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Anti-Muslim and Faux Liberal Sam Harris to Debate Dr. Robert Pape Soon?

19 March 2012 22 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

Anti-Muslim and Faux Liberal Sam Harris to Debate Dr. Robert Pape Soon?

Sam Harris, considered one of the “four horsemen” (now perhaps the “three horsemen” after the death of Christopher Hitchens) of the cult of new age atheism may be set to debate Dr. Robert Pape, or so he claims on his website:

Almost invariably, I am urged to read the work of Robert A. Pape. Pape is the author of a very influential paper, “The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism” (American Political Science Review 97, no. 3, 2003), and the book Dying to Win, in which he argues that suicide bombing is best understood as a strategic means to achieve certain well-defined nationalist goals and should not be considered a consequence of religious ideology. No one has done more to convince my fellow liberals that if we just behaved ourselves on the world stage, our problems with Islam would go away. I am happy to say that Pape has agreed to discuss these issues with me on this page in the coming weeks. Stay tuned…

I don’t believe Sam Harris belongs on the same stage or platform with Pape discussing these issues. He has no study in the field of “suicide terrorism,” he is a novice going up against an academic who has researched and critically analyzed the issue from various angles, and whose work has been the subject of intense scrutiny and peer review.

The tone and tenor in which Harris discusses his possible future encounter with Pape is revelatory in the sense that it exposes the fact that Harris’s mind is already made up. He is not interested in a real dialogue or conversation nor does he seem to be open to the possibility of changing his mind. Harris, like all dogmatists, has already arrived at his conclusion, he is entrenched in his belief that suicide terrorism is largely, if not completely a “consequence of religious ideology.” This is mostly the case because “suicide terrorism” being linked to religious ideology is vital to his claim that Islam is “uniquely” violent and should be held to a different level of scrutiny than other religions.

This recalls a prescient point Reza Aslan made in his interview with us when questioned about his encounter with Sam Harris:

There is no doubt Sam Harris is a smart guy, he has a PhD in neuro-science. You can be a smart guy and be ignorant about particular topics and issues. The problem with Sam Harris is that he tends to write about the things he is ignorant about, (laughs) I think Sam Harris should stick to writing about neuro-science, I think his last book was great. When Sam Harris writes about neuro-science, in other words his expertise, I think it’s great, I love reading his work. When he talks about religion, a topic he knows nothing about, that he’s never studied as an academic discipline, that he’s done no field research in whatsoever, and in which he frankly is unqualified to opine about, that’s the problem. I don’t write about nero-Science because I’m not a neuro-scientist.

Either way, it seems Pape has accepted Harris’s request to debate and it will be interesting to see the correspondence between the two. For Harris it may turn into a similar humiliation as the one he received when going head-to-head with Scott Atran:


Lastly, I want to say a few words about the article in which Harris reveals he may be debating Pape. Harris titled the article, Islam and the Future of Liberalism, in it he essentially repeats many of his common, uncritical, and by now, well worn attacks on Islam and Muslims.

Like the predictable Islamophobe that he is, he illustrates his post with this image:

Orientalism 101 anyone?

Yes Sam, Afghan women in burqas is a really great way to illustrate the “threat” of  liberalism accommodating “evil Islam.” Can somebody send Harris, Edward Said‘s Covering Islam? He’s got some readin’ to do.

Harris writes,

I appear to have left many viewers with the impression that I believe we invaded Afghanistan for the purpose of rescuing its women from the Taliban. However, the points I was actually making were rather different: I think that abandoning these women to the Taliban is one of the things that make our inevitable retreat from Afghanistan ethically problematic. I also believe that wherever we can feasibly stop the abuse of women and girls, we should. An ability to do this in places like Afghanistan, and throughout the world, would be one of the benefits of having a global civil society and a genuine regime of international law.

Here is another instance of Harris posturing as an expert on an issue that he is wholly unprepared to discuss, mostly due to his lack of understanding.

Here are some facts for Sam to ponder: 1.) Afghanistan is a tribally based culture, following tribal customs and norms that are ingrained within society and which formed over thousands of years, you are not going to transform that over night, and you are definitely not going to do so with ‘smart bombs’ 2.) Who did the US replace the Taliban with? Northern Alliance war lords, many of whom are the most egregious violators TO THIS DAY of women’s rights. When they ruled before the Taliban child rape was endemic, as it has become once again today. 3.) Changing attitudes towards women can only happen from within society, unless Harris is advocating the removal of women and girls from their husbands, fathers and brothers? Oh wait, he has pondered such stupidity in the past.

Harris is not finished with the inanities, he writes,

Recent events in Afghanistan demonstrate, yet again, that ordinary Afghans grow far more incensed when a copy of the Qur’an gets defaced than when their own children are accidentally killed by our bombs—or intentionally murdered. I doubt there is a more ominous skewing of priorities to be found in this world.

Excuse me for how inarticulate I am about to become, but this must be said: Sam Harris is a S**THEAD. Harris dehumanizes Afghans, to him they are a bunch of dirty savages who cannot even properly mourn or balance their outrage. Regardless of what Harris says, yes, Afghans are very upset that they are being occupied and murdered by an invading foreign nation. The recent protests were not only in response to Qur’an burnings as Harris would have us believe, but as we noted: the murder, maiming and jailing of innocent Afghan civilians!

Harris continues the Islamophobic, anti-Muslim drivel in the rest of the article. He pushes the myth about the silent “millions” of moderate Muslims who are too “afraid” to speak out against violence in the name of their faith. He says that he finds the concept of a Jewish State “obnoxious,” but he immediately contradicts himself writing, “But if ever a state organized around a religion was justified, it is the Jewish state of Israel, given the world’s propensity for genocidal anti-Semitism.”

Profound double standards but that is something Harris has in common with the rest of his Islamophobic buddies in the anti-Muslim movement and hence comes as no surprise.


  1. What percentage of Islam, would you say is radical?

  2. A comparatively small percentage – yet perhaps growing due to socio-economic factors and, well, a whole lot of attacks on Muslim countries. That isn’t helping any.

  3. its clearly written in Bible “Shave of her head those who dosent cover her head”(i just wrote in simple english)
    okey i wonder ever they even seen Virgin Mary’s Picture.

  4. Supposedly Harris has read the work of E. Said.

    I think Sam Harris, while he does have a lot of good points about Abrahamic religion, tends to be overly pessimistic at best, and at worse, condones the violent imperalism of the United States.

    He believes that nations have the right to engage in projects of “civilizing” other countries. Not unlike what the British did to India during the colonial period.

  5. Every pasture has bugs…..God will filter them all out in time. Who the hell do these ppl think they are to abuse their power and pinpoint one group, while supporting and ignoring the atrocities of the others? …..we are dwindling into the spiritual dark ages that will bring the last days when we see ppl being persecuted for thier belief in the One True God.

  6. Devils…..they just want to guauk at the women!

  7. All religion is inherently violent. Not just islam but also christianity, for someone who claims to be an islamic expert toy clearly haven’t read ANY of the quran. If taken literally all religions have the potential for evil.

  8. There’s never any shortage of bigoted idiots in the world is there? They always seem to be in abundant supply.

  9. There is nothing wrong with a liberal. I’m a liberal athiest.

  10. The Taliban are doing plenty of murder and maiming of civilians. The US is engaged in more than bombing etc. in Afg. and at least some of it is productive. The more you read the more you know.

    Muslims are too weak and afraid of al Queda, Taliban etc. to defend against them, they have too much support even among the educated.

    Harris is just expressing opinions. It is curious that in years past refugees, etc. blamed muslims for the murder and oppression in muslim govs. and now there is a school of thought that blames Islam.

    So bring on the hordes of ignorant violent madrassaheads!

  11. Nothing wrong with liberals, athiests, or religion. Dogmatism and binary world views are the danger…and its a human problem not a religious problem. Harris is quite dogmatic in his world view

  12. I find it ironic that there’s an admonishment to “keep it clean” above the comments field to a post calling Sam Harris a “shithead.” Or do the asterisks make it okay? You’re quoting him completely out of context, by the way – he was referring to the content of the article linked within the very quote you posted.

    I don’t agree with Harris’ singling out Islam as worse than other religions, but he does make a lot of valid points about suicide bombing. He also repeatedly asserts that it is the religion he is critical of, not the Muslim people, whom he says should not be subject to prejudice or discrimination. You should not paint bigotry with so wide a brush – it’s the same as the claim that those critical of the state of Israel are anti-Semites, or those opposed to Obama’s political policies are racists.

    Pape is correct that suicide bombing helps advance nationalist goals, and it is certainly an effective tactic in terms of asymmetrical warfare, but Harris is also correct that it is often enabled by religion. Pape himself strongly correlates suicide bombing to the tenets of Salafi Islam in Dying to Win, pages 110-113. It’s simply easier to blow yourself up if you believe that an eternity of happiness will be the immediate result.

  13. Sam harris is a zionist and a jew. He claims to be a jew he never critsizes judaism the talmud and torah and says nothing about evangelical christians.

  14. You needn’t be a religionist, or a student of religion, to feel the antithetical abuse of those who cling to fundamentalist beliefs either on the Muslim side or on the side of other religions. As scientists in the states can attest, the threats are there in our universities and throughout U.S. communities. They come from all the major religions and most of the right wing ideologues. Further, I don’t see how religionists have a grip on the motives or strategies that suicide bombing or any sort of fanatical behavior that we see from so-called terrorists or soldiers clad in the stars and stripes. These behaviors are not new and have been part of the desperate bargains placed on people who have little choice but to act out and do what they can to retaliate. They strangely resemble the same irrational behavior of U.S. and allied soldiers who commit gross atrocities when they see no hope. It might be helpful if these two parties can at least agree that the wars started by the U.S. and their pals have brought nothing but more fanatical behavior, more hatred and many more problems for the people here and around the world. I doubt that will be a commonality however.

  15. Sam Harris is an atheist, but that does not mean he’s a liberal. Some atheists identify with right-wing politics, especially those who advocate a form of social darwinism.

  16. You don’t see many non-Islamic nationalists or terrorist groups carrying out suicide bombings. Not the IRA nor FARC nor EZLN nor the Lord’s Resistance Army nor the Shining Path nor Red Army Faction nor any number of lone-wolves like Ted Kaczynski or Tim McVeigh or Anders Breivik (the Oslo killer). The Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka are the only non-Islamic terrorist group I can find that employs suicide bombing as a primary tactic. Even the Japanese kamikaze pilots of WWII had a religious devotion to the Emperor.

  17. To those who were interested, about .5% of muslims are terrorists, actully it might be less then that.

  18. I hope that debate is code for we will arrest you once you show up. Morons debating are like the Special Olympics, were everyone tunes in to see which special person won. The loser is the viewer who is insulted daily by these morons given a stage.

  19. Edward, you call Sam Harris an Islamophobe, but criticising Islam is not the same as being an Islamophobe. Sam Harris states in this interview that he has no disdain for Muslim’s, that would be Islamophobia, what Sam Harris said instead was a critique of Islam.

  20. “To those who were interested, about .5% of muslims are terrorists, actully it might be less then that.”

    Lol! Sounds legit.

  21. “Sam harris is a zionist and a jew. He claims to be a jew he never critsizes judaism the talmud and torah and says nothing about evangelical christians.”

    …Have you ever read any of his books…?

  22. Obviously you have zero knowledge of the liberal humanistic tradition of critique.
    Otherwise you would never call Harris “faux”. Rather there is a (pretty obvious) line from John Stuart Mill and Karl Popper to Sam Harris.

    One may find him provocative. That does not change the fact, that to disagree with Harris critique (and most of his conclusions) would run counter to the classic liberal critique wheter this is Spinoza, Voltaire, Mill or Popper.

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