Islam and the Future of Tolerance by Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz, 2015

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Religious critic Sam Harris and former Islamist Maajid Nawaz discuss the problem of political and/or violent forms of Islam, and the best way to promote the more secular, cosmopolitan, and peaceful forms of Islam.

Harris has long argued that the Koran itself (the claims and dictates contained in the text) is the primary cause of political or violent Islam.  He sees a clear line between scripture and how people decide to behave.

Nawaz argues that any text is always interpreted inside of some context, and the political/economic/social context surrounding those who purse violent or political Islam are framing interpretations of the text in harmful ways.  He believes moderate readings of the Koran are still true to the text, and that in certain contexts people who are now Islamist or jihadist would read the texts in those more moderate ways.

The book is dialogue between its two authors, reading like the transcript of an interview.  The tone is softer than a debate, mainly it’s a conversation. I enjoyed the format, and I think it works well for this kind of contentious topic where there isn’t a clear answer.

I wonder about why the book was written—who the authors hope would read it, and more importantly, who they actually expect will read it.  I imagine their target audience is secular/moderate Muslims.  I wonder if they really think it will have an impact where they’d like it to have one.

Ideas per Page:1 3/10 (lower)

Related Books: The End of Faith by Sam Harris

Recommend to Others: Only if previously interested

Reread Personally: No


19 …an Islamist attempts to impose his version of Islam on the rest of society, and a jihadist is an Islamist who attempts to do so by force.

32 …the polls that were done in Britain immediately after the 7/7 bombings in London revealed that more than 20 percent of British Muslims felt sympathy for the bombers motives; 30 percent wanted to live under shari’ah; 45 percent thought that 9/11 was the result of a conspiracy between the United States and Israel; and 68 percent believed that British citizens who “insult Islam” should be arrested and prosecuted

36 …four elements exist in all forms of ideological recruitment: a grievance narrative, whether real or perceived; and identity crisis; a charismatic recruiter; and ideological dogma.

41 Some Jihadists are not “pious” in the sense of having firm religious convictions.  …religious sincerity of the lack of it, fluctuates between, within, and among groups.

51 The great liberal betrayal of this generation is that in the name of liberalism, communal rights have been prioritized over individual autonomy within minority groups.  And minorities within minorities really do suffer because of this betrayal.  The people I really worry about when we have this conversation are feminist Muslims, gay Muslims, ex-Muslims—all the vulnerable and bullied individuals who are not just stigmatized but in many cases violently assaulted or killed merely for being against the norm.

53 I was not surprised to learn that Breivik quoted al-Qaeda extensively in his terrorist manifesto.  One of these extremes is opposed to a “Muslim takeover,” and the other is in favor of it, but they both subscribe to that divisive, sectarian apocalyptic vision.

58 Even more preposterous is the fact that if a pastor in Florida burns a copy of the Qur’an—or merely threatens to do so—it reliably produces more outrage in dozens of Muslim societies than the atrocities committed daily by Sunnis against Shia ever will.

69 You can’t say, for instance, that Islam recommends eating bacon and drinking alcohol.  … One simply cannot say that the central message of the Qur’an is respect for women as the moral and political equals of men.

72-3 …hate crimes against Muslims in the US … appear to be of greater concern than the enslavement and obliteration of countless people throughout the Muslim world.

119 Launching more drone strikes than Bush ever did and compiling a secret “kill list,” President Obama’s administration took the view that al-Qaeda was like an organized crime gang—disrupt the hierarchy, destroy the gang.  Theirs was a concerted and dogmatic attempt at pretending that al-Qaeda was nothing but a fringe criminal group, and not a concrete realization of an ideological phenomenon with grassroots sympathy.

1 A measure of the number of new or distinct ideas introduced per page. 10/10 would be conceptually dense, like a textbook. 1/10 would be almost completely fluff.





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