Islam And The Future Of Tolerance– A Harvard Discussion Between Sam Harris & Maajid Nawaz
Ahead of the November 3rd release of ‘Islam and the Future Of Tolerance: A Dialogue’ –
a book collaboration between Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz – both men sat down in conversation before a Harvard audience a little while ago.
I’ve always admired both men’s willingness to seek out dialogue with those who hold different, or even wildly opposing worldviews. Actual dialogue mind you, not point scoring and inflammatory rhetoric, but a genuine, civil exchange of ideas. I’ve become somewhat disillusioned with the typical debate format over the years. Often, a truly valuable opportunity can be sacrificed in the pursuit of victory. The debate format is engineered around ‘winning’, not investigating truths or finding common ground.
In fact, people can (and often do) win debates with objectively wrong arguments – proving it’s about the packaging, rather than the contents. Whether or not you agree with what either Harris or Nawaz have to say on this topic, I think credit is due for bringing this pertinent discussion to us in a constructive way, and to Harvard for providing the platform.
UPDATE 15 Sep: Someone has now posted the video on YouTube (below)
I followed the live video stream of the event provided via Harvard and below are some notable highlights:
- Harris now rocks a beard.
- Harvard changed hash tags more times than Gaga changes clothes. See #HarrisNawaz and #ToleranceJFK
- Maajid Nawaz explains his name is pronounced like ‘Magic’ but with a ‘D’.
- “We have to talk about specific consequences of specific beliefs” – Sam Harris.
- Sam and Maajid take a moment to shine a light on the usual liberal regressives who refer to Maajid with terms such as ‘lapdog’ and ‘Muslim validator’.
- Ayaan Hirsi Ali was in attendance
- “The real purpose of our collaboration is to figure out some path forward” – Sam Harris
- Maajid Nawaz on being called an ‘Islamophobe’: “The day you have had to dodge neo-nazi hammer attacks is the day you get to talk to me about Islamophobia”
- Maajid Nawaz uses “Check your privilege”. We’ll let that slide
- Maajid takes a swing at the ‘racism of low expectations’.
- “I read all the Harry Potter books in prison” – Maajid Nawaz, talking about his ‘Voldermort Effect’ analogy: “by not naming Islamism & distinguishing it from Islam, you only increase hysteria & make it easier for haters to blame all Muslims”.
- Apparently, Maajid Nawaz gets more blowback for engaging with Sam Harris than for engaging with extremists.
- Sam Harris highlights the plight of minorities in Muslim majority countries. Nawaz bangs the drum about Raif Badawi.
- Maajid reiterates that he never claims to be a religious leader, or speak for Muslims: “I’m not a religious leader, I’m not devout. Some of you may see me doing things…I won’t elaborate”. The crowd laughs.
- Maajid Nawaz makes some interesting points on the prohibition of alcohol in Islam.
- “The logical conclusion of this debate is secularism” – Maajid Nawaz
- Nawaz reels off a number of horrors in the name of Islam that can’t be pinned on foreign policy.
- “The crazier you get as a Jain, the less we have to worry about you” – Sam Harris
- Apparently, Sam Harris trains listening to Sufi Music, specifically Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
- “No idea is above scrutiny, no person beneath dignity” – Maajid Nawaz
- Sam Harris explains for the millionth time that it’s not *only* Islam that plays a role in extremism.
- Maajid dubs Harris ‘Apollo Creed’.
- Some people at Harvard mistake the question section for an audition.
- Harris, on the use of footnotes: “You could improve the Bible and Qur’an in five minutes”
- “You have to keep putting pressure on bad ideas” – Sam Harris
- Maajid mentions an article he wrote in The Daily Beast. Read it here
An excellent and pertinent discussion.
What did you take away from the conversation? Let me know in the comments section.