VIdeo: Bill Maher vs. Charlie Rose on jihadism and moderate Islam

Via RCP, nothing here that you haven’t heard before from Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sam Harris, or Maher himself. The clip’s interesting mainly because of how prepared Maher is to make his case, riffing for a full five minutes after Rose broaches the subject. But then, I guess that makes sense: Whether Islamic terrorism is an Islam problem or a religion problem more broadly is an old debate among atheists. I remember watching a panel discussion years ago between Hitchens, Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Daniel Dennett — four of the west’s most prominent nonbelievers — in which that came up. Harris, who’s been relentless on this point in his writings, argued that it was an Islam problem; Hitchens, to my mild surprise, countered that it was only an Islam problem at the moment. Religion itself was at the root of it. You can see which side of that debate Maher is on.

I think this is the Pew poll he has in mind when he brings up Egyptians and stonings, by the way. I wrote about it last year when it was first published. He’s got the number almost exactly right: 81 percent, not 82 percent, said they favored stonings for adultery — although that’s not 81 percent of the entire population, it’s 81 percent of those who already said they favor making shari’a the law of the land. Then again, 74 percent of Egyptian Muslims in the same poll copped to that, so you’re still talking about a majority of Muslims in favor of stoning here. And of course some people who don’t support adopting shari’a comprehensively might still support stoning, so the actual number is bound to be a bit bigger. Follow the link and scroll most of the way down and you’ll see that similar numbers of shari’a fans in Egypt — among U.S. allies — support death for apostasy as well. If Rose could see the poll, though, he’d have an obvious comeback here: In some Muslim countries like Turkey, it’s only a small percentage who want to adopt shari’a and a small percentage of that percentage who support punishing apostasy with death. Is religion the cause, then, or is there something unique to Arab and north African cultures, which are the most vicious in supporting executions for thoughtcrimes, that’s driving this? Maher offers to debate a moderate Muslim on Rose’s show at some point so maybe that’ll come up next time.