Salon’s Shady Interview With Sam Harris

Sam Harris is one of the few intellectuals today willing to speak frankly about the Islamic totalitarian movement. I agree broadly with his account of how the movement is fundamentally animated by religious ideas (rather than primarily political or economic grievances). Moreover, Harris has been courageous and articulate in fighting the smear of “Islamophobia,” a dishonest term intended to silence debate and marginalize dissenting views. Salon magazine is a major bullhorn for the purveyors of the “Islamophobia” smear, who regularly target Harris and other writers. So I was astonished to see that magazine run an interview with Harris.

Well, the interview is definitely worth reading, for a couple of reasons. Harris’s perspective on the Islamist movement is refreshingly honest and insightful. And, what Salon edited out of the interview — but which you can read on Harris’s own blog — is particularly revealing.

Harris agreed to do the interview on the condition that he approve the words attributed to him and that he be allowed to say what he wants about Salon itself. Despite agreeing to those conditions, Salon cut one substantive — and deserved — criticism of its own editorial line. The unexpurgated version of the interview can be found here, with the edited passage highlighted in blue. Do have a look at that 542-word passage. In it Harris gives specific examples of the kind of starkly dishonest attacks against him that Salon has published. Were the editors trying to wish away those invidious facts? The omission is shameful.

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Let me add: Harris’s interview ventures beyond the Islamist movement, touching on his views regarding morality. That’s one of several important areas on which I disagree with his perspective.

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My colleague Onkar Ghate gave an enlightening talk earlier this year that deals with some of the issues that come up in the Salon interview. In that talk, “Charlie Hebdo, the West and the Need to Ridicule Religion,” Onkar unpacks the notion of “Islamophobia,” the motives behind it, and how to sort out the issues that it blurs together.

And this in interview, Onkar talks about the “new atheists,” notably including Sam Harris, and their critique of religion.

Image: “Sam_Harris_01.jpg” by Unknown via Wikimedia Commons used under CC BY-SA 3.0 / Cropped from original