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I have a confession to make; I’m a Bill Maher fan. The man is funny as hell and in addition to having a bit of a libertarian streak inside of him, Maher has been an outspoken critic of radical Islam.
Many media outlets have refused to view Islam through a critical lens even As ISIS and Al Qaeda continue to wage a campaign of terror that has targeted Muslims and non-Muslims around the world.
Where CNN, MSNBC, The Huffington Post, and many others have dropped the ball, Maher has picked it up and sprinted for the end zone.
Over the past year his guests have included Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Asra Nomani, and Raheel Raza, all Muslim women who have firsthand experience with the side of Islam that the regressive left refuses to admit exists.
It is a side that stands in stark contrast with traditional liberal values. It is a side that embraces and promotes violent jihad, the oppression of women, discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community, appalling restrictions on free speech and expression, and the murder of infidels and apostates. However in many circles in the west it has become a massive faux pas to criticize any element of Islam.
In a video that went semi-viral Maher and neuro-scientist Sam Harris labored to no avail to convince Ben Affleck that their position on Islam was not Islamophobic, or born out of bigotry, but rooted in a desire for people around the world to embrace and benefit from liberal social ideals. Affleck did not budge in his stance on Islam, but he did appear to be moved close to tears by the pragmatic logic of Maher and Harris.
Affleck’s response was typical of western liberals; condemn the act but protect the actor. Others have gone even further with some politicians and journalists suggesting that the victims of the Charli Hebdo attack had it coming. Because nothing says liberal values like advocating the cold blooded killing of unarmed comedians for drawing a cartoon. Most recently Maher had U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) on his show for an interview. Senator Booker is an intelligent, well-spoken politician. He grew up in Bergen County just 20 minutes from where Jihadists flew airplanes loaded with innocent people into the World Trade Center. Some of those planes took off from Newark Airport, located in a city where Booker once served as mayor. Maher could not get him to say the phrase “Islamic terrorism.” He tried, oh did he try, Maher even pointed out that the terrorists themselves often put “Islamic” in the name of their organizations. Still nothing from Booker.
My knee jerk reaction to the left’s stance on Islam is to call them too PC. They appear stricken by a sense of paternalism, some progressive interpretation of The White Man’s Burden retrofitted to align with the modern social justice movement. I could do that quite easily, but it’s low hanging fruit, and the argument is likely to fall on deaf ears where it needs to be heard the most. Instead the pragmatic solution seems to lie in pointing out just how poorly many aspects of Islam fail to line up with traditional liberal ideology.
Maher and others including recent guest Raheel Raza, a Sunni Muslim, have pointed to a 2013 Pew Center poll that found a dangerous misalignment between the views of a significant number of Muslims and western values. The poll surveyed thousands of Muslims across 39 countries.
Raza digs into the poll results and gives a great breakdown of Islamists, violent Jihadists, and Fundamentalists in her video for the Clarion Project.
In Afghanistan, Egypt, and Jordan roughly 80 percent of those surveyed favored the death penalty for apostates. The numbers dip, but still to unacceptable rates, into the neighborhood of 27 percent for Muslims worldwide.
The poll also found that 39 percent of all Muslims surveyed support honor killings for women who have pre or extramarital sex.
In western countries anywhere from 26 to 42 percent of young Muslims believed that suicide bombings could be justified.
Sharia law was favored by 53 percent as the law of the land, which included support for whippings and dismemberment for thieves.
Additionally, 51 percent of those in favor of Sharia also supported the use of stoning as punishment for infidelity.
Not included in the video was a Pew Poll result which found that Muslims overwhelmingly believe that homosexuality is morally wrong. That opinion could have deadly results for gays living in the wrong countries particularly in parts of Iraq and Syria where ISIS has publicized its executions of members of the gay community.
Anti-gay laws also exist in Afghanistan, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.
And forget about using your right to free speech to criticize any of these flagrantly anti-liberal policies. That type of talk can be risky, especially in Saudi Arabia where blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to prison and 1,000 lashes for “insulting Islam” through his blog called “Saudi Arabian Liberals.”
While I wait for an explanation from the left as to how violence against women, gays, apostates, and journalists aligns in any way with liberal ideology, or is representative of a “religion of peace” I will offer this nugget from the Pew Center:
“Our 2011 survey of Muslim Americans found that roughly half of U.S. Muslims (48%) say their own religious leaders have not done enough to speak out against Islamic extremists.”
As it happens even American Muslims seem to want their leadership to address this problem. So either the American Muslim community is crawling with Islamophobes, or the left needs to come to terms with the fact there is a serious problem brewing within Islam.
If I responded to medical test results by saying “Oh well it’s only a tiny lump on one of my testicles, let’s focus on the 99 percent of my body that’s cancer free.” You would likely call me a crazy person. Likewise, it is lunacy to refuse to address the problems within Islam simply because most Muslims are good people who wish to practice their faith in peace.
In a liberal society we need to be free to criticize bad ideas. While the Muslim community is free to worship peacefully, when their faith manifests itself in a way that does not align with western values it needs to be questioned. This is especially true as the current refugee crisis places Middle Eastern Muslims and westerners in closer proximity than ever before.
I’ll go out on a limb and assume you’ve seen the movie Jaws. If you haven’t then there is a scene in which Chief Brody and the mayor argue about closing the town of Amity’s beaches on the 4th of July for fears of another shark attack. Let’s fast forward 2,000 years. Imagine a world where armed extremists execute beach goers on the 4th of July because they have defied the mayor’s wishes. A rational observer would call it crazy to slaughter scores of innocent people because they defied the teachings of a centuries old story. That same rational observer would also be incredibly confused if they were called a bigot for questioning this behavior, but that’s exactly what the regressive left does.
Accusing rational thinkers of bigotry for criticizing dangerous elements of a religion is not constructive, and it’s certainly not progressive. By viewing Muslims through a lens that says “these people are not capable of seeing the flaws in their religion, nor are they intelligent enough to handle constrictive criticism” liberals are engaging in their own form of bigotry. They are engaging in what Maher and others have called “the soft bigotry of low expectations” and its consequences could extend far beyond the hurt feelings and ruffled feathers that the regressive left fears so much.