Friday, October 17, 2014

A few thoughts after watching a Bill Maher, Sam Harris, and Ben Affleck discussion involving Islam, and how the Liberals in the West should be more inclined to criticize the human rights violations inherent in certain political ideas practiced by Islamic states.This discussion took place on Bill Maher’s show in early October (I’m not sure of exact date and time)

This discussion can be seen on YouTube, and it is a painful thing to watch, because the irrationality of Mr. Affleck goes beyond anything I have ever had the misfortune to witness. Affleck appears to have had no idea of, or any desire to understand, what Maher and Harris were arguing, and his constant jumping in and interrupting with irrelevant, angry statements made this very clear throughout the entire ten minute segment.

Incidentally, almost all of the subsequent comments by the “talking heads” on this pathetic performance also missed the essence of the Harris-Maher argument. I believe their main point was simply the following: a great many of the ideas of mainstream Islam, as represented by Sharia Law, are bad, and lead to blatant violations of basic human rights.

Their point was not so much that, as so many talking heads argued, more prominent muslims should condemn the violence associated with “radical islam”, jihad, or “extremist islam”, although surely a reasoned argument could be made along those lines. It is just that that was not the main point Maher and Harris were making.

Affleck, showing painful ignorance, came back at Harris early in the discussion with accusations of “bigotry” and  “racism”. Ludicrous, since Islam is a religion, and its practice is not limited to a “race” of people (muslims are not a race, they are a religious group consisting of many ethnicities). Apparently Affleck may be OK with Sharia Law, which for example prescribes execution to anyone daring to leave the faith of Islam, or to anyone found to be gay, or to a woman that has committed adultery. The treatment of women generally under Sharia Law is unfair to an unbelievable extent. Harris is claiming that there is, in the West, a prevalent, misguided “multi-culturalism”, leading many self-styled “liberals” to fail to denounce such evil concepts, and this failure enables such ridiculous laws to persist in many nations dominated by Islamic people (indeed, many are theocracies, and so “Sharia Law” often has the force of that countries’ government behind it).

At one point in the discussion, Maher stated something like “Islam is the only religion in the world where if you try to leave it, they f__ing kill you”. Mr. Affleck did not address this comment.

Here is how the United Nations has addressed the issue of punishment for leaving ones religion, according to Wikipedia:
“Laws prohibiting religious conversion run contrary to Article 18 of the United Nations’ 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, which states the following:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Islamic nations have criticized the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as a non-Muslim world's attempt to impose their values on Islamic people, and presumption of cultural superiority.”

Cultural superiority? No, it’s moral superiority. This is Harris’s point, I believe. By objective standards, Sharia Law violates human rights at a level that is above any particular governments or cultures domain of law. Attitudes of some Western liberals appear to be, “Well, this is what they believe. Who are we to condemn or even criticize their practices?”  The fact is, we must condemn them, because such practices as implicit in Sharia law are in fact evil by any objective standard.

The precept of innate and universal human rights is well stated by this passage in the US “Declaration of Independence”:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.“

Seemingly unable to understand that one can criticize Islam and Islamic theocracies while not wishing physical harm to any of the followers of that religion or citizens of such states, Affleck blurted out something indicating that he thinks that Sam Harris and Bill Maher want to wage war and kill Muslims. My goodness, how could anyone possibly infer that from their arguments? Well, I guess it would be easy to explain how; namely, if one were not listening to the arguments of the other side, and had perhaps decided ahead of time what their positions were going to be. 

The point of this blog post is not such much to heap scorn on Mr. Affleck, though there is something to be said for that since these days the American public seems to accord too much credence to the banal political pronouncements of attractive film stars, as perhaps typified by Mr. Affleck. The point I would like to emphasize is the point I think Harris and Maher were making, that “liberals” in our country and Europe should, whenever the opportunity arises, point out the inherent badness of governments founded on such principles as Sharia Law.