Islam and The Future of Tolerance – A Perfect Example of a Liberal Discourse! 🗽🕊️

Last updated on June 2, 2023
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  • Gone are the days of decency and civility. Gone are the days when two people with opposing viewpoints would discuss their opinions with mutual respect and open minds. Chaos and mayhem are the order of our times when it comes to discourses, and echo chambers are the new fashion statement everyone seems to chase with enthusiasm.

    Islam and the Future of Tolerance (Review)

    Islam And The Future Of Tolerance By Sam Harris Maajid Nawaz Review Rating Author Summary

    In comes a book like the one we have here today, and it’s no less than a little miracle that it even exists in the first place, in such polarised times. Two individuals with widely differing views and opinions, with drastically different backgrounds, calmly talking about a subject, without any offenses taken and certainly without any shouting matches: a miracle indeed!

    (A little note of disclaimer before we proceed. When I say liberal, I don’t mean any political identity, rather I refer to the classical definition of liberalism: being open-minded.)

    Let’s delve a bit into why Islam and the Future of Tolerance by Maajid Nawaz and Sam Harris and see why it’s a perfect example of liberal discourse.

    1. Discussing a Sensitive Issue Without Any Constraints

    Talks about Islam often tend to get stifled by political correctness and the vote bank politics (Not looking into the far right’s recurring Islamophobia for now). Tags such as “bigot”, “Islamophobic”, “offensive” are quick to pop up, even in intellectual debates. 

    A popular example was seen in the case of a debate between Bill Maher, Sam Harris, Nicholas Kristof, Ben Affleck, and Michael Steele, where Affleck was quick to silence Maher and Harris’s questions with, this is “gross, racist, disgusting”. (Now, you might agree or disagree with one’s viewpoints, and that’s entirely your decision to make, but to try to shout someone down in an intellectual debate? Not very intellectual.)

    Or take the example of the Obama administration treating Al-Qaeda as a criminal group rather than treating it as a group with specific ideological beliefs, hence repeating the mistakes of their predecessors, the Bush administration. They would recognize it later, but by then, it would be too late. 

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    Or take the example of Reza Aslan, a popular commentator on Islam, blaming the Charlie Hebdo massacre (where 12 primary members of the magazine were murdered for printing offensive cartoons) on “France’s inability to tolerate multiculturalism”.

    What I’m trying to show here is how the general attitude towards the subject of Islamism (note here that Islamism differs from Islam in that the former is an ideological struggle for dominance of Islam, either via political or violent means) goes. And therefore, the book arrives like a fresh gust of wind, which talks about every aspect of the concerned topic without any restraints whatsoever.

    As Nawaz talks about it too, in the book, when it comes to Islamism, the “Voldemort effect” phenomenon can be seen widely. As in the Harry Potter series, the antagonist Voldemort is often called “he-who-must-not-be-named”, to not call him by his actual name, and so it is with Islamism. And the lesser talks and discourse there is on the topic, Maajid argues, the bigger the issue is bound to become.

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    To his credit, Harris is relentless in his questioning (albeit a bit redundant at times, in my opinion), and Nawaz, in turn, answers each question with examples and arguments rooted in both logic and practicality.

    2. Diverse Backgrounds

    Let’s look into the backgrounds of our two co-authors here. 

    Maajid Nawaz was a part of the revolutionary Islamist group, the Hizb ut-Tahrir, for a long time, actively recruiting new members for their aim of an Islamic State. Following his arrest and prison sentence during which he was contacted by Amnesty, who helped him reform his ideas, he co-founded the world’s first organization for countering terrorism, Quilliam. 

    Islam And The Future Of Tolerance A Perfect Example Of A Liberal Discourse

    Sam Harris, on the other hand, is a philosopher and neuroscientist who became famous for his criticism of religion, through several books and talks. He’s also a part of the group, more popularly labelled the “New Atheists”, which also includes names such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. 

    Both couldn’t have come from any more different places and sets of opinions, and yet they sit down together, have cordial and open talks, keeping aside their differences for the moment. How rare is that in today’s world? A tad bit too much, I believe. 

    3. Delivery Format

    The book is written entirely in the form of dialogues (staying true to the subheading of the book), and it works to their advantage on several levels. It’s a simple dinner table conversation between the two men, which is recorded and compiled into this piece.

    First and foremost, it brings out a level of intimacy and candour to the text, keeping you hooked throughout. Not for one second do you feel boredom or dreariness of any kind, because of how seamless the text flows. Second and more importantly, it further encourages what it preaches: more dialogue. To have arguments, debates, and dialogues respectfully is the way public discourse should be (even more so for sensitive topics such as this), and the two authors set a great example on that count themselves.

    Neither of them beats around the bush in this short book and keeps it direct and blunt. And that’s why it’s even more effective and nuanced. Using ancient and modern history, along with taking into factor different contexts and philosophies, Maajid answers each of Sam’s questions with precision and clarity. Not only does it help clear a lot of the mist surrounding these topics, but it also helps answer a lot of pressing questions that we, as a society, need to talk about.


    “Jihadism”, “fundamentalism”, “Islamism”: many such terms and their relevance in global geopolitics and economics have always interested me, but the hesitancy and political correctness, that often stifles discussions around these topics, ensured an ignorance on my part towards them. So it was no less than a gift that I chanced upon this book, which not only changed my opinions and perspectives but was also a cherishable read.

    While it may not be the most comprehensive guide on the topics it seeks to explore, it certainly is one of a kind. And with its length (even the audiobook is just 2 hours long), the variety of subject matter it manages to include is incredible. What the book’s primary purpose is to get people talking, in a civilized and healthy manner, respecting and considerate of others’ opinions, to create a better and more peaceful society. 

    As Sam says, if every person who asks genuine questions or seeks answers is labelled Islamophobic or bigoted, there’d be no one remaining to talk. And that stage would be occupied by actual bigots and Islamophobes. Certainly not a desirable situation. You can get the book here! 📖

    Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue
    Islam and the Future of Tolerance by Sam Harris Maajid Nawaz Review Rating Author Summary

    Gone are the days of decency and civility. Gone are the days when two people with opposing viewpoints would discuss their opinions with mutual respect and open minds. Chaos and mayhem are the order of our times when it comes to discourses, and echo chambers are the new fashion statement everyone seems to chase with enthusiasm.


    Author: Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz

    Editor's Rating:

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    Last updated on June 2, 2023

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