The Education of Pamela Geller

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Alex Knapp flags this paragraph from a New York Times profile of Muslim-baiting blogger Pamela Geller.

She spent the next year educating herself about Islam, reading Bat Ye’or, a French writer who focuses on tensions over Muslim immigrants in Europe; Ibn Warraq, the pseudonym for a Pakistani who writes about his rejection of Islam; and Daniel Pipes, whom she ultimately rejected because he believes in the existence of a moderate Islam.

Knapp responds:

This is grotesque to me. It’s like saying that that someone spent a year educating themselves about Christianity, reading Chrisopher Hitchens, an English writer who wrote articles focusing on the “crimes against humanity” of Mother Teresa, Friedrich Nietzsche, a former seminary student who wrote at length about his rejection of Christianity, and Sam Harris, whom they ultimately rejected because he believes in the existence of moderate Christianity.

If you put that in a profile of an anti-Christian blogger, you would know immediately that they’re a fraud and simply not worth listening to.

If you want to listen the fruits of Geller’s self-education, check out her interview with 60 Minutes from a few weeks ago. Note, though, that after the interview, Geller helpfully provided some important context in which to watch the segment: 60 Minutes “is part of the Islamic supremacist agenda.”

My all-time favorite Geller moment is still the time she published proof that Barack Obama is the illegetimate love child of Malcolm X. (She now disclaims the theory, but says she published it because “the writer did a spectacular job documenting Obama’s many connections with the Far Left.”)

Geller would be easy to dismiss and not take seriously . . . if it weren’t for the fact that a distubring and growing number of people take her seriously.

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48 Responses to “The Education of Pamela Geller”

  1. #1 |  André | 

    I don’t think Islam is really any more evil than all other mainstream organized religions. It scripturally encourages things that would now be considered illiberal and sexist just as much as the bible. I can’t claim to be an expert on Hinduism, but the mistreatment of the untouchable caste seems to be thoroughly at odds with a liberal (as in free) democracy. I don’t see why Pamela Geller reserves her hatred for one religion and not all of them.

    Also, why hasn’t our drug war been waged against the opiate of the masses yet?

  2. #2 |  Marty | 

    the whole time I’m reading the article and watching the interview I was struck by what a toxic person she is… she has truly poisoned the well in this debate.

  3. #3 |  Cynical in CA | 

    The sooner everyone realizes the fraud that is religion, the better.

  4. #4 |  Chris | 

    Doesn’t change the fact that moderate islam doesn’t exist.

  5. #5 |  Chris | 

    Andre, Cynical
    Show me a Christian in the US or Europe who forced a woman to wear a burka, or shot someone in a state sanctioned execution in a football stadium or blew up a Buddhist statue.

  6. #6 |  random guy | 

    I don’t have an opinion on Geller, having not read or heard from her. But Knapps response isn’t really that substantive. Its a bit of a courtiers reply.

    One doesn’t have to read “the Bible and important Christian writers such as Tertullian, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Simone Weil, Paul Tillich, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards” to voice an opinion on Christianity any more than someone needs to read “the Qu’ran and Hadith, and the great Muslim relgious writers such as al-Shaf’fi, Abu Hamid al-Ghazzali, Averroes, Ibn Sina, al-Ghazzali, Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, Syed Ameer Ali, Fazlur Rahman Malik” to voice an opinion on Islam.

    I doubt Knapp has read all of the above but that doesn’t stop him from voicing his own opinions. So why does Geller have to read the above to gain credibility? Would it really make her opinions any less crazy, does Knapp really think any amount of literature would influence her opinion?

    I don’t really get the slam against Hitchens or Harris, I mean even if you disagree with them they have both done a significant degree of research on the subjects they cover. If anything they’re proof that being well-read doesn’t necessitate agreement and that a list of books and authors does nothing to support your argument for or against the subject under discussion.

    Knapp should criticize Geller’s arguments or factual inaccuracies, but simply saying her opinion is invalid because she hasn’t met his required reading list does nothing to rebuff Geller. Then again I haven’t read most of that stuff either so I guess Knapp doesn’t have to listen to me.

  7. #7 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “Show me a Christian in the US or Europe who forced a woman to wear a burka, or shot someone in a state sanctioned execution in a football stadium or blew up a Buddhist statue.”

    None of that is relevant. All religion is fraudulent and your points don’t change that fact, but if it makes you feel better, here goes:

    “Show me a Christian in the US or Europe who forced a woman to wear a burka.”

    Is Mormon policy (or if you prefer, whatever those radical “Mormon” sects are) toward women more favorable than forced burka-wearing? In whose opinion? Do you have a margin of tolerance to persecution of women by Christians? How about the Catholic Church and its prohibition on women priests, birth control, abortion? Or is it just about the clothes for you?

    “Show me a Christian who shot someone in a state sanctioned execution in a football stadium.”

    Again, is it the method and venue that matter to you? I’m sure most State agents who carry out State-sanctioned executions are at least nominal Christians, and most of those put to death are counseled by some cleric of some form of Christianity. Are you suggesting that there’s a difference between Muslim executions and Christian executions? Is it the explicit theocracy that bothers you? When the USG is more powerful than “God?”

    “Show me a Christian who blew up a Buddhist statue.”

    OK, you got me there. +1 for Taliban creativity. They have definitely cornered the market for wanton destruction of Buddhist statues. Although, one could argue that the USG’s trampling and utter destruction of Native American property and burial grounds is a strong equivalent. Again, those were Christians fulfilling a religious mandate of manifest destiny, kind of Talibanesque before there even was a Taliban, dontchathink? Might say that the Taliban learned a thing or two from USG, eh?

    Sorry, Chris. There are no good guys when it comes to politics or religion.

  8. #8 |  Homeboy | 

    “If you put that in a profile of an anti-Christian blogger, you would know immediately that they’re a fraud and simply not worth listening to.”

    Actually, that would merely signal to me that the blogger is probably not a dutiful apologist and esteems basic processes of analytical reasoning.

  9. #9 |  Jeff | 

    Show me a Christian in the US or Europe who forced a woman to wear a burka, or shot someone in a state sanctioned execution in a football stadium or blew up a Buddhist statue.

    When you have to resort to super-specific parameters, you’ve lost. Somehow it has to be burka and executions, it can’t be Federal Buildings and abortion clinics? Hell if you wanted equal comparisons, you’d look at Christians in third world countries, e.g. African nations who kill child witches, homosexuals, slag condoms while AIDS spreads. Not to mention the US Christian groups that silently send speakers or donations to African groups that do these kinds of things.

  10. #10 |  jddrew | 

    The Godwin argument is tempting here, but I will stay away.

    “Show me a Christian in the US or Europe who […] shot someone in a state sanctioned execution”

    The sanction was not explicit, and the scale was not so large, but good Christians shot and hung other Christians in the South not very many years ago for no other crime than having the wrong color skin. The sanction of these killings is implicit in that these crimes were not tried at all or that the killers were set free by their peers.

    Christians are assholes, too.

  11. #11 |  BamBam | 

    Related to Cynical’s post: political parties and the Constitution are … just read the article because the author makes very clear and simple points.
    http://www.larkenrose.com/blogs/tmds-blog.html?start=10

  12. #12 |  Liquidflorian | 

    The Malcolm X love child thing is my favorite conspiracy ever! If any of the weird stuff they say about Obama was true I would hope that would be it.

  13. #13 |  Bill | 

    #6, I don’t think that Radley is saying he has anything against Hitchens or Harris; I think the point is that it’s disingenuous to say that you’ve studied a belief system when your “studying” consists solely of listening to what the critics of that system have to say. It’s like learning about “Progressives” by reading Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter, or about 9/11 by watching nothing but “Fahrenheit 911″ and “Loose Change”.

    It’s good to listen to dissenting voices, but if you really want to learn about something, you have to go to the source material as well.

  14. #14 |  Mike T | 

    I don’t really get the slam against Hitchens or Harris, I mean even if you disagree with them they have both done a significant degree of research on the subjects they cover. If anything they’re proof that being well-read doesn’t necessitate agreement and that a list of books and authors does nothing to support your argument for or against the subject under discussion.

    Uberlibertarian and Christian Vox Day wrote a book that addresses many of their arguments. It’s called “The Irrational Atheist.” It’s free for download at his site, last I checked.

    The book shreds their positions, especially the ones about religion, violence and war. If anything, it shows how unbelievably ignorant Harris and Hitchens are about world history, human behavior and a number of other subjects.

  15. #15 |  Marty | 

    #9 well done, Jeff. I was gonna point out the whole Mussolini/Pope thing… or, the southern baptist-catholic/slavery thing. or, mormons not allowing blacks to become priests until the 1970s. But this is all in the distant past, so it’s not relevant. Your post is much better.

    Islam has no monopoly on barbarism. I suggest everyone read Luis Granados’ blog, God Experts- a new one comes out every Sunday.

    http://www.luisgranados.com/blog/

    I know a lot of great people who are very spiritual and religious. Their faiths help them make sense of the world, so it’s a good thing for them. I know a lot of people who are very patriotic and are very good citizens. While I respect these people, I still have very little respect for the institutions of religion and government.

  16. #16 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    There was a time when cognitive bias was a negative…at least I think there was a time like that.

  17. #17 |  Over the River | 

    Regardless of the target of her efforts; she’s crazy.

  18. #18 |  Ben | 

    random guy –

    Knapp is not saying that her argument is invalid because of her book list. He is saying that her statement that she “educated herself on Islam” by reading those works gives her a woefully incomplete and skewed vision of Islam.

    He wasn’t slamming Hitchens or Harris. He was saying that if you’ve only read their works, that doesn’t make you “educated” on Christianity. To educate yourself on a subject, you should probably familiarize yourself with the primary material, or at least its well-established proponents. To only read the opponents is to just put yourself in an echo-chamber.

  19. #19 |  Mattocracy | 

    Crazy people are attracted to other crazy people. They validate each others craziness. The crazier other people sound, the more comfortable you feel to get even more crazy yourself.

    I imagine that Keith Olberman and Ann Coulter are inspired by each other. They just keep lowering the bar for each other and the cycle never ends.

  20. #20 |  Cynical in CA | 

    Thanks for the link BamBam. Larken Rose is a great writer.

  21. #21 |  Chris | 

    Thank all of you for your moral equivalency.

    We (that means you too, even as much as you hate to admit it) are in an existential war against a religion that holds as a central tenet that if they can not succeed in converting us through evangelism, they should kill you instead. Another tenet that lying (about the above tenet no doubt) to infidels to further islam is not a sin.

    So while you are all jumping up and down telling yourselves how enlightened you are for your seeing of hypocrisy in Christians and Jews, keep in mind you are doing islam’s work.

    You have more in common with them than you think.

  22. #22 |  scott in phx az | 

    Chris,

    You are almost right. But, we are not at war with Islam.

    That doesn’t mean Islam is not at war with us (that is with all non-Muslims) and has been for 1,400 hundred years now.

    That many in our society, left, right, and middle, refuse to honestly examine the issue but instead buy into the smear that anyone who criticizes Islam is doing so out of bigotry is shamefull and may be suicidal.

    What I find surprising is that so many of them seem to populate this site.

  23. #23 |  Joe | 

    But how about that boobage Radley? Credit where credit is due!

    Islam and the vast number of Muslims not at war with the west, but a small but influential element of Islam and Muslims are in fact hostile to the West. Geller may be paranoid about Islam, but that does not mean every fear she has should be ignored.

    And for an older lady she has a nice rack.

  24. #24 |  Mattocracy | 

    @ #21 | Chris |

    And you are doing the work of the warmongers who continue to send Americans off to die in wars we shouldn’t be in, and continue to run up our national debt with their costs. Before Islam ever gets close to destroying this country, the debt of the Iraq and Afghan occupations will. I think you’re a little confused who the real pawns are in all this.

    “We are in an existential war against a religion that holds as a central tenet that if they can not succeed in converting us through evangelism, they should kill you instead.”

    No, there are a handful of crazies who believe that is a central tenet of their religion. And the fact that we have troops violating the sovereignty of several mid east countries inspires people to join extremists who otherwise wouldn’t.

    So keep on telling yourself the Muslims are all coming to get us and that their religion is the problem. Cause the terrorists say the same things about America and use words like yours as proof. Saying that they are all the same cause you to lose a lot of high ground and gives them more converts than not.

  25. #25 |  PW | 

    As much as most organized religions annoy me, it is a mistake to suggest there is moral equivalence between the crimes of Islam and the crimes of the rest.

    Pretty much the entire history of that particular religion attests that Islam *is* generally more violent than the rest, *is* more warlike than the rest, *is* more antithetical to liberty in its doctrines than the rest, and *is* more resistant to modernity than the rest. And that makes it a particularly pronounced problem on the sea of problems called organized religion.

    Just look at the conflicts around the world today – the “bloody borders of Islam” are real and have been real since a power-hungry warlord named Mahomet decided he wanted to invade and conquer the neighboring warlords of the Arabian desert back in the 7th century.

    Now this is certainly no pretext to wage an aggressive counter-war on Islam as some advocate. But neither should we sympathize with what is genuinely and aggressively a backwards, liberty-hating religious strain simply because we don’t like who they are warring against.

  26. #26 |  Matt | 

    I don’t agree with the moral equivalence claims seen above – some aspects of Islam today are worse than _modern_ Christianity – but at the same time, “Islam” is clearly not a centrally controlled religion that is always interpreted in the same way. Muslims are often as much of a danger to each other than they are to us infidels (see al Qaeda in Iraq). That there are some extremely violent strains of Islam doesn’t mean all Muslims should be considered homicidal totalitarians. It seems there are between .5 and 1 million Muslims living in New York City alone; if they were all terrorists we would have much bigger problems than where to locate a mosque and community center. What is desperately needed is _rational_ argument, not the demagoguery that is so evident on all sides of the debate.

  27. #27 |  scott in phx az | 

    Matt,

    “No, there are a handful of crazies who believe that is a central tenet of their religion.”

    Sorry, you are wrong. It is a central tenet of the Muslim relgion that Islam should be spread until it conguers the world – by force if necessary (and I think that was really Mohammed’s preference as he was a bloodthirsty pedophile). All the major schools of Islam agree with that basic premise of Islam, and it is explicitly in the Koran (which, remember, is the revealed word of Allah, whose commands are to be followed explicitly without modification). Islam is all or nothing, there is no “moderate” or “radical” Islam. There may be “moderate” Muslims, but their is nothing they can point to in their faith that allows them to argue with or oppose their more “radical” brethren. The “radicals” are more true to their faith than the moderates.

    You can look it up. And it will be that way whether we are in the ME, buy oil from Saudi Arabia, or whether Isreal ceases to exist.

  28. #28 |  Paen | 

    I want to puke when I read the hate propaganda bigots spout about Islam.You can yap all you want about how evil you think Islam is but the fact is your all a bunch of blood thirsty war mongers who won’t be happy till you have cluster bombed the last muslem.

  29. #29 |  PW | 

    “some aspects of Islam today are worse than _modern_ Christianity”

    Oh, I’d even go so far as to say that it’s worse than historical Christianity as well. The Christian world has indeed had its share of aggressors and petty tyrants, but it has never had an enduring and widespread attachment to a theocratic system of law – Not in the age of “divine right” kings, where a separate legal system for the state still existed. Not even in the medieval high water mark of the pope’s political influence, where monarchs challenged the Vatican, defied the church, got themselves excommunicated, and the like on a routine basis.

    Not so with Islam. Religious law and the state are and historically always have been considered one in the same for the majority of islamic countries across the majority of their existence. While Christian countries have indeed historically witnessed specific instances of similar effects, they have seldom been as thorough and pervasive throughout society as it is in Islam, where the legal and theological systems merge together. The result is a much more vigorous tendency of islamic theology to insert itself into the daily affairs of its people.

  30. #30 |  PW | 

    ““Islam” is clearly not a centrally controlled religion that is always interpreted in the same way.”

    No, indeed it is not (although, historically, there was a centralized Caliphate that controlled most of the muslim world and most fundamentalist sects desire its restoration in some form or another).

    But radical islam is no less insidious as a decentralized movement, and I’m fairly certain you would not give a similar pass to the goofier aspects of fundamentalist Christianity on account of their similar decentralization.

    Take the Baptists for example. There is no Baptist leader, no pope who controls them all. There’s no giant authoritative governing body of all the Baptist churches, and in fact they are notoriously schismatic from each other. And yet we can probably all agree that many of the things they believe in and desire politically are pretty insidious (and even then they don’t hold a candle to the insidiousness of Islamic beliefs on the very same issues), and duly criticize Baptists as a group for holding those beliefs (i.e. generally being for the abolition of alcohol, dancing, and gay people).

    So why not with Islam? Why can’t we make the perfectly honest and factual statement that yes – indeed – the majority of Islam opposes secular society, alcohol, gay people, democratic self governance, and people who practice another religion besides their own? And why can’t we make the honest and factual statement that a frighteningly large segment of Islam strongly believes in the use of violent, coercive means to spread and enforce their religion and to wage wars upon other religions and non-religious people? Even if only 10 percent of the billion-strong muslim world are violent jihadi theocratic wackos, that’s still – do the math – 100 million wackos who think it’s perfectly okay to blow up their religious enemies, stone gay people to death in a public square, force women to wear burqas over 99% of their bodies, prosecute the victims of rape for being raped, and fly airplanes into buildings full of “infidels.”

    My point is there is NO other religion on the face of this earth that has so many adherents, and such a large percent of their population, who hold these radical, extreme, and violent beliefs. Nor is there any other religion that has held them without interruption for over a millennium and dating all the way back to the instant that religion was started at the direct hands of its founder. That fact alone conclusively attests that there is something different, something unique about Islam vis-a-vis all other religions that makes it exceptionally violent.

  31. #31 |  PW | 

    Paen –

    And I want to puke when I read the “religion of peace” propaganda people spout about Islam. You can yap all you want about how those who criticize Islam are really just warmongering “bigots” who “don’t understand” Islam or “misinterpret” its tenets, but the fact is a disturbingly large number of muslims won’t be happy until they’ve stoned all the gays, put all the women in burqas, conquered all the “infidel” religions, and established theocratic islamic governments all over the world.

    And I say that as someone who strongly opposed the wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and who thinks our best policy for the muslim world should be to get the hell out of there and leave its countries completely to their own devices save to contain them if they ever try to expand anywhere else. Just because the actual warmongering neocons want to invade and bomb them doesn’t mean they’re the “good guys.”

  32. #32 |  Brian | 

    Can those that support our occupation in Muslim countries explain why the fuck it is our concern if they want to live under sharia or not?

    Please don’t answer with the boiler plate “we may not like being the worlds police but we have to” bullshit. It’s stale and never worked in the first place. We have no responsibility to free the world. Just ask an average Iraqi or Afghani if they feel liberated. Also, please explain why we have some obligation to force our type of government on any other country?

    If you truly believe that there is some central tenet to Islam that requires them to kill the infidels I suggest you try reading this about suicide bombers.

    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/10/12/terrorism/index.html

    I know, its Glenn Greenwald so you’ll automatically dismiss him but you would do well to read it and the full report.

    You may not be bigots but you’re really gullible.

  33. #33 |  js | 

    Well ‘religion of peace’ is a oxymoron anyway. Peace will come when the human race finally grows out of the need for religion.

  34. #34 |  PW | 

    Brian – Insofar as this discussion is concerned, you are constructing a strawman as nobody here is advocating the occupation of muslim countries.

    Rather, we are criticizing the tendency of some here to uncritically defend islam out of disdain for some of the people who criticize it because they do desire such occupation.

    It is possible to recognize and accept that American intervention in the muslim world is indeed a primary instigator of islamic terrorism against the United States, yet also unequivocally state that islam is not a good thing.

    Right now Islam’s violent backwardness is directed at the US in part because we are seen as occupiers. But if you take away the occupation, Islam is STILL a backwards and violent religion and would still engage in violence against somebody else much as it has done without interruption for the past 1400 years. Ergo US policy is NOT the cause of that violence and backwardness, but rather only its present target because we’ve made the mistake of poking the beehive.

  35. #35 |  Brian | 

    PW-

    Sure some people uncritically defend Islam just as some uncritically defend any other religion. Some also libel and condemn a billion people for the actions of a relative few, not a “disturbingly large number”.

    You greatly exaggerate the inherent violence in Islam. There are over a billion Muslims in the world. Are they all killing each other? Are they all committing violent acts against each other? I don’t see a lot of violence in Quatar or Turkey or Jordan or Iraq, oh wait we fucked that one up, In fact there is little religious violence in most Muslim countries. While there are ancient tribal quarrels, most of it is political.

    US policy is indeed the cause of most of that violence (both religious and political) and if we’d leave these people to themselves it would drop. Dramatically.

  36. #36 |  PW | 

    “Some also libel and condemn a billion people for the actions of a relative few, not a “disturbingly large number”.”

    Religious attitude surveys by Pew, Gallup etc. consistently put the percentage of muslims who fall into the die hard radical jihadi category somewhere in the 10-20% range. There are 1 billion muslims in the world. Do the math and that comes out as at least 100 million. So yes, that is a disturbingly large number of people.

    “US policy is indeed the cause of most of that violence (both religious and political) and if we’d leave these people to themselves it would drop. Dramatically.”

    Utter nonsense. If we left, they’d simply revert back to what they were doing before we arrived: blowing up each other. Now I’m perfectly content to let them do that and think it is a good reason why we shouldn’t even bother with the place. But to claim that muslim violence is CAUSED by the US presence is contradicted by 1400 years of history.

  37. #37 |  PW | 

    “There are over a billion Muslims in the world. Are they all killing each other?”

    YES! Not every single one of those billion is at war with the rest, but the number who do is VASTLY disproportionate compared to any other religion in the world today. Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Ivory Coast, Cyprus, Chechnya, East Timor, Iraq, Nigeria, India/Pakistan, Israel/Palestine, Tajikistan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Bali, Philippines, the Madrid & London bombings, 9/11 etc. – what do they all have in common? At least one of the belligerents in each and every one of them is Islamic. Often more than one, fighting other muslims.

    “I don’t see a lot of violence in Quatar or Turkey or Jordan”

    Jordan does most of its violence by proxy in supporting various muslim radical sects in neighboring Palestine and Iraq. Turkey is far and away the most secularized muslim country in the world, but based on your classification of it as peaceful I gather you’ve never heard of the armed PKK conflict there with the muslim Kurdish separatists along the southern border (est. 30-40,000 casualties since 1980). And Qatar is a tiny country with a population of less than 2 million in an area the size of Jamaica.

    If that’s all you can come up with to show the “peacefulness” of the muslim world, then I submit that you have disproven the very thing you set out to demonstrate.

  38. #38 |  Flight 741 | 

    I started writing a super long comment about comparing Christianity and Islam but I think that’d just be blowhard navel gazing at this point. Instead, here’s this:

    What we let fall into the category of religious violence is usually politically motivated action and social justification (manipulation) in order to achieve unrelated goals. I don’t think for a second that blowing up the USS Cole or the Twin Towers was about the Qu’ran any more than the invasion of Iraq was about the Bible. They were actions and reactions for political reasons. Calling for cartoonists deaths is a different matter, which falls under the same category as Pat Robertson saying we should assassinate Hugo Chavez because God told him so. That’s more in line with what religious violence really is because it involves people advocating death and destruction because of their religious convictions. If I rape a 15 year old girl and happen to be a 7th Day Adventist, that doesn’t mean one led to another. If I kill a man who drew a picture of Mohammed because that goes against my beliefs, that’s another matter.
    People oppressing other people for some kind of gain are assholes. That happens. Usually there’s a justification for it, but it has a specific goal unrelated to the justification, and typically it’s about as far away from the real intent as possible, so it’s harder to percieve the manipulation at work.
    What’s my point?
    Does anyone here actually think that if religion wasn’t used as an excuse to invade a country with oil, enslave a race of fellow humans, or anything that involves a significant gain in power or affluence of a particular group of assholes over another, that it wouldn’t have happened in the first place?
    I would leave that up to a hypothetical, but I don’t have to. Both Russia and China rejected religion and instituted atheism as their primary worldview. Guess what? People are still assholes. I’m not railing on atheists in particular, just the naive idea that somehow religion is the primary cause of woes, and that abolishing it will cure anything.
    If you could go back in time to try to erase religious beliefs, Rome would still massacre Carthage because Dido’s descendants were rich. We’d still invade Iraq for oil. Whoever invented guns first would still kill and oppress everybody else.

    That said, while I would say that the majority of Muslims in the US are moderate, the extremist minority within them isn’t as small as it is within the Christian world, where abortion clinic bombers and Pat Robertson calling for a fatwa on Chavez is something hardly anyone can get behind within the Christian circles. Now I remember a few neocon Christians getting on board with him, but no one took him up on it. The majority within the Muslim population in the US is bullied by a still sizable minority, so much so that Everybody Draw Mohammed Girl has to go into hiding Rushdie style. When someone makes negative comments about Jesus, they remain relatively unmolested save for a few grumblings from the neocon corner, which is carefully to word its attacks gingerly to avoid political suicide. The unchurched here in America enjoy the same freedom of movement and economic opportunity as the churches. Comparing a country where a gay man or woman can courageously fight for equality by voting and speaking out with one which they fear physical bodily persecution and death seems to me like apples and oranges.

  39. #39 |  PW | 

    #38 – While I agree that most of the violence we see is political, think you’re missing one huge difference between Islam and the rest: Islam is an overtly political religion wherein government and theology are one and the same.

    If your politics and religion are one in the same thing it becomes impossible to completely disentangle the two, thus imams and ayatollahs abound in virtually all of the terrorist organizations.

    Yes, there would still be conflicts without Islam. But that is not the point of contention. The point of contention is whether the presence of Islam makes a region comparatively more disposed to violent conflicts than other religions, and whether the presence of Islam makes a country more prone to being a backwards authoritarian shithole where they stone people to death in the streets and impose theocratic religious edicts as law. And I believe the evidence for both is overwhelming.

  40. #40 |  Flight 741 | 

    This is the part where someone says, “I would tend to agree.”

    Anyways, I probably should point out that in the second part of my comment I was agreeing with your overall point that in Islamic countries, violence is a common cure for dissent. Friends and family of mine who have spent time in Islamic countries described to me how different the social environment is, and are reluctant to agree with the sentiment that Islam is just like all the other big religions with their pitfalls. Islam can be moderate, but gone are the days where Sufi traditions were acceptable expressions of Gnostic-style mysticism. That was replaced by hard line fundamentalism over a century ago by leaders like Al-Afghani who pushed for literal interpretations of holy texts. With that comes intolerance for dissent, and that’s what was described to me in many conversations about living in that culture.

  41. #41 |  JOR | 

    I’m in the awkward position of thinking,

    1. A lot of the stuff said about Islam AND Christianity by apologists for rival religions, and about either of those and about religion in general by skeptics etc. are unfair and historically ignorant (or perhaps willfully dishonest). A lot of the stuff said about Christianity in particular goes back to Enlightenment myths about historical Christianity that borrowed much of its material from, of all things, Protestant anti-Catholic propaganda; the claim that the Islamic world is still stuck in the 7th Century is similarly outright stupid on its face; at worst, they’re “stuck” in the mid-to-late 19th Century;

    2. That apologetics for the religions in question are mostly wrongheaded in their arguments and counterarguments, and make similarly egregious errors when, for instance, trying to tie the crimes of 20th Century cannibal-communist empires (and of the religiously complex Nazis, of all people) to atheism – I have even seen one otherwise intelligent Christian claim that Chingis Khan was irreligious, where in fact he was a rather pious follower of a pagan (in the sense of non-Abrahamic) religion with heavy monotheistic overtones;

    3. That the general habit of responding to unfair generalizations of one group by making similar generalizations about another is really, really silly; when handled well it could be used as a reductio ad absurdum but it almost always degenerates into the unrepentant practice of tu quoque or, as they call it on teh internets, “no u”.

    4a. That most of the arguments for this or that religion are spectacularly wrong, but –
    4b. for very different reasons than the standard-issue skeptics think they’re wrong;

    5. That most of the reasons atheists tend to say they have for being atheists are kind of silly, and generally philosophically ignorant;

    6. That people have a bad habit of assuming that incorrect beliefs are necessarily irrational beliefs.

    7. That if we want to understand how even a religion or ideology or culture composed largely of reasonable people of good will with a good many ideas that could be drawn on to encourage benevolence and liberty can result in a great deal stupidity, tyranny, and cruelty, we need only look at how we in the west can drift by means purely native and arguably libertarian impulses into seriously considering the banning of headscarves or thinking it’s an insult and an outrage for Muslims to build a community and worship center in a place explicitly selected to be a symbol of conciliation;

    8. That people who claim that the American government is indirectly responsible for 9/11 because their policies enraged Muslims are either imprecise or flat-out wrong, and possibly stupid and/or evil;

    9. That said policies really did and do enrage Muslims, and that said Muslims are right to be enraged, and that arguments to the effect that the US shouldn’t “appease” Muslims by doing the right thing and ceasing to be imperialist assholes because it would be a show of weakness are among the most morally bankrupt arguments anybody has ever made for anything (no, nobody on this comment thread has made such an argument that I have seen).

    So basically, I don’t get to be part of anybody’s camp in all this. Even Cynical gets to be in the skeptics tribe; I’m out there all alone. Such is life.

  42. #42 |  PW | 

    “the claim that the Islamic world is still stuck in the 7th Century is similarly outright stupid on its face; at worst, they’re “stuck” in the mid-to-late 19th Century”

    It all depends on where geographically in the late 19th century. For example, I don’t think they’re anywhere remotely near the Classical Liberal heydey of Mill, Spencer, and Darwin’s Britain. Some of the more fucked up muslim countries haven’t even reached mid-19th century Haiti. They do compare relatively closely with some of the mid-19th century colonial backwaters in Sub-Saharan Africa, though those colonies were also well behind the mid-19th century’s best examples. Stoning people in the town square is far more closely connected to 7th century Baghdad than Victorian London.

    Other measures also come into play. Gauged by their philosophical development, I’d place most of the muslim world somewhere in the 11th or 12th century. Quite simply, they never had an Enlightenment, nor even a late medieval Scholastic period (and those few muslim philosophers that started to move in that direction tended to either be Europeans in Moorish Spain like Avveroes, or got smacked down by the fundamentalists). At its core, Islamic philosophy has advanced very little beyond the unfortunate state of theocratic occasionalism where al-Ghazali left it when he died in 1111. And that’s a big part of why it remains so resistant to modernity.

  43. #43 |  Mike T | 

    You greatly exaggerate the inherent violence in Islam. There are over a billion Muslims in the world. Are they all killing each other? Are they all committing violent acts against each other? I don’t see a lot of violence in Quatar or Turkey or Jordan or Iraq, oh wait we fucked that one up, In fact there is little religious violence in most Muslim countries. While there are ancient tribal quarrels, most of it is political.

    Islam’s rise to prominence was through systematic violence. Anyone familiar with the history of the ancient world understands how unique it was in that respect. Every religion has been spread to some territory by violence on occasion, but no major religion except for Islam has a history of unrelenting violence and conquest.

    You ask where is the violence in those societies, and I have to ask if you are being obtuse or you genuinely don’t understand Islamic violence. Those societies are largely cohesive, overwhelmingly Islamic societies. Islam does not teach or even permit violence between believers. Religiously and ethnically homogeneous societies naturally avoid many of the problems you are expecting.

    However, look at the history of those countries. The Islamic world invaded Europe several times from the 7th century through the 17th century. It actually held a substantial amount of Eastern Europe and frequently forced Islam on Eastern Europeans (do you know what the Janissaries were?..) when it suited the Ottoman Sultan’s purposes. The Christian states only respond with violence several hundred years after the first invasions by Islamic forces overtook 1/3 of the christianized former Roman territory from Egypt to Spain (and nearly took France).

    Today, religious persecution in these countries where there are sizable minorities is unrelenting. My family has had dealings with Egyptian Coptic Christians that has let us see the persecution about as up close and personal as someone on this side of the Atlantic can get. They are frequently put through things which would horrify open borders libertarians, such as having their women kidnapped and gang-raped repeatedly until they make a statement that they’ve become a Muslim (which the government of Egypt recognizes and then criminalizes them going back to their Christian community).

    Culture matters. Libertarianism is a product of American culture, which is itself a product of Western Christian culture. If libertarians won’t take a side in the culture war, they’ll be at best politically irrelevant, at worst politically self-destructive.

  44. #44 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Mike T,

    Islam’s rise to prominence was through systematic violence. Anyone familiar with the history of the ancient world understands how unique it was in that respect. Every religion has been spread to some territory by violence on occasion, but no major religion except for Islam has a history of unrelenting violence and conquest.

    I think you’d admit–based on what your wrote–that Christianity has been/is violent. It seems you’re making the argument that Muslims are more violent than a bunch of other violent groups. You’re saying the degree to which a religion is violent is the real discussion…and Islam takes the cake. Let’s say we concede your point. What now? How do you deal with them?

    How about recognizing this shit is all violent and stop trying to rank them in order to assign “least guilty” and “most guilty”? You have violent groups of Christians, Jews, and Muslims killing each other and anyone who gets in the way. Each has their own special form of violence based on their abilities, but all are violent and the body counts across the board keep rising.

    If libertarians won’t take a side in the culture war, they’ll be at best politically irrelevant, at worst politically self-destructive.

    I personally don’t like supporting the lesser evil/violent group in any “war” and I discount (sorry) anyone who claims I have to. And since Libertarians are already politically irrelevant, I’ll opt-out on choosing a side and hope I don’t get hit by the shrapnel of all these violent religious groups doing God’s work…like they’ve been doing ever since they invented God thousand’s of years ago.

  45. #45 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    JOR,

    8. That people who claim that the American government is indirectly responsible for 9/11 because their policies enraged Muslims are either imprecise or flat-out wrong, and possibly stupid and/or evil;

    I think this way and don’t believe I’m imprecise or wrong. This is your premise…please explain.

  46. #46 |  PW | 

    “How about recognizing this shit is all violent and stop trying to rank them in order to assign “least guilty” and “most guilty”? You have violent groups of Christians, Jews, and Muslims killing each other and anyone who gets in the way. Each has their own special form of violence based on their abilities, but all are violent and the body counts across the board keep rising.”

    Sorry Boyd, but that’s the intellectual equivalent of saying the guy who killed an attacker in self defense, the drunk driver who killed out of negligence, the bank robber who killed a teller while committing the crime, and the serial murderer who chopped up and cannibalized a dozen people are all really just the same since they all technically killed somebody.

    The fact is we can rank order religions by their propensity to commit violence precisely BECAUSE they differ substantially in degree and severity, with Islam being far and away the most violent. None of the others even compare in severity. While we should denounce killing all around, the serial mass murderer is far and away the bigger threat than any of the other significantly lesser degrees of homicide. The same may be said about Islamic violence, and simply lumping it in with the rest as, as you do, is both dangerously naive and likely to obscure the fact that, like the serial murderer, Islam is still substantially more violent than any of its murderous counterparts.

  47. #47 |  Henry Bowman | 

    This is one of those instances in which our really great dear Radley loses his marbles. There are lots of wacko Islamists, and they truly are a danger to others. Muslims in the U.S. and elsewhere overlook the transgressions of the violent wackos, simply because they are all Muslims. The situation has several aspects that are similar to the KKK in the American South between 1872 and 1960: many people were aware of the KKK perpetrators of terrorism (which is exactly the tactic that the KKK used), but members of the KKK were never prosecuted by locals, because many locals, including many in powerful positions, were quite comfortable with the KKK terrorism. The result was that very few people in the South objected to the KKK tactics.

    I see a similar pattern amongst modern Muslims. Some may be afraid, as Penn Gillette points out: “we don’t make fun of Muslims because I have a family.” This is precisely what the terrorists and their sympathizers want.

    To conclude, Geller is mostly correct, though she often shrieks too loudly. People throughout the world are in danger from Islamic wackos, and we need to recognize this simple fact. And, if you, Rad, believe for a moment that Imam Rauf is telling the truth, one would have to question your judgment, as he is an obvious liar.

  48. #48 |  Cynical in CA | 

    #41 | JOR — “So basically, I don’t get to be part of anybody’s camp in all this. Even Cynical gets to be in the skeptics tribe; I’m out there all alone. Such is life.”

    You’ll never walk alone, JOR. Thinkers will always seek each other out.

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