17 October 2014

Dean Obeidallah on Bill Maher or how to stuff foot in mouth deeper

 A disclaimer: normally I wouldn't waste another minute on a fight between two such renown intellects like Bill Maher and Ben Affleck. The point is that there were other participants and other sensitive subjects involved. As it (partially) follows from the article Bill Maher's Muslim problem by Dean Obeidallah on CNN.

The main flaw of the article is the deliberate obfuscation of the fact that Bill Maher wasn't a main player in the by now famous "meeting of minds". Sam Harris was - at least as far as reciting statistics concerned. While Maher is indeed a hater of all religions, he is ill equipped intellectually to hold up his end of most arguments. Sam Harris, on the other hand, is much better at this game. The fact that Dean Obeidallah didn't mention his name at all is telling. Granted, Harris is, as Maher, an undiscriminating hater of all religions, but this is neither here nor there, as far as the arguments and facts he presented are concerned.

But back to Obeidallah's attack on Maher.
He said that it is "naive" to think that Islam isn't more violent than other religions and mocked President Obama for commenting that the terror group ISIS was not Islamic.
We can split hairs indefinitely on the fine points of theology. ISIS and its supporters consider themselves to be the most Islamic bunch in existence. President Obama, Dean Obeidallah (and even I, if I am allowed to join this team) may think differently, but the horrendous numbers of supporters quoted by Harris and ignored by Obeidallah make the discussion pointless. You can do much better than reading Obeidallah's "analysis" by simply listening to the relevant part of Harris' presentation, but it is educational to check Obeidallah's arguments - they are parroted by too many "defenders of Islam".

To start with, the contention about Islam being more violent than other religions. First of all, every organized religion, Christianity far from being excluded, had its periods of violence, aggression and expansion. People who deny this aren't worth arguing with. Exactly as people who argue that Islamic (or Islamist, if you wish) violence nowadays is a simple matter of an extremist minority, declaring this minority non-Islamic. Clumsy, very clumsy, like in:
Maher then cited a Pew Research poll that he claimed found that 90% of Egyptians supported the death penalty for those who left Islam. I'm not sure where Maher got his numbers, but a 2013 Pew poll actually found only 64% of Egyptians supported this -- still alarmingly high, but not 90%.
Yep, Maher as a scientific source is quite pathetic, but how much less horrible is 64% than 90%? You tell me...

Or, for another example of mumbling defense:
Maher also has left out that only 13 Muslim nations have penalties for apostasy, while 34 do not.
"Only" 13 nations? You don't say!
I'm all for a discussion of the need to reform the laws in certain Muslim countries, especially on issues of rights for women, minority faiths and gays. But painting all Muslims by the most extreme of our faith is wrong.
When most of the Islamic world is plagued by violence, when every day Muslims kill, maim, subjugate and terrorize other Muslims, not to mention people of other religions and creeds, when the mere word "democracy" causes some Muslim religious leaders to foam at the mouth, it is somewhat undermining the meek whitewashing attempts, doesn't it?

And to remind you some pretty basic arithmetic: even if the numbers quoted by Harris are inflated, one single percent of Muslim population makes 15 million people... continue from here.

For reference: the recording of the Affleck/Maher/Harris brouhaha. Check it against Obeidallah's "review".


Dick Stanley said...

When Lefties fight each other. Bhwa-ha-ha-ha.

The Sultan has it down as usual: "Islam is savage, intolerant, cruel and expansionistic..." http://sultanknish.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-savage-lands-of-islam.html

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Well, yes, that too ;-)