I didn’t realize Sam Harris’ blatant Islamophobia was still being disputed but, among others, Glenn Greenwald has stirred up a ruckus on the interwebs by pointing this out again.* Admittedly though I probably didn’t realize this because I long ago ceased caring about anything Sam Harris has to say about anything.
Nevertheless, the central point that Harris promotes an irrational levels of fear of Islam is one worth highlighting. Though I disagree with the Al-Jazeera article overt comparison between historical scientific racism and “new atheism” acting as a cloak for Islamophobia, there is little doubt that Harris advocates hysterical hatred for Islam. As Greenwald notes, position for position Harris aligns himself with the worse kinds of discriminatory policies against Muslims from banning the construction of mosques, to torture, to profiling, to gratuitous war (which he thinks Muslims should be grateful for!) and he even goes so far as to say the people making the most sense about Islam are fascists.
On a similar note, I’ve long since stopped paying attention to Richard Dawkins, and though much in the recent Salon article on the thinking “new atheists” is utter trash, pointing out, among other central signs of irrational hatred, Dawkins support for the reactionary site Islam Watch and far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders is lends heavy support to Dawkins as in the same camp with Harris.** Still, I hate to repeat the old cliche but such political views are not a consequence of atheism but stem from an independent understandings of morality and politics which every atheist must determine for themselves.
The only way this is a issue for atheists as a whole then is because Harris and Dawkins have quite a following so such views get more time and respect than they otherwise deserve. The problem is, much like the efforts to explicitly define the morality within atheist circles for the better, other than separation of church and state it makes no sense to declare atheist values. Being an atheist just doesn’t commit one to being a liberal or reactionary, so any effort to make all atheists, or at least organized atheists, shun someone for such political views is likely doomed to failure.
*Yes yes I know “Islamophobia” isn’t an optimally constructed word however “religionist against Islam” which would have been semantically more accurate sounds far more absurd and at this point it makes no sense to fight words well within common use.
**The last line is particularly laughable “Proving that a religion — any religion — is evil, though, is just as pointless and impossible an endeavor as trying to prove that God does or doesn’t exist. Neither has been accomplished yet. And neither will.” Ironically only someone who doesn’t understand reasoning or morality at all could advocate either position he triumphantly declares. This is nothing more than anti-intellectualism cloaked in the cover of emphatic agnosticism.