After the CNN interview with Reza Aslan, in which Aslan criticized Bill Maher and Sam Harris, and the subsequent confrontation between Ben Affleck and the aforementioned atheist gurus, hundreds of: op-eds, blogs, vlogs, news segments and social media platforms/forums have debated the merits and demerits of both sides of the argument. New Atheists have largely been on the defensive, not taking kindly to criticism of their flawed logic and bold bigotry though they have received a lot of support from the far-right, including Fox News.
In an October 12th news segment, Brian Stelter, the host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources” program had Irshad Manji and Sam Harris on to debate questions such as “are liberals afraid to face the truth about Islam?”
A debate that involves Manji against Harris automatically means that there is going to be a lot of wasted time jostling over the falacious dichotomy of the “Good Muslim vs. Bad Muslim”/”Moderate vs. Radical” that will do nothing to illuminate the real issues at stake in the debate. When Reza Aslan says “these types of debates aren’t being done in any legitimate way” he isn’t wrong.
One illuminating revelation in the course of the Manji-Harris debate was when Harris, in an attempt to bolster his “counter-extremism” bonafides and defend against the point that he gives succor to extremists by validating their ideologies as the “True Islam,” as opposed to helping “moderates,” states at the 5min 40s mark that he gives money to Quilliam Foundation,
“This is why I am doing a book with Maajid Nawaz, this is why I am giving money to his organization”
Doing a book with Maajid Nawaz? Now that should be interesting! Maybe Nawaz and Harris will discuss the best way to use drone attacks or nuclear strikes on those who hold “dangerous beliefs.” Perhaps Nawaz will tell Harris how much he appreciates the horrific apartheid wall that Israel has built. Who knows! So many possibilities! I predict Nawaz will end up agreeing with Harris on everything, the way he has with Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
In any case it’s revealing, though not surprising, that Nawaz receives money from an Islamophobe like Harris. Nawaz, after all is Bill Maher’s favorite Muzzie, to such an extent that when he had him on his show he even wanted to stick a medal on brave Nawaz. Maher and Harris are close friends and so there seems to be a weird incestuous element to this relationship between militant celebrity atheists and the accepted so-called “moderates” or “counter-extremism specialists” such as Nawaz; they all seem to hobnob in the same circles.
It’s also ironic considering Harris’ main thesis for years has been that “moderates” are a greater problem than extremists. While defending himself against the charge that he paints all Muslims with the same brush, exaggerates extremism and links causation for violence among Muslims all to Islam he has boxed himself into a corner: he is funding and co-operating with an organization, headed by an individual who claims to be a “moderate” and claims to resist extremism. So what gives?
Indeed there is no practical contradiction for Harris in funding Quilliam, since they agree to a large degree. In fact Quilliam is not an organization that actually counters extremism, it has no problem in working with warmongering Neo-Cons and Islamophobes as Jai Singh has copiously noted in his exhaustive expose report.