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Islamism, Atheism, and the ‘Voldemort’ effect

By Brian Morris

An atheist view of Islamic extremism is well-founded; on two fronts. One is that most western Muslims don’t follow authoritarian Islam, and the second is the ‘Voldemort effect’. It’s ignorance of these two conflicting positions in society that undermines any political will to deal with the brutal cowardice of Islamic extremism seen in Paris, and in scores of jihadist attacks around the world.

Of the five million Muslims in France, statistics show 60% are “non-observant”; and only 25% attend Friday prayers. Of the 40% who are “observant” Muslims only a small majority of women wear the hijab, 81% accept women should have equal rights in divorce, and 38% support the right to abortion. Australian figures will be similar, and a broad survey will confirm that.

We need to build common ground between all “moderates” in this country — all religions and the non-religious. The Muslim majority (who are “non-observant”) are integral in the entire complex process of dissuading young minds from the allure of IS and martyrdom. And it will take a strong unity of purpose with the rest of moderate Australians to identify and counter the social alienation of young Muslims; their radicalisation; and curbing their desire to become IS recruits. But two tasks demand action.

The first requires public, political and media initiatives to counter inflammatory intolerance. The radical demonstrations and the hate-speech in social media, shock-jock radio, and print media. They simply aid Islamic extremism by dividing the community. It’s part of the IS plan!

The flip-side is hand-wringing Left-wingers who stridently condemn any legitimate criticism of Islam. They say, “terrorism is all our fault, since the crusades”, or “the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists shouldn’t have lampooned Muhammad”, and “we must never criticise religion”.

It’s this position that’s known as the ‘Voldemort effect’. Borrowing from Harry Potter, and the taboo to never mention the Dark Wizard’s name. Today’s taboo is to say that Islamic fascism is a “religion”. True, it’s a perverted reading of the Koran but it’s a religion nonetheless. Islamic State is based wholly on theocracy — politicised religion. ISIS and other extremists quote the Koran at length, and “Allahu Akbar” is their slogan of choice at every savage massacre.

Atheists stand between those who inhibit real solutions — the anti-Muslims and anti-racists, those who only polarise public opinion. Two critical thinkers identify an “integrated” approach that’s needed to solve this long-term radicalisation problem. One is the prominent atheist and neuroscientist, Sam Harris, and the other is Maajid Nawaz.

Nawaz is a former Islamic extremist with Hizb-ut-Tahrir who went on to found the anti-extremist think-tank The Quilliam Foundation. They combine to cut to the heart of this global issue with their new book, ‘Islam and the Future of Tolerance: a Dialogue’.

It’s a strategy of unifying all religious “moderates”, stopping the flow of ISIS recruits, recognising that IS is a theocracy and Islam needs to modernise. ABC’s Lateline recently conducted a lengthy interview with Nawaz and Harris. One can Google “Lateline: An atheist and a Muslim on the future of Islam“. It’s a critical insight to this quagmire of Islamic fascism. It’s how a coalition of all “moderates”, social and mass media, and a non-partisan parliament can defeat extremism in Australia.

Brian-Morris-0-Head-Shot-150x150 About Brian Morris: World travel shaped Brian’s interest in social justice — wealth, poverty and religion in many countries. His book Sacred to Secular is critically acclaimed, including from the Richard Dawkins Foundation. It’s an analysis of Christianity, its origins and the harm it does. It’s a call for Australia to become fully secular. More information about Brian can be found on his website, Plain Reason.


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  1. Rob Marsh

    It seems that the Voldemort effect cuts both ways. The argument that “the Left” is in a state of hand-wringing submission to the whim of Islam is absurd, as the Left is, like Islam, a multifaceted phenomenon involving countless differences of opinion.

    Elements of the Right, and increasingly the kind of atheists who base their opposition to or rejection of theistic claims on the words of men like Dawkins and Harris, seem to have very little understanding of the nature of extremist Islam and its historical origins, and when this documentary evidence is provided, they often claim that it is irrelevant and that “the West must never be criticised” in much the same fashion as certain elements of the Left with regards to Islam.

    There is no substitute for a nuanced reading of the facts, and some of those are as follows.

    The West has and continues to fund extremist Salafist and Wahhabi sects in the Middle East. The West funds Saudi Arabia, who in turn fund militant Islamists and unsurprisingly behead usually between five to twenty human beings a week. The West has acted to destabilise the politics of the region and continues to do so, most notably with the Iranian coup in 1953. So on and so forth.

    We can of course recognise the role of Wahabbism, Salafism and their onerous counterparts in terrorism; after all, they are the ones pulling the triggers and detonating the bombs, but to generalise their peculiar politicised version of Islam into the statement that “Islam needs to modernise” is to leave out the obvious and rarely said:

    So do we.

    While we continue to tolerate proxy wars being fought by our “democratic” governments, we are ill equipped to stand on a moral podium and demand that others conform to our behavioural patterns. Rather, perhaps it is time to simply focus on our own problems, the corruption of our own ethics, the absurd and increasing disparity between rich and poor and so on.

    Life is a radial phenomenon. That understood, we may do significantly more good by focusing on the centre and working our way out when it comes to improving our lives, ending arbitrary suffering and violence, and moving towards a more beautiful and free existence for all sapient beings.

  2. Pingback: Opinion: Independent Media Network: 25.11.15 -- Islamism, Atheism and the Voldemort Effect. | Plain Reason

  3. mars08

    So responsibility for current state of affairs rests with “observant” Muslims who aren’t doing enough to stop the corruption of their religion.

    So glad we got that sorted out. No need for me to follow this thread, then…

  4. Brian Morris

    It would be helpful for others to take time to view the Lateline interview with Nawaz and Harris (link provided) before making a comment.

  5. Sen Nearly Ile

    An academic load of tripe. When hadley tried the lie on the bible trick on morrison the christian was horrified that the faith he uses to make decisions on our behalf should be used to check his veracity on our behalf. When a loony senator suggested abbutt follow the pope all hell broke loose from the attorney general about the ‘disgusting’ question.
    The fear of discussing faith is across all parties but without a modern look at belief, old prejudices and misconceptions will thrive under the search for sales and ratings.

  6. mark delmege

    Gee I dunno all this muslim stuff is a bit wobbly really. We should be condemning the (mostly) white christian, jewish and non believer fanatics that run the media and the US (and other western) governments. These are scum running covert ops feeding and protecting the jihardi head choppers and covering up the truth in the media and just about every where else they can. Most people don’t want any part of this death and destruction but we are being led by morons and apologists.

  7. Lee

    So when can we expect all the Catholics to condemn kiddy fiddling?

  8. mars08

    @Lee… Surely you realise that kiddy fiddling is not inherent or unique to Catholicism, right? Unlike Islam and the ingrained devotion to suicide bombing…

  9. Lee

    @mars08 – Sorry, didn’t realise bombing is only a problem when there’s a suicide component to it, or only a problem when performed by a Muslim. I actually think the suicide is the only positive aspect.

  10. myzania

    I agree with you, Rob Marsh.
    Replace ‘atheists stand between…’ with ‘moderates of all sorts’ (or something similar) in the above article and perhaps it would be a bit better. We’re all individuals, made up of various bits and pieces of various beliefs / group identities / cultural & societal circumstances / etc. and shaped by them….

  11. mars08

    @Lee… I really should tag my sarcasm with a warning…

  12. Lee

    @mars – Sorry, having a totally crap day and missed the sarcasm.

  13. Rob Marsh

    “It would be helpful for others to take time to view the Lateline interview with Nawaz and Harris (link provided) before making a comment.”

    It would be equally helpful if “others” took the time to review Harris’ latest statements, whereby he exclaimed that he’d rather see “a dangerously deluded religious imbecile” take leadership of the United States than world renowned public intellectual, linguist, philosopher and foreign policy analyst Noam Chomsky.

    Now what, we’re expected to take it on face value that Harris is, as he often claims, dedicated to minimising the power and reach of religious extremists?

    At this point anyone taking Harris’ advice on political matters is making a fool of themselves, the man has descended into absurdist nonsense off the back of his trite exchange with Chomsky some months ago, and seems to be incapable of coming up with anything more sophisticated than “we know that some percentage of Muslims will be jihadists inevitably” when speaking on the Middle Eastern conflicts.

    For someone who claims to base his arguments on evidence and reason, he seems to have conveniently ignored the available evidence which shows that out of the nearly 1.5 million odd Muslim immigrants to the United States since 9/11, three were arrested on suspicion of terrorist activities. And apparently, that justifies ignoring the entire body of documentary evidence showing US involvement in the funding, training and protection of armed jihadists.

    I have no respect left for Harris as a public intellectual; he has gone the way of countless shills before him and sold out his integrity to repeat ad nausaeum the kind of imperialist bullshit that has seen millions of civilians slaughtered for the political and economic gain of Western governments and businesses.

    Fluck this clown.

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