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Is it true that Maher's defense of Islamophobia doesn't make any sense?

The debate has been framed as a discussion over the nature of liberalism but that is, frankly, to give Maher's bigotry far too much credence. Maher called Islam "the only religion that acts like the mafia, that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing," a statement which, when deconstructed, is a textbook illustration of bigotry.

For a start, religions don't do or think anything - people articulate ideas or act in the name of religion; Affleck was spot-on when he queried whether Maher had somehow determined the "the codified doctrine of Islam." And he was even more accurate when he lambasted Maher's attempt to play on white victimhood by casting himself, a highly influential TV host, as part of an oppressed group whose voice was somehow being suppressed on issues relating to Islam and Muslims -- all the while demonizing Islam and Muslims, largely unchallenged, on primetime Television.

One of the other participants, Sam Harris, explains the mechanics of defamation with this out-of-context quotation:


Harris writes, "I know one thing to a moral certainty, however: Both Greenwald and Aslan know that those words do not mean what they appear to mean," and quotes the source passage at length. He continues:

Aslan and Greenwald know that nowhere in my work do I suggest that we kill harmless people for thought crimes. And yet they (along with several of their colleagues) are doing their best to spread this lie about me. Nearly every other comment they've made about my work is similarly misleading.

Both Aslan and Greenwald are debasing our public discourse and making honest discussion of important ideas increasingly unpleasant--even personally dangerous. Why are they doing this? Please ask them and those who publish them.

Another writer familiar with Islam, Salman Rushdie, offers his perspective on "this new age of religious mayhem" (h/t: Friendly Atheist):

"It's hard not to conclude that this hate-filled religious rhetoric, pouring from the mouths of ruthless fanatics into the ears of angry young men, has become the most dangerous new weapon in the world today." [...]

"A word I dislike greatly, 'Islamophobia', has been coined to discredit those who point at these excesses, by labelling them as bigots. But in the first place, if I don't like your ideas, it must be acceptable for me to say so, just as it is acceptable for you to say that you don't like mine. Ideas cannot be ring-fenced just because they claim to have this or that fictional sky god on their side.

Rushdie hasn't been under threat of death for a quarter-century (since The Satanic Verses in 1989) because Islam's adherents are too civilized. Salon, however, states that the poll cited by Maher and Harris is wrong:

As Harris further elaborated, there is "abundant evidence that vast numbers of Muslims believe dangerous things about infidels, apostasy, blasphemy, jihad, and martyrdom." The "abundant evidence" in question--which popped up in many previous debates on the same topic--comes mainly from one source: a 2013 wide-ranging Pew Research Center survey examining religion-based beliefs and attitudes in 39 countries.

The author questions "not the methodology of the respected research Institute, but rather the genuineness of the answers provided by many of the 38,000 individuals it surveyed:"

Just picture the typical polling interview. Imagine you live in a country where Islam is the religion of the State, where criticizing the religion (let alone leaving it) is a criminal offense, where the educational system and the pervasive state media gang up every day to hammer that Islam is the highest moral norm ever--where, hell, even the opposition (mostly made of Islamist groups) does nothing but double down on religious intransigence... And here comes the Pew pollster, a total stranger with a list of disturbing questions pertaining to religion--questions to which the wrong answers can get you in trouble in many ways... Not the best conditions to conduct a credible opinion poll. [...]

If the religious opinions of Muslims are questionable, then so is their adherence to religion in the first place. I'm not saying that no citizen from Morocco to Indonesia genuinely adheres to Islam. I'm just stating the obvious: no one knows how many really do--and no one will ever know until people are free to form and state their religious opinions freely. This has an important implication: all of the mainstream Western debate about what 1.6 billion Muslims think is built on the false premise that... there are 1.6 billion Muslims in the first place.

(The poll is here.)

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on October 13, 2014 4:53 PM.

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