Eiynah on criticizing Islam under Trump

Reader Mike sent me this podcast by Eiynah (“Nice Mangos“) on “The complexity of criticizing Islam under Trump.” He added that it is a discussion that needs to be had, was worth every moment of his attention to the 12-minute podcast, and wanted to know the readers’ feedback. So by all means, proffer some feedback in the comments.

While I think Eiynah is overly hard on Gad Saad and Dave Rubin (I don’t think they undermine liberal critics of Islam, nor do they “promote far-right lunatics who believe in white genocide”), she’s right that Leftists are in the dilemma of having to oppose bigotry against believers while still criticizing the oppressive tenets of religion, Islam in particular. That is, by espousing some of the same criticisms of Islam as do members of the Right, we discredit ourselves by being seen as allies of the Right, which is incorrect but something widely espoused. As Eiynah says, “There are so many awful people piggybacking on things that ex-Muslims say.”

Her dilemma, and ours, is real. In an age when Trump is, properly, seen as a bigot against Muslims, it’s easy to mistake any criticism of Islam for calls for discrimination against Muslims. That is the “Islamophobia” canard. And I agree with Eiynah’s solution: “measured, careful, well-thought out critiques of Islam” combined with criticism of bigotry against Muslims. This is what I’ve tried to do on this site, and while I think it’s the true liberal position, Eiynah is frustrated that it’s not working. Indeed, on some sites I’m characterized as being “right wing.” But I see no other solution, and while I share Eiynah’s frustration, I think we have no choice but to persist.

You can hear the podcast by clicking on the arrow in the upper left corner of the screenshot.

h/t: Mike


  1. matt
    Posted March 14, 2017 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    rubin having that infowars dude on was a pretty big low for his show by my lights.

    • Mark Reaume
      Posted March 14, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      I didn’t see that one, but in general I like seeing the far right folks, or folks whom I generally disagree with come on a show like that. I don’t often get to hear their arguments without 6-8 other panelists talking over each other.

      I want to know if my world view is in need of upgrading or changing and I can’t think of a better way of doing this than by listening to alternative viewpoints. Its also possible that I can come up with better arguments for my world view in the process.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted March 14, 2017 at 11:03 am | Permalink

        I have no problem with Rubin having folks like that on his show, but I think it a mistake for Rubin to have appeared on Alex Jones’s show — a mistake to lend his credibility to a show that’s a font of vicious nonsense, especially unless Rubin’s intent was to beard the lion in his own den.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted March 14, 2017 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

          I agree. I can’t think of enough bad things to say about Alex Jones. Listening to opposing viewpoints is important and I make an effort to do it, but the world would be better off without hearing from Alex Jones. It’s like watching a parody except it’s really scary because you know there are a whole lot of people who take him seriously, and Trump is one of them.

          • somer
            Posted March 14, 2017 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

            Alex Jones is incapable of telling the truth

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted March 14, 2017 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

              I’m not even sure he knows what the truth is, and he certainly doesn’t know how to identify it. If he tells the truth, it’s entirely by accident.

              • somer
                Posted March 14, 2017 at 8:19 pm | Permalink


        • Posted March 14, 2017 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

          Not only did he go on Alex Jones’s show, but he agreed that the main stream media is untrustworthy (he did not disagree with Jones calling them Nazis, either), and that Infowars is a good place to go for information. Rubin has lost the benefit of the doubt.

      • scottoest
        Posted March 14, 2017 at 6:50 pm | Permalink

        I don’t mind having people on who I vehemently disagree with, as it can often be interesting.

        What I hate, is that his conversations always turn to mutual backslapping about “regressive leftism”, while never-ever actually challenging anything coming out of the mouths of his increasingly right-wing guests.

        And make no mistake – Rubin has had a panoply of guests on, who have said lots of things worthy of a challenge, to say the least. But as long as they all bite their tongues about the more extreme garbage they’ve said, in favour of yakking about the failures of modern liberals, they can skate right through – and Rubin will even endorse them as thinkers, in some cases.

        AND, Rubin never actually has anyone on who will challenge his OWN worldview. Critics of Rubin like Eiynah have actually tweeted Rubin more than once, offering to come on, and he has been conveniently silent. He has traded one echo chamber for another.

        • somer
          Posted March 14, 2017 at 9:00 pm | Permalink


      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted March 15, 2017 at 6:02 am | Permalink

        Well said, Mark. Your words should be tattooed on the forearm of every undergraduate.

    • Posted March 14, 2017 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      I’ve no objection to him having them on. I want to hear them.

      It’s the nice cosy chat that does my head in.

      Frankly I’ve lost patience with looking at these interviews whilst screaming at the screen, “C’mon Dave, Get effing’ stuck in!!!”

      I feel pretty much the same about Gaad.

      I don’t watch Dave Rubin now, but his audience keeps growing so presumably his business plan is on track.

      I’m pretty much with Eiynah, here. I like Asra on certain issues but for the life of me can’t understand the Trump support.

      And Dave Rubin on Alex Jones? Really?

      When you need clicks, you need clicks.


      • Cindy
        Posted March 14, 2017 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        Is Alex Jones truly crazy or is he just a savvy businessman?

        At any rate, what he is doing is earning him lots of money.

        • Posted March 14, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

          I think the latter.

          I’m sure some watch it for fun, with others as immersed in it as they are in their gods.


        • Jeremy Tarone
          Posted March 14, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

          Is he crazy or an ‘amoral savvy businessman’?
          Perhaps he’s both.

      • Posted March 14, 2017 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

        “I like Asra on certain issues but for the life of me can’t understand the Trump support.”

        Well, Asra was brought to the US when she was just four years old, but understanding right-wing and sometimes authoritarian positions taken by her or Gaad is not that hard.

        Those who flee or migrate from repressive Islamic countries sometimes view the Islamic society a willing accomplice in government’s repression. They are not wrong on this issue. For example, Iranian men stood aside and let or even helped the Islamist government veil the women in early eighties. Islamic societies are NOT what some people on the left like to believe.

        What I don’t like, though, is when these people go from this kind of sentiment to approving or suggesting sweeping policies regrading the Middle East, or even the West. Things become worse when their suggestions turn out to be misguided, uninformed or not based on evidence. In these cases, they do more harm than good.

        • somer
          Posted March 14, 2017 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

          On Eiynah’s series on Saudi Arabia various Saudis or ex Saudi residents say that the royal family has to be extremely careful about any reform because the Bedouin-origin population is deeply conservative and does not want anything to change. Not the first place Ive heard or read that either. So much for the trope that its just oppression from the top, supported by western capitalism etcetc

        • somer
          Posted March 14, 2017 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

          Ive always thought try and have minimal involvement in ME, and have always been against the Iraq war and Libyan airstrikes. In retrospect Obama should have declared a no fly zone to protect syrians but its too late now.

          Tho I think Afghanistan was a defensive response to what was after all a territorial attack from the Afghan government of the time, and has remained a nest of jihadism, supported by Pakistan.

      • somer
        Posted March 14, 2017 at 8:15 pm | Permalink


  2. BJ
    Posted March 14, 2017 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    I don’t see how Gad Saad undermines anything. Statements like that are rather in tune with the regressives. Gad Saad is pretty brilliant and he can be vicious, but he’s never says anything that isn’t factual or is bigoted.

    I also don’t see it with Rubin, but what I do see is a lot of people say, “I can’t believe he had X, Y, or X on his show,” as if there are certain “untouchables” we shouldn’t engage. I personally always believe in more speech and in knowing my enemy (for example, far-right loonies and far-left loonies, though people only say this about Rubin when he has the far right ones on), but I can at least see where people are coming from on this.

    I also think it’s important to cut Gad Saad some slack in his tone. He literally had to flee his home country because Islamists wanted to kill him and his family for being Jews. And that kind of antisemitism (across the world and in Islam) has only increased since the days when he was a child running for his life.

    • Michael
      Posted March 14, 2017 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      Problem with Rubin is that he has become a megaphone for frauds (e.g. global warming deniers) and crazies from the right.

      They go unchallenged on his show and together with him they go on and on about the regressive left. Guests just tone down some of their more lunatic views and try to appear reasonable.

      I agree that Rubin is an opportunist which Eiynah also told Sam Harris in their podcast.

      Looking on Rubin`s Twitter feed and comments before the election, it’s also pretty obvious that he tries hard not to offend any of his right leaning base. His critic on Trump always was really tame (in the seldom case he spoke out) but he went on and on about Hillary.

      He seems to be really fishing for that frog loving audience by having some of his guests on and being in agreement with them.

      • Somite
        Posted March 14, 2017 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        On Twitter, Rubin, Gad, and Sargon have become jokes because their hypocritical method has been exposed by many.

        They call themselves liberals while giving a platform to truly odious people like, Milo, Alex Epstein, and Laura Southern. There’s simply no legitimate reason to interview or give a platform to this people unless your plan is that their rhetoric will pick up a few followers from the left.

        They jam a few legitimate personalities in between to transfer legitimacy to the far right loons.

        • Posted March 14, 2017 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

          “They jam a few legitimate personalities in between to transfer legitimacy to the far right loons.”

          I agree with everything you said, and wanted to add to this last point. When they do have legitimate personalities on they do their best to avoid topics that they might get pushback on, but when that happens they express a much more nuanced position than they express when they’re interviewing the right wing loons. So when Dave, or Gad interview, or are interviewed by a Sam Harris or PCC they almost sound reasonable, their true colors are exposed when they interview the loons.

  3. Posted March 14, 2017 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    Isnt this just an example of what happens with just about any complex topic nowadays? Most people don’t actually listen to or think about the arguments, they just listen for keywords and when enough boxes have been checked off they shove the topic into one of 2 categories. The only thing that can be done is to aggressively resist the simplification by clearing explaining ones position.
    I think this is why one can so easily predict the opinions of the average liberal or conservative on topics that don’t have much to do with politics

    • eric
      Posted March 14, 2017 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      Yes, in some ways this is a lament against anti-intellectualism and intellectual dishonesty. Having a nuanced view of Islam leaves one open to several different types of attacks:

      1. Those with a more simplistic view will find fault with it wherever it disagrees with their more simplistic view

      2. Some folk won’t take the time to bother with nuance – any concept too coplex or too contextually dependent will just be dismissed out of hand. So you may lose some people you’re trying to reach the moment you start talking complexities.

      3. Its easy for demagogues to cherry-pick a more nuanced view for their own purposes, or take parts of it out of context.

  4. Cindy
    Posted March 14, 2017 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    If we are ‘far right bigots’ for criticizing the killing of gays, FGM and child marriage, then wtf word does one use to describe *actual* far-righters?

    And I shall have to add Eiynah’s podcast to my list….

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted March 14, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Well, I am pretty sure we are not of the regressive right, if there is such a thing.

  5. Posted March 14, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    I do think it’s good to listen to those who have opinions opposed to our own, but I also think it’s important to look for the sensible, sincere, articulate ones among them, and engage with them.

    Or have the loons on and challenge them. (For example, here is Hitch interviewing a white supremacist.)

    Eiynah’s work is well worth following, in case anyone is unfamiliar. Here she is calmly dismantling the argument of a journalist who wrote that the Charlie Hebdo writers were partly responsible for their massacre.

    She also wrote the definitive response to Ben Afflick

    And has written a very beautiful children’s book that should be in every school. (Banned in Canada — why not try to get it banned in your country too!)

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted March 14, 2017 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      I too have great respect for Eiynah, and recommend her highly.

  6. Posted March 14, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    Right-wing YouTuber “Libtard America” recently made a video saying that women who have sex with non-whites are “traitors” who should be publicly beaten so as to be “brought into line.” (Sound familiar, shariah law critics?) Rubin promptly appeared on her show to call her an “ally” who is producing “good stuff.” He regularly engages and retweets Mike “no-such-thing-as-date-rape-when-in-doubt-whip-it-out” Cernovich. He praises Scott “strong-women-deplete-male-testosterone” Adams as a brilliant political analyst. He was one of Milo “child-rape-victims-are-whinging-brats-feminism-is-cancer” Yiannopoulos’s biggest cheerleaders. He lauds Glenn “Mexicans-are-criminals-I-hate-9/11-families-Obama-is-the-real-racist” Beck as a “centrist.” He perpetually promotes Paul Joseph “the-illuminati-control-the-music-industry” Watson and Carl (Sargon of Akkad) “pizzagate-is-real” Benjamin. He recommends Alex “government-is-turning-frogs-gay-Sandy-Hook-never-happened-9/11-was-an-inside-job” Jones as a viable media source for truthful news.

    It is not possible to be too hard on Rubin.

    • somer
      Posted March 14, 2017 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      Yes and Ive long stopped looking at Dave Rubin but the people you cite are fringe, and not a thing outside the US. I’ll always attack sharia law which is***orthodoxy*** in Islam and there are zillions of people that whitewash it. That IS the difference. Politics is polarising between harder right met by more unreasonable left and we have to stop that because they feed each other – although the rise of the right has economic disenchantment reasons as well, not to mention good old hankering for traditionalist simplicities (and oppressions) that are de rigeur in other parts of the world. Moreover if you think we have a duty because *principle* we should take All refugees as Merkel does you cannot fail in the longer run (if you continue in this vein) to destroy western society. Germans have made her stop doing that. There has already been backlash everywhere (as I said partly for other reasons) but it is a major factor feeding escalation of hard right and hard left. Theres a difference between denying the validity of borders and the racist xenophobia of Trump. Human history is territorial whether we like it or not – in the modern world thats stabilised with borders. Borders matter.

      • Posted March 14, 2017 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

        Not a word you said is relevant to my comment. Did you even listen to Eiynah’s podcast? Accepting the excesses of the Western far right is NOT a prerequisite for criticizing Islam. You’re offering a false choice.

        • somer
          Posted March 14, 2017 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

          I listened to her podcast when it came out. I should not have overreacted to your criticism because the people you cited are completely odious – odious people who excuse their views by criticising Islam – and I agree niether their recommendations on treatment of Muslims nor their right wing views in total are acceptable and need to be pushed back. And I agree Rubin has gone cactus. I’ll clarify to say we should never accept the far right – what I meant to say is some on the left wont criticise sharia generally because the far right exists, and sharia is after all Islamic orthodoxy and we must criticise it in my view. We must criticise both. I also think that Trump’s muslim ban and refugee block is unacceptable. Moreover the situation even before Trump was completely different in America which under Obama far smaller % of Muslims in the overall population than vast majority of West and migration policy with careful screening plus tending to take people who can contribute economically combined with small and sustainable refugee intake under Obama.

          What disturbs me is sections of the left that uphold multiculturalism holus bolus and reject expectations that migrants abide by the rights norms of majority culture, and the expectation we have a moral obligation to take unlimited refugees – 90% of whom are Muslim due to sectarian strife within the religion. This is much more a problem outside the US but the attitudes are in some sections and I think this distorts and polarises the debate

    • Posted March 15, 2017 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      Thanks for this comment. It lays it all out in one place. I think because Jerry is not obsessively on Twitter, and because Rubin seems to be a nice, charming, reasonable guy in person, he is underestimating Rubin’s precipitous decline. Rubin has become a source for Alt-Right propaganda. His only “balance” is to have a few non-crazy people come bash the left on his show. And he’ll let Jerry come talk about evolution to maintain links to the actually reasonable people. But on Twitter, it’s very clear where he stands. And he stands with Glenn Beck, Mike Cernovich (who Sam Harris destroyed recently in a twitter battle), Glenn Beck, Paul Joseph Watson, Alex Jones, Dennis Prager, and most importantly of all, Donald Trump.

      • somer
        Posted March 16, 2017 at 2:12 am | Permalink

        Early on Rubin appeared liberal – but he has shown himself to not be a liberal and just an alt right hanger on. I haven’t looked at him or Gad Saad in ages.

  7. Posted March 14, 2017 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    “I’ve tried to do on this site, and while I think it’s the true liberal position, Eiynah is frustrated that it’s not working.”

    I agree you have, but I think mostly she’s frustrated by the fact that many critics on the left gradually pander more, and more to the right because that’s where the money is.

  8. Posted March 14, 2017 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

    I vote Yes.

    • Posted March 14, 2017 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

      (I meant yes to Jerry going on the podcast. I do agree with Eiynah about Rubin and Saad, but didn’t mean to emphasize that here!)

  9. Rasmo carenna
    Posted March 15, 2017 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    I no longer follow Eiynah. I used to like her and, in general, I’d say I still like her, but I think she succumbs easily to the same tribalism she denounces in others.
    By the way, I can say the same about Gad and Rubin. I no longer follow them.
    That makes me value even more the equanimity and coolheadedness of the likes of Sarah Haider, Ali Rizvi or Stephen Knight.

  10. Posted March 15, 2017 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    I am compelled to point out the irony of Jerry claiming Eiynah is being “overly hard on Gad Saad” after he spent days hurling abuse at her the last time she was mentioned on this blog (calling Jerry’s attention to Nick Cohen confronting Gad on his show). Gad personally made well over a hundred abusive tweets at her in the wake of that post (over the course of just a couple of days) and made several Facebook posts about her as well. He encouraged his followers to do the same, leading to literally thousands of hateful, sexist, occasionally menacing tweets, posts, emails, and DMs in her inbox. I pointed this phenomenon out at the time because I thought it was important for Jerry to follow up truthfully with his own followers about the fallout to his article, but no acknowledgement ever happened. And now he’s admonishing *Eiynah* for being unfair to *Gad* for saying something about him that is true.

    To say I am disappointed is an understatement.

  11. Posted March 15, 2017 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    I think (ok, so this is totally subjective) that as atheists/agnostics we have an easy out on this. Being equal opportunity anti- religionists we can claim a sort of neutrality.
    Imo, Christianity is potentially just as harmful as Islam. True Christian believers are just one Constitutional clause away from burning your Aunt Tillie for witchcraft. Sure Islam is the major player right now as far as violence and religious oppression goes…but it’s likely that Xians are just experiencing a period of lack of opportunity. By all means lets speak out about Islam and all the rest of the popular fairy tales…and while we’re at it, lets also condemn bigotry and ethnic discrimination. We can do both!

%d bloggers like this: