Obama Is Wrong and Bill Maher and Sam Harris Are Right About Islam and ISIL

Many liberals stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the Islamic origins of ISIL's motives. And that's dangerous.
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Many liberals stubbornly refuse to acknowledge the Islamic origins of ISIL's motives. And that's dangerous.
MaherHarris

One of the dogmas of the multiculturalist Left is that Islam can never be responsible for the contemptible behavior of its most fanatical adherents. We saw this quite dramatically on Wednesday night in President Obama's address to the nation describing how he intends to deal with the ISIL militants who are trying to establish a caliphate in Iraq, Syria, and beyond. In that speech, the president went out of his way to dismiss the group as not being religiously motivated despite staggering amounts of obvious evidence to the contrary:

"ISIL is not 'Islamic.' No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL's victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state; it was formerly al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq and has taken advantage of sectarian strife and Syria's civil war to gain territory on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. It is recognized by no government nor by the people it subjugates."

Inherent in this pronouncement is the No True Scotsman fallacy, or in this case, No True Muslim. When faced with horrific acts being carried out by certain Muslims in the name of Islam, there is always this disingenuous tendency by some to wave off the activity as being something that no true Muslim would do. Whatever unsavory deeds have been done, so goes the claim, those deeds are in no way justifiable by the religion itself.

The evidence marshaled for this is always the same, and it is true: Most Muslims are not violent militants and terrorists. But this isn't because Islam isn't a violent religion.

Here's how the most trusted hadith in the faith says what should be with apostates -- those who leave the Islamic faith:

Allah's Apostle said, "The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims." [Sahih al-Bukhari, 9:83:17]

As prescribed by the Quran, the "crime" of blasphemy is also punishable by ghoulish means:

The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter.... [Surat Al-Ma'idah, 5:33]

Infidels and other undesirables are also to meet unhappy fates, both on Earth at the hands of the faithful and in the afterlife at the hands of Allah.

Thankfully, as Sam Harris points out, most Muslims ignore the violent commands of the Quran. So when they, or non-Muslim apologists explain why Islam isn't inherently violent and why ISIL actually has it all wrong, they project their own modern secular values onto a seventh century faith that, had it actually possessed these values, would stand out brilliantly as an exemplar of enlightened thought from the time. But it didn't, because the Quran largely reflects the moral values of 600s Arabia, just like the Bible reflects the values of Bronze and Iron Age Judea. Neither set of values are particularly impressive. And while we should be thankful that most Muslims and religious people in general disregard the violent instructions in their holy books, Harris says that religious people "nevertheless demand that we respect the idea of revelation, and this leaves us perpetually vulnerable to more literal readings of scripture."

On Charlie Rose this week, Bill Maher also discussed the very Islamic nature of the sort of jihad being carried out by ISIL, as well as the routine practice by U.S. ally Saudi Arabia of beheading people for non-violent offenses:

If they were beheading people in Vatican City, which is the equivalent of Mecca, don't you think there'd be a bigger outcry about it? So this is the soft bigotry of low expectations that we have with Muslim people. When they do crazy things and believe crazy things, somehow it's just not talked about nearly as much.

The truth of these observations cannot be overstated. Many liberals and atheists bash Christianity with eager abandon, yet shy away from doing the same with Islam, as this atheist writer's selective ridicule exemplifies. Disingenuous though such selectivity might be, it's harmless enough. However, what isn't harmless is claiming that, despite all the clear evidence to the contrary, those who take their holy books seriously aren't in fact representative of their faiths. The problem isn't so much "religious fundamentalists," but rather the fundamentals of religion, which those fundamentalists put into practice, while moderate practitioners have accepted more secular and modern values.

While most Muslims abhor ISIL's actions, ISIL itself is taking its cues from the earliest, "purest" days of Islam. To pretend otherwise is not only intellectually dishonest, it's inexcusably ignorant, and dangerously so.

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Image credit: HBO screengrab from Real Time With Bill Maher