Muslim Studies Program Director Argues New Atheists Misrepresent Islam


According to the Tehran Times, the New Atheist writers and thinkers tend to “misread and misrepresent Islamic sources” based on the interpretation of their work by one Michigan Professor, Mohammad Hassan Khalil.

Khalil is the author of Jihad, Radicalism, and the New Atheism. He is the Director of the Muslim Studies Program of Michigan State University. He said, “In fact, their [the New Atheists’] portrayals of Islam are sometimes even more extreme than those of violent radicals themselves.”

In a brief interview, Khalil described the New Atheist writers including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins, as seeing Islam primarily as a violent religious ideology. That members of al-Qaeda and ISIL who engage in the acts of terrorism are acting in the name of Islamic scripture when they commit the acts of terror.

Khalil argues that the terrorists and extremists are in fact deviating from Islamic scripture. In response to a query about the main message of his book, he responded:

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. 

In other words, first, Khalil argues violent radicals are not “literalists” who deviate and misread Islamic scripture; second, the New Atheists portray Islam in a more extreme way than the radicals or extremists themselves.

Further on the second point, he argues the Western world’s academics who have been influenced by the New Atheist interpretations take the same extremist interpretation approach. Khalil, as far as can be ascertained from the interview, argues against New Atheists’ and the radicals’ interpretations rather than providing a full-breadth alternative.

Photo Credits: Tehran News

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