ISLAM AND THE FUTURE OF TOLERANCE

A Introduction of ISLAM AND THE FUTURE OF TOLERANCE :

In October 2010, I attended the Intelligence Squared debate in which you were pitted against my friends Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Douglas Murray. We met afterward at a dinner for the organizers, participants, and other guests. People were offering short remarks about the debate and other wise
continuing the discussion, and at one point Ayaan said, “I’d like to know whether Sam Harris has anything to say.” Although I was well into a vodka
tonic at that moment, I remember what I said more or less verbatim. I addressed my remarks directly to you. We hadn’t been introduced, and I
don’t think you had any idea who I was. I said, essentially, this:

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Maajid, I have a question for you. It seems to me that you have a nearly impossible task and yet much depends on your being able to accomplish it. You want to convince the world— especially the Muslim world— that Islam is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by extremists. But the prob lem is that Islam isn’t a religion of peace, and the so- called “extremists” are seeking to implement what is arguably the most honest reading of the faith’s actual doctrine.

So your maneuvers on the stage tonight— the claims you made about interpretations of scripture and the historical context in which certain passages in the Qur’an must be understood— appear disingenuous. ISLAM AND THE FUTURE OF TOLERANCE

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Everyone in this room recognizes that you have the hardest job in the world, and everyone is grateful that you’re doing it. Someone has to try to reform Islam from within, and it’s obviously not going to be an apostate like Ayaan, or infi dels like Douglas and me. But the path of reform appears to be one of pretense. You seem obliged to pretend that the doctrine is something other than it is— for instance, you must pretend that jihad is just an inner spiritual strug gle, whereas it’s primarily a doctrine of holy war.

I’d like to know whether this is, in fact, the situation as you see it. Is the path
forward a matter of pretending certain things are true long enough and hard enough so as to make them true? ISLAM AND THE FUTURE OF TOLERANCE I should reiterate that I was attempting to have this conversation with you in a semipublic context. We weren’t being recorded, as far as I know, but there were still around seventy- fi ve people in the room listening to us. I’m wondering if you remember my saying these things and whether you recall your response at the time.ISLAM AND THE FUTURE OF TOLERANCE Smart Thinking THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECTION

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Nawaz Yes, I do remember that. I’m glad you reminded me of it. I hadn’t made the connection with you. I’m also grateful you mentioned that although we were not on air, many others were present. To my mind, it was just as im por tant inside that room as outside it for people to take what I was saying at face value. In fact, my desire to impact Muslim- minority socie ties with my message is just as strong as my desire to impact Muslim- majority socie ties. ISLAM AND THE FUTURE OF TOLERANCE

Part of what I seek to do is build a mainstream co ali tion of people who are singing from the same page. That doesn’t require that they all become Muslim or non- Muslim. On the contrary, what can unite us is a set of religion- neutral values. By focusing on the universality of human,
demo cratic, and secular (in the British and American sense of this word) values, we can arrive at some common ground. ISLAM AND THE FUTURE OF TOLERANCE Space,Time and Einstein

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It follows that all audiences need to hear this message. Even inside that room, therefore, the stakes were high. To lose that audience would be to realize my fear: the polarization of this debate between those who insist that Islam is a religion of war and proceed to engage in war for it, and those who insist that Islam is a religion of war and proceed to engage in war against it. That would be an intractable situation.ISLAM AND THE FUTURE OF TOLERANCE Start Where You Are

Now, moving to the specifi cs of your question, I responded in the way I did because I felt you were implying that I was engaging in pretense by arguing
that Islam is a religion of peace. If I remember correctly, you said, “It’s understandable in the public context, but here in this room can’t you just be
honest with us?” ISLAM AND THE FUTURE OF TOLERANCE

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