Cowardly Nathan Lean ducks a question about why he attacks Muslim reformers

February 26, 2016 • 1:00 pm

We’ve encountered Asra Nomani before: in a post I put up showing her short television debate with Jonathan Alter about whether women should be segregated from men in mosques. Nomani, founder of the Muslim Reform Movement, has no truck with the ingrained misogyny of her faith, and handily won the exchange (video here). I have immense respect for the women, both apostates and ex-Muslims, who fight the sexism of Islam, for they face even more opprobrium from other Muslims (including death threats) than do men. So first a salute to women like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Maryam Namazie, Sarah Haider, Eiynah “Nice Mangos,” and, of course, Asra Nomani.

Over at his website Godless Spellchecker’s Blog, Stephen Knight presented a video of an encounter between Nomani and the odious Nathan Lean, the writer who not only produced a ridiculous hit piece on Maajid Nawaz for The New Republic, but called Nawaz a “Muslim validator”, a “trophy Muslim”, and a “lapdog” for simply engaging in conversation with Sam Harris. Lean’s incessant and wrongheaded cries of “Islamophobia!” brand him as only slightly less ridiculous than C. J. W*rl*man as an unhinged defender of the worst bits of Islam.

Here’s a short video of Nomani, in the audience, asking Lean a question after Lean had a conversation with Asma Uddin at Georgetown University. This was three days ago. Nomani wanted to know why Lean, while claiming to defend Muslims against nasty attacks, participates in them when the Muslims happen to be reformers. The cowardly Lean refuses to answer, instead trying to smear Nomani as a way of ducking her question:

Can you imagine someone like Hitchens refusing to answer that question? He would take it head-on. Lean, however, is simply a crybully who refuses to defend his stand in public.

I am still baffled why those people who decry the prevalence of Islamophobia spend most of their venom on people like Nawaz and Nomani, Muslims who risk their lives trying turn Islam into the faith that the apologists claim it already is: a “religion of peace.”

36 thoughts on “Cowardly Nathan Lean ducks a question about why he attacks Muslim reformers

    1. Lean is trying to get his merchandise sold through repugnancy.

      It’s all the trend now: the internet is built for spotlighting scum and bequeathing drama llamas with incredulous popularity for duplicity.

      “The most endangered species,
      the honest man.” Rush, 1979

      1. Commented on this odious little man over at Godless Spellchecker – I really think people like Lean. Werleman, et al are incredibly complacent. Cannier operators would realise that there’s more than just them and us watching and listening, and in that context Lean is a sterling recruitment officer for our side.

        Every time someone like GodlessSC or Futile Democracy politely asks Lean and his illiberal colleagues a reasonable question and they react with a snide, douchebag putdown, or smear an obviously blemish-free Muslim liberal, they forget there are people being pushed off the fence by their obnoxious, unprincipled bullshit.

  1. How utterly childish of Nathan Lean to launch immediately into an ad hominem attack on Nomani. And, if the was referring to the piece to whcih I believe he was referring, then he is absolutely guilty of misrepresenting Nomani’s writing.

  2. How utterly childish of Nathan Lean to launch immediately into an ad hominem attack on Nomani. And, if the was referring to the piece to whcih I believe he was referring, then he is absolutely guilty of misrepresenting Nomani’s writing.

  3. At least this guy, Lean is it, showed himself to be the coward right away. Sam Harris attempted to have a conversation with Mary Namazie on his Podcast about friendly fire and calling him a bigot. I have no idea if he ever accomplished anything with this person, I had to shut it off. She is a full blow nut job, far as I could tell but she would not shut up for a second and let Sam insert a word. Someone as mentally unbalanced as that — I would not give the time of day.

    1. Maryam Namazie is not a “nut job,” nor “mentally unbalanced.” If you disagree with her views, you are welcome to explain why, but the ad hominem attack on her is neither helpful nor appropriate. I don’t want to hijack the thread and make it about Sam and Maryam, but I didn’t want to let your comment go unanswered. I disagreed with some of what Maryam said, but I think Sam had difficulty expressing his thoughts clearly and that she misunderstood him a few times. She does great work in many areas and they (and most of us here) largely agree on most topics, which is why Sam called it “friendly fire.” Maybe we can charitably assume there was some miscommunication, both got a bit defensive, and they ended up talking past each other; but both are good, intelligent people working for the same general goal of a just and free society.

      1. You are right. I think Sam, who I greatly admire, did not know how to properly answer Namazie. She had a very reasonable, alternative interpretation of things and, while I think she did not express herself quit as clearly and charitably as she could have, Sam didn’t give her the appropriate space to have her own take on things. Sam seemed to be finding it difficult to allow Namazie to have her own view and her own say. A better form of the interview technique is to start by accepting that there may be differences of opinion. Sam seems to have wanted to win.
        I think they are both very strong advocates for rationality and progressive ideas but I think the interview was mangled and left them both looking a bit shabby. I hope in future they reunite and make a better presentation of their views.

        1. That was my impression too, of what I could listen to of that train crash of a discussion. I also admire Sam, but he conducted the discussion poorly.

          His discussion/collaboration with Maajid Nawaz worked because Maajid simply refused to discuss the existence or non-existence of God, and opened the way for other important — in this case more important — topics to be discussed.

        2. I too admire Namazie on most things and think she has great integrity but her Communism puts a huge dint in her judgement in many areas and potentially seriously compromises her role in the longer term.
          I have to say that her proposition that in the globalised era there need be NO national borders and we in the west must take and provide advanced services for everyone whilst receiving ALL the worlds Refugees and ALL the people who want to move for economic reasons to the West is RIDICULOUS. And this whilst the superpowers face it off in Syria for heaven sake and Putin may succeed in breaking up the EU (see Maajid Nawal, How Obama lost the MidEast to Putin

          Likewise her idea that no type of profiling is ever acceptable – human rights means treating EVERYONE the same and it is racist to try to preserve enlightenment culture from bigots from other cultures who happen to have been brainwashed by their religion and happen to insist they and their communities interests always take precedence over the prevailing majority culture (which Namazie wants completely outnumbered) That is just STUPID STUPID STUPID Sometimes grand ideals are just plain dangerous when they’re divorced from context and reality. Its all very well to be idealistic. You are doing harm if your trying to apply that in situations where it has the opposite effect to what you imagine because you’re not interested in reality. That talk was such a wind up.

          1. Thanks for fill in some of the back story on Namazie. It seems her difficulty is her idealism is way over the top. Sam is way more pragmatic so they talk past each other. I was amused at how frustrated Sam was trying to interrupt Namazie’s screed. 😉

            1. Im afraid I probably got a bit het up – I do admire Maryam in other ways as she’s a great defender of ex Muslims and critic of Islamism and done a lot of humanitarian work but I was quite shocked by the extremism of her stance in Sam’s interview and frankly think it feeds straight into the regressive elements of the left.

              Prior to this I had heard part of her Polite Conversations interview with NiceMangoes recently where she criticises Quilliam and Sam Harris and mentions all current refugees should be allowed in (thats the short bit i heard anyway before I stopped ) but I did listen through the full Sam Harris interview

            2. “It seems her difficulty is her idealism is way over the top. Sam is way more pragmatic so they talk past each other.”

              I pretty much agree with that. Namazie as much as I respect much of what she does is not an intellectual. That’s not to say she isn’t intelligent, but that she sees little value in having in depth nuanced discussion of things like profiling, or a nuclear first strike, or immigration. She seems to think that simply mentioning those words in any way other than in black and white good or bad terms is the equivalent of saying Voldemort. She doesn’t really care about Sam’s nuanced position on profiling for example, she just doesn’t think he should mention the word at all.

        3. Fraid I really don’t see what there is to discuss other than not liking Islamism. I personally find Sam a little right wing on a number of issues however – I think Maryams preferred agenda would destroy the West in the blink of an eye not to mention bring on WW3, global environmental crisis and return to pre Enlightenment everything worldwide.

      2. Normally I would never come back and make more comment at so late a time but I see many others have jumped in so I should say something.

        I do not know this lady well and was speaking of the podcast with Sam Harris and nothing else. She may be a fine political activist as that seems to be her trade. Harris, I thought made it pretty clear that he wanted response from her on specific things she said about him or labels she had applied to him. He did not get that at all, other than to be left with, that’s the way she sees it and generalities that go on forever.

        On the subject of profiling, which Sam Harris wanted to discuss in detail and explain his position, she totally disagree, but for reasons that again, were general big picture reasoning that may look good on paper but not in the real world. Profiling of behavior is all she would allow and what good does that do for the thousand of police of all types who are attempting to keep people safe and prevent terrorism around the world. That might work if you job is to stop it after the fact.

        I suppose her overall general views are very good in front of a class or in a book but they have a hard time obtaining results in the actual world. As Harris mentioned a few times, she is quick to pull the trigger and does so while misunderstanding the other person in the conversation. I should not call her a nut job, you are correct about that. I did not call her a coward as someone said, they misread on that one.

        1. I think that Maryam’s principle error of reasoning can sort of be boiled down to something she specifically disagreed with Sam about in their talk. She plainly said that “the enemy of my enemy is NOT (necessarily) my friend” which left on it’s own doesn’t pose problems. However, Namazie goes on to suggest that it’s bigotry to simply agree with any sentiment held by legitimate bigots. This cedes the argument to your opponents, allowing them to define and shape what ideas are allowed on the ‘good’ side of the argument.

          Tommy Robinson does not get the privilege – for example – to create bigotry in my ideas simply by virtue of agreeing with them – this borders on ludicrous. In fact, this is a common problem for Sam Harris who repeatedly states that intentions matter – there is simply another perspective wherein intentions don’t matter. The implications of the latter are stifling and allow opponents to set the terms of the conversation, and will ultimately result in narrowing the debate on the ‘good’ side of the argument.

          Maryam has obviously internalized this thinking, and it might be what results in her inability to engage with Sam’s ideas.

    2. I’m surprised by your comment. Why make an ad hominem attack on someone who you clearly know nothing about? You can’t even get her name right.

  4. Jerry, you mentioned you were baffled about why people like Lean, who claim to be worried about so-called “Islamophobia,” aim all their invective at people like Asra Nomani and Maajid Nawaz, Mulsims trying to take back their religion from extremists.

    I’m thinking it’s because Lean and his ilk are cowardly and cynical, and this is cheap and easy to do. It’s so safe to attack rational people like Nomani and Nawaz (not to mention Sam Harris) compared to the extremists–who could threaten to kill you and actually might–and compared to real right-wing Islamophobes, who are practically as crazy as the Islamic extremists and also potentially violent. So much easier to pretend to be taking the high moral ground by attacking sensible, nonviolent people who will definitely do nothing more than try to reason with you. They won’t even make up competing slanders to spread about you. And as you do attack these sensible people, you get lots of publicity, potentially increasing traffic to your website, increasing book sales, and getting speaking engagements.

    1. It could also have something to do with the fact that his position at Georgetown is financed by the Saudi royal family. I’m sure he’s kept on a tight leash.

  5. I’m not baffled. This is a product of what Nawaz has elucidated and with his usual wit
    as the “New Orientalism,” in which fastidiously ‘antiracist’ liberals and leftists essentialize non-whites as only being authentic in a context of traditional culture and beliefs.

    This is a pervasive form of paternalistic racism that is seldom challenged because it abets the existing (i.e. conservative) power structures within non-white communities. It also dovetails nicely with liberal virtue-signaling, like the constant ironic use of “brown people” even though most issues are far more complex than a brown-white binary.

    Nawaz, Haider, Rushdie, etc. are thus utterly reviled for not only rejecting their supposed ‘authentic’ selves, but for worse, adopting beliefs that suggest Western Enlightenment norms are superior, or at least, more advanced relative to this point in human history. That’s a no-no.

    1. But the paradox is then that while it’s a no-no for non-whites to suggest that Western Enlightenment norms are superior, the whole paternalistic stance grows out of that same conviction that Western Enlightenment norms are superior.

      This is by extension why I dislike the term – and the scene surounding – “world music”. It’s a scene full of paternalistic racism, which is expressed by the term itself.
      Apparently you have “normal” music (read: Western music) and “world” music, made by those nice, happy people from countries far, far away.

      1. Someone very important in my life is a music teacher (amongst other things), and I’ve started to reflect on this sort of thing. I personally would love to see more “this is different and this is the same” in this area, and allow people to find the traditions (musical and otherwise) that genuinely allow them to flourish. But that requires figuring out how to do that analysis.

        I used to dream about making a “world view builder” software to incorporate questions about metaphysics, epistemology, etc. into a system that could be analyzed. However, once aesthetics come in, I’m at a loss … and yet …

  6. Instantly “moving on” to the next question is a pretty clear sign of someone who simply cannot answer even the most superficial levels of the question.
    It’s like debating with a “gravity denier” (rare beasts, I know) in the 20th floor of a building, and them not answering a challenge of “prove the unreality of gravity by stepping out of the window” by remaining in the chair.
    “Pathetic” is far too polite.

  7. Is it just me or does the audience, the woman in blue, the blond man in particular, seem to look at her like something on their shoe? It’s just not done to challenge the speaker don’t you know? This is part of the problem. They all see what see and it bothers them not at all.

    1. I see the exact same thing, in fact I almost mocked the epic look of WASPy disapproval on her face.

      The message from our Fourth Estate and the cultural elite is that Islam is simply off limits to criticism. And in that context, they aren’t about to tolerate a ‘native informant’ (actual slur used) whom they can’t furiously denounce as a ‘racist’ should a criticism cause cognitive dissonance in them.

  8. Lean, Werleman and Greenwald are dishonest smear merchants, who misrepresent facts, and ignore evidence. They are often irrational and their political careers chequered, but their consistent them is the sad post cold war nostrum of most of the left that rejects the Enlightenment and blames the West for all evil. however they are self serving dishonest sociopaths and the fact that the regressive left is happy to rely on them to rebut genuinely progressive arguments is depressing. These ideas have been on the ascendancy for a quite a few decades now and dominate the universities in the 21st century. They have wide ranging political effects. For example a 2014 Lowy Institute Poll showed that just 42% of young Australians of voting age under 30 think Democracy is preferable to any other form of government

    Lean Werleman and Greenwald are unnattractive and the latter two have repugnant backgrounds. Not that this discourages the left, many of whom also cover Julian Assange with adulation. Lean is happy to be funded by a Saudi institution. Werleman has in the past made racist online comments about Arabs (lots of camel jokes etc.), and boasted online about economically exploiting and having sex with Indonesian maids.

    Jamie Palmer of Jacobinism has written an article on Greenwald in Quillette called
    “Glen Greenwald, Fascism’s fellow traveller”

    The left and various national broadcasters are also happy to accept the irrational and smearing arguments of regressive Muslims on the media such as Dean Obeidallah, Cenk Ugur, or the distortions and commissions of super scholar Reza Azlan. Thats because national broadcasters are left of the commercial media but probably also apt to see any serious criticism of Islam as divisive and against their Charter opening them to trouble if a non right wing govt is in charge or if the ever “sensitive” muslim community starts invoking reasonable govt anti racism laws in response to any reasonable discussion. Maybe charters need to specify something about this.

  9. Those two old codgers getting their knickers in a twist glaring at Asra Nomani like naive lefties hell bent on returning us to the dark ages. Goodness Gracious help us all!

  10. To answer your question: It is nothing to do with cowardice or cynicism, it is a strong belief in the idea of multiculturalism.

    Now the thing with multiculturalism, is that it cannot happen unless you have multiple cultures.

    Thus it is a form of tribalism that romanticises the existence of other tribes, essentially treating them like holiday destinations that the rich and dominant tribe can visit occasionally when it feels a bit of the need for the exotic.

    “The way those other people live, how romantic and wonderful…” and how decorative. People are not to be learned from with a concept of adopting the good stuff, so much as treated as aesthetically pleasing props upon which to display one’s ‘enlightenment’.

    Of course one defends the other, but not as people so much as something akin to the African wild cat. We strive to prevent domestic ideas from hybridising with them, as it risks the disappearance of the species.

    So if you have people from one culture seeing something good in someone else’s and deciding to adopt that thing – it is a problem. When a Muslim woman demands she be treated like a human being by Muslim men, it is ‘westernisation’.

    And every now and then something crosses the other way – suddenly you have a bunch of people experimenting with Vietnamese flavours in their western cooking and…

    Cultural appropriation. You take that emulation of what you find desirable in others and feel ashamed of it you racially insensitive privileged majority!

    Lean and his ilk see themselves as conservationists of a sort, doing good work protecting the culture, and fuck what the actual people want.

    Recently I read one of the black struggle leaders in my country on the topic of racism. He was talking about getting rejected by a white woman, who told him “I’ll sit with you, but I won’t fuck you.”

    Well I thought he read a bit more into that then there really was – but then I am a rather unattractive man who never had a way with the ladies. Rejection is maybe more unusual for the more charismatic.

    Yet, there is something there with multiculturalism – it is all that feeling that it will sit with you, but it won’t actually take that plunge.

    But of course I have a bit of a warped view of multiculturalism in general.

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