I generally like a few things about Sam Harris. He raises some thought provoking issues at times. Specially when he provokes everyone into thinking and asking themselves introspectively that why do they believe in what they believe. I think that this kind of provocation is healthy and urges a human being to study human consciousness. That where did we come from and where are we headed? Or whether it all starts here and ends here too. This much is fine. There are other such things which one should appreciate too. This is also not in conflict with traditional Islam. A keen study of history suggests that wherever the medieval Muslims went they learnt something from other societies. And they were not too much into killing other people at all after all. So, according to Islam, one should learn good things from where ever one can. This is naturally a good idea.
But then there are other things which are quite objectionable about Sam Harris’s objections on Islam or religion in general. One of them is that Sam does not like the idea that religion is used as a tool to glue people together. This is generally true about his opinion about every religion. In my opinion as much as religion is used to unite people together for common good, it should be fine. Of course, it should not be fine to unite with each other to harm others. Unity should be also be fine for self protection. There is no harm in having a harmless brotherhood too. I used to respect atheists as I had some of them as friends and I used to think that they are educated people. Brotherhood is also good if it enhances the self-respect of a community. But I have read a few articles from other atheists about Sam Harris in which he has been addressed as a “Son of a Bitch” and a “Bastard”. It might be the case that Sam does not mind that, but this sort of treatment is quite harsh.
Moreover, just because he does not mind listening to such complements himself, he demands more liberties of free speech regarding religion. His use of the term misogyny of Islam can have many connotations and can be justifiably considered harsh. But the truth is that we Muslims believe that Islam was born at a time when Arabs used to bury their daughters alive due to the fear that they would grow up and would have to be married to someone. A perceived consequence of marriage used to be that the family of the daughter would have to live under the perpetual domination of their daughter’s in-laws. Something which the Arabs despised and could not live with. I personally think that the mere idea that their daughter would get married and go on to have sex with another person was unbearable for them, even if that other person was her husband. And a solution for that was burial of the living and breathing child. We believe that Islam was born out of such circumstances.
We believe that all the struggle of Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him) including his migrations and wars was against this kind of oppression, which is quite a lot I would say. We believe that all the Islamic rules viz a viz marriage and betrothal are there to enhance the self-esteem of the women. A woman should not be buried alive if she has been born in pre-Islamic Arabia by chance, nor should her naked picture be put on a billboard if she is fortunate enough to be born in 21st century Amsterdam. She should be married properly with her consent. To this end, Islam tries to strike a balance between the people of different mentalities. On one extreme, there can be people who can flare up instantly at the mere sight of a stranger falling upon their daughter, sister or mother. There could also be people who do not mind if their daughter, mother, sister or wife thinks that it is boring to have the same partner for two consecutive days but is at a higher risk of catching sexually transmitted disease, being kidnapped or raped or ending up in a bad situation of the same magnitude. Islam tries to anneal all of them. And I know from personal knowledge that plenty of such people exist in non-Muslim countries where people do not accept their women to be dating on loose. I remember the movies unfaithful (Richard Gere) and Revenge (Kevin Costner and Anthony Quinn) where these guys ended up in bloody circumstances because their wives were seeing someone else. A question is that are these movies representative of the American culture, if so Islam presents a cure in the form of respectable marriage laws.
Islam allows a woman to not get married if she chooses so to be. Similarly, one cannot wed a woman off to someone if she does not agree. And yes, should she not be educated? Islam argues that it is the duty of every Muslim man and woman to seek education. This is quoted in many hadiths of Prophet Muhammad (may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him). I am a Muslim and I like Sam Harris. I even like his commentary on religion. I think he enlightens us all on as to what and why should we believe in. I think that as a human being Sam Harris deserves respect. But Sam Harris should also try to earn that respect. His use of the term misogyny is rather provocative.
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