Voices
Bill Maher
Janet Van Ham/HBO/AP
Bill Maher

Connecting obvious dots

Terrorism | At least some are now willing to say that Islam is more violent than other religions

Issue: "Boy Scout dilemma," May 18, 2013

The lead paragraphs in The Wall Street Journal’s front-page story were chilling:

“After last week’s Boston Marathon bombings, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva phoned her son Tamerlan in Massachusetts to make sure he was safe.

“‘Mama, why are you worrying?’ Tamerlan replied from Boston, laughing.

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“Days later, it was the son who phoned his mother. The two, in recent years, had shared a powerful transformation to a more intense brand of Islam.

“‘The police, they have started shooting at us, they are chasing us,’ Mrs. Tsarnaeva says Tamerlan told her. ‘Mama, I love you.’ Then the phone went dead.”

The Wall Street Journal then boldly linked the Boston bombings to the suspects’ growing commitment to the Islamic faith. But if that was something fairly new in America’s mainstream media, it did not for some reason find the Journal standing alone. Scattered more and more in unlikely settings in recent weeks have been a handful of startling charges which, in most of the preceding decade, would have been almost unthinkable. It was, you might say, a case of the professionals finally catching up with a little common sense.

Take, for example, an interview featuring comedian and television host Bill Maher, who was chatting about the Boston bombing with Brian Levin of California State University. Standing predictably on the traditional politically correct safe ground, Levin charged: “Look,” he said, “it’s not like people who are Muslim who do wacky things have a monopoly on it. We have hypocrites across faiths—Jewish, Christians who say they’re out for God, and end up doing not so nice things.”

That, however, was too much even for a very exercised Maher. “You know what?” he broke in to disagree. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You know what? That’s liberal b___s___ right there. I mean yes, all faiths. They just, they’re not as dangerous. I mean, there’s only one faith, for example, that kills you or wants to kill you if you draw a bad cartoon of the prophet. There’s only one faith that kills you or wants to kill you if you renounce the faith. An ex-Muslim is a very dangerous thing. Talk to Salman Rushdie after the show about Christian versus Islam. So, you know, I’m just saying, let’s keep it real.”

Maher never came right out to say that hatred and rage seem to be the fruit of the Islamic spirit. But he came perilously close.

To link The Wall Street Journal and Bill Maher in any lesson on accurate journalism is itself a pretty good-sized leap. I’ll still pretty much trust tomorrow’s WSJ, while keeping my distance from whatever Maher has to offer. But in this case, both media voices deserve at least one-handed applause for doing what common-sense folk have known they should have been doing for a decade and more.

Still way too typical was the tepid initial response of the publicly funded PBS evening news—whose reporters noted circumspectly that the two suspects were from Chechnya, “... and that’s all we know about them. Let’s repeat that: that’s absolutely all we know about them.”

No, we also know that Islam is far and away the dominant religion in Chechnya. And viewers and listeners have a right to be reminded of the factual statistics naturally surrounding such a report. Of one thing you can be absolutely sure: If the early suspects had been fundamentalist Christians, that would have been spread all over the report.

Ever since 9/11, if not before, it’s been just as plain as the nose on your face that Islam, as a religion, spouts more violence all over the world than springs from any other prominent religion. Of course, you can argue—truthfully—that individuals from almost every faith commitment have done some awful and embarrassing things through the years. But the statistics in this case, especially when adjusted for historical setting, are all on Bill Maher’s side of the argument.

For the mainstream media to have argued for the last decade that there’s some kind of equivalence on the matter is to falsify the evidence. That’s not something the news media should do at all—and certainly not on such a regular basis.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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