Given that I write about terrorism and Islamic extremism full time, it is rare that I am “shocked and appalled,” as the politicians say, by any given fresh outrage perpetrated by the enemies of civilization. More often, I am quietly angry but broadly resigned to my own impotence, much like a 65-year-old business executive whose 25 year-old trophy wife has recently been spending suspicious amounts of time with her handsome tennis instructor.
However, the latest assault on atheist philosopher Sam Harris and liberal anti-extremist Maajid Nawaz is jaw-dropping in its calumny.
Harris and Nawaz, who wrote a book together called Islam and the Future of Tolerance, recorded a two-hour podcast (Waking Up, Episode 59) where they spoke about issues having to do with Islamic extremism and Muslim integration in the West.
Someone else took one minute of the show and broadcast it on social media. The one-minute segment is where Harris, to make a point, presents what he believes is the line of thinking of someone who is against Muslim immigration in the West. Harris presented this argument so he could ask Nawaz how he would respond to it.
Yet, the segment was presented on social media as proof of Harris’ “genocidal rhetoric on Muslims” while Nawaz “nods along.”
In the segment, Harris, assuming the voice of an anti-immigrant Western citizen, says how it’s rational to not want any more Muslims in one’s country, given the rampant Islamic terror taking place worldwide. Nawaz says “mmh, mmh” and, at the end, answers with a solitary “yes.”
In actuality, both men have spoken out against such rhetoric repeatedly in the past and, I imagine, will continue to do so in the future. As Harris said in response to this slander doing the rounds, “I’ve said on multiple occasions that I think we have a moral obligation to let in as many Syrian refugees as we can properly vet. I’ve also said that secular, liberal, tolerant Muslims are the most important people on earth — and that if I had control of our immigration policy, I’d move them to the front of the line for citizenship.”
Unfortunately, this type of slander seems just par for the media today. (I hear you, dear reader, saying.“Misrepresenting people’s positions to push one’s pre-existing agenda? Sorry, I thought we were talking about something new and outrageous.”)
Just yesterday I wrote about the Southern Poverty Law Center trying to bully Google into silencing criticisms of Islam by manipulating its search algorithms. So, what could have gotten me so worked up about this case in particular?
So here’s the calumny part, the part that really grinds my gears. Harris introduces this argument in order to be able to deconstruct it, since, as he says, many people are feeling this way, and we need to have answers for their questions. As Hemant Mehta wrote in a supporting piece in Patheos “to set up that question, Harris played devil’s advocate. He put himself in the shoes of people who say these kinds of things and made the anti-immigration case himself for the sole purpose of setting the scene for Nawaz’s response.”
Don’t take our word for it; listen to the podcast yourself. The relevant section starts at around 1:10:00.
In other words, the one-minute segment presents Harris as believing almost the opposite of what he actually believes.
“I think there is a credible case for not rushing into the speed of immigration so that society has time to absorb, and so that those people who are new arrivals have time to absorb the values of that country that they’ve come to live in,” Nawaz goes on to say.
That hardly sounds like a ringing endorsement of ethnic cleansing.
Yet, not a bit of this mattered to Reza Aslan when he mendaciously shared this short, out-of-context clip on Twitter, giving it the exposure of his large platform. None of it mattered either to Rula Jebreal, Dean Obeidallah, Max Blumenthal or any of the other people who gleefully joined in by sharing it as well.
Harris, in response, wrote, “I want to point out something that many of our readers will not have thought about, but which all these Muslim apologists well understand: Spreading lies about a person’s ‘racism’ and support for ‘genocide’ is dangerous. We are nowhere near the terrain of good faith debate here. These are utterly irresponsible, malicious people, doing conscious harm to our public conversation — and doing whatever they can to destroy the reputations (and more) of those of us who, at considerable personal risk, attempt to have rational conversations about some of the most important issues of our time.”
These lies need to stop. The people who circulate them are not fighting on the side of truth and beauty against the rising fascist tide, as they would have us believe. They are apologists for the most regressive ideology on the planet: Islamist extremism.
They do not have the moral high ground. Don’t let them pretend to.