Let me preface by saying I like Chris Hayes and think All In is one of the best shows on cable news. Meanwhile, I usually find myself disagreeing with most of what Bill O’Reilly says on The O’Reilly Factor. But what happened on Monday night is yet another example of the debilitating inability of even smart liberals to see what is plainly in front of their faces.
O’Reilly devoted his opening Talking Points Memo monologue to the now infamous segment on Friday’s Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, where Maher and Sam Harris clashed with Ben Affleck over the nature of Islam. Agreeing with Maher and Harris, O’Reilly gave a very thoughtful and measured assessment of the exchange, and raised several important points:
A study published by the Pew Research Center last year asked Muslims if they favor Sharia Law. In Afghanistan 99 percent do; Pakistan 84 percent; Iraq 91 percent; Egypt 74 percent; Jordan 71 percent. And even in Great Britain, a national opinion poll found that 78 percent of British Muslims believe people who criticize Mohammed should be prosecuted by civil authorities.
As “Talking Points” stated last week most Muslims are peaceful people. Even if they do believe in Sharia Law, that’s a flaw in their thinking, it doesn’t mean they are violent maniacs.
Also like the bible there are violent passages in the Koran, it doesn’t mean much. Interpretation of scripture is what separates a fair person from a hateful fanatic. However, Mr. Maher is correct on the overall effect Islam is having on the world right now. The truth is many Muslim nations have not confronted Islamic terrorism have not attacked violence in the name of Allah, and have not even condemned the jihad. There is exception to the rule but they are few.
O’Reilly cites data to back up his argument, in which he is also sure to note that most Muslims are peaceful. As I’m always reminded when I write on this subject, noting this unfortunately doesn’t obviate having to suffer fools calling me “racist.”
Enter Hayes, who seemed to fundamentally misunderstand the points that Maher and Harris were making:
Put me down in the Ben Affleck camp on this, strongly. I think to suggest what is happening in the most extreme form in some Muslim countries is representative of the views of all Muslims is gross and racist.
Here, Hayes rebuts a point that no one made on Real Time. Harris and Maher noted, as they have many times before, that not all Muslims practice their faith in such a way. This is just sloppy on Hayes’ part, and it leads to more sloppiness:
What’s also a bit gross is that these are five non-Muslim guys sitting around talking about what the Muslims think. And from that standpoint, it’s just a very weird conversation to have. If you just changed the faith, everyone would immediately recognize it as bizarre or offensive. For instance, can you imagine a conversation with a group of gentiles sitting around the table having a conversation about the Jews being particularly violent or that the Jews believe X, Y, and Z? It is inconceivable for a very good reason.
To agree with Hayes, talking about what “the Jews” do or believe would indeed be offensive, but again, Maher and Harris were not talking about “the Muslims” as a monolith; they were talking about Islam as a belief system, while also noting that most Muslims aren’t anything like ISIS. However, as mentioned by O’Reilly above, huge majorities of Muslims in certain parts of the world want sharia imposed in their countries, and that would make life extremely unpleasant for many people. Furthermore, as O’Reilly noted, 78% of British Muslims think criticizing Muhammad should be punishable by law. And that’s a problem.
Also, Hayes’ claim that the conversation would have been enhanced by inviting a Muslim on is problematic for two reasons. First, it implies that people who don’t belong to a particular religion aren’t qualified to discuss that religion. In other words, what’s needed in a conversation about a religion is to include a person of that religion who, by virtue of adhering to a religion in the first place, believes certain things based not on evidence, but faith. In this case, who Hayes wanted on was someone who believes that angels revealed the word of god to an illiterate 7th century Arabian merchant who physically ascended into heaven a winged horse.
Second, it’s disingenuous. If Maher had invited on a radical or even just a very conservative Muslim as part of the discussion, Hayes would be criticizing Maher for choosing such a reactionary to represent Islam. Hayes later holds up CNN’s interview with Muslim author Reza Aslan as the way Islam should be discussed on television. Ergo, Hayes doesn’t just think any Muslim should’ve have been consulted, but rather one he would personally approve of as representing a benign strain of the faith. But Aslan, who actually has been on Real Timeat least five times, isn’t part of the problem that Maher and Harris are talking about.
The problem is religion. And right now, Islam is uniquely responsible for a clear majority of the world’s faith-based violence and oppression. And yes, the problem is the extremists within the faith, but it’s also the founding books of the faith itself, which the extremists can quite easily point to in order to justify their actions. These texts are cultural byproducts of 7th century Arabia, and therefore we shouldn’t be shocked when people adhering closely to them act like that’s the time in which they’re living. Nor should we rush to defend a belief system that was a byproduct of a time and place in which our modern values of equality, openness, and tolerance would have no place.