When I recently asked Sam Harris what he thought of the word ‘Islamophobia,’ he directed me to a tweet that noted the following: “Islamophobia. A word created by fascists, & used by cowards, to manipulate morons.”
“I don’t think [the tweet] overstates the case by much,” said Harris, the atheist author whose sweeping critique of Islam (and the “meme of Islamophobia”) onReal Time With Bill Maher has sparked a broader debate about Islamophobia—both the phenomenon and the term itself—in the age of ISIS and Islamist politics.
“Islam is not a race, ethnicity, or nationality: It’s a set of ideas,” Harris told me. “Criticism of these ideas should never be confused with an animus toward people. And yet it is. I’m convinced that this is often done consciously, strategically, and quite cynically as a means of shutting down conversation [on] important topics.”