Today we examine the fallout of the discussion between Bill Maher, Sam Harris and Ben Affleck on the subject of Islamic extremism. Turns out it’s complicated.
Ch. 1: Opening Theme: A Fond Farewell - From a Basement On the Hill
Ch. 2: Act 1: [email protected], @SamHarrisOrg and Bill Maher Debate Radical Islam - Real Time with @billmaher - Air Date: 10-6-14
Ch. 3: Song 1: Hello Bonjour - Yell Fire!
Ch. 4: Act 2: [email protected] Finds Friends In Big Bigotry Following Ben Affleck Blow Up - @theyoungturks - Air Date: 10-08-14
Ch. 5: Song 2: Your Racist Friend - Flood
Ch. 6: Act 3: There Is No Such Thing As "True Islam" - @majorityfm - Air Date: 10-07-14
Ch. 7: Song 3: Everloving - Play & Play: B Sides
Ch. 8: Act 4: Caller: Thom is Wrong About Peace-Loving Muslims... - @Thom_Hartmann - Air Date: 10-07-14
Ch. 9: Song 4: I Can Help (Single Version) - The Very Best of Billy Swan
Ch. 10: Act 5: Power structures influence behaviors regardless of religion - Old School TYT (@theyoungturks) - Air Date: 10-10-14
Ch. 11: Song 5: Powerless - The Big Picture
Ch. 12: Act 6: .@RezaAslan's Religion Apologetics Are Dangerous - @davidpakmanshow - Air Date: 10-27-14
Ch. 13: Song 6: Riptide - Dream Your Life Away
Ch. 14: Act 7: Atheists: @RezaAslan is Wrong About Islam. – Not So Fast! - @majorityfm - Air Date: 10-09-14
Ch. 16: We're too complicated to be put into boxes - Colin from Cleveland, OH
Voicemail Music: Loud Pipes - Classics
Ch. 17: Bonus Clip - Sam Harris And Cenk Uygur Clear The Air On Religious Violence And Islam
Ch. 17: Final comments on explaining vs excusing and one of the reasons why Bill Maher is and asshole
Closing Music: Here We Are - Everyone's in Everyone
Produced by Jay! Tomlinson
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You are mischaracterizing what Jon says. No where has Jon justified 100% of Palestenian actions. And yes I do not agree with much of what you say. Only thing I give you is that passage of time and facts of the ground seem to favor your position. So I would like to hear from Jon on that.
Well – I guess this will be the last of our ping-pongs because it looks like you are pretty determined in your views wouldn’t like to open your mind to the option that maybe some of your axioms may be incorrect. Your attempt to oversimplify things and to 100% justify Palestinian actions for as long as the Israelis do not “give them access to everything that was stolen from them,” is quite disappointing for me. I hope that at least 1-2 of the readers that read our correspondence would be convinced by my words to at least have a little doubt in their conviction of this issue. It really is hard and trying to reduce it to a David & Goliath case does not do justice to either side.
C M – Thank you – I understand you probably don’t accept most of what I said but hopefully this point that you are considering will leave you open to considering narratives alternative to the one provided by Jon with great confidence.
I will end my post by sharing the news I woke up to this morning:
“Four people were killed Tuesday morning in a terror attack on a synagogue and yeshiva in the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem. Eight others were wounded, four are in moderate to serious condition.
Two terrorists wielding axes, knives and guns arrived at the site on Harav Shimon Agassi Street in the capital, which includes a synagogue and yeshiva (rabbinical seminary), and carried out two attacks in two locations."
Many people would excuse this act as “an isolated case by a minority of radicals that should not condemn the whole Palestinian cause”. Others will be quick to respond with the high death tolls that were the result of the conflicts and their condemnation of unjust deaths on either side.
These could have all been plausible and reasonable responses had it not been for Hamas officials condoning the killing of these innocent people in the synagogue. The killing of random innocent people is a legit tool in the toolkit in the resistance. And just a reminder – this is the official Palestinian leadership in Gaza. This is not a small radical group. How are we supposed to make territorial concessions (which I’m in favor of), how are we supposed to lessen the (horrible) limits on travel and imports of the Palestinian population and how are we supposed to just “live in peace” when this is the dominant entity standing at the other side?
I challenge anyone to provide a similar example of the Israeli armed forces killing innocents in any of the recent operations and government officials condoning their killing and promoting it as strategy. Yes – horrible mistakes are made, but they are, mistakes. Fighting is horrible and people seem to have a short memory when comparing the death tolls in this conflict to conflicts of other nations in the past.
Everyone has their radicals – unfortunately, their radicals are in power and lead the future of the millions of palestinians.
(IMPORTANT NOTE: the fact that this act of terror took place in a synagogue is just by chance, had it taken place in a supermarket I would see no difference)
Even though I agree with most of what you say in your exchange with Zach there is something to what Zach says here.
//Especially for my generation, which were born into this land & conflict//
If a couple of generations does pass with out resolution of this issue then Palestinian “right to return” sort of becomes meaningless and Israeli (by then all the Israelis would have been born in Israel) claim to the land (including settlements in occupied territories) will in fact become more justifiable.
What is the liberal response to passage of time and facts on the ground?
Your response is plagued by the very mythology I criticized earlier. I can do one of 2 things, reply to each statement I disagree with, or let it be. I choose to let it be in this case because if you truly believe the narrative you are offering as a factual historic narrative, then we have no basis from which to work towards understanding each other. The manner in which Israel was created, and the manner in which it continues to exist is and was at the expense of the indigenous population. They never agreed to a partition of their land, and their continued rejection of this collaborative advent of Western society is no justification for their treatment. If you guys want peace, then give them access to everything that was stolen from them, allow their families to come back home, and treat them as equals. It really is that plain and simple. Good luck going forward. I hope that you can find a common ground with the millions upon millions of regional neighbors that reject your nation’s legitimacy.
When discussing these issues people often confuse this because they are used to the notion of other major religions (e.g. Christianity, Islam) that are missionary and aim to convert everyone to their religion. Judaism, however, is the religion that’s practiced by many of the Jews, but there are many many people that consider themselves Jews (as a people) but are complete atheists.
Zionism as you define it does cannot have a place of respect for the modern logical individual, but when viewed as the will of a group of people to have their own land where they will not be prosecuted (as they were in the past), this suddenly becomes defend-able, does it not?
(Especially for my generation, which were born into this land & conflict)
At its core the Israeli society is not an Apartheid society. It is very easy to make simplistic comparison that “feels right” when looking from afar, but the parallels are inaccurate. Neither the Palestinians (as a generalization) want to share a country with the Israelis nor does the average Israeli wish to live in such a country. The real solution is two separate countries, living side-by-side. The main reason why this cannot happen at this time is the complete lack of trust on both sides.
Saying that it is a society “built on the ruins of another through the use of violent force, all premised on a mystical…” is just demagoguery As a reminder – the state of Israel was founded as a result of the Holocaust and the massacare of millions of jews while Europe turned a blind eye. It was not built through violent force, but through agreements with the UN, that regardless of whether you think they were legit or not, were probably the least violent creation of a state compared with any of today’s European countries. The major violent event that initially followed were initiated by the neighboring Arab states that attempted to eradicate these people off the map (and expressed these exact views on numerous occasions). The Israeli’s main crime at that point was that they joined the “game” of striving of their own independent state after all the other “players” got comfortable in their countries and it no longer allowed to play. Israel was founded as a result of a serious need of a people that were being mistreated and killed wherever they attempted to integrate. For most of those people you call “occupiers” – Israel was just the practical solution for survival and did not come from a religious drive (the leaders of the Zionist movement were, mostly, non-religious)
It is important to stress – this in no way am I claiming this justifies crimes that Israel performed since that point on, but it does give some important historic context. It is my position, however, that your simplistic explanation of Israel as a powerful colonial power is misleading and just wrong.
Zionism is a term that means very different things to different people. You like to attribute it to a mythological belief of some kind, which is true for some, but most Zionist in Israel hold a very different view. In most cases, Zionism today is no different from the patriotic views of Americans, British or French people that want to protect the country their were born in. What rights do the British have in fighting for the land they live in or to defend their way of living? is it because they were lucky and their conflicts took place at a different time?
Given I was born in the early 80s and being non-religous I share the same feeling of many in my generation that would like to live in peace and is not driven by any kind of religious fanaticism. The Palestinians are definitely not occupying my land. However, they are very violent due to a large part to their corrupted leadership misleading them and taking advantage of their suffering.
There is much more I can write, but you have a complete misunderstanding of the last conflict that took place. I would very much like you to explain the need of the legit Palestinian “resistance” (and not Terrorist) force to build tunnels into kindergarten of people I know that live close to Gaza. Do you have a justification for that? can anything explain this kind of behavior?
All I ask is that you become a little less one sided – and drop the one dimensional assumption that some Israelis must be reasonable people, but all their actions and the action of their government is always and definitely evil and wrong.
I join you in the hope that we will be able to live in peace and to overcome radical views in both sides. On the path to reaching that point, however, we absolutely disagree.
You express disappointment with the left for essentially pardoning and explaining away Islamic fundamentalism, yet here you do the same for an apartheid society built on the ruins of another through the use of violent force, all premised on the mythological belief that a mystical being promised one specific group of people someone else’s land. The Palestinians did not come to your land and take it from you by violent force. The Palestinians are not occupying your land through the use of violent force. The Palestinians do not use excessive force through advanced weaponry to maintain the occupation and continue to steal land to further the vision of what your god promised you. It is laughable to view them as aggressors, and in no sane world can progressive liberalism explain or justify Zionism in its current form. I am sorry, but I cannot and will not accept your take on religious extremism when your entire society was founded on it. I am sure you are generally a reasonable person, but the myth that Israelis have created for themselves to justify the actions of their predecessors and government is what is saddening. I hope you find a way to come to terms with reality and live in peace with your neighbors.
Yes – the criticism by Mahr and Harris of Islam as a religion is indeed justified. It is unfair to place all Muslims in the same baskets and treat them as violent radical fanatics. However, the issue Mahr raises of liberals always trying to blame themselves for the worlds problems in a patronising manner as if people could not choose to live in a certain way and they must have been forced by colonizing forces. It is true that most radical islamic violence comes from areas of great poverty and challenges for the inhabitants, but the financing actually comes from wealthy nations (e.g. Qatar & Saudi Arabia). The belief shared by many that all would be fine if “they were just left alone” is completely inaccurate. Their aims are for more global dominance and the poor people that get funded by them to commit acts of terror are just tools in their hands. Iran is a great example of a force that leverages this in order to fund many violent organizations, all camouflaged as freedom fighters (e.g. Hizbollah, Islamic Jihad Organization).
I am extremely saddened by some of the opinions that were commented below. The commentators seemed to be quite knowledgeable of the historic contexts in the Israel/Palestinian conflict, but they’ve failed to grasp the current reality. The conflict has been going on for so long that there is already a generation (I am a part of it) that was born into it and the two sides are so far apart culturally that attempting to merge the two is completely unrealistic. The situation is completely different from the South Africa case. Yes there is pain. Yes there are a lot of injustices. But the source is not racism by an arrogant force. The same interpretation that you give of the poor people of palestine that arrive at radical solutions because of their suffering you should allow for the pain of Israelis that, too often, express their agendas in aggressive and self-centered agendas.
An example that I found frustrating in the show is the comparison between Egyptians that were surveyed to be in favor of killing Muslims that leave the religion to Israelis that were in favor of the last operation where many Palestinians were killed. This is a complete lack of understand for the events that took place. As an Israeli that objects to the settlements, voted for a left-wing party and in favor of a peacefull solution for the conflict, I must say that this interpretation of the Israeli voice is completely wrong! By most, the operation was viewed as a sad response to aggression by the Palestenians. Regardless of your view in the matter (who is right), it is important to understand that this is the view held by most of those Israelis surveyed. This is their source of support and not, as some would have you believe, a bloodthirsty aim to kill palestinian children in hospitals… No one is in favor of that here. No one. The view held here is that these events took place because of either tragic mistakes, or because of Hamas using the hospitals as storage for artillery that was being actively shot at our homes (which I personally experienced). Again, the point is not whether you agree with this as being true (which I’d be more than happy to separately debate), but the fact that this is the wide-held belief by most people here.
What most of the international community fails to understand is that attempts to force Israel’s hand and to “help” Palestinians by publically supporting their efforts while ignoring a lot their actions (always keeping things balanced of course) is what gives rise to the extremist in Israel who see that as proof that “we are on our own and we must take care of thing without the international community”.
As a last comment, i will add that Israel’s democracy is far from perfect (are democracies ever?), but it is definitely a Democracy. Is it really surprised that congressman are outraged by words of their fellow congressman who speak, in their view, in favor of terrorists that fight against the state they are representing?
The proof of the Democracy’s strength is in the fact that regardless of all the talk and threats, the arabic congressmen that were mentioned still serve in their full capacity as congressmen. In some cases, this even takes place in situations where their actions justified (in my opinion) in their removal from office had their democratic role not been as important as it is
Hey, I’m glad I can help to illuminate the situation. This particular issue hit me pretty hard as I immediately saw it for what it truly was: an attempt to co-opt progressive liberalism to further a dangerous agenda. What concerned me the most was that this had two very dangerous potential outcomes:
1. A divide among the left, which weakens out progress; and
2. An attempt to further a political agenda at the expense of a population of foreign people that are already vulnerable to our expansive military machine, and potentially at the expense of the safety of the minority Muslim population in the Western world.
It is important that we continue to criticize bad ideas (including Islam and Zionism) but it should never be done in a manner to alienate humans from each other or at the risk of their safety. Let’s help the Muslim world depart from fundamentalism through education and dialogue, and not through violence. As for Israel, I hope that we can guide the people of Israel towards the same path the South Africans walked. The security of the Jewish people rests in their ability to live in peace with their neighbors, and not by how many guns they have pointed at them.
Re: your second paragraph. I see this as even more intellectual dishonesty from Harris. First of all, let’s be clear on something, the Palestinians did not have a religious-fundamentalism problem until the past 2 decades, and even then this is a direct result of the occupation, and not the unaffected choice of the Palestinian people. Throughout the 50’s 60’s 70’s 80’s and some of the 90’s the Palestinians were largely secular. Women did (and largely still do) play a large role in their politics, and even walked around in miniskirts in the metropolitan areas. You can search for pictures of Ramallah during the 1960’s as proof of this. The Palestinian militant movements to combat the occupation were more fueled by an alliance with the soviet block, and hence religion did not play a decisive role. The reliance on religion did no start taking hold until it became a regional problem and groups like the PLO now had to compete with Hamas for representative authority over their peoples’ struggle. Israel had a direct and indirect role in this as they even went as far as directly financing and arming Hamas when it was a fledgling Islamic militant group so that they could divide the Palestinians. I am not making this shit up you can research it, and it was even reported in the Israeli paper “Haaretz”. Israel helped to bring Hamas to power so that they could weaken the PLO, and now they have a packaged and ready boogeyman to sell to the media when they want to justify their aggression and land theft.
If left alone the Palestinians (and possibly the larger Arab world) would not have a the political Islamic structure we see today. Political Islam is a reaction to colonization and the failure of the secular pan-Arab movement. That being said, I think the ME would be in much better shape had Israel not been created because Israel does nothing to export democracy in the region and in fact is a primary source of instability in the region. Their aggression has been used my Islamic extremists to bolster their movements. In fact, Israel is not really a democracy as much as it is an ethnocracy. The state was created with one people in mind and the minority Arabs are regularly mistreated. In fact, when the few Arab MPs in the Knesset speak up against the occupation and mistreatment of Israeli Palestinians they are frequently “dismissed” from their representative capacity. Some democracy. Israeli is such a democracy that they frequently discuss expelling their Arab citizens as a solution to their demographics problem. Their system of government is largely misrepresented in our media. All of this being said, Harris is purposefully misleading in his assertions about what a Palestinian society would look like today absent the creation of Israel.
Still, 2 wrongs don’t make a right and the BS solution contemplated by Harris of returning Israel to the Palestinians is absurd and does nothing to secure the safety of the Jewish Israelis who were reside there with no malice. Israel does not need to be “returned” to the Palestinians. Israel/Palestine must take the path of South Africa, and become one true representative democracy, by which all inhabitants, regardless of orientation, are free to live.
Sam then seems to argue that returning Israel to the Palestinians would only ensure that there is one less, relatively “free” democracy in the world, and one more 7th century, Islamic theocracy where there is no freedom of religion, and women especially have no rights. I can see his point here. Though, I also think that this is not enough to justify displacing millions of Palestinians and guaranteeing centuries of wars and conflicts. Even if, by western standards, Israel is the “better” and “freer” country, creating it in the first place can be seen as an act of aggression against the Palestinians. And in the decades since Israel was created, there has been no peace and Israel has committed some very heinous acts of aggression. The answer can NOT be to just let this keep going as it has been. I don’t want to see a theocratic Palestinian state, but it’s not for me to decide. And I don’t think it was for the Zionists to decide either.
You can conduct your own research on anything that I offered in my last post. During one of his RealTime shows Maher had some Israeli official on as the special guest during a time period where Israel was beating up on the Palestinians. As usual (as of late) Israel was getting a lot of bad press and Maher wanted to give him an opportunity to say his word. During the interview Maher requested of this official to be granted some type of spokesman role for the state of Israel. Maher is nothing more than a product of his upbringing. He is half catholic and half Jewish. His father was upset with the Catholic church for obvious reasons, and that impacted Maher’s outlook on Christianity and especially the Catholic church. At the same time, Maher has spoken about the impact of the Holocaust on his mother and their support for the Jewish state. Maher doesn’t see Zionism as a form of religious extremism, he sees it as a necessary movement to save the Jewish people. What he conveniently and purposefully downplays is the impact Zionism has had on the indigenous population.
Both Maher and Harris have constantly pushed the idea that the use of violent force against Muslims at large is acceptable, even if there is significant “collateral damage” because in essence, most Muslims believe terrible things and even though they may not pick up a gun they are contributors to fundamentalism. This is bigotry and bullshit. They have a clear agenda and I am glad there are a number of people calling them out. Don’t take my word for it. Watch his movie Religulous and look at the criticism he gives to each faith. Read what Maher and Harris have repeatedly said about the use of violent force in that area. During the last Gaza offensive they were running around legitimizing the massacre of children.
It’s time we stop assuming all atheists are pure liberals. Not believing in God doesn’t mean that the person has everything else right. In fact, most prominent Atheists are fucking terrible misogynists.
If that is the case, then you’re right that they demonstrate the ultimate level of hypocrisy by being critical of Islam for its violence but giving Israel a pass. There’s really nothing I cannot stand more than that kind of hypocrisy. So thank you for enlightening me to that.
In any case, based on just the clip of Bill Maher’s program at the beginning of this show, I did not get any of that. I have seen the clip in its entirety, but it’s been awhile so it’s not fresh on my mind. But in the portion of the clip played here, Sam Harris doesn’t say anything offensive, IMO. He basically says just what I quoted him saying in my previous comment. Bill Maher does hint that he believes all or most of the followers of Islam are violent, but you don’t hear that coming from Sam that I can tell.
I completely agree with your sentiment here:
If Maher and Harris were to hold true to their own formula for judging extremism among religious populations, then they would criticize Zionism in the following manner: “Zionists are religious extremists who believe that a wizard in the sky granted them a land called Israel, and based on this they use their advanced military to ethnically cleanse the indigenous population. What’s worse is that they have material support from Christian religious extremists here in the US, who believe that the Jewish people must return to and re-establish Israel in order for Jesus to return”.
It makes NO sense to me how anyone who is (or claims to be) atheist can also be a Zionist. Why in the world would what land Jews reside on matter at ALL to an atheist? This just doesn’t compute—unless they still hold onto some secret, deep seated religious belief that they aren’t honest with the world about.
If most Mormons were polled, they will tell you they believe in polygamy because that is what their scripture preaches. Same thing of Muslims. Now how prevalent is polygamy in their communities? It’s almost non-existent. The reason for this is because they are normal human beings and they live their lives accordingly. Of course they’re going to say they believe in what their holy scripture tells them, because if they didn’t they wouldn’t consider themselves part of the faith. If given the opportunity most people of all faiths wouldn’t carry through on the fundamentals of their religion that they believe in. If that were the case then according to Harris and Maher you would have hundreds of millions of people engaging in or supporting some pretty terrible shit. It is only the extremists of faiths that actually behead people, or take multiple wives, etc.
Harris and Maher are not dumb people. They know exactly what they are doing when they slander 1.6 billion people and normalize violent actions against civilian populations as acceptable behavior on our part. These guys are and always have been hardcore Zionists who have always defended the massacre of Palestinian civilians as an acceptable action. This is what they are doing here. They see a group of “others” that they view as enemies of their ideology, and therefore they are attempting to dehumanize them for the purpose of desensitizing the American public to their massacre. If Maher and Harris were to hold true to their own formula for judging extremism among religious populations, then they would criticize Zionism in the following manner: “Zionists are religious extremists who believe that a wizard in the sky granted them a land called Israel, and based on this they use their advanced military to ethnically cleanse the indigenous population. What’s worse is that they have material support from Christian religious extremists here in the US, who believe that the Jewish people must return to and re-establish Israel in order for Jesus to return”.
Same exact formula. You take a common belief among a religious group, tie it to a violent and reprehensible action performed in the name of that ideology, and you criticize the entire group of people as extremists. But they don’t do this…why? Because they are partially ethnically Jewish, were raised with the ideology and think IT IS NORMAL AND ACCEPTABLE! Look at Maher’s Religulous movie in which he criticizes the violence of Christianity and Islam, yet when standing with a settler looking over the Dome of the Rock, he agrees with the Settler that these savage Muslims took what is rightfully their religious land. What kind of atheist does that? The reality is that all of these religious groups who (including the Jewish example I provided) all behave because of geo-political agendas, and not because of the underlying ideology. These guys are intellectual frauds and are morally corrupt. Harris needs to stop bitching about the label that he has earned for himself. A maniacal bigot who justifies the slaughter of people. Just because he claims to be an atheist and believes in some progressive liberal ideas doesn’t mean that he cannot be composed of the same bigotry that creates terrible policy.
The entire point of Sam Harris bringing up the “criticizing Islam” topic was to point out the hypocrisy of Liberals who are perfectly fine with criticizing Christianity, but when it comes to criticizing Islam they will avoid it at all costs because they fear being labeled as a bigot! To the average Liberal, it’s acceptable to criticize Christianity, and to some degree even Judaism (or at least Israel), but if you dare criticize Islam then you’re no different from some Bill O’Reilly conservative bigot who doesn’t understand how to separate a religious doctrine from its individual followers. Sam Harris even says specifically, “we have been sold this meme of Islamophobia where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with criticizing Muslims as people.” So his stated intention from the outset is to criticize the doctrine of Islam, but NOT to criticize all individual Muslims. Just like he would likely be critical of the Christian doctrine, with NO objection from Liberals, and without anyone calling him a bigot or assuming that he’s saying “all proponents of Christianity are bad people because they follow a bad religion” or some other such nonsense.
So, Sam Harris opens with that point and then goes on to make his criticisms of the Islamic religion, despite his stated concerns of being misunderstood and labeled a bigot by other Liberals. And what do you go and do? You play a bunch of clips of people calling him a bigot for criticizing Islam! It’s freaking ludicrous! Sam Harris was NOT saying that Christianity is somehow “better” or less insane than Islam. They’re ALL god damn insane religions. But you just made his point for him! Liberals will criticize Christianity all day, but they won’t say one negative thing about Islam because they are afraid of other Liberals, like you, calling them bigots. And that’s exactly what you just did. Nice job proving Sam Harris right.
Now, Bill Maher may have taken it a little far with some of his comments. Fine. But Bill Maher also says things intentionally to be provocative and offensive. That’s the entire point of his show! Regardless, Sam Harris’s original point rings true more than ever after hearing the show today.
Our world would be better off without Islam. Fact. Our world would be better off without Christianity, Judaism, or any other religion. FACT! Especially those that inspire violence among their most fundamentalist adherents.
//Islam is the fastest growing religion in Europe. The demographic trends are ominous: Given current birthrates, France could be a majority Muslim country in 25 years, and that is if immigration were to stop tomorrow. //
This is the kind of racist stuff that you would hear from Fox News. Only a little bit of research is needed to rubbish such a claim. For instance take this research done by Pew Research Center 2 in 2010. It shows that Muslim population in France is only expected to grow to 10.3% by 2030 even after immigration is accounted for. Of course this study was done in 2010. But I suspect things in France did not change significantly enough from 2006 to 2010 to push that 10.3% figure to 50%. If Sam had done his research in 2006 he would have figured out that France could not possibly turn into a Muslim country. But then he would have to act all non-racist and all. How boring that would be?