Excellent op-ed by Reza Aslan: “It is a fallacy to believe that people of faith derive their values primarily from their Scriptures. The opposite is true. People of faith insert their values into their Scriptures, reading them through the lens of their own cultural, ethnic, nationalistic and even political perspectives.”
In the end, I would call out Maher for being simplistic and ignorant of the complexities of religion and culture. It’s his simplistic analysis and ignorance that fuel his hatred. Maher’s critiques can be used for more productive ends.
The comments section show that some people are missing Aslan’s point: Our critique has to be more precise and true than a generalization can be. The problem is not just one huge religion with violent scriptures and violent people. Eliminating 1 billion Muslims won’t stop religious extremism. If we pay better attention to why certain religious people (and non-religious people) become violent, we can better address the problem in its particular contexts. I can’t say it better than Aslan: “Considering that most of its victims are also Muslims — as are most of the forces fighting and condemning the Islamic State — the group’s self-ascribed Islamic identity cannot be used to make any logical statement about Islam as a global religion.”
If we can discern why certain people become violent extremists in their cultural and political contexts (and not try to over-generalize on this point), then we’ll actually be able to address the problem in those contexts. People are violent in Mississippi for different cultural reasons than violent people in Syria, who are violent for different reasons than those in the Ukraine. Over-generalizing hurts our ability to understand and address the problem.