Every single time that I think the intellectually lazy leftist outlets have hit rock bottom in their brainless, Reza Aslan/esque defense of Islam (shall we call it “Islamophilia”?), they manage to stun me by smashing their own record of inanity. This time Salon.com again goes after Bill Maher for daring to point out the elephant in the room-Islam-as the root cause of violence committed by self-professed Islamic(!) militants (which would make up for over 80% of global terrorism, as it happens). But the “logic” of criticism against Maher is this time is downright insane.
Critics of Islam like Bill Maher and Sam Harris have been strongly challenged by those who believe that one shouldn’t hold an entire religion responsible for the actions of a fringe that interprets their sacred book in a way that encourages violence. There are, after all, nearly 2 billion Muslims in the world and while it’s true that there are passages in the Quran that can be interpreted as condoning violence the mere fact that the vast, vast majority of its adherents do not interpret it as a literal call to arms argues that Maher’s and Harris’ critics are right.
Well the deception starts right there: the usual apologetic lines such as “appeal to numbers” (“how can an ideology be violent if it has so many nonviolent followers?”) and the claim that the “vast majority” of Muslims do not take the calls to violence in the Koran literally (without any citation, of course, and even contradicting available data). These statements are so tired and insipid that I won’t even bother to dissect them any further. On the other hand, as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
With that canard out of the way, we can get to the gems that are actually new in this article:
But one has to wonder if a person who thinks that a book, however sacred and meaningful, can induce people to commit acts of violence, is equally concerned about other forms of influence? Does Bill Maher think that because television and movies glorify violence they should also be held responsible for many of the violent acts perpetrated here and around the world? After all, if Islam is responsible for the violence of a handful out of nearly 2 billion adherents you’d think Hollywood should be held responsible for the violence of a handful out of the billions of people who watch their violent programs, wouldn’t you?
There is a history of trying to hold the entertainment business liable for inspiring the criminal activities of its customers. There was the famous case of Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers” allegedly inspiring a long list of copycat crimes and a lawsuit that was rejected numerous times on both First Amendment and the grounds that the filmmakers did not make the film with the intention that its audience should commit violence. The music industry has been similarly accused of inspiring violence…
The only reason to bring all this moldy history up is simply to point out that people often seek to blame an outside influence for violent and destructive actions of individuals. And when it comes to our entertainment industry, which is clearly very violent, we have always found that individuals themselves are responsible.
I don’t know about you, but reading the above gave me a sense of nausea so intense that for quite awhile I wasn’t able to get past the initial visceral reaction. Past that point, however, I didn’t find it all so hard to find holes in the argument large enough to get 2 billion people through:
No, I don’t think the entertainment industry should be blamed for violence that is committed because people have watched/listened to their products, the way “Islamic” militants’ violence should be blamed on Islam. They are quite a few (you’d think, fairly obvious) reasons why this is a bad analogy:
First, the entertainment industry is not a religion. People turn to entertainment for, you know, “entertainment”. They turn to faith to give them meaning, and be an inspiration for their lives; you watch a movie to enjoy it (for the most part), but typically the point of saying a prayer is more than just enjoying it, even though that certainly maybe a part of it. The entertainment industry doesn’t make the claim that it gives it is the source of morality of its customers, it points out the direction of their lives, or it serves as a blueprint for what is acceptable behavior and what is not. And while the fans of one entertainer may become pretty resentful of another, the two entertainers compete over fame and money, not over having the clue to eternal salvation, which would mean the “other camp” (1) have NOT made the biggest error of their lives (except for when it comes to musical tastes, perhaps). And while their products may desensitize the audience to violence (which has been debated to hell), open incitement of violence (2) is a good deal harder to get away with. Above all, the entertainment industry is not in a position to dole out (3) everlasting rewards and punishments (or make the perception that it does, at any rate), or worse yet, offer carte blanche for rape (4) and looting (5) as reward for violence, even for the behavior that it may encourage.
And so, dear Salon.com, I have a word for you: if this is the best you can come up with these days to meet your Islamophilia quota, you are effectively ceding the argument. Putting up posts like this may get you some extra web traffic but won’t do much to sway the public opinion that is turning against Islam.
5:36 As for those who disbelieve, lo! if all that is in the earth were theirs, and as much again therewith, to ransom them from the doom on the Day of Resurrection, it would not be accepted from them. Theirs will be a painful doom.
9:13 Will ye not fight a folk who broke their solemn pledges, and purposed to drive out the messenger and did attack you first ? What! Fear ye them ? Now Allah hath more right that ye should fear Him, if ye are believers 9:14 Fight them! Allah will chastise them at your hands, and He will lay them low and give you victory over them, and He will heal the breasts of folk who are believers.
8:12 When thy Lord inspired the angels, (saying): I am with you. So make those who believe stand firm. I will throw fear into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Then [you] smite the necks and smite of them each finger.
4:74 Let those fight in the way of Allah who sell the life of this world for the other. Whoso fighteth in the way of Allah, be he slain or be he victorious, on him We shall bestow a vast reward.
9:111 Lo! Allah hath bought from the believers their lives and their wealth because the Garden will be theirs: they shall fight in the way of Allah and shall slay and be slain. It is a promise which is binding on Him in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an. Who fulfilleth His covenant better than Allah ? Rejoice then in your bargain that ye have made, for that is the supreme triumph.
4:24 And all married women (are forbidden unto you) save those (captives) whom your right hands possess.
8:69 Now enjoy what ye have won, as lawful and good, and keep your duty to Allah. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
(Of course these are just a handful of my favorites; the Koran is practically brimming with such material from cover to cover.)
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