Jeffrey Tayler’s Salon Sunday Secular Sermon

by Grania Spingies

Don’t miss the weekly S4  homily by Brother Tayler over at Salon. This week he examined the pained and faintly hostile treatment of Ayaan Hirsi Ali by Jon Stewart and contrasts it with Stewart’s rather fawning enthusiasm for Reza Aslan revisionist version of reality.

You should read it just for the pleasure of sentences like this:

Stewart, so inquisitorial toward Hirsi Ali, let Aslan ejaculate this postmodern flapdoodle with impunity, and convivially wiped up after him with blather about non-religious causes for violence in the Middle East.

Taylor ponders the same thing that has been debated in this website from time to time: why self-professing liberal leftists are so quick to condemn and distance themselves from the ideas of a brave woman who left Islam and opposes its treatment by extremist, politicized adherents of Muslim women and the majority of peaceful followers of Muslim.

It is a puzzle. Why do people prefer the words of a smiling man who tells them that extremists don’t have anything to do with Islam over the words of an intelligent woman who says that the problem is complicated and the solution may require multiple avenues of discussion and reform? In short: are liberals afraid of the It’s Complicated button?  Or do liberals just tend towards the See No Evil position by default and champion anyone who tells then there is nothing to see here, move along?


  1. Posted June 8, 2015 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Why do people prefer the words of a smiling man who tells them that extremists don’t have anything to do with Islam over the words of an intelligent woman who says that the problem is complicated and the solution may require multiple avenues of discussion and reform?

    Wait — I’ve heard this one before. It’s because Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the intelligent women with an opinion not dictated to her by her husband are all imaginary beings, right?

    That was easy!

    The hard part is wondering why those with such an attitude would wish to adopt the “liberal” label….


    • Grania Spingies
      Posted June 8, 2015 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, that too.

    • vtvita
      Posted June 8, 2015 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      Why is it that this problem is pinned on liberals? I’m a liberal; Jerry’s a liberal; you’re a liberal. We’re not asserting that telling truths about Islam is hate speech. So, what’s the deal?

      • Posted June 8, 2015 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

        Glen Greenwald, et al.

      • Posted June 8, 2015 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

        Liberalism is going through a pretty serious identity crisis right now. Many people who, in the past, would have been aghast at the thought of siding with misogynist homophobes who mutilate the genitals of young girls, defenestrate homosexuals, and force women to wear body sacks and meekly follow two steps behind their husbands…have come out full-throttle in embrace of Islam.

        Indeed, it’s safe to say that the majority of self-identified liberals revile those such as you, me, and Jerry, who dare speak ill of Islam; we are seen as racist imperialist bigots, practically on a par with ISIS itself.

        So, if that’s what liberalism means to a majority of modern liberals…how’m I supposed to identify as such?

        I have no clue where this is going. The Democratic Party left me behind long ago; Obama is to the right of every president of my lifetime, including the most conservative of the conservatives. The feminists now stand arm-in-arm in proud solidarity with the girl-mutilating body-sack-wearing rape-victim-murdering thugs; can you even imagine today’s college liberals burning their bras, let alone speak out against religious crimes against women? The would-be defenders of the First Amendment say that a bunch of cartoonists got what they had coming when they were gunned down for daring to draw.

        Whatever we’re transitioning to, the “liberal” epithet isn’t really one that, in its modern usage, stands for anything I recognize of the liberalism of history.


        • Posted June 9, 2015 at 8:30 am | Permalink

          That sir, was a proper barn burner. Well said and totally on point.

        • frednotfaith2
          Posted June 9, 2015 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

          Those sound like the sort of “liberals” who 80 years ago would have been lambasting anyone who criticized Hitler or Stalin and their gangs for how they mistreated people in their regimes. In my eyes, anyone who opposes criticizing fundamentalist, extremist Muslims or any other group that is avidly anti-human rights, is not really liberal at all or is excessively and willfully ignorant.

      • GBJames
        Posted June 8, 2015 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        I had the same question, vtvita. I, too, am a liberal and dislike the implication. I almost responded as you did.

        But here’s the thing… I expect liberals to be consistent when it comes to matters of free thought and expression. I don’t have the same expectations from conservatively-minded people. So it is way more jarring when liberals abandon one of the basic principles Enlightenment principles upon which liberalness is founded. If liberals abandon reason as Jon Stewart and others do whenever faith is involved, what hope is there?

        • rickflick
          Posted June 8, 2015 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

          For some liberals its like Yogi Berra:
          “When you come to a fork in the road, take it”.
          Cognitive dissonance happens when there’s a perfectly good disenfranchised, often brown, minority who also happens to want you to give up your democracy for his barbaric theocracy. For many, that’s too hard to compute. Reflexes take over and the bullet goes through the bottom of the holster into the foot.

      • Marella
        Posted June 8, 2015 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

        It’s because being left-wing started to mean being anti-western. Everything non-western must be supported against everything western, because all things western are evil. Instead of opposing oppression, it was easier to assume that everything western was oppressive and oppose that instead. Saves the need for thinking.

        I blame the Russians. If communism hadn’t set itself up in opposition to capitalism this would never have happened. We need to rescue the left from the anti-western brigade. The west is not perfect but it sure as hell beats living in Russia or China, or freaking Saudi Arabia!

        • frednotfaith2
          Posted June 9, 2015 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

          One of my best friends is like that, and he has a PhD in Communications (while I only have a BS in Paralegal Studies) — he is constantly harping on how horrible the U.S. is, but tends to excuse anything terrible other, particularly non-western, countries do. Admittedly, a few weeks he spent in China disabused him of the notion that China is any sort of paradise — he had seriously considered moving there permanently, until his potential Chinese bride abandoned him. He had the notion that all American women were excessively materialistic (at least the ones he was attracted to), but the Chinese woman was herself very materialistic, as well as racist, and had many qualities he would not have put up with in any American woman — but he looooooved her body (which didn’t look all that hot to me, but different strokes and all that). She wanted someone who was somewhat richer, lived in a much nicer neighborhood (with no blacks), in a much nicer house, and had a much nicer car and could afford a chauffeur to drive her around wherever she wanted to go. Now he has a potential Thai bride who is much less physically fit but seems more willing to take my friend as he is, warts and all.

  2. craigp
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    When faced with a complicated problem there’s nothing more attractive than an easy answer. Sometimes, even if the answer is wrong.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 8, 2015 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      I wonder if because we liberals have always been the nice, accepting, tolerant ones, modern liberals have forgotten what it is we’re tolerant of? It’s started to mean passing no judgment, no matter what.

      Many liberals have forgotten that our founding values were about equality for all, and accepting people on an equal basis. That is why traditional Christianity was always a bad fit with the movement, and should be why all but liberal Islam is not acceptable either.

      I’m constantly appalled by the way Hirsi Ali is treated by so many on the left.

  3. GBJames
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    It is a good piece, as usual for Taylor.

  4. EvolvedDutchie
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    As reader “armchairdeductions” once said: No islam but Aslan!

  5. Posted June 8, 2015 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    “In short: are liberals afraid of the It’s Complicated button?”

    No, it’s way more basic than that. It is simply the meme — reinforced over decades and centuries — that religion is a Good Thing, and thus cannot be harmful. Anything bad must thus be Not Religion.

    • Posted June 8, 2015 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      Belief in belief, in other words.

      Kinda mind-boggling, of course, that this should come out of a pattern of thought that for millennia has killed those with differing beliefs, simply because those beliefs differ….


    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted June 8, 2015 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

      I have been thinking that all groups of people who identify with one socially or politically active movement, like liberals, atheists, conservatives, or whatever, will inevitably divide into factions as new things come up that challenge our core beliefs.

      • GBJames
        Posted June 8, 2015 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        But in this situation, what would the “new thing” be?

        • Mark Sturtevant
          Posted June 8, 2015 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

          Within the liberal camp relatively new things seem (to me) to be the whether the C. Hebdo writers were asking for it. Or whether college students should sit through a commencement speech from someone that is objectionable to them.

          • GBJames
            Posted June 8, 2015 at 6:42 pm | Permalink

            IMO those are new (“current”, not “novel”) illiberal reactions to modern examples of the same old things.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted June 8, 2015 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

        I had been wondering the same thing. I had also hoped that an awareness of such behaviour may have lead to a philosophical method of countering it.
        Monty Python had it pegged.

        It is most important to question our own deeply held convictions, and the hardest to do.

    • Posted June 8, 2015 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      I am yet to see a liberal regarding as a good thing Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or Hinduism. Liberals love only Islam. I think that this is because they want the old society destroyed so that a brave new liberal world can be built on its ruins, and Islam alone among present-day religions has the needed destructive potential.
      (Of course, once Islamists destroy the old society, liberals would never be allowed to build their brave new world. Instead, an Islamic theocracy would be built, and liberals would be hunted down, as happened in Iran. But liberals aren’t distinguished by foresight.)

      • GBJames
        Posted June 8, 2015 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        I have plenty of liberal friends who love them some Christianity, they being Catholic or Episcopalian, or (mildly) observant Jews. They are able to criticize these variants of faith insofar as “indiscretions” occur, like priests raping children. But I’ve had too many arguments about religion with other liberals for me to agree with you.

        • Posted June 9, 2015 at 12:14 am | Permalink

          You and your friends are moderate liberals. You may exceed fundamentalist liberals in number, but they nevertheless dominate liberal media and liberal policies, and you are unable to make a difference. Same with moderate and fundamentalist Muslims, from where I borrowed the terms.
          A simple example: you say that your liberal friends (and presumably you) view positively “mild” Judaism, but the dominant liberal stance towards Israel is of divestment and other policies that ultimately would lead to destruction of Israel as a Jewish state and, hence, killing of every Israeli Jew, be he Orthodox, mildly observant or fully secular.

          • GBJames
            Posted June 9, 2015 at 7:01 am | Permalink

            Fundamentalist liberals? Please. We have plenty of confused liberals, and illiberal liberals when it comes to religion. Precious few fundamentalist liberals.

            And no, I don’t view “mild” Judaism as positive (assuming you mean refer to religion, not ethnicity). I view all faith as poison. But some poisons are more toxic than others.

          • phil
            Posted June 11, 2015 at 12:00 am | Permalink

            I thought “fundamentalist liberals” is a bit odd too, like “fundamentalist atheists”. Maybe I need it explained to me. Maybe it’s a bad descriptor.

            Personally I think there is some confusion about Jews and Israel. Being anti-Jewish would probably be best described as being antisemitic, but being antagonistic towards the Nation of Israel would perhaps be better described as anti-Zionist. The two are not really the same; although some people could well be both (antisemitic and anti-Zionist), it is surely possible to be one but not the other.

            To complicate the matter Wikipedia says “Today, the word “Semite” may be used to refer to any member of any of a number of peoples of ancient Middle East including the Akkadians, Assyrians, Arameans, Phoenicians, Hebrews (Jews), Arabs, and their descendants,” so technically Palestinians AND Israelis could both be antisemitic.

            As for Islam, Muslims, and liberals, I suspect that part of the motivation is to avoid offending a lot Muslims, those moderate Muslims with whom we have fewer problems. A lot of fairly liberal western countries have large Muslim communities, which for the most part live harmoniously in their respective countries. We want to get along with them, and we probably need their cooperation to deal with extreme Muslims, so ticking them off is not productive.

            However I can’t help but feel that there is a problem with Islam as a religion, in that it gives extremists cover for their nasty behaviour, and moderate Muslims give some respectability to Islamic faith. Many other faiths can be as bad, but the simple truth is that at this moment in time they aren’t.

            So, “liberals” have to deal with extreme Muslims and extreme versions of Islam, but they don’t want to offend moderate Muslims. Some liberals, unfortunately, have got the message screwed though.

            I think the world would be better off if I woke tomorrow morning and religion had disappeared.

      • Posted June 9, 2015 at 7:26 am | Permalink

        You can’t be serious. Liberals (and I am one) don’t like Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, etc? Have you never listened to NPR? Never been to a Whole Foods or a yoga class? Never heard of Kabbala? I think you may have lost the forest for the trees.

      • Posted June 9, 2015 at 10:44 am | Permalink

        Something in your comment, paired with the last episode of NCIS, makes me wonder: What if you and I and the rest of the people around us simply are not being exposed to some new dogwhistle that Muslim extremists have developed especially for the younger generation of liberals? I know the Nazi regime had close ties to Arab leaders, and that certain “skills”, shall we say, for managing the masses were shared. How much more knowledge in manipulation must there be, now? And, how much of that might actually have been developed by our own CIA, etc.?

  6. Posted June 8, 2015 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    It makes no sense. Is it really one or more of the following?

    1. All religious views must be respected. Those that are really bad have nothing to do with the true believers.

    2. Because the Islamic world is seen as largely downtrodden, poor, and brown, their religious beliefs and culture are deserving of our unquestioning sympathy.

    3. Conservatives are ganging up on Islam, so liberals must defend those poor people no matter what?

    These reasons seem so paltry when it comes to criticizing a set of beliefs that marginalize women, homosexuals, non-believers, one or more sets of Islamic believers, and one or more sets of other believers (especial hatred being reserved for Jews). Not to mention the values of Democracy, freedom of religion, and freedom of speech.

    • Tom Snow
      Posted June 8, 2015 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      I think it’s 2 and 3, definitely.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted June 8, 2015 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

        Yes – they usually don’t have a problem criticizing conservative Christianity, as that’s seen as powerful. They don’t recognize how they’re being manipulated by conservative Islam, which is extremely powerful.

        Saudi Arabia has just upheld the sentence of Raif Badawi, and at the same time is trying to become head of the UNHRC. Un-fu**king-believable. And they will get a lot of votes from other Muslim nations, and there are many poor nations that have bribeable officials.

        There will be plenty of liberals who think Saudi should have their chance to lead the UNHRC.

        • Posted June 9, 2015 at 10:16 am | Permalink

          The Saudis have crazy good PR. Consider this: all the 9/11 attackers were Saudis, and bin Laden was a Saudi prince. Yet, who did we retaliate against? Saudi Arabia’s biggest rival….


    • Posted June 9, 2015 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      According to Glenn Greenwald (inspired by Noam Chomsky) it’s because Americans should only (or primarily) speak out against American misbehavior.

      “[Greenwald] proceeds to quote Chomsky arguing that America is responsible for more ‘terror and violence’ than any other country, but – this is the crucial part – even if it weren’t, ‘even if the U.S. was responsible for 2 percent of the violence in the world,’ one would still be obliged to write “primarily” about American violence. ‘It is very easy to denounce the atrocities of someone else,’ he concludes. ‘That has about as much ethical value as denouncing atrocities that took place in the 18th century.'”

      This, of course, applies to everyone in the world except Israel apparently…because Jews.

      The quote comes from here.

  7. geckzilla
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    One word: Worldview.

    It’s the same reason why free market conservatives can’t accept the words of a climate scientist on climate change, but credulously accept contrarian views.

    • thh1859
      Posted June 8, 2015 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      Have you actually listened to the ‘contrarian’ climate scientists?

      • geckzilla
        Posted June 8, 2015 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

        Contrarian climate scientists and also contrarian non-scientists. The climate scientists make a few good points on the details here and there, but nothing that overturns the many lines of evidence pointing toward human land use and emissions driving climate change. And the non-scientists almost never talk about climate science itself but tend to run circles around government policies rather than actually talking about or accepting the science itself. How can they? They think it’s a conspiracy. In the interest of not breaking da roolz, I will not comment further on the matter as this is veering off topic. Call me a dodger if you’d like.

    • Posted June 8, 2015 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

      Maybe some conservatives have difficulties accepting the words on climate change because of the insane practical measures based on such words: good illumination is all but banned in Europe (goodbye reading) and nasty “energy-saving” bulbs full of mercury are pushed down consumers’ throats.

      • Posted June 9, 2015 at 2:25 am | Permalink

        I live in Europe. All my light bulbs are LEDs and give me more than enough light. I am an avid reader. My lighting costs are less than 20% or less of what they were a few years back.
        (Oh, and I almost never have to change a light bulb).

        • rickflick
          Posted June 9, 2015 at 7:00 am | Permalink

          One small step for a man…
          Now, if everyone would follow suit…

      • Posted June 9, 2015 at 2:26 am | Permalink

        Why isn’t there an edit button on this thing?

        • rickflick
          Posted June 9, 2015 at 7:01 am | Permalink

          No, but you can ease your frustration by turning the monitor off for 5 minutes.

      • GBJames
        Posted June 9, 2015 at 7:11 am | Permalink

        Complaints about mercury in CFL bulbs (“full of mercury”?) fail to recognize the offset from reductions in mercury in power generation facilities.

        Besides, as David Evans pointed out, anyone who whines about CFL bulbs can easily go out and get LED lighting which is even more efficient… about 10% of those incandescent bulbs you’re pining for.

      • Posted June 9, 2015 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        They should all have been replaced with the better, finally cheaper, more efficient and less toxic or breakable LED bulbs, by now.

        • phil
          Posted June 11, 2015 at 3:38 am | Permalink

          Aww, but I like the warm yellowish glow. And the burble of a V8.

          • GBJames
            Posted June 11, 2015 at 7:18 am | Permalink

            LED bulbs are available with the warm yellowish glow.

  8. eric
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    I find Stewart funny and often a good interviewer. I don’t necessarily agree that he got this one right, but challenging Hirsi Ali’s position on the show is far better than not having her on it – a possibility given the response of young liberals to other speaker events with her in it.

    • Posted June 8, 2015 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      You might be onto something. Ali says Israel’s problem in the Middle East is based on the Koranic law that says Jews & Xtians are peoples of the book (Dhimmis), need not be converted, but must live amongst Muslims as second class citizens, taxed and curfewed into poorer qualities of life forever. That goes against the BDS (Boycott, Divest, and Sanction) movement intended to support Palestinians by helping them wipe out Israel. Liberal university students — the same ones voting against free speech — support BDS and so reject Ali.
      Still, my gut says Ali would have gained some respect and acceptance by that crowd had Stewart set the example.
      And Aslan is a worthless publicity- and money-seeking twit.

      • rickflick
        Posted June 9, 2015 at 7:03 am | Permalink

        “And Aslan is a worthless publicity- and money-seeking twit.”
        You speak for all of us. Well, at least me.

  9. Barry Lyons
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    It’s odd. And I do like Jon Stewart an awful lot (and he has been appropriately savage in his satirical way for other things). But why he gets this wrong is a mystery to me.

    • Posted June 8, 2015 at 2:19 pm | Permalink


    • darrelle
      Posted June 8, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

      My view exactly. With Stewart it really does seem to be the punching up / down thing. In principle this is not a bad character trait. Stewart is a decent human being and that decency is what is behind this behavior. But the results when this kind of behavior is widespread, in circumstances like these, sure seem like they can be detrimental.

      This attitude was also shown by John Oliver when he was hosting during Stewart’s leave of absence to work on his film. Oliver hosted Aslan. If anything it was worse than the more recent Stewart / Alsan interview. It struck me as so out of character for Oliver. For a while I was wondering if he was feigning sycophancy with satirical intent but, he wasn’t.

      • Posted June 8, 2015 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

        Darn. I’d hoped he was feigning, too.

      • Martin Levin
        Posted June 8, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

        Agree that both Stewart and Oliver are very good – and very funny – at skewering the inconsistencies of politicos and others, but seem to recoil when it comes to Islam, or any group (alas) even perceived as downtrodden. I do not, however, agree that Stewart is a good interviewer; he often takes too long to get to a point and just as often seems more concerned with making a joke than asking a probing question. As for Aslan, isn’t he lion stand-in for Christ?

        • DireLobo
          Posted June 8, 2015 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

          I agree re: Stewart’s interviewing style. Wastes a lot of time making jokes while the guest (usually) waits patiently for him to finish. The only time that schtick works comedically is when he manages to crack up the guest, but with a serious guest (like Ali) that is unlikely because she is rightly focused on her message and her mission, so it flops as a joke, and breaks up the interview badly. That said, I am willing to give him a pass because he is so excellent otherwise (unlike Maher who is dead to me).

          • gunnerkee19
            Posted June 8, 2015 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

            DireLobo, I am curious why Maher is dead to you. I am not arguing for or against, I am genuinely curious. Maher does seem to at least understand the difference between Islam and Muslims, a point seemingly lost on too many.

        • darrelle
          Posted June 9, 2015 at 8:02 am | Permalink

          I somewhat agree with you about Stewart as an interviewer, though I am perhaps not as negative about that as you. I think he is inconsistant as an interviewer. Sometimes he is excellent, sometimes he is pretty awful. And there doesn’t seem to be a correlation with whether he is pro or con the guest’s views. I have seen him be fairly awful with guests he favors, and quite excellent with guests he strongly disagrees with. And vice versa.

          I just put it down to the vagaries of the human experience. I don’t mind criticizing like this at all, but I do still think he has been one of the better, and few, forces for positive influence in media for the past decade or so.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted June 8, 2015 at 11:08 pm | Permalink

        Yes, that was awful. He actually called him the ‘great’ Reza Aslan, after turning himself inside out being ‘not worthy’.

        I haven’t watched Oliver since.

      • phil
        Posted June 11, 2015 at 3:49 am | Permalink

        Well that is sad to hear. He did such a good job on Tony Abbott, and the report on the gun buy back in Oz.

        It’s just made me realise something about the issue at hand. As Oliver made clear (by falling off his chair IIRC) the buy-back was a policy implimented by a conservative government, and I am uncomfortable thinking my opponents might be right. Similarly some on the left might be uncomfortable supporting a position that the right also support.

        Sarah Haider: Islam and the Necessity of Liberal Critique

        • phil
          Posted June 11, 2015 at 3:50 am | Permalink

          Bugger. That wasn’t supposed to happen like that.

    • eric
      Posted June 8, 2015 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      What makes it even more of a mystery is that he is typically ‘interview generous’ to anyone publishing a book. In fact I can’t offhand think of any book he’s showcased that he didn’t give a good review to…and that may include a Bill Donohue book or two.

      The optimist in me says the pushback here is because Ali really strikes a nerve and this is an area he wants to explore; whereas he is generically nice to other authors because he could honestly care less about what they wrote.

      In any event, shilling for books is probably the one part of the show I’d cite as intellectually weakest. He has some interesting authors on and it is often very cool hearing them talk about their books, the problem is you can predict Stewart’s opinion with near-100% accuracy; whatever the book, he always likes it.

      • DireLobo
        Posted June 8, 2015 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

        He does not invite guests on whose books he does not like. Simple. Why would he want to awkwardness of having to sit across from an author while he tells them that he hates their book? Not good TV, and not funny. And ultimately, it is a comedy show.

        • vtvita
          Posted June 9, 2015 at 6:33 am | Permalink

          No, it’s not that simple. And how would you know what his motivations are?

          He had Chris Matthews on when he was hawking a book I believe it was “Life’s A Campaign” 2007. Stewart literally tore Matthews a new one, and it wasn’t for laughs. Stewart said it was one of the most awful, depressing books he’d ever read. Matthews whimpered.

          • GBJames
            Posted June 9, 2015 at 7:12 am | Permalink

            Stewart has a strong history of calling out bad journalism. But he totally fails when it comes to religion.

        • darrelle
          Posted June 9, 2015 at 7:48 am | Permalink

          Yeah, as vtvita pointed out below already Stewart does not limit his new book release interviews to authors / books he likes. Not by far.

          For a more general example, he has had a field day over the past several years interviewing politicos and journalists who have written books about issues and events during the Bush II administration that he disagrees with. Many of these interviews have been pretty good, and not a positive experience for the author.

  10. ChrisB
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    ” In short: are liberals afraid of the It’s Complicated button? ”

    I don’t think so. Whenever Islamic apologists run into an informed and well reasoned argument like that of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, they squint their eyes and try real hard not to understand.

    They certainly aren’t afraid to get complicated. In fact, when some extremist guns down a room full of cartoonists in cold blood for drawing the prophet, they try at once to complicate the issue with politics, poverty, colonialism, and a laundry list of other underlying problems that are the cause, rather than their religious beliefs. They even try to shift some of the blame to the victims!

    But when a guys dresses up in a white sheet and a hood and burns a cross on a black family’s lawn, they aren’t worrying with furrowed brow about all the contributing motivations that guy might have had. They call him a racist pig, case closed.

  11. gluonspring
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    I have little doubt that there are many factors in the violence we see. Why wouldn’t colonialism, or propped up dictators, or displaced refugees, have an effect? Even so, it is just bizarre to try to exculpate religion from the mix, as though it is only the person striking a match who holds blame for burning a building down while the person pouring gasoline on it is not involved.

    • Posted June 8, 2015 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

      A little comparative history to question religion further:
      The original “two state solution for Israel” was accepted by the Jews and put into place before 1948, handing over to the local Muslims what is now Jordan. That population is just as Palestinian as the Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank. The ruling family of Jordan is not. It was plucked from somewhere else and handed that land jewel by the Brits. So, why don’t the Jordanian Palestinians do to Jordan what the Israeli Palestinians do to Israel? Or, at the very least, why hasn’t Jordan incorporated its “Palestinian refugees” as full fledged citizens, the way Israel had to take in Jews evicted from Arab countries? The same goes for southern Lebanon and Syria, where Palestinian refugee camps are said to be worse than the disputed territories under Israeli control.

      I think Ali is right: The difference is that Israel, as an independent nation, represents Jewish equality in the region, and the Koran forbids Jewish equality.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted June 8, 2015 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

        I saw an article a while ago speaking about honour culture in the Arab world.
        This notion of honour is a real thing, worthy of trying to understand, as they tried to understand Japanese honour culture in WW2.
        This notion may make it actually impossible for the Arab states to accept any kind settlement as that would imply accepting defeat and defeat by Jews can not stand.

    • Posted June 8, 2015 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Countries in South-East Europe, such as my Bulgaria and the now-infamous Greece, have been colonized by the Ottoman Turks for centuries. All these countries still cannot completely recover and lag miles behind countries that were colonized by, say, Austro-Hungary. However, when people comment the economic, political or social situation in Greece or Bulgaria, nobody ever thinks of mentioning the debilitating Ottoman legacy. For liberals, colonialism cannot be bad or harmful if non-Muslims are colonized by Muslims. It is harmful only when Muslims and other non-Westerners are colonized by Westerners. So the “anti-colonialism” of liberals is fake and reflects their anti-Western ideology.
      (Actually, we rarely talk of what the Ottomans did to us, because it is non-productive to blame current troubles on past misfortunes; the productive approach is to work to get one’s house in order.)

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted June 8, 2015 at 11:20 pm | Permalink

        An interesting different perspective.

  12. eliz20108
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    We radicals have always characterized liberals as milk toast.

    Liberals always take the easy answer.

    And a woman I involved. Oh my
    Dr. Liz

  13. MP
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Tayler’s piece is excellent but also worth a look is the speech by Sarah Haider that he links to, it is, as Tayler says, a must-watch.

    On a more frivolous note just as I was starting in to read Tayler’s piece, the song ‘Alternative Ulster’ by Stiff Little Fingers came on the radio. This song is perfect for a quick change of lyrics to ‘Alternative Islam’.

  14. Curt Nelson
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

    Isn’t it because diversity is simply adored by liberals? Going after one religion is just a slip away from going after any number of ways of being. It’s so disrespectful! (Actually, it’s down right offensive.)

  15. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    Read superficially, it can be made to appear that Aslan is the one with complicated explanations and Hirsi is the simplistic one.
    But IMO upon deeper explanation the opposite is the case. In sound bites, it seems that Aslan is saying its a layered problem (social causes too) and Hirsi is going for the one-dimensional explanation. But in reality, Aslan is saying religion has NOTHING to do with the Taliban, and Hirsi actually points to a complex of reasons.

    Criticism of Islam has !*apparent overtones*! of racism (and right wing jingoism despite George Bush’s statements that Islam is in general OK) and anti-Islamic polemics are easily appropriated by racists into channels we would not want to see opened.

    But hyper-sensitivity to the appearance of racism and the avoidance of discussions potentially deemed racist has many many unwanted consequences.

    It seems to be OK to criticize Scientology, make comic musicals about Mormonism, and criticize fundamentalist groups like the Christian coalition, but apparently criticism of Islam is off limits.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 8, 2015 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

      I think the hyper-sensitivity to racism is part of it too.

      About a year ago, there was a bit of a stink in New Zealand because a drunk man told his Muslim immigrant taxi driver that we didn’t want Muslims in NZ and to go back where he came from. All the news coverage framed it as a racist issue, and that was also the response of people in the streets – there’s no place for racism in New Zealand. No one seemed to notice that the abuse was religious, not racial. The taxi driver was originally from Pakistan, so it was his skin colour people noticed.

      Of course, the abuse was unacceptable either way, and the abuser was suitably contrite when he sobered up.

  16. Steve Pollard
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    There is a lot going on here, and it is not easy to boil it down to simple answers.

    1. Some lefties (the term ‘liberals’ is in my view misleading) oppose Western intervention in the Middle East on principle, therefore support those who appear to be resisting it.

    2. Many lefties see the Palestinians as victims (which they are), therefore oppose Israel (which is not necessarily the victimiser), therefore support Israel’s enemies.

    3. Many lefties are suffused with post-colonial guilt and/or outrage, and seek to assuage it by supporting those who can be portrayed as fighting neo-colonialism.

    George Orwell had a lot to say about what he called transferred nationalism, in his time relating to the unquestioning support of lefty intellectuals for the Soviet Union. His answers included the disinfecting influence of free speech and information. Plus ca change…

    • Michael Waterhouse
      Posted June 8, 2015 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. Subvert the dominant paradigm.

  17. Cindy
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 7:36 pm | Permalink


  18. Randy Schenck
    Posted June 8, 2015 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    I suspect some of the aggravation with this issue is that some are attempting to reason out a mistaken identity. The liberal label is a convenient one to slap on but as they say, one size does not fit all. The religious liberal is bending over sideways and backwards to separate the religion (Islam) from the terror. The true atheist liberal does not carry this baggage and sees the terrorist for what it is within the Islamic religion and dogma. That is why people like our president cannot see this for what it is. Stewart is in the same (give them every excuse) mindset.

    Now if you say, what about the declared atheist who also cannot make the connection then maybe they are not truly atheist. The conversion has not really been competed and this issue is the test that shows this to be so. It’s only a theory so have at it.

    • Randy Schenck
      Posted June 8, 2015 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

      sp…completed, not competed.

  19. steve oberski
    Posted June 9, 2015 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    I think an analogy can be made to the anti-vaccination movement, where we see highly educated parents refusing to vaccinate their children for irrational and non evidence based reasons.

    Similar to vaccination, they have forgotten (or never known) the high cost paid by enlightenment thinkers who are the genesis of liberalism and just how bad things really were before the Enlightenment.

    I’m old enough that I recall childhood friends ravaged by polio, rheumatic fever and measles so I have personal experience of the benefits of vaccination.

    Like the anti-vax movement, some (more) really bad things are going to have to happen before the tide turns and liberals return to their senses.

  20. Mike
    Posted June 10, 2015 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Far from Islam in essence not being part of the problem, it is in fact the whole problem, the very word Islam means Submission. ISIS are following the Quran to the letter, every abomination they commit is in the Quran and they continue on their merry way, slaughtering by Burning, Beheading, Stoning et al, ALL prescribed as the correct Punishment for various “Crimes”as Apostasy or taking the piss out of Mohammed, which should be compulsory in my view. They would like nothing better than to face Troops from the West as they believe this will bring the promised “end of Days” and the return of ALLAH “may shite be upon him”.

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