It’s remarkable that Don Lemon is pursuing this question, which is generally taboo in the mainstream media. He discussed it a few days ago; this is a follow-up. But notice that just as CNN featured two Jew-haters, Reza Aslan and Peter Beinart, to debate about Israel and Hamas, so also here both Aslan and Muslim Brotherhood-linked Congressman Keith Ellison are both on the same side of the question.
CNN, of course, would rather be thrown into a pit of ravenous wolves than bring on anyone who would dare argue that there is something uniquely violent about Islamic teachings as compared to those of other religions. The intent of this segment seems to be to demolish Bill Maher’s suggestion that all religions are not the same in their capacity to incite their adherents to violence, as Reza Aslan argues exactly that: “If you’re a violent, war-mongering person, you can find justification in any scripture. If you’re a peaceful, pluralistic person, you can find justification for your views in the exact same scriptures.”
Aslan is a Board member of a lobbying group for the bloody Iranian mullahs, and so it is understandable that he would want to wave away the violence committed in accord with directives of the Qur’an and Sunnah, and he is also not very bright, but this is a silly statement even for him. He is essentially saying that words have no meaning, that the various scriptures of various religions have no essential content or character, that the religions themselves are meaningless and interchangeable, and that people are never inspired to change their behavior by the teachings of a religion, which anyway don’t exist since religions are wholly and solely what people decide they will be. Can a religion’s teachings transform a believer into a violent, war-mongering person, or a peaceful, pluralistic person? For Aslan, the answer is no: religions are just putty, to be formed by those who believe in them into any shape they like. So tomorrow Muslims could begin to declare that there are five gods, despite the Qur’an’s fierce monotheism, and Christians could begin murdering people while screaming, “Jesus is Lord!”
If you believe that, you probably also believe Reza Aslan is a deep thinker.
Also, there have been 23,795 jihad terror attacks justified by Islamic texts and teachings since 9/11. They were perpetrated by an awful lot of violent, war-mongering people who found justification for their actions in the Qur’an and Sunnah. How many Christians have committed acts of terror since 9/11, and justified them by reference to their scripture? None. Zero.
People like Aslan generally have to go back before 9/11 and invoke the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, Tim McVeigh, and abortion clinic murders to try to establish that Christianity is as capable of inciting violence as Islam. The scale, however, is still way off (as it is when one considers Hindus and Buddhists who have justified violence by reference to their religions), and what’s more, no Christian sect teaches that one should blow up government buildings or murder abortionists, etc., while all the mainstream sects of Islam and schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach that the Muslim community must wage war against and subjugate unbelievers.
Aslan then introduces a complete red herring: “The problem, however, is when we take the actions of an infinitesimal group and make it, somehow, predictive of the actions of everyone else – 1.6 billion Muslims, in this case. That’s when the argument becomes completely strained and unbelievable.” In the first place, this group is not infinitesimal. The Islamic State governs much of Iraq and Syria. Then there is al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hamas, Hizballah, and so many others. But in any case, no one is arguing that the actions of Islamic jihadusts are predictive of the actions of any other Muslims. That is not at issue in the question of whether Islam teaches violence. If it does, that still doesn’t mean that every Muslim is going to be violent. But by raising and dismissing this straw man, Aslan has implied that to say Islam is violent is to say that every last Muslim is violent — an absurdity designed to divert people away from an honest assessment of the texts and teachings of Islam.
Ellison then further muddies the waters by pointing out that atheists like Stalin have committed a lot of violence as well. This is based on a false premise — no one is saying that only Muslims commit violence. The question is whether Islam incites some of its adherents to commit acts of violence. The answer is obviously yes, but here Aslan and Ellison did their best to obfuscate that fact.
“CNN’s Lemon Uses Bill Maher Tweet To Revisit ‘Islam is A Violent Religion’ Debate,” by Matthew Balan, Newsbusters, September 9, 2014:
Don Lemon returned to the question of whether Islam is an inherently violent religion on Monday’s CNN Tonight, as he interviewed Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison and author Reza Aslan. Lemon turned to his two Muslim guests for their take on a recent Tweet by atheist HBO host Bill Maher: “ISIS, one of thousands of Islamic militant groups beheads another. But by all means let’s keep pretending all religions are alike.”
Aslan contended that “Islam isn’t a violent religion or a peaceful religion. It’s just a religion, and like all religions, it is absolutely dependent on the interpretation of whomever follows it.” This answer actually surprised the anchor, who cited an oft-used talking point by apologists for Islam. The University of California-Riverside professor continued with a relativistic argument about religion in general:…
DON LEMON: But I think it’s interesting that you say it’s not a peaceful religion, because most Muslims will say that Islam is a peaceful religion.
REZA ASLAN, PROFESSOR, UC RIVERSIDE: ASLAN: I completely understand why most people of faith – regardless of the faith – think that the radicals and extremists within their faith are not really Jews; are not really Christians; are not really Muslims. But the fact of the matter is – is a Muslim is whoever says he’s a Muslim. A Jew is whoever says he’s a Jew.
The problem, however, is when we take the actions of an infinitesimal group and make it, somehow, predictive of the actions of everyone else – 1.6 billion Muslims, in this case. That’s when the argument becomes completely strained and unbelievable.
But the fact of the matter is, if you’re a violent, war-mongering person, you can find justification in any scripture. If you’re a peaceful, pluralistic person, you can find justification for your views in the exact same scriptures.
Representative Ellison then replied to Maher’s Tweet by bringing in the history of non-religious ideologies – specifically, atheism/communism:
LEMON: Congressman, what do you – what do you make of what Bill Maher Tweeted?
REP. KEITH ELLISON, (D), MINNESOTA: Well, you know, I think that it’s not just religion. It goes beyond that. I mean, look, Stalin was atheist, and he found a way to kill people to advance his ideology – Pol Pot, the same way. The fact is, whenever you have an ideology – whether it’s secular or religious – and you’re willing to kill and murder other people to impose it on them, you’re dangerous, and you’re a problem.
And so, I think that – you know – you know, I think Bill Maher, certainly, is an entertaining guy, and I think he brings a lot to the public debate. But there’s no doubt that he – you know, that he has a certain perspective on religion. I just think that it’s broader than religion. I think it has to do with ideology, and those who are willing to kill to impose it on other people.
Lemon, along with his guests, spent the remainder of the segment on the responsibility of “moderate Muslims” to help combat ISIS and radical Islam in general:
LEMON: Is the burden on other Muslim nations, you think, and moderate Muslims to reject ISIS, and to join the fight against ISIS? Is that what’s happening?
ASLAN: Well, first of all, the voice of rejection from organizations and individuals across the Muslim world is absolutely deafening. If anybody thinks that Muslims are not denouncing ISIS, do a Google search and that shall answer your question.
The larger point, however, is nation-states. Muslim-majority nation-states – like Turkey, like Qatar, like Kuwait, who – and Saudi Arabia – who, for reasons of their own national security interests, have not done enough to combat extremist groups, like ISIS, because they feel, in one way or another, that these groups promote their interests in some way. That’s got to change. That’s not a religious thing. It’s just what nation-states do.
LEMON: Yes, but how do you do that? How do you do that? That’s-
ASLAN: Well, to remind them that these groups are as dangerous to them as to anyone else-
ASLAN: Yes, Congressman.
ELLISON: I was going to say, let’s not forget that this ISIS, sort of, emerges out of Syria – which is a failed state – and there is this – this proxy war going on between different sects of Islam there, and that – we’ve got to address the problem in Syria sooner or later. We’ve got to come, as an international community, to try to bring a cessation of violence there, because that’s one of the problems with these failed states. Whether it’s Syria, Somalia, or anywhere, it allows real bad things to germinate. And that political crisis has got to be solved in order to squeeze on ISIS as well.
I think some of those states thought their interests might be vindicated by supporting certain elements. Now, it’s clear that that is a Frankenstein monster.