Not very long ago, it was customary for apologists of Islam to lob accusations of bigotry, racism, or Islamophobia at those who dared to criticize the religion or suggest that too many of its practitioners hold extremist views. Most of the time these charges were (and still are) made reflexively, and by liberals. This would seem counterintuitive given Islam's inherently anti-liberal theology as an Abrahamic religion. The fact that the Bible and the Quran condone slavery, for example, is a clear sign that the morality of these texts is highly suspect to say the least.
Things are now changing. No longer is defamation considered sufficient to rebut reasoned critiques of Islam. Instead, the faith's defenders find themselves in the alien position of having to address the substance of the arguments made against their arguments. The now infamous debate featuring Bill Maher, Sam Harris, and Ben Affleck has done a lot of good in this regard. Affleck played the role of the clueless and indignant apologist perfectly, foolishly calling Harris' sensible critiques of Islam "gross and racist."
Last year, a previous discussion about Islam on Real Time involving Maher, filmmaker Michael Moore, and biologist Richard Dawkins hit similar notes, with Moore unconvincingly trying to equate modern day Christian extremism with Islamic extremism. That's why it was surprising when Moore took to his Facebook page on Sunday to write a spot-on defense of Maher's views while also calling out his fellow liberals for being queasy about critiquing Islam. Calling Maher "a friend of mine," Moore writes in part,
"But when Bill goes after Islam, or crazy people professing to be Muslim, we grow uncomfortable. Why is that? Because when he bravely ridicules and attacks Christian assassins of abortion doctors who cite the Bible as justification for their evil acts, we heartily applaud him. But when he mercilessly stomps on Islamic assassins who cite the Koran, we grow uneasy. Why the switch on our part? Is it because Bill doesn't just stop with the Islamic assassins -- he thinks anyone who follows the Koran is a bit nuts? Or the Bible or the Talmud or the... you name it. He thinks it's all coo coo for cocoa puffs.
"Sure, I can make a daily list of all the horrible things so-called Christians still do in this country. Rarely, though, do their actions involve decapitation.
"But if you're a Dutch filmmaker who makes a movie about violence against women in some Islamic countries, or if you're a Danish cartoonist who draws an image making fun of the Prophet -- well, you are then either shot to death or you are now in hiding."
In the span of about a year, Moore seems to have performed quite the about-face, which is encouraging and indicative of the aforementioned trend in which defenders of Islam can no longer browbeat opponents with labels like "Islamophobe" and "bigot." It's a very positive development when more people are willing to question a religion whose book that explains the proper way to marry one's slaves. Even defenders like Fareed Zakaria have been all but forced to acknowledge that Islam has a "problem." As Harris said on Real Time, "We have to be able to criticize bad ideas." And like all religions, Islam is a bad idea.
First, there is zero evidence that the central figure in the faith -- Allah -- even exists, yet it is from this deity which Muslims supposedly receive their moral instruction. Second, much of this morality has no place in our society, coming as it does from a far less civilized time and place. Third, too many Muslims take their faith literally, which, contrary to popular belief, isn't a "perversion" of Islamic doctrine, but simply the manner in which it was intended to be followed. Like the Bible, the Quran purports to be the immutable, unerring word of god. We can talk theological hermeneutics from now until the end of time, but the fact is that some commands are just too straightforward for apologists to insist that they actually mean something other than what they actually say.
Despite the efforts of obscurantists like Reza Aslan to play "hide the ball" when it comes to his religion, we are beginning to see some liberal pushback, which is only fitting because some of the grossest and most illiberal acts in the world today are being carried out in the name of Islam with some very plausible justification in the Quran and the hadith. As a popular figure on the Left, Michael Moore is a welcome addition to the growing chorus of voices who aren't afraid to call out barbarism, no matter who is practicing it.