From The Independent:
They are often described as “The Unholy Trinity” – a trio of ferociously bright and pugilistic academics who use science to decimate what they believe to be the world’s greatest folly: religion. But now Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris are on the receiving end of stinging criticism from fellow liberal non-believers who say their particular brand of atheism has swung from being a scientifically rigorous attack on all religions to a populist and crude hatred of Islam. In the last fortnight a series of columns have been written denouncing the so-called New Atheist movement for, in one writer’s words, lending a “veneer of scientific respectability to today's politically-useful bigotry.” The opening broadside began earlier this month with a polemic from Nathan Lean on the Salon.com website. Lean, a Washington DC native and Middle East specialist who has recently written a book about the Islamophobia industry, was prompted to pen his attack following a series of tweets last month by Professor Dawkins attacking Islam in snappy 140 character sound bites. “Haven’t read Koran so couldn’t quote chapter & verse like I can for Bible. But often say Islam [is the] greatest force for evil today,” the Cambridge evolutionary biologist wrote on 1 March.
Writing on Al Jazeera’s website a few days later, Murtaza Hussain, a Toronto based Middle East analyst, penned an even more scathing critique. What the New Atheists were doing, he argued, was similar to the kind of scientific racism that was dominant within western cultures in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as they tried to use eugenics to classify – and consequently legitimise – the subjugation of certain races. Hussain reserved particular ire for Sam Harris, a neuroscientist by trade whose atheist tracts “The End of Faith” and “Letter to a Christian Nation” have made him one of the leading anti-religious polemicists of his age. Harris is an accomplished writer and public speaker with a solid background in academic rigour. But there are no shortages of statements from his over the years lumping all Muslims into one box. “The idea that Islam is a ‘peaceful religion hijacked by extremists’ is a fantasy, and is now a particularly dangerous fantasy for Muslims to indulge,” is just one he wrote in “Letter to a Christian Nation.” Wearing a palpable disdain for Islam on his sleeve he has also written in favour of torture, pre-emptive nuclear strikes and the profiling not just of Muslims but “anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be a Muslim.” In response, Hussain wrote: “[Harris’] sweeping generalisations about a constructed civilisation encompassing over a billion people are coupled with fevered warnings – parallel with the most noxious race propaganda of the past – about the purported demographic threat posed by immigrant Muslim birthrates to Western civilisation.”