I took a year of Arabic as an undergraduate at Yale. Along with the language, we also discussed the culture of the Arab world. This was the mid-80’s, so liberal sanctimony didn’t have quite the stranglehold on conversation that it now exerts–even at Yale. We were allowed to discuss things like the terrible oppression and enslavement of women in Islam. We were allowed to consider that oppression wrong.
At the same time, I was the only woman in the class. There were undercurrents of, first, curiosity: Why would a woman study Arabic? And then there was contempt: She must be an idiot to do so. I skipped class regularly, being unable to deal with it. At that time, being naive, I was unable even to articulate to myself how bad it felt to be the target of such jeering condescension.
I realized years later that I had taken the class because of an archetype whom I admire: Scheherazade, the resourceful and intelligent woman of unending stories. There was something in that archetype for me, who would one day be a prolific novelist. My final project was a translation from “One Thousand and One Nights.” I worked hard on the story and pulled off a “B” despite my spotty attendance record and near inability to speak in class because of the sneers I encountered.
Because I have a background in the topic, I understand what Sam Harris is saying: Many individual Muslims are good people, but the faith itself is based on a book and teachings that directly lead to intolerance, the demeaning and enslavement of women, and violence.
That’s my interpretation of Harris’ message. When he says, “…One can draw a straight line from specific doctrines in Islam to the intolerance and violence we see in the Muslim world” in his blogpost “Can Liberalism Be Saved from Itself?”, Harris is correct. He’s not acting in a racist, Islam-hating way. He’s witnessing a truth that must be uttered.
Now he’s written a post about the defamation campaign to which he has been subjected, “On the Mechanics of Defamation.” His words are being taken out of context and twisted to make him appear evil. It’s dreadful, and the people who are doing it ought to be ashamed.
I have some experience in what it is to be the subject of a smear campaign. Someone from my past has gone to a great deal of trouble to distort everything I have ever done or said to make me out to be a bad person. He is obsessed with his vendetta, and he carries it on while stalking my blog and reading my posts obsessively, at all hours of the night and day, from different locations.
So I have some sympathy for what Harris is going through now, on many levels. He’s telling the truth and being scorned, castigated, and defamed for it.
The thing is, there is no reasoning with malice. Harris is trying to present a rational thesis to irrational people: knee-jerk liberals.
I have never met more close-minded, self-certain, impregnable-to-logic people than knee-jerk liberals. Especially since Obama took office, their sanctimony and self-righteousness has become a bell jar bulwark against any kind of reason or logic.
I voted for Obama the first time. However, I grew disillusioned. I believe in women’s rights, reproductive freedom, gay rights, social justice, and gun control. So far, OK.
But I also believe in citizen privacy, supporting and encouraging small American businesses (not Wall Street and not Socialism), supporting Israel, accountability and oversight for multi-national corporations that function as sovereign nation-states, and getting the Health Insurance companies to pay for universal Health care (not the states).
I also find it extraordinarily hypocritical that Obama’s tactic is to rally people against “the Have’s” when he has taken more vacations, and more expensive vacations, and played more golf, than any president in history. So many of his supporters are the Limousine liberals of Wall Street, which may be why he bailed them out.
Whenever I have been asked by liberals, “Why don’t you like Obama?” I answer with the aforementioned reasons–citizen privacy, etc–the lengthy list of policies and presidential actions with which I do not agree. Inevitably, the liberals tell me, “You are racist.”
I provide a rational explanation that has nothing to do with the pigment in President Obama’s skin, but knee-jerk liberals can’t hear the logic. They reflexively answer with their standard dismissal of all criticism for Obama: “You are racist.”
Racism is a great social evil. It’s as bad as the misogyny in traditional Islam. I stand for the dissolution of racism and misogyny. Yes, I am equating them. Shouldn’t anyone who believes in social justice do so?
Back to Sam Harris. I support his intelligent, reasonable words and I support his right to speak them. I just doubt he’ll get anywhere with them. For one, traditional Muslims don’t want to hear what he’s saying. The many peace-loving, good Muslims are probably a bit ashamed of the intolerance, bigotry, and violence–and they perhaps feel at a loss for what to do about it. After all, the necessary end to an insistence on purity is terrorism, and Islam insists on purity.
For two, knee-jerk liberals can not hear or receive Harris’ message. They are closed and unavailable to discourse. They do not want to do the research and see truthful implications. They are just about solely interested in promoting their own ideology.
But I hope Sam Harris doesn’t give up. I hope he keeps defending himself and stating his views. I support what he says.