Is Sam Harris an Islamophobe?
He admits that he fears Islam. He is shocked that "smart, well-educated liberals" do not fear Islam the way he does. He goes on and on about his fear of Islam.
Avoid him at parties - he'll chew your ear off, spit it out, put you to sleep, and wake you up again screaming "the Muslims are coming!"
Islamophobe literally means "one who fears Islam." Sam obviously qualifies.
Normally, when someone obsessively promulgates a negative view of a race or religion, that person is deemed a bigot...and drummed out of polite society. Any American obsessed by fears of Jews like Harris is obsessed by fears of Muslims would have a very hard time finding an academic job or getting their books published or being invited to give public lectures.
Yet Sam Harris's extreme Islamophobia is tolerated. Why? Because most of America is at least moderately Islamophobic.
America is Islamophobic because the people who dominate the media feel a tribal bond with the people who are committing genocide in Palestine - an Islamic-administered holy land virtually ever since Islam began. Since Muslims oppose the Palestine genocide, they are "the enemy," endlessly smeared by the media.
That is why Islamophobia has become second nature to Americans...and why obsessive bigots like Sam Harris are tolerated.
Harris defends his bigotry by claiming that Islam really IS dangerous, so his fear is well-grounded.
That is the same defense of bigotry we always hear: Black people really DO commit more crime, Jews really DO loathe and persecute non-Jews, and so on.
What, precisely, is so dangerous about Islam? Harris is afraid of Islamic suicide bombers.
University of Chicago professor Robert Pape wrote the book on suicide terrorism. It's called Dying to Win. Pape built a "database of every suicide bombing and attack around the globe from 1980 through 2003 — 315 attacks in all." His conclusions: "The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world's religions. . . . Rather, what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland."
315 attacks in 23 years worldwide. During those same 23 years, about 1,500 Americans, and perhaps 30,000 people worldwide, were killed by lightning.
Anyone who fears suicide terrorism more than lighting is a paranoid lunatic.
Someone who spent their whole life looking up at the sky, trembling in fear of the next lightning strike, and blathering endlessly about the thunderstorm threat, would be relatively sane, compared to the likes of Sam Harris.
And Pape has proved that Islam isn't even a factor in suicide terrorism.
Someone who spent their whole life staring at the sky, terrified by the possibility of being struck by ISLAMIC lightning, would be a whole lot saner than Sam Harris.
(I will refrain from even mentioning "Jewish lightning," and will spare you the obligatory Larry Silverstein jokes.)
When a person is afflicted by a phobia - an obsessive, irrational fear - there are usually deep-seated unconscious factors behind it.
So...what is Sam Harris REALLY afraid of?
Harris's recent blog post Islam and the Misuses of Ecstacy answers that question.
Harris's alleged fear of suicide bombers is just the smokescreen thrown up by his unconscious mind. What he is really afraid of is Islamic spirituality.
Specifically, he is afraid of what the word Islam means: Absolute surrender to God.
Absolute surrender to God is a powerful, scary, ecstatic thing. Anal-retentive people - or control freaks, as non-Freudians call them - live in perpetual terror of having their egos annihilated, which would bring them face to face with Reality or Truth (al-Haqq, which is another name for God).
The ego, as Aldous Huxley explained, is a reducing valve. Tom Wolfe glosses: "In ordinary perception, the senses send an overwhelming flood of information to the brain, which the brain then filters down to a trickle it can manage for the purpose of survival in a highly competitive world. Man has become so rational, so utilitarian, that the trickle becomes most pale and thin. It is efficient, for mere survival, but it screens out the most wondrous part of man's potential experience without his even knowing it. We're shut off from our own world.”
In a state of absolute surrender, or annihilation of the ego, we perceive that the "overwhelming flood of information" is just that - information. And as information theorists explain - and we intuit while in a state of ecstatic surrender - "information" necessarily comes from a mind, explicitly sent as a message to another mind.
The cosmos is information outpouring from the mind of God. And we are the recipients of the message.
When we see this, we also see how our ordinary consciousness is based on lies, starting with the mendacious denial of this wondrous reality. We see that our ego's "reducing valve" is actually a perpetual act of self-deception. We see that the root of this self-deception is greed, self-interest, "rational utilitarianism." We see that we are filtering out all information that doesn't help us in our concern with self-image and social and material empowerment.
Selfish people with overweening egos ("reducing valves") are the kuffar, the ungrateful truth-concealers. Those who surrender to God, and experience the ecstasy of the divine message, tend to become humble, grateful, and less self-obsessed. These are the muslims.
They become capable of the acts of extreme generosity that are relatively common in the Islamic world.
And they occasionally become capable of sacrificing their lives in a just cause...because they are (as the Buddhists also try to be) relatively non-attached.
And THAT is why Sam Harris is terrified by "Islamic suicide terrorism." Not because it's such a threat - it's actually a miniscule danger. The scary part is that these people are so spiritually empowered that they have overcome the selfish attachment to one life (mine!) as opposed to other lives. They are willing to die in a just cause.
Harris isn't really worried about their willingness to kill - all military fighters have that.
What he's really scared of is their willingness to die.
Sam Harris is not afraid of people like sniper Chris Kyle, who murdered 250 brave, innocent people in an unjust cause. Being willing to kill in an unjust cause is non-scary to Harris, because it's selfish and ultimately evil. Sam Harris is (let's face it) attached to selfishness and evil, and fanatically fearful and hateful toward the surrender to God that obliterates selfishness and evil.
Harris's horror at people willing to die in a just cause, and his complacency about the vastly larger number of people willing to kill vastly larger numbers of people in an unjust cause, verges on criminal insanity.
For better or worse, there are hardly any Muslims today who are willing to die in a just cause.
So Harris is really afraid of a specter fabricated by his own mind...fabricated to keep him attached to his selfish ego, enslaved to his reducing valve.
Tempted by the "glorious" call to prayer, given a taste of the divine reality by having practiced dhikr (Islamic meditation) for "hours at a stretch," Harris is wavering on the verge of embracing Islam.
All of his Islamophobic howling is what the Freudians call a "reaction formation." Harris is wildly protesting against his true desire - a desire that terrifies him because it threatens his sense of control - threatens to obliterate his ego - threatens him with "death before death," one of the highest (and scariest) spiritual attainments.
As Oscar Wilde said, "The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it."
Sam Harris obviously has been tempted by Islam.
So listen up, Sam: The only way to get rid of your temptation is to surrender to it.
Surrender to God, Sam.
You'll almost certainly find that it brings you a significantly greater degree of inner peace - perhaps even an-nafs al-mutma'inna, the fully peaceful soul.
Then you won't be condemned to spend the rest of your life - and (God forbid) the next - whining and kvetching and hating in this misguided crusade against your own inner demons.
Labels: aldous huxley, bigotry, chris kyle, dhikr, dying to win, islamic spirituality, Islamophobia, robert paper, sam harris, sufism, suicide terrorism, tom wolfe