Sam Harris on the west and Islam: "Losing our spines to save our necks"

Normally I’d save this for the quote of the day but we’ll all be obsessing over the returns tonight, so digest it now. This isn’t new ground for Harris: When last we encountered him, he was busy lighting into the left on MSNBC for treating certain religions as more equal than others. Before that, he was sitting around a table with Richard Dawkins and Hitchens, pressing the latter on whether he doesn’t agree that Islam poses certain threats that other faiths, for the moment at least, do not. Arguably he’s the most fearless critic in this vein among America’s prominent atheists (unless of course you count Hirsi Ali as an American). The subject of this latest summa is the astounding lengths to which the west is already willing to go to silence antagonism towards Islam, right down to publishers redacting factual statements from Harris’s own critiques lest they irritate any of the more excitable practitioners.

Wilders, like Westergaard and the other Danish cartoonists, has been widely vilified for “seeking to inflame” the Muslim community. Even if this had been his intention, this criticism represents an almost supernatural coincidence of moral blindness and political imprudence. The point is not (and will never be) that some free person spoke, or wrote, or illustrated in such a manner as to inflame the Muslim community. The point is that only the Muslim community is combustible in this way. The controversy over Fitna, like all such controversies, renders one fact about our world especially salient: Muslims appear to be far more concerned about perceived slights to their religion than about the atrocities committed daily in its name. Our accommodation of this psychopathic skewing of priorities has, more and more, taken the form of craven and blinkered acquiescence.

There is an uncanny irony here that many have noticed. The position of the Muslim community in the face of all provocations seems to be: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we will kill you. Of course, the truth is often more nuanced, but this is about as nuanced as it ever gets: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we peaceful Muslims cannot be held responsible for what our less peaceful brothers and sisters do.

The punchline? He had to publish this on HuffPo instead of WaPo, which had solicited the piece — as a commentary on Fitna, of all things — but then spiked it when Harris did too thorough a job.

It’s long but there are no dull spots so read the whole thing. And if you can’t, at least stick with it to where he draws an analogy with that fundamentalist Mormon cult that’s been in the news lately. Polygamy, misogyny, and forced marriage? Shocking.