There is a fascinating interview between Charlie Rose and Bill Maher making the rounds. Bill Maher is no friend of Christianity. In fact, he’s an infamous opponent. Nevertheless, he has the intellectual honesty to acknowledge the obvious. He pushes back hard against Charlie Roses’s suggestion of a moral equivalence between Christianity and militant Islam. The exchange is captured above, but here’s the heart of it:
BILL MAHER: I saw Howard Dean on TV the other day and he said something along the order, he said the people in ISIS — he said I’m about as Islamic as they are, you know, distancing the vast numbers of Islamic people around the world from them. That’s just not true.
CHARLIE ROSE: It is true.
MAHER: It is not true, Charlie. There is a connecting tissue between —
ROSE: Behind every Muslim is a future member of some radical?
MAHER: Let me finish.
ROSE: I was doing that.
MAHER: There are illiberal beliefs that are held by vast numbers of Muslim people that —
ROSE: A vast number of Christians too.
MAHER: No, that’s not true. Not true. Vast numbers of Christians do not believe that if you leave the Christian religion you should be killed for it. Vast numbers of Christians do not treat women as second class citizens. Vast numbers of Christians —
ROSE: I agree with that —
MAHER: — do not believe if you draw a picture of Jesus Christ you should get killed for it. So yes, does ISIS do Khmer Rouge-like activities where they just kill people indiscriminately who aren’t just like them? Yes. And would most Muslim people in the world do that or condone that? No.
You can watch the rest of the exchange above, or read it here.
The soft bigotry of low expectations. Interesting phrase.
Credit where credit is due. Maher is an outspoken critic of Christianity, but he recognizes accurately that it is not like Islam in key areas.
There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.
As you point out, Maher is famously anti-religion. Some of his claims in this interview about Islam and Muslims are exaggerated, but his basic point, that there is a higher degree of intolerance for dissent among Muslims than Christians is true. At least it it true that Christians no longer generally do not engage in physical violence against dissenters within their communities. There is a broader question that arises in these types of discussions, and that is how much of behavioral standards and attitudes should be attributed to the teachings of a religion, and how much is derived from culture. One example would be so-called “honor killings” which happen in several cultures, including several Muslim countries. There is nothing in the Quran which calls for a family to kill a daughter or mother because she has brought shame to the family because of some often slight offense (such as being seen with a male they are unrelated to). Adultery is another matter, and harsh punishments are a tradition in some Muslim contexts. Yet honor killings occur in Muslim contexts, and are perpetrated by persons who have been taught their faith demands it, when in fact, it does not. Illiteracy is a major problem in many Muslim countries and so what people know of their faith is often only what they hear and have been taught. I am not attempting make excuses for violence against women, and have no interest in defending horrific behavior on the part of Muslims. But raising the question about the role of culture in attitudes and behavior seems appropriate, again when the kind of discussion had by Maher and Rose comes up. Some of Maher’s statistics in the full interviews (not the segment quotes above) are not sourced. He claims the vast majority of Muslims condone violence against women, yet Pew surveys of Muslims around the world demonstrate that is not true, though there is certainly far too much violence against women in some Muslim contexts. Maher is also guilty of picking the some of the worst examples of Muslim behavior, and claiming these are typical. As Maher points out, again in the longer interview linked above, Saudi Arabia is the geographic heart of Islam, but the Saudi interpretation of Islam, often known as Wahabism or Salafism, is a very rigid, extremely conservative interpretation of the faith, and as such hardly is represent of the 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. We should avoid using the worst examples of any faith as representative of the entire faith.
Well, wouldn’t it be something if Bill Maher finds the Lord? Then he can use all his God-given energy to proclaim the gospel. That would be truly amazing. So, let’s pray for him, eh?
“There was a Pew poll in Egypt done a few years ago — 82% said, I think, stoning is the appropriate punishment for adultery.”
I’m not saying the numbers would necessarily be similar, but I’d be curious to know how indigenous Christians in these countries (e.g. Egypt) would answer the same questions. I also take issue with this bit:
“But they [Saudi Arabia] do it too. This is the center of the religion.”
Saudi Arabia may be at the geographic epicenter of Islam, but that doesn’t mean whatever Saudi Arabia does is part and parcel of the religion. There are other majority-Muslim countries that don’t cut your hands off when you’re caught stealing. Does that imply anything? Also this:
“…they’re doing things like making them wear burqas and I hear liberals say things like, ‘they want to.’ They want to. They’ve been brainwashed. It’s like saying a street walker wants to do that.”
Do women in Western countries who choose to keep their breasts covered in public make that choice because they “want to”, i.e. they consider it an appropriate level of modesty, or because they’re “brainwashed”?
“most Muslim people in the world condone violence”
many Americans know someone who IS Muslim in this country . . . a grocer, a doctor, a university professor . . . it looks like conservative Christians have got their work cut out for them in trying to convince their fellow Americans that ALL Muslims condone violence, as it is not the experience of many of those Americans who ARE directly familiar with Muslim American people
I suppose ‘labels’ help to spread the fear.
But there is a problem.
As far as I remember it, the terrorist who blew up the Federal Building in OK City was a violent anti-guvmint militia-type whose name was NOT ‘Timothy Mohammed McVeigh’, no. He was ‘one of us’, an American with a given Christian name and he had no mercy on the hundreds of innocent people (including babies and children) who died that day . . .
If we want a ‘bogey-man’, let’s call out the real one: the ‘ancient enemy’ who doesn’t restrict his influence on Muslims alone. We need to remember WHO that ‘enemy’ is. And we need to understand how he manipulates us all. And we need to understand how grace can save us. Satan uses the sin of pride and our deepest fears. ‘Labels’ are a part of his arsenal. And only by the grace of God do we remain free of his control.
“The Quran contains at least Some are quite graphic, with commands to chop off heads and fingers and kill infidels wherever they may be hiding. Muslims who do not join the fight are called ‘hypocrites’ and warned that Allah will send them to Hell if they do not join the slaughter.
Unlike nearly all of the Old Testament verses of violence, the verses of violence in the Quran are mostly open-ended, meaning that they are not restrained by the historical context of the surrounding text. They are part of the eternal, unchanging word of Allah, and just as relevant or subjective as anything else in the Quran.” (TheReligionofPeace.com Home Page)
I distrust every Muslim that will not call for a revision of the Quran by removing the “109 verses that call Muslims to war with nonbelievers for the sake of Islamic rule.” Those commands are like a smoldering ember that by literal interpretation will break out into a fire unless that ember is quenched.