Islam and the Future of Tolerance
In this deeply informed and absorbing exchange, Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz present an antidote to the polarizing rhetoric and obscurantism that have become defining features of our time: honest dialogue. A renowned critic of religion, Harris finds the doctrines of Islam dangerous and irredeemable. No, the Muslim anti-extremist Nawaz argues, Islam is amenable to reform and can find its place in a secular world. Rather than devolve into bigotry or caricature, their exchange presents an inspiring example of courteous attention, sharp-edged wisdom, and finally hope.
A former member of the Islamist revolutionary group Hizb ut-Tahrir, author of Radical, and cofounder of the anti-extremist think tank Quilliam, Nawaz speaks with unique authority about the possibility of Islamic reform. Since the 2004 publication of The End of Faith, Harris has critiqued religion and asserted that reason and science are the true guardians of our deepest human values. Islam and the Future of Tolerance is an exemplar of how the fog can lift when hyperbole and posturing are put aside in pursuit of understanding.
“Free thought and rational inquiry once characterized the relative liberalism and humanism of ancient Muslim societies and civilizations: the leading Sunni Imam, Abu Hanifa, would debate atheists inside the great mosques of Iraq; the Abbasid caliphs hosted debates amongst the leaders of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam at their courts in Baghdad; the Mughal emperors engaged in debate with Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists. Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz should be commended for conducting a frank and wide-ranging conversation about a number of key issues around religion, reform, and Islam in the modern world. Nawaz’s approach is based upon detailed familiarity with extremist worldviews, and with the history and tradition of reform theology and renewal within Islam that desperately needs to be amplified. I hope that this debate will be a fruitful endeavor, and illustrate that, in our increasingly-polarized world, it is possible and even normal for people with different viewpoints to have a civilized conversation and to learn from each other.” -(Sheikh Dr. Usama Hasan, Islamic scholar)
“Back in Islam’s formative centuries, the engagement of Muslims with their ideological opponents helped them to forge the doctrines and traditions of their nascent faith―and perhaps now, as Maajid Nawaz locks horns with Sam Harris, we are at the start of another stage in Islam’s evolution. It is certainly a privilege to read their conversation, and to enjoy a flavor of those great debates between rival scholars that were once staged for the entertainment of the Caliph in Baghdad.” -(Tom Holland, historian and author of In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire)