Sam Harris and the Collapse of the Counter-Jihad Left
A failure of nerve.
A few years ago, atheist writer Sam Harris became one of the very few high-profile figures on the Left to break ranks with the Left’s general denial of the jihad threat and willingness to ignore or even excuse the most inhumane Sharia oppression. His calling Islam “the mother lode of bad ideas” on a famous appearance on Bill Maher’s show with Ben Affleck was only the most notorious of many criticisms he made of Islam and jihad, to the fury of many of those who had previously admired his work. Indeed, the reaction was furious from what his friend and coauthor Maajid Nawaz dubbed “the regressive Left”: Glenn Greenwald and others skewered Harris as an “Islamophobe,” and Reza Aslan, with his typical dishonesty, misrepresented statements Harris had made in order to portray him as a racist, genocidal maniac.
Harris held out, but he was clearly stung by the tidal wave of negativity he received from people whom he had previously counted as friends and allies. He went out of his way to demonstrate that the straw man charge that he “hated all Muslims” was false: he coauthored a book with Nawaz, a Muslim reformer, and obediently shunned those who had been smeared by the likes of Greenwald and Aslan in exactly the way he had been, but who were identified with the Right — including me.
That was where the fatal weakness in Harris’s critique of jihad and Sharia began to manifest itself: just as three-time presidential election loser Henry Clay averred that he would “rather be right than President,” Harris was showing that he would rather be Left than counter-jihad. He began to make it clear that, despite his strong words, he wasn’t opposed to jihad terror and Islamic supremacism in any meaningful way, and Leftists were making sure that he couldn’t be. And so during the late presidential campaign, he came out strongly for Hillary Clinton, a candidate who accepted money from Saudi Arabia and Qatar even while knowing that they also funded the Islamic State, and who proclaimed against the evidence of every day’s headlines that “Muslims are peaceful and tolerant people and have nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.” Indeed, Hillary Clinton has a long record of enabling the global jihad, but Sam Harris didn’t appear to be concerned about that, because in his view, the alternative was worse: Donald Trump was, said Harris, a “crazed man-child tearing at the threads” of our democracy. Why? For declaring that Clinton would be jailed if he became President: Harris echoed the standard Leftist talking point that in saying this, Trump was hinting that he would govern like a Third-World dictator, when in reality Trump was stating that the rule of law could and should apply even to the Clintons, who had so flagrantly and repeatedly flouted it over so many decades.
For those who were aware of the nature and magnitude of the jihad threat, the choice on November 8 was not difficult. Trump may be many terrible things, but he spoke with greater honesty about the ideological roots of jihad terror than any Presidential candidate since John Quincy Adams, and — despite a relentless campaign against him by Leftist Jewish organizations and publications — made it clear that he would end Obama’s eight-year diplomatic cold war against the state that is on the front lines of the global jihad, Israel. For Harris to choose instead a candidate so compromised to Islamic supremacist interests in so many ways as Hillary Clinton showed that he didn’t really care about containing and rolling back the jihad threat, or if he did, he had other priorities that far outweighed that one.
Harris showed yet again that he would rather be Left than counter-jihad when his friend and colleague Nawaz endorsed Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) for Chair of the Democratic National Committee, despite Ellison’s multiple ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. That Ellison is virulently anti-Semitic and collaborates closely with several organizations that have opposed every counter-terror measure that has ever been proposed or implemented doesn’t trouble Nawaz; he has never addressed the charges against Ellison, but simply supports him because he is a Muslim and a Leftist. Since Nawaz declared his support for Ellison several weeks ago, Harris has not repudiated Nawaz, or even declared any public disagreement with him on this issue; instead, a couple of weeks after Nawaz endorsed Ellison, Harris announced that they had made a documentary film together.
What kind of a world do Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz want? Apparently it’s one in which they oppose jihad terror while supporting jihad-enabling politicians. It seems as if, as far as they are concerned, one may speak out against jihad terror and Sharia oppression as long as one is determined not to do anything about either one, and indeed, gives active support to those who are helping the forces of jihad advance in the West.
And so this is the way the counter-jihad Left ends: with a whimper, not a bang. Sam Harris is to be commended for speaking the truth in places where it was decidedly unwelcome. But ultimately he has faltered in the breach, and made it clear that in order to oppose jihad terror and Islamic supremacism effectively, one must be willing to stand against the politically correct forces that are more vicious and relentless than ever, now that their hegemony has been challenged on a large scale. Sam Harris wasn’t. Few are. These are times that try men’s souls indeed. And after the trial, few are left standing.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Complete Infidel’s Guide to Iran. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.