The following is a post I wrote on Sam Harris’ Facebook page in response to a recent conversation brokered between Harris and a certain Omer Aziz (from Salon magazine). The latter is a rather hot-headed cultural warrior who has misrepresented the motives and agenda of Sam Harris and Majid Nawaz, specifically regarding their recent collaborative project against global Islamism. In this conversation, which you can find here, the usual charges were recycled against Harris (i.e. bigotry, capitalizing on Islam-bashing, etc.). However, my short reaction (which I republish below) only touches upon the historical and theological convolutions committed by Aziz. For instance, he claims the Salafiist doctrine is a modern ideology divorced from the examples set by historical and doctrinal Islam. See for yourself why this is a bogus claim.
Dear Sam, I commend your efforts trying to reason with this rather stubbornly unreasonable individual. As a former Muslim, let me just point out that most western audiences would have fallen (and many already have) for his cheap tricks and somersault arguments. You clearly saw through his veneer of misinformation. The guy is so anxiously charged to unload his big words and sentences, without considering the logical implications of what he’s actually saying.
He’s says that Takfiriism and Wahibiism is some new age phenomenon. This is a complete lie. While these terms may have become more formalized recently, the contents of this poisonous theology have been extant for 1400 years. There were in fact a group of puritanical theocrats, called the Kharijites, who caused trouble for the Rashidun caliphs. They were essentially an older version of ISIS. In fact, what provoked them into rebellion was their belief that the caliphs were not living up enough to the egalitarian standard of Islam. Thats right, even the most fanatical members of Islam preached the virtues most boasted by Muslims today: equality and fairness. So just because Islamic apologists talk about these “real virtues” of Islam, it shouldn’t relieve any of our anxieties about the potential dangers of this religion. It is also worth mentioning that even during the golden age of Islam they were executing apostates (e.g. the apostasy and execution of Leocritia from the Corodoban Martyr Movement of the 850’s). There are also many stories from the original sources (early biographies and authenticated hadiths) about Muhammad which document the ordered assassinations and executions of those who either apostatized or insulted him.
The details may differ, but the essence of what the wahabis and salafis do has been set by the precedent of 1400 years of instructional theology.
Just as a follow up question: why has the puritanical theology of the Kharijites been resurrected (via ISIS), whereas the Islamic golden age so often cited by your guest, and other Islamic apologists, has not produced one single new reformation or enlightenment in the Muslim world today? Will the real Islam please stand up?