Ben Affleck, you are not helping


This is a guest post by Sadaf Ali (@SadafEXMNA) of Ex-Muslims of North America.

Shortly after the Reza Aslan segment from CNN made its rounds on all of our newsfeeds, the scuffle between Ben Affleck and Sam Harris was soon the next big thing to share. My colleagues and co-founders, Sarah Haider and Muhammad Syed brought their perspective to the table with regards to Aslan’s apologism, as shared on Hemant Mehta’s blog on Patheos.

I have a personal appeal to Ben Affleck, after his participation on Bill Maher’s show, because it is attitudes like his that have historically made little to no room for ex-Muslims, secular, reformists, liberal or progressive Muslims to own a dialogue that is supposed to be ours to discuss.

I think it is important to notice how I referred to the event on Maher’s show as a scuffle and not a debate. That’s because it wasn’t a debate. There was no exchange of ideas. In fact, the mere suggestion of the criticism of Islam was slammed as ‘racist’ and ‘Islamophobic’ by Affleck.

affleck_angel

Affleck also said something that shows his own ignorance. He said the US kills ‘Muslims’.

I absolutely think it’s important to recognize the bigotry towards Muslims and the people that are perceived to be Muslim (that is, brown-skinned folks, Sikhs, etc.) but I also think it is important to recognize a few key points that are missing from nearly every single discourse on Muslims and Islam.

One: Muslim is not a race. Two: Islam is an ideology. Three: Islamophobia is not real. Four: Anti-Muslim bigotry is.

The Middle-East and Central Asia is comprised of several ethnic and cultural identities with a range of religious affiliations (and like in my case, no religious affiliation at all). In the same way one conflates the criticism of Islam as a racial issue – i.e. treating all Muslims as one and the same – Affleck himself is treating all of the Middle-East and Central Asia, where the US intervenes often, as a monolithic race of people. How liberal and progressive. Furthermore, most Muslims are South Asian or of South Asian descent but when has the US dropped bombs on India?

When bombs drop and when bullets fly, how does one know the religion of a target or civilian? I am an Afghan Tajik and I am an atheist. Afghanistan and Iraq consist of Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists, Zoroastrians, Bah’ais, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and more. So, chances are, not every person that has been a victim of these conflicts are Muslim. Shame on you, Ben. It is people like you who are complicit in denying our diversity.

Affleck uses the death and suffering of my peoples as a tool to suffocate the discourse of Islam and as an Afghan-Canadian, I am upset by this. How dare you? Islam as an ideology is not flawless. No ideology is. Much in the same way Affleck played a part in the film ‘Dogma’ to satirize or criticize Christianity, others are allowed to criticize Islam. Furthermore, Islamists must be confronted. Those who preach the death of apostates and LGBTQ peoples, and seek the inequality of genders and wish to marginalize minorities must be condemned.

The thing that made the scuffle worse was the straw man argument. No one there on the panel insinuated that the flaws in Islam should be used as a justification to murder innocent people halfway across the world. Affleck fails to acknowledge the pain, alienation, ostracization and abuse people also face here in the name of someone’s literal interpretations of Islam. Islamism isn’t just about terrorism. Islamism poisons our cultures around the globe. Islamism hurts me. Islamism hurts apostates. Islamism hurts non-Muslims. Islamism hurts our families. And most of all: Islamism hurts Muslims.

Really though, how ironic is Affleck’s myopic view of Islamism that it comes down only to racism and terrorism? There are many reasons why Ex-Muslims of North America (EXMNA) exists. We have problems here in Canada, the US and Europe. This is not just about war, killing Muslims or your white guilt. This has to do with what our lives are like as Muslims, in secular nations and less privileged places like theocratic regimes. When Affleck uses ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘racism’, how am I, a former Muslim, and a person whose loved ones are Muslim, supposed to be able to address the issues I face? Do I not matter?

In my activism the past three years, it has been an incredibly tough journey being told that others simply do not want anything to do with calling for the reform for secular, accepting values because it all comes down to a big, ugly “race problem”. Last time I checked, Islam wasn’t exclusive to a single “race”.

Am I then a racist for criticizing scriptures that clearly condone the infantilization of women, the allowance for physical means to control women and the condemnation of a queer apostate such as myself? Am I, as a secular humanist who is directly affected by my cultural and religious communities, communities in which homophobia, transphobia, sexism and racism exist, not entitled to acceptance, love and dignity? What about those brave and selfless individuals in theocratic regimes who suffer and put their life on the line for their rights? Am I then asking for bombs to be dropped on innocent people? Are activists in theocratic states asking for bombs to be dropped on them?

Who can then rightfully criticize Islam? I mean, Ben, do you understand the “codified doctrine of Islam”? Does Sam Harris? Does Bill Maher? Do any one of you that sat on this panel understand it? Let’s take a look at that panel.

maher_panel

This panel is much like many other panels on Islam: not a single person of Muslim background who has a vested interest in fostering dialogues about our families, our communities, the laws and cultural paradigms that form our lives, our livelihoods, and our journeys into and out of Islam, is present. It’s a panel of non-Muslims coming together to steer discourse that has little to do with them personally who have not a single clue what it is like to live as a Muslim or ex-Muslim in our continent or overseas.

I find this incredibly sad. I call this liberals and supposed progressives failing us. Badly. We wouldn’t find a panel on the racism faced by black people without a single black person on the panel acceptable. Nor would we have a panel on transphobia without trans folk. So, why would this panel be acceptable? It’s not.

It’s panels like these that further alienate us. When there are no people present who have a good grasp on the subject, it further enables how the criticism of Islam gets conflated with bigotry towards Muslims because there are no Muslims or people of Muslim backgrounds there to speak for themselves.

I also want to make it clear that I understand where Affleck is coming from. I’m sure he, and many Muslims who enjoyed his display of anger on the show, have been enraged (rightfully so) by the constant racial profiling, othering of those who belong to Muslim communities, and of course, US foreign policy and militaristic interventions that affect our peoples overseas, our nation’s’ troops and the loss and suffering of human lives, regardless of a direct connection to them or their cultures.

I understand this anger. I once held the same anger, and to a large extent, I still do. Many ex-Muslims do. During the time I identified as Muslim and even after having left Islam, because of my name, because of the way I look, because I am Afghan, and because of the cultural disconnect I had with non-immigrants in a post-9/11 North America, I faced bigotry and racism.

Like many, I was at the receiving end of terrorist jokes. I was called Saddam Hussein for most of my adolescence. I was often asked if I was related to Osama Bin Laden or if I’m ashamed that an Afghan plotted 9/11. I was told to go back to my country, despite having been born and raised here to two, hard-working and strong refugees who escaped the throes of the Soviet invasion, civil strife, discrimination (middle-class Muslims were a target), bombs and violence. My life is predicated on war and intolerance. I’ve seen and heard it all.

Soon after I lost my faith, I was wholly unwelcome. I was ostracized. Friends and family shamed me for saying I don’t believe in god. My experience is benign when compared to some of the members of EXMNA. Many deal with physical, sexual, emotional, verbal and financial abuse. Many women are highly constrained by modesty doctrines and were forced to wear hijab or niqab against their will. Few were forced into marriages. Some were correctively raped for being queer by the person their families married them off to. These are stories about people in Canada and the US. These are people who deal with Islamism, Ben. It is important to have allies to stand with us. Standing with us is just as important as understanding that not all Muslims approve of this or will perpetrate such horrid things to people they claim to love all because of a lack of faith or even a progressive take on Islam.

And the Muslims out there who do not hold these parts of Quran as part of their interpretation or practice of the religion, please do your part in condemning the bad. I also support Muslims who view religion and faith as something personal and not something to enforce on others.

But that doesn’t stop me from working towards calling out those who push their religious agenda on others, no matter the number or the stats. It’s unacceptable and I, and every person, Muslim or not, should be condemning it.

Comments

  1. dick says

    Sadaf, good luck to you.

    It’s too bad that the people who really need to read your essay probably won’t do so, because they’re not exposed to the right sources, & hence, to the right information.

  2. Nick Gotts says

    Thanks for this – views from ex-Muslims and liberal Muslims are badly under-represented in the shouting match between Islamist and anti-Muslim bigots.

    a few key points that are missing from nearly every single discourse on Muslims and Islam.

    One: Muslim is not a race

    Actually, this one crops up very frequently – it’s a favourite point for the anti-Muslim bigots.

  3. Becca Stareyes says

    Can I ask what the distinction is between Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry? I tend to use these interchangeably. Is it just that Sadaf Ali wants to distinguish between critique of Islamic beliefs and attacks (even verbal ones) on Muslims or those perceived to be Muslim?

  4. says

    I think Affleck’s heart was in the right place. He & Harris unfortunately did not have a meaningful dialogue, as you pointed out, and largely because of Bill Maher’s interruptions. Maher actually demonstrates some form of bigotry as he always conflates the issue as “Western liberalism” vs “Muslim World”. Newsflash Bill: The West did not invent or discover liberalism any more than it “discovered” America. His analogies work as jokes, but in an actual debate they display his ignorance. Harris did not help by his “Islam is mother lode of bad ideas” comment either. Every terrible notion in the Quran is found in the Bible, so that’s a pretty gross exaggeration, and made Affleck’s misinterpretation of Harris’ basic point even stronger.

  5. chimera says

    I am very sorry and embarrassed for having asked such a stupid question. I already knew the answer but forgot. I subscribe to the conseil des ex musulmans de France on Twitter and Facebook and a blog. It’s just that they seem to be a single person who doesn’t communicate a whole lot.

  6. Russell Glasser says

    Hi Sadaf, thanks for writing this.

    I was curious about one thing you said: “Three: Islamophobia is not real. Four: Anti-Muslim bigotry is.” Could you clarify what you see as the difference? It doesn’t seem to me like those terms are defined precisely enough to be distinguished from each other.

  7. says

    Thank you so much. This. This times a million. Sadaf, you are awesome, and may the Force be with you.

    Your post finally made me realize what bugged me about the whole Affleck/Harris affaire. Neither side seemed particularly agreeable, both sides seemed blinkered and the whole argument devolved into namecalling and non-sequitors from both sides. They were talking in circles, about nothing. In the end, nothing was said, nothing was learned, biases were merely confirmed by people who already had them.

    And now that you’ve pointed it out, it’s obvious. There was nobody there who knew what they were talking about.
    Maher, the insufferable, grating wanker.
    Sam Harris, the verbose, impenetrable ivory tower intellectual.
    Ben Affleck, the actor I’m convinced is really just trying to speak out against bigotry, without really knowing what he’s talking about.

    Nobody thought to ask anyone with a vested interest in the debate. You’re absolutely right. Thank you for this.

  8. Saad says

    Becca, #4

    Can I ask what the distinction is between Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry?

    They’re meant to mean the same thing, but that’s not how they practically get used. Anti-Muslim bigotry has a clear cut meaning and an even clearer negative connotation. Islamophobia, on the other hand, takes legitimate criticisms of Islam and makes it sound like one is a bigot for voicing those criticisms. I don’t think the term should exist at all. Is there a term for someone who specifically criticizes Christianity? Then there shouldn’t be one for Islam either. The phobia part of Islamophobia is an unfair label. I dislike Islam. I also dislike Christianity. But nobody calls anyone a Christianityphobe. That phobia part gives the impression that my stance towards the religion is an unreasoned one, like I just have a gut-reaction like hatred for it.
    —————————————————–

    I watched the Maher/Harris/Affleck scuffle, as you rightly called it, yesterday and was really disappointed by the ignorance and dishonesty Affleck displayed. There is no group for which the #NotAll defense is weaker than Muslims. I’m speaking from both personal experience of having a huge family comprised entirely of moderate Muslims as well as from general awareness because the issue is close to home for me: the moderates do a great deal of harm by hiding behind the label “moderates” and simply excusing themselves out of any conversation that tries to address the evils that Islam leads to. Islam is at a very different stage in its evolution than Christianity. That is what people like Affleck don’t get. The best comparison I can make for it is to the Christian world in Europe several hundred years ago. In perfectly mainstream (i.e. not groups like ISIL) Islamic nations nowadays, you have:

    Forced child marriages, arranged marriages, honor killings, rape cover-ups, slut-shaming, polygyny, second-class citizen status for non-Muslims, second-class citizen status for women, second-class citizen status (if they’re lucky) for LGBTQ people, systemic severe suppression of free speech (blasphemy laws), unbelievably high domestic abuse rates (up to 90% of women in Pakistan), and just overall reduction of women to property. People not familiar with Muslim traditions may find this surprising, but it is extremely common to meet a husband and a father who is a nice, courteous person and a respected member of society but also restricts his wife from working, driving, leaving the house on her own, purchasing things without his approval. And he will also do those things to his daughter plus she’ll have a husband chosen for her when she’s barely out of her teens. And the worst part of all this? That wife and daughter don’t consider themselves abused. That’s how deep this system goes. You all may have seen Muslim female apologists themselves make the statement that Islam respects and liberates (they love using this term) women.

    And it’s easy to see why the Islamic countries are so behind in human rights. Norms and laws there are largely set up by men (or based on Islam, which is just another way of saying men). It is an absolutely patriarchal system. Just as the scourge of racism in the U.S. will be solved by a sufficient number of white people speaking up, Muslim societies will remain this way until Muslim men step up to change them.

    I have one request to my fellow atheists who are not ex-Muslims: please don’t speak on our behalf when the topic of Islamophobia comes up. Yes, what people call Islamophobia does exist. Muslims in the U.S. and Europe are stereotyped and hate crimes do get committed against them. But that is like pointing out a white man being attacked by a group of black people and saying, “see? racism goes both ways.” That’s not what this conversation is or should be about. The conversation is about how unfair and detrimental to human rights the power structure that exists in Muslim societies is. They have A LOT of seriously fucked up things about them that need to change ASAP. There is a place to address hate crimes and profiling of Muslims but it certainly is not in a discussion about the horrific systemic human rights violations that occur openly in those societies. There are budding social justice movements in even the most oppressive of these societies and derailing the conversation like that does them no good. This charge of Islamophobia with the good intentions of not offending the moderate Muslims ends up silencing the much needed criticism of the brontosaurus in the room that is Islamic oppression.

    I’m at work and typed that in a hurry, so sorry if it’s difficult to read.

  9. jim says

    “In fact, the mere suggestion of the criticism of Islam was slammed as ‘racist’ and ‘Islamophobic’ by Affleck.”

    Can you point to where in the transcript this occurs? I’ve watched the video a couple of times now and I must have missed it. From what I could tell, Affleck was arguing that Harris’ sweeping statements and cherry picking data about Muslim attitudes were racist/Islamophobic (agree that bigoted probably would have been a better term there), not that criticism of particular implementations of Islam were per se racist/Islamophobic. Would be very interested to see what I missed. Thanks.

  10. jim says

    @Saad

    “There is no group for which the #NotAll defense is weaker than Muslims.”

    Does that mean you think Harris’ narrative is the correct one?

  11. says

    Thank you, Sadaf, for the article. It shines the light deep on a subject most people have a shallow understanding of. I’m going to keep a link on hand for when the “round table” inevitably lights up my social media feed. I turned it off when I found out that nobody with any knowledge of the subject matter was going to attend. While I dislike the “let’s just invite an apologist” approach of false balance, having, you know, an apostate, would have been great.

  12. Saad says

    jim, #12

    Does that mean you think Harris’ narrative is the correct one?

    I disagree with most of it (especially the profiling part). Vast majority of Muslims won’t kill someone for not being Muslim or even for being an apostate. The majority of them are cool with them being officially mistreated though. I agree with him that liberals (for some damn reason) REFUSE to condemn the Islamic forms of misogyny, free speech suppression, mistreatment of homosexuals, and hostility to apostates and non-Muslims. Why is that?

    Ben Affleck’s reaction of “Jesus!” when Harris said Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas reflects exactly what I mean. Quickly to the defense of an “ideology” as if it will get its feelings hurt. If someone had said to him, “Christianity in Europe during the Middle Ages was the mother lode of bad ideas”, his reaction would not be that. That’s what people like Affleck don’t see. They see Islam ONLY as it exists in the U.S. or Europe, but they still want to be able to speak about the “more than a billion people who aren’t fanatical”. I assume by fanatical he’s talking about terrorism, when Maher and Harris had said misogyny, free speech, apostasy, mistreatment of gay people. Affleck is dishonestly shifting the conversation. Prime example of what the Islamophobia-accusers do.

    Change actually comes from within the oppressive majority, not the minority. The moderate Muslims are apologists and enablers. When you turn the conversation away from such issues, you’re enabling. They directly enable things like the rampant mistreatment of women and LGBTQ people. They indirectly enable and ultimately allow for things like ISIL.

  13. says

    “There is no group for which the #NotAll defense is weaker than Muslims.”
    Does that mean you think Harris’ narrative is the correct one?

    Seriously, you can’t spot even a single difference between Maher’s narrative and Saad’s observations?

  14. Reginald Selkirk says

    Saad #10: The phobia part of Islamophobia is an unfair label. I dislike Islam. I also dislike Christianity. But nobody calls anyone a Christianityphobe. That phobia part gives the impression that my stance towards the religion is an unreasoned one, like I just have a gut-reaction like hatred for it.

    Just because your dislike of Islam is justified and reasonable does not imply that the same applies to everyone else. To say that “Islamophobia does not exist” is to say that no one has an unjustified fear of Islam.

  15. dogfightwithdogma says

    Excellent and needed commentary. Thank you so much for it Sadaf, and thank you PZ for guest posting it. This commentary needs to get as wide a distribution as possible.

    Sagar Keer @5:

    He & Harris unfortunately did not have a meaningful dialogue, as you pointed out, and largely because of Bill Maher’s interruptions.

    I agree that a meaningful dialogue was not had. But I don’t think it was largely because of Maher’s rather irritating habit of interrupting. Seems to me that even if Maher had remained silent the entire time the exchange would have had roughly the same tone. It was apparent from Affleck’s behavior that he had no intention of actually listening to Harris, nor was he actually interested in a discussion. He was confrontational from the get-go.

  16. jim says

    @SallyStrange

    I thought I would ask a question and listen, and appreciated hearing the response. Saad seems perfectly willing and able to be more specific about where she/he agrees/disagrees with Harris (not Maher, which wasn’t my question). Apparently you couldn’t even hold off for one Q/A before bringing an acidic non-contribution to the table. Good stuff.

  17. Patrick Doyle says

    “No one there on the panel insinuated that the flaws in Islam should be used as a justification to murder innocent people halfway across the world”

    What? Sam Harris, for example, has has endorsed attacks against Gaza, Iraq, and Afghanistan based on his bigoted attitude toward Mulims, even their democratically elected leaders in some cases. Maher and Harris harmonize perfectly with the right wing hate chorus with their short-sighted rhetoric. This is dangerous ground as they legitimize the right wing’s xenophobia and warmongering ways from a liberal perspective, further weakening the case against the those cynical politicians and war profiteers who will have us fighting in this region for multiple generations if they get their way.

  18. Brony says

    Would anyone mind seeing if I’m getting the point? I think it’s a very important issue overall as there is a lot of knee-jerk resistance to valid criticism of religion, and use of terms to act like valid criticism is the same as racism.

    One: Muslim is not a race.

    Muslim is not usefully or or helpfully correlated with what we consider race. Too often religious ideology and racism get emotionally conflated and this makes any activism and politics harder.

    Two: Islam is an ideology.

    Like Christianity or any other religion, the religion is beliefs that lead to actions.

    Three: Islamophobia is not real.

    Attaching the -phobia to a set of beliefs confuses issues and makes dealing with the bad behaviors caused by the beliefs harder to deal with because of the conflation with racism. By way of comparison homophobia is fine because that is about fear and hatred of actions based on instincts derived from someone’s essential nature. Whereas religion is about a set of social rules (cultural differences. that can include homophobia with many characteristics that do not have to do with essential natures. (If any of this was phrased insensitively on any issue please let me know.)

    Four: Anti-Muslim bigotry is.

    This is bigotry (prejudice should be an issue as well) having to do with cultural and social differences and is a separate category from things that have the -phobia attached.

  19. stevenjohnson2 says

    “I have a personal appeal to Ben Affleck, after his participation on Bill Maher’s show, because it is attitudes like his that have historically made little to no room for ex-Muslims, secular, reformists, liberal or progressive Muslims to own a dialogue that is supposed to be ours to discuss.”

    The notion that your dialogue with other Muslims is affected by the attitudes like Affleck’s strikes me as grossly tendentious. I also strongly believe that in this country the widespread existence of secular lifestyles and their representation in the social media means conservative and moderate Muslims are listening to lengthy monologues against much of their religion. Attitudes like Affleck’s certainly allow this. I also notice that you boasted of your family history in resisting Communist secularization of Afghan society, a crusade whose values you share with Hekmatyar Gulbeddin, for instance. (And, oh yes, Osama bin Laden.)

    This is so contradictory I rather think your problem is that you want to attack Islam in dialogue with non-Muslims and feel criticized by Affleck’s attitude. But Islam and Muslims are widely despised and hated and your assistance in justifying this really just is not necessary. I am certain that your sharp distinction between religious and racial bigotry is nonsense.

    First, whether you feel that you’ve made an impact on your Muslim friends and family is beside the point: Your very existence is part of your dialogue with Islam. Your contribution and that of ex-Muslims and progresive or secular Muslims to that dialogue is on-going and will have vastly more impact than you teaching non-Muslims what they already believe, that Islam is evil. On the other hand, no matter what you say, no one will separate Islam from Muslims.

    Second, you make the foolish protest that no one on that panel was a Muslim. Of course not, Islamophobia is a real thing, and Bill Maher is an Islamophobe. Affleck was only there for Maher to brighten the guest roster with a movie star. It was only an accident that Affleck had enough decency to be outraged at Maher’s and Harris’ drivel. You also forget the whole purpose of the discussion was to support another US war against Muslim countries.

    Third, if you really must dialogue with non-Muslims about the backwardness of Islam, please help explain how the US government is the greatest ally of the worst Muslim bigots, like the mujahideen in Afghanistan and the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and even yet it won’t subordinate its war against Assad to its supposed opposition to jihadis like the IS. And it would be very helpful to explain how total, blind US support for the Zionist state seems so much like Christian bigotry and superstition that portrays Palestine as God’s gift to the Zionists.

  20. congaboy says

    I think that Affleck was ill informed and clumsy with his attempts to defend people of Islamic faith from sweeping generalizations and bigotry, but to shame him for his attempt seems a bit too much. All religions have bad ideologies and the people who practice them can get carried away by these ideologies, because this seems to be an aspect of humans in general. Religion is not the cause of the strife in the world; religion provides any easy rationalization for humans causing the strife. Even if there were no religions, humans would still fight and kill each other; but without religion, we’d have to either find some other bogus rationalization for the behavior or simply admit that we are just nasty, narcissistic, violent animals. Although I agree with a lot of what Mahr and Harris said, I don’t agree with them on everything they said. Harris has been vilified on this very blog, for his over generalization and bigotry towards people of Islamic faith. Affleck needs to be better educated and better informed about these issues (as was clear from the argument on the show), but shaming him is incorrect; unless, after having been informed of the errors he made, Affleck continues to make the same statements and mistakes, then he should be strongly rebuked and even shamed.

  21. Saad says

    Reginald, #16,

    Just because your dislike of Islam is justified and reasonable does not imply that the same applies to everyone else. To say that “Islamophobia does not exist” is to say that no one has an unjustified fear of Islam.

    From the fifth paragraph of my #10:

    Yes, what people call Islamophobia does exist.

    I say the term Islamophobia shouldn’t have been coined. Anti-Muslim is a much more accurate term (and actually makes the bigotry seem more serious because it is something you do to humans (Muslims), not to a religion).

    Also, people that we call Islamophobes are also anti-Muslim (how can they possibly not be?), so why not just go with that term?

  22. Patrick Doyle says

    Harris on Israel and Gaza: http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/why-dont-i-criticize-israel

    Then this: “Muslims in Iraq and elsewhere have been traumatized by war and by decades of repression. But this does not explain the type of violence they wage against us on a daily basis. War and repression do not account for suicidal violence directed against the Red Cross, the U.N., foreign workers, and Iraqi innocents. ”

    The hubris it takes to assume that populations which have been occupied and besieged by Western interests for nearly a century rivals that of Rumsfeld and Cheney. Harris clearly salivates at the notion of the West conquering this region and educating its masses in the ways of liberal Western traditions. His philosophy toward Muslims differs very little from Condoleeza Rice or Dick Cheney.

  23. stevenjohnson2 says

    PS People don’t call Christianity haters “Christianityphobes” because they just call them God-haters or God-phobes. Different terminology is used by the majority which presumes to be the one true view.

    When Harris is saying Islam is the “mother lode of bad ideas,” he is exempting Christianity, which really is just as gross and racist as Affleck thought. His reaction “Jesus!” was the natural and decent one, but your, sad to say, was not.

  24. Daz365365 . says

    “Islamophobia does not exist”

    Actually I think it does and if you look it up in the dictionary Harris and Maher are probably in the definition.

    Harris with his profiling and his blind defence of Israel shows his true colours and Maher and his:
    ‘Islam is the only religion that acts like the mafia that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing’
    These people held up as representing atheism? Sorry but they don’t represent me.

    Of course we need to condemn radical Islam. but not only do we turn a blind eye to it for our own national interest we openly cooperate and enable governments like Saudi Arabia, one of its biggest supporters.

  25. Saad says

    stevenjohnson2, #25

    PS People don’t call Christianity haters “Christianityphobes” because they just call them God-haters or God-phobes. Different terminology is used by the majority which presumes to be the one true view.

    Now if you can tell me what is immoral or wrong about being a God-hater, we’ll resume this discussion.

    When Harris is saying Islam is the “mother lode of bad ideas,” he is exempting Christianity, which really is just as gross and racist as Affleck thought. His reaction “Jesus!” was the natural and decent one, but your, sad to say, was not.

    Exempting Christianity doesn’t make Harris a anti-Muslim bigot. The other awful things he suggests about Muslims does.

    Why do you want him to say “Christianity is bad too” when he’s criticizing Islam anyway?

  26. Saad says

    Daz365365, #26

    Of course we need to condemn radical Islam.

    Misogyny, hostility to apostates, hostility to homosexual people, and suppression of free speech aren’t part of radical Islam. They’re part of mainstream moderate Islam and are practiced by Muslims who wouldn’t lay a finger on a white “Christian-looking” Westerner traveling through their city. Blaming all the bad things about Islam and the Muslim world on radical Islam is wrong.

    It seems there are two discussions here being mixed into one. There’s the issue of radical Islam (terrorism, suicide bombs and beheadings) and mainstream Islam with its numerous offenses against the basic rights of people living in societies which have Islamic majorities and use various degrees of Islamic law to govern.

  27. Brony says

    @stevenjohnson2

    The notion that your dialogue with other Muslims is affected by the attitudes like Affleck’s strikes me as grossly tendentious.

    Why is this a problem?

    This is so contradictory I rather think your problem is that you want to attack Islam in dialogue with non-Muslims and feel criticized by Affleck’s attitude.

    I don’t see a contradiction. There is a difference between race and belief. Religions like Islam contain many aweful beliefs even if how those beliefs are acted on can change from culture to culture. You will have to outline this contradiction that you see.

    I am certain that your sharp distinction between religious and racial bigotry is nonsense.

    Now that is simply garbage. Race is based on physical appearance and attached cultural differences that appear due to historical contingency. Religion is a set of cultural behaviors that can have some racial correlation because of historical contingency, but people of different races join and leave different religions all the time (when they are allowed to). One is behavior only, the other is behavior plus physical characteristics.

  28. Chaos Engineer says

    I’ve never understood the point of this sort dictionary-based quibbling.

    It’s like the people who say, “I’m not an antisemite. I don’t hate all Semitic people, I only hate the ones who practice Judaism.” Or for that matter. “I’m not a homophobe. I’m not scared of homosexuals, I just don’t think they should be allowed to destroy the foundations of Western Civilization.”

    How can you even respond to that other than by saying, “Yes, that’s nice, very clever. You’re not fooling anyone you know.”

  29. ethicsgradient says

    If the problem is a discussion of Islam involving no people who either are or have been Muslim, and none of whom come from a country with a large Muslim population, then the primary fault here is from Maher and Harris. They started the conversation about Islam, and both lead with ‘the Muslim world’ as if it’s monolithic, and that’s what Affleck first objects to – he challenges Harris with “are you the person who understands the officially codified doctrine of Islam?” It seems to me that Maher and Harris belong in that ‘not helping’ title more than Affleck.

  30. Brony says

    @Chaos Engineer

    I’ve never understood the point of this sort dictionary-based quibbling.

    Because the functional, real-world use of language and other symbolism matters.

    It’s why random collections of lines and sounds can become object that evoke emotions like racial epithets and objects like swastikas and burning crosses. It’s important to talk about how that works.

    It’s like the people who say, “I’m not an antisemite. I don’t hate all Semitic people, I only hate the ones who practice Judaism.” Or for that matter. “I’m not a homophobe. I’m not scared of homosexuals, I just don’t think they should be allowed to destroy the foundations of Western Civilization.”

    Another good example is how people can do racist and sexist things but the moment you use the word everyone on the privileged side freaks out. That’s the word sensitivity. That matters.

    How can you even respond to that other than by saying, “Yes, that’s nice, very clever. You’re not fooling anyone you know.”

    They are fooling each other. The echo chamber matters.

  31. Patrick Doyle says

    Maybe it’s not racism per se, but Sihks and Hindus who’ve been assaulted and murdered weren’t attacked for their philosophical foundations, they were attacked by racists who habored hatred for anyone who even remotely looks like a Muslim.

  32. says

    @Saad #28
    When Harris says “Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas” he is making a comparative statement implicitly including other religions. He is basically saying that Islam has significantly more bad ideas than any other religion, which is factually incorrect. If he said Abrahamic religions are the mother lode of bad ideas, it would be slightly fairer. They are almost exclusive in teachings of exclusiveness, cult-like behavior, and dangerous diktats. Although misogyny & superstition exist in nearly all other religions, so even such a statement might be an exaggeration.

    @ethicsgradient #33
    Agreed!

  33. says

    saying that Islam has significantly more bad ideas than any other religion, which is factually incorrect.

    Having this claim backed up would be useful to me. And “mother lode of bad ideas” is not just about the number of bad ideas, but rather the badness of them too I would suspect.

  34. stevenjohnson2 says

    “‘PS People don’t call Christianity haters “Christianityphobes” because they just call them God-haters or God-phobes. Different terminology is used by the majority which presumes to be the one true view.’
    Now if you can tell me what is immoral or wrong about being a God-hater, we’ll resume this discussion.”

    Islamophobia isn’t about hating Islam, it’s about thinking Islam is some sort of threat to “us,” a loony clash of civilizations or the mother lode of bad ideas. It’s about “defending” Western liberalism (geographically identifiable with Christendom, by the way,) by bombing and invading one Muslim country after another, decade after decade. Naturally the people who hold these notions dislike being called Islamophobes for their irrational fears. Perhaps it’s not the ideal term but I don’t have the power to change the English language.

    “‘When Harris is saying Islam is the “mother lode of bad ideas,” he is exempting Christianity, which really is just as gross and racist as Affleck thought. His reaction “Jesus!” was the natural and decent one, but your, sad to say, was not.’
    Exempting Christianity doesn’t make Harris a anti-Muslim bigot. The other awful things he suggests about Muslims does.
    Why do you want him to say “Christianity is bad too” when he’s criticizing Islam anyway?

    Because the TV discussion is about justifying yet another war against Muslims, while ignoring the role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Turkey and the US government in creating ISIS as a weapon against Assad. (And against the excessively pro-Iranian, anti-Kurd al-Nouri in Iraq.) Because it gives US policy against the people of Egypt and the Palestinians and the role of oil a free pass in the thread-bare guise of a critique of a uniquely evil religion. It’s not about criticism of Islam , it’s about killing Muslims. Or in the case of the godless Commie Kurds, letting them get killed by by Islamic State. But that’s like the Taliban killing godless Reds in Kabul, isn’t it?

  35. empty says

    Sadaf, you are confusing your own struggles with the struggles of Muslims in North America who are not atheists. What they are struggling with are bigots like Maher and Harris, and props to Ben Affleck for providing some pushback. Their struggles in no way diminish your own. However, if you make common cause with bigots because some of their perceived enemies are also yours, you weaken your own moral standing. Of course there were no Muslims on the panel. Biigots like to rant and pontificate in peace. Affleck was there to promote his movie. The fact that he took on Maher and Harris was unexpected, but wholly appropriate for any decent human being. Affleck probably does not know any more about Islam than Harris does, but he was neither critiquing nor defending Islam. He was criticizing the (yes disgusting and gross) habit of Maher and Harris of othering and stigmatizing a rather large fraction of the world’s population and their beliefs by the actions of a few. Your anger at Affleck is somewhat misplaced.

    And we are not dropping bombs on South Asian nations? I am pretty sure Pakistan is in South Asia.

  36. clevehicks says

    I am glad that Ben Affleck spoke up as he did for Muslims on Bill Maher’s show. Ironically, I am not even a fan of Affleck’s movie Argo because it presented Muslims, Maher and Harris-style, as scary zombie hordes. Of course as an atheist I think Islam is as ridiculous as any other religion, and I agree that its doctrine towards women and homosexuals is backwards and harmful. But in the context of the ‘War on Terror’, in which our Christian-ruled nation has slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Muslims by drone, bomb and tank, I think it is ludicrous for people like Harris and Maher to proclaim that Islam is exceptionally violent, intolerant and aggressive. I think they are just providing fodder for the war-mongerers, who would love for you to look at Muslims as an indiscriminately scary, brain-washed, unthinking horde (except, for some reason, Saudia Arabia, which despite being the most fundamentalist of Islamic societies is our ally and therefore A-OK). In the end, I think the historical record shows that war actually favors fundamentalist, oppressive regimes … so whether you agree with Maher or Affleck, can we agree that we cannot bomb our enemies into adopting a progressive society?

  37. clevehicks says

    Ugh, I just read Sam Harris’ as-usual overlong ‘analysis’ of the debate on Bill Maher’s show. Does he have to be so damned whiny?… ‘Affleck interrupted me!’ ‘He made a gesture of impatience with his hand!’ ‘He was clearly gunning for me!’ Then he goes on to include a bizarre ad hominem attack on Muslim academic Reza Azlan, whom he describes as ‘sinister’ and Genghis Khan-like. Nothing bigoted and stereotypical there at all…. This is why I cannot stand Harris’ writing. Just defend your point without assuming the worst of your critics and stop whining about how everyone is picking on you! http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/can-liberalism-be-saved-from-itself

  38. Saad says

    Sagar Keer #36

    When Harris says “Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas” he is making a comparative statement implicitly including other religions. He is basically saying that Islam has significantly more bad ideas than any other religion, which is factually incorrect. If he said Abrahamic religions are the mother lode of bad ideas, it would be slightly fairer. They are almost exclusive in teachings of exclusiveness, cult-like behavior, and dangerous diktats. Although misogyny & superstition exist in nearly all other religions, so even such a statement might be an exaggeration.

    I can’t disagree with your statement from a historical perspective. But the discussion has to be about religions as they currently exist and are practiced in society and government. That Christianity has horrible ideas is true, but the horrible ideas of Christianity are not having anywhere near the social injustice in their home countries that Islamic ideas are. It’s just not even close.

    stevenjohnson2, #39

    Islamophobia isn’t about hating Islam, it’s about thinking Islam is some sort of threat to “us,” a loony clash of civilizations or the mother lode of bad ideas. It’s about “defending” Western liberalism (geographically identifiable with Christendom, by the way,) by bombing and invading one Muslim country after another, decade after decade. Naturally the people who hold these notions dislike being called Islamophobes for their irrational fears. Perhaps it’s not the ideal term but I don’t have the power to change the English language.

    Because the TV discussion is about justifying yet another war against Muslims, while ignoring the role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar and Turkey and the US government in creating ISIS as a weapon against Assad. (And against the excessively pro-Iranian, anti-Kurd al-Nouri in Iraq.) Because it gives US policy against the people of Egypt and the Palestinians and the role of oil a free pass in the thread-bare guise of a critique of a uniquely evil religion. It’s not about criticism of Islam , it’s about killing Muslims. Or in the case of the godless Commie Kurds, letting them get killed by by Islamic State. But that’s like the Taliban killing godless Reds in Kabul, isn’t it?

    If Islamophobe was only used in the manner you’ve described, I’m in agreement. But it is also used to shut people up; to try to tell them they’re being bigotted for challenging certain Islamic practices. I’m not going to sugarcoat when I say something about the practice of making sure your daughter doesn’t become independent so you can marry her off to a man who will treat her like you treat your wife, or about the idea that a woman can’t divorce her husband, or the idea of women not being allowed in cemeteries, or of having to enter through the side door of a Mosque and sitting in a separate smaller hall, or that gay people deserve completely equal treatment. That gets me called a militant atheist and an Islamophobe. That’s why it’s important we get these words sorted out. You can call me an Islamophobe (I’m anti-Islam) for that, but then you have to call those assholes who talk about bombing Muslims and establishing their own governments in those lands anti-Muslim. You can’t possibly apply the same terms to both of us.

  39. toska says

    Thank you to Sadaf Ali and Saad for your perspectives on this squabble. It’s a shame that Affleck was not informed enough to have a productive conversation about anti-Muslim bigotry (Thanks for pointing out the problems with the term Islamophobia, as well. I used these terms interchangeably, but bigotry is against people, not religions, and that should be represented in our language).

    From Saad

    That’s what people like Affleck don’t see. They see Islam ONLY as it exists in the U.S. or Europe

    I think this is a serious problem, too. American liberals are often just as US-centric in their thinking as conservatives, and they only see the way Muslims – especially Arabs, Central Asians, or even anyone who looks similar – are generally treated horribly here, so they get defensive over critiques of Islam, ignoring the problems of people who live in Muslim-majority countries.

    I can sympathize with Affleck’s knee jerk reaction. I saw a post on facebook the other day from a person who said he was tired of Muslims in general and doesn’t see a place for them to even be allowed to exist in our country anymore, and he was met with resounding approval from all of his friends. And that attitude scares me. But there are ways to call out Harris, Maher, and others for their bigoted views (In regards to Harris, I specifically mean his stance on profiling) without shutting down critiques of Islam and ignoring the extreme suffering it is causing. Ex-Muslims are often a great source of information on how to accomplish this, and the conversation would have been so much more meaningful if there was an informed person there who understands anti-Muslim bigotry first-hand, or who is not afraid to question their biases.

  40. consciousness razor says

    When Harris says “Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas” he is making a comparative statement implicitly including other religions. He is basically saying that Islam has significantly more bad ideas than any other religion, which is factually incorrect.

    I wouldn’t be surprised by anything Harris says at this point, but I don’t think that implication is all that clear. What are the other “veins” of bad ideas, besides the supposed mother lode? He would presumably say this is in comparison to many other ideologies (not just religions). If you compare Islam to, say, socialism or democratic liberalism or secular humanism, it does have significantly more bad ideas than any of them.

    On the other hand, it’s not clear how helpful that kind of comparison would be, because those ideologies don’t need to be “replacements” for religious ones in a strict sense. They are in some sense competing with one another, in that the more seriously you take Islamic doctrines, the less seriously you take doctrines in the others. But something like socialism (for example) simply isn’t the same kind of “worldview” as a religious one which has lots of other things to say besides its implications on economics or political philosophy. In that very loose sense, they can be “compatible” with one another, but only to the extent they don’t reach into the other’s primary domain. Perhaps a few scattered individuals manage to do something like that. Trying to make them actually fit together, cohere with one another, reinforce one another — that’s a whole different story, and I don’t think it’s possible.

    If he said Abrahamic religions are the mother lode of bad ideas, it would be slightly fairer.

    I don’t see how that’s right.

    They are almost exclusive in teachings of exclusiveness, cult-like behavior, and dangerous diktats. Although misogyny & superstition exist in nearly all other religions, so even such a statement might be an exaggeration.

    I don’t think talk of “mother lodes” implies anything about exclusivity or almost-exclusivity. The metaphor is that it’s a large source of something. There might be many such sources, and it is one of the big ones (“big” literally in terms of scale, or as brianpansky suggests, in terms of significance). If we wanted to dig into our societies and pick out a lot of the bad ideas and behaviors, it would be best not to search for one little isolated nugget of bad at a time. Islam is simply not one isolated little nugget.

  41. Daz365365 . says

    Saad 29

    Misogyny, hostility to apostates, hostility to homosexual people, and suppression of free speech aren’t * Exclusively* part of radical Islam. They’re part of mainstream moderate Islam……

    *added from 30

    No, they aren’t exclusively Islamic at all, they are features of many modern societies including western democracy’s like our own and are often totally unconnected with religion. Which is really the point.

  42. Brony says

    Islamophobia isn’t about hating Islam, it’s about thinking Islam is some sort of threat to “us,” a loony clash of civilizations or the mother lode of bad ideas. It’s about “defending” Western liberalism (geographically identifiable with Christendom, by the way,) by bombing and invading one Muslim country after another, decade after decade. Naturally the people who hold these notions dislike being called Islamophobes for their irrational fears.

    That does not make any sense to me. Can you explain?
    Expressions of hatred can be rooted in fear. The hatred is a tool chosen to act on the fear. I can agree that there is BS devoted to maintaining a western influence that is toxic in there as well and the fear that creates the need for “defense”, uses and manipulates the surrounding culture with expressions of hatred among other things.

    Perhaps it’s not the ideal term but I don’t have the power to change the English language.

    We individually have that power. The issue is if we should exercise it or not.

  43. says

    I’m going to preface this comment by noting that I’m not an ex-anything, having been raised a nonbeliever, but grew up in a heavily Christian society (the U.S.). That said, it sounds a great deal as though the claim is being made that Islam is an intrinsically worse or more problematic religion that Christianity, and from where I stand, that claim appears to be entirely indefensible.
    Sadaf Ali

    Soon after I lost my faith, I was wholly unwelcome. I was ostracized. Friends and family shamed me for saying I don’t believe in god. … Many deal with physical, sexual, emotional, verbal and financial abuse.

    I don’t know what point you think you’re making here; plenty of ex-Christians have the same stories to tell; I’ve heard a few hundred my own self.
    Saad

    The phobia part of Islamophobia is an unfair label… That phobia part gives the impression that my stance towards the religion is an unreasoned one, like I just have a gut-reaction like hatred for it.

    When applied to you it is. OTOH, I can’t think of a better term than Islamophobia to describe, say, white American Christians who are terrified that Islamic State will send guerrillas across the U.S.-Mexico border, or believe that there’s a global conspiracy between all Muslims everywhere to get them. If that’s not an irrational, unreasoned fear, I don’t know what is. Of course, there’s also a huge amount of anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, and anti-anyone who looks to an ignorant American as though they might be a Muslim or Arab bigotry around as well.

    Islam is at a very different stage in its evolution than Christianity.

    No offence, but bullshit. All of this shit you list here:

    Forced child marriages, arranged marriages, honor killings, rape cover-ups, slut-shaming, polygyny, second-class citizen status for non-Muslims, second-class citizen status for women, second-class citizen status (if they’re lucky) for LGBTQ people, systemic severe suppression of free speech (blasphemy laws), unbelievably high domestic abuse rates (up to 90% of women in Pakistan), and just overall reduction of women to property.

    Christians do all that shit too, where they’re allowed too, in the name of their god, just the same as Muslims do (and Jews and Hindus and Buddhists and Shenists and Shintoists too, for that matter, along with the vast majority of other religious traditions of which I’m aware, and no small percentage of atheists to boot). Look at the FLDS here in the States, who hit every single point and are allowed to get away with it. All of them but the first two are part of the platform of one of the major U.S. political parties, and there’s no small number who support those two as well. Compare to, say, Turkey, a state that appears, in practice, to be about as secular as the U.S., but with a majority Muslim population. Note how women aren’t treated as second class citizens there, for instance. It’s not a matter of whose religion is more ‘evolved’, it’s a matter of the degree to which the state gives a shit about things like universal human rights, which involves among other things, secular governance and making religious types knock off their more egregious bullshit. (Note that I am not claiming that religion is the entire source of misogyny and hence the problems you name, but it’s a damn strong carrier of those memes and a strong source of cultural support for ’em, so keeping it in check is an essential part of fixing matters).

    Misogyny, hostility to apostates, hostility to homosexual people, and suppression of free speech aren’t part of radical Islam. They’re part of mainstream moderate Islam and are practiced by Muslims who wouldn’t lay a finger on a white “Christian-looking” Westerner traveling through their city.

    What I don’t get is where you’re getting the idea that this crap isn’t a standard part of ‘moderate’ Christianity too.

  44. Adam McRae says

    Sadaf,

    This was a well written, well reasoned and thoughtful post. Thank you for posting it and hopefully encouraging people to challenge their assumptions on issues such as bigotry. Often a loud claim of “you’re a racist” will drown out reasoned arguments because many knee-jerk reactions support this attitude. Fortunately we have writers like you who take the time to explain the thought behind disagreeing with an entire religion. It is NOT bigotry to say Islam is a terrible idea. It is a choice to be a Muslim and all choices can be criticized. If the criticisms are valid then they should be listened to, if you think they’re not then you can dismiss them as uninformed. Either way, it is NOT bigotry and certainly not racist.

    Thank you again for continuing to expand the voices and viewpoints on this issue on the Internet.

  45. says

    @Saad #42
    Yes, the difference arises not in the historical existence of those ideas in the respective texts, but on what scale they are practiced today. The reasons for this are always missing from such discussions. If it were possible to switch the economic/social conditions between all the Christian majority and Muslim majority countries, we’d probably be living in a world of largely Christian suicide bombers, where witch-burnings are still prevalent in most of Europe. And the flag on the moon would belong to a non-Western country. Even the world as it exists now, Africa has few largely Christian countries/regions where FGM, genocides are prevalent. Consider Europe, and the role-reversal of religious persecution in Serbia.
    Like a few other comments have pointed out, the role of other factors such as Western imperialism (both old school European and the new American interventionism) have to be considered as well. Yes, Islam is the tool for brainwashing of minds in these unstable regions. But these other factors are what provide the fertile ground. So, blanket statements like those made by Maher and Harris are not too different from statements like “blacks are mostly criminals” or “women aren’t smart enough to do science”. I seriously doubt any real reform will be brought about by people with such US-centric or West-centric views (includes people like Affleck too), and those with a narrow “us vs them” mindset (Western liberalism vs Muslim world)

    @consciousness razor #44
    I see your point, but if that is how Harris meant it, it certainly didn’t come out like that.

  46. Brony says

    @Daz365365

    No, they aren’t exclusively Islamic at all, they are features of many modern societies including western democracy’s like our own and are often totally unconnected with religion. Which is really the point.

    That is I think why anyone, let alone Harris appearing to treat Christianity and Islam differently can matter (I’m still looking at the transcript and comparing with above arguments).

    There seem to be a couple of problems here. Detecting and describing specific harmful bias (positive or negative bias) needs to be effective. The race/religion distinction can be muddy. The extremist/moderate connection is important. Dealing with people sensitive to criticism of religion that try to spin that into race or whole group implicitly matters. The role of fear and hate both matter and are different.

    And there are lots of ways to hide inappropriate biases in here.
    So I guess I see important language problems too.

  47. Nick Gotts says

    But nobody calls anyone a Christianityphobe – Saad@10

    Try googling “christianophobia”. 48,000 results. Not that I think this weakens your case against the use of “Islamophobia”. I’ve recently become convinced that “anti-Muslim bigotry” is the term preferred by most ex-Muslims and liberal Muslims, and am quite prepared to go with that.

    I agree with him that liberals (for some damn reason) REFUSE to condemn the Islamic forms of misogyny, free speech suppression, mistreatment of homosexuals, and hostility to apostates and non-Muslims. Why is that? – Saad@14

    When this happens (and you’re over-generalising wildly), it’s because (American/European) liberals/progressives are aware we live in societies where there is widespread and systemic anti-Muslim bigotry. Much of the time we come across such condemnation from those not from a Muslim background, it’s an expression of that bigotry, not a genuine concern for those suffering those wrongs at Muslim hands.

  48. says

    There seem to be a couple of problems here. Detecting and describing specific harmful bias (positive or negative bias) needs to be effective. The race/religion distinction can be muddy. The extremist/moderate connection is important. Dealing with people sensitive to criticism of religion that try to spin that into race or whole group implicitly matters. The role of fear and hate both matter and are different.

    Ya, I think one way to get around some of the mess is to actualy criticise something specific that is bad, not something general like “Islam” or whatever.

    In practice, criticising specific sexist things and specific homphobic things etc. should be what really matters. Trying to measure which ideology is “worse” is a bit besides the point (especially when these ideology labels are usually fractured into more than one ideology).

    Well, more than specific things have to be addressed, because the philosophy of morality is intertwined with epistemology, measured fact, and metaphysics…I dunno.

  49. Nick Gotts says

    the horrible ideas of Christianity are not having anywhere near the social injustice in their home countries that Islamic ideas are. It’s just not even close. – Saad@42

    Try looking at the persecution of LGBT people and “witches”, and the suppression of women, in many Christian parts of Africa. Or the blanket bans on abortion and the difficulty of accessing contraception in much of Latin America. Or the rising power and vile ideology of the Russian Orthodox Church. Or do you only count north America and western Europe as Christianity’s “home countries”? Even there, as others have said, consider the alarming degree to which Christianist forces have taken over the Republican Party in the USA.

  50. says

    @Nick Gotts #53
    Good points! I saw a statement before that went something along the lines of “People like Affleck only see Muslims in the US and think this view applies to all Muslims”. People making assumptions (like the one by Saad you pointed out) about the West/Christianity, is basically doing the same thing . Cherry-picking the convenient examples and disregarding the rest.

  51. F.O. says

    I largely agree with Ali, but pretending that “islamophobia” has nothing to do with racism, nothing to do with the fact that the media presents all Muslims as brown people and makes it so much easier to other them, is a bit disingenuous.

  52. witlesschum says

    Everything Dalillama, Schmott Guy says sounds pretty sensible to me, so I won’t repeat it.

    And the real problem is that having Sam Harris and Ben Affleck on a show hosted by Bill Maher to debate any subject is the definition of worthless. People who know about things are better, so I’m glad to have read this post even if I think there are some errors.

  53. The very model of a modern armchair general says

    I usually stay well out of any discussion about Islam, because the only thing I know for certain is that I don’t know enough about it.

    The Harris / Affleck / Maher scuffle is a good example. I believe Maher and Harris are wrong about Islam being uniquely dangerous. But I also believe Affleck is wrong about Islam being no different to any other religion, and whenever I hear a progressive voice saying something like “US foreign policy is just as damaging as ISIS”, I want to think “yes, but…” and then don’t know how to finish that sentence.

    The most bloodthirsty sentiments in Qur’an can also be found in the Bible. So what happened to Christianity? What would make the same thing happen to Islam? What would it take to have a “Church of Iran” that was every bit as meek as, say, the Church of England?

  54. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I do want to respond to one particular point:

    it’s about thinking Islam is some sort of threat to “us,”

    Islam is a threat to western culture. Just google “Satanic Verses”, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali” (whether you agree with her politics or not), and “Danish Cartoons” for some recent examples.

    It’s not a radical view in Islam that apostates and blasphemers should be killed, especially apostates. It’s the mainstream view. It’s the consensus view of scholars of all sects of Islam. It manifests as a criminal offense in basically every Muslim majority country (except Turkey, but only because it was imposed on them by a military dictatorship). It’s also the consensus view of many – arguably a majority – of the world’s Muslims. Look at the Pew surveys for the evidence of that.

    I am not worried about some Christians in Africa flying across the world to kill me for playing Dungeons and Dragons. If I burned a Koran on a youtube video with my face, and that became a popular video, I would be very, very worried that people on the other side of the planet would fly here just to try and kill me. This is not an exaggeration in the slightest. Nothing even remotely like this exists in today’s world in any other religion or culture except Islam, mainstream Islam.

    Again, I’m talking about simple speech. I know that you can find examples of Christians killing abortion doctors, witches, etc. None of that even compares to killing someone just for saying “you’re wrong”.

    Further, we can find many, many people outraged in the west when Christians do these bad things, but not Islam. How many western newspapers published the Danish cartoons in solidarity? Basically none. What was the reaction by everyone to the Satanic Verses and the resulting death threats? Loosely that Rushdie should have been nicer and he should have expected that result. When you combine the cowardice of western journalism and governments, plus the insanity of mainstream Islam regarding apostacy and blasphemy, then you do get a clash of civilizations. I would be perfectly content to keep it to myself, but people on the other side of the world would be more than willing to come here to kill me if I said something they didn’t like, with millions cheering them on. Plus almost no one on “my side” except Sam Harris and the Christian Fundies saying how fucked up this is, and almost no one prominent in Islamic culture saying how fucked up this is. This is a very serious problem. Free speech is the beginning of western civilization and a free society, and mainstream Islam is currently posing as a very serious threat to that.

  55. Brony says

    @ brianpansky

    Ya, I think one way to get around some of the mess is to actualy criticise something specific that is bad, not something general like “Islam” or whatever.

    We are limited by some general human problems though. Getting people to be specific can be challenging depending on how the issue are emotionally sensitive. some of those sensitivities matter a lot. People often get less specific when emotionally pressured. Applying “Islamophobia” to criticism generally is avoiding specifics, is a significant problem and I think one that every group of people has as a defense mechanism.

    In practice, criticising specific sexist things and specific homphobic things etc. should be what really matters. Trying to measure which ideology is “worse” is a bit besides the point (especially when these ideology labels are usually fractured into more than one ideology).

    Differences between how much harm is currently being produced by different ideologies matters though. I don’t want to ignore that. There is a general truth in what Saad said above in “There is no group for which the #NotAll defense is weaker than Muslims.” People with racism mess this one up. they confuse color or shallow superficial aspects of culture for the parts that matter. Or they apply criticism differently depending on if the religion is familiar or not. (If I’m missing something here I really want to know. I am a white American male who wants the perspective challenges.)

    Well, more than specific things have to be addressed, because the philosophy of morality is intertwined with epistemology, measured fact, and metaphysics…I dunno.

    And when we get into these philosophy and epistemology fights people who are suffering or want to help those who are suffering don’t have the patience for it when it gets too self-interested (no implications, just acknowledging a pattern). Quite rightly too so I’m interested in functional solutions that address the problems of ex-Muslims most effectively.

  56. fynn says

    I’m really struggling with this post. On the one hand, the views of ex-Muslims and secular Muslims are hardly ever heard in this kind of discourse and obviously the author speaks with more authority on this subject than I, as an Anglo atheist, will ever have.

    On the other hand, speaking at least from my country, Australia, there is at the moment such a virulent wave of anti-Muslim bigotry that there simply isn’t the space for reasonable criticism of Islam. Any such criticism will inevitably give fuel to the kind of racism that sees Muslim women heckled and physically assaulted simply for being in public with a head covering, and told they are ‘confronting’ and a danger to our secular, democratic traditions. In an atmosphere where many Muslims are already feeling under siege and the status of women, etc in Islam is once again being used as an excuse to drop bombs on Iraq, it’s far more important to support Muslims as having the right to peaceably practice their religion and identify as Muslim in public without fear, AND to oppose the warmongering of the Australian and US governments which depends on anti-Muslim sentiment.

    This is how I understood Ben Affleck’s tirade – as an angry and instinctive response to the kind of generalised racism that has provided cover for attacks on several majority-Muslim countries in the last 15 years. Context matters, and in this case the context is the undeniably racist ‘war on terror’.

    So I’m conflicted. This, however, I completely disagree with:

    “One: Muslim is not a race. Two: Islam is an ideology. Three: Islamophobia is not real. Four: Anti-Muslim bigotry is.”

    Irish is also not a race. Neither is Catholicism. But presumably no-one would deny the history of anti-Irish and anti-Catholic racism (or bigotry, if you like; for better or worse, the two terms are often functionally interchangeable) in which members of both groups were often literally considered subhuman. For that matter, ‘Asian’ is not really a race (without even getting into the questionable existence of human races), nor is southern European; yet both groups have historically been subjected to intense racism by the Australian state and by the public. Not anymore, for the most part – that kind of blinkered hatred is now being directed squarely at Muslims, as well as anyone who in the minds of ignorant racists might be mistaken for Muslims.

    And of course Islamophobia is real. The word exists and refers to a genuine phenomenon – the conviction that Islam in all its forms is uniquely evil and poses some sort of existential threat to the ‘enlightened and secular’ West. You may disagree with the exact meaning or usage, but to claim it doesn’t exist is rather pointless. There are some really good criticisms in this thread of terms like Islamophobia and anti-Muslim racism (as opposed to bigotry), and I agree that language matters and we should use words correctly, but in this particular context it just doesn’t seem like the most important point.

    (Apologies for the incorrect formatting – I’m sneakily posting from work and don’t have time to learn the html.)

  57. consciousness razor says

    Islam is a threat to western culture. Just google “Satanic Verses”, “Ayaan Hirsi Ali” (whether you agree with her politics or not), and “Danish Cartoons” for some recent examples.

    “Western culture” is a threat to itself. Google any fucking thing you like.

    I am not worried about some Christians in Africa flying across the world to kill me for playing Dungeons and Dragons.

    Are you worried about anything else those Christians in Africa are doing?

    And just for the record, does that count as “Western Culture” by your reckoning?

    If I burned a Koran on a youtube video with my face, and that became a popular video, I would be very, very worried that people on the other side of the planet would fly here just to try and kill me.

    So you’re really fucking paranoid and worried about burning books?

    This is not an exaggeration in the slightest.

    It’s not an exaggeration … that you’re very, very worried? It probably isn’t.

    Nothing even remotely like this exists in today’s world in any other religion or culture except Islam, mainstream Islam.

    Your paranoid worrying doesn’t exist in Islam. It’s in your own head, remember?

    Again, I’m talking about simple speech. I know that you can find examples of Christians killing abortion doctors, witches, etc. None of that even compares to killing someone just for saying “you’re wrong”.

    Burning a book sends a somewhat different message, than simply the speech (a profound one, no doubt) that “you’re wrong.”

    Further, we can find many, many people outraged in the west when Christians do these bad things, but not Islam. How many western newspapers published the Danish cartoons in solidarity? Basically none.

    You expect them all to publish a particular cartoon? Don’t you read enough of the funny papers already?

    I would be perfectly content to keep it to myself, but people on the other side of the world would be more than willing to come here to kill me if I said something they didn’t like, with millions cheering them on.

    You’re sure about that number, or is it yet another piece of shit you’re just making up on the spot? Even if it’s right, millions out of billions does not make for a “mainstream” view.

    Plus almost no one on “my side” except Sam Harris and the Christian Fundies saying how fucked up this is, and almost no one prominent in Islamic culture saying how fucked up this is.

    You’ve got some pretty ridiculous allies. Even Christian fundamentalists aren’t saying how fucked up Islam actually is — if they did, they’d be criticizing themselves. Isn’t it a bit odd that you don’t recognize that in your little rant?

  58. vaiyt says

    So what happened to Christianity?

    The societies around it changed enough that open religious war sorta fell out of fashion for now.

  59. vaiyt says

    @consciousness razor

    I wouldn’t be surprised by anything Harris says at this point, but I don’t think that implication is all that clear.

    It is clear once you put it in the context of Harris’ work, where Islam is THE MOST EVILEST RELIGION THERE IS and brown people should be harassed for the crime of looking like a boorish bigot’s stereotype of a Muslim.

  60. consciousness razor says

    It is clear once you put it in the context of Harris’ work, where Islam is THE MOST EVILEST RELIGION THERE IS and brown people should be harassed for the crime of looking like a boorish bigot’s stereotype of a Muslim.

    It’s just plain silly to think he’s talking about “THE MOST EVILEST RELIGION THERE IS.” The only thing approaching a religion he apparently has any patience for is some watered-down version of philosophical Buddhism. I suppose he’s said some positive things about Jainism too — for all three of them on the planet, I’m sure that’s a great comfort. The rest…. no, just no. That sort of criticism comes from other theocrats like EnlightenmentLiberal’s Christian Fundy buddies, because religion and faith itself are both valid things to them (and theocracy’s often no big deal either). People like Harris are coming from a completely different place.

  61. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor
    Dishonest through and through. I’ll take these points though:

    Burning a book sends a somewhat different message, than simply the speech (a profound one, no doubt) that “you’re wrong.”

    So it’s ok to kill me for burning a book now? Totalitarian. And what about the “Satanic Verses”? Going to excuse the would-be killers on that one too?

    Or are you saying that I should fear for my life if I burned a Christian bible in a popular youtube video. I doubt that. I know you know no one would come to kill me for burning a Christian bible nor any other book, except Islam and the Koran.

    Or was your point something even more obtuse?

    You expect them all to publish a particular cartoon? Don’t you read enough of the funny papers already?

    Yes I damn well expect them to print the cartoons which is the central content of the whole story. In today’s image driven media, without further context, it is amazing that basically zero papers, TV news, etc., showed the cartoons which are central to the story. We’ve already given up without even a fight. There are more ways to censor than by official police. Credible death threats are pretty good at that.

  62. mnb0 says

    Islamophobia is totally real. Just check the site Gates of Vienna. Phobia means irrational fear. Robert Spencer has and spreads irrational fear for islam.
    Obviously not all criticism of islam is irrational and/or induced by or intended to spread fear. A prime example of islamophobia is the demographic argument. Muslims have higher birth rates than non-muslims hence islam will take over your country within a few decades and then all kind of shit will happen.
    Denying that islamophobia is real means that you wear blinkers, PZ.

  63. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    I suppose I should start adding this disclaimer for what little good it will do: The most important principle of our way of life is this paraphrase from Voltaire: ‘I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will fight to the death for your right to say it.’ There is a serious problem with Islam, but also Catholocism and child rape, conservatism and everything, and any other evil dogma. The solution is not to target them with discrimination via the law or mob action, but neither is the solution to coddle them and refrain from telling them that they are personally morally culpable for the ill effects of their evil and false dogmas.

  64. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    On the other hand, speaking at least from my country, Australia, there is at the moment such a virulent wave of anti-Muslim bigotry that there simply isn’t the space for reasonable criticism of Islam. Any such criticism will inevitably give fuel to the kind of racism that sees Muslim women heckled and physically assaulted simply for being in public with a head covering, and told they are ‘confronting’ and a danger to our secular, democratic traditions.

    You’re not trying hard enough to imagine possibilities. For a 20 second sound-bite only, what you say may be true. However, with a longer response, it’s possible to be more nuanced.

    What you suggest is completely unworkable. It’s like a reverse heckler’s veto – if the group is already too targeted for bullshit reasons, then it’s not allowed to target the group for legit reasons? Sorry, no.

  65. consciousness razor says

    So it’s ok to kill me for burning a book now?

    Nope. Is it okay for you to make dishonest arguments? That’s what I’m asking for: honesty.

    Or are you saying that I should fear for my life if I burned a Christian bible in a popular youtube video. I doubt that.

    You shouldn’t be afraid, because no one should fear that. Still, I would be. Have you never encountered any Christian fundy extremist types? Haven’t even seen them on the news?

  66. says

    I’d like to preface this by saying I did not read the whole article nor any of the comments—I’m in a hurry but did want to respond to the part about there not being a Muslim on the panel.

    It’s my understanding that it was not a panel in the usual sense of a group of people chosen for their individual viewpoints in order to come together and discuss a predetermined topic with a moderator. Ben Affleck was a guest on the show, and additionally, so was Sam Harris. Bill is a host, not a moderator.

    Sam was there to talk about his new book when Bill brought up IS. The format of Bill’s show is, and correct me if I’m wrong, a talk show wherein he interviews guests. Unlike most talk shows, though, where guests on brought on one at a time, he has multiple guests at the table simultaneously. However, each is usually afforded an uninterrupted time to talk about their topic. Like on The Tonight Show, when you’re in the seat closest to the host. Then when your turn is over, you move down a seat. You can still chip in a thought or two if you have a quick quip or a question, but that is not what happened here.

    Sam mentions this in his response article on his website. It was Ben Affleck who cut in and started countering Sam, which is not the place of another guest and usually doesn’t happen like that. It was never intended to be a panel discussion, wherein each person is supposed to have a chance to speak and give their perspective on the topic. So it makes no sense to say that there was no Muslim representation. The guest of that segment was Sam; it wasn’t a panel segment.

    Hope this helps.

    – Dave Muscato, PR DIrector of American Atheists, but speaking personally, not on behalf of the organization

  67. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Have you never encountered any Christian fundy extremist types? Haven’t even seen them on the news?

    In the context of this conversation, no, I have never seen that kind of Christian extremist on the news. I have never seen a Christian extremist killing someone over blasphemy on a youtube video. Nor have I seen Christian leaders calling for the death of a blasphemer who wrote a book, or drew some cartoons. Perhaps I missed it. Could you give me a link please?

    Whereas, I have seen leaders of every Islamic sect call for the death of people for the books they write, for the cartoons they draw, for the books they burn, when those people are on the other side of the planet. Some of those leaders even offered real cash rewards for anyone who killed those people.

    I don’t care if you can trot out modern day Christians who have killed witches or abortion doctors. As I said before, free speech is the most important thing, and people on the other side of the world have already succeeded in censoring basically every single western journalistic media (the Danish Cartoons).

  68. consciousness razor says

    I don’t care if you can trot out modern day Christians who have killed witches or abortion doctors. As I said before, free speech is the most important thing, and people on the other side of the world have already succeeded in censoring basically every single western journalistic media (the Danish Cartoons).

    Your concerns are noted, and they are oddly specific. You don’t care about murderers per se, just ones that might kill you for doing what you want (which is apparently burning books and printing racist cartoons) and living your life while exercising your rights. Other people’s lives? Eh, fuck it: you don’t care.

  69. neverjaunty says

    I am not worried about some Christians in Africa flying across the world to kill me for playing Dungeons and Dragons.

    And did it not occur to you that perhaps the reason you don’t fear Christian terrorism is that ‘playing Dungeons and Dragons’ is the most offensive thing about you, from the perspective of Christian terrorist, and that just maybe not everybody else is so fortunate?

    Here in the US, you don’t have to wait on Christians to fly in from Africa to kill you, if you’re a doctor who performs abortions. (For that matter, if you, say, own the building the doctor uses as his clinic, domestic Christians will be more than happy to save their African brethren some plane fare, and will personally harass your children.) If you’re a Muslim living in the Bible Belt, you can look forward to harassment ranging from zoning-ordinance bullshit to violence from our home-grown Christians. Of course, if you actually live in, say, Uganda, and you’re gay, why, the US has flown over its own homophobic Christian radicals who will tell the authorities you should at least be imprisoned for life, if not actually executed.

  70. vaiyt says

    @consciousness razor
    I know where Harris is coming from. I’ve read his shit. He’s a bigot, one who thinks that, while all religion is bad, Islam is badder and that justifies preemptive genocidal war.

  71. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @consciousness razor
    @neverjaunty
    At least in Uganda you will not be killed for publicly advocating to change the law. Whereas, trying to change the blasphemy and apostacy laws in many Muslim countries will get you killed. Nothing matters more than free speech. Without free speech, everything else becomes immensely harder.

    Yes, I am oddly specific about free speech laws. It was in response to when someone earlier argued that this is not a clash of civilizations. It is. It is a clash of civilizations because Islam and a majority of Muslims worldwide want blasphemers and apostates to be killed, and enough of them are issuing credible death threats and killing people to make it happen. And not a single Muslim sect has leaders or scholars who decry the killing of blasphemers as bad. Obviously what other ills they do to people in their own country does not constitute a war of civilizations, but forcing all western media to censor themselves under penalty of death is a war of civilizations. There is no other proper term for it.

    PS: You could at least cite Russia where it actually has some laws criminalizing advocating changing the law, and the law came from Christian bigotry. My response is: True, but an outlier. Whereas, Turkey is the outlier in the Muslim world for not having laws against apostacy and blasphemy.

  72. consciousness razor says

    I know where Harris is coming from. I’ve read his shit. He’s a bigot, one who thinks that, while all religion is bad, Islam is badder and that justifies preemptive genocidal war.

    He’s also a tireless, pedantic bore. You don’t need to give him one more thing to drone on about, because there’s plenty to criticize.

  73. neverjaunty says

    Enlightenment Liberal @75: Oh good, so you can be imprisoned for life merely for being gay, but at least from your prison cell you could advocate for changing the law! Wait, that’s wrong too, because the Christianity-based laws in Uganda also criminalize ‘promoting homosexuality’. So much for the sanctity of de jure free speech – never mind that, just as in the US, having a legal right to free speech is very different from being able to exercise that right. If you can be murdered for speaking up while the police look the other way, that’s a very hollow right indeed.

    But “at least” they’re not Muslims!

    Given your handwaving about ‘many’ and ‘outliers’, it’s pretty clear you’ve made up your mind, and if any sect of Muslims stands up and decries blasphemy laws, you’d simply dismiss them as outliers or ‘yes, but they’re not the majority’.

  74. gakxz1 says

    This has already sort of been said (but… I wanted to say it!), but I don’t think this was really a “panel discussion”, like something on cnn (ok, bad example… is “question time” a better example?). Which isn’t to say that, now that it’s out there, it shouldn’t be criticized and dissected. But there isn’t really any expectation of depth from a Real Time panel. Now and then they might make a pithy point, but otherwise, it’s mostly “entertainment news”. Even the New York Times columnist who participated (and I think made the best points of the lot) isn’t an expert on Islam in any relevant way.

    And I don’t fault Affleck much in context. He was reacting more to the history of things Maher and Harris have said, which indeed, are often, to me, instinctively, rather suspect.

  75. Tsering Dolker says

    Sadaf Ali,

    You make valid points and I agree with most of them and I sympathize with you on some. One thing that went off a little bit for me, in an otherwise thoroughly intelligent reply, is that you seem to underestimate the value of people like Bill Maher and Sam Harris, who are going out of their way to actually come to the defense of those who are oppressed under bad ideas. They could have easily played the Ben Affeck game and cry foul at every criticism of Islam and probably enjoyed a lot more book sale and much less accusation. I know many intelligent people who are just afraid of criticizing Islam in public for fear of being called a racist or an islamphobe or what not, when in private they do share the same concerns. I have actually noticed Muslims, intelligent ones at that, at campuses or in private, who blindly and sometimes I feel deliberately mislead others and go out of their way to stifle discussion or criticism.

    I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss these highly intelligent and brave intellectuals who have come to your defense repeatedly. But don’t I am also dismissive of your points which are valid and there is definitely a need for someone like you or anybody from the Ex_muslim communities to be represented at such a panel to counter the disgusting lies and half-truths people like Reza Aslan continuously espouse on Main stream media with impunity. I hope people from your camp get invited to Bill Maher’s show, although I think he had one ex-muslim Ayaan Hirsi Ali there couple of times.

  76. dereksmear says

    I love how Harris is positioning himself as some kind of backer of Muslim reformers. His idea for the Middle East in The End of Faaith was to impose secular tyrants in the ‘Muslim world’ in the form of benign dictatorships via economic isolation, military intervention or some combination of both. He feels Muslims are unfit for democracy and that they should not be given the freedom to vote. And he states “This is a terrible truth that we have to face: the only thing that currently stands between us and the roiling oceans of Muslim unreason is a wall of tyranny and human rights abuses that we have helped to erect.”

  77. Nick Gotts says

    Tserijng Dolker@80,

    They could have easily played the Ben Affeck game and cry foul at every criticism of Islam and probably enjoyed a lot more book sale and much less accusation.

    What a pile of shit. In both north America and Europe, attacking Muslims and scaremongering about a supposedly monolithic Islam are extremely popular.

    I know many intelligent people who are just afraid of criticizing Islam in public for fear of being called a racist or an islamphobe or what not, when in private they do share the same concerns.

    I don’t believe a word of it. Of course your claim is carefully constructed so that evidence of it cannot be produced.

  78. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    1. On Islam as the “mother lode” of bad ideas: Sure, even moderate interpretations of the will of Allah promote all manner of injustice and misery. What Harris, Maher, Hitchens and many in the atheist community are blind to is suffering promoted by Western powers against people of the Middle East. How many western-made bombs have taken innocent lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Palestine this year? If we want to nominate a doctrine as a mother lode of bad ideas, the liberal West has as much blood on its hands as the most oppressive ayatollah, caliph, or imam. We* are an oppressive force as well. Just because we aren’t oppressing our own doesn’t excuse us from oppressing others.
     
    2. Context is important. While much of the West is considering entering into a new round of violence against people of the Middle East, it might be prudent to consider the effects of criticizing Islam. This isn’t simply an academic discussion. Harris and Maher are feeding anti-Muslim bigotry—the kind of bigotry that ultimately puts a missile through the front door of a Palestinian family. I believe they are doing so intentionally.
     
    3. “Race” is never real. It’s always a perception. If ignorant people perceive Muslims as a homogenous group, they are as racist as those who perceive black people, native Americans, and what have you as a homogenous group.

    *I implicate myself as an American. I’m part of the problem.

  79. Drolfe says

    I wanted to comment on this yesterday day, but didn’t get a chance. Dalillama, Schmott Guy, went in pretty much all the directions I’d thought of. But I’d also like to add this: if we’re arguing about not making generalizations, and critiquing this panel on the grounds that there was no Muslim voice, then I’d want to know which of these dudes, millionaire white dudes for the most part, are “liberals”. Why expect all these rich assholes to be the voice of liberalism.

    I’m so tired of the argument that “liberals won’t critique Islam!” It’s such a bullshit generalization. As if the “so-called liberal media” was actually liberal.

    Anti-Muslim bigotry wouldn’t exist without white supremacy. Unpack that if you want. If Islam were practiced predominately by rich, white capitalists no one would give a shit about it (besides the secularists and the sj crowd I mean).

  80. Drolfe says

    I’ll add that Islamophobia is real in the same way xenophobia and race are real. That is, in the same way that money and national borders are real, and for largely the same reasons, we constructed them together and consent to them. (It’s not controversial unless you deny sociology.) Using words the best way is part of this, so I don’t have any problem with advocating a distinction between ‘Islamophobia’ and ‘anti-Muslim bigotry’.

  81. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @neverjaunty
    If I insult the prophet Mohamud (sp), and I am killed for it, at least half of Muslims worldwide would be happy with this outcome. Look at the research of opinion polls of everyday Muslims around the world. For many countries, it’s closer to 80%+. At best, it’s around 20% for many western countries! Look at the consensus of scholars from all Islamic sects. Compare that to Christianity or any non-Muslim culture. I am not prejudiced. I have not pre-judged. I have judged based on the facts. There is a serious problem with all culture which identify as Islamic. Hopefully in the future this will change like Christianity has changed. Ideally people will just stop being religious and dogmatic.

  82. ali says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal #86

    I am not prejudiced. I have not pre-judged. I have judged based on the facts.

    Very selective (and may I add: unsourced) “facts”.

    You need to compare things that are comparable. Almost always a good thing to control for is income and education. So when you compare a Norwegian Christians with Muslims in Mali, the “facts” might not say what you think they say (unless of course you have pre-judged after all).

    One way of getting a little closer (but still a very rough approximation) is to compare Christians and Muslims in similar circumstances. According to a PEW Poll for sub-sahara Africa (as I said still very approximate and containing lots of assumptions) the percentage of Christians and Muslims who wants to make the Bible respectively Sharia the “law of the land” is roughly the same.

    The same poll by the way does not speak of 80+% in favor of capital punishment for apostasy but puts the mean at 30% (of course still 30% points too high but that was not your claim).

    Which brings me to another point: Polls often tell you more about the questions then about what people really think. I do not have a well enough grasp of the context in these societies to understand what kind of meaning is given to a question like “would you make Islamic law the official law of the land in our country?”. I have a pretty good idea how wide the interpretation of that question in the Bible version probably is.

    Finally, you have always a local political context you should be knowledgeable about. The wide variation in the answers in different countries should be a clear indication of that and somehow already falsifies any thesis about a single Muslim culture. This variation by the way is also why people like you who are so interested in “facts” always quote polls for UK Muslims to prove their point (if they bother to look for data on Muslims in “the West” at all). And I have not even started to talk about the time frame of reference for such sweeping claims.

    Does the data support that religion is used to justify inhuman behavior? Yes. Does it support that the vilification of one religion over another? Not so much.

    P.S.: Don’t bother cherry picking the poll that I provided you a link with! I already know that people who argue like you are very good in finding “facts” that validate their opinion ex-post. If you feel compelled to reply then first provide sources for your claims that “at least half of Muslims worldwide” are fine with the death penalty for blasphemy (and after that the 80+ claim for “many countries”).

  83. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @ali
    You are having a different conversation than I.

    I agree that many Christians would love to make the Christian bible the law of the land. However, their understanding of the law has been tempered and made far less heinous than what a plain reading would indicate. It’s effectively impossible to find anyone who says that someone should be stoned for getting a tattoo despite the law in Leviticus (or any other kind of punishment IMHO).

    I also agree that asking the question “Do you want Sharia?” is not very informative on its own because there are many different conceptions of Sharia law. That’s why I have been very focused on the specific question: “Do you want apostates put to death?”.

    It’s the same link. It seems you stopped reading too early. Look for “Penalty for Converting to Another Faith”.
    http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-beliefs-about-sharia/
    Some examples:
    86% Egypt
    82% Jordan
    66% Palestinian territories
    62% Malaysia
    44% Bangladesh
    42% Iraq
    18% Indonesia
    17% Turkey

    Even for fucking Turkey, it’s 17%, and Turkey is the most secular of all Muslim majority countries. (And Turkey is only that way because a possibly atheist military dictator enforced secularism by a military tyranny for many years. Even now, the people in power in Turkey are trying to roll some of that severe secularism back.)

    Let’s do some rough calculations.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_by_country
    World Total: 1619 m
    Afghanistan, 29 m, 79%
    Albania, 3 m, 8%
    Bangladesh, 149 m, 44%
    Egypt, 80 m, 86%
    Indonesia, 205 m, 18%
    Iraq, 41 M, 42%
    Jordan, 6 m, 82%
    Kosovo, 2 m, 11%
    Malaysia, 17 m, 62%
    Pakistan, 178 m, 76%
    Palestine, 4 m, 66%
    Tajikistan, 7 m, 22%
    Tunisia, 10 m, 29%
    Turkey, 75 m, 17%
    (29*.79) +(3*.08) +(149*.44) +(80*.86) +(205*.18) +(41*.42) +(6*.82) +(2*.11) +(17*.62) +(178*.76) +(4*.66) +(7 *.29) +(10*.29) +(75*.17) = 383 m
    23.7% of world’s Muslim population.
    47.5% of population included in this particular Pew paper.

    Ok, so “about half” is an overestimation. It’s probably closer to 30% or 40%. Big whoop.

    The wide variation in the answers in different countries should be a clear indication of that and somehow already falsifies any thesis about a single Muslim culture.

    I spent a while trying to find data on this, and I’m sorry that I didn’t, but I strongly suspect that even in the worst country you can find, the number of Christians who reply on opinion polls that they want death for Christian apostates or blasphemers is in the low single digits (of percentage). The variation is wide for Muslims, but even one of the seemingly low ends for Islam – Turkey – is probably a magnitude order higher than the worst Christian country.

    I agree there is no single Muslim culture. There are many cultures with Muslim influences, just like there are many cultures with Christian influences. There is no single Christian culture. However, we can identify many elements that are common to nearly all Christian cultures, and to an even stronger extent we can identify many elements that are common to nearly all Islamic cultures. The variation is IMHO currently wider in modern day Christianity. We have large sects who are openly in favor of gay marriage and even gay clergy. Whereas, it is the consensus of the scholars of all sects of Islam that death is the proper punishment for apostasy.

    If it wasn’t written in that damn book (or the saying of the prophet – the Hadith – wherever it was written) that people who renounce Islam should be killed, then you would not see this attitude. This is a causal relationship. The beliefs held by most modern Muslims are statistically very different than the beliefs held by most modern Christians on some topics.

    To take another angle, to the extent of the scholars and clergy of the religion and sects of Islam, it’s a (near) universality that apostates should be killed. Now, it’s also a near universality of the scholars and clergy of Catholocism that one should not use condoms. However, 99% of Catholics in the US ignore their church’s teachings on this issue. Most Catholics in the US just don’t take their religion seriously. Or at least Catholics in the US tend to take their religion much less seriously than your average Muslim.

    Does the data support that religion is used to justify inhuman behavior? Yes. Does it support that the vilification of one religion over another? Not so much.

    Yes it does support the vilification of one religion over another. I will say that in general, Christians, orthodox Jews, and Muslims are way worse than Shintoism, wiccanism, Satanism, many flavors of Buddhism, Jainism – basically almost all other surviving religions on the planet. Of the three Abrahamic religions, Islam as practiced today is still clearly the worst.

    It is obscene to deny the possibility that some cultures can be better than other cultures. It is obscene to deny that beliefs have consequences. It is obscene to deny that the beliefs of modern day Muslims on average are far worse than modern day Christians. We cannot fix the problem until we recognize it exists. We are already in a serious problem when our western media is bending over backwards to censor themselves both of out fear of being killed and to cater to the 30% to 40% of Muslims worldwide who would be happy if they were killed for publishing offensive material.

    This is not a Dear Muslima. I will also attack Christians for their vile beliefs all day long, as well as any other (evil) dogma or faith. I will however vilify people to the extent that their beliefs and actions warrant it. I vilify all Catholics for supporting a child rape organization, and I hold that each Catholic is personally responsible (to some degree) for supporting such an organization. Merely identifying as Catholic supports the organization. I hold that practically all Muslims also belong to a religion whose leaders universally hold that apostates should be put to death, and I hold all Muslims personally responsible for supporting such scholars and organizations, exactly how I hold the Catholics responsible for the problems of their church.