This is my response to an Atlantic article criticizing Bill Maher’s and Sam Harris’s positions on certain aspects of Islam. The article is at http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/10/bill-maher-dangerous-critique-of-islam-ben-affleck/381266/
This article is plagued by a great deal of confusion, and in addition contains many half-truths (plus some out right baloney).
Taking Maher and Harris together, it is not so much that they want Americans to “denounce” Islam, as to have a critical discussion of it, hoping to eventually improve the lot of the muslim’s lives. In particular, they do want “liberals” in the west to denounce many of the cruel and rights-violating aspects of Sharia (such as stoning of adulteresses). And they also make a call for humans everywhere to stop believing and acting on words written in “sacred” texts long ago by people who through no fault of their own were ignorant. In his writings, Harris often makes the point that the West, where Christianity still has a significant foothold, the 18th century Enlightenment has today greatly reduced acceptance of the Old Testament’s brutal injunctions.
Then to mention the infamous Ben Affleck appearance on Maher’s show as if it were some rational discussion is absurd. Anyone who watches that show (and it can still be seen on youtube) will be astonished by the idiotic, illogical ranting of Affleck. He in fact make no serious contributions whatsoever, he just rants loudly and offensively as some spoiled child might do. My suspicion is that, were it not for the undue respect Americans accord physically attractive actors, the vast majority of people would be disgusted by his behavior on the show.
The article uncritically bandies about the terms “democracy” and “Islamophobia”. Americans today, on both the left and the right, are largely ignorant regarding the distinction between a “democracy” and a “republic”. In the US, we have the latter. A strict version of the former would lead to a “tyranny of the majority”. “Islamophobia” is a bogus term that should be dropped from any discussion of Islam, because implies that those who criticize Islam are somehow “afraid” of it, or are actually bigoted against muslims, whereas usually the criticism is motivated by a desire to actually improve the lives of muslims living under theocracies that still implement Sharia. As the article actually points out in one place, Schlesinger’s term “doughfaces” could be applied to many on the American left who are quick to ridicule and reject any thing that hints of a negative attitude toward Islam, much as they did in the 19th century on the subject of balck slavery in the American south.
To say “After all, other Muslim-majority countries have elected female heads of state”, as if this shows that women’s rights are not being violated in many Islamic countries is disingenuous. Surely the author knows that women politicians can be involved in laws that violate otehr women’s rights just as much as men politicians can.
Another dubious thread in this essay is that, whereas one is justified in vilifying certain implementations of communism, one cannot condemn the concept itself. I take issue with that. Surely anyone who has the slightest insight into human nature can see that joint ownership of all property is a sure road to disaster. Mr. Orwell has presented convincing fictional visions of this in Animal Farm and in 1984. Of course, in a free market, free society, people who want to live in a communal way can always do so in small voluntary enclaves.