As I prepared to watch the season premier of Real Time with Bill Maher last night I knew what would most likely dominate the panel discussion – Islam. Being that Maher has been a very outspoken liberal critic of the religion (he’s actually critical of all religions), I knew he was going to have plenty to say following the recent terrorist attack in France.
But I also knew what would inevitably happen. For months he’s been having this debate and for months many liberals (not just the ones who were on his show last night) have avoided the true context of what he’s been saying. While he’ll bring up the non-radical aspects of Islam, liberals seem to always steer the conversation back toward the talking point of “we can’t judge an entire religion based on radicals.”
While much of the focus of this debate has centered around Islamic extremists such as ISIL, Boko Haram, the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other recognized terrorist groups, that hasn’t really been Maher’s main focus. The point he’s tried to push, but liberals often dodge, is that even outside of radical extremists, Islam supports and practices ideologies that are in complete contrast with liberal beliefs. Yet liberals seem to want to ignore all of that to defend Islam against critics for some unknown reason.
And I can somewhat relate to Maher, though on a much smaller scale, because I too have tried to have this same debate often with the similar results. I am someone who supports gay rights, women’s rights, religious freedoms, freedom of speech and just freedom in general. Generally these are supposed to be cornerstones of liberal/progressive ideology, right? Yet these are values that the vast majority of those who follow Islam strongly oppose.
I’m not talking about radical Islamic militants. Nowhere in this article am I discussing Islamic militants. For the sake of this piece, let’s pretend that they don’t even exist. All I’m focusing on are Islamic states and the Muslim citizens who reside within each one of these countries.
Now, here’s a very in-depth survey conducted by Pew Research, a non-partisan and well-respected research firm, concerning politics, religion and society in the Muslim world. It’s easily one of the most expansive surveys done on this subject that I’ve come across, especially seeing as how these surveys are not easy to conduct.
Again, this is not a survey of radical Islamists. This was a survey conducted throughout many Muslim nations all around the world.
But to simplify it a bit, I’m going to keep the areas I focus on in this article restricted to the main three regions of the Muslim world (the Middle East, South Asia, Southeast Asia) that combine to make up about 81 percent of the world’s Muslim population.
The percentage of Muslims from each region who oppose abortion rights:
- Southeast Asia: 93%
- South Asia: 64%
- Middle East: 72%
The percentage of Muslims from each region who think someone should be executed for leaving Islam:
- Southeast Asia: 27%
- South Asia: 76%
- Middle East 56%
The percentage of Muslims from each region who think Sharia law should be the law of the land:
- Southeast Asia: 77%
- South Asia: 84%
- Middle East: 74%
The percentage of Muslims from each region who think a woman should have the right to divorce her husband:
- Southeast Asia: 32%
- South Asia: 44%
- Middle East: 33%
The percentage of Muslims from each region who think religious leaders should have political influence:
- Southeast Asia: 79%
- South Asia: 69%
- Middle East: 65%
These numbers represent a valid sample size from three regions that comprise 81 percent of our planet’s entire Muslim population. And considering there are anywhere between 1.7-2.2 billion Muslims on the planet, we’re talking about hundreds of millions of people being represented here.
Let’s just look at possibly the most alarming set of numbers, the one concerning those who believe someone should be executed for leaving Islam. For this I’ll just use the 1.7 billion figure when it comes to the number of Muslims on the planet. If we take the 81 percent number (the percentage of the Muslim population these three regions represent) that gives us roughly 1.38 billion Muslims in these three areas. Then if we take the percentages from each region (76, 56, 27) and average those out we get 53 percent.
Then we just do some simple math: 53% of 1.38 billion = 731,400,000 million people support executing someone for leaving Islam in regions that house 81 percent of the world’s Muslim population. It’s an estimate and obviously it’s impossible to come up with an exact number, but it’s not far off from whatever the actual number is.
And while this survey didn’t have any questions pertaining to homosexuality, it’s a pretty safe bet based on these answers that gay rights aren’t exactly proudly supported in these same regions.
These are the points Maher constantly tries to make, but many liberals avoid at all costs. Because I don’t see how you can call yourself a liberal while defending a religion where hundreds of millions of people believe it’s okay to kill someone for leaving the religion, women shouldn’t have the right to divorce their husband or that Sharia law should be the law of the land.
How exactly are those “liberal principles”?
Now don’t get me wrong, I think all organized religion is bad. Individual faith is great. But when you start organizing it, putting rules to it and establishing “religious leadership” – it spirals into complete corrupt chaos. Especially when you put it on such a grand scale as government and laws governing a society.
But what I find so interesting is that I can write articles bashing right-wing Christian radicals time after time after time – and liberals will often cheer me for doing so. Cyber high-fives all around for “calling out right-wing Christian ignorance.” But anytime I dare criticize Muslims, many liberals just lose their minds. I can guarantee you right now that I’ll lose a few followers on my Facebook page Right Off a Cliff and be slammed on my Twitter account as a bigot for writing this. Even though the only thing I’ve really done is taken a credible survey and presented the actual answers Muslims gave to various questions.
So when I say Islam is an oppressive religion, I don’t even have to be talking about Islamic radicals. When you look at most of the Muslim world, the nations that rule over it and the citizens who live within these countries, they:
- Oppose gay rights.
- Oppose equality for women.
- Oppose abortion rights.
- Oppose non-religious democracy.
- Favor Sharia law as the law of the land.
And hundreds of millions of them apparently support execution for leaving Islam. I’m sorry, but I just don’t get how as a liberal/progressive you defend an ideology that actively promotes that kind of ignorance. Because, like I’ve said several times, I am not talking about radical Islamic militants – these are beliefs held by the majority of everyday followers of Islam in the Muslim world.
And while I know there are millions of Muslims who do support equality, acceptance, love and tolerance like we strive for as liberals – they’re in the minority. I wish they weren’t. Just like I constantly push real Christians to reclaim Christianity from the right-wing radicals who continue to distort if for their own selfish gains, I wish more Muslims were doing the same thing for Islam. Because they are the only ones who can put an end to all of the oppression, the dictatorships, the monarchies and even the Islamic militant fanatics. The “West” can’t do it, Muslims have to do it. But what worries me is that while many Muslims do oppose terrorism, it’s not as if they’re rushing to embrace freedom and equality outside of strict religious rule.
While everyone from Christians, to the leader of Hezbollah, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and even Iran have condemned the terror attack in France – that doesn’t address the underlying point Maher made last night when he said that while Islamic radicals differ from greatly ordinary followers of Islam, there are still a lot of ideological beliefs that they share that aren’t at all what any liberal would call “progressive ideologies.” Especially when it come to women and homosexuals.
Watch the segment below via HBO: