The don't even know they're bigots

The don't even know they're bigots

by digby

Via Raw Story:

Bill Maher and author and neuroscientist Sam Harris battled actor/director Ben Affleck on Real Time on Friday concerning Maher’s recent remarks criticizing Islam.

“Why are you so hostile about this?” Maher asked Affleck.

“It’s gross, it’s racist,” Affleck replied.

“Islam is the motherload of bad ideas,” Harris argued.

“Jesus,” Affleck said in frustration.

“That’s just a fact,” Maher said, backing Harris up.

Journalist Nicholas Kristof then cut in, telling Maher he was painting an “incomplete” picture of the religion by failing to account reformers like activist Malala Yousafzai.

“Or how about the more than a billion people who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punish women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches, and don’t do any of the things you say all Muslims do?” Affleck said.

But Harris countered that the strongest voices in Islam belong to not only extremists, but conservative Muslims who, while criticizing terrorist groups, still follow practices that keep other members of their communities “immiserated.”

“It’s the only religion that acts like the mafia,” Maher said. “They will f*cking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book.”

Former Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele pointed out that Muslim clerics from several countries have condemned the actions of groups like the Islamic State, without getting much attention for it.

“Where was the coverage?” Steele asked. “Where was that story to create a different picture?”

Affleck then rebuffed Maher’s attempt to laugh the discussion off.

“I’m simply telling you, I disagree with you,” Affleck said, before Maher cut him off.

“I know, and we’re obviously not convincing anybody,” Maher said.

Maher did not address criticism directed toward him by religious scholar Reza Aslan, who said on CNN that his views on the religion were “not very sophisticated.”

I am an atheist myself so I suppose I should be sympathetic to Maher and Harris here, but I'm not because because it's an irrational intellectually nonsensical point of view. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in this world. And a few thousand of them --- hell it could be a few hundred thousand of them --- are members of the extremist fringe that wreaking havoc in the middle east and causing everyone else to pee their pants. Nobody disputes that these particular Muslims are assholes. But you can't blame the religion itself when there are more than a billion adherents who aren't killing anybody and don't want to kill anybody. As Affleck says, they're just going about their lives, trying to do their best for their kids, working, praying, screwing --- everything everyone does. If Islam is an inherently violent religion, then more than a billion of its believers don't seem to be getting the word.

It's infuriating. Do we condemn all of Christianity because of Operation Rescue? Is it ok to condemn all of Judaism because of the violent right wing settlers? Is Buddhism inherently violent because some Buddhist monks in Myanmar and killing people left and right? It's not as if we haven't seen exactly the same behavior among humans forever for entirely secular, avaricious, tribal, egomaniacal, nationalistic reasons. This is what we do! That this particular group of human assholes has seized upon religion for their justification for it is meaningless. It's always something.

And yet, we're not just hearing this from Maher and Harris who see themselves a clear thinkers because they are politically incorrect atheists who aren't afraid to call out any religion's hypocrisy and true nature. This is coming from people like Chris Cuomo and that team of braindead bozos on CNN who refused to hear what Reza Aslan was saying. This isn't good. In the post 9/11 period there was a lot of visceral hostility to Muslims in this country (and Sikhs and anyone else that dense Americans thought looked like they might be terrorists.) But President Bush went out of his way to make sure that he didn't give permission to his yahoo followers to demonize the religion itself. (I don't think he personally meant the "crusades" remark literally --- he isn't that scholarly.) With ISIS it seems that that they're just letting themselves go. And its penetrated the media bubble.

Maher and Harris are celebrity iconoclasts and I'm glad that Affleck wasn't afraid to call them out on their smug bigotry. But as an avid media watcher, it's obvious they are not alone and it's worrisome. Watching Fox News right now is like watching a lurid horror movie where diseased monsters are invading the country, beheading people at random and infecting everyone else with an incurable, fatal disease. They have people on there who are literally agitating for a total ban of all travel to and from the United States. I'm going to guess the old stand-by of "glassing Mecca" has been whispered as well. This could get out of hand.