On Real Time with Bill Maher, the two celebrities and author Sam Harris had a lively discussion about religion and, specifically, about Islam. It seemed that Harris and Maher intended to make the point that Islam is like other religions, except that a surprising percentage of its adherents in the Middle East have extremist views.
Setting aside US involvement in the radicalization of the children of Western Pakistan with textbooks intended to incite them against the Soviets, Harris and Maher have a legitimate point. Many Muslims in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Yemen and elsewhere believe that apostates (anyone who chooses to leave Islam) should be killed.
Not even the most radical members of other religions believe that.
Yet, though Maher and Harris are atheists, they were not, as Ben Affleck and others seem to believe, condemning all Muslims. I believe that they were condemning the misguided views of some Muslims. Unfortunately, Affleck never gave them a chance to elaborate on their point. Instead, he lashed out at them as though they were unjustly prejudiced.
The fact is, they treat all religious zealots the same. Maher and Harris think that the followers of all faiths are blinded by superstition and mythology – just watch Maher’s Religulous if you doubt that. But the data shows that they have a point when it comes to Islam. It appears that a greater percentage of Muslims tend to support violence against non-believers than those who are followers of other faiths.
Certainly, Christians, Jews and other faiths have their share of violent nincompoops. But the data seems to show that there is a larger problem with Islam. That’s not Harris’s and Maher’s fault. The fault lies with those who support extreme and violent views, along with those who refuse to denounce such views. If Muslims want to end Islamaphobia, they must speak out against violence…all violence. Too few Islamic leaders have been willing to do so and, when they have, it has not been with a powerful voice.
To be clear, Islam is no worse or better than any other religion which teaches that its followers are inherently superior to non-believers; that it is the only true path to salvation. Indeed, there was a time when Christianity went through a phase similar to that which Islam is going through now. The Church once tortured and killed thousands of innocents for heresy. The difference is that it occurred in the Middle Ages.