Is Islam a religion of peace or war? Is it amenable to reform? Why do so many Muslims seem drawn to extremism?
On September 10, 2001, Sam Harris was studying neuroscience in California, and Maajid Nawaz was in Egypt working as a top recruiter for one of the biggest Islamist organisations in the world. The next day sent them down paths that would converge 15 years later in an unlikely collaboration.
Harris entered life as a public intellectual after 9/11 and soon found himself regarded as a leading voice of the “New Atheist” movement, along with Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett. He spent much of the next decade writing books such as The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, and The Moral Landscape and publicly engaging religious scholars and apologists in highly contentious conversations. Meanwhile, Nawaz was arrested and thrown into an Egyptian prison, where he spent four years before beginning his slow journey out of radical Islamism. By the time he emerged, he had decided to dedicate his life’s work to reforming Islam from within. He started Quilliam, a counter-extremism organisation. Islam and the Future of Tolerance tells the story of an unlikely conversation on a topic of grave importance, and how it changed two foes into friends.