One of the many questions people ask us here is why we are running this initiative, and one of our many answers is that Baha’is are known for defending Islam and Muslims whenever we are being attacked, which serves as an inspiration for us to defend our Baha’i brethren as well. There is something very beautiful about someone who doesn’t share your religion yet doesn’t allow that to be a barrier for defending it, loving it, and respecting it as well as its members.

Marco, a Portuguese Baha’i, wrote a post refuting Sam Harris’ attacks on Islam. Harris is a confused author known for his mangled writings linking religion and violence, and his work clearly deserves a refutation which Marco provides below:

This is one of several posts I wrote about Sam Harris book “The End of Faith”. I usually am not sarcastic, but Mr Harris proves to be a radical atheist. He may not be a radical in the sense of inspiring suicide bombers or calling for a Holy War. But he is radical with his words that spread prejudice, ignores basic facts, and avoids the use of reason when approaching Islam. I wrote this post because Mr Harris attacks something I firmly believe: the divine origin of Islam.

Here is an English translation of the post:

Sam Harris and the End of the Faith [originally posted Friday, 25 of January of 2008]:

“We are at war with the Islam” is the one of the main ideas of the book The End of Faith by Sam Harris. The statement is an obvious simplification of the reality; the relationship between the West and some countries of the Middle East is much more complex than these simple words suggest. It is obvious that – in the last few decades – radical Islam has been a source of problems for people from the West and for Islam itself. It is often stated that the expression “radical Islam” and “Islamic fundamentalism” became part of common language after the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Where was radical Islam before that time?

This is enough to question what does Mr. Sam Harris mean when he writes about Islam? Throughout the chapter “The Problem with the Islam” we understand that the author is referring to all countries whose populations are mainly Muslim. To put in other words, he includes within “Muslim” (whether liberal or conservative) Arabs, Persians, Indians, Malaysian, Indonesians & Africans… all of them are placed by Sam Harris on the same side of an imaginary trench. Wouldn’t it be more rational to consider that the problem only exists due to some dictatorships and extremist groups based in the Middle East ? Such a simplification by Mr Harris! Is it not typical of a radical thought? And isn’t it strange that we find it to be a common attitude between religious extremists and anti-religious extremists? I have to admit that I was expecting much more from Mr. Harris. After all, in this same book he proclaims the need to use reason when studying religion!

The mental attitude of radical Muslims should be compared with the mental attitude of supporters of other forms radicalism that Western countries faced in the past. It seems strange to me that Mr. Harris does not make any comparison between Muslim suicide bombers and Japanese Kamikaze during the 2nd World War. Don’t they have something in common? Both believe that they were committing a personal sacrifice in name of a supreme cause by causing death and destruction to their enemies.

So it is strange that Sam Harris was not able to establish such a comparison. He preferred over simplifications instead of a rational analysis of the situation. Maybe his sympathy for Buddhism did not allow him to make such a comparison.

INTERPRETATION OF THE SACRED TEXTS

The book, The End of Faith, presents several pages of quotation from the Quran. These are sentences that according to author disclose the violent nature of Islam. It is not necessary to be very versed in the history of Islam to understand that the texts of the Quran revealed in Medina are very different from the texts revealed in Mekka. According to some Muslim theologians, this implies that the applicability and the overall view of the text vary according to the context of the revelation itself.

But is not Mr. Harris the great defender of the use of reason in the analysis of religion? Is his literal interpretation of the sacred texts the example of the so desired rationality? Can we ignore the context (local and circumstantial) where the texts were revealed? Can we make a mere literal interpretation of the texts and nothing else? But is this not but the same method of Islamic fundamentalists? Is this what Mr. Harris means by the use of reason? …

It is obvious that Mr. Harris has a lot of prejudices against the Islam. After insisting on the literal interpretations of the Quran, he finds a verse that states: “Don’t you kill each other” (4: 29). Strangely the author avoids the literal interpretation of this verse, and states that it is “ambiguous”. One can only conclude that objectivity is not a trait of the author.

When reading the book, The End of the Faith, we perceive that the method of the author in evaluating the religions is to make a literal interpretation of the texts and to validate this literal meaning against common sense. No time to waste on searching for metaphoric or symbolic meanings; a superficial reading is quite enough. But is this the method Mr. Harris applies to all religions and belief systems?

Knowing Mr. Harris fascination with Buddhism, one wonders how he would interpret the meaning of Buddha’s words: “If you find the Buddha in the road, kills him”. Would he take those words literally and consider it an encouragement of intolerance and violence, a proof of the falsehood of Buddhism and its evil influence in the history of mankind? Or would he look for a metaphoric meaning of these words? The answer can be found here: Killing the Buddha. How strange that Mr Harris becomes more rational when he analyzes the texts of Buddhism.

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NOTE: This subject is not depleted this way; in next post I will approach other subjects that Sam Harris wrote on the Islam in the book, The End of the Faith.

We would like to thank Marco for defending our religion against ill-informed attacks.