Sam Harris, considered one of the “four horsemen” (now perhaps the “three horsemen” after the death of Christopher Hitchens) of the cult of new age atheism may be set to debate Dr. Robert Pape, or so he claims on his website:
Almost invariably, I am urged to read the work of Robert A. Pape. Pape is the author of a very influential paper, “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism” (American Political Science Review 97, no. 3, 2003), and the book Dying to Win, in which he argues that suicide bombing is best understood as a strategic means to achieve certain well-defined nationalist goals and should not be considered a consequence of religious ideology. No one has done more to convince my fellow liberals that if we just behaved ourselves on the world stage, our problems with Islam would go away. I am happy to say that Pape has agreed to discuss these issues with me on this page in the coming weeks. Stay tuned…
I don’t believe Sam Harris belongs on the same stage or platform with Pape discussing these issues. He has no study in the field of “suicide terrorism,” he is a novice going up against an academic who has researched and critically analyzed the issue from various angles, and whose work has been the subject of intense scrutiny and peer review.
The tone and tenor in which Harris discusses his possible future encounter with Pape is revelatory in the sense that it exposes the fact that Harris’s mind is already made up. He is not interested in a real dialogue or conversation nor does he seem to be open to the possibility of changing his mind. Harris, like all dogmatists, has already arrived at his conclusion, he is entrenched in his belief that suicide terrorism is largely, if not completely a “consequence of religious ideology.” This is mostly the case because “suicide terrorism” being linked to religious ideology is vital to his claim that Islam is “uniquely” violent and should be held to a different level of scrutiny than other religions.
This recalls a prescient point Reza Aslan made in his interview with us when questioned about his encounter with Sam Harris:
There is no doubt Sam Harris is a smart guy, he has a PhD in neuro-science. You can be a smart guy and be ignorant about particular topics and issues. The problem with Sam Harris is that he tends to write about the things he is ignorant about, (laughs) I think Sam Harris should stick to writing about neuro-science, I think his last book was great. When Sam Harris writes about neuro-science, in other words his expertise, I think it’s great, I love reading his work. When he talks about religion, a topic he knows nothing about, that he’s never studied as an academic discipline, that he’s done no field research in whatsoever, and in which he frankly is unqualified to opine about, that’s the problem. I don’t write about nero-Science because I’m not a neuro-scientist.
Either way, it seems Pape has accepted Harris’s request to debate and it will be interesting to see the correspondence between the two. For Harris it may turn into a similar humiliation as the one he received when going head-to-head with Scott Atran:
Lastly, I want to say a few words about the article in which Harris reveals he may be debating Pape. Harris titled the article, Islam and the Future of Liberalism, in it he essentially repeats many of his common, uncritical, and by now, well worn attacks on Islam and Muslims.
Like the predictable Islamophobe that he is, he illustrates his post with this image:
Orientalism 101 anyone?
Yes Sam, Afghan women in burqas is a really great way to illustrate the “threat” of liberalism accommodating “evil Islam.” Can somebody send Harris, Edward Said‘s Covering Islam? He’s got some readin’ to do.
I appear to have left many viewers with the impression that I believe we invaded Afghanistan for the purpose of rescuing its women from the Taliban. However, the points I was actually making were rather different: I think that abandoning these women to the Taliban is one of the things that make our inevitable retreat from Afghanistan ethically problematic. I also believe that wherever we can feasibly stop the abuse of women and girls, we should. An ability to do this in places like Afghanistan, and throughout the world, would be one of the benefits of having a global civil society and a genuine regime of international law.
Here is another instance of Harris posturing as an expert on an issue that he is wholly unprepared to discuss, mostly due to his lack of understanding.
Here are some facts for Sam to ponder: 1.) Afghanistan is a tribally based culture, following tribal customs and norms that are ingrained within society and which formed over thousands of years, you are not going to transform that over night, and you are definitely not going to do so with
‘smart bombs’ 2.) Who did the US replace the Taliban with? Northern Alliance war lords, many of whom are the most egregious violators TO THIS DAY of women’s rights. When they ruled before the Taliban child rape was endemic, as it has become once again today. 3.) Changing attitudes towards women can only happen from within society, unless Harris is advocating the removal of women and girls from their husbands, fathers and brothers? Oh wait, he has pondered such stupidity in the past.
Harris is not finished with the inanities, he writes,
Recent events in Afghanistan demonstrate, yet again, that ordinary Afghans grow far more incensed when a copy of the Qur’an gets defaced than when their own children are accidentally killed by our bombs—or intentionally murdered. I doubt there is a more ominous skewing of priorities to be found in this world.
Excuse me for how inarticulate I am about to become, but this must be said: Sam Harris is a S**THEAD. Harris dehumanizes Afghans, to him they are a bunch of dirty savages who cannot even properly mourn or balance their outrage. Regardless of what Harris says, yes, Afghans are very upset that they are being occupied and murdered by an invading foreign nation. The recent protests were not only in response to Qur’an burnings as Harris would have us believe, but as we noted: the murder, maiming and jailing of innocent Afghan civilians!
Harris continues the Islamophobic, anti-Muslim drivel in the rest of the article. He pushes the myth about the silent “millions” of moderate Muslims who are too “afraid” to speak out against violence in the name of their faith. He says that he finds the concept of a Jewish State “obnoxious,” but he immediately contradicts himself writing, “But if ever a state organized around a religion was justified, it is the Jewish state of Israel, given the world’s propensity for genocidal anti-Semitism.”
Profound double standards but that is something Harris has in common with the rest of his Islamophobic buddies in the anti-Muslim movement and hence comes as no surprise.