Sam Harris and the New Islamophobes, Deconstructed

Sam Harris is on the defensive. The front man at the nexus of new atheism and neuroscience, under attack by civil libertarians and political analysts alike for his flowery Islamophobic rhetoric  (“the people who speak most sensibly about the threat that Islam poses to Europe are actually fascists”) has never denied that religious intolerance lies at the heart of his worldview: “science must destroy religion.”

Now, he is doubling down on his anti-Muslim animus: “The bad acts of the worst individuals—the jihadists, the murderers of apostates, and the men who treat their wives and daughters like chattel—are the best examples of the doctrine in practice.”

This is the same man who says, about Islam, “All civilized nations must unite in condemnation of a theology that now threatens to destabilize much of the earth.”

Often his arguments seem to be poor attempts to plagiarize from the protocols of the elders of neo-conservatism. But even Bernard Lewis, one of the leading defenders of the invasion of Iraq, has conceded that to blame Islam as an ideology for the present state of the Muslim world reeks of intellectual dishonesty. “If Islam is an obstacle to freedom, to science, to economic development,” Lewis asks, “how is it that Muslim society in the past was a pioneer in all three—and this when Muslims were much closer in time to the sources and inspiration of their faith than they are now?”

Mr. Harris is an apologist—one of the best—for the worldview that modern liberals have appropriated from Perle, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Fukuyama in which American military dominance, paired with Silicon Valley solutionism (brilliantly deconstructed as a corporatist regressive farce by Morozov and others) combines with Randian objectivism to usher in a new era of Pax Americana—with the silicon chip as the golden calf at the altar of modernity.

To wit, liberals are now some of the most egregious proponents of indefinite detention, the military police state, warrantless assassination, and the demonization of 1.8 billion Muslims—the greatest stumbling block to the realization of the technocratic dream.

And in this era of a president defined by the mantra: “I am not and never have been a Muslim,” the liberal intelligentsia has taken up the mantle of Islamophobia cloaked in objectivist garb. Harris meets Rand meets Griffith. Bush’s Trix Doctrine viz. “freedom is god’s gift to humanity,” morphs into “freedom is the technological imperative” slash “technology is freedom’s imperative.” Hence reactionary discourses surrounding “open government,” “big data,” and unprecedented levels of bipartisan “public-private partnership” in which the individual as individual is finally stripped of agency and any idea of personal faith is rejected on the pseudo-scientific grounds of “self-quantification” and “Bayesian morality.”

This is the proper contextual lens in which to read the enablers of neoconservatism and the apologists for new atheism. To buy the meme that the irrational fear of Islam represents a failing of Islam and Muslims is to end the possibility of constructive discourse.