Islam and the Future of LIberalism
Posted: 24 April 2012 09:54 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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      I really liked Sam’s article on Islam and the Future of Liberalism but when I forwarded it to a friend, I was even more convinced by his response. I didn’t see any place to comment on the article on the website but then I found these forums, which I suppose is the appropriate venue. Here’s what my friend wrote:

It seems to me that, despite his posturing to the contrary, at the heart of Harris’ position is this: “if ever a state organized around a religion was justified, it is the Jewish state of Israel…And if ever criticism of a religious state was unjustified, it is the criticism of Israel.”

His caveat that, in principle, he finds a Jewish state obnoxious doesn’t seem to interfere with his belief in Israel’s righteousness and propriety. He says not a word about the problems surrounding its creation. Rather he writes: “It doesn’t take many emails containing sentences like “The United States and Israel are the greatest terrorist states on earth” to make me feel that liberalism is simply doomed.”
 
Now the definition of what constitutes terrorism might be open to debate but Harris owes us more than a dismissive wave of his hand as a response to the folks who, I take it, challenged his definition terrorism with the idea that these two nuclear powers cultivate fear to get their way in the world. 

What Harris’ essay offers is attitude and anecdote and bluster rather than a fair restatement of the opposition to him, followed by a thoughtful cogent response. And he forgets history when to take it into account would complicate his assertion of a straight-line causal connection between the nature of Islam and the anger and militancy that we see today in the Islamic world.

He entirely ignores the American actions in Iran that led to the ascendancy of the Ayatollahs. He must be aware that before the CIA overthrew the secular, center-left government of Mosaddegh and instituted the Shah’s torture state, Iran’s Islam wasn’t what it has become. Hezbollah is Islamic but the Shiites of Southern Lebanon didn’t create Hezbollah because it developed, inevitably and necessarily, out of Islam. The Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon was the incubator for Hezbollah.

And although it’s true that there was shelling across the border from Lebanon before the invasion and occupation, it’s also true and relevant that the Palestinians who were doing the shelling were not doing so because their religion demanded it but because their families had been driven from their homes in Palestine and were not allowed to return. They were and are stateless and impoverished and living in squalid refugee camps.

Similarly, Harris may conclude that Hamas is evil, but we should remember that Palestinian resistance was originally secular. Israeli policy intentionally forced many Palestinians away from secular Fatah and other organizations and into the hands of Islamist Hamas. And then there are all of the other repressive governments in the Islamic world that hold power by virtue of American support and in so-called American interests.

Harris chooses to dismiss the possibility that any of this accounts for the actions of the people involved.Its all Islam. And here is where it leads, he writes: “I also believe that wherever we can feasibly stop the abuse of women and girls, we should. An ability to do this in places like Afghanistan, and throughout the world, would be one of the benefits of having a global civil society and a genuine regime of international law.”

It has a nice ring to it, this Global Civil Society. But Harris doesn’t specify who would exercise this wonderful “ability” and who will have this “ability” exercised upon them. He clearly thinks that a large portion of humanity is too in thrall to Islam to be capable of being entrusted to share in defining that ‘global’ society. So it’s global in its reach not so much in its composition.

Harris’ rationale for supporting moves in the direction of strengthening such a global authority is not new. Selective horror at the crimes of Islamists, denial of our own agency in creating the anger that we face in much of the world, uncritical support of Israel and a denial of its agency in the anger that faces it, all propped up with the simplistic, comforting assertion that “the moral high ground here is clear, and we are standing on it” without admitting any complicating considerations.

Perhaps Harris might quibble with aspects of the world’s existing international global enforcement capability but it’s the only one that is real enough to discuss in any practical way. It’s growing, although not without opposition and not without causing great human suffering. And it is not in any serious way motivated by a desire to protect the world’s women.

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Posted: 25 April 2012 07:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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I wonder what would happen if everyone in the world woke up purple and and talke purpblish…
borders are created by man
it is time to uncreate them
we must give up the
beast within
LET IT BE!

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Posted: 25 April 2012 08:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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*****    Is it obvious that GLOBAL might not be best from the standpoint of QUALITY of LIFE homosapiens???  Humans tend to be most creative in a diverse environment for one thing and for another GLOBAL/PEACEFUL would lend itself to a ONE BREED WORLD which would put HUMANS at risk of EXTINCTION by any threatening incident.  The only way GLOBAL could possibly succeed is by EVENTUALLY IMPLIMENTING GENETIC SELECTION(S) of some form, anticipating any/all possible upcoming diseases which can be modeled to some extent… but does anyone like VANILLA EVERY DAY FOREVER AND EVER???  With organ creation, the sky is the limit as man becomes immortal in physical form.  Does the mind have any substance is it any more provable that what some refer to as the Holy Spirit moving them???

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Posted: 27 April 2012 12:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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To the OP:


OK then since you abhor what the US did with Iran in ‘54 then surely your agree that doing the opposite- toppling the dictators in the ME is a Good Thing? No one today is happy about what people in charge of US policy did 60 years ago- I think Clinton officially apologized. What’s done is done and we have to work forward from there because there is no other choice. I totally agree with you about Iran in 54 which is why i am all for the use of force to topple what dictators we can right now in the ME>


So why aren’t liberals 9of which I am a card carrying member) all about toppling Syria and all the other non-democratic governments in the ME now? This is a total disconnect for me that I attribute to the “war is not the answer” meme that the left is in love with.


If I were in any of those countries, i’d love to see (or not see) B2s bombing the shit out of “my country” . Since you’re so into self determination and listening to what the people in the ME want for themselves, why are you turning a deaf ear to their request for military assistance in overthrowing the very regimes you cite as American puppets or collaborators?

I voted Obama and I will again, but McCain has this one right. We should be bombs away in Syria b/c in this case, war is most definitely the answer.


I think Obama feels the same way but it’s DOA to Congress and would alienate his base, so there’s no point in him stating this position.

 

[ Edited: 01 May 2012 12:22 PM by softwarevisualization]
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Posted: 01 May 2012 11:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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This is well stated and is in align with my criticisms. Sam Harris makes good points regarding the evils of religion in his writings, but he becomes at times ridiculously simplistic in his world view, boiling everything down to religion, which causes him to make irrational conclusions such as those stated in this article (and also in his most recent one on “profiling”). It is sad to say, but I don’t expect much more inspiring thought from Harris. He is moving away from thoughtful writing, such as The Moral Landscape, to getting endorsements from shills such as Timothy Ferriss. Some modesty and pondering on his part might get us back on the right track, but I am not holding my breath.

Arthur Naiman - 24 April 2012 09:54 PM

      I really liked Sam’s article on Islam and the Future of Liberalism but when I forwarded it to a friend, I was even more convinced by his response. I didn’t see any place to comment on the article on the website but then I found these forums, which I suppose is the appropriate venue. Here’s what my friend wrote:

It seems to me that, despite his posturing to the contrary, at the heart of Harris’ position is this: “if ever a state organized around a religion was justified, it is the Jewish state of Israel…And if ever criticism of a religious state was unjustified, it is the criticism of Israel.”

His caveat that, in principle, he finds a Jewish state obnoxious doesn’t seem to interfere with his belief in Israel’s righteousness and propriety. He says not a word about the problems surrounding its creation. Rather he writes: “It doesn’t take many emails containing sentences like “The United States and Israel are the greatest terrorist states on earth” to make me feel that liberalism is simply doomed.”
 
Now the definition of what constitutes terrorism might be open to debate but Harris owes us more than a dismissive wave of his hand as a response to the folks who, I take it, challenged his definition terrorism with the idea that these two nuclear powers cultivate fear to get their way in the world. 

What Harris’ essay offers is attitude and anecdote and bluster rather than a fair restatement of the opposition to him, followed by a thoughtful cogent response. And he forgets history when to take it into account would complicate his assertion of a straight-line causal connection between the nature of Islam and the anger and militancy that we see today in the Islamic world.

He entirely ignores the American actions in Iran that led to the ascendancy of the Ayatollahs. He must be aware that before the CIA overthrew the secular, center-left government of Mosaddegh and instituted the Shah’s torture state, Iran’s Islam wasn’t what it has become. Hezbollah is Islamic but the Shiites of Southern Lebanon didn’t create Hezbollah because it developed, inevitably and necessarily, out of Islam. The Israeli occupation of Southern Lebanon was the incubator for Hezbollah.

And although it’s true that there was shelling across the border from Lebanon before the invasion and occupation, it’s also true and relevant that the Palestinians who were doing the shelling were not doing so because their religion demanded it but because their families had been driven from their homes in Palestine and were not allowed to return. They were and are stateless and impoverished and living in squalid refugee camps.

Similarly, Harris may conclude that Hamas is evil, but we should remember that Palestinian resistance was originally secular. Israeli policy intentionally forced many Palestinians away from secular Fatah and other organizations and into the hands of Islamist Hamas. And then there are all of the other repressive governments in the Islamic world that hold power by virtue of American support and in so-called American interests.

Harris chooses to dismiss the possibility that any of this accounts for the actions of the people involved.Its all Islam. And here is where it leads, he writes: “I also believe that wherever we can feasibly stop the abuse of women and girls, we should. An ability to do this in places like Afghanistan, and throughout the world, would be one of the benefits of having a global civil society and a genuine regime of international law.”

It has a nice ring to it, this Global Civil Society. But Harris doesn’t specify who would exercise this wonderful “ability” and who will have this “ability” exercised upon them. He clearly thinks that a large portion of humanity is too in thrall to Islam to be capable of being entrusted to share in defining that ‘global’ society. So it’s global in its reach not so much in its composition.

Harris’ rationale for supporting moves in the direction of strengthening such a global authority is not new. Selective horror at the crimes of Islamists, denial of our own agency in creating the anger that we face in much of the world, uncritical support of Israel and a denial of its agency in the anger that faces it, all propped up with the simplistic, comforting assertion that “the moral high ground here is clear, and we are standing on it” without admitting any complicating considerations.

Perhaps Harris might quibble with aspects of the world’s existing international global enforcement capability but it’s the only one that is real enough to discuss in any practical way. It’s growing, although not without opposition and not without causing great human suffering. And it is not in any serious way motivated by a desire to protect the world’s women.

[ Edited: 05 May 2012 01:55 PM by bordiga]
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Posted: 12 May 2012 05:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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Sam may have a religious bias in his analyses.  But, on the other hand, most people who analyze the world, especially left-wingers (I am one, albeit not very mainstream), will reduce everything to politics and the economy, and will tend to completely evacuate religious and cultural questions out of the equation, which makes them come to absurd conclusions.  I guess nobody can be an expert at everything.  At least, Sam is one of the very few people who reflect and speak publicly about religion and its effects on society, and who do it completely unhindered by self-censorship or misplaced righteousness.  Also, I would add that it is quite normal, when you focus on particular areas of investigation, that peripheral questions have to be simplified.  Otherwise, only universal geniuses could ever talk about anything…

[ Edited: 13 May 2012 03:19 PM by Raman]
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Posted: 26 March 2013 04:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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I think a global civic society is probably a long way off.
Yesterday I stumbled upon a website which provided an Islamic view of Jesus.  Some posts from Muslims and Christians were quite anodyne and mutually complacent.  Some Muslims and Christians had quickly resorted to swear words and strong abuse.  I am sure you have all seen examples where two groups of “righteous” fanatics each claim that their fairy is the only true one.
  I had the temerity to post politely suggesting that if we all have a sincere respect for every man, woman and child on our planet based merely on our common membership of one species, then such a position might be superior to the divisive narrower positions of Muhammad and Jesus.
I suppose it was inevitable that it was my post which was held back for scrutiny by the website moderator - and subsequently declined!

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Posted: 26 April 2013 07:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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If you only needed to “cultivate fear to get [your] way in the world”, then things would be very different. Do you believe for a second that it North Korea, or Iran, or any other group had the military power of the US that things would be more stable, more free or less fearful?

But what about the United States, who led two military expeditions to the Balkans, in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo, with the purpose of preventing the mass expulsion and slaughter of largely Muslim populations?They get no credit for this, and it doesn’t fit in with islamists’ world view at all.

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“Does history record any case in which the majority was right?”
Robert A. Heinlein

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