I don’t usually stand with comedian Bill Maher, but last week on his Real Time program the provocateur once again was a voice of reason addressing the Islam Problem. His guests were atheist author Sam Harris, former RNC Chairman Michael Steele, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, and actor/director Ben Affleck of the Oscar-winning Iranian hostage crisis flick Argo. As you might expect from such a lineup, the discussion swiftly degenerated into the usual stalemate between facts and politically correct defensiveness.
“Liberals need to stand up for liberal principles,” opened Maher, “freedom of speech, freedom to practice any religion you want without fear of violence, freedom to leave a religion, equality for women, equality for minorities, including homosexuals.” When this earned applause, he continued, “these are liberal principles that liberals applaud for, but then when you say in the Muslim world, this is what’s lacking, then they get upset.”
Sam Harris, an atheist who, like Maher, at least understands that not all religions are the same, replied,
Liberals have really failed on the topic of theocracy. They’ll criticize white theocracy, they’ll criticize Christians, they’ll still get upset over the abortion clinic bombings that happened in 1984… The crucial point of confusion is that we have been sold this meme of Islamophobia where every criticism of Islam is conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people, and that is intellectually ridiculous.This brought whoops of approval from the audience, and a highly agitated Affleck took the opportunity to jump in and challenge Harris on his credentials for discussing Islam. Of course, Affleck, who had nothing knowledgeable to say about the religion himself, immediately proved Harris’ point by calling his statement “gross” and “racist” – buying into the standard progressive misconception that Islam is somehow a race. Maintaining his composure, Harris responded, again to applause, that we have to be able to criticize ideas. This was a point with which Affleck hastened to agree – until Harris dropped some truth that “Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas.”
“Jesus,” a frustrated Affleck exclaimed. He practically came out of his chair a moment later exclaiming, “How about the more than a billion people who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punish women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches, and don’t do any of the things you say all Muslims do?” This too brought applause, even though once again he was proving Harris’ point that criticizing Islam gets unfairly conflated with a broad-brush attack on all Muslims.
“All these billion people don’t hold these pernicious beliefs?” Maher asked. “That’s just not true, Ben.” When Harris “unpacked” the concept for an impatient Affleck, explaining about concentric circles of fundamentalism, Affleck shut down listening and simply interjected, “Let him [Kristof] talk.” Nicholas Kristof defended moderate Muslims who speak out, and Michael Steele raised the point that opposition Muslim voices don’t get media coverage, to which Maher, trying to bring the discussion back to the ideology of Islam, responded that a big reason Muslims don’t speak out is fear. “It’s the only religion that acts like the mafia,” Maher said. “They will f**king kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book. That’s why Ayaan Hirsi Ali needs bodyguards 24/7.”
Affleck, unable to restrain his righteous anger, suddenly gesticulated at Harris as he began to rant irrationally. “What is your solution, to just condemn Islam? We’ve killed more Muslims than they have us, by an awful lot, and yet somehow we’re exempted from things because they’re not reeeally a reflection of what we believe in…”
When he couldn’t be reined in from this tangent, Harris condescended, “Let me just give you what you want,” and proceeded to say that there are hundreds of millions of Muslims who don’t agree with ISIS and that reformers of Islam should be supported. That didn’t pacify Affleck or Kristof, who said that Harris’ point still smacked of “the way white racists talked about African-Americans and defined blacks” – proving yet againHarris’ point that criticizing Islamic ideology always raises the specter of Islamophobia.
When Affleck began another stupid rant, equating a factual discussion of Islam with racism against blacks, Maher cut him off. “It’s based on facts. I can show you a Pew poll of Egyptians – they are not outliers in the Muslim world – that say like 90% of them believe death is the appropriate response to leaving the religion. If 90% of Brazilians thought that death was the appropriate response to leaving Catholicism, you would think it was a bigger deal.”
“I would think it was a big deal no matter what,” Affleck lied, trying to sound fair and balanced. People like Affleck will defend the rights of jihadists all the way up until the blade severs their heads from their bodies, but think nothing of publicly smearing all Christians as theocratic bigots.
“I’m simply telling you,” Affleck told Harris, “I disagree with you.” Harris calmly countered correctly with, “You don’t understand my argument.”
That’s because Ben Affleck is typical of uninformed but holier-than-thou, media-empowered Hollywood actors, who substitute passion for thought and utopian ideals for reality, who reject facts for ad hominem slurs of racism, and who wear the blinders of moral equivalence because their false god is multiculturalism. Unfortunately, we can’t dismiss the influence of such smug, ignorant loudmouths on the smug, militantly ignorant sheep who constitute their audience.
“We’re obviously not convincing anybody,” Bill Maher conceded. Maybe, maybe not, but unlike nearly all of his cohorts in the media, at least Maher’s willing to try.
The Numbers against Islam
By R.J. Godlewski
I will not jump into the recent Bill Maher and Ben Affleck debate regarding Islam, other than to say that I am growing tired of the “not all Muslims are bad” disclaimer. Of course, only a fool would declare that all members of a particular group are evil. That said, perhaps we should discuss some numbers and see how they compare vis a vis the radicalized Muslim debate. For starters, let us begin with the base number of global Muslims.
According to the Adherents.com Website, there are roughly 1.5 billion Muslims (Shiite, Sunni, etc.) in the world. If we take the almost routine declaration that “only” ten percent of all Muslims are radicalized, then we can argue that about 150,000,000 Muslims worldwide have become radicalized in some form. Now permit us to visit the last great global conflict: the Second World War (the presumption made that radical Islam represents a global movement). Japan, which dominated the Pacific region for most of the conflict, had approximately 9,100,000 people mobilized throughout the war, as did Italy. Nazi Germany, which thrust Europe upon its heels, mobilized approximately 17,900,000 individuals. The United States of America, which ultimately dominated both Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany (after soundly defeating Italy), mustered approximately 16,354,000 members of the armed forces. In contrast, the United Kingdom, the proverbial empire upon which the sun never set, only mobilized 5,896,000 personnel.
If we take the total number of fascists – remembering that not everyone was “diabolically evil” – the total number of Japanese, Germans, and Italians fighting against liberal democracies comes in at approximately 36,100,000 soldiers if my math remains correct. To repeat the numbers fighting against everyone else during the 1940s, we would only need to radicalize 2.4% of the global Muslim population. Now, allow us to consider another figure, one fully supported by academic research.
During his famous Yale University studies of the 1960s, Dr. Stanley Milgram proved that sixty-five percent (65%) of the human population “could be readily manipulated into inflicting a (seemingly) lethal electrical charge on a total stranger” and that these “subjects sincerely believed they were causing great physical pain, but despite their victim’s pitiful pleas for them to stop, 65 percent continued to obey orders…until…there could be little doubt that their victim was dead.” In other words, a simple researcher with a white lab coat and clipboard persuaded more than six out of ten people to torture unto death a completely innocent stranger.
If we return to our numbers, we can come to some startling considerations. If we take the 2.4% figure, we can say that 23,465,000 radicalized Muslims bear the capacity to kill us. If we take the oft-quoted figure of 10%, then we can assume that 97.5 million radicalized Muslims throughout the world are capable of killing us. That remains an extraordinary number, so let us retreat to the 2.4% figure (merely for sanity’s sake). If there were 1.5 billion tree huggers in the world, then we could fear that more than 23 million of them could also harm us. The same could be said for the 1.1 billion atheists, secularists, and other “non-religious” persons on the planet. Yet, I do not see videos of atheists beheading people for not separating Church and State or environmentalists blowing themselves up to save water. On the other hand, there are (at a minimum) hundreds of millions of Muslims upset at the West for supporting the world’s comparatively paltry 14 million Jews.
In the grander scheme of things, perhaps it is not the radical Islamists that represent the root problem. They remain very vocal about their intent to kill and maim the innocent. From Beirut to Africa to Bali and New York, London, and Madrid, they are not afraid to kill. Whether Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaeda, or the Islamic State, they are open about killing anyone who stands in their way. No, the real problem in the world rests with the silent Muslim ummah – the vast majority of adherents that remain on their hands when others are being blown up or beheaded.
Permit us now to shift to the conflict in Northern Ireland. At the height of its brutality, every Roman Catholic bishop in the circle condemned the IRA. The terrorist group was well aware of drawing the wrath of Catholic clergy. Why, then, are decent Muslim adherents and imams deathly silent on the destruction conducted on their behalf? Are they afraid (or ignorant of) to admit that, in Islam, Muhammad was “both Caesar and Christ” – meaning that there was no room for dissidence. Even the Jewish residents of Medina – imagine that, Jews living in Arabia – “no longer liked [his] warlike faith, which had once seemed so flatteringly kindred to their own.” Again, perhaps the Muslims of the 21st century – and their non-Muslim supporters – are blind to the fact that beheadings, assassinations, and faith-spread-by-the-sword began with Muhammad himself.
However one bothers to dissect the global Muslim community – mostly violent, mostly peaceful, or mostly “wishful thinkers” – the true numbers do not bode well for peace. One can only evaluate religion based upon the life and actions of the founder – not alleged followers. Those well versed in Islamic teachings (and reared within Muslim, Middle Eastern cultures) understand that “the mosque during the prophet Muhammad’s time was not just the place of worship…[but] also a place to store weapons and make military plans.” The founder of Islam remained extremely violent in the propagation of his faith. More so than even the narco-traffickers affecting Latin America today.
That there are a great many peaceful Muslims in the world today says more about them and, perhaps, Christian/Western influence than it does about the actions of Muhammad himself. Without violence and the prospect of marrying multiple wives, there is very little to suggest that Islam could have flourished alongside the Jewish and Christian heritage that Muhammad borrowed heavily from. In fact, it seems that the only way that Islam can compete within the world today is through silencing the competition or rewriting history – aspects more in common with fascism and communism than democracy. Perhaps this is why the numbers will always favor freedom and responsibility.