The Boston Marathon bombings reignited an age-old debate about whether Islam is a more violent religion than others.
While all religions have historically had periods of extreme violence carried out in their names, in recent times Islam has served as the backdrop for many of the more heinous crimes perpetrated against large groups of people.
On this week’s episode of Real Time, host Bill Maher reiterated a point he’s made in the past: Islam is an inherently violent religion. One of his panelists, The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald, took exception to this claim.
“How can you be a citizen of the United States, the country that has generated more violence and militarism in the world over the last five or six decades and say, 'Look at those people over there. They are incredibly violent,’” he asked Maher, per Mediaite. “We play a significant role in what is happening in the Middle East because we've been interfering and dominating that region is order to have access to their oil and protect Israel.
“Well, I wasn't talking about violence, I was just talking about theocracy. That doesn't happen here,” Maher replied.
“OK, that doesn't happen here, but at the same time, Iran isn't invading lots of other countries and occupying them for a decade,” Greenwald countered. “Nor are fundamentalist Muslim countries like the United States is. These things are interlinked because we're continuously interfering in that part of the world. So to say …”
“So it's all our fault?” Maher interrupted.
“It's not all our fault, but when you send your military for 6 straight decades into other countries to bomb them, kill their children and women and innocent men, prop up dictators,” Greenwald said.
In response to this interesting (although somewhat basic) debate, David Atkins penned a pretty fantastic counterargument to both men’s points. The entire thing is worth a read, but here are the two most important parts:
Falsehood #1: "Imperialism is to blame for everything." Yes, we all know: imperialism is bad. Imperialism begets blowback. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. All of this is true. But on the question Maher puts, those answers are sleight of hand. The debater in Greenwald's position would have to argue that predominantly Muslim nations have suffered imperialistic horrors so disproportionate to the experiences of other nations and cultures that their reactions must be equivalently disproportionate. On that front, Greenwald's argument totally falls apart.
Falsehood #2: "Islam is uniquely violent." Maher and every other person who believes this is true should probably take a history class and write a series of mea culpae on the blackboard. There is nothing more problematic about Islam as a religion more than any other when viewed in historical context. Even ignoring ancient times, the history of the Christian era alone should be enough to disabuse anyone of the notion that Islam is somehow more inherently violent than other religions.
He then goes on to explain why both are falsehoods. It’s really good stuff.
You can check out the ‘Real Time’ segment in question below.