By Jalal Heirannia

New Atheist writers tend to misread and misrepresent Islamic sources: Michigan Professor

March 11, 2018

TEHRAN - Professor Mohammad Hassan Khalil, Director of the Muslim Studies Program of Michigan State University says new Atheist writers also tend to misread and misrepresent Islamic sources.

Author of “Jihad, Radicalism, and the New Atheism” also adds that “In fact, their portrayals of Islam are sometimes even more extreme than those of violent radicals themselves.”

Following is the full text of the interview:

Q: What has been your main question in your new book, “Jihad, Radicalism, and the New Atheism”?

A: In the eyes of New Atheist writers such as Sam Harris, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and Richard Dawkins, Islam is fundamentally violent. As they see it, when violent radicals, including members of al-Qaeda and ISIL, engage in terrorism, they are acting in accord with Islamic scripture. My book scrutinizes this view. I show how violent radicals depart from Islamic tradition and how writers such as Harris, Ali, and Dawkins--who are extremely influential in certain Western contexts--misread this tradition.  

Q: What is your central argument?

A: My central argument is twofold: (1) Violent radicals cannot be considered "literalists" who adhere carefully to Islamic scripture and tradition. I offer various examples of radicals diverging from and misreading Islamic sources. (2) Prominent New Atheist writers also tend to misread and misrepresent Islamic sources. In fact, their portrayals of Islam are sometimes even more extreme than those of violent radicals themselves.  

Q: What was the necessity of writing this book?

A: I noticed that various professors and students at my and other Western universities were deeply impacted by the writings of the New Atheists on Islam. Needless to say, I found these writings to be highly problematic. Furthermore, violent radicals are often on the news, and so the question of violence in Islam is often on my colleagues' and students' minds.
 

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