and maybe check for reprise?

  • CowabungaCreeper

    I can’t find a source for the quote. Is the actor Amin El Gamal, a gay arab claiming to be muslim? Maybe he should stop taqiyyaing to himself.

  • There should be distinction between ordinary people, Trump followers, who may or may not be racists and anti-immigration, but who don’t concern them self with “eternal crusading” in a faraway culture clash or clash of civilizations on the other side of the world, with “active” alt-right holly warriors.
    It was clear from the beginning that most of his supporters come from anti-interventionist camp.

  • They are really popular and really dangerous.
    “But now something completely different” – Hollywood’s newest TV outburst of Islamophobia. Just last night new season of “Prison Break” aired an episode x – don’t know which episode as I don’t follow that garbage, just saw few minutes last night was enough to confirm my opinion of the show – in it, at some point, Arab-Muslim explains to Michael-the-main-character why he screwed him over his word, which he gave as a Muslim and didn’t kept:
    Michael: (something like this) “Is this your word, and how you keep ti”
    Arab-bad guy: (something like this) “Taqiyya, my friend, thats when you lie to an enemy”

    So, here you have it – yes they are kooky and loony, but also serious force for propagating, justifying and appeasing culture of Islamophobia

  • CowabungaCreeper

    Just because they’re more popular now doesn’t make them any less kooky or loony.

  • They absolutely ARE Nazis, and so much so, they’d be offended that you are claiming they’re not!

    The people we’re discussing are OPEN Nazis and they SAY they are Nazis in plain English. Their site is called the Daily Stormer ANYONE can go there and see for themselves exactly what they are: NAZIS, and proud of it.

    They LOVE Hitler, and celebrated his birthday with much fanfare and they used to call Trump their “Glorious Leader,” but are now disenchanted because he’s breaking his campaign promises left and right.

    This is yet another of your comments rooted in total ignorance of the subject matter.

  • You should really stop calling these people “kooks”, “loons”, etc., they are most dangerous adversaries of reason and human rights, and, most importantly, they’re fulfilling a role of a surrogates for more mainstream intellectual and political orientalist forces, who them self are still reluctant to openly express their racist and xenophobic worldview.
    We all understand that times when we called Geert Wilders a lunatic are now long gone, he certainly isn’t a fringe for some time – bigot can spend more money then some minor traditional Dutch parties.

  • GaribaldiOfLoonwatch

    It’s another instance that proves his unethical method of writing and also his hypocrisy. Also, see the tag:

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