You say at one point in the book that the New Atheists, "like Christian fundamentalists, are stunted products of a self-satisfied, materialistic middle class." But I wonder what you would say to someone like Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, a victim of genital cutting who fled her faith-based homeland for the secular West, when she says that the secularism of Western society is better than the religiosity of her native Somalia?
It was better, for her.
She doesn't qualify that. She says it's better.
Well, she's speaking out of her personal experience, and it was better for her. I mean, look, I covered conflicts in Africa, in the Middle East, and in Central America, where Western society rained nothing but death and destruction on tens of thousands of people, which is of course what we're doing in Iraq. So, is Western society -- American society -- better for Iraqis? And I think part of the problem is people who create a morality based on their own experience, which is what of course the New Atheists and the Christian fundamentalists have done.
Chris makes an excellent point here. One of the biggest problems with Islamophobes is that they rely heavily upon the hasty generalization (the fallacy of the insufficient sample, leaping to a conclusion, what have you). "If Ayaan Hirsi-Ali, who hates Islam, says that Islam must be such-and-such, then it must be true." They base their "morality," such as it is, upon the sandy soil of one person's experience.
I want to go back to what you see as the ultimate threat of the New Atheists and the Christian right. You voice concern in the book that these two groups of fundamentalists are going to gang up, "to call for a horrific bloodletting and apocalyptic acts of terror..."
It's a possibility. I mean, I covered al-Qaida for the New York Times. There wasn't an intelligence chief who I interviewed who didn't talk about another catastrophic attack on American soil as inevitable. They never used the word "if." They just used the word "when," and if this kind of rhetoric, which is racist, is allowed to infect the civil discourse -- whether it comes from the Christian right or the New Atheists -- toward Muslims, who are one-fifth of the world population, most of whom are not Arabs, then what I worry about is that in a moment of collective humiliation and fear, these two strands come together and call for an assault on Muslims, both outside our gates and on the 6 million Muslims who live within our borders. And that frightens me, that demonization of a people -- turning human beings into abstractions, so that they're not human anymore. They don't have hopes, dreams, aspirations, pains, sufferings. They represent an unmitigated evil that must be vanquished. That's very scary, and that is at the bedrock of the ideology of the New Atheists as it is with the Christian fundamentalists.
All I can ask my fellow Muslims is, "Are you not surprised?"