If the answer to this question is "no," a case can still be made that the cable news network is on track to rival Fox News in promoting the worst Islamophobic stereotypes. The latest controversy involving an interview with Reza Aslan raises serious concerns about CNN's willingness to tap into and reinforce widespread prejudices against Islam in order to generate ratings.
Ben is talking about Muslims who aspire to the same things that all people of genuine good will aspire to, aspirations widely shared by most Americans. Hard work. Raising a family. Giving to charity. Practicing our faith. And the opportunity to do so free of judgment -- certainly free of fear or violence.
As the fight against ISIS/ISIL continues, and so do our campaigns to fight terrorism around the world, we are bound to be reminded that we are not in a war against Islam. But why is it that when I turn on the news, listen to people discuss Islam or look at images of Muslims in popular culture, it damn sure feels like we are.
It feels good for many people to look at Islam without looking at the bigger picture of geopolitics and foreign policy, but doing so allows us to repeat the same mistakes, while focusing intently on only part of the problem.
What Bill Maher, Sam Harris and many others like them fail to realize is that religion as it is practiced is a product of a wide array of factors, the official texts being only one of them. People of any faith are more shaped by the norms of their cultural context, interpreting their religious texts to comport with those norms rather than the other way around.
While Maher's points were vastly generalized and his analysis incomplete, there was still some validity to them. In modern America, we are so wed to the ideas of fairness and sensitivity that we can sometimes become blind to the obvious.
There are indeed a myriad of unique problems within the Muslim world, which is in a deep crisis. Yet, there are also countless Muslim leaders, intellectuals, clerics, philanthropists, and others, facing these problems, and trying to stand-up to illiberal phenomena in their communities and societies.
For all of the great work Bill Maher does by adding an unapologetically liberal voice to sensitive topics, his recent heated debate with actor Ben Affleck and author Sam Harris has put Bill at odds with many liberals. The biggest problem with Bill's stance is that he seems content to shout into the wind.
I detest religious extremism, but what I detest equally is funding this plague and pretending the billions in weapons we give to Islamic fundamentalists isn't the primary reason that ISIS and other terrorist groups exist.
On October 3rd, Ben Affleck finally said what a lot of us have been hoping someone would say loud and angry enough to make Maher listen.
To Mr. Maher and Mr. Harris directly: please walk back your statements. I'm not denying that the Muslim world is filled with hate, homophobia, intolerance and more violence than the western world. I just don't want everyone thinking all atheists are like you guys.
Most of the supporting roles were quite good. I especially liked the casting of Tyler Perry as the celebrity defense attorney. The movie suggests that everything in our modern world -- from the news to the law to the identity of your spouse -- is one big show.
Islam needs reformers, not moderates. Yes, it's wrong and unfair for anyone to judge a religion by the actions of its followers, be they progressive Muslims or al Qaeda. But it is appropriate and intellectually honest to judge it by the contents of its canonical texts.
Problem is, despite all the bluster and loud sighs, these guys were not actually disagreeing with each other. Not really.
New rule -- when debating what Muslims supposedly think about fundamentalism, you ought to have some people of Muslim heritage at the table.
When Ben Affleck differentiates the extremists from the overwhelming majority of peaceful Muslims, and when Harris and Maher claim that polls indicate the extreme are a larger part of the overall pie than we think, Affleck's argument is not only stronger, but correlates to the raison detre for both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.