Open thread for episode 21.37: Matt and Guest Muhammad Syed


Matt and Muhammad discuss the situation for ex-Muslim apostates and issues with Islam around the globe, and take viewer calls.

Comments

  1. Murat says

    The first caller was a friend of mine, and his name is not Edit, but Edip Yuksel.
    While watching AXP live, I saw him online and just shared the link without typing anything else, thinking he might be interested in a show with an ex-muslim as the guest. So, you can put on me a small portion of the blame for the unfruitful conversation. I “caused” it to happen, but it was not my “will” that made Edip jump the phone and receive the exact dose of just treatment from Matt.
    So, yes, a micro-cosmological “Kalam” argument proved to be correct in this unfortunate “causation”, but no god, no agency, no evil intent exists. Because me sending him the link was not an “uncaused cause”; there was a history of me being a follower of the show, etc 🙂
    The list of people whom Edip said he debated would form a gray area with regards to the “credential information” being correct or not: Yes, he has met these individuals on various occasions, but hardly any of those encounters were actual “debates” where both sides had agreed on a topic and a format. He did have a long talk (which you can find on YouTube) with David Silverman, for example; but the encounter with Michael Shermer was more like a bust-in as Edip was trying to debunk something which Shermer was not even aware of.
    As for the 25.000 that Dawkins asked for in order to debate him: I guess this was not a formal proposal, but more like a way of rejecting a debate. I’m just not sure.
    That side of the thing aside, Edip is an interesting character with a troubled past: A guy who grew up in a Sunni environment, whose brother (along with whom he carried an Islamistic agenda as teenagers) was killed during days of turbulance in Turkey in the 70s; and most importantly, as a person who opened his eyes to skepticism while in prison, who transformed his belief system into something that made him at best a “reject”, but most commonly an “apostate” in the eyes of his past comrades.
    Unlike his perception of some other stuff (like the correct tags for his encounters with prominent people of reason) I can safely say he really does get threats, really knows well the mindsets on both sides of the fence of secularism, and really did cause heated debates in his homeland after separating his path from that of political Islam.
    It would’ve been good if he simply collaborated to the episode with his knowledge and experience on radicalism, merits of secularism, economy of religious exploitation, how politics and dogma are interwoven etc.
    But no, he just has to bring up the “19” code in the Quran, which is the only thing that clings to him from a very old & heavy baggage.
    Edip is not a con man, nothing even like Ken Ham or Sy Ten Bruggencate. He’s an honest and passionate guy much more in line with Matt Slick and Blake Giunta, I’d say.
    The weird thing about the “code” he’s obsessed with is that, it’s actually functioning as part of one of the most progressive, peaceful and tolerant versions of Islam that you could come across.
    Why don’t the followers of this idea come up with the very rational and simple question that Matt asked? Should they, at the expense of maybe converting back to a hazardous version of the religion? I don’t want to get into that, but I feel like I should note it strangely “works” even as a “false positive” when it comes to promoting secularism and peace.
    How come the spokesperson of such ideas use a sharp and loaded word like “bigotry” when faced with a reasonable question? Beats me… For a while I’ve been trying to show him the contradiction between some of his attitudes and his core values, but as the final moments of the call suggest, I’ve so far been unsuccessful.
    Anyway… Just wanted to get this off my chest before commenting on the episode in a separate post.

  2. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    This episode was painstakingly “huh?” inducing for me to listen to.

    I cringed when Matt name-dropped Harris and Dawkins.

    Can any europeans confirm this “questioning islam is hard because you get called a bigot” thing? Considering those countries’ nigh total bleachness, I’d be as surprised as taylor swift at an award show if this was the norm for non-muslims by other non-muslims.

    And @Murat(#1:) Just, wow. *Edip killed me with that bigot claim. He unravelled like a mummy on a hook. I don’t question whether he was intelligent or not more than I believe that it’s a “anything goes cuz my belief is worth it” type of thing. I don’t think I’d enjoy a second call from him, if I could help it(don’t you dare “So what?” me, you! 😉 ) His breathing patterns made my back itch.

    Dante was a walking ball of “wtf?!” His evaluating nothing was hilarious though, good stuff, being something in nothing land all while being able to decode it’s properties.

    Matthew was close to honest about his reasons, he fell short by not realizing(or refusing to realize) that all those experiences would get him to a “the fuck?!” before it’d get him to a god. I’d like to know what was the particular tip they possessed that made him think that it was his specific god though.

    Austin was an odd one, sans the desire to see more equal worry for in-land terrorism than outland ones. I guess since people are accustomed to christian shooters(+plus other forms of violence) then a muslim with a bomb would draw more attention(is what I’d like to face value assume.) America also has the issue of calling non-white people terrorists quicker than they would a white person(with no religious garb) for similar crimes. Atheists are very much on a quest to not seem lenient on islam, despite them not dealing with it like they would if they were ex-muslims and thus less likely to be acquinted with the drive of wanting to see it gone(like they would the christian drive.) I do agree with the “we should fight in-land and out-land” approach also, religious extremism and or fundamentalism should be confronted whether you’re first target or not. I’m also not pro-profiling muslim immigrants, nor the refugees anymore than they would normally be(which is a lot.) America also barely did a portion of a share in the crisis, pretty subpar intake by the land of the free.

    My headache refuses to let me continue.

    Thanks to the crew, I appreciate the work done.

  3. uglygeek says

    At the end of his conversation with Edip, Matt said precisely these words: “I challenge anybody on the planet to go through that conversation and point at things that were bigoted in there…” As a fellow atheist I have been following AXP for a while, I caught up with a lot of old videos on YouTube, and I watched Matt telling his mind, cutting people in mid sentences, talking over his caller and often screaming as soon as he was interrupted. So this does not add up. Matt is clearly walking on egg shells when the topic is Islam and not Christianity. He seems like a different person. He is clearly afraid, very afraid, of being branded a racist or a bigot.
    Matt is happy to question the credibility of Islam in the usual way, asking: “How can you prove that it’s true?” But he does not really go too much into the social and political consequences of believing in Islam. And yet, AXP never shies from describing the dire political and social consequences of Christianity. Why this double standard?
    In this video is Syed the one who raises this point, in fact he says that “Simply saying that it is bigotry does not mean anything”. But he can be more outspoken about the consequences of these ideas because he is an ex-Muslim from Pakistan, so he cannot be labelled a bigot, while Matt is a white guy from Texas, so he can.
    This is nonsense. A religion is an ideology not a race, criticising Islam does not mean being bigots.
    We like to think that atheism may be politically ‘neutral’, that you just don’t believe in God and that’s all. But religious ideas have consequences and therefore some religions are, at a given time, worse than others. But we cannot say this otherwise we are bigots. So all the firepower goes against Christian fundamentalists, who are absolutely bad, and at the same time we try to find political and socioeconomic reasons for the crimes of Islamic fundamentalism, which in this time is much worse.
    And even the term ‘Islamism’ used by Sayd would deserve to be challenged. What is Islamism exactly? The will to impose Islamic rules to a society? But Islam explicitly asserts to be a religion that dictates every aspect of the life. It’s a very political religion in this sense. It is not a religion that can be practised only in in the privacy of your own home. So, what is really the difference between Islam and Islamism?
    And yes, somebody could argue that the same is true for Christianity. This could be questionable, but it does not really matter because we are not in the Middle Ages anymore, Christianity has lost most of its grip on western societies. US may be an exception. but not really: we don’t see gay people being jailed or executed even in the most backwards states in the USA.
    Political reasons and politically correctness are clearly muffling the criticisms to Islam in the western world.

  4. uglygeek says

    #2

    >> Can any europeans confirm this “questioning islam is hard because you get called a bigot” thing?
    Is this a joke, a rethorical question or a serious question? 🙂
    In Western Europe you can hardly say that Islamic terrorists believe in Islam without being called a bigot. (Eastern Europe is very different).

  5. Murat says

    @uglygeek

    And even the term ‘Islamism’ used by Sayd would deserve to be challenged. What is Islamism exactly? The will to impose Islamic rules to a society? But Islam explicitly asserts to be a religion that dictates every aspect of the life. It’s a very political religion in this sense. It is not a religion that can be practised only in in the privacy of your own home. So, what is really the difference between Islam and Islamism?

    The question is understandable and also very common. Yes, it does look like a tautology if and when you assert to the religion the features you mention. But there are so many different fractions, inclinations, interpretations and discussions within Islam(s) that, you can see many devout muslims who are not islamists at all; whereas you can also find people who actually have little or nothing to do with faith, but taking part in islamistic agendas for money, power, sex, etc.
    What reflects to the USA & Europe heavily as “Islam” is, naturally, “Islamism”. But the two are not necessarily the same thing, and for one I argue that it’s kinda dangerous to imply effectively they “should” be regarded so, as equating the two has many times proven to give the identity aspect of religion a push, empowering Islamism in the end.
    Think of it like being a soccer fan versus being a hooligan. There is causality, yes, but the levels and means of practicing interest in or submission to the game are totally different. Hooliganism is above and beyond what is played on the green fields.
    As the total eradication of any major religion is almost improbable, at least within this century, I think the reasonable thing to do is to channel energies to emboldening secularism everywhere on earth, while favoring “fans” over “hooligans”.
    Lighter shades of gray are much more compatible with the light of reason than total darkness is.

  6. paxoll says

    @uglygeek.
    1) Matt responds according to his experience. Living in america and being an ex-christian he can understand not just the argument, but the mindset of the person presenting it. He also understands american society and culture and his primary efforts in his atheism outreach is centered on protecting americans from christianity. He is also very well versed in the christian scriptures. So he is not going to take the same approach to a muslim from another country who’s english is not great, as he would to a christian from the US. Remember the purpose of this is to have a dialog not to score atheist points on youtube.
    2) First race has nothing to do with bigotry unless you are specifically referring to the bigotry of racism. Criticism has nothing to do with bigotry unless the criticism is motivated by bigotry.
    3) All religions have religious prescription for dealing with unbelievers, so your argument about islamism vs islam is true for every religion. The fact that muslim theocracies still exist while other religions don’t have that makes the distinction particularly useful in conversation. There are plenty of christians that have the same views but western countries have pretty much inoculated themselves against that and the christian religion in those countries have adjusted to be less political. You could easily use christianism to describe plenty of african religious beliefs, and not doing so is egocentric and “racist”, but the truth is that it doesn’t have a particular impact on western countries so the general attitude is “who cares?”.

  7. Mark Vandebrake says

    @Murat I apologize for getting Mr.Yuksel’s name wrong. There was miscommunication with the call-screener. We figured out, during the call, that we were most likely speaking with Edip Yuksel. However, I decided not to change the name, since we err on the side of caution about releasing names live.

  8. geoff says

    Dante called a week or two ago. he was the one talking with Tracy. He was all over the place with crazy stories. Tracy was nice to him and told him to get help with his psychotic episodes. He must be a troll and needs to be screened out of the show….or he is out of his mind and needs help….I think he is a troll

  9. Monocle Smile says

    @ugly

    As a fellow atheist I have been following AXP for a while, I caught up with a lot of old videos on YouTube, and I watched Matt telling his mind, cutting people in mid sentences, talking over his caller and often screaming as soon as he was interrupted. So this does not add up

    I don’t think you understand what “bigotry” means.

    Christianity has lost most of its grip on western societies. US may be an exception

    This isn’t nearly as true as you wish it to be. Ireland and Northern Ireland notably still struggle. AXP takes place in the US, and I get tired of saying that it makes perfect sense for the show to be US-centric.

    we don’t see gay people being jailed or executed even in the most backwards states in the USA

    This, sadly, isn’t really true and has the potential to become less true. There are a number of politicians who wish to bring back sodomy laws. Moreover, “it could be worse” is a shitty reason to cancel a movement.

    Political reasons and politically correctness are clearly muffling the criticisms to Islam in the western world.

    Stop saying “the western world.” The US is markedly different from Western Europe. Here in the US, “Islamism” is often just a racist dogwhistle; the “critics” don’t know the first thing about Islam, but they sure don’t like brown people in funny clothes speaking a different language.

  10. uglygeek says

    @Monocle
    Ok, I get it. Yes, Christian fundamentalism is strong in the US and dead in Europe (even in Ireland: I lived there for five years) while Islamic fundamentalism is weak in the States (but it’s just a matter of percentages, you know, and the fundamentalist Linda Sarsour is already an important voice of feminism in the States, while Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maajid Nawaz are branded as racists by the South Poverty Center).
    And at the same time Christian fundamentalism is not an issue in Western Europe where instead Islamic fundamentalism and the growth of Islam in general is a huge problem.

    And while the hypothesis of adopting sodomy laws in a country where same sex marriage just became legal seem rather unlikely, it would be nice if somebody some day would also recognise that yes, Bible thumpers are horrible, but what goes on in Islamic countries in 2017 is much worse. Non equal, not comparable, just worse. But you don’t care because you don’t live there. Got it. (At the very least, however, this should inform the debate in American politics: do you want a strong influx of Muslim migrants in the States as it happened in Europe?)

    I don’t want you to cancel your movement of course, but if it has to be so provincial, and only focused on its own navel of american red states, then it is not really interesting for me. After all I am European and even if I am living in the States now and I’ll be back in Europe soon.

  11. Monocle Smile says

    Linda Sarsour? A fundamentalist? What possibly leads you to believe that aside from conspiracy claptrap from glurge sources?

    But you don’t care because you don’t live there. Got it.

    No, I just generally care less and there’s nothing wrong with that. And I get tired of people getting butthurt because others care about their own back yard first and the people across the river second.

    (At the very least, however, this should inform the debate in American politics: do you want a strong influx of Muslim migrants in the States as it happened in Europe?)

    Sorry, this reads like reactionary nonsense. Influx of immigrants alone (key word, FYI) has very, very little to do with the problems in Western Europe. This is the same kind of bull being pushed by that caller Kieran from a while ago.

    Yes, Christian fundamentalism is strong in the US and dead in Europe (even in Ireland: I lived there for five years)

    Really?
    https://www.vice.com/en_uk/article/59zyb3/who-are-the-dup
    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/29/northern-irish-appeal-court-refuses-limited-lifting-of-abortion-ban
    There’s a very notorious case of a woman dying in Ireland because it was illegal to perform an abortion to save her life. This problem persists.

  12. uglygeek says

    >> Linda Sarsour
    See https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/01/opinion/womens-march-progressives-hate.html
    And she may have organized the Women’s March, but don’t expect she’ll organize a gay pride 🙂

    >> Ireland/Northern Ireland
    There are still sacks of Christian traditionalism in Northern Ireland, also caused by its tormented history. Yet people there are divided between allegiance to the UK (one of the most atheist countries in the world) or to Ireland (one country that lived a long nightmare of extreme Catholicism but which is now quite secular: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/17/faith-hope-and-secularity-ireland-on-brink-of-change-as-church-power-wanes)

    >> The influx of Muslims
    Honestly, I did not expect this nonsense from a smart and rational thinker like you.
    Had countries like France, UK, Belgium not had a strong and growing immigration from Muslim countries starting after WWII and increasing in the 80s and 90s, there would have not been the massacres of Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan, Nice, 7/7, London, … There is a reason why trucks don’t move down people in Warsaw.

    You should not let your political views condition your opinion on religions.

  13. uglygeek says

    And good luck debating with Dawkins and Harris, I hope they’ll make you change your opinion on this subject.

  14. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Monocle Smile #7:

    There are a number of politicians who wish to bring back sodomy laws.

    @uglygeek #8:

    And while the hypothesis of adopting sodomy laws in a country where same sex marriage just became legal seem rather unlikely

     
    Article: WashingtonPost – A fifth of Americans still think that gay relations should be illegal

    That said, though, the 2016 survey found that three in 10 Democrats, more than a third of independents and more than half of Republicans said that such relationships are always wrong.
    […]
    The trend over time is clear: More Americans are more likely to view same-sex relationships as not only legally sound but perfectly acceptable. That said, although the views [Roy Moore] expressed in 2005 were much more common at that time [(evenly split)] than they are now, if he still holds those same views, he’s far from the only one to do so.

     
    Article: Gawker – A Brief And Ugly History of the GOP’s Anti-LGBT Platform

    [The 2016] platform does, point for point, make it the most anti-LGBT platform in history.

     
    Article: Texas GOP say “NO” to Reinstating Sodomy Law without Changing Their Minds

    [After the supreme court struck down sodomy laws in 2003,] Texas, and nearly all of the other 13 states never formally repealed their laws in their legislatures although the statutes could not be enforced because of the SCOTUS ruling. Still, the legislature did not attempt to fix the law either. They were having it both ways. The law was on the books but the nasty federal government was keeping them from doing what they said was biblically-based righteousness.
    […]
    Typically the [Texas] GOP would call for the state to re-criminalize both sodomy and gay marriage in a nearly unanimous vote at the state convention held each Spring.
    […]
    As in most states, even deeply Red ones, the general public’s acceptance that the tide on this issue has turned has led to compromise with so-called bedrock principles.
    […]
    It opposes any laws that would give gays any kind of rights especially the right to marry. [Circa 2014] all of that is framed as an effort to be of Christian Assistance to those who are allegedly mentally unstable and addicted.
    […]
    As in so many other issues the GOP is caught between wide spread social trends and the views of a narrow, reactionary, and often fundamentalist core.

  15. Monocle Smile says

    @ugly

    Honestly, I did not expect this nonsense from a smart and rational thinker like you

    Do I know you?

    >> Linda Sarsour

    That makes her a radical, not a fundamentalist. You’re about as wrong as it is possible to be wrong.

    >> Ireland/Northern Ireland

    Evasion and non-response.

    Had countries like France, UK, Belgium not had a strong and growing immigration from Muslim countries starting after WWII and increasing in the 80s and 90s, there would have not been the massacres of Charlie Hebdo, Bataclan, Nice, 7/7, London, … There is a reason why trucks don’t move down people in Warsaw.

    Good luck proving that. Should we also deport all Christians, too, and prevent them from immigrating? Contrary to the incoherent screaming of Breitbart, the terrorist rate per capita in the US is immensely larger among Christians than Muslims. Furthermore, since there’s no real way to distinguish Muslims from non-Muslims, there’s no actual solution.

    Note that I’m not trying to diminish the harm that Islam causes. I’m just calling out the fallacy of relative privation that you keep pushing and wish you would identify the actual problems and causes rather than just republish reactionary sound bites.

  16. River says

    First off, I wanna say that I wish Muhammad Syed would stick around and be a host of the show! But Moving on: If one hates Muslims, it’s not racism. It’s anti-Muslim bigotry. Muslims aren’t a single race. There are Muslims from lots of different ethnicities. I’m black, and at first I was surprised that Matt Dillahunty would say such an ignorant thing. He calls himself a “redneck”.. maybe that’s part of his problem with race. He has said other racist things about black people in past episodes, and it’s obvious that he suffers from internalized racism like almost every white person in the U.S., and I would never suggest that he is an ally even though he has a black co-host. As entertaining as he is at times, my annoyance and frustration with him grows daily, and not just with race: his dismissiveness, calling people idiots, not apologizing, yelling at callers. Here’s another thing that should be noted: on one episode he was sharing his views about 3rd trimester abortions, and how he has a problem with them. Excuse me, but why should anyone care about his opinion on what people do with their own reproductive organs? Those are organs that he does not possess and therefore has no personal experience with. This is being nit-picky, but hearing him say “at the end of the day” makes me wanna tear out my dread locs! This won’t apply to every ex-believer who is a fan of the show, but I’ve heard that some callers go from worshipping god to hanging onto Matt’s every word like he’s a higher authority. That’s not a good idea. He’s just a man, and nothing should be taken as absolute truth because he said it. People need to research for themselves whatever topic Matt brings up that is interesting to them, do some introspection, and come to their own conclusions. I think this counts for other prominent atheist secularists, humanists, freethinkers, scientists, philosopers, and so on. No one is an absolute authority, and I think the non-believer movement would be more effective if people drop the, “Dawkins said it, so I believe it” sentiments and engage in independent thoughts and actions.

  17. findmore info says

    To Matt going to London,
    I recently came across some Youtube videos about London’s Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner becoming a flashpoint for Islamic radicals against atheists.
    So, if Matt happens to drop by the park, he could give our fellow atheists some help or two debating those radicals.

    Muslim (purple shirt): God exists ~ Atheist : Evolution is true
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WtgnFZWJd0I
    … and lots more videos posted by those muslims berating atheism.
    [Hyde Park Speaker’s Corner held on Sundays, from mid-morning to late afternoon]
    ~
    Support to team Matt, Richard and Sam Harris and cheers.

  18. says

    Uglygeek @8

    the hypothesis of adopting sodomy laws in a country where same sex marriage just became legal

    You seem to have missed the fact that there are separate state laws covering sodomy in America. The sodomy laws are not hypothetical and to be “adopted”, they already exist.

    Wikipedia, Sodomy Laws in the United States:

    As of April 2014, 17 states either have not yet formally repealed their laws against sexual activity among consenting adults, or have not revised them to accurately reflect their true scope in the aftermath of Lawrence v. Texas.

    Clearly, some legal and political work still needs to be done before gay marriage can be said to be completely secure in the USA.

  19. Mobius says

    The conversation with Dante was just painful to listen to.

    And I can’t blame Matt one bit for hanging up on Edip over the “bigot” comment.

  20. says

    > He is clearly afraid, very afraid, of being branded a racist or a bigot.

    Or maybe he grew up Christian in a predominantly Christian nation and is hesitant to talk as authoritatively about a religion he is far less familiar with, and which is not nearly the problem in the U.S. as many other countries–so that he’s also not as politically informed on this topic as he might be the issues with Christianity in the U.S.? The idea that he’s more cautious with words and assertions when his level of competency is much lower, I would say, is an alternative explanation that should be considered. I can’t say that is his motive, although he mentions not being as informed in the past. But knowing him personally, I find it unfathomable he’d shy away from saying what he thinks out of fear of other people’s assessments. It has never stopped him before, and I can’t see why he’d suddenly develop such a fear?

    >he is an ex-Muslim from Pakistan, so he cannot be labelled a bigot, while Matt is a white guy from Texas, so he can.

    Actually, most of Syed’s pre-cruise lecture dealt with the problem of being labeled a bigot as an ex-Muslim criticizing Islam, so this is not correct. There have been outspoken Muslim apostates who have been branded hateful bigots. And Syed even talked about how an upcoming speaking engagement he was to attend was mysteriously cancelled and the reasons seem dubious. He can’t know it’s due to push back against ex-Muslims, but because of what he’s seen elsewhere, he suspects it could be.

    I would also like to note that I monitored the live chat during the show, and a few comments included dismay that we had a “Muslim” on the show–before it was explained who Syed was. It was embarrassing to see our own audience conflating what a person in a chair looks like as an indication of their religion. But we need to own the fact that people do this. They hide their racism behind criticism of the religion, and this is a contributing factor to why people accuse critics of the religion of being racist. Because it’s a fact some are using it to promote racist agendas.

    I agree that criticism of religion is not racist. But people who hide their racist agendas behind religious criticism don’t help to allow us to make that point more clearly. If we want to be able to say that criticism of Islam isn’t racism–then we can’t be silent when someone clearly conflates race with religion in our own ranks. I saw no push back from anyone else on the thread–only one person who corrected the comment by saying “ex-Muslim.” Nobody called out that his comment (that I saw) conflated race with religion–assuming he “looked” like a Muslim, simply because of his physical features.

  21. says

    and it’s obvious that he suffers from internalized racism like almost every white person in the U.S

    Really? Kind of getting sick of this rubbish.

    All white people are racist… All men are sexist.. All heterosexuals are homophobes. When people paint with such a broad brush they are invariably incorrect.

    Give us the evidence that shows that Matt has internalised racism. Otherwise, like this is no different from what we see with so many callers on the show – an unsupported assertion.

  22. Tadas says

    I really wish Matt spent more time talking with Edip, I can understand frustration on both sides – Matt being presented with fallacious arguments and well, a fair bit of rambling, and becoming a bit passive aggressive (“I can’t believe you teach philosophy”) and Edip getting his ego hurt and calling Matt a bigot. Yet it is rare that you get Muslim callers and it is valuable to show how strikingly similar arguments for other religions are. I don’t think either Matt or Edip intended to insult each other and if they managed to put their egos aside it could have lead to a nice discussion.

  23. sean jones says

    I am pretty sure the last caller Dante has called in before. I think he clearly has some mental issues. I feel bad for him.

  24. kimsland says

    Ok I’m glad you had an Ex-Muslim on because now you have a reference that this has been done.
    BUT, I would prefer you stick with Christian belief delusions, otherwise this chap will end up taking over the show as more and more Muslims end up calling in.
    You have announced before why you mostly focus on Christianity nonsense, and I fully agree with this. Please focus on the Christianity delusional nonsense and continue the show that has been done this way since the start.
    If this sways towards Muslim delusion, I’d probably move on, as my personal thoughts on the matter is, these Muslims are found in many poorly educated countries (Turkey, Syria! etc) and getting through to these countries will take about 20years!
    Yes continue ‘theist’ callers and the supernatural conspiracy theorists, but lean on Christianity filth as the norm 🙂

    Good you had an Ex-Muslim on, but glad that’s now over. Excellent reference, now back to the highlight of the show, funny Christian gullible nonsense 🙂

  25. Murat says

    @uglygeek

    And good luck debating with Dawkins and Harris, I hope they’ll make you change your opinion on this subject.

    Dawkind and Harris are the two leading “people of reason” suffering from Islamophobia. I can’t make sure why you wrote this, but if it was addressed at Matt, I just hope the exact contarary happens and Matt leads the two to change their opinions regarding how to deal with Islam.
    Islam is a religion with varying features in a huge scope of geography and cultures.
    Islamism is what theocracy is when narrowed down to muslim-dominant countries.
    Islamophobia is a state of exaggeration, labeling, confusion, panic (and in some cases even opportunism) that is common with both educated and uneducated individuals in the USA and Europe. It’s a result of being blinded by contemporary political arguments to the point of misunderstanding what the threat actually is and how best it can be approached.
    Hosts of The Atheist Experience have so far never shown any signs of Islamophobia. Indeed, I remember them standing their ground against certain callers who seemd to follow and promote such an agenda. This is a hard line to watch and the team deserves kudos for never tainting their approach.
    Many prominent non-believer public figures from separate walks of life, including but not limited to Lawrence Krauss, Daniel Dennett, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ricky Gervais, Jim Jefferies manage well to promote reason and morals while targeting also the dogmas of Islam but without falling into the traps of Islamophobia. It is possible to severely criticize and/or mock the religion without developing and putting out a phobia.
    Islamophobia is not the antidote for the hazards associated with the religion in question. On the contrary, it fuels Islamism.

  26. Murat says

    @kimsland

    If this sways towards Muslim delusion, I’d probably move on, as my personal thoughts on the matter is, these Muslims are found in many poorly educated countries (Turkey, Syria! etc) and getting through to these countries will take about 20years!

    Whooa, whooa, whoooaaa… Hold yer horses!
    Seems you got it all backwards – the countries you named are not poorly educated. They are the ones that benefited from secular education and now are being put on the reverse track.
    If shows like AXP will help anyone in muslim-dominant countries, the most unlikely ones to reach out to are those living in Yemen, Brunei, etc.
    “A penny saved is a penny earned”… Meaning, helping the preservation of secular rule where it already has a history should be the primary objective when opening the eyes of muslims.
    But I understand that you don’t want to feel alienation when watching the show, and what you relate more to is debunking Christianity, so, ok, that part I can’t oppose…

  27. kimsland says

    Thanks Murat for your reply.
    I heard in the news less than a week ago that Turkey will be teaching Islamic belief in their junior school and then MUCH later after the kids are indoctrinated, they will teach Evolution, except they have decided to remove the first chapter (the most important part) of the biography of this (anyway you can look it up, but I’m sure you heard about it).
    THEREFORE, I do not find Turkey to be ‘secular’ unless they state they are but are actually lying in what they are really doing.

    Next Syria, as you are aware the ongoing war in Syria and close proximity is all about Islam and religious nonsense. When I see the war footage of this area it doesn’t look ‘secular’ governed to me. I do however agree there is a ‘normal’ community with schools etc going on there, but due to the ridiculous laws of religious based nonsense, I’d have to say if I had family there I’d get them out immediately DUE to the non-secular harsh environment, even if they say they are secular!

    That is why I chose those two.
    As for my personal opinion on my interests, thanks for your comment understanding that, mind you I did read it all over before posting and I thought there’s no where anyone can go against, but I must admit I forgot about these places lying to the world about what they say and what they do, being two different things.

  28. Murat says

    @Mark Vandebrake
    No problem, at least not for me 🙂 I just wanted to correct it on here (as I did on the chat during the talk) thinking some might want to google who that nutty professor was.
    I was also surprised he could sneak his way in because I had sent him the live link after Matt saying they had full lines. I’m also kinda sad he failed to use the chance well, because there were so many related topics he could contribute to. Alas…

  29. Murat says

    @kimsland
    Well, I jumped in mostly because I’m from Turkey, so was Edip originally, tho he’s a Kurd and also a US citizen for the past 25 years or so.
    It’s true that the current regime -that’s what we, the opposition, call it now as gov’t falls short of describing the perpetrators of such immense a change backwards- is fucking up with education while also destroying natural preserves, creating a farce out of what was a judiciary system, etc.
    But still, the regime is cautious in its language when pushing in theocratic fascism. They want the oppressive climate to mature, they never give up on trying to convince secular people to affirming their tricky business, etc.
    Long story short: Some countries are vibrant battlegrounds for secularism. And in such countries, there are notable percentages of population that resist. There are institutions, scientists, artists, journalists, filmmakers etc who just don’t give up. These people may or may not be atheists, but they unite in preserving what is definitely a must for well-being, stability, peace and co-existence. Namely, secular rule.
    I know this will look to absurd and complicated for an American, but just a decade ago, it was the Islamists that were promoting freedom of speech the most. Why? Because something they called hard secularism was not allowing certain things, like, covered women as public servants. They were chanting in the streets arms in arms with liberal gay actors etc.
    Take me back to 2007 and I will say “yes” to anything on the program of the fucking party that had its roots as an Islamist one but became a central-right one to gain power and has now become a combination of nationalistic + theocratic one-man rule abomination on steroids.
    They were so successful in exposing in our faces the dangers of theocratic inclinations that, in the past decade, the percentage of atheists in the country multiplied threefold.
    Who knows, maybe the annoying fact that they are now hiding evolution away will result in creating more of a focus on actual science out of schools and more prominent biologists will come out of Turkey than has ever before.
    I think there is this image of Islamists as women-stoning bearded guys in white dresses, and people are too blindsighted to notice that some guy in a three piece suit on a poker table in Las Vegas may be the son of the education minister of a country where they are now banning evolution.
    As for Syria: It never was a democracy, but remained secular under the Asad family rule. Just like Iraq, it was a secular dictatorship.
    And I have yet to understand how on earth it serves promoting secularism or serves evangelism to destroy secular dictatorships for the sake of opening more grounds for theocratic ones.

  30. Chancellor of the Exchequer says

    @#4. (uglygeek says:)

    Is this a joke, a rethorical question or a serious question? 🙂
    In Western Europe you can hardly say that Islamic terrorists believe in Islam without being called a bigot. (Eastern Europe is very different).

    A serious one, I know and expect muslims to tell ex-muslims that they’re bigots(as atheists are called bigots for questioning christianity) but not non-muslims to call other non-muslims bigots for doing the same, of course this is discounting for the background of those labelled as bigoted.

    I also doubt the commonality of that claim about the struggles of being almost labelled bigoted for tagging islamic terrorists as believers. I’d believe that they’d be denied as “true believers™ ” quicker than that as the norm there.

    Just to be clear though, it’s non-muslims calling other non-muslims bigoted for questioning islam?

  31. uglygeek says

    @Chancellor of the Exchequer
    >> Just to be clear though, it’s non-Muslims calling other non-Muslims bigoted for questioning Islam?
    It’s more of a political issue. It is not that non-Muslims call other non-Muslims bigoted for questioning Islam. It is more that North/Western Europe – no matter how religious they were in the past – are generally very secular societies today. And it is like people has forgotten what does it mean to actually *believe* in a religion.
    So every time some non-Muslim points out the danger that are inherent in the Islamic ideology, they are dismissed are racist because they see all religions as mostly inconsequential and attribute all problems (like terrorism, female genital mutilation, persecution of apostates, and so on) exclusively to economical and sociological reasons.
    So when a group of Muslims kill 100 people in a theatre in Paris journalists write thing like “Who knows what could push these young people to commit these atrocities? We’ll never know… Maybe they are mentally unstable, maybe they are very upset because they don’t have good jobs, maybe they are soldiers in a kind of asymmetrical war”
    But if somebody suggests that maybe they are killing people because many possible interpretation of the Quran invite believers to kill unbelievers and to seek martyrdom, then he is a racist.

  32. uglygeek says

    @20 heicart
    >> Actually, most of Syed’s pre-cruise lecture dealt with the problem of being labeled a bigot as an ex-Muslim criticizing Islam, so this is not correct.

    You are totally correct, I was very simplistic (and therefore wrong) in my statement, asserting that white people are more afraid to be labeled a bigot.
    In reality, ex-Muslims run the same risk, the case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali is emblematic, an atheist woman who fought against FGM and for the rights of women in Islamic countries, and which is labeled as racist in the States by the South Poverty Center and by a radical (radical, not fundamentalist, according to Matt) Muslim like Linda Sarsour, who invites American women to embrace feminism by following the dictates of Quran (!)
    And actually in the case of ex-Muslims the accusation of being racist or bigots it much more dangerous, as it singles them out as possible targets, even because apostasy itself is a crime punishable by death. In fact Ali lives in hiding.

  33. Kyle D says

    @heicart
    “I would also like to note that I monitored the live chat during the show, and a few comments included dismay that we had a “Muslim” on the show–before it was explained who Syed was. It was embarrassing to see our own audience conflating what a person in a chair looks like as an indication of their religion. But we need to own the fact that people do this. They hide their racism behind criticism of the religion, and this is a contributing factor to why people accuse critics of the religion of being racist. Because it’s a fact some are using it to promote racist agendas.”

    To me, this sounds like the exact opposite of people using religion to promote racist views. People were dismayed because they thought he was a Muslim, not because of his look. When they realised he wasn’t a muslim, it wasn’t a problem. Don’t look for racism everywhere. It isn’t a thing like a gene. I would rather that people just address specific instances on their own rather than dismissing them as racist, sexist, etc.

    For instance, if Syed looks Pakistani, then from an uninformed observer, they might assume that he is muslim. That isn’t racism any more than it is wrong to assume a man walking towards you in an alley and holding a knife is dangerous. It is what people do with that assumption that is the important thing to address.

    So, being dismayed that a Muslim is on the show isn’t racist, it is just stupid. It would be awesome to have a fundamentalist muslim on there with Matt.

  34. says

    Kyle D @36

    For instance, if Syed looks Pakistani, then from an uninformed observer, they might assume that he is muslim. That isn’t racism any more than it is wrong to assume a man walking towards you in an alley and holding a knife is dangerous.

    Erm, bit of an unfortunate comparison there, for someone claiming to not be racist.

  35. Murat says

    @Kyle D
    Also, the name may have mislead some viewers.
    Stupid, of course, but that’s how perception works.

  36. Monocle Smile says

    @Kyle D
    What NelC said. I don’t think you understand what racism means.

    @ugly
    What gives you the impression that I am Matt Dillahunty? This is one of the more baffling things I’ve encountered here.
    I would also like citations for your claims about Ali and the SPLC (you can’t even get the name right!). The SPLC has gone off the rails in recent years, but I need evidence before I conclude that 1) Ali is actually being labeled a racist and 2) that anyone besides the SPLC gives a shit.

  37. Kyle D says

    @NelC @Monocle Smile
    “Erm, bit of an unfortunate comparison there, for someone claiming to not be racist.”

    Wow, what a ridiculous statement. I am obviously merely referencing our nature to have an initial best guess at categorising a person based on first impressions. Clearly you left the final sentence from your quote of what I said for a reason. It didn’t suit your purpose of virtue signalling and halo polishing.
    To quote it here.
    “It is what people do with that assumption that is the important thing to address.”

    @Monocle Smile
    You neglected to give a clear definition of racism as you understand / mean it. Otherwise it is just name calling with power words. The antithesis of logical discussion. Calling people racist doesn’t solve problems, it creates them. People who actually want to solve problems look at specific instances and deal with the relevant variables in play.

  38. Monocle Smile says

    @Kyle D
    Do I really need to explain why assuming a man who looks Arabic is Muslim when he’s co-hosting THE ATHEIST EXPERIENCE shows prejudice? There are more than sufficient reasons to think he’s an atheist guest host than anything else.

    I also think you’re wrong about your point. You seem to be saying that it’s fine that people are prejudiced in their heads as long as they don’t act on it. That doesn’t flow. That’s a band-aid, not a cure. Beliefs inform our actions. Our actions change when we put the work into changing how we think. That’s how habits work. This has nothing to do with virtue signaling and everything to do with pointing out that you are rather hoist by your own petard, but go on, keep lecturing me about “name-calling with power words” while you spout off about virtue signaling and halo polishing.

  39. johnmaskelyne says

    A UK perspective:

    So, first I don’t think it’s accurate to say here that one can’t criticise Islam without being labelled a bigot. I do so regularly and have never so much as had the suggestion.

    Secondly, yes, it is not the same to criticise a religion, or even followers of a religion, as to be racist. However, it is fair to say that there is a substantial amount of blurring and confusion between categories in common conversation amongst a good chunk of the population.

    It is surprisingly common to find discussions referring to a rather vague and amorphous group of “Muslims”; “immigrants”; “refugees”; “asylum seekers”; “Asians”; second or third generation immigrants etc. without any clear distinction (or appreciation of mutual exclusivity!)

    So in practice, I think it is slightly idealised to suggest that the distinction between anti-Islamic views and racist views is always, or even often, clearly drawn (at least in this country).

    There was quite a famous video of a Brexit voter explaining that he had done so to, “Stop Muslims coming into the country. Free movement from Europe is fine but not people from Africa, Syria, Iraq and everywhere else”.

    Unpick that, if you can!

  40. maverickdrenzaria says

    Really good discussion. Very interesting episode. I tried calling in multiple times, but I couldn’t get on. Guess all the lines were taken. Guess I need to call in earlier.

  41. Murat says

    For those who have difficulty understanding what Islamophobia is and what its followers are paving the way to, this video by the dipshit Chris Ray Gun is a very good example. It takes him 13 minutes to let the genie out of the bootle, but when he does, he exposes his very self while trying to “expose” the guy who successfully exposed Sam Harris.

  42. paxoll says

    Islam) a group of religions, with unique beliefs and rituals prescribed to adherents.
    Muslim) A person who is a follower of Islam.
    Bigotry) intolerance and prejudice against a position different then your own.
    When you criticize Islam, you are not being bigoted. When you criticize muslims then you are, why? Because not all muslims are the same. Take treatment of women as an example. You can criticize how Islam calls for the treatment of women, this rarely happens because virtually every Abrahamic religion calls for women to be treated horribly. So the problem is how the adherents of a religion (in this example muslims) treat women. The problem here is for any individual you don’t know the reason why they behave the way they do, maybe they are just following their religion, maybe they are just misogynists. Now you take that “treatment” of women that you are trying to use as an argement, you place the women in America with freedom to participate in their religion and they CHOOSE to participate in that “treatment” what happens to your argument? Your argument becomes bigoted because it becomes nothing more then an intolerance to a position different then your own. This is why conflation of criticism of Islam to muslims is bigotry and fail in rational arguments, and why I think Matt is very careful when these discussions arise because he doesn’t want to make a mistake.

  43. Kyle D says

    @Murat
    Just spent 30 minutes watching that video while eating lunch. I checked again at the 13 minute mark but couldn’t see the reference you are referring to. Was it the Ted Cruz point? I haven’t watched all of the material that he references but for the purposes of discussion can you please point out which bits you think best describe islamophobia?

  44. Murat says

    @Kyle D
    Till minute 13, the narrator sort of manages to hold back, to keep acting as if he does not particularly agree with the weird stuff SH was being questioned for. After that point, he begins to advocate the exact same thing by following the same flawed logic and the same way of singling out Islam.
    Practically, the narrator puts himseld in SH’s shoes, maybe because that was where he always belonged, or maybe because the manipulation worked in his case, and SH, remotely, influenced him to do so.
    *
    If you were an intellectual calling for the destruction of a massive group of people, how would you do that?
    Would you, just like an uneducated moron, hit the street and begin to scream “Nuke ’em!”.
    No. This would not at all fit with anything else you are known to do well.
    You would try to influence people of your caliber by getting into their minds. By creating game theories that you could manipulate in various ways; by first manufacturing and then fleshing out the very thing you could use as a pretext for the orchestration of that ultimate goal.
    If you were a person with considerable influence on educated, sane individuals, you’d know better than coming out with megadeath fantasies that would not correspond to civil concerns. So, you’d first bend and twist the reality surgically, working on every single detail in a convincing way.
    That’s how you’d put your spell: Not by using chicken legs, but by talking reason all the way just to end up with the most unreasonable idea of all.
    You would do the exact same thing SH has been doing for the past years.
    Attention: I’m not saying that this is why SH is doing this. I’m just saying he’d follow the very same path if he were.
    *
    On several occasions during my teen years, I had encounters with fundemantalist imams and such, people who try to indoctrinate the youth, inviting them into what they see as the correct version of religion. Even though they were careful with the language, you could clearly understand that they were the kind of zealots who’d be ok, or maybe even happy with “killing the infidel”.
    But it took many decades for me to encounter an imam that could be creative enough to come up with the wild ass assertion that, the idea of one forcing upon himself a possible death by nuclear warfare would pass as martyrdom, as part of jihad, hence would open the gates of heaven.
    Wanna know who that imam was? It’s Sam Harris!
    And my first encounter with this absurdly convoluted idea was when I watched for the first time this video where he and Cenk Uygur talk.
    Maybe you’re familiar with the term agent provocateur. Try not to think of the sexy lingerie brand, but just focus on the original, political meaning and usage. Quoting from an online dictionary:
    “A person employed to induce others to break the law so that they can be convicted.”
    SH is carrying this to a whole new level, infiltrating not physically but mentally behind enemy lines, and influencing them to practice a cubed and derailed version of their already extremist agenda.
    *
    Many people within the islamic faith consider jihad mainly as struggle. Some narrow it down to warfare. When something like crashing planes into buildings was presented as a form of jihad, and the attackers who did so as possible martyrs, it did create quite a blunder within the fundamentalists. And now, thanks to this game theory, SH is, by himself, carrying it to an absurd level. He first proposes that, in case an Islamist regime has nuclear weapons, for them to use such weapons would result in a counter-attack, hence, death by such a counter-attack would equate to martyrdom, and for this very thought (which is trademarked to himself) poses more significant a threat than any other regime having such weapons, a first strike aganist such an Islamist regime should be on the table.
    Woooowww…
    I just can not believe there are reasonable people who simply fall into this.
    Sam Harris the imam brings into existence a fatva that contradicts with every known version of what a jihad is, and promotes it in the open.
    For all I know, even the most savage, most brainwashed, most blood thirsty jihadist has on mind domination of the world. This is why they take it to extremes. They want to rule the world with islamic dogma. But SM proposes that, what would obviously result in the annihilation of the very land they currently rule, plus maybe the destruction of the whole world, should also be considered jihad and make martyrs out of them, hence they could just push the button if they ever possessed nuclear guns.
    *
    When people carelessly fabricate huge piles of shit to serve a certain agenda of theirs, do we not simply call that religion?
    *
    Sam Harris opposes to the idea that he is more dangerous than Sarah Palin.
    I agree.
    This is a huge understatement of his influence.
    He is more dangerous than any other theoretical jihadist.

  45. says

    Kyle D @40: “Virtue signalling”? Are you going to accuse me of being an SJW next?

    If you can’t see the problem in comparing a man with a knife coming at me in an alley with a Pakistani — just any Pakistani, man, woman, child, interior designer, policeman, or person in the street — then I think you lack the self-awareness to not to be a racist or bigot of some kind. Damn straight I’m going to be nervous of meeting someone in an alley with a drawn knife; I really don’t have that reaction when I meet Pakistanis.

  46. Monocle Smile says

    @NelC
    To be fair, that’s not really what Kyle D was saying, but it’s a pretty terrible analogy. He’s just talking about reasonable preconceptions in general…but in the case of Syed, the preconception is not reasonable.

  47. johnmaskelyne says

    @Murat

    I’m sure I don’t agree with everything Sam Harris says on the topic (without delving too far) and I certainly don’t agree with the chap making the video you posted (his point about interment camps was really very obtuse, for example).

    However, I’m not quite sure that I see the issue with the mutually assured destruction point. Assuming Harris’ views are accurately summed up in his discussion of the point here https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=z7T7barZEeU then I’m not sure I wildly disagree.

    Being very careful to note all the implicit caveats (which I hope I don’t have to list) then the following seems fairly reasonable to me : if an individual or individuals, possessed of the mindset that they are willing to conduct a suicide attack, had the ability to launch a nuclear attack, then mutually assured destruction may not be a deterrent in the same way as for individuals not possessed of that mindset.

    But perhaps I’m missing something?

  48. flowerma says

    It is good to have a Muslim on, but it would have been better to have a host that knows Islam, and did not try to insert blanket assertions and implications based on western anti islamic apologetic that he heard somewhere else.

  49. Murat says

    @johnmaskelyne
    You are missing the fact that, it’s Sam Harris himself who makes the huuuge jump from the mindset of perpetrating a suicide attack to that of willing to be killed by nuclear warfare.

    Now that we are living in a realm where this jump has already been made by him philosophically, you are looking back at these two absolutely irrelevant kinds and scales of threats as if there really is some solid notion to connect them. And yes, you are right (as of now) because the very thing that connects the two is the crooked perspective Sam Harris produced all by himself.

    Before this loooong mental bridge was constructed, had you ever heard of any cleric or terrorist leader talk about having themselves killed by nukes, claiming this would provide a pass to martyrdom via jihad?

    I have not.

    And it is very normal that I have not, because what the hell does experiencing a megadeath in retalliation have anything to do with a suicide attack?
    *
    The first time I listened to a religious discussion on whether a suicide attacker could be considered a martyr was probably 25 years or so ago, on TV. For it is very well established in Islam that suicide is a big sin, and that one who commits suicide would end up burning in hell forever, the issue was a problematic one. If I am not mistaken, the birth of this theoretical / religious discussion was shortly after one of the very first vawes of suicide bombings in occupied Palestinian terriories. And though I vaguely recall the comments made back then, I remember quite clearly one that went like this: “Yes they aim not at the most proper targets and yes they definitely will burn in hell for commiting suicide. But after all, they are sacrificing both their lives and their afterlives for the cause of not letting their people live like pariahs, so, they at least don’t deserve to be talked down on. May god forgive them.”
    *
    Well… Once the seed of an idea is buried deep into society, you can not control what it will grow up to be… That was just 25 years ago. More than half of a lifetime for me, but almost nothing when you consider the history of mankind and the history of one particular religion.
    *
    Before that era in which Palestinians had begun to blow themselves up, suicide of any kind was a huge taboo for any muslim. It would be a very sharp dichotomy to refer to a man who did that as a marty. The only people from the history of Islamic geography who were remembered as suicide attackers were the Persian assassins of Alamut, whom Sunnis (or, anyone other than Shiites) would only mock and hate, and the Shiites would not place into any theoretical or religious discussion. They were substance addicted bandits of folklore, and nothing more.
    *
    Ask today’s fundemantalists, and most of them will tell you that they believe the idea of jihad could make plausible suicide missions, hence, a person commiting such an act in the name of god could well deserve to step into heaven.
    *
    What is it that changed in the meantime? Did someone come up with a Quran 2.0?

    No.

    Or, more possibly, did people begin to fabricate more hadith, this time touching on the issue of martyrdom, giving a pass for Heavens to suicide attackers?

    Sounds more likely, but no, I personally never heard of such a recently fabricated back-up story.

    Then, what is it that changed the doctrine (as SH would just looove to call it) so quickly?

    Everything other than the pre-existing religious texts and traditions: Political reality, moods of people, the level and abundance of violence they get subjected to growing up, and most importantly, how suicide attackers were being seen by others, namely the Christians, atheists, etc.
    *
    The realm of a religion is not made only of the culture and the emergence from within. When a president of a secular western country is seen on TV saying something, coming up with a definition or an idea, it reaches everyone.

    Every single human being is affected by neurolinguistic programming in some way.
    It happens in our daily lives even if we can’t point at it.
    Everyone is open to the influence of popular culture. There’s nothing weird about the finales of Independence Day and Fight Club having a doping effect on 9/11 hijackers, nor with the investigators taking opinions from certain directors shortly after the attacks

    If people on one side of the world struggle wildly on how better to emphasize the dangers one religion is posing, this does nothing other than contribute to the magnitude and the nature of the threat in question.

    Remember The Forbidden Planet and you will get a much better grasp of what I’m saying here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049223/?ref_=fn_al_tt_3
    *
    If, within ten years, a savage Islamist regime arises from the ruins of whatever war zone, and if their leader manages to possess nukes… And if he begins to promote the far fetched idea that being annihilated in retalliation would make his people martyrs… And if he pushes a button based on that doctrine… Then, who will be the true mastermind of that grand scheme?

    Some barbaric desert warrior who could never have built the theory himself?

    No! It is Sam Harris who is constructing the whole gateway, who is filling in all the gaps between the idea of suicidal martyrs (which, in itself, is already a new thing) and the fantasy of a megadeath.
    *
    The man has been single handedly scripting, directing and promoting the whole thing. He’s a genius. I don’t think any cleric from within the world of Islam could build up so realistically the self-conflicting theory that, causing the world to end could, by God, be interpreted as the very same thing as dominating it.
    *
    You are missing the fact that, all this attention towards the immense threat of Islam, all those myths and bits and pieces about it, are making it grow.

    Well, yes, it’s a free country and Sam Harris has all the right to work on theoretical jihadism and publish his ideas. There’s nothing to do about it.

    What I can’t stand is to see such names being regarded as mere observers. The hell they are! They are setting up the lab, placing the ideas in the right tubes, arranging the room temperature and then they begin to talk about the whole deal as if it’s a puzzle that just popped up into existence.
    *
    Sam Harris may be outside the belief, but he is in the game. That probable future leader of that Islamist evil regime is most likely listening to his mentally better-equipped comrades who have read Sam Harris’ books. “See, this is what terrifies the infidel! And he has a point, our own willfully accepted annihilation could equate to reaching heaven without further ado! The reasoning seems right!”
    *
    That particular segue way could not seriously be brought to public attention through islamistic ways of thinking.
    Take my word on that.
    It takes someone from outside the belief system to make that leap… Someone with really deep thinking, really strong phobia and really creative mind…
    *
    You know what certain desert savages of great power still lack? Intellectuals to guide them! And thank whatever, in this age they have full access to the brains of such people from far away lands.

    The way Sam Harris deals with these issues has long elevated him from the spectator seat. What I fail to understand is whether he himself is truly aware of that or not… Is he consciously helping pave the way to more severe conflicts, or is he too naive to see his actual, practical role?

    That, I don’t know.

  50. Simon & Mrs Wendy Hosking says

    Murat
    “You are missing the fact that, it’s Sam Harris himself who makes the huuuge jump from the mindset of perpetrating a suicide attack to that of willing to be killed by nuclear warfare”

    I’m not expert on Muslim doctrine, but it doesn’t seem to be such a big leap to me. If you perceive both forms of death as being part of a ‘Holy War’ then surely they are both good things. I’m not saying this is the way Muslims will interpret this, but it makes sense to me.

    – Simon

  51. Murat says

    @Simon

    I’m not expert on Muslim doctrine, but it doesn’t seem to be such a big leap to me.

    It doesn’t seem so to you, because you currently have knowledge of the game theory Sam Harris came up with. Someone told you there was a fat chihuahua in that box, and now you look at the box and it seems quite reasonable to you that there actually may be a fat chihuahua in that box.
    This is part of how neurolinguistic programming works.
    *

    If you perceive both forms of death as being part of a ‘Holy War’ then surely they are both good things.

    The first person on earth to ever perceive those totally irrelevant forms of death as similar with regards to being parts of a ‘Holy War’ is Sam Harris.
    *

    I’m not saying this is the way Muslims will interpret this, but it makes sense to me.

    You can bet on it that there will be muslims to interpret it this way, because it will make sense to them just like it did to you, because they and you have been subjected to the same creative segue way.
    *
    What SH calls the docrine of Islam is not something that has been developing in a totally closeted glass room. He and many other public voices, be they in or out of the belief, are manipulating by bits and pieces the evolution of perceptions towards it and inside it, becoming more on more part of the steering mechanism in correlation to the power of their influence on people.

  52. Simon & Mrs Wendy Hosking says

    @Murat
    (side note – my initials are also SH so this reads weird for me)
    Umm – no, this is something that I came to in discussions with my Muslim flat mate decades ago (during the Bosnian conflict – that’s how long ago). That would make me and my flat mate as the first to think of this which I really doubt – about as much as I doubt that Harris was the first.

    I think you’re attributing way too much power and influence to Harris.

    – Simon

  53. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Murat #55:

    This is part of how neurolinguistic programming works.

     
    Article: Wikipedia – Neuro-linguistic Programming

    NLP has since been overwhelmingly discredited scientifically, but continues to be marketed by some hypnotherapists and by some companies that organize seminars and workshops on management training for businesses.
    […]
    Scientific reviews state that NLP is based on outdated metaphors of how the brain works that are inconsistent with current neurological theory and contain numerous factual errors. Reviews also found that all of the supportive research on NLP contained significant methodological flaws and that there were three times as many studies of a much higher quality that failed to reproduce
    […]
    Although the original core techniques of NLP were therapeutic in orientation their genericity enabled them to be applied to other fields. These applications include persuasion, sales, negotiation, management training, sports, teaching, coaching, team building, and public speaking.
     
    In the early 1980s, NLP was advertised as an important advance in psychotherapy and counseling, and attracted some interest in counseling research and clinical psychology. However, as controlled trials failed to show any benefit from NLP and its advocates made increasingly dubious claims, scientific interest in NLP faded. Numerous literature reviews and meta-analyses have failed to show evidence for NLP’s assumptions or effectiveness as a therapeutic method. […] the consensus scientific opinion is that NLP is pseudoscience
     
    Among the reasons for considering NLP a pseudoscience are that evidence in favor of it is limited to anecdotes and personal testimony, that it is not informed by scientific understanding of neuroscience and linguistics, and that the name “neuro-linguistic programming” uses jargon words to impress readers and obfuscate ideas, whereas NLP itself does not relate any phenomena to neural structures and has nothing in common with linguistics or programming.

  54. johnmaskelyne says

    @Murat

    Erm … well…. where to begin? So firstly I think you might be overestimating how new a thought this is. People have been worrying (rightly or wrongly) and commentators commenting about the threat of an “Islamic bomb” for decades. The point about MAD is also far from new or original to Sam Harris.

    But – like the other poster above – I don’t think it is such a big leap that we need commentators to spur the thought. I’m afraid Sam would have to have popped back in time to programme me, for example, as I wasn’t aware of his comments until reading this thread.

    At a (very!) simple level the “leap” from being prepared to blow oneself and others up with a small bombs to blowing oneself and more others up with big bombs just doesn’t seem as large as you suggest.

    I’m sure I’m sure I have only a slight dataset on what jihadi preachers have or haven’t specifally called for as mechanisms (though I do seem to recall the phrase “nuclear hellfire” from Al Qaeda back in the day).

    However the main point is that you seem to feel that a good number of things are not just unlikely but are actually unthinkable. If I’m reading you right, you seem to be suggesting that so long as no one (particularly Sam Harris) mentions it, no jihadi, indeed no Muslim, would ever conceive of the notion.

    I think the problem there is that, even based on the tiny number of people commenting on this thread, you may be (rather vastly) overestimating how unthinkable a thought it is!

  55. Murat says

    @johnmaskelyn

    I think the problem there is that, even based on the tiny number of people commenting on this thread, you may be (rather vastly) overestimating how unthinkable a thought it is!

    It’s not unthinkable at all that any regime possessing nuclear warheads may at any given time actually use them. This is not what is in question here.
    The point I have been making is that, an effort to single out a particular (and, currently non-existent) one as a more notable threat is by definition phobia. And the celebration of this phobia only adds to the possibility of paths that may result in bringing to life the more catastrophic scenarios.
    *

    I’m afraid Sam would have to have popped back in time to programme me, for example, as I wasn’t aware of his comments until reading this thread.

    Did you, before reading this thread, have on mind as the most serious nuclear threat a regime that exists, say, North Korea, or one that is yet to emerge?
    *
    I’m not overestimating the influence of Sam Harris as an individual thinker. I just find him to be a notable example of those who are practically (though maybe not knowingly) obsessed in self-confirming predictions involving the subjects of certain phobias.

  56. Murat says

    @Simon

    Umm – no, this is something that I came to in discussions with my Muslim flat mate decades ago (during the Bosnian conflict – that’s how long ago). That would make me and my flat mate as the first to think of this which I really doubt – about as much as I doubt that Harris was the first.

    So, you are suggesting that, decades ago you and your muslim flat mate had already concluded that, initiating nuclear warfare with the notion that a retalliation (which would annihilate the initiator’s god-protected land!) would pass as jihad, hence, would be a shortcut to martyrdom.
    *
    1) This is a perfect example to what I previously wrote:

    What Sam Harris calls the docrine of Islam is not something that has been developing in a totally closeted glass room. He and many other public voices, be they in or out of the belief, are manipulating by bits and pieces the evolution of perceptions towards it and inside it, becoming more on more part of the steering mechanism in correlation to the power of their influence on people.

    You (presumably) weren’t a muslim while your flat mate was. It doesn’t matter which of you was the more curious one about coupling the idea of a nuclear threat and the definition of martyrdom, but it’s quite obvious that not all participants of this very discussion were bearded men residing in caves in the mountains of Afghanistan. So, there is no closeted glass room, as opposed to what someone who promotes the idea of counter-profiling (which, eventually, is profiling) at the airports keeps moving on with the idea of.
    *
    2) Attention on this remark:

    …becoming more on more part of the steering mechanism in correlation to the power of their influence on people

    So, the two of you are off the hook with regards to my main criticism towards Sam Harris only because, as I had noted elsewhere,

    That particular segue way could not seriously be brought to public attention through islamistic ways of thinking.

    I did not say someone who was never a muslim could not come up with a similar fatva. Yes, just like you two had, it could be manufactured by anyone. What it takes is to dig into the existing piles of religious doctrine, then reshaping, polishing and transforming the core idea only to be put in the store window as brand new concept.
    But -thankfully- there were no cameras around you guys when you were entertaining the thought, nor was either of you a public voice on such issues. You just took the genie out of the bottle and then put it back there. Unlike yours, the attitude and the words of certain people resonate – not only within an echo chamber, but also behind enemy lines.
    *
    I stand my ground on the criticism towards Sam Harris and can happily further argue, but we should first narrow it down to the core and establish well that what you are hearing is what I am saying.

  57. Murat says

    @Sky Captain #57

    Clearly, we can be wrong about our motivations. But there are certain cases where it is more or less reasonable to suspect somebody is wrong. We can set up an experiment where you are going to be manipulated by subliminal priming, where you are going to think you did something for reasons, whereas we know that the thing that tipped the balance was not something you were even aware of.
    For example, I can give you a list of words all of which have something to do with the ocean.
    Ocean, seashore, shell, beach… You look at these words, and then I’m going to want you to name a laundry detergent.
    And you’re going to think “Tide”, you’re very likely to come up with “Tide” and not whatever the other one is.
    So… We can set it up in such a way that you’re not going to know that was why you thought of “Tide”.
    – Sam Harris

  58. johnmaskelyne says

    @ Murat

    So I’m not sure I was saying any of those things. I agree that there is a possibility of any nuclear regime using their weapons. I agree this is not the question! The question is, instead, whether MAD is an effective deterrent to that possibility – I would say more in some cases than others.

    To suggest that this is less of deterrent to those who are prepared to be destroyed to achieve their aim is not, I would say, a phobia, at least in the sense of it not being irrational. Why do you think it would be no less a deterrent?

    I also, as it happens, don’t think I suggested it was the largest or most pressing nuclear threat (nor have I seen Sam Harris say so, but perhaps he has elsewhere).

    I would actually say North Korea is right now but for very similar reasons. I don’t have confidence that Kim would necessarily place the survival of himself or his people above a victory and blaze of glory. But I think that’s consistent on my part (and just to be clear demonstrates that it is this mindset that we are singling out, not race or religion).

    Not to jump on to anyone else’s discussion but you seem rather disbelieving of Simon’s claim. I’m afraid I am in the very same camp and recall discussing this in response to the term “war on terror”. I think, whilst you perhaps don’t believe it, that this is really not such an unusual thought and that people can happily think of it without being programmed, or even prompted, by public commentators.

  59. CompulsoryAccount7746, Sky Captain says

    @Murat #61:
    In #57, I was only pointing out it was problematic that you name-dropped rank pseudoscience while implying that it worked. A charitable interpretation would be that you included the term by mistake.
     
    You responded with a quote from Harris himself, about priming – presumably taken from a free will discussion (being unclear about one’s own motivation, regarding deterministic proximate causes of thought). I don’t understand what you intended to accomplish by citing him. I haven’t followed Harris closely but am unaware of statements endorsing NLP. If you meant priming, not NLP, you can say that.
     
     
    Article: Wikipedia – Priming (psychology)

    For example, if a person reads a list of words including the word table, and is later asked to complete a word starting with tab, the probability that he or she will answer table is greater than if they are not primed. Another example is if people see an incomplete sketch they are unable to identify and they are shown more of the sketch until they recognize the picture, later they will identify the sketch at an earlier stage than was possible for them the first time.
    […]
    Although semantic, associative, and form priming are well established, some longer-term priming effects were not replicated in further studies, casting doubt on their effectiveness or even existence. Nobel laureate and psychologist Daniel Kahneman has called on priming researchers to check the robustness of their findings in an open letter to the community, claiming that priming has become a “poster child for doubts about the integrity of psychological research.” Other critics have asserted that priming studies suffer from major publication bias, experimenter effect and that criticism of the field is not dealt with constructively.

  60. Murat says

    @johnmaskelyne

    To suggest that this is less of deterrent to those who are prepared to be destroyed to achieve their aim is not, I would say, a phobia, at least in the sense of it not being irrational. Why do you think it would be no less a deterrent?

    Very simple:
    Because the aim, with regards to (the aggressive version of) jihad is gaining more land to implement islamic rule on.
    The ultimate earthly goal of an Islamist is to promote and/or force (depending on levels of extremism) as many lands to become islamic as possible. The belief with regards to this particular issue is that, if people die on a mission to provide further spreading of islam, god will take them to heaven.
    This concept of martyrdom is as well established as what a gambit means in a game of chess, which would very basically be as follows:

    An opening move in which a player makes a sacrifice, typically of a pawn, for the sake of a compensating advantage.

    The premise of chess is never to lose the squares that you are currently able to control, nor to keep performing strikes of sacrifice for the sole purpose of taking the opponent’s pieces. If one is playing chess, he is in it for the end game. To have victory over the opponent, to corner their king.
    *
    For the sake of argument, let’s assume Islamic faith and culture has never had a serious problem with the idea of suicide, and consider the suicide attacks as very genuine, rooted and undebatable features of the religion.
    In the example of Palestinians, these attacks are made where Israeli army personnel or orthodox Jewish settlers are in control; or at worst, where Israeli civilians are the majority.
    In the example of 9/11, the hijackers made the strike right into what they see as the infidel’s heart.
    Same goes for whatever terror has been going on in Europe: The pieces (pawns, mostly) either acquisce, or willingly perform in acts of self sacrifice. In their minds, this is something to provide for their own a better future, one in which their children will presumably live in lands under the rule of their god.
    *
    Sam Harris suggests that most of these people would not take part in such terror acts had they not been mesmerized by the belief that heaven, with its 72 virgins etc, was awaiting. I would say that may not necessarily be the case in every single example, but let’s round it up to a strong 100% and move on with the assumption that it is the belief of afterlife as supported by a jihadist doctrine that made them do it:
    *
    There is no such move in chess that allows you to take a piece of your own by using another piece of your own.
    *
    The whole premise of jihad is based on gaining more land, on opening more fertile grounds for the alleged god to impose its rule on a growing number of subjects, recruits, infants to be raised muslim etc.
    *
    Given the chance, can a jihadist leader push a button and nuke another country? Yes, of course. If he is planning on moving in there subsequently with ground forces, of taking charge in other lands controlled or influenced by that country, of course he can!
    It goes the same with any other regime owning nukes:
    That’s why NATO and the USSR were engaged in a seemingly endless game of tic tac toe till the end of the cold war era.
    *
    So, with regards to possessing nukes, a jihadist regime is not different in scope than any other renegade state.
    But, listen well to what Sam Harris is arguing:
    He says that, if an islamist regime possesses nukes, they may use their nukes with the expectation of being killed altogether in retalliation for they would believe that to pass as jihad.
    *
    Throughout the (mostly violent) history of Islamic conquests, not once has a leader interpreted the loss or annihilation of their very land as a jihadist gain. If I put on a muslim hat and think of such a scenario in the light of all the attempts of indoctrination I was subjected to… plus, all arguments I had listened to and read about here and there on islamic rules, warfare and theology… I’d name this as counter-jihad.
    This is, like, sitting down to play chess, then sacrificing all your pieces, slamming down the board, and looking up to the referee to register your win.
    The hard-earned (or, hard-conquered) land is so precious according to the jihadist mentality that, projecting spiritual gain through the planned loss/b> of it makes me think a first strike can be on the table for islamists only if they are somehow certain there would be no kind of retalliation. And in such a scenario where they have the upper hand, why would they nuke the target, and not simply march in with conventional methods, converting forcefully or massacring the infidels city by city?
    *
    The train of thought Sam Harris follows on this particular game theory lacks at least three or four wagons. What he proposes requires a high-end abstraction, which is one of the primary concepts one needs to lack in order to get stuck not only in a religion, but also in one of that religion’s most primitive, most aggressive interpretations.
    See, we moved along the lines of only the most hardcore interpretation of jihad, not even mentioning how the people seeing it as “winning hearts and minds” could reject this approach.
    *
    I am not saying such an abstraction of the whole concept of jihad can not get established. It sure can, over time. Just like the tradition of manufacturing hadith-on-demand has overthrown the motto and the notion of “Quran and Quran only” within Islam’s first centuries, the religion can step by step absorb weirdly some abstractions of its infamous premises.
    What I am saying is, the very act of pinpointing to such a possibility is, in itself, one of the steps to that goal.
    *
    “Acting is reacting” says Stella Adler in The Art of Acting.
    If not Plato, Shakespeare had long ago made us understand the world was a stage and we were all actors.
    The way Sam Harris deals with these issues, in my humble opinion, is one that forces too much a dichotomy on every single example, leading the other actor to accept his role as was suggested by the opponent.
    When I notice certain bold assertions coming from intellectuals, I can’t help but think of how Batman and the Joker caused the creations of each other in the first Burton movie. The Joker was never external to what Batman truly is.
    *
    Let’s think of a border town in Southern Texas in the late 19th century… The trio of John Maskelyn, Simon Hosking and Murat are, for some reason, passing from there… They give a few silver coins to the hostler, leave their horses at the stable and step into the saloon for a drink… Of course, they notice that there are quite a few men wearing pistols… Gunslingers, mostly… But also rangers, maybe robbers or outlaws of some other kind… For various reasons, every third man in this town carries a gun.
    While checking out the girls and drinking beer, the visitors notice that on the table next to theirs sits a decent guy. After some small talk, they understand he is a journalist, that he has been visiting such towns and taking notes, in an effort to assess the future of the region. He introduces himself to the trio as Sam Harris.
    The guy has cool ideas on how best to improve the conditions for all. He addresses many different problems in a reasonable fashion: How drunk cowboys pose a threat to the girls in such saloons, why the number of undertakers has multiplied threefold in the past decade, what should be done about the poverty of Mexican peasants, how the only teacher in town fell down a cliff and the kids are missing out on education, etc… After establishing that “there are many different kinds of dangers for any civil person in this town”, at one point, Sam Harris begins to talk about some Mexicans (not all!) who should be seen as “particulary more of a concern”. With a careful gesture of his hand, he shows the table those guys are at. And, oh my, they look really threatening even from a distance. Mr. Harris gives examples to how dangerous this gang is, by narrating various incidents in which their members stabbed innocents to death, etc. And goes on to say that, “if one day one of these guys owns a pistol, then we will have some serious trouble in this town!”
    John Maskelyn and Simon Hosking find it reasonable that new measures of gun control would become a true necessity in such a case.
    However, Murat, a bit puzzled, asks: “Why is gun control not a must at this very point, and for everyone? You already told us of some killings in mass numbers by a few notorious gunslingers in the past. And it looks like some other people in here are carrying many more than just one pistol…Do we really need to address that issue with an emphasis on some Mexicans? Brown, black, white or not, everyone should abide by the laws at all times, and the less guns they have in here, the safer for all. No?”
    What Sam Harris says in reply goes like this: “Sure, sure… But, see, these Mexicans are less afraid of death than the gunslingers we already have… So, it would be a much bigger problem if they possessed guns!”
    *
    That kind of reasoning is what I have a problem with.
    The premise of being a gunslinger and accepting the idea of a duel to death is as simple as that of a chess game:
    You either kill, or get killed. That’s it.
    The same rule applies to everyone being in that dangerous business. Singling out some currently unarmed thugs while talking about gun control is not any different than advocating for the NRA while protesting the KKK.
    Some things just go without saying, and it’s not too hard to draw a conclusion from how one is leading a conversation.
    *
    The BLM movement was in response to police bias against blacks. People were not asking the police forces to simply let go of criminals if they happened to be colored. What bothered people was the common practice, which showed different levels of tolerance to possible threats based on the ethnicity of the suspects.
    Recently, I read that the police used taser on a white assailant after the man had stabbed a cop. In many other cases, it was seen sufficient for many black suspects to be shot to death just because they had a knife in hand. If a taser is enough against someone who already attempted murder right on the scene, how come it be necessary for another person to be killed just because of possible threat?
    I’m well aware that not even every single cop finding themselves in such situations is a racist. He may be a very decent officer and a “fine person”. But racism is a bigger than individual inclinations and it seems to affect the general attitude of police forces in the USA.
    The emerging equivalent of such a double standard is Islamophobia. I find it quite easy to tell the phobia apart from criticizing Islam or mocking islamic stuff. But I also notice that many other people don’t.
    Come to think of it, maybe just likes it requires being black to make the call for when to use the n word, it may take coming from some kind of a related background to distinguish Islamophobia from unbiased commentary.

  61. Murat says

    @Sky Captain

    I haven’t followed Harris closely but am unaware of statements endorsing NLP. If you meant priming, not NLP, you can say that.

    I was referring to how he could be, willingly or not, causing a manipulation.
    While writing that, I did not differentiate at all how it would change the point of the criticism and the concern.
    It will be totally okay and more suitable to retract NLP from the sentence and put priming in its place, given the latter is what he also accepts as a method.

  62. johnmaskelyne says

    @Murat

    I don’t think I agree with your definition. If jihad is solely about gaining land and only carried out where this can be achieved as an immediate follow up then this seems completely at odds with all the real examples we have. No follow troops, flags or boundary markers appeared in London, Manchester, Paris, New York etc. etc.

    In fact you refer to this yourself, as striking at the infidel’s heart or presumably creating a better future for their children. Not about marching in ground troops. So that really doesn’t work for me or, I think, for you.

    I appreciate that you speculate that our imaginary jihadis would not, on balance, be willing to see themselves and their homeland destroyed in order to destroy a New York or a London. But that is simply speculation, as indeed is the counter view. It is not, however, supported by examples of jihadi actions to date. Clearly there are those who are happy to kill themselves and to ignore collateral damage (whether Muslims or non-Muslims).

    In your Mexican example then, yes of course, it would be safer for all if no one had any guns. However, we have our imaginary Mexicans, who have declared their intent to kill all the non-Mexican townspeople and are happy to run into a hail of bullets, and die, in order to kill as many folks as possible. We also have our barkeeper, who stores his shotgun behind the bar in case of attack. We really shouldn’t be more worried about the Mexicans than the barman?

  63. Murat says

    @johnmaskelyne
    You keep missing the same point, and it seems you have mixed two separete situations from that last post with each other:
    From a jihadist’s point of view, what is okay to cause the destruction of is always out of the currently islamic territory. I provided examples about suicide attacks. Those people do not go on and just provoke a stronger force with the intent of being killed by a predictable retalliation in their own territory and at the expense of losing their existing land.
    Basically: Fundemantalists want the islamic rule to spread, and not to disappear.
    Remember that in this context, we are talking about those who seek to do so by means of war. So, the very essence of war is to gain more land.
    Sam Harris reverses that logic and applies the accepted destruction of their very own land as a goal through which they would believe to reach heaven.
    *

    If jihad is solely about gaining land and only carried out where this can be achieved as an immediate follow up then this seems completely at odds with all the real examples we have. No follow troops, flags or boundary markers appeared in London, Manchester, Paris, New York etc. etc.

    I was talking particulary about one imaginary islamist regime having the upper hand in nuclear warfare when telling you about how they would take advantage of the situation. The point was that, if they were superior already, why would they not use the threatening power of such a military simply by engaging in conventional warfare to march in; the point being not to make the land inhabitable for many years as a result of nuclear aftermath.
    *
    God’s promise, the way they interpret it, is simple: “Do your best to spread my rule over more lands, and I will take you to paradise if you happen to die struggling to do so.”
    It doesn’t work the other way round. The jihadist can not reverse the deal and expect to be considered a martyr by doing the exact opposite, meaning, by willingly accepting the destruction of the land that is already under islamic rule.
    And this is how Sam Harris tries to bind jihadist’s lack of fear to his excuse for a first strike.
    *

    However, we have our imaginary Mexicans, who have declared their intent to kill all the non-Mexican townspeople and are happy to run into a hail of bullets, and die, in order to kill as many folks as possible.

    In Harris’ approach with regards to nukes, the Mexicans are doing so not to be the survivors in the aftermath, but to have themselves killed. And aiming to draw the attention to the Mexicans, he is throwing in a far fetched and reversed abstraction of what their doctrine actually is.
    In reality, these particular Mexicans are bloodthirsty just because they want to get rid of everyone else and rule the town themselves. Suicide is not their prerogative. Victory, however, is. They have families in Juarez, and the very reason they want to rule further north is to be able to provide for these families, to move their bases up step by step, to be able to loot and plunder other towns. A plan based on the destruction of themselves, their children and their hometown makes is a no win situation.
    And this makes them no different than any other criminal with a gun.
    *
    Got it? If not, I will think of how better to once more explain this, because I’m surprised how such essential a point can not meet the eye.

  64. johnmaskelyne says

    @ Murat

    Um, no, not got it. So, jihadi attacks only occur outside “Islamic territory”? Apart from the attacks in Islamic territory like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Syria, etc etc. And it is about land, except when it isn’t and it’s about ideological gains.

    We seem to somehow have introduced the idea that not just the destruction of the regime and its city/land is on the line but that of the whole rest of the Muslim world – how did we get to that idea? I don’t think anyone has suggested that. Which is also the problem with the further addition to this Mexican novella we are now embarked on.
    I also don’t know when our imaginary regime gained the sort of conventional troop strength to mount a ground campaign against the USA. I think we were just talking about someone with a few missiles weren’t we?

    On you very specifically telling me exactly what our made up jihadists definitely think and don’t think, I really can’t comment, as that is clearly made up too!

  65. Murat says

    @johnmaskelyne

    Um, no, not got it. So, jihadi attacks only occur outside “Islamic territory”? Apart from the attacks in Islamic territory like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Syria, etc etc. And it is about land, except when it isn’t and it’s about ideological gains.

    The attacks in the mentioned countries are not made to the very points that the attackers rule. The attackers are fundemantalist Islamists whereas the targets they choose in those countries are the people or the centers that are secular, moderate, etc. For example, in Syria, Asad’s regime is a secular dictatorship. When a Syrian Islamist is striking at that regime’s targets, in his mind, he is engaging with an infidel in the infidel’s territory, with the aim of making the enemy (secular or moderate regime, or a foreign agent) step back or fall from power…
    I now understand that, you look at the map of the world, see the borders of the countries that have muslim majorities, and consider the bulk of this territory as “islamic”. This is your perspective. For the jihadist, everywhere outside of where he believes there to be a sharp execution of sharia rule and law is “infidel territory”. So, only a very small part (maybe 10%) of the geography you perceive as “islamic” is actually “islamic” in the eyes of the perpetrators of such attacks.
    Think of it like this: The US cavalry confronted Apache tribes many times in history. In most of those, there were Apache guides embedded into the army, riding along with them. They wore the blue jackets and the caps. When ambushed, they lost their lives as well. Because, for the assailiants, they were as much of an enemy as the white men.
    In this instance, Geronimo is the jihadist and the Apache companies of the US army are the muslims killed in jihadist attacks within the Apache territory.

    I also don’t know when our imaginary regime gained the sort of conventional troop strength to mount a ground campaign against the USA. I think we were just talking about someone with a few missiles weren’t we?

    I never mentioned the USA (or, any other specific country for that matter) as the possible target for the imaginary islamist regime that possessed nukes (which is what Sam Harris was talking about). While producing that example, I actually had on mind something like the situation with Pakistan and India, both of which actually have such technology, one having a very dominant muslim population whereas the other only a minority, as a result of which the example would build up with the hypothesis of exteremist Islamists coming to power in Pakistan. In which case, with Sam Harris’ reasoning in mind, the first thing they would do would be to nuke-provoke India hoping to be nuked back by them only to go to heaven.
    I was telling you why this was an absurd scenario.
    *
    At this point I see more clearly why I could not help you get past this point. It’s something about how we define the words. Like, using theory in science versus theory in colloquial language… Before going on to explain what is inherently wrong with Sam Harris’ approach, it seems I should have first established with you that Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq and Syria are not under islamist regimes, that they just have serious insurgents within their borders, hence not yet islamic territory for the mujahid who attack certain targets there.
    They are not attacking their own jihadist comrades, they are attacking those who don’t share their ideology, be they culturally muslims or not.
    *
    If ever such an islamist regime rises to power from within any of such countries (as ISIS did for some years) the locations they would be launching the missiles from will most definitely have to be within their own territory, where they consider to be islamic. Hence, it would mean nothing other than scoring an own goal for them to act with the intention of having their own base destroyed, just so they go to heaven. (Again, this is what Sam Harris bases his idea of first strike initiative on!)
    *
    Had your perception of Islamic geography been equated to that of an Islamist after some very serious changes in the political map, then there would be no strikes within any of these countries you mention. Because they would all have established extremely theocratic regimes that now had harmony. You would be finding on the map a body much similar to what the USSR and its allies looked like till 1990; and each of their nuclear capacities would have been strategically placed against targets outside of what you now perceive as islamic geography.
    *
    I understand that your perception of the situation is limited to what you get of contemporary events and comments, but Sam Harris is well aware of what is what in detail, and he knows the terminology as used by those involved in it. Hence, no, I wouldn’t buy it if anyone said he came up with that game theory as a result of experiencing the kind of confusion you do.

  66. johnmaskelyne says

    @murat

    I really should have popped in the clause I was going to in the last post to save you the lengthy reply. But no worries.

    So, as you say, it is perfectly feasible that our imaginary bunch would not have need to protect the surrounding country or the “cultural” muslims who do not share their specific take on jihad. So we are left with the question of whether it is credible that such a group would consider it a worthwhile price to die and lose, say, Damascus in order to destroy Paris, and leave fellow jihadists around the world to continue the fight.

    Indeed, as you say this might not even be so much of a loss, once we have rules out the bits of the country they don’t feel are properly Islamist or the population that aren’t true believers. In our imaginary scenario, I find that perfectly possible.

    You might or might not, but that’s not really the point. To take your stance you have to demonstrate that Harris’ view, and indeed my view, is so unbelievable that it is irrational.

  67. Murat says

    @johnmaskelyne

    So we are left with the question of whether it is credible that such a group would consider it a worthwhile price to die and lose, say, Damascus in order to destroy Paris, and leave fellow jihadists around the world to continue the fight.

    This is exactly what I am saying is not a way of doing jihad. This is a “winner takes all!” kind of gamble and has nothing to do with the concept of reaching martyrdom through jihad. It doesn’t come close to even the wildest, bloodiest, perverted version of jihad; because there is heavy abstraction involved in this assumption to begin with.
    The end game for jihad is to rule the world. Not to destroy it.
    In other words, with a long-lost muslim hat on: Who are those puny, worthless subjects of the all-knowing, all-watching, all-mighty god to make the decision of losing Damascus (which, in your scenario, we suppose is theirs to launch nukes from) on the off chance that in exchange they will also destroy Paris???
    The mindset reffered to in this particular claim is not that of a jihadist, but maybe that of an already dying anarchist. But, as I said many times before, even jihad may evolve to become such a pointlessly suicidal thing. However, this evolution can not arise from a closeted islamic society that deals with such theoretical stuff in the light of their own holy texts.
    As both you and Simon said, you guys have talked about these things with some muslims. I agree that every single human being can come up with evil ideas and, willingly or not, help to certain extents the spreading of them.
    Sam Harris is the first person I heard such a forced interpretation of jihad to come from. He imagines a nuclear jihadist saying:
    “It would suffice for us to have ourselves killed in nuclear retalliation; so we shall fearlessly make a first strike at the infidel!”
    And building up from this imagination, he says:
    “It would suffice for us to keep the moral high ground even if we make a first strike on the jihadist at the expense of killing innocent millions, because they would be okay with striking us at the expense of having themselves killed in nuclear retalliation just to go to heaven!”
    The two are basically the very same evil thought. Sam Harris is having this conversation within his head, only to reach the excuse. He applies the thinking process to the imaginary leader of the nuclear jihadist regime, and expresses the very same thing that he does. Both Sam Harris and his the other are, in the end, okay with reasoning their way into megadeath.
    *
    The game theory on nuclear warfare is a simple one, not much different than the allegory of duel-thirsty gunslingers. Though the millennial generation has no idea, for many decades people of the USA felt on their necks this ultimate threat: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/?ref_=nv_sr_1
    It doesn’t take a jihadist regime to feel threatened by nukes. They pose the same level of danger to humanity regardless of who controls them.
    And it is very ridiculous to refer to a possible islamist regime if the main concern is someone awaiting death:
    Kim Jong may be diagnosed with a fast growing cancer tomorrow, and he seems to have all the authority to initiate his first strike just to be blown away in glory (and along with all his subjects!) thanks to the retalliation.
    There is simply no need to insert jihadist threats into that of nukes for suggesting they would be the game changers – unless one is promoting a totally different agenda.
    *
    You know, some horror movies are R rated due to graphic content. If you produce a movie with certain gore elements, you can not expect the authorities to label it PG-13 just based on the fact that “it is the bad guy doing this stuff in the movie; the good guys don’t slash and butcher”.
    It doesn’t matter who the perpetrator of the act is, if the scene is likely to have negative influence on a 14 year old, it should pass as R rated. The attempt of the producer at reaching a larger audience is simply shifting the burden of evil.
    And this is what Sam Harris is doing here, as clearly established in the interview with Cenk Uygur:
    He is coming up with an idea to pre-manufacture the excuse for making a first strike on an islamist regime soon as they possess any nuclear capacity. And he is broadcasting it by referring to a special pleading that makes use of the existing islamophobia in developed countries.
    *
    A responsible humanist intellectual should not resort to this path of finding excuses for a possible upcoming destruction. Harris could well have simply taken the path of denouncing every single possiblity of nuclear warfare, and stressed the importance of total disarmament.
    Just like Mordechai Vanunu did, at the expense of spending most of his life in jail: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mordechai_Vanunu
    *
    The way Ben Affleck had reacted to Sam Harris during that infamous moment in Bill Maher’s show was the voice of sanity and justice against that of discrimination. Harris may have the upper hand in many terms, but it is not always the better-read, the more articulate or the better educated one to be on the moral high ground.
    Some things are very simple to notice. Especially when you avoid to let convoluted reasoning take over your common sense.
    *

    To take your stance you have to demonstrate that Harris’ view, and indeed my view, is so unbelievable that it is irrational.

    Even if what I say about nukes is not making sense to you, and even if you share Harris’ view on the issue, this, by itself, would not make you an islamophobe. What makes Harris one is that, he uses this forced attitude of reasoning only on islam. In the picture he paints, such issues become real problems only when extremism steps in wearing the clothes of islam.
    His mind is bathed in a custom special pleading that eventually serves as cover for any other theocratic power.
    Sam Harris claims to be an atheist (though not favoring the label) and walks and talks and swims like an atheist, so, we have no reason to believe that he, for some reason, may secretly be partcipating in the intellectual defense of any other theocratical inclinations. However, a belief in religion is not the only thing to lead people into various forms and levels of discrimination:
    Richard Spencer, the leading man of the Alt-Right, states that he is only culturally Christian, that he is not into god or something. But we clearly see that he pushes on the white nationalist agenda in a way to favor any historical outcome of Christianity over that of other religions and origins.
    So, we can not claim Richard Spencer to have any moral high ground just because he is smart enough not to be a true believer. Unlike some, I would not hit him in the face while he was giving an interview; but I would certainly avoid to be in the same camp with him. His presence would be a litmus paper for me to refer to whenever my and his ideas seemed to match.
    For me, it goes the same with Sam Harris. He may be over with god, but he doesn’t seem to be over with certain dangerously discriminative ideas attached to the concept of clashing religions.
    *
    One major factor that elevates atheistm over the influence of religions is that, along with it comes one less criteria that could be used for discriminiation.
    If, even after leaving belief, we go about screaming which religion is worse than the other, then the concept of atheism loses the connecting power of this unique feature.
    Anyone can do the kind of cherry picking that would end up with favoring or particularly hammering at one religion. No result to come out from this can mean a thing, because the levels and kinds of religious harm change with regards to who we are, as well as to where and when we are situated.
    *
    Sam Harris suggests profiling by using terms the other way around, like, coming up with ideas on how to detect those who are not dangerous.
    It is the same thing as targeting certain individuals as dangerous. He is using his left hand to poing his right ear, that’s all.
    The TSA has been doing a great job approaching every passenger the same way. Well, maybe more brown guys are selected for some extra random screening, but this is plausible as long as basic controls apply the same to each individual.
    But somehow, Sam Harris has a problem with this ongoing, logical and ethical practice. And he suggests that Jerry Seinfeld need not be screened when boarding a plane.
    When people oppose to him coming up with this example for his idea of counter-profiling, he says he picked Seinfeld up for he was “famous”.
    Ok, we can assume that he did not come up with Aziz Ansari or Hasan Minhaj just because they are less famous than Jerry Seinfeld…
    But, could he not come up with Mouhammad Ali, who was alive back then, as an example?
    That is, if his point was really fame, which is exteremely stupid a criteria if you ask me.
    *
    The reason Sam Harris sees and promotes Jerry Seinfeld as the passenger of registered privilege is not any different than why a republican from Oklahoma would pick up Chuck Norris for a similar example to whom he sees as totally okay.
    Just like in that trick about priming where one is likely to come up with “Tide” as the laundry detergent after hearing of ocean, shell and waves; he is reaching out to his audience with the claim that Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Maher, Ben Stiller or Adam Sandler would be okay to board planes without getting screened. I don’t suppose he would put Jon Stewart in the same list of privilege, though. Because after all -and unlike Bill Maher- Jon Stewart did give Hasan Minhaj a job and a chance.
    *
    I can undertand it when people feel a need to favor who they see as their own over others. But, come on, man… This is a bit too much… If Sam Harris was at least a little bit concerned about his very own ideas being misrepresented, he could at least come up with a totally irrelevant name for this unnecessarily biased airport privilege he was talking about.
    To me, the man seems no less obsessed with his other than Mel Gibson once was with his. And I think it requires quite a double standard to not see the resemblance.
    In the interview, he very calmly says “we are looking for jihadists” when talking about airport security. I don’t think an unbiased person of reason would fail to understand that, if a security measure wasn’t in place, anyone for any reason could cause a breach.
    Sam Harris’ definition of we is also a very problematic one. It doesn’t look like he means peaceful people as opposed to terrorists when saying we. For his we seems to include also powers that currently possess uninspected nukes, along with politicians who openly suggest to use them for the eradication of their other, I find it quite absurd, artificial, forced and misleading when he talks about how it would be moral to make the first strike on a yet unexisting, suicidally jihadistic regime.
    *
    And I don’t think I am alone with regards to my perception of what Sam Harris is doing and/or causing. Martin Wagner of the Atheist Experience had expressed on Twitter that, it was mostly the rise of Dawkins-Harris attitude that detached him from the skeptic movement. (I don’t suppose this to be also why he left the show, though; because as I said before, I never witnessed the AXP fall into an islamophobic narrative.)
    *
    By the way: My primal intention for this week was to comment on the guest Muhammad Syed and his movement. However, first Edip’s call made me feel like I should address to it in the first post. And after sharing that video in an attempt to showcase what islamophobia is, the follow-ups resulted in me trying to make my point on Sam Harris. And that is okay for me as I already had on mind criticizing him on a platform where I could get some feedback.
    So, much as I normally visit the threads only for the week they are hot, just in case John Maskelyn, Simon Hosking or anyone else feels like talking about this, I will be re-visiting this thread for more weeks to come.

  68. johnmaskelyne says

    @Murat

    Just to start off I’ll just say that I’m not touching on the latter paragraphs as that feels to me to be off into other topics.

    So, I’m afraid I can’t just take your word for the fact that our imaginary jihadis wouldn’t justify such a trade off to themselves. Given that you also say you find it credible that such a mindset could develop in the future, I wonder how you can be certain is hasn’t now (given we are being so none-specific about our group!)

    Again, I like the North Korean example but I think you fail to draw the sensible line that what makes us less confident about this situation is that we feel the leader(s) might well put a victory over their own life. Surely this willingness to die is what prompts us to rank Putin as much more likely to be dissuaded by MAD. It is the same for our imaginary jihadis, who at least are willing to die themselves.

    I really don’t follow the idea that such a mindset hasn’t/ couldn’t develop within Islam without non-Muslims discussing it. I don’t think this even worked in Harry Potter and I don’t see any evidence to back up your statements here (indeed, your example of suicide bombing, which was previously unthinkable, becoming accepted by some seems a prime example of what you argue can’t happen).

    As for justifying a first strike against an Islamist regime who have come into posseions of nukes, then this is a step further than simply saying MAD is less likely to be a deterrent. That said, if we were taking about an Islamist group such as ISIS who have obtained the weapons and the means to launch them against, say, Western Europe (assuming we could be sure of these facts and did not have the capability to neutralise the missiles in flight) then I think a first strike may well viable, in my view.

    I appreciate that you think I’m not necessarily an Islamaphobe (!) and feel pretty sure you are correct. I would feel the same about any individual or group who met the following mindset criteria: a declared grievance, a demonstrated willingness to kill (including civilians and collateral damage) and a willingness to die for the cause. They may well be, and in the fullness of time no doubt will be, other people that plausibly fit the bill but I do find it credible that our hypothetical jihadis fit the bill too.