The continuing barbarity of ISIS gave Bill Maher and Real Time guest Sam Harris another opportunity to bash the religion of Islam Friday night, and while Gone Girl star Ben Affleck did his best to push back, he didn't quite connect the dots. Affleck ably explained why we shouldn't blame all Muslims for the actions of a few, but didn't provide an appropriate other place to put the blame.
Lefties like Maher and Harris fancy themselves courageous truth-tellers about Islam, in much the same way that Bill O'Reilly fancies himself a brave warrior for black culture. They're heroically willing to take the slings and arrows of the "PC crowd," because they're just quoting facts and statistics and reality. Like O'Reilly, the folks who use statistics to condemn Islam are fixing their data around a predetermined conclusion about their cause.
On Friday night, Maher and Harris bashed liberals using the same "race card" strawman that conservatives use on President Obama's supporters, in this case by asserting that "every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people," in much the same way that conservatives assert that any opposition to Obama draws accusations of racism. Neither of these things is true. What is a little bigoted is conflating certain rigid beliefs and practices to something call "the Muslim world." That's the same world that has a female fighter pilot raining death on the ISASsholes who torture and murder women. Does she just have a defective Koran?
Affleck kind of calls him out by asking Harris if he's the authority on the "codified doctrine" of the Muslim religion, which is, in reality, as diverse as that of Christianity, if not more so. What's really important to note here, though, is what Harris identifies as the problem:
"Islam, at the moment, is the motherlode of bad ideas."
Bonus points to Harris for drawing laughs with a reference to liberals still getting "agitated over the abortion clinic bombing that happened in 1984," when there have been 18 bombings and other attacks on clinics since then, in addition to eight murders and hundreds of shootings and assaults. He's either also bigoted against women, or so bigoted against Muslims that he's blind to Christian anti-woman violence. Or both.
But the key point is that Harris and Maher are saying that the problem is Islam; not the perversion of Islam, or extreme Islam, but just Islam. Next, Harris explains his theory of Muslim concentric circles, which, if you exclude the tiny subset of "jihadists," sounds exactly like the concentric circles of Christianity:
This gets to the trope that Harris floated in the last clip, because it is that second circle, the ones who want to impose religion from within our government, that liberals oppose, not Christianity itself. Most liberals are also Christians, and when we mock Christianity, we are mocking the abuse of it. I grew up reading the Bible, and although I'm not a Christian now, I credit that upbringing with about 90% of whatever wisdom I now possess. As I've said before, this country has killed an awful lot of innocent people, all of them with God's blessing, according to our government, but I'll be damned if I'll blame that, or the Christian lynchings that soaked the last two centuries, on the same Bible that taught me to love my enemy.
Maher also brings up another important piece of anti-Islam lore, the belief that most Muslims favor death as the penalty for conversion from Islam to another faith. They always quote the Pew poll result for Egypt, which is 86%, and while the results are still too high in the rest of the poll, that belief is a minority belief in 14 of the 20 countries surveyed. There's also a difference between belief and practice. As recently as 2000, 57% of Americans believed abortion was murder, yet the percentage who act on that belief remains statistically insignificant. That doesn't mean they're not dangerous, it means the Bible isn't the problem.
Harris and Maher and their ilk like to pretend they're just being pragmatic and factual about the practice of Islam by large groups of extremists, but let them talk, and the truth comes out. Here's Maher's assessment of the religion of Islam:
"It's the only religion that acts like the mafia, that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing, or draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book."
And here's Harris describing what it takes for a Muslim not to want to murder people:
"Let me just give you what you want. There are hundreds of millions of Muslims who are nominal Muslims, who don't take the faith seriously, who don't want to kill apostates, who are horrified by ISIS."
The only Muslims who don't believe in killing, who are horrified by ISIS, are the ones who don't take the faith seriously, according to Harris. This is not an attempt to promote moderate Islam, it is a crusade against the religion itself. We don't need to find out what's wrong with Islam, we need to find out what's wrong with these people. Maher is fond of saying that Christianity has outgrown its barbarism (a debatable point), but we're still reading that same Bible, so obviously, the religion itself wasn't the problem. As President Obama likes to say, no God condones the killing of innocents, it is men who do that.