Harris criticizes the general response in the West to terrorist atrocities such as 9/11, i.e. the response of pronouncing Islam a "religion of peace," while simultaneously declaring a "war on terror." Harris sees the first sentiment as demonstrably false, and the second as meaningless.
Instead, he says, we should plainly acknowledge that Western civilization is at war with Islam which, he maintains, preaches a doctrine of religious and political subjugation, not a message of peace. The Koran and the hadith, he notes, are packed with unambiguous incitements to kill infidels—acts which, according to the texts, are duly rewarded with an eternity of celestial delights (including the celebrated 72 virgins). It is specifically this metaphysics of martyrdom, or jihad, which, in taking the sting out of death, Harris sees as the source of greatest peril. That such notions might be merely the product of a more extreme form of Islam is an argument Harris considers to be especially untenable in the light of the worldwide violence that erupted in 2006 as a consequence of the publication of cartoons depicting (and satirizing) the Prophet Muhammad. He argues that the riots did not occur because the cartoon was "especially derogatory," but because "most Muslims believe that it is a sacrilege to depict Muhammad at all." Harris maintains that the West is at war with "precisely the vision of life that is prescribed to all Muslims in the Koran, and further elaborated in the literature of the hadith."