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The End of Faith – The Problem with Islam Thursday, March 29, 2007

Posted by Henry in atheism, book review, faith, God, Islam, jihad, Koran, Middle East, Noam Chomsky, rationality, religion, Sam Harris.

This is a highly anticipated chapter of the book. While Sam Harris focuses on faith as the main theme of the book, an entire chapter is devoted to Islam. Why so? Harris says that because at this particular point in history, we are at war with Islam:

“It is not merely that we are at war with an otherwise peaceful religion that has been ‘hijacked’ by extremists. We are at war with precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran, and further elaborated in the literature of hadith, which recounts the says and actions of the Prophet.”

Harris mentions jihad. Jihad is translated literally as “struggles”, and there are two types of it – an “inner” struggle on one’s self, and an “outer” struggle which involves with struggles against infidels and apostates. Essentially,

“… the duty of jihad is an unambiguous call to world conquest.”

Harris devotes quite a number of pages of the chapter quoting from the Koran and hadith to support his argument – just take a look from page 117 to 123 – because he wants to emphasize on the root of the problem with Islam:

“On almost every page, the Koran instructs observant Muslims to despise non-believers. On almost every page, it prepares the ground for religious conflict.”

Suicide bombing, as Harris argues, is no aberration of Islam, given the tenets of jihad, martyrdom, infidels and paradise. The Muslim world today is comparable to the 14th century Christian Europe on the intellectual and economical fronts. A shocking statistics is that Spain translates as many books into Spanish each year as the entire Arab world has translated into Arabic since the 9th century (reported by UN in 2002)! I think this fact along has convinced me of just how stagnant the Arab world has become in terms of human knowledge – and this is a really grim picture, because lack of knowledge implies the reliance on the Koran and hadith, which are firmly rooted in a world that was thousands of years ago. Harris puts it:

“… I think it is clear that Islam must find some way to revise itself, peacefully or otherwise. What this will mean is not at all obvious. What is obvious, however, is that the West must either win the argument or win the war. All else is bondage.”

Is it simply possible to modernise the Arab politically, economically and socially to force Islam to follow the path to liberalism (as Christianity has)? Harris doubts it, and his doubt rests on the fact that it is the fundamentals of Islam that is the obstacle (which is what this chapter is all about), and that organised religion represents a massive waste of resources which will doubtlessly hinder any progress

Harris then ventures to raise our awareness on the danger of “wishful” thinking and devoted a chapter in attacking these liberal thinkers such as Noam Chomsky, who blames atrocities such as the 9-11 event to their own governments rather than realising that the underlying cause is that of faith itself.

Harris concludes the chapter by asking what we can do to reduce the dangers of fanatical suicide bombing, terrorism and even atomic bombing (which Harris believes is quite possible). He thinks that somehow Islam must undergo a radical transformation:

“This transformation, to be palatable to Muslims, must also appear to come from Muslim themselves. It does not seem much of an exaggeration to say that the fate of civilization lies largely in the hands of “moderate” Muslims. Unless Muslims can reshape their religion into an ideology that is basically benign – or outgrow it altogether – it is difficult to see how Islam and the West can avoid falling into a continual state of war, and on innumerable fronts. Nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons cannot be uninvented.”


1. haya7 - Wednesday, May 2, 2007

well it seems the super power of the West itself is dangling and cannt hold its grounds.It is pretty amazing to see u r so afraid of sme mere population of Muslim world.The so called super power is and wil bea lways falling into a continual state of war.The reason is that ISLAM has the potential to stand its grounds in front of any situation.And any other religion cannot and so keps on changing according to the needs of Modern world.

To correct u,ISLAM needs no transformation at all.It is the bst religion for human beings.It is ur impotent thought faculty that u cannot even understand ISLAM.U talk abt QURAN but kindly get out verses from teh context.Having no info ant the QURANIC verses u cannot juts keep on going spreading ur misconceptions.U pick up some cherry qoutes out of context and start putting ur baseless comments.

To control suicide bombng ISLAM does nt have to undergo any change or ideology,it is the WESTERN MEDIA and the WEST that needs a brain transplant.It is ur leaders who r biggest terrorist consuming the rights of many innocent Muslims.It is no one else but u people urself that r causing the biggest threat to urselves.A JUST person needs not to fear from anyone.But obviously the biggest terrorist has to fear his life as he has himself consumed rights of many innocents.

Amit - Friday, April 30, 2010

The countries in the west offers freedom and allows muslims to live there with freedom. Let me ask you would the muslim countries do the same for other faiths. I say no they wouldnt. The example is Saudi Arabia. First look into your own pocket before putting the blames

2. Teenage Girl Stoned to Death for Loving the Wrong Boy « On Evolution - Sunday, May 6, 2007

[…] can understand better now what Sam Harris means by saying that the Muslim world is comparable to the 14th century Christian […]

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