We Need to Talk About Islam’s Jihadism Problem

Sam Harris and Majid Nawaz on the moral urgency of having an honest and apolitical discussion about the problem of Islam:

Political Islam is an offshoot of religious Islam and draws much of its inspiration from the Quran and the hadith (the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad). To be sure, it does not represent the faith in all its forms, but unless challenged, the underlying problems of religious literalism, dogmatism, and pious intolerance are left untreated and continue to spread. A poll in 2014, published in the Saudi-owned newspaper al-Hayat, found that 92 percent of Saudis believe that ISIS “conforms to the values of Islam and Islamic law.” Clearly, ISIS has something to do with Islam. That something is borne of a literalist reading of specific texts within the canon, a reading that many Saudi-based Salafists (a literalist movement that forms state-sanctioned Islam in Saudi Arabia) and ISIS share:

And as for the male and female thief, cut off their hands as recompense for what they have earned, an exemplary punishment from Allah; and Allah is Mighty, Wise. (al-Qur’an 5:38)

Of course, the Bible contains barbaric passages, as well. But there are historical and theological reasons why Christians and Jews can now easily ignore them. Unfortunately, out of excessive concern not to appear biased, many liberals consider any discussion of the special problem posed by Islamism to be a sign of bigotry. This attitude helps bar the door to reform.


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