A well-known atheist author has taken issue with recent claims that his criticism of Islam is a form of bigotry against Muslims.
Sam Harris, author of such works as End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation, posted a lengthy essay on his website last week responding to the controversy over his words.
"My criticism of faith-based religion focuses on what I consider to be bad ideas, held for bad reasons, leading to bad behavior," wrote Harris. "Because I am concerned about the logical and behavioral consequences of specific beliefs, I do not treat all religions the same."
Harris went on to argue that at the heart of Islam is the belief that violence can be justified as a means of defending one's faith, which troubled him as he saw it as having real world consequences.
"Because I consider Islam to be especially belligerent and inimical to the norms of civil discourse, my views are often described as 'racist' by my critics," wrote Harris.
"My criticism of the logical and behavioral consequences of certain ideas (e.g. martyrdom, jihad, blasphemy, honor, etc.) impugns white converts to Islam – like Adam Gadahn – every bit as much as it does Arabs like Ayman al-Zawahiri."
Harris also argued that criticism of Islam is the "one religion that systematically stifles free expression with credible threats of violence" and contrasted Islam with Mormonism.
"The freedom to poke fun at Mormonism is guaranteed by the fact that Mormons do not dispatch assassins to silence their critics or summon murderous hordes in response to satire," wrote Harris.
"… when The Book of Mormon became the most celebrated musical of the year, the LDS Church protested by placing ads for the faith in Playbill. A wasted effort, perhaps: but this was a genuinely charming sign of good humor, given the alternatives."
Harris' words come as defense of a previous statement regarding Islam that became the subject of rebuttals in various media outlets, including Murtaza Hussain of Al Jazeera.
"His sweeping generalizations about a constructed civilization encompassing over a billion people are coupled with fevered warnings … about the purported demographic threat posed by immigrant Muslim birthrates to Western civilization," wrote Hussain.
"What Harris and those like him represent is the time-honored tradition of weaponized racism in the guise of disinterested scientific observation."
Harris is not the only prominent atheist writer to receive backlash from Muslim communities over his remarks. Earlier this year, Oxford professor and atheist cultural icon Richard Dawkins received much criticism for tweeting a statement wherein he said "Islamic barbarians" were to blame for the damage caused to museums in Timbuktu, Mali.
"Some people (perhaps 1st language not English) think I was calling ALL Muslims barbarians. No. I was calling Islamic BARBARIANS barbarians," wrote Dawkins in response.