Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bill Maher debates Ben Affleck on Islam

Recently Bill Maher caused a sensation on the internet by claiming that Islam is more like a criminal enterprise than a religion. What other religion, he asked, threatens to kill you if you don't agree with their religious practices?

Maher and his guest, Sam Harris, then brought out a laundry-list of complaints leveled at Muslims: they subjugate women, they execute apostates (Muslims who renounce their religion), and they execute people who defame Islam or the Prophet Muhammed.

Ben Affleck responded by calling Maher's comments racist. The definition of racism is the application of a set of stereotypical characteristics to an entire race. So, when you condemn Islam because ISIS commits atrocities in Iraq, you are spreading racism. In fact, it is people with microphones, like Maher, who do the most damage by spreading racism. Reza Aslan, a scholar of middle eastern religions, says that Maher has been attacking Islam for a long time but people have just started to notice the damage he is doing.

Maher doesn't see it that way. For him, as also for Sam Harris, Islam is an evil religion. Muslims may reject the actions and beliefs of ISIL, 
but hold views about human rights, and about women, and about homosexuals that are deeply troubling.
Harris says that Islam is the Mother Lode of Bad Ideas.

Is Islam as bad as all that?

We need to understand that this debate is not just about Islam, but religion in general. Harris and Maher are not just critics of Islam, they are famous atheists who are making money from attacking religion. Harris, in particular, has made a career by attacking religion.

So we have to ask, would people be likely to approve this attack on Islam if they understood that the attackers, Maher and Harris, have said similar things about Christianity? The circumstances would be quite different if Maher had said, Christianity is a terrible religion, but Islam is even worse.

To his credit, Affleck pointed out the absurdity of the attacks on Islam. You can't judge a religion with a billion adherents all around the world by the actions of a few extremists in Iraq. The US Constitution made a good rule, that religions should be allowed to practice their beliefs without interference from the government.

Affleck admitted that ISIL had committed some atrocities. So what do you want to do about it? He asked Maher. Kill more people? Hasn't there been enough killing already?

Affleck may have struck a nerve with that question, because Harris first came to prominence as an Islam basher after the 9/11 attacks. His views provided a rational basis to go to war against Iraq. They still provide an excuse to start yet another war in the Middle East, and there are plenty of people who planned the last one still hanging around, urging Obama to send in the troops.

This program went viral, probably because Affleck was on it. Affleck was sandbagged by these two professional muslim-haters.

No comments: