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Sam Harris on the Reality of Islam

Posted on Feb 7, 2006

This fragment of the Koran (Sura 33, Verse 73-74) translates in part as “...That God may chastise the hypocrites, men and women alike, and the idolaters, men and women alike…” (A.J. Arberry translation). Idolatry is at the center of the Muslim outrage over the satirical Muhammad cartoons.

By Sam Harris

Update #1 (2/08/2006 1:35 p.m. EST): Sam Harris responds to the comments and criticism of this piece. Jump to read.

Update #2: Cilck here for a Truthdig primer on who has, and who hasn’t re-published the controversial cartoons

Verses from the Koran
Pop Up: Quotations instructing observant Muslims to despise nonbelievers.

In recent days, crowds of thousands have gathered throughout the Muslim world—burning European embassies, issuing threats, and even taking hostages—in protest over 12 cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that were first published in a Danish newspaper last September.  The problem is not merely that the cartoons were mildly derogatory.  The furor primarily erupted over the fact that the Prophet had been depicted at all. Many Muslims consider any physical rendering of Muhammad to be an act of idolatry.  And idolatry is punishable by death. Criticism of Muhammad or his teaching—which was also implicit in the cartoons—is considered blasphemy.  As it turns out, blasphemy is also punishable by death.  So pious Muslims have two reasons to “not accept less than a severing of the heads of those responsible,” as was recently elucidated by a preacher at the Al Omari mosque in Gaza.

The religious hysteria has not been confined to the “extremists” of the Muslim world. Seventeen Arab governments issued a joint statement of protest, calling for the punishment of those responsible. Pakistan’s parliament unanimously condemned the drawings as a “vicious, outrageous and provocative campaign” that has “hurt the faith and feelings of Muslims all over the world.” Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while still seeking his nation’s entry into the European Union, nevertheless declared that the cartoons were an attack upon the “spiritual values” of Muslims everywhere. The leader of Lebanon’s governing Hezbollah faction observed that the whole episode could have been avoided if only the novelist Salman Rushdie had been properly slaughtered for writing “The Satanic Verses.”

Let us take stock of the moral intuitions now on display in the House of Islam: On Aug. 17, 2005, an Iraqi insurgent helped collect the injured survivors of a car bombing, rushed them to a hospital and then detonated his own bomb, murdering those who were already mortally wounded as well as the doctors and nurses struggling to save their lives.  Where were the cries of outrage from the Muslim world? Religious sociopaths kill innocents by the hundreds in the capitols of Europe, blow up the offices of the U.N. and the Red Cross, purposefully annihilate crowds of children gathered to collect candy from U.S. soldiers on the streets of Baghdad, kidnap journalists, behead them, and the videos of their butchery become the most popular form of pornography in the Muslim world, and no one utters a word of protest because these atrocities have been perpetrated “in defense of Islam.” But draw a picture of the Prophet, and pious mobs convulse with pious rage. One could hardly ask for a better example of religious dogmatism and its pseudo-morality eclipsing basic, human goodness.

It is time we recognized—and obliged the Muslim world to recognize—that “Muslim extremism” is not extreme among Muslims.  Mainstream Islam itself represents an extremist rejection of intellectual honesty, gender equality, secular politics and genuine pluralism. The truth about Islam is as politically incorrect as it is terrifying: Islam is all fringe and no center. In Islam, we confront a civilization with an arrested history. It is as though a portal in time has opened, and the Christians of the 14th century are pouring into our world.

Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe.  The demographic trends are ominous: Given current birthrates, France could be a majority Muslim country in 25 years, and that is if immigration were to stop tomorrow. Throughout Western Europe, Muslim immigrants show little inclination to acquire the secular and civil values of their host countries, and yet exploit these values to the utmost—demanding tolerance for their backwardness, their misogyny, their anti-Semitism, and the genocidal hatred that is regularly preached in their mosques. Political correctness and fears of racism have rendered many secular Europeans incapable of opposing the terrifying religious commitments of the extremists in their midst. In an effort to appease the lunatic furor arising in the Muslim world in response to the publication of the Danish cartoons, many Western leaders have offered apologies for exercising the very freedoms that are constitutive of civil society in the 21st century.  The U.S. and British governments have chastised Denmark and the other countries that published the cartoons for privileging freedom of speech over religious sensitivity. It is not often that one sees the most powerful countries on Earth achieve new depths of weakness, moral exhaustion and geopolitical stupidity with a single gesture. This was appeasement at its most abject.

The idea that Islam is a “peaceful religion hijacked by extremists” is a dangerous fantasy—and it is now a particularly dangerous fantasy for Muslims to indulge. It is not at all clear how we should proceed in our dialogue with the Muslim world, but deluding ourselves with euphemisms is not the answer.  It now appears to be a truism in foreign policy circles that real reform in the Muslim world cannot be imposed from the outside.  But it is important to recognize why this is so—it is so because the Muslim world is utterly deranged by its religious tribalism. In confronting the religious literalism and ignorance of the Muslim world, we must appreciate how terrifyingly isolated Muslims have become in intellectual terms.  The problem is especially acute in the Arab world.  Consider: According to the United Nations’ Arab Human Development Reports, less than 2% of Arabs have access to the Internet. Arabs represent 5% of the world’s population and yet produce only 1% of the world’s books, most of them religious.  In fact, Spain translates more books into Spanish each year than the entire Arab world has translated into Arabic since the ninth century.

Our press should report on the terrifying state of discourse in the Arab press, exposing the degree to which it is a tissue of lies, conspiracy theories and exhortations to recapture the glories of the seventh century.  All civilized nations must unite in condemnation of a theology that now threatens to destabilize much of the Earth.  Muslim moderates, wherever they are, must be given every tool necessary to win a war of ideas with their coreligionists.  Otherwise, we will have to win some very terrible wars in the future. It is time we realized that the endgame for civilization is not political correctness.  It is not respect for the abject religious certainties of the mob.  It is reason.

Sam Harris is the author of “The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason” (W.W. Norton).  He can be reached through his website at

Sam Harris responds to comments and criticism

Anyone familiar with my work knows that I am extremely critical of all religious faiths.  I have argued elsewhere that the ascendancy of Christian conservatism in American politics should terrify and embarrass us.  I have argued that the religious dogmatism of the Jewish settlers could well be the cause of World War III. And yet, there are gradations to the evil that is done in name of God, and these gradations must be honestly observed. So let us now acknowledge the obvious: there is a direct link between the doctrine of Islam and Muslim violence. Acknowledging this link remains especially taboo among political liberals. While liberals are leery of religious fundamentalism in general, they consistently imagine that all religions at their core teach the same thing and teach it equally well.  This is one of the many delusions borne of political correctness. Rather than continue to squander precious time, energy, and good will by denying the role that Islam now plays in perpetuating Muslim violence, we should urge Muslim communities, East and West, to reform the ideology of their religion.  This will not be easy, as the Koran and hadith offer precious little basis for a Muslim Enlightenment, but it is necessary. The truth that we must finally confront is that Islam contains specific notions of martyrdom and jihad that fully explain the character of Muslim violence. Unless the world’s Muslims can find some way of expunging the metaphysics that is fast turning their religion into a cult of death, we will ultimately face the same perversely destructive behavior throughout much of the world. It should be clear that I am not speaking about a race or an ethnicity here; I am speaking about the logical consequences of specific ideas.

Anyone who imagines that terrestrial concerns account for Muslim terrorism must answer questions of the following sort: Where are the Tibetan Buddhist suicide bombers? The Tibetans have suffered an occupation far more brutal, and far more cynical, than any that Britain, the United States, or Israel have ever imposed upon the Muslim world. Where are the throngs of Tibetans ready to perpetrate suicidal atrocities against Chinese noncombatants? They do not exist. What is the difference that makes the difference? The difference lies in the specific tenets of Islam. This is not to say that Buddhism could not help inspire suicidal violence. It can, and it has (Japan, World War II). But this concedes absolutely nothing to the apologists for Islam. As a Buddhist, one has to work extremely hard to justify such barbarism. One need not work nearly so hard as a Muslim.  If you doubt whether the comparison is valid, ask yourself where the Palestinian Christian suicide bombers are. Palestinian Christians also suffer the indignity of the Israeli occupation. This is practically a science experiment: take the same people, speaking the same language, put them in the same horrendous circumstance, but give them slightly different religious beliefs—and then watch what happens.  What happens is, they behave differently.

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. The world, from the point of view of Islam, is divided into the “House of Islam” and the “House of War,” and this latter designation should indicate how Muslims believe their differences with those who do not share their faith will be ultimately resolved. While there are undoubtedly some moderate Muslims who have decided to overlook the irrescindable militancy of their religion, Islam is undeniably a religion of conquest. The only future devout Muslims can envisage—as Muslims—is one in which all infidels have been converted to Islam, politically subjugated, or killed. The tenets of Islam simply do not admit of anything but a temporary sharing of power with the “enemies of God.” Devout Muslims can have no doubt about the reality of Paradise or about the efficacy of martyrdom as a means of getting there. Nor can they question the wisdom and reasonableness of killing people for what amount to theological grievances. In Islam, it is the moderate who is left to split hairs, because the basic thrust of the doctrine is undeniable: convert, subjugate, or kill unbelievers; kill apostates; and conquer the world.

It should be of particular concern to us that the beliefs of devout Muslims pose a special problem for nuclear deterrence. There is, after all, little possibility of our having a cold war with an Islamist regime armed with long-range nuclear weapons. A cold war requires that the parties be mutually deterred by the threat of death. Notions of martyrdom and jihad run roughshod over the logic that allowed the United States and the Soviet Union to pass half a century perched, more or less stably, on the brink of Armageddon. We must come to terms with the possibility that men who are every bit as zealous to die as the September 11th hijackers may one day get their hands on nuclear weaponry. As Martin Rees, Britain’s Royal astronomer, has pointed out, there is no reason to expect that we will be any more successful at stopping nuclear proliferation, in small quantities, than we have been with respect to illegal drugs. If this is true, weapons of mass destruction will eventually be available to anyone who wants them.  It seems a truism to say that there is no possible future in which aspiring martyrs will make good neighbors for us.


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By KLW, February 12, 2006 at 1:00 am Link to this comment
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“At first glance, this appears to be preposterous poppycock.  If not, kindly furnish specifics vis a vis China’s treatment of Tibet that compares with:....”

My God.  If you are going to huff and puff so ostentatiously about history, at least grab an encyclopedia or read a few paragraphs on Google first.  Tibet was invaded and completely destroyed as a soveriegn country by China over 50 years ago.  Half their army was slaughtered in a few days.  Tibet’s citizens have been under brutal, totalitarian rule ever since.  Most estimates of the number of people killed - often after being tortured for no reason or subjected to bizzare ‘experiments’ by the Chinese government - generally ranges between 1,000,000 and 1,500,000 people!  Look it up.

US and European meddling in the middle east is not defensible in my view, but it doesn’t remotely compare to what China has done to Tibet, neither in terms of the sheer numbers of people tortured and killed, nor in the incomprehensibility of the crime of deliberately, systematically attempting to wipe out an entire nation and culture (and nearly succeeding).  In the context of these widely known facts, your dramatized list of greivances and various hyperbolic bombast makes you look ridiculous. 

Moreover, Harris’ point is obviously valid: the Tibetans have suffered far worse treatment at the hands of the Chinese that contemporary Muslims have from the west, and yet the Tibetans have never engaged in terrorism or anything as insane as rioting, arson, and death threats over a someone publishing a cartoon.

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By GuitarsandMore, February 11, 2006 at 11:19 pm Link to this comment
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to everyone

The solution is nobody gets to have nuclear weapons or nuclear energy.  The world doesn’t need nuclear anything.  There are enough alternative energy sources to power the world without nuclear.

There are numerous forms of renewable energy sources. Look at what Sweeden is doing.  For example and Look at Clark County, Nevada.

We are supposed to live in peace together and arming ourselves to the teeth is not a step forward it is a step backwards.

Forget all about the religion for a minute.  Focus on the leaders and what they are doing right now.  Are the leaders diffusing the situation or are they stirring things up ?  They are stirring things up.  Why? Because they want everyone to be afraid so they can get re-elected.

Don’t buy into that fear.

Put down your guns and go home to your families and enjoy life.  Life is good.

Go in peace

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By ian, February 11, 2006 at 10:13 pm Link to this comment
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For all Harris’ bluster about the dangers of religion and the number of people killed in the name of “God,” he is not being intellectually honest: the number of people killed under Mao (~30,000,000), Stalin (~60,000,000), Hitler (~8,000,000) and Pol Pot (~5,000,000) - all of whom were committed atheists (despite Hitler’s temporary “use” of Christianity to serve his ends) - exceeds BY AT LEAST TWICE the number of people killed in “holy wars” throughout all of history.  Those four atheists are responsible for over 100,000,000 deaths between them.  And if being a non-believer makes one “reasonable,” then they were all “reasonable” men…

As for one person’s comment about intolerance being the “central problem” with almost all religions, I would argue that intolerance is NOT central to ANY religion, but rather is an admittedly all-too-common “misreading” by zealots of all faiths.

Once again, I point out that the PRIMARY underlying tenets of the three major faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - are similar: love, peace, brotherhood, community, personal spiritual struggle.  And “exclusivism” - which is admittedly common to all three major faiths - does not, or at least SHOULD not, necessarily equate with “intolerance.”

The problem is not in believing that one’s faith is the “true” or “correct” one, but how one expresses that in one’s life - especially in how one interacts with others.  I can believe that my Christian faith is the “true” one, but I only become “intolerant” if I try to ram that down someone else’s throat, or judge or condemn - or even simply think less of - others who do not believe as I do.  However, the ten basic precepts of Jesus’ ministry (love, peace, humility, forgiveness, compassion, patience, charity, selflessness, service, truth) - if truly understood, believed in and followed - are not only anathema to intolerance, but I would be “self-convicted” should it ever even enter my mind, much less be spoken or acted upon.

This is why it saddens me so deeply to watch the capital C Church and the so-called “Christian Right” (which, like the Moral Majority before it, is neither) continue to make Christianity its own worst enemy by perverting its teachings, and not only making little attempt to truly follow the one they claim as their spiritual leader, but using His name to justify the most unloving, unforgiving and ultimately un-Christian views, policies and actions.

Such is the state of Islam as well.  Yes, perhaps there is a tad more intolerance “built in” to Islam than into Judaism or Christianity.  But if that little bit of potential intolerance were not being used so cynically - i.e., blown all out of proportion to the vast majority of Mohammed’s teachings - Islam would be no more violent, no more dangerous, no more intolerant than Judaism, Christianity (properly observed), Buddhism or any other faith.

Finally, to list all the good done in the name of faith (especially Christian) over the past millennium or more would fill an entire book: more orphanages, hospitals, universities, community centers and even medical research facilities were created by Christians than by any other single group.  And Christians were at the forefront of the abolitionist movement (Baptists, Quakers and Protestants created the “underground railroad”), the child labor movement, the suffrage movement (led by Northern Protestant women), the civil rights movement and the anti-war (Vietnam) movement, among many others.  And that’s just for starters.  [N.B.  For more on this, I recommend “Christianity on Trial” by Carroll and Shiflett.]  And many good works have been done by Jews and Muslims as well.

Funny that I don’t hear Mr. Harris discussing any of this in his broad-brush anti-faith diatribes.


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By lightiris, February 11, 2006 at 8:54 pm Link to this comment
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And the latest comments confirm what many of us already understand:  religion is a scourge, a plague, a pox upon this planet. 


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By morgan-lynn lamberth, February 11, 2006 at 8:13 pm Link to this comment
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I say a god must have low self-esteem if he needs constant worship!

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By Morgan-LynnLamberth, February 11, 2006 at 8:07 pm Link to this comment
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Sam is right. Karma is a ridiculous notion, so Buddhism   is to be contemned.and exxposed. Why should religion be exempt from analysis as is any other pseudo-science?To say that prayer cures is as sensical as to say the stars influence behavior.To say a god create the cosmos is to go against Occam’s razor-superfluity of explanation, oor more accurately a non-answer. Why not expose nonsense? Nonsense doesn’t have to be dangerous to combat. Read Dr, Paul KURTZ’S THE TRANSCENDENTAK TEMPTATIONto see religion belongs with the paranormal.

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By Fadel Abdallah, February 11, 2006 at 7:39 pm Link to this comment
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Thanks from the bottom of my heart David Morton for your enlightened message # 3539. Since I read Mr. Harris’ few days ago I was so depressed and it took reading your beautiful message to feel normal again. In fact, your message brought tears of happiness to my eyes. May God bliss you and true Chistianity you obviously follow! And thank you again for making my day!

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By Fadel Abdallah, February 11, 2006 at 6:35 pm Link to this comment
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Responding to Harris’s Hatemongering Piece!

Earlier, I posted a short response to Mr. Harris’ hate mongering piece against Islam and Muslims, in which I attempted to expose his irrational, incoherent and fanatic hate against this faith of 1/5 of humanity.
However, after a second examination of his evil piece, I discovered more subtle and deliberate attempt at misinformation and falsehood. Under the image of the Qur’anic quotation he attached, it was written: “Verses from the Qur’an instructing observing Muslims to despise non-believers.”  One of the great grievances of Muslim scholars like myself against those instantaneous so-called experts on Islam who pup up like cancer in times of crises to take advantage of the ignorance and confusion Westerners have about Islam and Muslims, so they can inflame the crude passions of hatred and play on the fear factor when things are not going right in their societies. Evil Harris did the classical example of that trend when he quoted a passage from the Qur’an taking part of a verse out of its context. Surah (Chapter) 33:73-74 in full context says that, “God entrusted mankind to be His Vicegerent on earth in preference to his other creation.” Implied in the meaning, according to the scholars of Qur’anic interpretation to mean that for man to be worthy of that special favor from his Lord, he has a special responsibility to get to know his Creator, connect with Him and serve His Laws. Failing to do this makes a person a hypocrite and an idolater. Then He informs us in the part of the Verse evil Harris quoted that, as a consequence, God in the Hereafter, not in this world “will chastise the hypocrites, men and women and the idolaters, men and woman. There is nothing in this context about God instructing Muslims to despise non-believers as evil Harris falsely claims; so he can “educate” his misguided herd among readers about a subject he knows nothing about.
Say if I want to buy an American car, for example, it stands to reason to go to an American manufacture of the car to tell me about its merits or lack of merits therein.  I do not go to a Japanese car manufactures, for the obvious reasons that he, besides not knowing much about the American car, he would deliberately extol the merits of his Japanese car at the expense of the American one. I cite this parable to make the point against the Western media outlets who insist of making spontaneous experts on Islam like the type of Mr. Harris. There are thousands of practicing American Muslims, scholars as well as laymen, who would give you better and accurate information on Islam.
Furthermore, the idolaters that the Qur’an spoke about in the above quoted Verse refers exclusively to the Arab idol worshippers who formed a united front against the Islamic movement and engaged in wars to destroy Islam. Even those types have the advantage of the Mercy of the God of Islam, where Muslims in many passages of the Qur’an are urged to consider them potential Muslims and keep inviting them to the Lord “through good counsel and reasoning dialogue.” The God of Islam is the God of all humanity including all misguide idolaters of all time. Again and again, all humanity is considered one big family descending from the same original father and mother, Adam and Eve. This is a very sublime humanistic teaching that many in the West, who are used to long histories of institutionalized racism in their cultures, have problem understanding; for racism is a plague that is difficult to eradicate as the case of Mr. Harries can eloquently testify to it.
Additionally, one of the basic tenets of Qur’anic teachings is that “There if no compulsion in religion.” The evil propaganda that keeps pupping up in times of crises is that Muslims want to control the world and force everyone one to go back to the middle ages. Nothing can be more removed from the facts of history than this evil propaganda. The Muslims did not even attempt to do that when they were the superpower of the world for almost five centuries. All what Muslims want is to left alone and not to see their land occupied, exploited and their most sacred symbols trampled on. This is the source of their rage, to which all enlightened Westerners are beginning to understand; thanks to American evil war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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By David Morton, February 11, 2006 at 3:54 pm Link to this comment
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Who is Truthdig’s next featured writer?  Pat Robertson?  At a time when people crave an understanding of Islam, Truthdig presents a racist hack who has done little more than cherry pick his favorite inflammatory passages to attack one of the most beautiful and peaceful religions in the world .  He could have found very similar quotations in the Bible.  Reading this “analysis” by Mr. Harris, I can see yet another reason why the Muslim people feel so misunderstood by the American people.  As a Christian, I apologize to the people of Islam for idiots like Mr. Harris.  Truthdig should be ashamed for printing this.  It’s insulting to the Muslim people and I am shocked to see it in the same publication as Robert Scheer, Gore Vidal and Molly Ivins.

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By GuitarsandMore, February 11, 2006 at 3:35 pm Link to this comment
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Sam Harris,

I agree with you that it is the responsibility of the Grand Muftis and other leaders in the middle east to protect their own people.  The top priority of any good leader should be the safety and well being of the community.  Sending the people on endless meaningless missions to throw their lives away in the name of some god is shameful and irresponsible.

Other churches like the Catholic church have made changes over the years ( although not enough) as science marches on and civilization advances.  There is no reason why the Islamic leaders couldn’t tweak their faith a little bit so that they can have their religion and still fit in with the rest of the world.

We could all live together peacefully and respect our differences rather than try to kill each other.  The entire history of mankind has been one group killing another.  Let’s try something different.

Grand Muftis, get off your lazy duffs and lead your people to peace not to war.

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By Pankaj Seth, February 11, 2006 at 11:54 am Link to this comment
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To Comment #3518 by Sigrid

Sigrid: “It is from these very books that the fundamentalists learn their homophobia, misogyny, and xenophobia.  If every moderate religionist were to closely read their holy books, they would quickly be “converted” to reason and intolerance for hate.  No matter how good the actions of Lowrey, Carter and King are, they are still enablers of the evil doers from the Christian, Islamic, and Jewish right”

Thank you for your comment… I just wanted to separate the Judeo-Christian-Islamic “holy books” from the Vedic writings on homosexuality in India. Here is an excerpt of an article linked below. Reading the whole article is recommended by me.


BTW, the author has also published a book called “Tritiya-prakriti”, easily available at major online booksellers.

Tritiya-prakriti: People of the Third Sex by Amara Das Wilhelm

Three Categories of Gender
Throughout Vedic literature, the sex or gender of the human being is clearly divided into three separate categories according to prakriti or nature. These are: pums-prakriti or male, stri-prakriti or female, and tritiya-prakriti or the third sex. This third sex or nature is analyzed in the Kama-sutra and broken down into several categories of people that are still visible today and generally referred to as gay males and lesbians. They are typically characterized by a transgender behavior that can often be recognized within childhood, and are identified by an inherent homosexual orientation that manifests at puberty. [...]

Transgender citizens were neither persecuted nor denied basic rights. They were allowed to keep their own societies or town quarters, live together within marriage “parigraha”, and engage in all means of livelihood. Gay men could either blend into society as ordinary males or they could dress and behave as females, living as transvestites. [...] Transvestites were invited to attend all birth, marriage and religious ceremonies as their presence was a symbol of good luck and considered to be auspicious. This tradition still continues in India even today. Lesbians were known as “svairini” or independent women, and were permitted to earn their own livelihood. They were not expected to accept a husband. Citizens of the third gender represented only a very small portion of the overall population, which most estimates place at approximately five percent. They were not perceived to be a threat in any way and were generally considered to be aloof from the ordinary attachments of procreation and family life. [...]

A brief description will be given here, taken mostly from the fourth and fifth chapters of the second part of the Kama-sutra.

“People of the third sex (tritiya-prakriti) are of two kinds, according to whether their appearance is masculine or feminine.” (KS 2.5.1) Members of the third gender are first categorized according to whether their physical characteristics are either male or female. These are known as “napumsaka”, or gay males, and “svairini”, or lesbians. Each of these categories is then divided into two, depending upon whether their psychological nature is either masculine or feminine. They are then further divided into many sub-categories numbering well over twenty.

Pankaj Seth, Canada

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By Asfand, February 11, 2006 at 11:08 am Link to this comment
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you said it urself that islam is the fastest growing religion in europe, plus according to guiness book of world records, it is the fastest growing religion in the world. So if this many people see that islam is the right religion for them, than ur IQ must be that of an ass’ to still think that this religion will lead us to chaos. i will recommend this website . download any of his books and u will understand that what was written in the koran 14 centuries ago is now being proven. also read the book “The Bible, The Quran and Science” by Dr. Maurice Bucaille

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By Pankaj Seth, February 11, 2006 at 11:03 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

oh mygod in comment 3491 writes:

“Not too long ago crusading terrorists destroyed a perfectly peaceful MUSLIM Ottoman Empire. And Anglo-saxon criminals did the same thing to the MUSLIM Mougal Empire. The prosperous Ottoman/Indian muslims of that time, like the prosperous west today, found it in their magnanimous heart to totally ignore 99 percent of religion (Islam).

Was the Muslim Mughal Empire “peaceful” too?  You must not have seen this… it will take you days to read this webpage… but even a cursory examination ought to have salutary effects. I am all for generosity of heart, but history must not be ignored. We must do all we can so that we can avoid making the mistakes we have in the past.

And this webpage would be no surprise, I am sure… Christendom features heavily of course.

Pankaj Seth, Canada

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By Sigrid, February 11, 2006 at 8:12 am Link to this comment
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At the funeral of Coretta Scott King, Carter and Lowery spoke the truth about the King’s drive for justice.  They were right to point out that she and Martin were concerned about more than segregation.  On Viet Nam and Iraq and their experience with wiretapping, Ms. King spoke against lies and deception, injustice and discrimination. The eulogies of Carter and Lowery recognized her drive and spoke of the fact that the deceptions continue, the battle not ending with her death.  Lowery, Carter and King are Christians who, somehow, have avoided the pitfalls of all religions that Sam Harris speaks of.  It is a rare thing for people of faith to take the right road.  Mr. Bush, another Christian, has trouble accepting the truth and his disciples complain that there was a lack of civility at the funeral.

Sam Harris, in his writings, speaks out against religions of all sorts, and points out that most of our problems stem from too much civility towards religions.  His current article about Islam is no exception to his strong view that religion is often the root of evil and we do ourselves a disservice to ignore that fact.  If democracy and reason and civilization itself is to prevail, we must recognize this evil.  It is likely that we won’t turn our backs to religion and it is equally as likely that civilization as we know it is doomed.  While it is true that there are some religionists who find the right path, like the Kings, most, even if they don’t go down the hateful road of Robertson, bin Laden and Schneerson, will ignore the evil of their co-religionists in the name of tolerance.  Moderates of all religions can not have read the books of their chosen faith because those books are laced with intolerance and hate.  It is from these very books that the fundamentalists learn their homophobia, misogyny, and xenophobia.  If every moderate religionist were to closely read their holy books, they would quickly be “converted” to reason and intolerance for hate.  No matter how good the actions of Lowrey, Carter and King are, they are still enablers of the evil doers from the Christian, Islamic, and Jewish right.

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By Louise Allegre, February 11, 2006 at 2:51 am Link to this comment
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While it is unfortunate that some Muslim-haters will draw edification from Mr. Harris’ essay, that is outweighed, I believe by the benefits of exposing his ideas to open criticism.

I do have one minor complaint, however, about the way is presenting the essayists’ second piece. There is heading claiming that Mr. Harris responds to his critics. However, his response completely ignores the clearest, most often repeated points of critique in his essay. I guess you can call what he wrote a response but it is by no means a response “to his critics.” Rather, he simply restates the same dcontextualized, unsubstantiated hate-mongering memes presented in the initial essay.

Here’s three simple questions that represent, in my view, a few of the key themes of many critics here that Mr. Harris has failed to address:

1. How and why have the vast majority of Muslims lived peacefully more than a millenium? If Islam causes violence, why do most of it’s adherents live peacefully. It’s an obvious question Mr. Harris has so far failed to even address.

2. Why does Mr. Harris choose to discuss the behavior of radical Islamists completely outside the context of geopolitics and the Christian
West’s role? For example, when we think of bin Laden as a fanatical killer, we have to understand that Christian America literally tought him how to kill by funding his gang in its earliest days in Afghanistan. If Islam is so distinct from Christianity, why have its radicals gained so much support from Christian leaders in the West, when it was thought to be politically convenient?

3. Who will support “secular” Muslims who practice the faith more as tradition than religious faith? Under Mr. Harris’ formula, these many, many Muslims are condemned, apparently, to be objects of phobic analysis…

Three simple questions. I’m not trying to set myself up as Mr. Harris inquisitor or anything, but if he’s going to participate on this site, he really should respond to his critics.

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By R.Reed Nesbitt, February 11, 2006 at 1:43 am Link to this comment
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Response to Ian (#3372, 2/08):

You are correct BUT -
Hitler did use the flag of Christianity to help himself win support from the populace much in the same way this current fascist government we see today ruling by deceit and fear in the U.S.

“The national government will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality.

“Today Christians stand at the head of our country. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit. We want to burn out all the recent immoral
developments in literature, in the theatre, and in the press-in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life
and culture as a result of liberal excess during recent years.”

Adolf Hitler. ( in his first radio address to the German people after coming to power July 22, 1933; from My New Order, The Speeches of Adolf Hitler,
1922-1939, Vol. 1, pp. 871-872, Oxford University Press, London, 1942.)

See my poem at the Poets Against the War website:

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By Lou Firpin, February 11, 2006 at 12:11 am Link to this comment
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Harris comments are not only xenophobic, sectarian, and racist, but also ill-conceived, inaccurate, retrograde, and intellectually vacuous.

He brings to mind an old law school joke that ends:  Like the thirteenth chime of a clock, it is not only wrong in itself, it calls into question everything that went before it.

He strings together crackpot statements like:

“The Tibetans have suffered an occupation far more brutal, and far more cynical, than any that Britain, the United States, or Israel have ever imposed upon the Muslim world. “

At first glance, this appears to be preposterous poppycock.  If not, kindly furnish specifics vis a vis China’s treatment of Tibet that compares with:

1.  “Shock and awe”
2.  Murder of over 100,000 innocent civilians
3.  The destruction of Fallujah
4.  The continuing air war and US occupation
5.  Palestinian occupation and virtual genocide.
6.  500 pound bunker busters dropped relentlessly on civilian populations
7.  Torture at Abu Grahb and countless other sites.
8.  Bremer’s edicts.
9.  The US drafted constitution and “Iraqi” elections

This phony claim appears to be the “big lie” right out of the Hitler / Goebels play book.  I am not aware of anything in the history of China’s relationship to Tibet that compares with any of the above.  I’ll be happy to review the evidence to the contrary.  Cynical?  Anyone who puts arguments like this forth to denigrate Muslims is pretty darn cynical.  Or disingenuous.  From this evidence, Harris is a phony.  Just because he is an atheist doesn’t cut it for me.  He still has to make sense.

What about:

“In fact, Spain translates more books into Spanish each year than the entire Arab world has translated into Arabic since the ninth century.”

Kindly furnish me the research on this crackpot assertion, which is preposterous on its face. (Off the top of your head, how many books were translated into Arabic in the 10th century?) Even if true tell me specifically what the point is.

There are approximately 1.7 billion muslims in the world.  About 250 million of them speak Arabic in countless dialects that are incomprehensible to one another. Whats up with the other 1.5 billion Muslims?  Someone connect the dots for me.

Etc, etc with most of the diatribe…

This type of polemic is exactly what the neocons need to start bombing Tehran.  There’s no excuse for it.


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By Dr. Strangelove, February 10, 2006 at 9:58 pm Link to this comment
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Anyone who thinks that Mr. Harris is guilty of hyperbole in his recogntition that the fanaticism and facism of Islamic fundamentalists is deeply ingrained in the religion should remember (or learn) this:

Until Hitler met with Hasam al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, an al-Qaeda pre-cursor, Nazi’s were content with a policy of expulsion of the Jews. It is only after meeting with the proto-typical Islamic fundamentalist that the ovens were used for the “final solution”, a term which, I believe, has direct roots in the Quran.

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By getagrip, February 10, 2006 at 9:37 pm Link to this comment
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“Peaceful Ottoman Empire?”  What history books have you been reading?

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By Pankaj Seth, February 10, 2006 at 9:04 pm Link to this comment
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To comment #3471 by Ed Wardak Jr.

I hope its not too long for you to read, but I have given it my best try to address your points… Peace.

Beholding self and world is mostly an art rather than a science. That is to say, there are many ways to behold self and world. In different eras and cultures quite different views have been created. For example, there is the Taoist view of the body/mind, which is connected to an entire medical approach including the therapeutic use of acupuncture. The modern medical view of the body/mind is quite different from the Taoist view, yet the same phenomenon is being experienced. Both these views have a definite utility but also blind spots, and these are particular to the view being utilized.

Similarly, in thinking about the world as a whole, many different views have been promulgated in different eras and cultures. These too all have certain utilities and blind spots.

Now one could ask, “Is there one ‘correct’ way to behold self and world?”. My answer is No. Rather, all one can do is be aware of the strengths and limitations of the view being utilized.

There are those who believe that self and world should rightly only be seen in one particular way, and these people I call dogmatists. In our era and culture, the scientific method has become virtually the only arbiter of the “truth” about self and world. But there are some things that are outside the scope of the scientific method, outside the scope of reason. Science can tell us many things, but it can say nothing definitive about the “big picture”... this task is outside its grasp. Science and reason can only take us so far. Beyond that, its a task for Art; that is, the “big picture” must be envisioned, rather than be discovered by reason. And envisioning is not the same as inventing a lie. In fact, I think that ultimately all we have are numerous partial views onto the whole, and in that sense all we really have are views which have been envisioned.

There is something powerful about belief, but its also dangerous. For example, the placebo effect relies upon belief and its quite potent; in Naturopathic medicine, its called instead “The healing power of nature”. Many medications only manage to outdo the placebo effect by a very small margin, often only by a few percentage points. Thus, to believe is sometimes to make come true. This is what I mean by “art” in the very first sentence above. Belief can also be dangerous because one can miss out on something essential that’s there to be seen but one’s belief has become a filter and so it is not seen. Also, one can come to believe one’s vision as a dogma… this is the bigger problem. But this problem is not limited to any particular sort of belief.

I think when someone says that they do not believe in God, they are saying that they reject the notion of a reality which is intelligently responsive as a whole. Instead, they believe that reality is a sort of mechanism wholly reducible to mathematically stated laws. In this view, there is no room for a conscious, creative and reciprocal relationship with the Whole… this view is deterministic and mechanistic… this is a view which is ascendent in our modern, reason/mathematics dominated scientific era, and though some take to it easily it creates despair for many others.

I think when someone says that they believe in God, what they are saying is that they accept the notion of a reality which is intelligently responsive as a whole; they reject a deterministic and mechanistic view of self and world. These persons often gravitate to Theism, at least in the West. In India, with which I am quite familiar, there are options other than Theism… for example Yoga (and I don’t mean the overblown gymnastics version), Vedanta and Tantra (erroneously equated with sex). Of course, these are huge subjects of study, and a quick treatment is not possible here… but they are not Theisms; Buddha’s teaching can be talked about along similar lines. Yoga, Vedanta and Tantra do accept the initial statement of this paragraph, but do not go on to personify, or anthropomorphize the “Whole”; thus there is not envisioned an old man God in the sky giving commands. Instead, there is a much more subtle approach which works with the consciousness of the individual, so that he may know something more than reason would enable, which however cannot be rendered via a thought structure… this is also why reason was not up to the task in the first place. Perhaps this could be called a kind of mysticism, but that does no more than assign a label which is still quite incomprehensible. This special sort of knowing is termed “Samadhi”... this requires much study and more importantly, experience. In Buddha’s teaching, the last portion of the 8 fold path is “Samma Samadhi”.

In my view, to reduce the question of the “big picture” to a shouting match between “There is a God” and “There is no God” is not as subtle a treatment of the question as is possible, or is deserving.

In my view, dogmatic Theists commit an error that the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead termed “The fallacy of misplaced concreteness”. And once it is done, then what they envisioned now holds them captive… and you already know about the intolerance and violence which can happen then.

However, I do also recognize what they are trying to do, even though they do it in a muddled way. So to simply shout at them that “There is no God” is not being as helpful as I could be. Instead, I prefer to respect their intuition about the notion of a reality which is intelligently responsive as a whole, and try to help them seek another way towards a creative relationship with the “Whole”... one in which they are not as if subjects to a feudal Lord.

With respect to Atheism, the definition of “not theism” does not treat all the nuances that I have mentioned above, so I think its not really as helpful as is possible. In my view, this definition reflects a kind of dogmatism in itself, and creates much friction with those who reject a deterministic and mechanistic view of self and world. I can fully sympathize with persons who reject the sort of reductionistic, mechanistic philosophy put forward by, for example Richard Dawkins vis a vis “The Selfish Gene”. As an aside, I was once told by someone that “competition is natural”, and I replied instead that competition is simply evidence of a stunted human development. This notion of an ‘inherent’ human nature is in my view, nothing more than an excuse for selfishness and laziness. I suppose neither of us could ever really “prove” our respective points. But this in itself told me something essential about how we sometimes subvert notions of “proof” and “truth” to suit ourselves. The notion of “competition is natural” is to me an example of the misuse of reason, or how reason can be used in a way that ends up being harmful to ourselves and others.

As concerns thought, it can be helpful but it can also be a hindrance to knowledge more far reaching than can be contained in a thought structure. The reliance on reason as a method of finding our way in the world offers freedom from faith-based approaches which are always dangerous. But the exclusive reliance on reason can also limit us to only a small portion of ourselves; here I offer once again the example of Richard Dawkins. I shudder to think what such a person as dictator would try to do with approaches to knowledge such as Yoga, Vedanta, Tantra and Buddha’s teaching. This is not merely a theoretical scenario in the context of the colonial experience of India where Ayurveda (something akin to Taoist Medicine that I mentioned above) was virtually wiped out by the rationalists from Victorian England. Also, a seminal text on Yoga, which for Gandhi was his inspiration and guided him throughout was actually banned by the British… I am referring here to the “Bhagavad Gita”. This is similar to what the Chinese communists are doing to the Tibetan Buddhists. Of course, all this has close parallels to what the European settlers did, and continue to do, to the indigenous populations of the Americas. So you see, people who consider themselves governed by “reason” are not always helpful. What is ‘reasonable’ in one age, is sometimes considered horrific in another.

I will finish off here with some relevant quotes… thanks for the opportunity to do some writing… its always helpful for me to consolidate what I feel deep inside… Peace.


Its sometimes pleasant to think about the unthinkable. The physicist David Bohm once asked though—“If thought is only a part of the whole, can it ever contain the whole?”

“The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless.” - 1979 Nobel physics laureate Steven Weinberg, The First Three Minutes, 1977, p. 149.

Physicist Werner Heisenberg in Science and Philosophy: “Any concepts or words which have been formed in the past through the interplay between the world and ourselves are not really sharply defined with respect to their meaning: that is to say, we do not know exactly how far they will help us in finding our way in the world. We often know that they can be applied to a wide range of inner or outer experience, but we practically never know precisely the limits of their applicability. This is true even of the simplest and most general concepts like ‘existence’ and ‘space and time’. Therefore, it will never be possible by pure reason to arrive at some absolute truth.”

The first stanza of Patanjali’s yoga Sutra reads: “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha”; that is, “The aim of Yoga is the intentional stopping of the spontaneous fluctuations of mind/thought. Why? To address the problem so well described by Prof. Heisenberg above.

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By Louis Proyect, February 10, 2006 at 7:41 pm Link to this comment
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By oh mygod, February 10, 2006 at 5:32 pm Link to this comment
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Not too long ago crusading terrorists destroyed a perfectly peaceful MUSLIM Ottoman Empire. And Anglo-saxon criminals did the same thing to the MUSLIM Mougal Empire. The prosperous Ottoman/Indian muslims of that time, like the prosperous west today, found it in their magnanimous heart to totally ignore 99 percent of religion (Islam).

Now the shoe is on the other foot.

Tell you what Sam, stand up and take it like a man. They are coming for you!

Then, as now belief is nothing more than a tool, usually wielded by the plutocracy to weed out the “believing” young and poor. American flag or Islam or Christianity.

Tell you what, it is always the economic exploitation and relentless opperession that begets terror, stupid.

However, athiest or not, pandering to the audiance will sell books.

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By Andrea, February 10, 2006 at 3:46 pm Link to this comment
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“The USA, for all its imperfections, has done more to advance freedom than any other organization in history. “

I would revise this sentence to read:

The USA has done more to advance freedom FOR ITSELF than any other organization in history.

“And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond to compassion my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula. I speak now not of the soldiers of each side, not of the junta in Saigon, but simply of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries.

They must see Americans as strange liberators. The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.
From “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence
April 4, 1967

Read from “Strange Liberators” if it’s too long for you…

This is what their hatred is made of. Religion is a rally cry in the battle against the meddling giant that first and foremost protects its own interests. Yesterday Vietnam. Today Venezuala and Bolivia. We prefer dictators to democracies. Our history is transparent to those who are living it - it’s only hidden to citizens of the U.S. who are not.

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By Ed Wardak Jr., February 10, 2006 at 11:27 am Link to this comment
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Pankaj Seth, post 3438, said:

“So, thank you for helping me to clarify my position… it is not only Atheism which is not inherently benign, but also Reason is not inherently benign.”

wow. okay so let me understand this now.  not only is not believing in things without evidence sometimes malevolent, but apparently so is thinking??

i think you missed my point which was simply that atheism (which is simply “not theism”) is not a group of people who all share the same values.  it is not as if people kill others “in the name of atheism”.  so when an atheist murders a person, it is not becuase he is an atheist—it is for other reasons.  also, lets not forget that all muslims are “atheists” with repsect to the christian god, zeus, ra, and others. and the same goes for christians with respect to the muslim god and others.

now as for your assertion that “reason is not inherently benign”...  im not sure what you are really trying to say here—that thinking properly can lead to mass murder?  really?  because reason and rationality are the only things keeping every other religion from warring with eachother. think about it.  if all anyone did was subscribe to what their god told them, well they would not find the stoning of non-believers so greusome, would they?  without reason, we would still be in the “Dark Ages” of humanity which was coincidentally the height of christianity.

by your same logic, nearly any person responsible for mass-murder is using reason?  well… i guess, if you define reason as extremely unsound thinking.  however, reason in the real world is defined differently: “The capacity for logical, rational, and analytic thought; intelligence.  Excersicing sound judgment.”  adolf hitler was not excersising reason, by the real definition of reason.  maybe you think he was though?

Sam Harris once said that no peoples have murdered eachother because they were too reasonable.  and i think thats an important point.  i would hope that before anyone starts pointing fingers at other religions, they point to themsleves and ask why it is they think that their god exists, but eveyone else’s doesnt. 

i think the point is that you are trying to find others to blame for the problems that are central to nearly all religions: intolerance.  sure there are plenty of other evils in the world, but non so pervasive as religion, and non with inherent components that urge the killing of others based on their beliefs.

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By marco taco, February 10, 2006 at 10:45 am Link to this comment
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A question for Fadel Abdallah:
Do Muslims see Western Civilization as being a product of the misguidance and machinations of Satan and his army of djinn?
and ...
If this is the case, do Muslims not therefore perceive Western Civilization as being essentially EVIL and worthy of scorn?
In short, can a ‘good’ Muslim truly tolerate, lets say, any aspect of the non-Muslim world?
Several years ago, posing as a Muslim, i sat in on Friday Prayers at a mosque in Toronto.  I listenened in disbelief as a visiting Imam - a caucasion, ex-Catholic British guy turned ‘good’ Muslim - informed the gathering that Christians, including Mother Theresa, were all under the spell of Satan, and were thus heading for ‘hell fire’.  I looked around the room, everyone was numbly nodding in agreement, as if what the imam was saying was more or less the status quo Islamist line.  He carried on to attack Western culture at large -  politics, media, art and values - painting it all in a very eery Satanic light.  Later, I was even more taken aback when i discovered that what i had done - i.e. temporarily posing as a muslim, which is a de facto form of apostacy - was punishable by death (perhaps even ‘stoning’ to death) under shariah law.  Around the same time, a Muslim told me: ‘Our desire is that Canada will be a Muslim country in around 20 years.’  ... arghhh ... maybe i should get my ass down to Disney Land before it’s too late!!!  The point here is that out of necessity of BEING, i cannot tolerate shariah law; and it should here be noted that not tolerating an intolerant system of rules and beliefs is not, in itelf, an intolerant or contradictory position to take.

Let’s get this straight, Sam Harris’s position towards Islam has nothing to do with race, it’s about seeing certain Islamic tenets for what they are - extremely dangerous, intolerable ideas that, when applied to the real world, have disasterous consequences.

In my experience, which includes travelling in the Middle East for six months, Muslims do not feel any qualms about criticising and demeaning Western civilization and values - the constraints of political correctness and liberalism are conspicuously absent in the muslim world (and in the mosques of Western countries).  So I ask - who is the hypocrite?

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By Bill Rogers, February 10, 2006 at 4:31 am Link to this comment
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The issue is freedom. Not religion. Not democracy. Freedom. Men and women all over the world have died in defense of freedom.

Do not give in to those who want to take freedom away from you, whether it be in the name of Islam, Christianity, or even democracy.

As a human being, you deserve the freedom to express yourself, either by speaking or in writing. You deserve to be free of fear, whether it is the fear of an Islamist suicide bomber or fear of street crime. You deserve the freedom to control what is going on inside your own body. You deserve the freedom to reveal none of your body to others, or all of it. You deserve the freedom to be treated equally regardless whether you are a man or a woman. Regardless of skin color, station in life, or anything else.

Freedom is not free. Other people want to take it away from you, and they will come up with many reasons that you should let them. Do not trust or follow anyone who wants to take away your freedom, for any reason.

Freedom is not free. If you want to be free, you must behave decently toward others. You must not take away another person’s freedom. You must not act in a way that causes another person to have fear. You must be civilized.

The USA, for all its imperfections, has done more to advance freedom than any other organization in history.

Do not give in. Do not compromise. Stand up for freedom.

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By Craig, February 10, 2006 at 3:49 am Link to this comment
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Thanks Sam.


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By Rene Jul-Hansen, February 10, 2006 at 3:44 am Link to this comment
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In all religions you will be able to compose arguments for love or hate by collecting the correct mixture of abstracts. As a resident Dane I do not believe that Muslims are worse or better than Christians or any other relious people. In religious circles within every religions there will always be an extremist element like there will be dialogue element. A large part of the present problem, or situation, is the media. The media thrives on sensations and chaos. In some cases the media also acts as political agent for a specific cause. In my country we have had a neo-conservative goverment for more that five years now. Although the coalition between “Venstre (liberals)” and “Konsevative (social-conservative)” on the face are socio-liberal the are dependent on the right wing “Danske Folkeparti (Neo-Nationalist)”. The two large danish broadsheets “Jyllands-Posten” and “Berlingske” run a pro goverment line of news publishing. “Jyllands-Posten” being closest to the ideology of “Dansk Folkeparti”. Throughout the last five years these two papers have provoked and harrassed almost everybody and everything opposed to the neo-nationalistic ideology. In George Brandes home country he is now considered “Kulturradikal” which has become a negative word.
The Cartoons followed the traditional line of publishing. Provoke and establish the fact that the statement is the official truth. The goverment, in fear of loosing the support from the “Dansk Folkeparti” keeps silent until the statement is either established as a fact or goes away. This way, little by little, Denmark is slowly turning right.

So, Sam Harris, there is really nothing wrong with religion - Islam or Christianity - the problem is that we too often allow radical politicans and media to have their way.

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By Jimmy, February 10, 2006 at 2:03 am Link to this comment
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I’m all for the cause if a group has a grievance about stolen land, but the very second a bus explodes in retaliation, I’m done with you.

And so is the rest of civilized humanity.

At this point, terrorists know that suicide bombings are a strategical mistake. They’re well aware that mass murder of innocents will never further their cause but thanks to the Koran and the promise of paradise, their thirst for blood will remain unquenchable until every last “infidel” has been slaughtered. This doctrine of martyrdom bullshit has pitted Neanderthals against Discotheque dwellers. Which would be funny if it were a sitcom but it’s real. And bloody as hell.

Speaking of stolen land grievances, I’m just thankful that Native Americans never got wind of this seventy-two virgin silliness.

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By Fadel Abdallah, February 9, 2006 at 10:35 pm Link to this comment
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Mr. Harris you are just another faithless fanatic racist who displays irrational hatred for the faith of one fifth of humanity. Your incoherent piece made me feel like throwing up, and therefore does not merit responding to. Yet I need to post a short reminder to expose your fanatical hypocrisy and split vision.
Just several weeks ago, the ugly and evil Christian evangilist Pat Robertson was forced to apologize to Israel for saying that the stroke that crippled Sharon was God’s punishment because Sharon withdrew from Gaza. The cartoons defaming Prophet Muhammad were far more racist and evil than what Robertson said. Robertson’s comments offended at worst some 14 million Jews; which is the Jewish population of the world today. But the evil cartoons offended some 1.3 billion Muslims, or 1/5 of humanity. Yet all the West is insisting that Muslims do not deserve an apology. Just reason for one moment, if you are capable of reason, about the double standards, split vision and the irrational fanatic hate the West keeps displaying against Islam and Muslims, of which your piece is a classical example. And then the fanatic and irrational Westerners keep wondering, “Why the Muslims hate the West?” Sir, they are just reciprocating hate for hate! And, sir, again, remember the West’s legacy to humanity, two World Wars in one century, in which more than 50 milliuon people perished; which makes Islamic violence, as you call it, just innocent kids playing and making few mistalkes! And yet the West new century, starts with another evil war in Iraq, based on lies and deception. What have you written against this new Wetern evil war you hypocrite! Those who live in glass houses should not be throwing stones at others!

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By Pankaj Seth, February 9, 2006 at 6:24 pm Link to this comment
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To post #3428 by Ed Wardak Jr.

Other than the section you quote, it seems that you havn’t read the rest of my post, nor the other post two below which covers the same ground. You are explaining to me how dogmatic Theism is a dangerous metaphysical position. I have already stated exactly that. Now, onto the objection you raise.

The Communist Chinese consider themselves Atheist, rational, even scientific in their approach to life and society. Thus, they think they are doing the Tibetans a favour by kindly ridding them of all their ‘superstitions’ and ‘religious dogma’, so that they can enter the ‘modern’ world. These ‘rational’ men are simply ‘helping’ the Tibetans… listen to the Chinese leadership and you will see that they are deadly serious about their view. Any kind of dogmatism is dangerous, and the Chinese communists who are avowed Atheists are an example of this. They find it objectionable that Tibetans do not wish to enter their worldview, and are perfectly willing to torture and kill to make this come about.

Now what makes the Chinese communists-Atheists so sure that the Tibetans are “wrong” about their metaphysics? This would be funny, if it wasn’t so completely tragic… Tibetan Buddhists, being Buddhists do not have any allegiance to any metaphysical positon at all (read my 2 posts again for details on this); they are certainly not dogmatic Theists by any stretch of the imagination. What metaphysics do the Chinese communists prefer? Part of their metaphysical position is a dogmatic Atheism, so that they have ‘reasons’ to forcibly change Tibetans’ ways… its all for there own good anyhow, they surmise. This is REASON we are talking about here… it is reason which the Chinese communists-atheists have utilized to arrive at their position. Reason is not benign either.

So, thank you for helping me to clarify my position… it is not only Atheism which is not inherently benign, but also Reason is not inherently benign.

BTW, Atheism does indeed have a metaphysical position… its influences are ‘logical positivism’ and “scientific materialism’. Last time I checked these were not gaining ground, because the efforts of Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg are finally bearing fruit in the humanities. Fritjof Capra is a leader in this coming about.

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By Ed Wardak Jr., February 9, 2006 at 3:26 pm Link to this comment
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Post 3149 by Pankaj Seth:
“I find it ironic that Sam Harris would not point out that the Chinese system is avowedly Atheist. This has great bearing on his thesis that Atheism is necessarily benign, while ‘religions’ are necessarily intolerant.”

atheism IS benign!  it is inherently benign, simply because there is no dogmatic justification for any violence because there is no dogma.  you are failing to realize that atheism is simply “not-theism”—its not a religious institution at all.  it is only the people of the world who value reason and logic over mythology.  lets not forget that without God telling you that you should kill infidels, you won’t be going out killing infidels. 

and before anyone objects, yes there have been “atheist” leaders who have killed people before.  but labeling them atheist does not imply they killed others “in the name of atheism”.  they did so for other reasons.  only the religious look to God’s words for “guidance”, which is where they get these crazy ideas about the afterlife and non-believers. and nearly all religions are guilty of this, like Mr. Harris said.  its not just islam!  christianity is another violent religion, though not as much currently. but take the crusades and the inquisition as examples of what “God’s work” sometimes includes.  Why did christianity fall into the same trap?  because of God’s words like these:

“Suppose a man or woman among you, in one of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, has done evil in the sight of the LORD your God and has violated the covenant by serving other gods or by worshiping the sun, the moon, or any of the forces of heaven, which I have strictly forbidden.  When you hear about it, investigate the matter thoroughly. If it is true that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, then that man or woman must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death.”  (Deuteronomy 17:2-5 NLT)

i would urge anyone who believes that their god is the creator of the universe to take a meaningful look into what their religion consists of.  if you are a “cafeteria christian”, taking what you want from the bible and discarding the rest—realize that to a true christian (one who endorses ALL of God’s words) you are a failure.

in any case… everyone ought to read “The End of Faith”.  it really should be standard reading in schools, as it would enlighten impressionable young children, and show them that martyrdom is not the only way to get your 72 virgins… being a pimp would work too. 

Sam Harris Rocks,
-Ed Wardak

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By David, February 9, 2006 at 1:36 pm Link to this comment
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Great story sam.

Just to clear things up for Comment #3363.  Tibet wasnt always “part” of china.  The tibetan’s suffered horrible atrocities at the hand of the chinese just after world war 2.

Yet again, great article.

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By Lisa, February 9, 2006 at 1:23 pm Link to this comment
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Mr. Harris:  another excellent article.  I enjoy reading them.  Your perspective only substantiates my belief that the human animal is inherently irrational.  The human brain’s capacity to effectively reason (or common sense, if you will) is from a recessive gene and highly influenced by the environment of which it is exposed.

If the human animal, in general, has not come to the holistic understanding that this global environment is the only reality, then all of us will become extinct.  When ‘we’ continue to believe in an ideology that has absolutely no physical, testable support and will kill ourselves or others to defend it, then what do we have and what do we have to look forward to?

There have been quite a few that have posted here that exhibit the rational gene, but there are those that obviously do not.  It is also noted that many of our global leaders do not exhibit rational behavior as well.

Early in our ancestry, prior to written history, archeology indicates that the human animal, when operating in a stable, agrarian community, was able to exist in relative harmony and peace.  In a matrilineal ‘religious’ construct, archeologists have yet to find any weapons among the artifacts.  In essence, we have been devolving.

Our ‘intelligence’ has only excellerated our demise because we have failed to nurture reason along with our intellectual growth.  Be it global warming or nuclear warfare, we are on limited time.

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By Pankaj Seth, February 9, 2006 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment
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Sam Harris: “Where are the Tibetan Buddhist suicide bombers? The Tibetans have suffered an occupation far more brutal, and far more cynical, than any that Britain, the United States, or Israel have ever imposed upon the Muslim world. Where are the throngs of Tibetans ready to perpetrate suicidal atrocities against Chinese noncombatants? They do not exist.”

I find it ironic that Sam Harris would not point out that the Chinese system is avowedly Atheist. This has great bearing on his thesis that Atheism is necessarily benign, while ‘religions’ are necessarily intolerant. Actually, I am not sure if this is ironic or disingenuous, so I will take a ‘wait and see’ approach.

Also, anyone who thinks that “Buddhism” and “Hinduism” are “religions” in the Western sense should have another, and deeper look. If dogmatic adherence to a metaphysical view is one measure of a “religion”, and dogmatic Theism is another, and “faith” yet another… then Buddhism and Hinduism fail the test of being “religions” on all 3 counts. What are they then? Its not so easy an answer because utilizing Western philosophical terminology does not fit the case. Interested persons will have to have an in depth look for themselves, spend the time necessary, and until then check their premature opinions.

“Hinduism” teaches a system of 4 complementary aims, and 6 complementary views… no dogmatism here. “Buddhism” teaches a non-adherence to metaphysical views altogether. In the intellectual tradition of the West, which is not easily accommodating to complementarity and does not really understand the limitations of thought formulas, the question of what to call these Indian teachings has yet to be concluded.

4 aims, from my website:

6 Views, from my website:

Buddha’s Teaching, from my website:

Finally, from Heinrich Zimmer in “Philosophies of India”: “We of the Occident are about to arrive at a crossroads that was reached by the thinkers of India some seven hundred years before Christ. This is the real reason why we become both vexed and stimulated, uneasy yet interested, when confronted with the concepts and images of Oriental wisdom. This crossing is one to which the people of all civilizations come in the typical course of the development of their capacity and requirement for religious experience, and India’s teachings force us to realize what its problems are. But we cannot take over the Indian solutions. We must enter the new period our own way and solve its questions for ourselves…”

Pankaj Seth

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By Tim Reichert, February 9, 2006 at 12:07 pm Link to this comment
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It is unbelievable to me how many of you miss Sam’s point completely. It is obvious that your religious brain washing prevents you from having reason on the subject. How else could you call Sam Harris a basher of Islam?
Sam’s point is that there is nothing more dangerous in the world than those who claim to know who God is, and what God wants. Period. This includes Jews, Christians and Muslims equally. All of these faiths are now, and have always been vessels of subjugation by evil aristocracies. Any “goodness” that exists in any of these faiths is trumped a thousand times over by the inherent evil of preying on the weak minded with lies and fear tactics. There is no good side to Judaism, there is no good side to Christianity and there is no good side to Islam.
But I guess that makes me a basher of Islam.

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By Pankaj Seth, February 9, 2006 at 11:15 am Link to this comment
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Sam Harris: “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.”

Any “us and them” division can be and has been a fertile source of intolerance. “Us and them” divisions can be based on race, religion, nationalism, class, and even gender and age. There are so many mind-created divisions of the whole, and in any given individual many of these divisions operate together. I think its difficult to say whether allegiance to nation, race, gender or metaphysical views (religion) has historically been the greatest cause of human suffering… its hard to tease them apart really. However I agree that dogmatic allegiance to metaphysical views is the most difficult to uproot through reasoned debate.

Sam Harris: “While liberals are leery of religious fundamentalism in general, they consistently imagine that all religions at their core teach the same thing and teach it equally well. This is one of the many delusions borne of political correctness.”

Of all metaphysical views, Monotheisms by their very nature are the most insular and intolerant. In India, this has been recognized and thus what in the West is called “Hinduism” is not monolithic but actually composed of 6 complementary views, of which ‘Pragmatic Theism’ is one. In other words, it has been recognized that Theism is a view (Darshana) and not an ‘absolute truth’. In India, along with Theism, there are other views (Darshanas) which are considered complementary to each other; these include Yoga (pragmatic dualism), Advaita Vedanta (pragmatic non-dualism) and Tantra (pragmatic non-dualism & pragmatic theism), none of which are dogmatic Theisms and thus neither do they require “faith”. It is due to this holistic framework that Theistic dogmatism has been largely avoided in India. I say ‘largely’ avoided because there will always be persons who get stuck on this or that view, and thus could cause problems for themselves and others due to their myopia and resulting intolerance. I think a lot could be learned by looking at the Indian formulation of the “6 Darshanas”. BTW, Nyaya-Vaisheshika (logic-analysis) is among the system of 6 complementary views in India… this is similar to the modern scientific, rational outlook. In India, Nyaya-Vaisheshika is considered a valid view, but only one view among others. The insight here is complementarity, rather than absolutism.

The other major teaching about self and world to emerge from India is from Buddha. Following below is a brief selection from one of my favorite recorded discourses by Buddha. It can be plainly seen in this discourse that dogmatic adherence to views is pointed out by Buddha as an error (in fact, a metaphysical error) which leads to suffering. So you are quite correct that not all ‘religions’ teach the same thing, or teach it equally well. I and many persons have wondered about the wisdom of calling the Indian system of “6 Views” and Buddha’s teaching by the term “Religion”. In these teachings, theism does not at all dominate, is just another view among many, and thus no “faith” is required either; no God and no faith… thus “religion” is not really an apt term.

Sam Harris: “This is not to say that Buddhism could not help inspire suicidal violence. It can, and it has (Japan, World War II). But this concedes absolutely nothing to the apologists for Islam. As a Buddhist, one has to work extremely hard to justify such barbarism.”

I would say that not only does one have to “work extremely hard”, but actually one has to frankly disregard Buddhist precepts and teachings. In my view, the Sellekha sutta (below) is a fair representation of Buddha’s advice on how to be within oneself, in the world.

Sellakha Sutta; MN 8: from

“But herein, Cunda, effacement should be practiced by you:

(1) Others will be harmful; we shall not be harmful here — thus effacement can be done.
(2) Others will kill living beings; we shall abstain from killing living beings here — thus effacement can be done.
(3) Others will take what is not given; we shall abstain from taking what is not given here — thus effacement can be done.
(24) Others will be angry; we shall not be angry here — thus effacement can be done.
(25) Others will be hostile; we shall not be hostile here — thus effacement can be done.
(26) Others will denigrate; we shall not denigrate here — thus effacement can be done.
(27) Others will be domineering; we shall not be domineering here — thus effacement can be done.
(44) Others will misapprehend according to their individual views, hold on to them tenaciously and not easily discard them; we shall not misapprehend according to individual views nor hold on to them tenaciously, but shall discard them with ease — thus effacement can be done.

More on the “6 Views” from my website:

Pankaj Seth

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By TallySkeptic, February 9, 2006 at 11:15 am Link to this comment
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The recent controversy about Danish cartoons demonstrates a conflict of values.  In particular, rationality, free speech, sensitivity, and peace, which we freethinkers value, all interact in this context. How can we make sense of the controversy?  How should we make sense of it?  From the outset, it appears that many (perhaps even most but not all) of the tenets of Islam are simply irrational.  People who hold irrational beliefs in one area are likely to hold them in other areas, are likely to make bad decisions based on those beliefs, and are likely to model irrational thinking to others.  In short, people who develop and maintain irrational ideas work against progress towards a just, peaceful, and happy world.  Thus, we defenders of rationality must speak out against the irrational propositions of Islam; it is our obligation.  Sometimes satire is a very effective way to express disagreement with or criticize irrational ideas, and cartoons are an amazing vehicle for satire.  Cartoonists, newspaper editors, publishers, and reporters, who are lovers of rationality and a better future world, are obliged to encourage and produce cartoons which satirize the irrational beliefs of Islam.  Of course, it is important to be sensitive in some cases and withhold satire.  For example, it would be inappropriate to immediately satirize somebody who was in the throes of grief over the death of a loved one.  But the current case is not one where we should hold back.  In the case of the Danish cartoons, sensitivity is unwarranted.  Does the belief that God will provide rewards in Heaven, including 72 virgins, to men who kill themselves in the process of killing others deserve any sensitivity?  Does the belief that God prohibits women from getting any advanced education deserve our tolerance?  Does the belief that God encourages men to beat women who have been raped warrant our respect?  I say “Absolutely not!”  We should challenge, criticize, ridicule, and satirize these beliefs at every turn.  If fact, to not attack them is unethical in itself.  Those who have protested the Danish cartoons by engaging in violent acts such as kidnaping, assault, and destruction of property demonstrate a lack of respect for rationality, free speech, and peace.  They should be arrested, convicted, and sentenced to serve fair prison sentences.  Those that excuse these violent protestors by claiming that they were unjustly provoked by insensitive cartoons are themselves enablers of the violence.  It is sad to say that the Vatican and even former president Bill Clinton have been guilty of this after-the-fact enabling of the violent protestors.  The publication of any cartoon, sensitive or insensitive, does not justify violence against the cartoonists, publishers, governments, or citizens of associated countries.  We freethinkers must stand up for the right of cartoonists to lampoon silly irrational behaviors and beliefs, even when they are religious or especially because they are religious, and for the right of people to be free of violent protests in reaction to quite justified criticism.

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By Frank Desmond, February 9, 2006 at 11:04 am Link to this comment
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It is easy to understand the religious lunacy that prevails in Islam. The furor that erupted over innocuous cartoons is consistent with that nonsence religion.Similar lunacy continues to exhibit itself in Judaism and Christianity. Observe O Reillys “War on Christmas” tirade. Lunatics like Pat Robertson,Jerry Falwell,and the greater and lesser Grahams continue to make contemporary Christianity sinister.Orthodox Jews like Senator Lieberman are proud to practice stone age rituals,like the shunning of woman during their menstral cycle.The source of all this is the agreement between the Creator of the Universe and the mythic Abraham. The Lord God promised to treat the tribe of Abraham with special status in exchange for one thing . Abraham had to agree to snip off the tip of the penis of all male infants.What an absurb idea!Yet this ritualistic torture and disfigurement is widespread today even amoung non jews and non muslims.How could anything good result from this lunacy.

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By OB, February 9, 2006 at 9:54 am Link to this comment
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Comment #3336 by GuitarsandMore on 2/08 at 1:02 pm:

<< It doesn’t matter if you believe in Islam or not.  The point is the Islamic people do and it means a lot to them.  So you editors out there that think you are so clever by publishing the cartoons are aggravating the situation. You are a source of escalating tension and stress instead of soothing and smoothing. >>

The sheer lunacy of the idea that the rest of the world should give a tinker’s damn about “soothing and smoothing” so as not to offend Muslim (or any other religious) believers is self-evident; at least to anyone who values reason over dogma.  Ignoring the Koran’s calls for violence against non-Muslims, or pretending they don’t mean exactly what they say is just stupid.

“Slay them wherever you find them. Drive them out of the places from which they drove you. Idolatry is worse than carnage. . . . [I]f they attack you put them to the sword.”

I’m not sure how anyone could read that verse as anything other than a call to violence against non-believers; then again I see similar biblical verses discounted and “interpreted” as something other than literal by some followers of Jesus all the time. Cognitive dissonance and denial of reality is a requirement of religious belief.

I’m sorry, but I fail to see any reason why we should avoid offending the adherents of ANY religion, much less one whose tenets call for nothing less than total domination, and whose “moderate” members refuse to speak out against the “fundamentalists” and “extremists” in their own community - and that includes Christians.

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By Chris McKinney, February 9, 2006 at 6:50 am Link to this comment
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I am glad to see a secular person like me actually defining that there is sometimes something as clear as right and wrong.  I base my assessment of these concepts on outcomes.  If a religious (or non-religious) person does something that harms society (compromises freedom and justice), it is “wrong.”  If a non-religious (or religious) person takes action that is beneficial (promoting freedom and justice) to society, it is “right.”  In the case of Islam,  I agree 100% with Sam.  All religions may be bad, but some are more bad than others.  Christianity and Buddhism have also been violent in the past, but both grew up and had an enlightenment.  There is still sectarian violence in both, but it isn’t systematic or hair-trigger the way it is in Islam.  It is time for Islam to have an enlightenment.

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By bunkerbuster, February 9, 2006 at 6:19 am Link to this comment
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Here’s an easy test for the validity of Harris’s essay. In the passage below, which is representative of the tone, spirit and general content of the entire essay, I have replaced the references to Muslims with the word Latino and references to Latino behaviors as a group. The exercise may help readers understand more clearly the cheap, malicious rhetorical devices Harris deploys:

``Latino is the fastest growing ethnic group in America.  The demographic trends are ominous: Given current birthrates, America could be a majority Latino country in 25 years, and that is if immigration were to stop tomorrow. Throughout America, Latino immigrants show little inclination to acquire the secular and civil values of their host countries, and yet exploit these values to the utmost—demanding tolerance for their backwardness, their misogyny, their disinclination toward education, and the insistence on cultural insularity that is routinely preached in their newspapers and media. Political correctness and fears of racism have rendered many liberal Americans incapable of opposing the terrifying cultural commitments of the Latinos in their midst.’‘

The singular hallmark of bigotry is the failure to distinguish between the behavior of perpetrators and an ethnic, religious or other grouping at large.

I urge the readers here to check Harris’ work for that pattern.

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By TomChicago, February 9, 2006 at 5:47 am Link to this comment
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Thanks again Mr. Harris, for simply refusing to deny the obvious.

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By Morris Bocian, February 9, 2006 at 12:00 am Link to this comment
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Wake up folks!!,  Trying to understand violent,religious fanatics has somewhere become more important than defending ourselves from them.  These poor souls and the countries that harbor them will not cure world hunger, develope new vaccines, technologies or anything at all that will improve the quality of life for anyone except those seeking the authority of madmen.  These fanatics are racing in the opposite direction and believe that the world was a much better place in the middle ages. We are haggling with ourselves because we cannot talk with the real idiots in question.

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By C Richmond, February 8, 2006 at 11:37 pm Link to this comment
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You are being too harsh on them; Islam is 600 years younger than Christianity, and 600 years ago, Christians were just as fanatical. Give Islam 600 years to mature and it will be just as reasonable as ... Pat Robertson.


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By Morris Bocian, February 8, 2006 at 11:22 pm Link to this comment
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Incredible!!  Is Islam so delicate, so incredibly fragile….that a cartoon image can generate so violent a response?  Why are moslems so insecure in their faith that any form of contrary observations in any format need this type of defense?

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By mikey, February 8, 2006 at 9:55 pm Link to this comment
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uh, in response to J.R.

Tibet wasn’t always part of china, it was invaded and occupied by chinese forces. I saw it in the movie seven years in tibet, lol with brad pitt. I’m pretty sure that they didn’t make up the part about china attacking tibet

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By ian, February 8, 2006 at 8:45 pm Link to this comment
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You are not correct.  Hitler was never a Christian; he simply USED Christianity as a means to an end.  Keep in mind that the “Aryan” race is a BLOODLINE, NOT a faith or religion. Once Hitler had solved the “Jewish problem,” he planned to eliminate most of Christendom.

-In 1933, Hitler made the following statement: “It is through the peasantry that we shall really be able to destroy Christianity.  One is either a Christian or a German.  You can’t be both.”

-In 1941, Hitler made the following statement: “Some believe there can be a synthesis between National Socialism and Christianity.  I do not believe this is possible, and the problem is Christianity itself: it is merely wholehearted Bolshevism under a tinsel of metaphysics.”

-In 1938, out of 690 parish priests in West Prussia, two-thirds were arrested.  After a month in prison, over 225 were killed in a single day.  By 1940, only 20 parish priests were left in the entire country.

-By 1944, the number of Polish priests murdered was in the thousands.  By 1945, Hitler had murdered over 200,000 Christians.

I could go on.  However, the above already gives the lie to Hitler being ANY type of Christian, much less an active, believing one.

As for Harris’ comments in general, it is clear to me that he has either never read the Qur’an, or does not understand it.  I have read it three times, and studied it alongside the Old and New Testaments.  Here are some facts:

-The Old Testament has over TWO TIMES as many passages in which the Israelites engage in the slaughter of innocent women and children than the Qur’an has regarding killing “infidels.”  Yet no one would call the Old Testament a “book of violence” or Judaism a “violent religion.”

-About 75% of the Qur’an deals with many of the same concepts as Judeo-Christianity: love, peace, brotherhood, community, personal spiritual growth.

-The word “jihad” has three meanings in Arabic.  The primary meaning is “internal struggle.”  This would be the same as the Judeo-Christian concept of fighting temptation, doing good works, etc.  This meaning is used about 75% of the time.  The second meaning is “holy war.”  This meaning is used about 20% of the time.  However, it is important to note that about 75% of THOSE uses deal with the past; only about 25% are applicable to the present and future.  [The third meaning of “jihad” is obscure, and has no bearing on the present discussion.]

-Harris claims that the extremist movement is “all fringe and no center.”  He cites the fact that the leaders of a number of Arab nations have joined the fray re the recent insulting cartoons.  Yet his claim re Islam in general is insupportable.  There are about 1 billion Muslims in the world.  Is Harris suggesting that the vast majority of them are “extremists,” or even support the extremist cause?  Just because the leader of a country makes a “supportive” comment, does this mean that the populace supports that leader or his comment?  After all, just because President Bush makes a statement, even when done on behalf of “the American people,” does that mean that I therefor automatically stand behind it?  Or even that the majority of Americans stand behind it?

The truth is that the vast majority of Islam is centrist, just as the vast majority of Christianity is centrist, despite the domination of the public discourse by the “Religious Right.”  Indeed, Harris misses the real difference here, one that DOES bear on this discussion: that the reason “mainstream” Muslims do not seem to be speaking up against their “co-religionists” is because they face being religiously ostracized, or possibly even arrested and/or killed at the hands of the extremist faction that currently “holds the reins” of Islam.

While Harris is entitled to his beliefs, he is only adding fuel to the fire with his many broad-brush comments about Islam.  ANY faith/religion can be “hijacked”; Islam is only the most recent.  Christianity was hijacked during the Crusades and Inquisition, yet even non-believers would never blame ALL Christians - much less Jesus Himself - for those atrocities.  Indeed, even most non-believers know that Jesus would NEVER have condoned many of the things done in His name.

The same holds true with Mohammed and Islam.  Most of Mohammed’s teachings are of peace, community, brotherhood, etc.  Just as Jesus would not have condoned atrocities carried out in His name, neither would Mohammed condone the violence currently being perpetrated in HIS name.  AND THE VAST MAJORITY OF MUSLIMS IS WELL AWARE OF THIS, AND DOES NOT SUPPORT THE EXTREMIST VIOLENCE DONE IN THE NAME OF THEIR SPIRITUAL LEADER, Harris’ claims notwithstanding.

As a “moderate” centrist evangelical minister, I would welcome the opportunity to debate Harris, because I believe he misguided and incorrect re many things, and that his entire position comes from a place of “fear” and intolerance.  He seems genuinely and understandably angry and concerned about many aspects of both Christian and Islamic fundamentalism - and I share some of those concerns.  However, in taking hopelessly “broad-brush” positions, he ends up “throwing out the baby with the bathwater,” and simply ends up looking like “an extremist of a different color.”


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By CJ, February 8, 2006 at 7:28 pm Link to this comment
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It is pretty ironic that they are upset by being represented as violent,and show it BY BEING VIOLENT. They are the ones reinforcing the stereotype. Happens during the pilgramages,also.
They act like a small child when they dont get their way or someone says something they dont like

Plus,how many people do they denounce,burn pictures of,claim they wish to kill,and such,on a regular basis? but when it comes back to them,in not nearly a harsh way,they beleive they are just in causing violence? By that way of reasoning,Europe/US has every right to attack indisciminately and at will.

I have never really seen people in print or on TV brag about killing women and children BUT muslim extremist types. And there is a difference. They TARGET those groups. And on a side note,most Kamikazi type strategy was a last resort. Only one person died in the “suicide” sub program. The planes many times were a result of not having feul to get back,or the carrier being destroyed.

It is funny when people say someone like Sam Harris is speading hate. Its usually the fundementalist type that classify FACTS as something else. Religion doesnt like facts. They usually contradict with whatever emotional crutch the fundy is on. To compare him with the likes of Coulter is just ignorant. And im sure even sure Fox staff would agree with that.

Immigrants should stay where they are if all they wish to do is go somewhere different and complain about how it isnt like home. If this was just in a muslim coutry,it would be their law,however backwards and inhumane it is,to be like this. When they bring it to the outside,they have no right to act the way they are. Just proving the cartoons correct.

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By Dax, February 8, 2006 at 6:53 pm Link to this comment
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At whoever said the BS about Hitler and Stalin, and everyone saying things about the West putting regimes in place: ?__ ?First of all, Hitler might have been not quite a good example of a Christian, but he came from a Christian background, and many of his henchmen were devote Catholics. I am not implying that Christianity is evil because of the NSDAP regime, I am merely stating that what you are trying to assume is a fallacy. Both the NSDAP and the Communist regime can easily be compared with an organized religious faith. People truly believed in the teachings and the everyday life was filled with doctrines and dogmas. Basically, it used the same tools that a religions uses (rituals, repeated threats of damnation, etc) to brainwash an entire population. It shows how we are all gullible if someone knows how to scare us correctly.
On to the regimes put in place by the West. Yes, you are correct that many of these regimes were supported by the western world. However, the entire history is far more complicated. Afghanistan. The US supported not only the Taliban but also a larger group to fight the Russian occupation. The Russians were gone and the Taliban showed their true face, starting murdering the other muhajedin. Iran: oppressive coup without aid. We supported Iraq because Iran was threatening the entire region. Syria: did it all by itself. All the time, it was a choice for the lesser evil. In retrospect, yes, we can clearly conclude that we made some very wrong choices. ?This is however not an excuse for the behavior of many Muslims all over the region and the rest of the world. We seem to be forgetting here that in Europe some elements of the Muslim community are posing a threat to the democratic process Europeans stand behind out of free will. Where are the voices in the Muslim community against those who answer to Allah with oppression and violence?
It is my opinion that any organized religion goes in against basic human freedom and understanding, this includes the Islamic nations and also the current US government’s clearly scripture-based ideals. When people are basically told what to do, based purely on some scripture, we all lose what is most dear to us: our own identity and our own life. In other words, our freedom.

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By SickOfBull, February 8, 2006 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment
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Grow up sheep!  This is really what is happening:

Cuntaliza White is full of sh*t ... it has nothing to do with Syria or Iran.

If you frame what Sam is saying in terms of accepted paradigms ... he is correct, I hope he secretly knows better and is just framing his argument within the realm of the average stupid person ... like YOU!

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By Yumin Bean, February 8, 2006 at 6:09 pm Link to this comment
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Great stuff Sam.
You are the voice of sanity,the voice of uncommon-sense.If it was more common the world would be a safer place. Religion’s dragging us back to the crusades,and it doesn’t help that the US president is a christian just like King Richard the Lionheart.
Religion’s gotta go. We have to stop teaching our kids superstitious nonsense about gods and devils and heavens and hells.
Tell them the truth. That “as far as we know”,
there is no god.

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By J.R., February 8, 2006 at 6:04 pm Link to this comment
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I agree with Sam on almost everything, except the following quoted sentence. What a nonsense. Tibet is part of China. What occupation?

“The Tibetans have suffered an occupation far more brutal, and far more cynical, than any that Britain, the United States, or Israel have ever imposed upon the Muslim world.”

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By Athene, February 8, 2006 at 5:52 pm Link to this comment
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You state that you don’t think that Hitler was religious.  Have you tried to find out if your belief is supported by the evidence?  Instead of guessing, try reading - that’s the least you could do.  Hitler believed in the God of Christianity, evidenced for example, by this quote:
“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”


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By Andrea, February 8, 2006 at 5:42 pm Link to this comment
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I found this page to be highly enlightening:

Arab countries have been riddled with takeover, territory wars, Western meddling and outright power grabs from outside their borders for most of the century. Judge for yourself whether you honestly believe that most of the conflicts over the past 100 years truly have anything to do with religion.

I’m not apologizing for a mentality of violence. I’m just suggesting that given the history, it’s unlikely that you could expect much more.

Americans have no idea what a war of territorial survival is all about. We haven’t waged one of those since the American Revolution, and even then it was a war of choice. Extremists are created, not born.

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By Maheen, February 8, 2006 at 5:08 pm Link to this comment
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Dear Sam Harris,

A 70-year old Kabbalist Rabbi recently told me: “It is impossible to agree on the exoteric but it is a necessity to agree on the esoteric”.

I have read your articles and find your writing to be stuck in the exoteric world where you blame the easiest target around, an umbrella term known as “religion”.

Your analysis of Islam does not include any social, political and cultural influences in the development of this religion that are largely caused by dynamics of power, gender and race. It is not easy for the human psyche to comprehend the complex interactions of a preislamic Persian empire becoming Muslim or an Arab tribal culture accepting the same faith. I am not even going to dive into south asian countries (I do have to get back to work). smile.

I read somewhere that you are trying to get a doctorate in neuroscience to study faith and brain interactions? I believe you will be employing fMRI techniques like Richard Davidson (although his is more clinical applications of meditation which does exist in Islam (sufism), I am sure you are aware of this). You know already then that in order to interpret such data you will need background knowledge of neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, imaging analysis and cognitive psychology. Only then you would be able to interpret how a faith-based stimuli is processed in the brain.

Along the same line of reasoning, do you know the language of the Quran (Classical Arabic is the basis of Arabic grammar and is to the Quran what neuroanatomy would be to the brain)? Are you aware of the history of Islam, the reforms, the factions, the caliphate and the Ummah?

From your writing it seems that you are not. I recommend that you employ the same restraint and exercise on concluding Islam = violence as you do in a scientific study. Afterall you have to define your blackbox and if you have answers to more than a couple of hypotheses in a single study (most stringent statisiticians recommend having one and in your case there are one too many) then there is something inherently wrong in your study design.

Thank you

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By meme333, February 8, 2006 at 5:04 pm Link to this comment
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What World reaction would a cartoon in the New York Times of Jesus sodomizing Allah cause?
Such a cartoon on the Internet would likely provoke little response at all.
Maybe this whole controversy is really about a backlash from traditional media in the face of the Internet, where TRUTH rules in all it’s ugly manifestations.

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By Maheen, February 8, 2006 at 4:43 pm Link to this comment
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“This is practically a science experiment: take the same people, speaking the same language, put them in the same horrendous circumstance, but give them slightly different religious beliefs—and then watch what happens.  What happens is, they behave differently.”

I would like to point out that this is really bad science. the reason being that the same message leads to different INTERPRETATIONS by the human brain. Hence there are many factions of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. If you change the message and then get different behaviors (due to INTERPRETATION), what can you conclude?

Nothing dressed up in hate and psuedo-intellectualism.

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By C. M. Baxter, February 8, 2006 at 4:22 pm Link to this comment
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Robert Bidinotto ( writes in part:

”Folks, while cheering these men of principle [The editorial staff of the New York Press who resigned after being ordered not to reprint the cartoons], I must also say this: We may well be witnessing the bloodless, unopposed Islamist conquest of America…from within. Not five years after 9/11, in the once-grand city where these unspeakable vermin drove planes into our two tallest buildings, the geldings who own major media outlets are handing these same thugs the keys to their newsrooms.”

That’s one way of putting it and appropriately so, I believe.

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By anwar, February 8, 2006 at 4:19 pm Link to this comment
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I don’t get it.  Wasn’t Stalin(killer of over 30 million or so) and all his religion-hating followers non-religious?  I don’t think this has to do with religion.  I don’t think Hitler was religious either. 

Islam teaches that you will be judged by an all-knowing, just and merciful god for every deed you have done.  I work very very hard to make the world I live in a better place through honesty and chivalry even when nobody is looking.  I really do.  And—I’m compelled to say—I don’t advocate killing innocents.  And I am deeply driven by the fundamtal teachings of my beloved religion.  Your post misrepresents islam in so many ways.  It sounds more like sadly misguided hate speech. 

Please read a good muslim-vetted translation of the whole quran for youself, don’t misquote small pieces.  It is an ancient text and needs due-diligence.

The middle east is a very deceptive place—not everything is as it seems.  Many “leaders” there were installed by the CIA during the cold war, even congressmen admit that now based on what they are privy to.

Some atheists are quite psychotic about their beliefs too.

I think it’s psychos that are the problem, not islam.

This post and much of the recent talk similar to it just breaks my heart.  How could you be so mean to so many people?

peace 2u,

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By oh mygod, February 8, 2006 at 4:10 pm Link to this comment
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Tell you what, look below the surface and you will find that roiting and death after the “cartoons” is like the daily 3 o’clock rain in Malaysia, offering great relief from the day’s oppressive heat. Mayhem and even death for the poor masses provides denouement to an othewise unbearable existence. French revolution comes to mind.

Sam, stick to Islam bashing. Compare theory (Islam) to theory (Christianity, Atheism, Yoda-ism). You do a great job, you have my thumb up.

But I will take a mullah’s meaningless fatweh to kill Salman Rushdie (as Rushdie lives) any day over the papal bull that wiped out humanity in South America.

Tell you what, again. You are smart, but for the benefit of some of your thick-headed friends do a little thought experiment. Assume 90 percent of USA is muslim. (Don’t even have to assume the Arabs are Christians.) Without changing the economic conditions, tell me how things will be different? Remember that about 12 percent of the world population in the “Christian” west uses 50 percent of world resources, and clearly is the cause of much distress and poverty among people who sit atop the only oil in town.

Once you have answered that adequately, you will know why “suicide-bomber” is a great profession for those dirty Islamists.

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By Blair Scott, February 8, 2006 at 3:00 pm Link to this comment
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Well said, Mr. Harris. It seems we agree completely. I posted a blog on the same subject matter on the same day (

Islam is a great threat to the globe. We cannot democratize Islam until we change the theology of Islam.

In reason,
Blair Scott, Director
Alabama Atheist

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By Adnan, February 8, 2006 at 2:24 pm Link to this comment
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Let me address one of the nonsenses you are talking about:“Throughout Western Europe, Muslim immigrants show little inclination to acquire the secular and civil values of their host countries,....”
I would appreciate if you could find example where non-Muslim immigrants aquired values of their host country. How many white colonisers aquired values of natives in South and Nort America, or India, or Australia, or ....
Don’t you know that Europe is credle of rascism and violence? How many World Wars were started by non-Euro countries?
How come that Greace survived 500 years of Muslim rule on one side, and only few days back first native president was elected in Bolivia ?

I do not care for any religion, but I hate when ignorant people try to sell garbage for ultimate truth.

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By writerdd, February 8, 2006 at 2:09 pm Link to this comment
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Ra’ed said, “1)A clear intentional provocation of Muslims and insult to Islam by these cartoons.”

Who cares? How does that justify VIOLENCE in reaction to CARTOONS?

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By Ross, February 8, 2006 at 2:06 pm Link to this comment
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We really shouldn’t expect rationalization from individuals belonging to any religious sect.  Beginning with the constant bombardment of religious brainwashing from infancy forward.  Some individuals become more rabid than others and behave accordingly, since they can justify any action as a mandate or reward from their god. Then some begin to think freely and wonder “What the hell am I doing on “this” planet”? 

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By WD, February 8, 2006 at 2:04 pm Link to this comment
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Sam Harris,
while your message is clear, you do it a disservice by preaching that the problem is extreme “religious” beliefs. The problem is not limited to religion/s. The problem is BELIEFS. Specifically, persons or a groups believing that their beliefs are the same as truths, which should be imposed on others who do not believe.

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By Larry Carter Center, February 8, 2006 at 2:01 pm Link to this comment
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Sam, once again you clearly say much of what needs to be said.  End taboos of criticizing faiths. 
    I’d expand the discussion just a bit more globally.  Don’t lose focus on any injustice.
    Violence, brutality & ignorance may be strongest in Muslim hoards, but body counts should be the final factor.  Who is responsible & how do we prevent all violence?
    Just who is the most cruel, does the most killing or is likely to stop justice from prevailing? 
    Is it a theocracy like Israel or a cabal of gov’t agents at WACO, TX or A division of US troops at Fallujah or the bombardment of Baghdad or the 17 Muslim gov’ts calling for “punishment” of cartoonists??????
    It is too tempting for secular advocates to blame Muslims for the “bad” violence but spare war machines blame for “good” violence???
    It is too tempting to parallel all historical violence in religious terms primarily.
    Greed & control intersects violent perpetrators, whether petrochemical or communist or crusaders or Islamic.
    Sure Muslim males are very prone to violence.
    But how many opportunities do they have to do harm vs various armies, police states & angry mobs?  1914 was a year anarchists were blamed for killing the Archduke Ferdinand & this led to world war?
    Anarchy calls for the end of force in gov’t.  A highest form of order where voluntary relations are at worst enforced by civil courts.  Where no army has the right to invade anywhere.  A world where police might pursue a fleeing violent perpetrator BUT WOULD NOT DARE BOMB A VILLAGE in order to arrest one criminal.
    If we are not careful, the next war may begin with nukes & be blamed on Atheists instead of Anarchists.  BECAUSE THE RULERS OF THIS WORLD still pretend that religion is good, armies are good & ATHEISM IS BAD & “terrorism” is bad.
    There are enough people on both sides of that false dichotomy to perpetrate the next great conflagration.
    Indeed US Grant predicted in 1875 that calamity would be caused by “superstition & corruption.”
    The truth remains that violence attacks truth telling first before any other target.
    Tim McVeigh did not “see” the truth that children were in the daycare at the federal building.  If each human activity had to stand the test of truth, whether in religious activities, political activitiess or economic activities, THE TRUTH THAT IS THIS DOING HARM or is this fair for all involved…..
    Yes the Muslim religion is based upon the lie that it is ok to kill for Mohammed & the alleged Allah. 
    Yes the Christian religion is based upon the lie that heaven is not a bribe nor hell a threat no child should be terrorized with, A LIE THAT life is a battle between angels & devils & virgins give birth. 
    Yes the Jewish religion is based upon the lie that one can avoid paying for the victims of conquest in Palestine, that Nazi crimes justify a “homeland?”. 
    Yes the Buddhist religion is based upon the lie that China will see the error of their ways & withdraw from Tibet? 
    INJUSTICE & lies need to be exposed & resolved.  Muslims are not the main problem, unresolved violence is the problem AND who ever does it.
    The TRUTH & RECONCILLIATION Commission of South Africa had a formula for resolving many many past crimes before Nelson Mandela was out of office.  They let perpetrators go IF THEY CONFESS and only jailed government agents who refused to confess.
    Getting Muslims to admit that it is wrong to kill for Mohammed seems to be much like that equation in South Africa.
    The incentive was AVOIDANCE OF jail to tell the truth.  What incentive do Muslims now have to admit it is a lie that any religion does violence JUSTIFIABLY?
    The Vatican remains “infallible” on “just war.”  I remember that Dorothy Day once defended that precept and John Swomley, Atheist took the position in debate that there is no such thing as just war.
    The question remains how to hold each single perpetrator accountable for each act of violence?
    Mobs whether racist or religious or military or rapist, all harm innocents.
    This isn’t a uptopian question.
    It’s a practical question.
    Pretending THAT governments are “different” than people or mobs or cultures or religions is JUST AS DANGEROUS as Nuke proliferation or just the taboo that one should not criticize religions.

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By GuitarsandMore, February 8, 2006 at 2:00 pm Link to this comment
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Religion is a very important part of a person’s life.  It helps them figure out who they are and where they are going.  Taught from an early age Christians, Jews, and Islamics alike are not going to give up the religion they have held dear to their hearts all of their lives.

Because you have identified some faults in religion is not going to make anyone give up their religion.  Look at the Catholic church lately and how full of problems they are.  You don’t see Catholics giving up on their faith.

The point I was trying make earlier that some of you got and others totally missed is this:

If you are trying to get along with someone the last thing you would do is to try to make fun of their religion.  That’s why I used the metaphor of the first date.  When you were a teenager didn’t your mother tell you never discuss religion, politics, or family on a first date?  It’s like tip toeing through a minefield.  Don’t do it.

It doesn’t matter if you believe in Islam or not.  The point is the Islamic people do and it means a lot to them.  So you editors out there that think you are so clever by publishing the cartoons are aggravating the situation. You are a source of escalating tension and stress instead of soothing and smoothing.

That’s why I use the analogy of the FBI at WACO Texas.  The FBI’s intentions were to serve a warrant and have a trial.  Because of the intimidating, threatening, and torturing techniques they used the negotiators lost all credibility and the 21 children burned.  Because the FBI did not take the time to understand what the Branch Davidians were all about they were caught blind sided by the situation.

The West is still using the same intimidation, threats, and torture today that it used at WACO.  We are not making any new friends you are making enemies.

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By writerdd, February 8, 2006 at 1:57 pm Link to this comment
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A commenter said, “It’s always amazed me that followers of of such a otherworldly religion as Christianity are not prone to suicidal acts of religiousity, whereas the Muslim world has so many willing to die to further their cause.”

That’s because Christianity today ignores large parts of the Bible that do not fit in with modern morality. (Not enough however, as their refusal to admit that sex education reduces teen pregnancy and STDs clearly shows). In the past, Christianity was as militant and violent as Islam is today, hence the Crusades, Inquisition, and witch hunts.

In addition, suicide is considered a sin in Christianity, a mortal sin that sends the sinner directly to hell. If they didn’t have that safeguard built in, I’m sure many Christians would choose to give up this hard life for a life of leisure in the clouds. You can see why political and religious leaders would make suicide a sin, otherwise they’d run out of followers and financing in a hurry.

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By Dan, February 8, 2006 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment
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Sam, as always is right-on and most of the comments get this, but having read all the way down to Fayez, I can only take comfort in a line from the poet, Robinson Jeffers==“Good news, oh beautiful planet, the accursed race of man is not immortal.”

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By Randolph Nesbitt, February 8, 2006 at 1:35 pm Link to this comment
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Hi, Sam,
A couple of corrections:

1) I believe the Kamikazi pilots were following the Shinto view (the kami way), not a Buddhist philosophy per se.

3) There are many fundamentalist Christians who believe all people must follow Jesus as he is the only Way and if people do not choose to follow Jesus they are going to Hell and basically not worth being concerned about (in War, physical or financial aide, etc.).

You are correct that we are not seeing any “Christian” suicide bombers, but there is a big contigent of fundamentalist Christians who support an illegal war in Iraq or anywhere else for that matter where unbelievers hang their hats. They do not strap on bombs but instead choose to put magnetic yellow ribbons proclaiming to support troops without body armor, clean water and a clear plan to get home. Their blind (religious) support of a man they believe speaks to God has meant thousands of U.S. troops to be put in harms way and be killed and for thousands of Iraqi civilians to die while seeing their country occupied and resources stolen.

Anyone who believes God supports the death of any person He has created (which is all of us, of whatever belief) is a menace to society.

R. Reed Nesbitt

Please read my 100+ postings at the Poets Against the War website:
(this link will take you to my most recent 3 postings. once you read these scroll up to see the others.)

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By desastreuse, February 8, 2006 at 1:04 pm Link to this comment
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It is worth noting that the most scathing invective directed at Mr. Harris is in the form of personal attack.  The knee-jerk reactionaries here have mocked everything from his intellect to his mental status.  No surprise there.  The up side to this gibberish, though, is that it serves as prima facie evidence of Mr. Harris’s thesis. 

Keep doing what your doing, Mr. Harris.  So many of us see the truth of what you write and are heartened by it.  Sadly, however, it is likely the hollow men of religion will be responsible for both the bang and the whimper; I only hope me and mine are long gone when it happens.

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By Peter Meldrum, February 8, 2006 at 12:52 pm Link to this comment
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All this crap in the Muslim world about some cartoons published in a small daily in Denmark. This is WAR but the “politically correct” can’t see it !!

This whole explosion of demonstrations, embassy burnings, etc is being directed and controlled by a bunch of radical Islamic mullahs!! Remember these cartoons have only been printed in one small paper in Jordan in the Middle East. These protesters have NEVER seen the cartoons!!

It is nothing more than a direct attack on two of the major pillars of Western democracy and freedom and one of the lesser pillars.

Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press are the main two. These are anathema to these religious zealots as they imply and deliver freedom from the religious strictures and controls of the established church. After all as they keep on saying “they LIVE their religion” and their slums certainly show it to!!

Separation of Church and State is, of course, exactly the opposite of what these insanities want. In their belief religion controls all!!! Thus to try and take away that control is nothing more than an assault on Allah!!

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By John, February 8, 2006 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment
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#3311, you, like Fayez went straight for the Jews when what prompted this piece by Mr. Harris has nothing to do with Jews.  In every problem that faces the Muslim world, you and Fayez, see a Jew.  The truth is, however, that most of the problems of the Muslim world are self-inflicted and/or self-perpetuating.

It is your ignorance (and hatred of Jews) that screams from every sentence you wrote.

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By Dan DeLucie, February 8, 2006 at 12:26 pm Link to this comment
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That was one of the most beautifully written, scathing, and powerful pieces you’ve put forth (and I think i’ve read all of your writings).  It’s so exhilarating to hear ideas expressed with the veil of political correctness cast aside.  Religion in all its forms is irrational and damaging, but clearly, Islam is currently the most dangerous and atavistic of them all. As usual Sam, you are spot on with your observations.

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By John Earl, February 8, 2006 at 12:24 pm Link to this comment
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It’s always amazed me that followers of of such a otherworldly religion as Christianity are not prone to suicidal acts of religiousity, whereas the Muslim world has so many willing to die to further their cause.

Mohammed put down roots, married and gave guidelines for living. Jesus was little attached to his culture in any material way and mostly promised eternal reward for correct belief.

“Everybody wants to go to heaven ( in the Christian community ) but nobody wants to die” is a common saying. At least the early Christians were self-sacrificial, living austerely and accepting of martyrdom.

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By bobby, February 8, 2006 at 12:18 pm Link to this comment
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Free speech is SUPPOSED TO BE OFFENSIVE. Religion is an inversion of actuality. Everything we see, hear and uderstand with our senses religion denies by affirming the opposite. That is its palliative function. In this sense, truth hurts and is bound to be offensive. Unfortunate as it is, the direction is either towards MORE offensiveness to sacred cows or towards greater protection for taboos. The “middle ground” is simply not rocking the boat of our illusions - I’ll leave you alone so you leave me alone. Have you ever won an argument with a person who won’t agree on the same facts? Surrender to ignorance, go live with the grizzlies, but please stop offending the members of the religion of peace or they’ll kill you for it in the name of God. Any questions?

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By John M. (Jack) Burlake, February 8, 2006 at 12:17 pm Link to this comment
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Buddhism is non-violent because it is pragramatic rather than dogmatic; Hinduism is, at its core, non-violent because it sees and respects many ways and no single “one right way” which therefore disputes are moot.  Judaism is non-violent, because it regards its “right way” as so precious and fragile that it must be kept and sheltered, not promiscously handed out.

“Christianity” is non-violent ONLY where there is a degree of uncertainty that breeds resulting humility that regards the freedom to compare and differ as a tool for reaching “truth”.

Your idea that what is needed is reason makes sense only to those that already possess it.

The rabid evangelist,whether Muslim or Crusader, feels that he has the one rightious truth, and that all else must be converted or exterminated. God wills it. Other cultures are against God.

To understand the depth and direction of that feeling, just pause, and reflect for a moment, on how you would feel, if you KNEW, with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY, that the zealots were RIGHT.

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By Harper, February 8, 2006 at 12:15 pm Link to this comment
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I’ve yet to see any comments from an artist, or charicaturist. My only 2 comments are:
what if?
What if the Mohammad cartoon was protrayed as a women, in a burka with the bomb poking out of her shroud?

Two: Publish or Perish - without the 4th Estate…we’re doomed. Covering lady justices’ breasts in the Justice Dept. is one example.

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By SirScud, February 8, 2006 at 12:03 pm Link to this comment
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In short, I think that both America and the Muslims misjudge the Europeans and have bungled this “cartoon” business in their usual monotheistic, my-way-or-the-highway manner. The madness in the Middle East right now springs from a marriage of convenience between hard-line, extremist Christians and Jews in America along with their counterpart hard-line extremist Jews in Israel trying to destabilize Muslim countries, both Arab and Persian so that Israel can keep grabbing more land in Palestine while civil war in Muslim countries keeps them unable to unite against Israel. None of this, of course, benefits the average American—it in fact impoverishes him—but nonetheless, two monotheistic religions—Christianity and Judaism—now seem aligned against another monotheistic religion, Islam. Two against one. The Muslim monotheists have grown desperate and will now try practically anything to fight back against American/Israeli aggression, but they will need more than their religion to arm themselves. Oil and Russia and China may help in the long run, but for now, the Muslims can only fight on and suffer until America goes broke subsidizing Israel. This won’t happen overnight, but in any event, attacking European press freedoms won’t help any of the monotheists: Christian, Jew, or Muslim.

America, though, with its pathetic, pandering press patronizing an easily bamboozled and frightened population, may stagger on in Iraq and Afghanistan for the remainder of this year. I do agree with Congressman Murtha, however, that if the Bush administration doesn’t end this war before the Congressional elections in November, then those elections will end these useless, unnecessary wars. Despite what many Americans may say about their monotheistic “beliefs,” guns-or-butter practicality will probably count for more in the end. Monotheism and a dollar will get you a cup of coffee at McDonalds in America but hundreds of billions of dollars squandered on it in the Middle East will only get you ruination. The Europeans already know all this. When will the Americans show that they have learned it, too?

Anyway, with President George W. Bush recoiling from Cindi Sheehan’s T-shirt like Dracula from a ray of sunlight and Senator Hillary Clinton setting out like Don Quixote to banish burning flags, I’d say that primitive sympathetic magic and monotheistic voodoo among America’s “ruling elite” pose greater strategic threats to America than “offensive” cartoons published in Europe.

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By C. M. Baxter, February 8, 2006 at 12:02 pm Link to this comment
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Mr. Harris,
The first two responses to your post stand as stark evidence of the truth you speak.  You addressed comment #3189 when you wrote:  “In confronting the religious literalism and ignorance of the Muslim world, we must appreciate how terrifyingly isolated Muslims have become in intellectual terms.”  And Comment #3191 when you wrote:  “It is not at all clear how we should proceed in our dialogue with the Muslim world, but deluding ourselves with euphemisms is not the answer.”
Appearing on the very heels of your post, these two responses bring into sharp focus the problems faced by the free world.  The Muslim revolution is not one of reason; it is a revolution of truculent stupidity.
Please keep writing.  We need you desperately.

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By Ricky Jimenez, February 8, 2006 at 12:01 pm Link to this comment
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For an intelligent discussion of these issues, from the standpoint of somebody who really knows Islam and the Quran, see: “Bonfire of the Pieties” by AMIR TAHERI in today’s (Feb.8) Wall Street Journal or online at:

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By A.A. Murphy, February 8, 2006 at 11:58 am Link to this comment
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What’s needed is a strong global effort through the United Nations to reduce the influence of all religions, not just Islam.

This effort deserves urgent priority. Indoctrinating children into religion should be illegal worldwide. Religious institutions should be taxed to the hilt and barred from wielding political influence.

But don’t hold your breath waiting for this to happen.

Let’s face it, the zealots are winning. Sooner or later—from Pakistan, the U.S., India, Iran or wherever—the nukes will start flying, and humanity will revisit the Stone Age. Something to look forward to—and all because mankind couldn’t control its penchant for creating gods.

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By Tony N, February 8, 2006 at 11:50 am Link to this comment
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Sam Harris preys on the ignorance of his ignorant and Islamophobic fans with his selective and manipulative comments.

Almost every sentence of Harris’ has simplistic or questionable reasoning as well as neglects to consider worse parallels in the non-Muslim world. For example: “Religious sociopaths… purposefully annihilate crowds of children gathered to collect candy from U.S. soldiers on the streets of Baghdad…” It is as silly to label these Iraqis are “religious sociopaths” as it is to label the IRA as religious sociopaths—these people have a political agenda, such as liberating Iraq from those US soldiers feeding candy to those starving children created by the US invasion. In any case, Israeli soldiers have killed between 700 to 800 innocent Palestinian children since Sepetmber 2000, many of them deliberately targeted.

“In October 2001, Harper’s magazine published the “Gaza Diary” of journalist Chris Hedges. Hedges’ entry for June 17, 2001 provides even more shocking evidence of the wanton and deliberate killing of Palestinian children by Israeli soldiers at Gaza’s Khan Yunis refugee camp. Hedges writes:

“I sit in the shade of a palm-roofed hut on the edge of the dunes, momentarily defeated by the heat, the grit, the jostling crowds, the stench of the open sewers and rotting garbage. A friend of Azmi’s brings me, on a tray, a cold glass of tart, red carcade juice.”

“Barefoot boys, clutching kites made out of scraps of paper and ragged soccer balls, squat a few feet away under scrub trees. Men in flowing white or gray galabias—homespun robes—smoke cigarettes in the shade of slim eaves. Two emaciated donkeys, their ribs protruding, are tethered to wooden carts with rubber wheels.”

“It is still. The camp waits, as if holding its breath. And then, out of the dry furnace air, a disembodied voice crackles over a loudspeaker.”

““Come on, dogs,” the voice booms in Arabic. “Where are all the dogs of Khan Younis? Come! Come!”“

“I stand up. I walk outside the hut. The invective continues to spew: “Son of a bitch!” “Son of a whore!” “Your mother’s cunt!”“

“The boys dart in small packs up the sloping dunes to the electric fence that separates the camp from the Jewish settlement. They lob rocks toward two armored jeeps parked on top of the dune and mounted with loudspeakers. Three ambulances line the road below the dunes in anticipation of what is to come.”

“A percussion grenade explodes. The boys, most no more than ten or eleven years old, scatter, running clumsily across the heavy sand. They descend out of sight behind a sandbank in front of me. There are no sounds of gunfire. The soldiers shoot with silencers. The bullets from the M-16 rifles tumble end over end through the children’s slight bodies. Later, in the hospital, I will see the destruction: the stomachs ripped out, the gaping holes in limbs and torsos.”

“Yesterday at this spot the Israelis shot eight young men, six of whom were under the age of eighteen. One was twelve. This afternoon they kill an eleven-year-old boy, Ali Murad, and seriously wound four more, three of whom are under eighteen. Children have been shot in other conflicts I have covered—death squads gunned them down in El Salvador and Guatemala, mothers with infants were lined up and massacred in Algeria, and Serb snipers put children in their sights and watched them crumple onto the pavement in Sarajevo—but I have never before watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport.”


The Danish newspaper that published the caricatures of Muhammad refused to carry cartoons lampooning Jesus of Nazareth, The Guardian revealed on Monday.

‘In April 2003, Danish illustrator Christoffer Zieler submitted a series of unsolicited cartoons dealing with the resurrection of Christ to Jyllands-Posten.

Zieler received an email back from the paper’s Sunday editor, Jens Kaiser, which said: “I don’t think Jyllands-Posten’s readers will enjoy the drawings. As a matter of fact, I think that they will provoke an outcry. Therefore, I will not use them.”

The illustrator told the Norwegian daily Dagbladet, which saw the email: “I see the cartoons as an innocent joke, of the type that my Christian grandfather would enjoy.”

“I showed them to a few pastors and they thought they were funny.” ‘,,1703500,00.html

For those waxing holier than thou over the Muslim caricature riots, it is worth looking at the (very incomplete) Wikipedia list of riots for the late 20th century and early 21st century. The answer is obviously “yes” to the question of whether Westerners riot. Mostly over race.

Read more…

Deep Roots of Islamophobia

Facts about Islam

Arab Contributions to Civilization

Juan Cole: Have Arabs or Muslims always hated Jews?

Michael Neumann: Has Islam Failed? Not By Western Standards


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By A guest, February 8, 2006 at 11:44 am Link to this comment
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If it’s any consolation, Mr. Harris also thinks that Christianity is totally insane, too (I read his book). Just not as insane as Islam. You cannot logically put the word “Jew” in the above article, because there aren’t millions of Jews cheering on the cutting off heads, suicide bombings of innocent civilians (civilians on the same side of the conflict, even!). You cannot argue that Jews don’t read foreign books. In fact, if you substitute “Jew” in the above paragraph (or if you substitute Christian, or Jainist, or Buddhist, or Atheist), you will find that the essay becomes utter jibberish, nonsense. That is Harris’s point: That all religion is harmful to a progressive, rational society, but currently Islam (for the most part) is more harmful than others.

Fayez, you may be a moderate Muslim, and you may not beleive that the above atrocities represent your religion. Harris’s argument is that you and people like you (educated, internet-aware, progressive) are in a extremely small minority among people of your faith. The rest of the people who follow your religion are nothing like you - they likely do not even share your core values.

I am an atheist (as is Harris), but my family is Catholic. I culturally often identify with other Catholics, but I recognize in my mind that most other Catholics—and most Christians, for that matter—are basically living in another world from mine, politically, spiritually, and intellectually. As a Muslim progressive, I would have thought that you would have felt similarly about most other Muslims around the world.

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By GaryW, February 8, 2006 at 11:31 am Link to this comment
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If the people of the Islam nations wish to participate in the real world, if they wish to develope their economies and intellectual culture, then they must be able to carry on critical dialogue and learn to take it on the chin in the press when the times warrant such criticism.

Sam Harris is correct in warning all of us against the irrational and intolerable behaviours of people who rely upon any religion that inspires its adhearants to world domination.  And this kind of ‘inspiration’ is plainly evident in many Jewish, Christian as well as Islam writings.

True, no group should be singled out for ongoing derision of their beliefs in any publication. But if those beliefs cause people to commit the continuous acts of violence that we see in the world of all fundamentalist or radical religiously today, then the world has no choice but to respond in defense.

There are many Moslems who wish to come into the 21st century, not to recede into the 7th century. They do so by realizing that their religion must play a private role in their lives and not be forced into the realm of politics and public ethics. There are many in the United States who are Christians and who have also not learned this.

I believe that we would all be better off if we pursued different investigations and experiences in spirituality that do not rely on ancient and socially untenable beliefs, as Mr. Harris discusses in his book. But I cannot force that onto others.

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By Jon, February 8, 2006 at 11:30 am Link to this comment
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We should all be grateful to Sam Harris for his articulate efforts to free the world from its most dangerous superstitions. The extreme reaction of Islam to such a quotidian measure as the publication of cartoons about an ancient “holy man” was very predictable; the response from Western leaders was lamentable. The economic poverty of the Arab world is as much a creature of the poverty of its main religion as it is a function of Western exploitation: the one feeds on the other. Any enlightened discourse on the subject must acknowledge, as Harris does, that Muslim fundamentalist extremism is not extremism among Muslims. The casual acceptance of the most egregious violence by mainstream believers of the faith, made even more ominous by advantaced technology, combined with the handwringing appeasement on the part of people who should know better, is a prescription for continued disaster. None of this exculpates Christian fundamentalism, Zionism, Big Oil, and political cowardice—all of which have been lampooned by cartoonists over time—and Harris does not give them a pass, either.

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By Chad, February 8, 2006 at 11:18 am Link to this comment
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Well put Sam. It is sad and unfotunate but I believe you will be issuing a lot of I told you so’s in the near future.

Fayez, you should read Sam’s book. You are way off base.

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By Buton H. Wolfe, February 8, 2006 at 11:13 am Link to this comment
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The “Prophet Mohammad” never existed.  He and the stories about him in the Koran (Quran), and all of the other stories in the Koran, are fictions - to a major extent rewritten versions of ancient folk tales and fairy tales, as well as stories in the Old Testament - made up by a sect of fakers, to a significant extent as a reaction to the Christian crusades and as a determination to invent a new religion for Arabs. The madness erupting in many parts of the world is the result of irrational belief in a so-called religion which is a hoax.  As the violence becomes ever more widespread and the danger of maniacs getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction increase, it should be evident to all rational human beings that it is going to be necessary to wage a war against Islam and crush it before it crushes the rest of us. It should also be apparent that George Bush’s statement that “we are not at war with Islam” is just another one of his outrageous lies.  If we are not already at war with Islam, we had damned well better be.

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By Charlie, February 8, 2006 at 11:12 am Link to this comment
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Muslims and their sympathizers still have no answers to the horrible acts Mr.  Harris has concisely outlined and attributed to them in his essay. And as for the purported Israeli bad behavior - when was the last time an Israeli got on a Palestinian bus and blew up innocent women and children?

Never any answers, just, “But the Jews do this, or the Jews did that.”
I got a kick out of watching some of the footage of the Muslim protesters around the world. Same stereotypic, knee-jerk reaction to anything that doesn’t quite go their way, i.e., protest (doesn’t anyone over there ever have to go to work?), burn American and Israeli flags, kill innocent bystanders, destroy property. Were it not for the oil, would we even be engaging them in conversation?

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By Raed, February 8, 2006 at 11:11 am Link to this comment
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Dear Mr. Harris,

Your article completely ignores the history of the region, thus your analysis is not looking at what is going on in context. You need to read the history of the region and the rising of Islam from an unbiased history books. What your analysis failed to recognize was:
1)A clear intentional provocation of Muslims and insult to Islam by these cartoons. Every Muslim agrees on that. You need to read more about how this crisis developed. The newspaper refused publishing other non-Muslim provocative cartoons, The Danish PM refused to meet with Muslim and Arab delegations months ago to prevent potential catastrophic consequences. This was an arrogant, ignorant decision by the Danish government.  Now, sadly, Denmark is facing the result if this reckless stand.
2)This incident comes on top of the already build tension in the region: The Israeli occupation of Palestine, American presence in Iraq, and the tens of years of totalitarian regimes brought to power and supported by the West. This lead to oppression and extremism that robbed Islam from a lot of its values that include freedom of worship and respect of other religions. You may not know that Jews were escaping prosecution from Europe to the Islamic caliphate were they lived peacefully.
3)The majority of Muslims refuse the violent and insane response seen on TV that is being carried out by thousands out of hundreds of millions of Muslims. This does not represent the values of the Islam that protects personal and public properties, and needless to say human lives.

I look forward to reading better writings from you. I wish you success.

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By Dan Kallem, February 8, 2006 at 11:04 am Link to this comment
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Notably, Fayez, you fail to give one example of the “hate” Mr. Harris allegedly is expressing in his essay, nor do you provide any evidence whatsoever to support your assertion that everything Mr. Harris is a “lie.” If you believe that the thoughts Mr. Harris has expressed are nothing but hateful lies, please present your ideas of why this is so.

There are very important issues at stake here, and while Mr. Harris’s strong assertions will no doubt rub some the wrong way, especially those that consider themselves religious, simply saying “I don’t like what you said” or “you are so hateful” does little to forward the dialogue, or your cause. Since you don’t believe what he has said expresses the truth, then please refute it with other truths, truths we all can see. Because for many of us, the actions and reactions of many Muslims around the world to this and other aspects of modern life, are, to use your apt word, creepy.

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By Sammy Brown, February 8, 2006 at 11:03 am Link to this comment
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Thanks Sam for another clear and concise evaluation of our world’s biggest problem. You speak the truth and offer hope through reason. Reason, which seems very difficult for many to acknowledge, as is evident from the comments from Fayez. This fog of religion that so many are lost in will one day lift. I just hope our common humanity will shine through the cracks long enough to keep us from blowing ourselves up in the meantime.

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By Rick, February 8, 2006 at 11:03 am Link to this comment
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Strange responses so far.  So Sam, you’re seen as a hateful right wing nut case because of this essay.  Wow.  I guess I can understand that there will be some emotional responses to your writing, but it’s disconcerting to read it.  There’s a difference between justice and vengeance, and the difference is obvious when you’re not blind with rage over the injustices you see.

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By Bob, February 8, 2006 at 11:02 am Link to this comment
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Mr. Fayez
Even if Mr. Harris is fabricating his comments,  where are the Jewish mobs? suicide bombers?
The failure of assimilation of Jews into European culture was the result of religious descrimination and bigotry.  Being denied many of the basic rights of their adopted lands naturally they stayed together. 
But I digress - Freedom of speech/press is a Western/American tradition that does not seem to exist in the Arab world.  Islam MUST come to grips with the 21st century. As a religion which professes peace, how can the thinking members let these behaviors define them. The world is too small for this kind of hatred and destruction to continue without dire consequences for all of us.

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By Stephen Borkowski, February 8, 2006 at 11:00 am Link to this comment
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John Lennon sang, “Imagine ther’s no heaven. And no religion too.” A message to work on. I asked Richard Cohen if there is such a thing as a person who is an agnostic religious suicide bomber. He wrote me that that is an oxymoron.
If Britain could justify a law that enables the
imprisonment of a well-known Imam for 7 years for preaching hate and violence in a mosque, doesn’t it follow that by having the UN promote
similar laws internationally. A very simple
statement that God cannot be proven before every
religious talk in all houses of worship would, I believe, go a long way in making all peoples to become agnostic religious believers.It also follows for atheists who know that god can’t be disproven and thus there would be respect for different guesses about a creator and no one would be able to be pushed to violence by those who use religion for their own devices.

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By ben, February 8, 2006 at 10:59 am Link to this comment
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Fayez, tolerance for dogmatic religion is not a progressive value.  Harris isn’t disturbed, he’s a realist.  He is diagnosing one of many real and terrible threats to our civilization. 

His very point is that if he (and we) are not allowed to accurately assess this and other conflicts in the name of ‘religious tolerance,’ we will never make progress toward resolving them.

Harris is not inciting hate toward Moslems and Arabs - he’s inciting awareness. 

You need to become more aware of what it is you worship and believe.  It’s not reasonable.  It’s not rational.  It’s giving lots and lots of people justification for doing lots and lots of bad things.

And don’t think that I wouldn’t say the same thing of Christians or other dogmatic religions… What fundamental Christians worship and believe is not reasonable or rational, and lots of people have used it to justify lots of other bad things. 

This world desperately needs to be lifted from the ignorance and fear of religion, or we’re going to annihilate each other, plain and simple.

Heaven and paradise are not real.  They are silly ideas that we simple humans came up with to make us feel better about death.  How bitterly ironic that in order to feel better about death, we create religions and then kill each other defending them.

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By Hatfield, February 8, 2006 at 10:59 am Link to this comment
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Tremendous, Mr. Harris.  Please keep up the great work in the name of reason.  I am not suprised by the lack of books produced by the Arab world when they make their women wear bee keeper outfits.  When you don’t like to look at your women, you have serious problems.  Hopefully the next Enlightenment will not take as long to arrive as the first.

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By Rory, February 8, 2006 at 10:55 am Link to this comment
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I was waiting for Sam to unleash a bombardment of reason on this scenario.  Excellent article, Thank you for continuing your assault on stupidity and ignorance.  And the above misguided fool’s comments were sad to the point of being funny.

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By Alex W., February 8, 2006 at 10:53 am Link to this comment
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This article is not “challenging and provocative” or even “politically incorrect.” Instead, it is racist, silly, and ignorant. In this article, or what should be called a diatribe, there is a complete lack of understanding, that morality, including religious morality, is governed by political events and ideology.
The Muslim world deals with world-wide racism and imperialist murder, by the “civilized” countries of the West, at every moment of every day.
In the bigger picture, the burning of a few Dutch embassies using the guise of religion, is far less destructive then the murder of tens of thousands Iraqi’s in the name of “freedom.”
We, in the United States, are equally guilty of extremism, and have far more blood on our hands. We use the word “freedom” instead of the name of the “Prophet”, but we are not exporting freedom.
We lack freedom at home, and we very aggressively oppose freedom in many other parts of the world. Oppose using murderous mean.
It is alluring, but simplistic and false, to ascribe political problems to religious ideology. The problems hide within the guise of religion, but one can very easily see below the surface, if one chooses to look.  Take away the religious dogma, and the problems of imperialism, wold-wide poverty, and mass murder still remain.
This article does not deserve to be on I find it embarrassing that this article gets to share the same page as an article by Gore Vidal, one of the first men or women to show us the destructive, monstrous face of the American imperialism.

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