Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz’s ‘Islam and the future of Tolerance: A Dialogue’ is an informative and hopeful dialogue on a number of pressing issues of today, ranging from islamism to Islamic reform. With wit, intelligence and scrutiny all rolled into a short and succinct book, Sam and Maajid effectively take head on these issues and come up with effective strategies to answer them. Easily read in an afternoon, this book is meant to be read in conjunction to the growing political, philosophical and cultural issues occurring in the world today—such as the culture war over Islam, the conflicts against ISIS in the Middle East, the growing rise of neo-Nazism in Europe and the intellectual debates centred around reform in Islam. In addition to this, the book provides a list of helpful sources easily verifiable, as well as provides a further reading information list for all those interested in the topics discussed. (It may not be very helpful to me, since I have read most of the books listed, but I am sure it will be helpful for new individuals entering the discussion.) There is very few things to criticise, as the book is very well written and its contents are discussed in a manner that provides little room for arguing.
It is a dialogue that needed to happen, as both individuals have been engaged in trying to provide discourse on Islam. However, both have been labelled as ‘bigots’, ‘Islamophobes’ and ‘Racists’ by those of the left (regressive leftists) for criticising Islam. Sam Harris himself has been for the last year and a half trying to combat these baseless accusations; hence is why I am glad that he addressed them in this book, as well as pushed past them in informing individuals about what really needs to be discussed. Maajid Nawaz was brilliant in this book, as his writing was more on point and his counter-points to Sam did provide room for further discussion and thought. In addition to this, Maajid has improved on his writing, as his last book ‘Radical’ was rather a disappointment in terms of writing.
As for the ideas being discussed, Islamism and regressivism are by far the most pressing concerns of today. Islamism is the political imposition of Islamic fundamentalism upon society, as manifested by groups such as the Islamic State. Maajid’s informative identifying of sub-branches within Islamism, such as jihadism and political islamism, was by far the most informative aspect of his part of the dialogue on this topic. Sam Harris’ critiques of Islamism, and by highlighting the fact that beliefs do matter, were also enlightening but I do feel that both could have done a more in-depth explanation of Islamism than they ended up doing. (Maajid’s distinction between traditional and conservative Muslims does appear to be misleading, but I trust that he is onto something when he distinguishes between them.)
Regressivism (Coined by Maajid Nawaz) is the political philosophy that has emerged from progressive politics and post-modern ‘Identity politics’, as of late. It is identified by individuals defying classical liberal principles, such as free-speech, freethought and individual autonomy and responsibility, all in the ideal of equality. This has resulted in ‘regressives’ (to use a term from Sam Harris) protecting Islam from criticism and has also resulted in the silencing of critics by regressives. This is truly evident in the west, because regressivism—especially in reference to Islam—is a by-product of Islamist apologetics and Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Maajid Nawaz and many others have been victims of this regressivism. This is further expressed in the book.
Maajid Nawaz makes reference to Dr. Hasan, who is a Islamic scholar and Quilliam, throughout the book. However, I do think that he needs to not fall prey to the false belief in trusting an authority figure too much, because even they can be wrong. This leads into another thought as well, and this is in regards to Maajid’s ‘relativist’ interpretation of the Quran and hadiths. If there is no ultimate interpretation of a text, then there is no right or wrong interpretation of a text. This is problematic for obvious reasons, as it creates stagnation and creates misinformation where there need not be any.
The above-mentioned paragraphs are just some of my thoughts on the ideas discussed in the book, as there are plenty more ideas that were discussed in the book, but I will allow individuals to explore those ideas for themselves.
Read from: October 19th-November 7th, 2015
Rating: 5/5 stars—This is definitely my book of the year so far.
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson
Link to Goodreads Review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1387295946?book_show_action=false
Most likely you are reading this sentence in the 21st century with some form of technological device, be it a mobile phone, computer, mac, tablet etc. The device you use has been acquired through the years, through means of trial and error, as well as innovation on the part of the designated inventor; coming up through experimentation, new technology and new ways of using that technology. It can be said with no shadow of a doubt that the person who has been responsible for the invention of the gadget you use, had to have been progressive in thought. Now what does one mean when he says “progressive in thought”? What is meant by that is, for anything new or innovating to come about you need to have an open mind and a will to be able to change and adapt your ideas into new ones. That is how progress works; Individuals pursuing their separate interests and changing their ideas when they find new ways of adapting them. Every single inventor does this; he takes concepts of the old and adapts it to the new. What would happen if inventors and innovators didn’t adapt to the change and progression of time? Then what? Well, dear reader, let us just say you wouldn’t be reading this now…would you?
It is imperative for change to take place; it just needs to happen in order for us to reach new and better ways at accomplishing things. Fundamentalism, the immovable notion that you are to remain true and undying to original ideas and not be susceptible to change or adaptation is a genuine threat to humanity. The threat of fundamentalist minds ever opposed to change, taking away the means for others to progress in view of retelling old ideas without sway to new ones. It’s insane! Fundamental ideas are retold to newer generations; no progression, no interest in adaptation to the world around. Such ideas become delusions to outsiders but perfectly normal to insiders. The notion that the earth is the center of the universe, and all those who believe in that notion, are deluding themselves by denying the reality of what modern science has shown to be accurate. Those who still hold onto notions that somehow their existence is the “be all to end all”; are deluding themselves in a false ideology that has serious implications on their livelihood and on the possible future of the children they will teach this idea to. Fundamentalist theology is the biggest proponent for ignorance in the modern world, a naive view of the world that puts the subject viewing it as the centre of all things. Whether it be Christian, Islamic, Judea or any form of rigid orthodoxy that is opposed to scientific advances, and thus opposed to change; we can call such opposition fundamentalist in nature, and it is a direct threat to humanity’s progression in the modern era. Fundamentalism in religious sense holds to orthodoxy, it is very opposed to change or revision, or any other sort of notion on those lines; as a result most fundamentalist religious individuals will oppose scientific findings, refuse to teach their children these findings, and will hide behind the clause of “freedom of religion”. Now what does one mean when he says “Fundamentalist ideas”, what that means, is all ideas opposed to reality (notions, of creationism, virgin births, etc.) all notions that seek to enlist views that are outside that which can be justified rationally. One may say, “Is that not a “fundamentalist idea in itself?” The retort would be, “Science is ever changing and revising itself to reach objective standards that are in accordance to what reality shows to be so, and for this notion to be considered fundamentalist it would not be susceptible to change, which it is; and thus it is not fundamentalist in nature”
However there is an even greater danger in our modern day society, with the death of religious traditionalism and the rise of secularism, there is but one thing left for fundamentalists to do. Become fanatical. When fundamentalists become fanatical, this is where the real danger starts to happen. The Islamic terrorists who flew Boing 747’s into the twin towers on September 11th 2001, were fanatics hell bent on starting war on the “Infidels”, by following the Quran; their leader Osama Bin Laden, sought to establish an Islamic empire and defeat the “Judea and Samaritan Zionists”, this ideology we call today is known as “Bin ladenism”. And it is fundamental fanaticism like this that leads to devastating consequences. In Islamic nations under sharia law, women are denied the right to learn and be educated, property of their husbands; this kind of religious zealously and fanaticism is but on example of the dangerous of religious fundamentalism and fanaticism. Yet, this is not the fundamentalism I’m sure most of you reading this may be exposed to in your daily life, how about that of Christian fundamentalism.
Creationism VS Evolution, pseudo-science vs science; since the time of Darwin most of Europe and most of literate scientific nations have taken on board the scientific theory of natural selection. Yet in the USA, (the largest economic nation besides china) a campaign pronged by the far fundamentalist Christian right has been opposing evolution, in favour of creationism. Answers in Genesis, and other such pseudo-science websites and advocacy groups have (since 2001) running campaigns to get evolution out of the science classroom in favour of religious ideology. This has sparked prominent figures such as Richard Dawkins and the rest of the scientific community have leaded a counter-attack against this wave of fundamentalism. Yet it does not end there, in most western nations and in most secular nations across the globe religious fundamentalism is protected by the constitution with the “Freedom of religious worship and practise” and such acts being embedded in the fabric of secular constitutions. Now this is no problem at all, however most religious fundamentalists will teach their children their fanatical ideas; and that is the real problem. The scientific departments across the globe have to deal with these fundamentalists in later years, who will repeat the ideological furrier. Now it would be fine if these individuals weren’t the ones effecting public policy; for instance human rights such as abortion and homosexual relations, are opposed to by mostly if not entirely right wing and religious bodies. Christian fundamentalists will sight their bible when it comes to such issues of human rights. Calling it “unnatural, wrong”, such hateful (and I do stress hateful) language that does effect the youth and those struggling with love.
Let it be said and repeated, that those who so chose to love their partner (whether it be of the same sex or a different sex), are entitled to the liberty to love and marry freely; entitled to express their love openly without the vitriol of religious zealots or the bigotry of right wing fundamentalists. This liberty is not exclusive to those in homosexual relations, but to all relations; let it be protested that he who should ever make their decree on the basis of a religious text, on the basis of a bigoted text. Should be scoffed, mocked and protested against, if not for the liberty of love but for the future of the next generation and the future of humanity. Let it be said that those who are religious and progressive, this charge is not directed at you, but to those along the same cloth who fundamentally willingly opposed to human rights, education and the future of humanity; this charge is lead against you, on behalf of progressive humanity. Fundamentalism and fanaticism are the poisons that corrupt progressive societies, and if should one protest to say that “this here sentiment is fundamentalist in nature”, let it be said yet again that “this sentiment is lead in progressive manner and is forever changing; adapting and evolving to the benefit of humanity and its understandings of the cosmos.” Terrorists, who seek to establish their fanatical doctrines on free people of the world, should remember that where there is just one ounce of human spirit, there will always be those willing to stand up and fight against such wickedness and indecency; not just for themselves but for their fellow man. Those who beat and those who shout others down on the basis of what their ideology or their text dictate to them, are the real danger to humanity; the real threat to humanity is not weapons of mass destruction but those willing to use them, the fundamentalists and fanatics willing to do anything to see their ideology the only one and all others destroyed are the real danger. Parents willing to deny their children liberty, will see themselves the contributors of the destruction of free-society, those who deny others liberty will see themselves criminals to free-society. Let it be said one last time, that for change to occur there must be freedom of thought, freedom of expression, the right to education, the right to free worship (lest of course it does not impact the moderation of others or their liberties), the right to love…these are to be protected, promoted, with the ever progressiveness of society for the better.
Knowledge is Power
Written By: Anthony Avice Du Buisson