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Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue

144 Pages · 2012 · 923 KB · English

  • Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue

    ISL AM



    AND THE FUTURE OF TOLERANCE


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    AND THE FUTURE OF TOLERANCE


    A Dialogue



    SAM HARRIS



    MAAJID NAWAZ


    Cambridge, Mas sa chu setts London, England



    2015


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    Heruntergeladen am | 11.01.16 21:12 Copyright © 2015 by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz


    All rights reserved.


    Printed in the United States of Ame rica


    First printing


    Library of Congress Cataloging- in- Publication Data


    Harris, Sam


    Islam and the future of tolerance : a dialogue / Sam Harris,


    Maajid Nawaz.


    pages cm


    Includes bibliographical references and index.


    ISBN 978-0-674-08870-2 (alk. paper)


    1. Toleration— Religious aspects— Islam. 2. Dialogue— Religious


    aspects. I. Nawaz, Maajid. II. Title.


    BP171.5.l365 2015


    297.2'8— dc23 2015009535


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    AND THE FUTURE OF TOLERANCE


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    Heruntergeladen am | 11.01.16 21:12 Harris Maajid, thank you for taking the time to have


    this conversation. I think the work that you’re doing


    is extremely im por tant. I’m not sure how much we


    agree about Islam or about the prospects for re-


    forming the faith—a nd it will be useful to uncover


    any areas where we diverge— but I want you to


    know that my primary goal is to support you.


    Nawaz That’s very kind of you. I appreciate that. As


    you know, we are working in a very delicate area,


    walking a tightrope and attempting to bring with us


    a lot of p eople who, in many instances, do not want


    to move forward. It is very im por tant that we have


    this conversation in as responsible a way as possib le.


    Harris A greed. I’d like to begin by recalling the fi rst


    time we met, because it was a moment when you


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    seemed to be walking this tightrope. It was, in fact,


    a rather inauspicious fi rst meeting.


    In October 2010, I attended the Intelligence


    Squared debate in which you were pitted against


    my friends Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Douglas Murray.


    We met afterward at a dinner for the organizers,


    participants, and other guests. People were offering


    short remarks about the debate and otherw ise


    continuing the discussion, and at one point Ayaan


    said, “I’d like to know whether Sam Harris has


    anything to say.” Although I was well into a vodka


    tonic at that moment, I remember what I said


    more or less verbatim. I addressed my remarks di-


    rectly to you. We hadn’t been introduced, and I


    don’t think you had any idea who I was. I said, es-


    sentially, this:


    Maajid, I have a question for you. It seems to me that


    you have a nearly impossible task and yet much


    d epends on your being able to accomplish it. You


    want to convince the world— especially the Muslim


    world—t hat Islam is a religion of peace that has been


    hijacked by extremists. But the probl em is that Islam


    isn’t a religion of peace, and the so-c alled “extremists”


    are seeking to implement what is arguably the most


    honest reading of the faith’s actual doctrine. So your


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    maneuvers on the stage tonight— the claims you made


    about interpretations of scripture and the historical


    context in which certain passages in the Qur’an must


    be understood— appear disingenuous.


    Everyone in this room recognizes that you have the


    hardest job in the world, and everyone is grateful that


    you’re doing it. Someone has to try to reform Islam


    from within, and it’s obviously not going to be an apos-


    tate like Ayaan, or infi dels like Douglas and me. But


    the path of reform appears to be one of pretense. You


    seem obliged to pretend that the doctrine is something


    other than it is—f or instance, you must pretend that


    jihad is just an inner spiritual strugg le, whereas it’s pri-


    marily a doctrine of holy war. I’d like to know whether


    this is, in fact, the situation as you see it. Is the path


    forward a matter of pretending certain things are true


    long enough and hard enough so as to make them


    true?


    I should reiterate that I was attempting to have


    this conversation with you in a semipublic context.


    We w eren’t being recorded, as far as I know, but


    there were still around seventy- fi ve people in the


    room listening to us. I’m wondering if you re-


    member my saying these things and w hether you


    recall your response at the time.


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    Nawaz Yes, I do remember that. I’m glad you re-


    minded me of it. I hadn’t made the connection


    with you. I’m also grateful you mentioned that al-


    though we were not on air, many others were pre-


    sent. To my mind, it was just as im por tant inside


    that room as outside it for p eople to take what I was


    saying at face value. In fact, my desire to impact


    Muslim- minority socie ties with my message is just


    as strong as my desire to impact Muslim-m ajority


    socie ties. Part of what I seek to do is build a main-


    stream coa lit ion of p eople who are singing from


    the same page. That d oesn’t require that they


    all become Muslim or non- Muslim. On the con-


    trary, what can unite us is a set of religion- neutral


    values. By focusing on the universality of human,


    democ ratic, and secular (in the British and American


    sense of this word) values, we can arrive at some


    common ground. It follows that all audiences need


    to hear this message. Even inside that room, there-


    fore, the stakes were high. To lose that audience


    would be to realize my fear: the polarization of this


    debate between those who insist that Islam is a re-


    ligion of war and proceed to engage in war for it,


    and those who insist that Islam is a religion of war


    and proceed to engage in war against it. That would


    be an intractable situation.


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