The short answer is no.
Last week, Bill Maher and Sam Harris created controversy by calling out liberals for giving Islam a pass on numerous egregious violations of cherished liberal principles including freedom of religion and equality of women and minorities. They were immediately denounced as racists. Their defense, in Sam Harris’s words: “We have to be able to criticize bad ideas…Islam at this moment is the mother lode of bad ideas.”
Provocative stuff. As many have pointed out:
- It is wrong to tar an entire religion based on the actions or beliefs of a small minority of its adherents
- Many Muslims denounce the extremists in their faith
- Violent and beautiful passages fill both the Koran and the Bible
- Some of the terrible practices ascribed to Islam may actually be the result of regional cultures that happen to be populated mostly by Muslims.
Reza Aslan argued this last point in a comical interview on CNN. He claimed that female genital mutilation is an African issue not a Muslim one, citing Muslim countries outside Africa where it is not practiced and Christian countries inside Africa where it is. The CNN hosts were too busy missing his points (hence the comic nature of the interview) to challenge or confirm his assertions.
Let’s assume Aslan was accurate (and it is worth mentioning he and Sam Harris are frequent antagonists). Even so, there is the small problem of the Muslim belief that people who leave the Muslim faith should be put to death. According to a Pew Research poll, this belief is subscribed to by over half of the Muslims in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Jordan, Malaysia, and the Palestinian Territories. It is ‘only’ 38% in Iraq. In Indonesia, this atrocious belief is only held by 13% of Muslims, but that is still 26 million people.
This is Sam Harris’s and Bill Maher’s point. They both agree that it is wrong to tar an entire religion based on the actions or beliefs of a small minority of its adherents. The problem is that horrible beliefs are not just held by a small minority.