In December I wrote a piece entitled “Sam Harris and the collapse of the counter-jihad Left,” in which I noted Harris’ indifference to his friend and coauthor Maajid Nawaz’s endorsement of Keith Ellison in his quest to become chair of the Democratic National Committee, despite Ellison’s multiple ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. I also pointed out that Harris and Nawaz appeared to believe that “one may speak out against jihad terror and Sharia oppression as long as one is determined not to do anything about either one, and indeed, gives active support to those who are helping the forces of jihad advance in the West.”
Harris and Nawaz offered a response of sorts in this podcast. Unfortunately, however, instead of addressing most of the points I raised, they spent most of their time talking about how I supposedly wanted to be on Harris’ podcast and was annoyed at his not having me on, and how Sam was just too busy to vet me and find out if I was really the bigoted gargoyle of Leftist/Islamic supremacist myth, and Maajid just too emotionally exhausted (as he repeatedly informed us), to engage me in any discussion or debate. This was a rather spectacular exercise in missing the point. I have noted that Nawaz refuses to debate me and Harris won’t have me on his show, but let me be clear: these were not requests. I am not losing any sleep over either refusal. I have plenty to do as it is, and making Sam Harris’ podcast is not quite my idea of hitting the big time. The point that I was making was that Harris is too afraid of the same Leftists who excoriate him as an “Islamophobe” to engage in discussion with someone who has been smeared in the same way. He knows that he has been defamed, but falls for and honors the same defamation when it is done to someone else. His inconsistency in this is simply cowardly. And that Nawaz’s refusal to subject his views to critical scrutiny in an open forum, except against people who are not all that well informed about Islamic doctrine, practice, and history, is telling.
Even worse, Harris asked Nawaz during that podcast about why he endorsed Ellison. Nawaz’s response was shocking. He spoke at length about how he persuaded Tommy Robinson to leave the English Defence League, portraying this as a valiant effort to extricate Tommy from “extremism,” and then explained that now he was going to turn his attention to the Muslim community in the same way — implying, but never stating, that he was going to try to turn Keith Ellison away from his own “extremist” proclivities for Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups. But the two situations are not remotely analogous: Nawaz was trying to get Robinson to change his views and forsake his associations; in Ellison’s case, he warmly endorsed him, without a murmur about the Muslim Brotherhood or any attempt to call Ellison out or get him to change any of his stances. It was an astonishing and highly disingenuous bit of footwork, and Harris didn’t challenge him on it.
And now comes even more evidence of the collapse of the counter-jihad Left, as its leading light again proves my point: for counter-jihad Leftists, “one may speak out against jihad terror and Sharia oppression as long as one is determined not to do anything about either one.” Much more below.
“A Few Thoughts on the ‘Muslim Ban,'” Sam Harris, January 29, 2017:
President Trump has had a busy first week in office, displaying the anarchic grandiosity, callousness, and ineptitude of which he seems uniquely capable. He is every inch what we knew him to be: a malignant Chauncey Gardiner.
Chauncey Gardiner was the lead character in Jerzy Kosinski’s novel Being There, which was made into a movie starring Peter Sellers. It’s the story of a semi-retarded gardener whose simple statements are mistaken for wise aphorisms as he becomes a highly respected political pundit. Harris is, in other words, saying that Trump is an idiot. This is a common trope on the Left for all politicians to their right whom they hate: you remember George W. Bush the chimp and senile Ronald Reagan. The funny thing about these claims is that Leftists simultaneously portray these people as evil geniuses who have managed to hoodwink large numbers of Americans into supporting their nefarious plans, and who have confounded the Left’s selfless efforts to create a just and inclusive society. How these bumbling fools manage to outwit the Left’s legions of geniuses and deep thinkers, they never explain. In this case, President Trump is certainly plain-spoken, sometimes speaks in incomplete sentences, and does spend time talking about his own accomplishments. Is he stupid? Well, who is in the Oval Office today: Trump or Hillary Clinton, whom Harris would never liken to a semi-retarded gardener mistaken for a delphic oracle? I also rather suspect that Trump has made a bit more money than Harris over the years, which requires its own kind of acuity.
And now our institutions have begun to shudder at his whim. The fact that atheists like me can’t find the time to worry about the religious crackpots he has brought with him into power is a measure of how bad the man is. Christian fundamentalism has become the least of our concerns. Our democracy has been engulfed by a hurricane of lies.
Indeed so, and Harris is purveying some of them right here. Calling Trump’s immigration executive order a “Muslim ban” is a trope of the Left, to be sure, and not limited to Harris, but it’s simply a lie. 87% of the world’s Muslims are just as free to come to the U.S. as they were on January 19. The preference given to religious minorities is clearly to protect those who are being persecuted by Islamic jihadis, not because of religious bigotry.
Many readers have asked me to comment on the president’s executive order suspending immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries. I believe I’ve stated my positions on the relevant topics fairly clearly. But perhaps a brief summary is in order.
1. I did everything I could to make the case against Trump prior to the election (while many of the liberals now attacking me for enabling his “Islamophobia” actively undermined the candidacy of Hillary Clinton, even in the final days of the campaign).
Indeed. And how someone who is aware of the nature and magnitude of the global jihad threat could have so strongly supported Clinton is mystifying. As I noted in my earlier piece, Hillary Clinton accepted money from Saudi Arabia and Qatar even while knowing that they also funded the Islamic State, and proclaimed against the evidence of every day’s headlines that “Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” She had a long record of enabling the global jihad. Against her was a candidate who promised to resist that jihad strongly. Sam Harris chose the candidate who promised to continue Barack Obama’s denial and enabling of the global jihad.
2. I think Trump’s “Muslim ban” is a terrible policy. Not only is it unethical with respect to the plight of refugees, it is bound to be ineffective in stopping the spread of Islamism. As many have pointed out, it is also internally inconsistent: It doesn’t include Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, or Lebanon, any of which has been a more fertile source of jihadist terrorism than several of the countries Trump named.
Priebus has said that some countries might be added. That means this list can be used as leverage to get our putative allies, such as Saudi Arabia, to do something about jihad terrorism. And if they don’t, the list awaits. If Hillary Clinton had done something like this, Harris would be hailing her shrewdness.
Meanwhile, the ban is “unethical”? Really? Here is the choice: either keep out some legitimate travelers or allow in some jihad mass murderers. Vetting, you say? Tashfeen Malik, one of the San Bernardino jihad mass murderers, passed five separate background checks at five different U.S. agencies. Also, all of the jihadis who murdered 130 people in Paris in November 2015 had just entered Europe as refugees.
The ban will be “ineffective in stopping the spread of Islamism”? Certainly on its own. But it’s a start. It is a more effective act of resistance to “Islamism” than anything Barack Obama mustered in eight years, or anything that Hillary Clinton might have done. Or does Harris endorse Obama’s toothless, willfully ignorant, and wholly ridiculous “Countering Violent Extremism” program, which scrupulously avoids all mention of jihad while purporting to counter it? In opposing the ban, Harris is standing not with others who are aware of the jihad threat and opposed to it, but with those who ignore, deny, downplay, and/or blame the U.S. for it.
3. However, most of what is being said in opposition to Trump’s order is thoroughly contaminated by identity politics and liberal delusion. The Left seems determined to empower the Right by continuing to lie about the problem of Islamism. As David Frum recently wrote, “When liberals insist that only fascists will defend borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals won’t do.” I have been saying as much for more than a decade—and am vilified by my fellow liberals whenever I do.
This is generally a good point, but is Harris really saying that Trump is a fascist? I know many do. It is clear when they do that they have no idea what fascism actually was.
4. It is perfectly possible—and increasingly necessary—to speak about the ideological roots of Islamism and jihadism, and even about the unique need for reform within mainstream Islam itself, without lapsing into bigotry or disregarding the suffering of refugees. Indeed, when one understands the problem for what it is, one realizes that secular Muslims, liberal Muslims, and former Muslims are among the most desirable allies to have in the West—and, indeed, such people are the primary victims of Islamist intolerance and jihadist terror in Muslim-majority countries.
Harris makes no effort to explain why Trump’s ban constitutes “bigotry.” Apparently he takes it as self-evident. And as for the suffering of refugees, it is obvious that genuine refugees need to be aided. Saudi Arabia shares a linguistic, cultural and religious bond with them, and has plenty of space. Why has it taken absolutely no refugees? Why is it incumbent upon the West to do so? And there is a real threat: in February 2015, the Islamic State boasted it would soon flood Europe with as many as 500,000 refugees. The Lebanese Education Minister said in September 2015 that there were 20,000 jihadis among the refugees in camps in his country. On May 10, 2016, Patrick Calvar, the head of France’s DGSI internal intelligence agency, said that the Islamic State was using migrant routes through the Balkans to get jihadis into Europe. Are we not allowed to try to protect ourselves from this?
5. If liberals who refuse to speak honestly on these topics continue to march with Islamists, denigrate free speech, and oppose the work of the real reformers in the Muslim community, they will only further provoke and empower Trump. And Trump, in turn, will empower Islamists the world over by threatening the civil liberties of all Muslims within his reach.
The idea that “Trump will empower Islamists” casts into doubt whether Harris ever really did realize the nature of the jihad threat in the first place. The “reasoning” here appears to be that if we defend ourselves against Islamic jihadists by temporarily stopping immigration from jihad terror hotspots, it will only create more jihadists. So we must let that immigration continue, even though Islamic jihadists will be among the immigrants, and that will presumably make for fewer jihadists. If, in other words, we allow jihadis to enter the country and murder a certain number of American citizens, that will pacify other Muslims and keep them from becoming jihadis. But if we stop this immigration even temporarily in an attempt to prevent jihadis from entering the country, Muslims who were hitherto peaceful and moderate will be so enraged that they will take up arms against us.
Is Harris serious? This is tantamount to saying that we must not defend ourselves, because that will only embolden our attackers further. We should instead surrender to those attackers. Also, Barack Hussein Obama was President of the United States from January 20, 2009 to January 20, 2017. He flung the nation’s doors wide open to Muslim migrants, and heavily favored Muslims over non-Muslims. Did this stop Islamic State recruitment? Did it even slow it down? No, the Islamic State proclaimed itself the caliphate on June 29, 2014, during Obama’s presidency, and repeatedly declared its intention ultimately to conquer the U.S. It also repeatedly called for the murder of Americans. So we have solid evidence that an open-door immigration policy does not in reality pacify Islamic jihadis.
6. The next acts of jihadist terrorism to take place on American soil will most likely be met with terrifyingly blunt (and even illegal) countermeasures by the Trump administration. If all that liberals can do in response is continue to lie about the causes of terrorism and lock arms with Islamists, we have some very rough times ahead.
“Terrifyingly blunt (and even illegal) countermeasures by the Trump administration”? Unfounded hysteria.
7. If you are listening to obscurantists like Linda Sarsour, Dalia Mogahed, Reza Aslan, and representatives of CAIR, and denigrating true secularists and reformers like Maajid Nawaz, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Raheel Raza, and Sarah Haider, you are part of the problem.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali is great. But the idea that any of these people are above criticism is absurd and self-defeating. If Harris would grasp that and question some of his doctrinaire Leftism, he might arrive at some effective counter-jihad stance. But right now he is going in the other direction.