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Sam Harris Calls For Airport Security Not To 'Waste Resources' On People That Are Obviously Not 'Jihadists'

15/09/2015 16:46 BST | Updated 16/09/2015 17:59 BST

Correction: The headline has been changed to better reflect the sentiment expressed in the video above.

NEW YORK -- Atheist and public intellectual Sam Harris this week defended his call for a more targeted approach by airport security staff in an interview with Ora.tv .

The neuroscientist, who has penned several books on religion, including "The End Of Faith" and "The Moral Landscape," said that not everyone boarding an airplane deserves the same level of scrutiny because members of the security team are looking for “suicidal jihadists.”

“We’re not looking for 80-year-old women from Okinawa,” he told host Dave Rubin. “We’re not looking for little girls from Norway. If Jerry Seinfeld’s going to the airport, [and] he gets the same search that someone who looks like Osama bin Laden does, that’s a crazy misuse of resources.”

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Harris: 'Imagine how fatuous it would be to fight a war against the IRA and yet refuse to profile the Irish'

Harris continued: “When you see a famous celebrity go through security treated as though he just may have become a jihadist when no one is walking, it’s crazy. It is security theater. And there are many people who, though not famous, are every bit as unlikely to be members of al Qaeda as prominent people -- Betty White.”

Harris first voiced his support for profiling in a controversial 2012 blog, in which he referred to checking everyone regardless of his or her racial background as a “tyranny of fairness.”


“Imagine how fatuous it would be to fight a war against the IRA and yet refuse to profile the Irish?" he wrote. And yet this is how we seem to be fighting our war against Islamic terrorism.”

“We should profile Muslims, or anyone who looks like he or she could conceivably be Muslim, and we should be honest about it. And, again, I wouldn’t put someone who looks like me entirely outside the bull’s-eye (after all, what would Adam Gadahn look like if he cleaned himself up?) But there are people who do not stand a chance of being jihadists, and TSA screeners can know this at a glance.”

In an addendum to that blog, Harris revealed the article had been described as “racist,” “dreadful,” “sickening,” “appalling” and “frighteningly ignorant” by "fans who profess to have loved everything I’ve written until this moment."

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Bill Maher, Ben Affleck and Sam Harris during a heated debate about religion on HBO in October, 2014

Harris got into a public spat last year with actor Ben Affleck during an appearance on HBO’s "Real Time With Bill Maher," the pair bickering over islamophobia and religious stereotyping.

“We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where criticism of the religion gets conflated with bigotry towards Muslims as people. It’s intellectually ridiculous,” said Harris.

“Hold on -- are you the person who officially understands the codified doctrine of Islam? It’s gross and racist," Affleck shot back. "It’s like saying, ‘Oh, you shifty Jew!’”

During his conversation with Rubin, Harris also rejected the suggestion that he is in favour of a nuclear first strike on the Muslim world (see below).

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(H/T Raw Story)