A Night Out with a Muslim and an Atheist

On Dec. 10, “Islam and the Future of Tolerance” held its West Coast premiere in Los Angeles after an extended two-year production period. Starring Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz, the documentary is based on the conversation-turned-book between the two on the subjects of Islam, Islamism, and Muslims.

The film premiered at the Pacific Theatres at the Grove, near the synagogue where a Somali man tried to ram worshipers with a car just two weeks before. Even though that attack came on the heels of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre, it did not receive much media coverage.

“There’s a fear of the subject,” said Jay Shapiro, the film’s co-director. “There’s even a fear of the title.” He tells me the documentary wasn’t picked up by film festivals despite the warm reception it has received where it’s been shown. This is Mr. Shapiro’s first foray into this subgenre of documentary. His previous films have been more traditional documentaries.

For the most part, “Islam and the Future of Tolerance” is a near-celluloid version of the 2015 book of the same name, featuring the two leads talking to each other, with occasional commentary from a supporting cast of interviewees. There isn’t much here for fans of Harris and Nawaz who have already read the book—they’ll have heard it all already. The contrast between Harris’ careful, methodical style and Nawaz’s charismatic flourishes is initially entertaining, but wears thin after the first 30 minutes.

The additional interviewees include Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Douglas Murray, two of the most forceful voices in this debate, and these cameos provide a pacing change from the two leads. I would have liked to have seen more of them, as well as screen time for the other voices, who only received brief screen time toward the end.

Those criticisms aside, the dialogue between Harris and Nawaz covers an important topic which is seldom discussed in depth, and certainly almost never in a film of this production quality. What is Islam and how does it differ from Islamism? And is this a hard and fast distinction for the majority of Muslims? What are the implications for the rest of society if this conversation is ignored?

Directors Jay Shapiro and Desh Amila speak on a Q&A panel with film lead Sam Harris (center). Photo: Andy Ngo

Despite accusations of bigotry and “Islamophobia” from their detractors, Harris and Nawaz approach these topics with a great deal of sensitivity. You genuinely feel like you’re witnessing a conversation between two individuals who have come to similar conclusions in spite of their vastly different experiences. Harris, who has a Ph.D. in neuroscience, was a major thought leader in the New Atheist movement. Nawaz is the Essex-born son of Pakistani immigrants, and a former Islamist who was jailed in Egypt for his activism.

And while Nawaz’s reputation as an Islamist-turned-liberal precedes him, the film goes to some lengths to bring his past to life on screen. Very little video footage exists documenting Nawaz’s five-year Egyptian detention for his involvement with Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an international revolutionary Islamist organization. And yet, one of the most powerful scenes in the film involves Nawaz recounting the interrogation tactics used against him and other prisoners, including torture. Nawaz’s emotion and the director’s strategic use of sound and music is one of the few occasions when the film succeeds in transforming and elevating the original source material.

At the film’s L.A. premiere, a handful of “Intellectual Dark Web’” figures were in attendance as special guests against the backdrop of a heightened security presence.

“Getting a mainstream documentary treatment is going to make this more palatable to people who were initially frightened about the subject matter,” said Eric Weinstein, the managing director of Thiel Capital, who was in attendance.  “The more we can template these conversations for people, the more they can understand that it is possible to have these discussions without them turning cancerous.”

Canadian ex-Muslim activist, Yasmine Mohammed, who features in the film, was also present. She’s in favor of discussing how best to reform Islam, but believes it is more realistic to aim for secularism. “The separation of mosque and state is a plausible goal,” she said, “but reformation is a much more difficult mountain to climb.”

Yasmine Mohammed speaks after the film’s premiere. Photo: Andy Ngo

Suzi Jamil, the film’s Australian co-producer and director of Think Inc., hopes a positive reception for the film will allow for more documentaries to be produced that spur conversations on difficult issues.

While most people I spoke to at the premiere liked the film, some also had criticisms. “I appreciate that a film like this is being made; its courageous,” said Nushin Arbabzadah, an educator of Afghani extraction. “However, I think it also shows that something is lacking in our culture. In place of experts, whose education prepares them to understand the subject matter, we have activists who are discussing the most profound questions of our time. Where are the theologians?”

“Islam and the Future of Tolerance” is now available worldwide via Video on Demand. It is currently at the No. 1 documentary spot on the iTunes U.K. chart.

Andy Ngo is a subeditor at Quillette. Follow him on Twitter @MrAndyNgo.

Feature image courtesy of Jay Shapiro.


  1. Somehow I doubt that studying theology (or tarot cards) makes you more an expert of on these topics than Sam Harris or Maajid Nawaz.

    • Maybe not in islam Jonathan, but in Judaism and Christanity it certainly is. They have to answer on new developments in enlightenment, humanism, and scientific findings (evolution e.g.), and adapt their believes and stances, for instance, the limbo was abolished by the former pope, and biological evolution (after fierce resistance) is now no problem anymore for the catholics. However, in a discussion on a religious blog, I once got the answer from an islamist:
      -we don’t need any reflections on philosophical, social and science subjects, we stick to our Holy Quran, God,s own words!-
      Quite logical, but rather problematic where you live in the West.

      • Ray Andrews says


        Science does not like to admit who it’s mother is, but it’s mother is Western Christianity, and yes there were difficulties and fights and screaming matches. Or maybe that’s too simple. Science was conceived by the Greeks, in it’s infancy it found a home in Islam, but from late childhood up to adulthood, it lived in the West. It has now left home, but still refuses to admit who raised it. I think most of us can identify with that feeling, when we left home, of wondering if our parents would ever learn anything, no?

      • Jorge says

        @ Dirk: “biological evolution (after fierce resistance) is now no problem anymore for the catholics.”

        There never really was “fierce resistance” except from certain quarters and some of the laity. The church’s early position is best described as “no comment”.

        • As far as I know, it was only uptil the pope’s encyclic Humani generis that conflict between biological evolution and religious belief was given up. Both Catholicism and Islam teach a direct creation of a soul in a historical past, and Islamists even deny human evolution from non-human ancestors. So, I wonder how theologians of both religions explain the recent findings of Neanderthal DNA in Homo sapiens. Did the Neanderthalers have an immortal soul??
          The conflicts between creationists and Darwinists (pejorative) as explained in the recent thread- The new evolution deniers- is also worth being compared here.

          • Jorge says

            @ dirk: “As far as I know, it was only uptil the pope’s encyclic Humani generis that conflict between biological evolution and religious belief was given up.”

            More accurate to say that acceptance replaced silence.

            “Did the Neanderthalers have an immortal soul??”

            The Catholic church hasn’t expressed an opinion. In my humble opinion, I shouldn’t think the discovery of Neanderthal DNA poses any problem at all for intelligent, imaginative believers.

          • I would imagine that Neanderthal DNA in Homo Sapiens Sapiens genomes is explained in the same way that Gorilla DNA is…by ignoring the immense amount of DNA available in the genomes used, but not included in the studies. A genetic building block is a building block…and able to be re-used and re-purposed, no matter whether you believe in a Creator, or evolution.

        • Evolution is also a problem for Postmodernism. As long it does not support their ideology

    • Scroto Baggins says

      “Somehow I doubt that studying theology (or tarot cards) makes you more an expert of on these topics than Sam Harris or Maajid Nawaz.”

      That’s because you’re ignorant.

      • Suddenly Suzanne says


        “A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but by what comes out of it.”

        I’ve read your posts. I KNOW you know what this means.

        • Scroto Baggins says

          ““A man is not defiled by what enters his mouth, but by what comes out of it.”
          I’ve read your comments. I KNOW you know what this means.”


          @Jonathan M. Weiss, I apologize. What I said was snide.

          “Greet my kinsfolk and fellow prisoners [apostles] Andronicus and Junia ….” (Paul’s Letters to the Romans 16:7)

          I need a new faith where women aren’t allowed to be the highest clerics or call me on my nonsense. Accepting suggestions….

    • That’s the mistake that Professor Dawkins makes. He pontificates as a scientist on religion, with no awareness at all that that’s just life me a theologian pontificating on physics. Though perhaps he is not quite so ignorant as to equate theology with tarot.

      • I don’t know tarot very well, but, would think it is the opposite of theology, known to me as a very strict and rational system of old spiritual texts and metaphysics, and not a cart play or kabbalistic phenomenon, but I may be wrong here.

        • There is a theory that Tarot Cards have been used in Medieval times for teaching religious views that were counter to the Catholic Church…by the Waldensians. At a market or fair a clever speaker could use the cards in one way, as if for entertainment, and also teach radical religious concepts from them at the same time…even making fun of the powers that be with relative impunity since the cards had no particular universal religious association, nor were solely connected to the occult, being in high demand as playing cards. The cards, are after all a set of symbols that have almost universal meaning, so that gambling and card tricks could be the cover for divination…or religious expression.

  2. Cue the butthurt says

    Sam Harris isn’t an expert on anything except recruiting a fanbase whose sole commitment is to never think through any of his terrible arguments or flat-out lies, and possessing an impressive track record of failed predictions with written follow-ups showcasing someone entirely detached from even the possibility of learning anything from said failures.

    When he isn’t embarrassing himself with something as stupid as the red state/blue state humiliation, or failing to google the actual death tolls from regions he claims have had “literally millions” killed within the time period he states, or lying about the Karum Puligal being Hindus (really, read Harris enough and he makes Trump a pristine truth-teller by comparison), or many other absurd claims, he does serve a useful ally in speaking out against Islam.

    I do my best to avoid succumbing to the genetic fallacy that Harris simply cannot get enough of; I won’t write him off entirely despite the idiocy teeming in his books and podcasts (and I admit, his fans are so poorly read and overall uneducated they can be quite entertaining, at least). He has either the guts, the sheer inability to engage in any self-awareness, or some combination thereof that allows him to remain vigilant against Islam and defend freedom of speech. For that I applaud him.

    • George Komoneski says

      Have you ever heard of punctuation ?
      Full stops are quite useful in helping rants be more intelligible.

      • @Joshua, Since Sam Harris is one of the most brilliant and scrupulously honest people to be found, the answer to your question is “no.” “Cue” is seething from some other psychic injury he believes inflicted by Harris.

        • “Since Sam Harris is one of the most brilliant…”

          That’s where I lost it. Oh my gosh! ROTFLMAO!

          You need to read and hang out with some better people, brah!

    • Πέτρος says

      “Sam Harris isn’t an expert on anything except recruiting a fanbase whose sole commitment is to never think through any of his terrible arguments…”

      I wonder whether we are in the same line of work. ? I find Sam Harris to be the socio-theological analogue of Bill Nye the Science Guy.

      He evinces glib understanding and no depth in a VAST subject, but nevertheless makes authoritative pronouncements and entertains people with it. He makes many of us who dedicate our lives to understanding these issues groan in facepalm agony.

      Among the many, many, maaaaannnny issues Harris does not seem to grasp is the notion that “the whole does not equal the sum of the parts” for any religion.

      That is, the behavior of an individual of a religion tells one little to nothing about how a group or church of believers will act together. Also, the theoretical and scripturally dictated behavior of an individual in a religion tells one little to nothing about how a group or church will act. Case: the Church of Rome, based theoretically on individuals loving all their neighbors as brothers (and many of whom DO), initiating violent Crusades as a group (lesson: it’s complicated).

      Conversely, the catechism of a religion or group cannot predict what sort of an individual you might encounter in a group run under that catechism. Case: the stories and catechism of Latter Day Saints (“Mormons”) I find incredibly weird, and based on just that, I might expect to find a community full of soaring nutjobs. But having spent time with many individuals in the LDS community, I have found most of them to be education-focused, hard-working, friendly, pragmatic, civic-minded, generous, and very tolerant of others.

      Harris reads al-Qur’an and draws cause-and-effect conclusions about Muslims and their behavior–both individual and group–without a SHRED of scientifically reliable evidence. He does the same with other religions as well.

      Harris is like a parent who is sure his child will want to shoot somebody if he’s allowed to play Call of Duty; and is also sure that all past school shooters *must* have played Call of Duty. His proof consists in the axiom “VIDEO GAMES CAUSE VIOLENCE.”

      What does this tell you? SAM HARRIS IS BAD AT THINKING. He’s fixated on the notion that religion is harmful and will not consider alternatives, as far as I can tell. When I have heard him, he gets exasperated and sarcastic with people who try.

      So I no longer listen to him. And I won’t listen to him some more in this documentary.

      • W Lidd says

        Yawn… All caps phrases, general and cliche arguments, and defence of religion. Next.

      • Dirko says

        The Mormons tolerant of others??? Many years ago I had the misfortune of having a Mormon coworker who introduced me to his community—extreme intolerant of others . They think they are superior to en en the best “gentile” ( that’s what the call nonmormons) who upon death will become their servants in planet kobob!!!

  3. Darwin T of BC Humanists says

    Uh, theology got us into this mess. Outside agents are needed to assist in the main for getting us out.

    Yasmine Mohammed is a truly inspiring person who knows the depths of Islam having grown up in Vancouver with the TLC of an al-Qaeda family raising her.

    This film is lit. Send it around the globe and into your stocking stuffers.

    Challenge leaders in all fields to see it, including some flat earth minded celebrities.

  4. Farris says

    If the objective of the author is to have people see this film, there needs to be some detail or nuggets from the content. The one quote from the film …”The separation of mosque and state is a plausible goal,” she said, “but reformation is a much more difficult mountain to climb.” doesn’t illuminate much. This is why movies have trailers. The review provides more about the attendees and the participants than the content.

  5. Evander says

    “In place of experts, whose education prepares them to understand the subject matter, we have activists who are discussing the most profound questions of our time. Where are the theologians?”

    Bugger off. Nawaz studied the Quran at university and was an activist within a theologically-driven Islamist movement. He’s not an ignoramus. Harris is perhaps less-qualified, but a clear-headed critic of religion. What subject matter needs the divination of imams? Illiberal social attitudes, the mistreatment of women, aversion to criticism, motor vehicles on sidewalks, and kalashnikovs in markets – these are all manifestly obvious characteristics of modern-day Islam.

    An Islamic theologian who engaged with these two in critical dialogue would come off second best. It would be a loss for any conservative, mainstream expression of Islam. People would like Islam even less if its tenets were made public and scrutinised. In any case, any theologian who did play along would expose themselves to danger in their community. There is a pact of fearful silence.

    Islamic apologists, and I’m not saying Arbabzadah is one, often use special pleading in debate. I’ve encountered it personally in my interactions with Muslims while at university. When the conversation heads in an embarrassing direction for Islam, the Muslim interlocutor will say that I’m not qualified or he’s not qualified; it’s a question or point for the experts to determine.

    • D.B. Cooper says


      Illiberal social attitudes, the mistreatment of women, aversion to criticism, motor vehicles on sidewalks, and kalashnikovs in markets.

      It’s neither here, nor there, but I couldn’t help but notice that if one were to replace “Kalashnikovs” with “pussy hats,” you’d have a hard time distinguishing this list from the current iteration of Feminism; notwithstanding, general parking trends, of course. There’s likely more to be said of this observation, but I’ll leave it to others if they are so inclined.

      • AC Harper says

        Any social group that promotes tolerance is going to be at a disadvantage when dealing with any religious, political or philosophically driven other group. It’s a far tougher call to promote tolerance up to a certain point and then have the moral or ethical strength to with unacceptable behaviour.

        Not killing civilians seems like a good starting point – which means you shouldn’t accept *any* justification for it, whether carried out by ‘freedom fighters’, religious adherents or champions for victim groups.

  6. Stephanie says

    Surprisingly short article, and it doesn’t explain much about what the documentary addresses. The comment from a random Afghani at the end is also strange: as if the film would be better if an Imam were spouting taqiyya! How laughable!

    Besides, if you want the perspective of a liberal Imam, Imam Tawhidi just released a new book. The general failure of Muslims to clean their own house is why people like Sam Harris have to step up. It’s really quite courageous.

    • “The general failure of Muslims to clean their own house is why people like Sam Harris have to step up. It’s really quite courageous.”

      I am wondering what is meant by, ‘clean their own house’? I don’t think many Muslims feel it’s of any importance, or necessity to ‘clean their own house’.

      Islam is a religion of dominance, and currently our own failure to stand up for our own goodness, and protection is the problem.

      I want us to keep vigilant, and aggressive in promoting OUR free speech rights, OUR standards that are just and good. One has the ability to clean (and defend) one’s own house, but you cannot make someone else clean theirs, especially if they don’t want to.

  7. E. Olson says

    In the Judeo-Christian Bible and theological studies there are many lessons/teachings/stories such as the 10 commandments, “turn the other cheek”, the prodigal son, and the good Samaritan that are often the underlying basis of modern ethics and law, which even most atheists will acknowledge are civilizing guides to modern life even as they often criticize other Biblical passages such as those that more controversially condemn homosexuality, espouse creationism, or justify an “eye for an eye”. Certainly Jews and Christians have over the centuries used their interpretations of “God’s word” to justify many power grabs, wars, and harsh discriminatory practices, but the vast majority of the worst cases date back several centuries. Today comedians, cartoonists, movie makers, musicians, politicians, and ordinary citizens feel very free to criticize Christians or Israel, or make fun of Christians and Jews without worrying about being blown up, stabbed, jailed, or even harshly ostracized by the public or media.

    In contrast, is there anything that redeems Islam? Are there any substantial parts of the Koran or Islamic scholarship that can reasonably be interpretable as compatible with a secular modern life, and that don’t potentially endanger “infidels”? Is there any evidence to suggest that Islam is a religion of peace? Are their any Muslim majority countries that don’t offer substantial financial and moral support for domestic or international terrorists from their own sect, or that offer equal rights and protection to non-Muslim minorities and women in general, or that provide an environment of intellectual curiosity and openness to make important contributions to science, technology, business, or politics? Does the film reviewed here address any of these issues, because if it does it might be interesting to watch, but otherwise there is nothing in this review that makes it appear worth my time.

    • dellingdog says

      Islam is not going away. Based on current demographic trends, it’s likely to overtake Christianity as the world’s most populous religion sometime this century. You’re right: Christianity is less dangerous and illiberal than Islam today because most Christians take their faith less seriously and literally than most Muslims. In most of the West (but not in parts of sub saharan Africa), Christianity has been diluted by secularism and improved by the incorporation of Enlightenment ideas. Those of us who are rightly concerned about the danger of Islamicist ideology need to celebrate Muslim reformers who are attempting to move their religion into the 21st century. I don’t see how making sweeping generalizations about Islam and majority-Muslim countries serves this cause. The Islamic world is far more diverse than you suggest; many Muslims acknowledge and oppose the regressive elements in their faith. We should affirm and support their efforts instead of claiming that Islam is irredeemable.

      • E. Olson says

        I didn’t make any sweeping generalizations about Islam, I merely asked some questions that you didn’t answer, but they are certainly legitimate questions to get answers about given how many Muslims seek to live in the the “great Satan” west. I hope you are correct that there is a great effort to reform Islam, but I can’t help but notice how few stories I see about Muslim reformers who have condemned all the recent Muslim attacks of Christmas markets in Europe, or Synagogue attacks in the US and Europe. Certainly the mainstream media isn’t trying to hide such reformers given how they generally go out of their way to never report the nationality, ethnicity, or religion of such attackers, or the lack of reporting of the generally high crime rate and violence of Muslim refugees/immigrants. If reformers are widely known and widespread, why don’t reporters go to all the prominent Muslin Imam’s and politicians and ask them to publicly condemn all Muslim violence after such attacks? Where are the videos showing “resistance” parades where thousands of Muslim reformers can peacefully protest the violence of radical Muslims after such attacks? The only rational explanations for the near total absence of such “reformers” can only mean that there is no such thing as a Muslim reformer or that they are just too terrified of being attacked by their brethren to say anything.

        • Pirus says

          “given how many Muslims seek to live in the the “great Satan” west”

          Your question contains the answer, if you pause and consider. Muslims living in the west don’t consider the west as the Great Satan.

          Not unless you equate the totality of the Muslim population with the absolutely tiny frankly lunitc mentally disturbed bunch of people.

          As Jordan Peterson says, this is such a “Low resolution” thinking.

        • dellingdog says

          I didn’t respond to your questions because I don’t think they were asked in good faith. If you were actually interested in answers instead of making rhetorical points, there’s plenty of information available. In fact, the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and many majority-Muslim countries have embraced modern ideas (including equal rights for women) to different degrees. Moderate Muslims condemn terrorist attacks all the time, as you could easily discover if you performed a Google search for “Muslims condemn terrorism.” The first result: https://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2017/mar/26/muslims-condemn-terrorism-stats

          We must have a different definition of “sweeping generalization,” because in my opinion claims that Islam is categorically incompatible with the modern world, all Muslim countries support terrorism, no Muslim reformers exist, and Muslims rarely if ever condemn terrorist violence obviously qualify. Sam Harris used to have a myopic view of Islam much like yours; the documentary illustrates how he developed a more nuanced and constructive perspective. Although I’m sure you won’t see the film — and if you did, the message wouldn’t penetrate your wall of confirmation bias — hopefully other readers of Quillette are more open-minded.

          • Pirus says

            Well said again. I’ll watch Sam Harris, may be there is still hope in him then.

        • E. Olson says

          Dellingdog, Thanks for the link, which included lots of links to other Muslim’s denouncing terrorism, but the interesting thing is it is always some Muslim interest group that runs an advertisement “denouncing extremism” or a government spokesperson for Egypt or Syria or Pakistan or Iran who issues a statement “denouncing terrorism” after some atrocity, yet these same organizations and government spend millions funding Muslim extremist groups. I say that actions speak louder than words, and most Muslim condemnation of terrorism is just words, perhaps because a large plurality of Western Muslims support terrorism and Sharia law (see links). When you consider that such surveys are likely subject to social-desirability response biases (i.e. many people with sympathies for terrorists don’t want to admit in a survey they are supporters of terrorism), these figures likely greatly under report the true level of support for these non-moderate viewpoints.



          • dellingdog says

            According to the survey reported in the Telegraph, only 1% of British Muslims believe that the attacks of 7/7 were morally justified. 20% felt sympathy with their motives but did not approve of the methods. I’m not sure how that constitutes a “large plurality.” In the U.S., only 12% of Muslims think that killing civilians is justified, which is 2% less than the general public. The Gatestone Institute’s survey found slightly higher numbers, but it’s been criticized on methodological grounds (Wikipedia describes the Institute as a “right-wing, anti-Muslim think tank”).

            Confirmation bias is indeed powerful; the very sources you cited refute your point.

      • Ray Andrews says


        “because most Christians take their faith less seriously and literally than most Muslims”

        I’d ask the rhetorical question: ‘Have you read the New Testament?’ except that the answer is too obvious. Do read it. Then, if you have time read the Koran. You will see that someone who really understands Christianity is Mother Theresa of Calcutta, and someone who really understands Islam is Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

        ” We should affirm and support their efforts instead of claiming that Islam is irredeemable”

        Indeed we should, and I believe we do. But redeeming Islam is not going to be easy, and we can’t do it for them. I expect that it will/would take several centuries and that is assuming that it ever happens at all.

      • Stephanie says

        @dellingdog, I admire your optimism, I used to feel exactly the same way, but sadly the facts bear out that our altruistic instinct on this is misplaced. The vital difference between Christianity and Islam is that Mohammed was a warlord, a child rapist, a polygamist, an anti-Semite, ect. Jesus was none of these. Islam cannot reform without disavowing Mohammed, which because of his centrality to Islam, is impossible. It took Christianity centuries to moderate despite the example of Jesus, so it is unreasonable to expect Islam to any sooner. The mental gymnastics required will take quite a while to figure out, and the cognitive dissonance will make them susceptible to hijacking by other ideologies.

        Westerners are not only not supporting liberals (such as Tarek Fatah and Imam Tawhidi), they are calling them Islamophobic. Only right-wing outlets are willing to publish their work.

        Islam should attempt to reform – from within their own countries. Their migration has hurt Europe, probably irreparably. Jews are fleeing at greater rates than any time since the Holocaust. We simply don’t have the time to wait for Muslims to moderate, particularly when they are moving in precisely the opposite direction.

        • Ray Andrews says


          Indeed, whatever hopes we might have for the future of Islam, the facts on the ground are that for the next several decades at the very least they will certainly continue to descend deeper in to fundamentalism as they are doing at the moment.

        • dellingdog says

          @Ray, I’ve read both. I’ve also read the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament), which makes it clear that religious believers (in this case, Jews) can develop humane interpretations of scriptures which include barbaric and deeply immoral passages. I’ll acknowledge that the NT is better in terms of ethical teachings than the Qur’an, but I’d argue that the principles of Secular Humanism are clearly superior to either one. However, I don’t think it follows that Christians are necessarily more moral (on average) than Muslims. Those of us with liberal values should encourage everyone (Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.) to emphasize those parts of their holy books which encourage kindness, generosity and tolerance and move beyond the divisive and judgmental verses. Claiming that terrorists are “true Muslims” doesn’t help in that effort.

          • Ray Andrews says


            You certainly have a point when it comes to the OT. But however we might theorize that this or that sacred text can or can’t be interpreted this way or that way, it seems to me that the salient point is simply what we see happening. It has been a long time since even the most orthodox Jews stoned anyone to death, but ISIS considers it quite modern. As to secular humanism, the standard rebuttal is that the biggest butchers of the 20th century were all secular humanists (Franco, outrageously, tends to be overlooked, and he was of course Catholic). Still one might say that they weren’t really humanists just as one might say that ISIS aren’t really Muslims, but again I’d say that what matters is what people call themselves melded with what they actually do in the name of what they call themselves. It seems to me that taking a religion that hugely incubates people like ISIS is a dangerous religion irrespective of anyone saying that they aren’t ‘really’ Muslims. Whatever you want to call them, they are very dangerous. And they assure me that they are Muslims and I don’t consider myself any authority to disagree with them. If you assure me that you are a secular humanist, who am I to say that, no, you are really something else? To use a reducto, someone might claim that Nazism is really a very humane philosophy and that Hitler and his gang weren’t really Nazis. There’s not much use in that, is there?

          • Ray Andrews says

            BTW sorry for being a bit rude above. You didn’t deserve that, your efforts at taking the most humane and conciliatory position are noble, even if I think they are doomed to fail.

          • X. Citoyen says


            Time for the Old Testament-is-like-the-Quran talking point to die. The OT documents the history of the tribe, which is not exhorted or commanded to go on killing in God’s name. The Quran, by contrast, contains more than a hundred commands/exhortations to kill infidels in the name of Allah. Apples and oranges.

          • dellingdog says

            @Ray, I don’t deny that the members of ISIS are Muslims. However, the majority of Muslims reject their interpretation of Islam and practice a far less destructive form of the faith (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/08/09/muslims-and-islam-key-findings-in-the-u-s-and-around-the-world/). I think we should affirm more moderate versions of Islam instead of falsely suggesting that Islamicist extremists represent 1.5 billion Muslims. Regarding Secular Humanism, I think you may be missing the “Humanist” part of that equation. Franco and other 20th-century dictators obviously don’t qualify.

            @X., you’re mistaken. See https://www.patheos.com/blogs/dispatches/2015/01/22/yes-the-bible-does-say-to-kill-infidels/. Regardless, you’ve missed my point. I’m not claiming that the Hebrew Bible and Qur’an are identical, just that the presence of primitive tribal morality in a holy book need not dictate how its followers will behave. Everyone (Jew, Christian, Muslim, etc.) interprets their scripture selectively. The only people who fixate on the ‘jihad’ verses in the Qur’an (almost always ignoring the historical context in which they were “revealed”) are jihadists themselves and their anti-Muslim critics.

          • Christina Arasmo Beymer says

            >Claiming that terrorists are “true Muslims” doesn’t help in that effort.


            The Hadiths contain a lot of the more disturbing instructions attributed to Muhammad. They were collected generations after his life. This makes them weak/ignored by many Muslims. Islam can be contextualized and become more of a inner doctrine. It’s possible. I don’t have much hope, but I want to have hope.

            I wrote a review of the documentary regarding that: https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R3BH526P3MTFKM/

            The external-jihadists and/or Islamists want to force their version of Sharia on others. This external force happens in many ideologies. Rather than viewing enlightenment as an individual’s inner pursuit, they want the world to conform. SJWs and others do this too.

          • @dellingdog

            “Those of us with liberal values should encourage everyone (Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, etc.) to emphasize those parts of their holy books which encourage kindness, generosity and tolerance and move beyond the divisive and judgmental verses. Claiming that terrorists are “true Muslims” doesn’t help in that effort.”

            Why the heck should we do that? The ‘western world’ is killing itself with ‘kindness’, ‘tolerance’, and ‘generosity’. These are good values, but not when they are not balanced by strength, courage, fortitude, resolve, truth, and wisdom. And that old fashioned value of simple ‘common sense’ sure seems to have gotten tossed out the window.

            It’s not about what a ‘true Muslim’ is. It’s about what Muslims can ‘tolerate’, or appreciate living with OUR values, OUR free speech, OUR standards of OUR culture.

        • X. Citoyen says


          What gets lost in these debates is that the Quran confers God’s agency on all believers, so what a majority thinks is neither here nor there—what even 99% of Muslims think doesn’t matter unless they exercise some control over the 1% who believe they’re responsible for waging war against infidels, as the Quran commands. But the vast majority have been unable to control the radical weeds Islam produces generation after generation. We can see that from Morocco to Indonesia. Too many get produced for us to handle.

          The point directed at me is the reason I mostly don’t engage with village atheists. You originally suggested that the Quran and the OT both advocated violence and that one was as bad as the other. When I pointed out that one commands violence and the other records it, you bring in some blogger’s misunderstanding of Deuteronomy. Those laws apply to insiders (i.e., “among you”) not to outsiders. So not only do you respond with a far weaker position than you started with, you commit the fallacy of irrelevance.

          • Pirus says

            “So not only do you respond with a far weaker position than you started with, you commit the fallacy of irrelevance”

            What is actually totally irrelevant is to argue about which book is superior and should only interests theologians academia.

            For the rest of us we need a practical solution on how to live together on o iohis planet in peace.

          • Evander says


            “What is actually totally irrelevant is to argue about which book is superior and should only interests theologians academia.”

            This whole debate is centred on the question of the role of sacred text for the religious community. If you miss this point, you shouldn’t be talking about a practical solution.

            The problem is that violence is missional in Islam, i.e. it was used by the exemplar, Mohammed, to spread the faith. Couple that with universal acceptance of the Quran as the unquestionable divine Word of God and you have a dynamic where this elusive ‘majority’ can disavow the actions of the few but can’t argue against them scripturally. Jihad is therefore always legitimate.

            Hardliners rise to the top within the community. The top Islamic leader in Australia is Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, a man who can’t speak English, and supports Hizb ut-Tahrir. Go check out their views, if you like. At my old university, another man closely associated with this group, Uthman Badar, spoke regularly for the Muslim students’ group. He was de-platformed from the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney in 2014. His speech was going to make the case for the morality of honour killings.

            The problem is far worse than you think.

          • dellingdog says

            @X., Posts like yours are the reason I mostly don’t engage with close-minded ideologues …

            Your understanding of both scriptural hermeneutics and the complex causes of religious extremism are embarrassingly shallow. Regarding the former, here’s an alternative view from a respected scholar: https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=124494788. Regarding the latter, I can only assume you endorse Ann Coulter’s approach to Islam: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.”

          • X. Citoyen says


            Jenkins doesn’t contradict what I wrote. He ignores the difference between history (OT) and commands (Quran), and then conflates things Christians did with open-ended commands the Quran gives to believers and the example set by Mohammed in the hadith tradition.

            El-Ansary says bad people take the Quran’s commands to kill out of context. People like him say this and people like you quote it like it has some practical import when the the nasty de-contextualizers (i.e., Salafists) number in the millions, and when thousands and thousands of jihadis continue to operate on this misinterpretation around the world. Is anyone less dead if we call them pseudo-jihadis and pseudo-Muslims? All this talk distracts from—and is intended to distract from—the central fact that they exist and that they’re killing people.

            I note that you have to insinuate that I’m in favor of wars and genocides. Why that? You can’t make your case without guilt by association? Gonna call me a Nazi-fascist next? Surely, you don’t recommend this in philosophy class, do you?

          • dellingdog says

            Yes, Islamicists who interpret the Qur’an literally use their faith to justify atrocities. This is not surprising; people are willing to kill and die for all kinds of destructive ideologies. I think we should support and affirm moderate Muslims and aid them in their efforts to marginalize extremists. What exactly do you suggest, if not war?

          • X. Citoyen says

            All this talk of justifying one’s actions and misinterpretation is chaff thrown out by pseudo-experts, apologists, and know-nothing pundits who repeat what pseudo-experts and apologists say so as to sound like experts themselves.

            The wheat is in the sociological facts and theology. Depending on other conditions, most people take religion in moderation, but not all. A greater or lesser number of Christians get religion and follow Jesus’s example. They take up the Cross by joining charismatic movements, monasteries, or they go to Africa and build schools and hand out Bibles.

            Similarly, a greater or lesser number of Muslims get religion and follow Mohamed’s example. They take up the sword and kill infidels. Those other conditions I mentioned might contribute to numbers, but they don’t change the essential facts. So long as Islam exists, human nature dictates a certain number will turn jihadi. And this fact predated the foundation of the U.S. by almost 1,000 years.

            What can we do? Here’s a shortlist:

            1. Stop browbeating and patronizing everyday people in the West. They have every right to be concerned with what is ultimately a problem imported by our very own elites, who now attempt to blame us for causing it. All this denial does is increase paranoia and distrust. We don’t deserve to get blown up because others’ want a fast-track to Paradise.

            2. Stop pandering to extremists. You say we should support moderates. We do the opposite: We pander to extremists and their demands at every turn.

            3. Do not allow Salafist preachers in and kick out the ones that are here.

            4. Reintroduce ideological tests as part of the immigration process. No guarantees, but it’s better than nothing.

            5. Bring down the hand of God (pun intended) on Mosques and other organizations that harbour, aid, or abet extremists here. We have indulged what are obviously front groups for far too long. Now it’s time to call them out.

      • Even before the enlightenment you had the Reformation and the idea that the Church is not the final arbitor but rather God is. Martin Luther’s rejection of the concept that man’s personal relationship with God as opposed to their relationship with the Church was all important was revolutionary. The idea that you were responsible for your own actions and salvation, that no one on Earth could intercede on your behalf reformed Christianity. If you read the 95 theses and Luther’s proposals for the Catholic Church, and compare it to today’s Church, you will see much of what Luther found unpalatable has been changed. Islam would benefit from a Luther, a Calvin, a Zwingli, hevk even a Henry the VIII. The Reformation gave birth to the idea of the need to separate the secular and the spiritual in governing that gave us the modern west. As I see secular Muslim government’s slip back into theocracies, such as Iran in tht 1970s and now Turkey (and all the failed states the west has helped create fighting Islamism, Iraq, Egypt, Libya etc.) Is it possible to have the separation of the secular and the spiritual in Islamic countries without a Reformation (and possibly a 30 years war)?

        • D-Rex says

          @Stephanie and Jeffrey
          If the teachings of Christ and the letters of Paul etc in the new testament were able to be corrupted and even to some degree discarded by men with a lust for power within less than 100 years, what hope does Islam have considering it’s foundations that you have so rightly observed. Many people quote the “most muslims are peace loving” but fail to understand that this may be true for those that have moved to western countries as they are often getting away from the fundamentalism of their own countries (God these are long sentences) but travel to majority muslim countries and you will soon see a different story. The EU has become a basket case and the stated goal of many muslim “immigrants” is the gradual takeover of the west by the caliphate.
          I genuinely fear for the future of the west as the imbecilic regressive leftist who seem to control the narrative have set us on a crash course towards islamic domination. When that happens, those that embraced this lunacy will probably be the first to feel the wrath of the caliphate, not understanding that they brought this on themselves.

          • @D-Rex,
            I would say the corruption of the teachings was actually closer to 300 years after Christ’s death. Prior to Constantine Christianity was a religion that was practiced more in the lower classes, and at times in secret. Islam, from it’s start, was accepted by the ruling classes. By this I mean that Momhamed United various tribes after fleeing to Medina and then began to conquer those who had opposed him. This could be a reason for the difference.
            I also don’t think it is coincidental that the Reformation was founded and gained strength in areas that the Roman Empire had not conquered or only had minimal control over before it’s downfall.

          • Stephanie says

            @ D-Rex, what is ignored by the “most Muslims are not violent” talking point is that most segments of most societies are peaceful. The army only ever makes up a relatively small proportion of the society. Saying Muslims are peaceful because most don’t engage in violence is like saying the US doesn’t go to war because most Americans aren’t soldiers. In both cases, it ignores that the fighting faction is supported financially, emotionally, and culturally by the rest.

            If you take a moment to read the pamphlets Muslims hand out on the streets in an attempt to improve their public image, you’ll often find something akin to: “Islam disapproves of violence, but does call for righteous struggle against oppressors.” This begs the question of who the oppressors are, but of course we know the answer. Those pesky Jews.

          • dellingdog says

            “… travel to majority muslim countries and you will soon see a different story.” I have, and you’re wrong.

      • Christianity and Judaism are less dangerous and illiberal than Islam at present as they both take the commandment against murder seriously. It was not always so, and perhaps will not be again, but while YHVH tolerates and even encourages war under specific circumstances…such as survival of the nations involved, or killing in self defense, and even as a preemptive strike against enemies not able to be contained by normal judicial proceedings…but murder for political gain and as a means of religious persuasion is not approved of. It does make a difference.

    • @E. Olson

      “In contrast, is there anything that redeems Islam? Are there any substantial parts of the Koran or Islamic scholarship that can reasonably be interpretable as compatible with a secular modern life, and that don’t potentially endanger “infidels”? Is there any evidence to suggest that Islam is a religion of peace? Are their any Muslim majority countries that don’t offer substantial financial and moral support for domestic or international terrorists from their own sect, or that offer equal rights and protection to non-Muslim minorities and women in general, or that provide an environment of intellectual curiosity and openness to make important contributions to science, technology, business, or politics?”


  8. Pirus says

    @D.B Cooper

    “if one were to replace “Kalashnikovs” with “pussy hats,” you’d have a hard time distinguishing this list from the current iteration of Feminism”

    I enjoyed that.

    I do think Sam Harris represents the paranoia against Islam (which I dislike but not hate) so prevalent in the U.S and increasingly everywhere else in the western world. As Steven Pinker keeps saying people only ever hear bad news and they perceive this existential threat from Islam which is totally out of proportion.

    Also there is a deep seated motive to avert cultural dilution, which is a well founded concern in the long term, but to some extent inevitable. And the way to tackle it is not by building walls or attacking Islam, but by education and exercising soft power.

    Sam Harris’s idea that Muslims should be profiled in airports and screened accordiny, based on balance of probabilities shows his simplistic point of view. To his simple and shallow view of the world it makes perfect sense to do so based on statistics.

    • E. Olson says

      Pirus – You are absolutely correct. Just because 95% of terrorists are Muslim shouldn’t mean we use limited law enforcement resources to scrutinize, follow, and frisk white 82 year old grandmothers from Fargo any less often than we do 25 year old Muslim males invariably named some version of Mohamed from the Middle East. I’m sure everyone is willing endure longer and slower security lines, and pay higher taxes and ticket prices to cover security costs at airports and public events so that no Muslim feelings are hurt. After all, diversity is our strength!!!

      • Ray Andrews says

        @ E. Olson

        Touche. I had an idea: We could hire some unemployed whites as profile balancers. We mustn’t give more attention to young, nervous Arabs getting on planes than to Japanese grandmothers or anyone else. That would hurt feelings. So, we let the Japanese grandmothers, Belgian nuns (are there any left?), etc, more or less walk onto planes with minimum scrutiny, detain the young Arabs with names like Mohamed Abu-Jihad for more thorough scrutiny and then (drum roll) we give our white volunteers an equal shakedown just to show that we’re not profiling.

        Now, some might say that that’s silly. Well, yes it is, but giving a Japanese grandmother the 3d degree only because the next person in line is a nervous looking Muslim and we want permission to give him the 3d degree without seeming to single him out — is it any sillier to replace the Japanese grandmother with a white volunteer who is hired to be in the stead of the grandmother as token ‘See, I’m not profiling!’ subject?

    • Evander says

      How is Sam Harris a paranoiac about Islam? He’s a rationalist: specific ideas have specific consequences is his main point. If you take Islam and apply it with significant demographic volume within a community, particular consequences ensue.

      Molenbeek, Luton, Malmo, the banlieues of Paris. They aren’t happier or safer places as a result of cultural transformation. Haven’t you heard of crime in London? Knife and acid attacks are a regular occurrence.

      Demographics, social science and market shooting after lone wolf stabbing don’t lie. Islam is a serious problem that we tip toe around in our discourse. And everyone knows we’re quiet because we fear for our safety.

    • augustine says

      A commonplace conflation here: considering Islam abstractly vs. Islam vis-a-vis the West. The motivations and details of Islamic development (theological or otherwise) that Muslims choose for themselves in their own strongholds is their own business. Best of luck to them. What they are on about in the West is our business and should concern anyone who values our hard-won material progress.

      Note that Islamic expansion has only increased, usually violently, since its inception. Its aim is global domination, full stop. Having said that, there is the concomitant threat of Islam being used to manipulate all of us, something that is probably more dangerous than Islam itself.

      • It seems to many people don’t know or understand history. They point to the Crusades as purely unprovoked Western violence and act as if Islam was always the dominant religion of the near East and North Africa. They forget that Syria, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt were Christian Kingdoms at the time of Mohameds birth or that even as late as the 1970s Lebanon was a majority Christian Country. Few know who Charles Martel was, the Norman conquest of Sicily or the Spanish Reconquista. How often do you hear Muslim extremist bring up the Crusades (and their apologist) as justification for their hostility, with little to no pushback?

    • Haha.

      I’ll support the Zionist. AND the Muslim if he is willing to ‘put up’ with the Zionist, and let him live with freedom, and free speech. : )

  9. Interesting, I find, is also the feminine outlook on the questions. Both, Yasmine and Ayaan seem to be in favour of some kind of reform of the religion from within, though they very well know the problems (also from within, unlike Harris thus). Ayaan changed her view even, from radical anti (once) to reforming in her last book. What I often miss in the discussions: adaptations and reform has cost millions of lives (and rather cruel executions, torturings and burnings at the stake) and centuries of slow and adaptive change in European nations. Maybe, we still need a few centuries or so in the Western world.

    • derek says

      The Quebec Quiet Revolution is instructive. Quebec in the 50’s was not too dissimilar from what we see in some Islamic places today. From the total immersive Catholic atmosphere in education, health services, workplaces. Schools were segregated; Catholic and Protestant. The large families traditionally would have one son for the priesthood, one daughter as nun, and one son for the military. The enforcement arm ready to use violence against those who threaten the faith.

      All kept in place by a socially and politically enforced ignorance. The bishop had a seat in the legislature beside the Premier.

      What the leftist intellectuals thought, then put into practice to dismantle this structure over a span of four decades would be called islamophobic and decried as racist and intolerant everywhere from academia to the UN if asked today to bring some muslim population out of the dark ages. The accusations would come from leftist intellectuals and politicians.

      Seeing the contortions made to have Linda Sarsour as a leader among feminists illustrates the bankruptcy on every level of the left.

      In one way what happened is instructive and encouraging, to see a peaceful overthrow of an awful system, but then to realize that the bulwarks of ignorance that need overthrowing are the institutions of academia and governance in the West.

      • Stephanie says

        @derek, I don’t want to take away from your larger point which I think is essentially correct, but contrary to the indoctrination presented to Quebec students as “education,” the Quiet Revolution turned Quebec into a socialist failed state.

        Only because Canada has other productive provinces that can subsidize it to the tune of $7 billion per year, and Quebec having a large enough population to decide elections, is Quebec saved from Venezuela’s fate.

  10. Since when did the Quilette comment section turn to sh*t? It used to be only honest and intelligent banter, now this?

    • Maybe because of the ideal of free speech, Sam? I,m long beyond that, it’s a ridiculous naive idea, no good in the least, I wonder what the UDHR says on that! I,m also rather disturbed by these new developments here, only since a month or so, in fact!. It’s also beyound every civil get-together and debating culture. It’s really bad!! It’s that I am not so young anymore, otherwise I would have retreated here, but now, I think, OK, I can’t change the world anymore, it’s a crazy world, so, I just shift on a little bit, cowardly??.

    • TarsTarkas says

      A failure by authority to expel or otherwise make examples of the more malignant trolls. A microcosm of what happens in the outside world when a terror of being seen as judgmental and thus being called a member of the NSDAP leads to the inmates running the asylum.

    • Stephanie says

      @Sam, funny you say that, because I checked out an old article about a similar topic published in Quillette 2 years ago, and the comments were much less informative, and much more PC than now.

    • ga gamba says

      You can tell the newbies here by the wildcard characters they’ve been trained to use at other sites to get around keyword filters.

      Quillette’s readers’ comments are a hotchpotch. It was [i]never[/i] “only honest and intelligent banter”.

    • DeplorableDude says

      I’m guessing you disapprove of the caliber of person commenting these days?

  11. Pirus says

    No body wants longer queue s or higher taxes,etc. But some things are worth paying for inipersuit of high goals. I don’t want any more resentment from any group of people.

    I can’t stand here and criticise the far left for playing identity politics, but agree with the same exact attitude when it comes to airports and security. We have to start treat people as individuals.

    The world is such a divided place because people are not seen as individuals any more. Some call it affirmative action and others call it screening/profiling.

    • To see people as individuals, where did that idea originate? Not yet in the law book of Hammurabi, that’s for sure, but where and when did this idea sprout and develop, actually? If I’m looking around, and read my newspaper, yes, that’s the ordinary idea in my world, but is that also a global habit or right? Not in China, or Saudi Arabia, to mention just two examples.

    • E. Olson says

      Pirus – Resentment for what? Nobody is forcing Muslims to come to the West as business people, tourists, students, or immigrants – if they don’t like the extra attention they receive by security services they should stay put (or return to their homeland) and Skype, or travel elsewhere where they feel more welcome. Perhaps they might also consider why they receive extra attention that Shinto Japanese and Lutheran Danish business people, tourists, etc. don’t receive? Perhaps they should police their own to reduce their overwhelming presence on crime and terrorist lists – call the police when they see something questionable of a neighbor, or kicking the crap out or their cousins, uncles, sons, or husbands for building bombs or collecting AK47s. I think they will find the extra attention they receive from security disappears quickly when Islam truly demonstrates itself to be a religion of peace.

      As for treating people as individuals – great in theory, bad in practice. If I’m interviewing to fill a management positions I will likely have the incentive and resources to do individual background checks on the relatively small number of applicants in order to filter out the people I want to avoid, and proceed with the gems whatever their color, gender, or religion. On the other hand, when thousands of people are trying to get into a stadium or through an airport, such individual treatment will not work, and we have to use group statistics to make the process more efficient.

    • Stephanie says

      @Pirus, the problem with airports is that you cannot treat people as individuals. You don’t have the opportunity to spend years getting to know them, to find out their true thoughts, before letting them through security.

      Much like insurance companies charge smokers more because they as a group are more likely to develop lung cancer, airports should be allowed to profile based on the age, sex, and country of origin of their passengers. It is nothing short of foolish to ignore the overwhelming demographic characteristics of terrorists.

      An 80 year old wheelchair-bound First Nation woman doesn’t need to be subjected to a humiliating pat down, particularly if it means a 20-something male from Syria isn’t being scrutinized. We should err on the side of caution and still do some random additional screening, but additional scrutiny by airports, police, immigration officials, ect on young Muslim men is amply justified given the havok they are wreaking around the world.

  12. Pirus says

    I would say that idea started after the second world war in the aftermath of hollocaust, unfortunately people thought otherness/multi-culturism is the answer.

    So here we are into another deep hole.

  13. Pirus says

    Gush. That is precisely the attitude that scares the hell out of me. This kind of polarisation is a recipe for disaster.

    On the one hand we have the diversity warriors trying to police our thoughts and distribute posters against potential hate crime perperatperp on tube stations.On the other is that little rant above.

    People need to calm down a little and just come to understand not every body they see is a potential terrorist nor a potential toxic, racist, mysoginist, rapist, white male .

    Overwhelming majority of people in this world are just good decent human beings like you and me trying to get on with their lives.

    • augustine says

      “Overwhelming majority of people in this world are just good decent human beings like you and me trying to get on with their lives.”

      We are not born as moral beings. The default human condition is selfishness and wickedness, or indifference at best. The derived state is goodness, and it takes a lot of work to attain and maintain any goodness at all in societies or individuals. You might want to reexamine this premise.

    • E. Olson says

      Pirus – If the overwhelming majority of people are decent human beings, then why are so many countries violent, intolerant shitholes? For large parts of human existence the whole world has been a violent, intolerant shithole, but some countries have evolved and become prosperous and relatively free, tolerant, and peaceful places – and not a single one of these evolved places is Muslim majority. Thus I get back to one of my original questions – has anyone who isn’t a Islam booster or apologist found anything positive about Islam?

      • dellingdog says

        @E., you might want to choose your vacation destinations more carefully. I’ve traveled to more than twenty countries (two of them majority-Muslim) and have yet to encounter a “violent, intolerant shithole.” In my experience, the vast majority of people — including most Muslims — are basically decent. Your implication that there’s *nothing* positive about Islam is astonishingly small-minded and ignorant … which is exactly what I’d expect from you.

        • I take sides with you dellingd. I worked in Kenya where muslims are the upper strata and christians often the poor devils in backward areas. I went with colleagues to local bars, and found out sometimes only much later that they were muslims (this is strange, because, here in the NL you know it within a minute, or, in case of hijab, a second). I think, the Hollywood entertainment industry, and habit to depicture figures of populations or in dramatical situations as either villains, or good guys (sometimes clearly marked, especially in cartoons), has a lot to do with it. Goebbels also knew how to present such differences in human types.

        • E. Olson says

          DD – Impressive globe trotting, but forming your opinions based on visiting some touristy areas and talking with locals that depend on tourist tips or your Muslim CC students who treat you kindly because they want a good grade is what researchers call anecdotal evidence. Personal experience is very powerful in generating attitudes and beliefs, but is seldom as accurate in describing reality as statistical measures based on large samples. Yes you have provided some links above, but surveys that show 20-40% of several million UK or US based Muslims support Sharia law or have sympathy for terrorists is not very reassuring since that still means there are several million who want to go back 1000 years in time.

          What Muslim majority countries show tolerance towards religious minorities? The research I’ve seen suggests there are very few, while the most violent and discriminatory are virtually all Muslim. You criticize my questions about what positives Islam provides, but you don’t answer the question. Within the past 500 years, where has Islam provided guidance for modern ethics, law, culture, or science, which has become adopted or praised outside the Muslim world? Which Muslim majority countries can show real statistical progress towards being more secular and tolerant? Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Iraq, Afghanistan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Maldives, Syria, Yemen among others seem to be going backwards into being more repressive, more violent, and more intolerant. Saudi Arabia showed promise in allowing women to drive, but slips a bit with the killing of journalists and continued funding of terrorists. Is there a shining example I have missed? If Muslims are so peace loving and tolerant, why are Jews leaving Europe in significant numbers where ever Muslims have immigrated in large numbers, and why do European cities now need massive security around Synagogues, Christmas markets, and cartoonists? I’m afraid you anecdotal evidence is not very convincing compared to the actual statistics. I would truly love it if you could point to some real non-anecdotal evidence to support your optimism about Muslims.

          • dellingdog says

            Generalizing about 1.5 billion people in fifty different and wildly diverse countries is self-evidently stupid. If you were a student in one of my classes I would be obligated to try to educate you. Fortunately, you’re not.

      • Pirus says

        Your comment about Sithole countries is very unintelligent if I may saysay.

        It is one thing to attack ideas including Islam and other relegions and that is to be encouraged.

        Quite another to attack people. I do believe that there is the shaddow of tribalism and prejudice present in all humans and if you are not aware of it, it will lead you to terrible places.

        Practically from a pure selfish point of view, trying to reform Islam from within is the best strategy available. You will not achieve that for as long as we attack the population 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. Like it or not, you are sharing the world with others, best to start liking them or at least not hate them.

        Closer at home instead of allianating the muslim Muslim population doesn’t seem a very smart thing to do. You have to pick your fights carefully, and I suggest constructive criticism of the problematic aspects of Islam while trying to integrate Muslims into society is the way to go.but don’t expect quick results.

        Also the West needs to have a hard look at itself on foreign policy. Middle East situation is always going to be drag on any efforts in the efforts to modernise Islam.

        • augustine says

          “… I suggest constructive criticism … of Islam while trying to integrate Muslims into society…”

          Why does any non-Muslim society have this obligation in the first place?

          • Pirus says

            Not least for selfish reasons. That is how you can get things to go the way you want it to go .

          • @Augustine

            “Why does any non-Muslim society have this obligation in the first place?”

            Well, it doesn’t of course. I don’t know why some people think such things.

        • augustine says

          How do you want it to go then, Pirus? What selfish reasons do you have for accommodating Islam in non-Islamic societies?

          • Pirus says

            Because you can’t eliminate 1.5 (1.8?) billion people in the world even if you wanted to and shouldn’t want to anyways.

            You can’t close the metaphorically speaking build walls and make a pure Christian state. Anybody who thinks that is not really thinking. That is what the Jews did and they are now 15 million.

            You can’t make gettos and segregate Muslim neighbourhoods. That just fuels tensions and does nothing to further your aim.

            You want to draw a bigger circle that gives an identity that encompasses all citizens.and that requires a change to attitudes.

            Give the parties involved in Israel a slap in the head like two quarrelling kids and draw a line and enforce it by international law, weather the like it or not. Leave the rest of the middle East alone. Always mindefull of the fact that you have to contend with a 1.8 billion population of Muslims versus a population of 15 million Jews. But be fair nevertheless.

            Only then can you start to modernise Islam from within and without.

        • E. Olson says

          Pirus – it is only unintelligent if it isn’t true – and nothing you write suggests it is a falsehood. The big problem in the West is it increasingly seems we can’t tell the truth whenever it hurts the feelings of anyone, but I don’t see how things can change for the better if we need to avoid truthful discussion because of the risks it creates in being blown up, stabbed, convicted of hate speech, or being called a racist.

        • augustine says

          You have not offered anything to support your position of multicultural inclusiveness.

          I have not said anything about building a “pure Christian state”, nor have I said anything about eliminating Muslims. Those are straw man assertions.

          It seems you have not noticed the fact that Muslim immigrants tend to segregate themselves into religious enclaves when their number is sufficient. Are you claiming that non-Muslims are creating areas where Muslims are forced to live? Aside from China, please share any examples that come to mind.

          Shouldn’t self-determination apply to all groups, including Muslims? Yet it is difficult for Christians to live within Islamic countries, even after many centuries of shared experience. Why should that be?

          What global executive power should dictate the resolution of hostilities between people? Do you mean the UN?

          • Pirus says

            Cultural inclusiveness is about building a national identity that includes all its citizens. That is no small feat, but best example I see is America.

            I think the Muslim population is roughly the same between the two countries, but I suggest itis no accident that there is a disproportionate number of the radicalised Muslims are from the UK and Europe.

            If one reads about how Majid nawaz was radicaised by his own account, makes a strong case for better integration.

            So how can it be done. Well, to start with bashing Islam and Muslims won’t help. Instead a generous friendly attitude will go a long way to better integrate Muslims.

            Then Education. I think faith schools are terrible idea. I would ban all faith schools and start including moderate subjects on religion in the curriculum. Educate, educate, educate.

            Allow and support open discussion and cricism of unacceptable aspects of Islam in modern society without comparing it with other religions.

            Do not single out Muslims, that will only push them further away. But if they misbehave call them out as in any other group.

            Come up with local policies that discourages segregation. These things take time. But I see no other way.

            And yes something like UN backed by NATO is one option but America is a stumbling block. but that needs to be sorted out once and for all. It is a major pull factor.

        • augustine says

          “Cultural inclusiveness is about building a national identity that includes all its citizens. That is no small feat, but best example I see is America.”

          In order for a national identity like that to take shape, the religious-ethnic components of that society should not be in the forefront of national politics. The United States more or less succeeded in this but the landscape is different now. Inclusiveness is like diversity: both are seldom defined and both can have different meanings. It is mainly an emotional trigger word at this point.

          “itis no accident that there is a disproportionate number of the radicalised Muslims are from the UK and Europe.”

          No, not an accident at all.

          “Instead a generous friendly attitude will go a long way to better integrate Muslims.”

          Or else what?

          “Allow and support open discussion and cricism of unacceptable aspects of Islam in modern society without comparing it with other religions.”

          Comparing Islam with other religions is the only way to formulate relevant criticism.

          “Do not single out Muslims, that will only push them further away. But if they misbehave call them out as in any other group.”

          What’s wrong with pushing them away? Muslims have pushed away or destroyed millions of people in their centuries of conquest. I prefer the pushing away approach myself.

          “… But I see no other way.”

          To achieve lasting peace and harmony? To eventually establish Islam everywhere?

          • Pirus says

            Or else you can start building walls, burn Quran’s and see where that will get us.

  14. Pirus says


    Well said. Either that or world war III or concentration camps or police states. It is not as if anybody has actually come up with a better workable idea and patience is advisable. These things take decades / generations to solve.

    • dellingdog says

      Thanks. I wonder how many people who make derogatory generalizations about “Islam” have actually interacted with Muslims and visited majority-Muslim countries. I’ve been to both Turkey and Morocco (which are relatively moderate and secular, despite the move toward authoritarianism under Erdogan in the latter) and teach at a college where roughly 10-15% of the students are recent Muslim immigrants. Most of the Muslims I’ve met are kind, generous and tolerant, just like most Christians I’ve met. I think Islamicism and its destructive ideology should be viewed as a dangerous cult which derived from Islam, not as a movement which represents the views of 1.5 billion people. Those of us with Enlightenment values should condemn versions of Islam which run roughshod over human rights and exploit religion to justify violence while encouraging Muslims who are moving the faith in a more humane direction. Contrary to the claims of “clash of civilization” proponents like E. Olson, the latter definitely exist. Maajid Nawaz himself is a prominent example.

      • X. Citoyen says


        Liberal talking-heads have been stuck in the same loop since 9/11. They start out by declaring, “Most Muslims are wonderful people!” Their opponent agrees and goes on to explain the different schools of jurisprudence, the strong influence of Salafism, etc. After listening to all this—usually while grimacing—the liberal concludes, “Unlike my opponent, I know most Muslims are wonderful people!”

        Do you know why you’re stuck in this loop too? Because you and they conflate etiquette and public policy. Your thoughts on how you should act toward Muslims socially is absolutely irrelevant when it comes to decisions about immigration and international affairs. Until you see the difference and can sort them in your mind, you’ll have nothing to offer but the broken record, “But Muslims are wonderful people!” (skip) “But Muslims are wonderful people!” (skip) “But Muslims are wonderful people…”

        • dellingdog says

          @X., it looks like you only read the first half of my post. For your benefit, I’ll reiterate the second part in case you want to respond to the substance of my argument:

          “I think Islamicism and its destructive ideology should be viewed as a dangerous cult which derived from Islam, not as a movement which represents the views of 1.5 billion people. Those of us with Enlightenment values should condemn versions of Islam which run roughshod over human rights and exploit religion to justify violence while encouraging Muslims who are moving the faith in a more humane direction.”

          • X. Citoyen says


            What you or anyone else “condemns” is irrelevant social etiquette talk. Also irrelevant is preserving the reputation of Islam.

            What happens and why matters. In a nutshell, some Muslims are violent because (1) Allah confers agency on believers. In other words, and unlike Christianity and Judaism, Allah orders Muslims to carry out his plan on Earth. (2) Islam is undergoing a back-to-its-roots movement (Salafism), which is encouraging believers to become agents of Allah. (3) Muslims, as a group, cannot stop this from happening.

            All this leads to (4): What the majority believes and all your nice Muslims friends don’t matter one bit next to this minority, which is a lot closer to 1 in 100 than it is 1 in 1,000,000, where it might enter the realm of tolerability.

          • dellingdog says

            So Islam is outside the “realm of tolerability”? Hopefully you’ll volunteer to serve in the inevitable war against the forces of Islamo-Fascism.

            As I stated above, your understanding of violent extremism is incredibly shallow. Caricatures of Islam like the kind you promote are clearly part of the problem.

          • X. Citoyen says


            I always find it darkly amusing when people claim that Islam is a religion like every other, and then turn around warn against caricaturing it, lest such insults cause an Islamo-fascist war (a “defensive war” no doubt!). Be kind to the religion of peace, in other words, or its members will slit your throat. The dissonance in this line’s getting a little too obvious, don’t you think?

            That aside, you have no solution to the problem I raised. Islam is undergoing something like the reformations that Christianity has undergone. But instead of producing mostly hippies, it’s producing mostly holy warriors. As long as we in the West bring in large numbers of Muslims using the same screening we used to bring in Buddhists, we’ll be bringing in jihadis. No way around it. We cannot handle the jihadi problem without curtailing our freedoms and expanding the police state. That brings us to an impasse, an inescapable choice between liberty or immigration as is.

            So, no, my understanding of extremism isn’t shallow at all; it’s a realistic assessment of the situations that takes in all the factors that matter to Westerners.

          • dellingdog says

            @X., we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think you’re incredibly paranoid, elevating a serious but quite limited criminal justice problem to the level of an existential threat. You think I’m politically correct and dangerously naive, failing to recognize the enemy at the gate. Time will tell which of us is right.

          • X. Citoyen says


            George Carlin said the paranoid man only has to be right once to make it all worthwhile. But I’m not paranoid and I don’t see an existential threat. I see the reality that I don’t like. I could go on about airport security, bollards, fences, and the creeping security state, but why don’t you recall the complaints you’ve no doubt made about your own NSA? Do you like your emails, phone calls, and Google searches being monitored? If you’re a real liberal, you most certainly don’t. But why has this state apparatus grown up? Where did the justification for all this come from? It conflicts with both conservative and liberal principles, so don’t even bother with “Evil Republicans!” We have all this because we’ve got Islam and its problems.

      • DeplorableDude says

        @dellingdog So what you are saying is that the few hundred of the 1.5 billions you met have been nice and we shouldn’t believe what anyone else says or what see in pictures and video?

      • @dellingdog

        …”and teach at a college where roughly 10-15% of the students are recent Muslim immigrants.”

        OK. So, how many of the Muslim students support free speech rights that include creating, and publishing Mo cartoons?

  15. Turkey may have been a secular country, however, under Edorgan it is slipping into a illiberal dictatorship. Edorgan came to power at least partially because he portrayed himself as an Islamist. I am not certain if it will be Khomeini or Gaddifi will be the model he follows. Or it could be Hussein, who paid lip service to Islam when it became political expedient to.

    • I fear it will be Khomeini, who turned a fairly secular and accepting country and turned it into a Theocracy.

    • dellingdog says

      True. The same is happening in Russia; Putin is closely aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church.

      • Putin I think wants to be seen as Ivan, a devout Tsar who was fairly liked by the commoners. He has defended Ivan’s reputation and claimed the story that Ivan killing his son was a smear campaign perpuatated by the Vatican. It is possible that Edorgan sees himself as a modern day Ottoman Sultan. Or as the Caliph.

    • ga gamba says

      Turkey may have been a secular country,

      It was this at the end of a gun barrel, so I think it can’t be called a genuinely secular country. Kemalism was compelled modernisation, a massive social engineering project, one that regarded European civilisation as universal and called for the adoption of western European values, culture, life style, and political system, in its entirety. Modern = secular + democratic + liberal + industrial (or post industrial). Turkey is indeed industrial, but industrialisation can happen under authoritarianism/totalitarianism. The other three don’t have deep roots in Turkey, and if we look at the recent trends of its democracy, the ballot box has been used to weaken secularism and liberalism. Through Kemalist reforms, Islam was turned into a social problem that was constricted by the state and its military and shoved into the private sphere. The problem is Kemalist coercion resulted in superficial changes.

      • dellingdog says

        In urban areas like Istanbul and Izmir, secularism is more established than you suggest. Only 12% of Turks support the enforcement of Sharia law by authorities (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/08/09/muslims-and-islam-key-findings-in-the-u-s-and-around-the-world/). Moreover, the Turkish population is far from unanimous in its support of the movement toward authoritarianism. That’s why Erdogan has engineered an ongoing purge of journalists, educators and civil servants who oppose him. With all due respect, I think your analysis of the situation in Turkey is more superficial than the transformation of Turkish culture under Ataturk.

        • E. Olson says

          Wow – only 12% support Sharia law out of 82 million Turks, that means there are only 10 million Turks that want to go back 1000 years (and that assumes no social-desirability polling biases and that the poorest citizens who are most likely to be Sharia types were adequately sampled). But guess which group has the highest fertility rate, and which group is more likely to resort to violence to get their way? Turkey is slipping away because the more secular types aren’t having kids or are emigrating.

  16. About moslims in the global scene now: Just imagine, Australia never was run over by Anglosaxons, instead was proclaimed a reservation by the UN, and then oil and gas was found there. Billions in the reservations bank accounts (because, sovereign nations and, thus, national property rights!) What can be expected next? Influence (by preachers, immigrants, churches and education) of their animist and pantheistic belief. Monotheism? Wrong, wrong, wrong, we’ll go to the end of the world, and teach all folks what’s the truth and only holy path. If not by peaceful means, some of our youngsters (money is no problem) will know other forceful means. Many women are falling for the animist teachers, there is no single,patriarchal God, but an all invading sexless spirit, just give up your material consumptive aspirations, etc etc. OK, it’s just a balloon, but it could have happened. And, without colonisation, decolonisation, bad feelings about the West and oil money, there would not have been jihads, terrorism and immigration problems.

    • jolly swag, man says

      No, oil money was all it took to produce jihads and terrorism. These things have always been endorsed by islam and practiced from the very beginning. The moment the Saudis financed the means, the Wahhabis exported the evil. The supposed sins of the West merely provided a pretext – one that has been seized upon by the left because it serves its own malicious purposes.

  17. Islam will never reform until they develop a sense of humor. That should be the standard test for admission to the western world: moses, jesus and mohammed walk into a bar… you don’t need to reach the punchline before an assessment can be made. The expressions on their faces will be enough.

    • That, benita, only means that they are half century behind, compared to us(not much, where you consider how isolated their populations have lived for centuries). Monty Python and similar blasphemic fun in my youth would have been absolutely impossible, and not only in a school or uni, in any ambience.

    • @benita

      Not just one joke. There are a few very good religious jokes.

      My idea is to leave a Muslim in a room full of Mo cartoons. Maybe for about an hour or so while we deal with some paperwork. If they are TOTALLY cool with it all. Test passed.

      There are many Muslims, especially after 9/11 who have gone through very tough vetting. Nothin’ new. Guess things slacked off. Don’t know.

  18. Russell says

    I’m somewhat fascinated at the vitriol tossed at Sam Harris. I’ve read his books and listened to many of his podcasts and he seems to go out of his way be civil, courteous, even respectful, of those who wish him harm..to the point of his needing security guards in public. I am far less generous of people who choose to believe rubbish, simply because it’s what they learned as a child. I learned about the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus (see, I even capitalized them!), by I don’t preach the literal death and destruction of those who choose not to believe in them. “Belief” is simply a way making something that “isn’t” into an “is” by making it a personal choice, thereby skirting around the need for, you know, proof. Facts, logic, and reason aren’t about personal choice…they are the opposite of personal. They are true no mater what you “believe”. If, and it’s a big “if”, we ever reach the Star Trek generation, we will have left this drivel in the sane dust as Zeus, Ra, and Odin…cute stories and fantastical movies and video games…not something people devote their lives to or kill each other over.

  19. @Russell

    I didn’t notice any ‘vitriol’ against Harris. Some criticism, and disagreement, but personally, I didn’t see any ‘vitriol’.

    The thing is, belief in God isn’t the same thing as learning about the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus.

    Many people find life unbearable, and meaningless without faith, their belief in God. That’s not automatically a bad thing. And often, it’s a good thing. Many people do better with religion, than without. Some people may not like that, but it’s reality. The bad happens with how people behave.

    Fanaticism of any sort inspiring cruelty, and violence towards others is what the danger is.

  20. ga gamba says


    I think you inferred some things I didn’t write. I’m positive I never said opinion is unanimous. I’m certain I would never write that opinion is unanimous unless I checked it a few times – it’s so rare. I also didn’t say Turks support sharia law. In fact, I said nothing about sharia law. But, it is true Turkey has backslide from both secularism and democracy.

    It doesn’t surprise me that urbanites in Istanbul are more liberal; this aligns with much of the world’s urban population. However, since 2002 Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party has increased its vote share from 34% to 52.5% this year whilst becoming ever more conservative and anti-secular. Further, the Kemalist party introduced “reforms” in 2009 to woo devout Muslim voters. It allowed hijab wearing women to become party members and promised to introduce Koran courses if requested in every district. When the Kemalists are becoming Islamic, you know the nation has swung in that direction. I won’t argue that this shift is akin to Bill Clinton’s “third way” take over of the Democrat Party to embrace neoliberal economic policies, but for historically secular party to swing in an Islamist direction is very significant.

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