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Fri Oct 10, 2014, 08:06 PM

What Ben Affleck missed in the Islamophobia debate

http://ffrf.org/news/blog/item/21513-what-ben-affleck-missed-in-the-islamophobia-debate-with-bill-maher-and-sam-harris

The missing piece of this puzzle is a basic assumption about religion Ben et. al. are mistakenly making. Their analogy of religion to race fails. Religion is not like race. Religion is an idea—a faith-based idea lacking any evidence—or a set of ideas to which one willingly adheres. Race can't be changed; religion can. All you have to do is change your mind. Think for yourself and you can be free from religion.

.....

Ideas dictate behavior, skin color does not. And religion is a set of common ideas to which one willingly subscribes. The caveat to this, and perhaps the hang up for Affleck, was noted by Maher and has been noted by Harris many times in the past. Religion is often an accident of birth and, in the case of Islam, leaving that religion can be lethal. Maher correctly observed that some Muslims are afraid to leave their religion and are even "afraid to speak out because [Islam]'s the only religion that acts like the mafia, that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book." This spiritual blackmail is disgusting, but it belies the simplicity of treating religion only as a set of ideas. In other words, leaving Islam and saying that you are no longer a Muslim—that you no longer adhere to that set of ideas—is not easy for that religion. However, this caveat is not enough to substantiate Affleck, Kristal, and Steele's claims of bigotry against Maher and Harris.

Affleck himself admitted that we must criticize bad ideas, "of course we do!" Harris and Maher see Islam, as Harris put it, as "the mother lode of bad ideas" and criticize those ideas. But Affleck sees Harris and Maher as attacking Muslims. Harris and Maher are attacking Islam, the set of ideas which Muslims self-identify as subscribing to. Without doubt, there are internecine conflicts within Islam—arguments about which is the true Islam. But both sides recognized this. Harris laid out concentric circles of people who consider themselves Muslims with the ISIS–like extremists at the middle. And Kristal and Steele noted people and friends they know who are in Harris's outer circles. But again, Kristal and Steele's anecdotal evidence does not invalidate Maher and Harris's criticism of ideas: such as the idea that apostasy should be a capital crime. An idea that more than 3/4 of Egyptian Muslims agree with (that statistic actually embodies the differences among Muslims and the anecdotes raised).

Of course Islamophobia exists. A self-appointed vigilante killing a Sikh after mistaking him for a Muslim—he wanted to go out and "shoot some towelheads"—is an example of that fear running wild after 9/11. But criticizing the religion itself, pointing out its barbaric tenets, and explaining the penalties for apostasy are not examples of Islamophobia. What Maher and Harris were saying was not Islamophobic, they were simply speaking critical truths about a set of cruel, misogynistic ideas.


- See more at: http://ffrf.org/news/blog/item/21513-what-ben-affleck-missed-in-the-islamophobia-debate-with-bill-maher-and-sam-harris#sthash.53QeJT85.KylQ0Dvb.dpuf

I agree with Andrew.

15 replies, 3083 views

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Response to PeaceNikki (Original post)

Fri Oct 10, 2014, 08:08 PM

1. Kicking to read later, but the exceprt seemed rational and reasonable.

 

And I agree

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Response to PeaceNikki (Original post)

Fri Oct 10, 2014, 08:15 PM

2. Most people are nice and don't want the "bad bits" of their residence's prevailing

religion to legally adversely affect anyone else. But most people don't have the final say over whether other people are legally adversely affected or not. The people in charge make those decisions, and some countries are theocracies. So those "bad bits" of religion can affect other people adversely under the law, even though it's not the will of the majority.

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Response to valerief (Reply #2)

Fri Oct 10, 2014, 08:21 PM

3. Exactly. Plenty of strong liberals are not afraid of criticizing the religious right for injecting

themselves in American politics. I am one of them. And I will criticize Islam as well. Just because the Christian right criticizes them doesn't mean we shouldn't. They're all barbaric, misogynist assholes who need to stop pushing their agenda on the rest of us.

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Response to valerief (Reply #2)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 08:58 AM

10. I think "not the will of the majority" is wishful thinking in many cases.

 

The countries that have adopted sharia law for example, many do not seem to have done so in violation of the will of the majority.

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Response to Warren Stupidity (Reply #10)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 11:41 AM

12. I just find it ridiculous when DUers accuse those critical of Islam of spreading RW rhetoric.

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend" is a ridiculous simplistic notion. And wrong.

As a strong supporter of women and a secular society, Republicans are my adversaries. Organized religion is as well. Islam is generally an extreme example of misogyny, hate and violence - and injecting these horrible beliefs into governments and law. And I, for one, won't hold back on criticizing it just because the RW does.

We think it's hypocritical when the Christian RW wants to exclude Islam while pushing their agendas (and it is!), but I ALSO think it's hypocritical to defend Islam or pretend their harmful beliefs do not exist and I won't. I am well known on DU for my criticism of Pope Francis and the RCC and any other religious person or belief that is discriminatory or otherwise harmful to a secular society. I don't like any of it.

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Response to PeaceNikki (Reply #12)

Sun Feb 15, 2015, 08:36 PM

14. Yo, some dude thinks you're a bigot for arguing against misogyny, hate, and violence

http://www.democraticunderground.com/?com=view_post&forum=1230&pid=35934

I'm not sure WTF has happened to DU, but apparently it's not okay to criticize misogyny, hate, or violence if it relates to religion.

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Response to PeaceNikki (Original post)

Fri Oct 10, 2014, 09:19 PM

4. Thanks! He missed this too...

Affleck to Harris, when the ruckus started: "Are you the person who understands the officially codified doctrine of Islam?"

Well, gee, Ben...exactly which one? For an "officially codified doctrine of Islam," today you can pick from:

A. Approximately 32 different theological schools of Sunni Islam.

B. Three major schools of Sh'ia Islam (Twelvers, Seveners and Fivers, depending on the number of Imams officially recognized since Mohammed).

C. Various smaller Islamic theologies, like the Alawites in Syria/Lebanon and the Sufi mystics.

All that argument, when everybody agrees that Islam only has two authoritative sources: the Koran and the hadiths.

Except the hadiths are a giant puzzlebox themselves. By the Ninth Century, the Muslims had a problem similar to that faced earlier by the Xians - a huge number of hadiths had been collected and many directly contradicted each other, just like the Xian Bible. Some hadiths had clearly been inserted for political and other non-religious reasons. So the hadiths had to be purged, though there is still considerable debate over which are "real."

I'm yammering too much as usual. Just wanted to point out that Affleck seems to think Islam has a Pope-like person who codifies the doctrine and lays it down for the faithful. Not so.


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Response to onager (Reply #4)

Fri Oct 10, 2014, 10:01 PM

5. No you made a good point.

Affleck was up for a fight that the reasoning flew out the window. I watched it live and I went back and watched the Harris segment again, and it was like someone gunning for a fight. The special privilege he gives for his argument is incoherent.

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Response to onager (Reply #4)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 06:56 AM

7. Pretty sure that was his point

 

That there is no "codified doctrine of Islam" - therefore, how can Harris be speaking authoritatively about what Muslims believe when there is so much variance among them.

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Response to oberliner (Reply #7)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 04:45 PM

13. Fair enough, I could have misread that.

I'll admit to usually taking the most uncharitable reading whenever a Hollywood person talks outside their area of expertise. See also "Jenny McCarthy."

Besides, I should really be grateful to Affleck for all the lulz during his Jennifer Slopez era.

Especially the movie "Gigli." Frequently voted "Worst Movie Not Made By The Junior A/V Club At The Phil Robertson College of Duck Calls, Theology & Media."

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Response to PeaceNikki (Original post)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 01:52 AM

6. I read posts here on DU that also conflate the issue.

Nice thread. Thanks!

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Response to PeaceNikki (Original post)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 06:58 AM

8. Race to religion is tricky in the ethnic religions of Judaism and Hinduism

One is born a Jew or a Hindu and there is an ethnicity attached to it. One confesses Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism, i.e. anyone can join. I can see difficulty separating religion with race or ethnicity in the former group. And if you are a Jew (I'm guessing affleck is (?)), it may be hard to separate the religion from the ethnicity, even for confessed religions.

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Response to elias7 (Reply #8)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 07:41 AM

9. Ben was raised mostly Episcopalian. Irish/Scottish/English ancestry

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Response to elias7 (Reply #8)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 09:01 AM

11. It is not all that tricky. Religion is taught, ethnicity isn't.

 

Religion is an ideology. Excusing it by fact of birth is as wrong as excusing racism because one was raised by racists.

Affleck is not jewish.

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Response to PeaceNikki (Original post)

Mon Feb 16, 2015, 10:57 AM

15. I am curious to know whether Affleck would have said the same things to an ex-Muslim.

Here, ex-Catholics like myself are "anti-Catholic bigots" for criticizing the religion in which we were raised.

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