Well, see for yourself.
Here on The Big Think, Penn Jillette, famous magician and well-known atheist and libertarian, talks for 13 minutes about “Islamophobia.” After meeting a Muslim who became an atheist, but couldn’t admit it to others for fear of his life, Penn apparently realized the problems with Islamophobia, and talks about them for most of this video. His sentiments—that we can abhor a religion but not persecute its adherents—is admirable though hardly new to us, as is his disdain for Trump’s policies on restricted immigration. Yes, we need to exercise compassion for persecuted people, and open our doors to them as wide as we can, but there’s an issue we’re overlooking (see below).
As for the connection between Islam and terrorism, and whether we’ll subject ourselves to dangers by allowing more immigrants from the Middle East, Jillette admits that “There are hard problems here, really hard problems.”
But Penn neglects a serious problem when he says this: “You’re not allowed to hate people for their ideas.” Now that’s just not right. Excuse me for Godwinning, but are we not allowed to hate Hitler, only his Nazism and anti-Semitism? Are we not allowed to hate Jihadi John, who cuts off people’s heads, but only the religious ideology that promoted that action? Are we not allowed to hate Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, whose “theology” has led to the deaths of thousands?
The fact is that people instantiate their ideas through their actions, and holding beliefs that can inspire bad acts is itself reprehensible. If someone told you that they adhered to a form of Islam that held women to be inferior, called for a worldwide caliphate, and called as well for the death of apostates, gays, and non-Muslims, are we not allowed to hate them for that? Must we say, as does Penn, that “We have to remember that people are good.” But what about good people who adopt and act on those bad ideas? Don’t they become bad people?
Can you really separate ideology from a person? Yes, none of us are perfect, but some people have better beliefs and actions than others. And for some, the nature of their beliefs and actions descends to the level where we can say, “These are evil people.” Do any of us doubt that religious ideology can turn good people into bad ones?
What we should disdain—what I call “Muslimophobia”—is an obsessive hatred of and bigotry against Muslims in general. But I think it’s too facile to hold a doctrine that can assess people separately from the ideas they hold. I do not like any religious people who adopt religious doctrines that call for bigotry against women, gays, nonbelievers, or members of other faiths. That goes for Christians and Jews as well as Muslims.
(Note, by the way, the tremendous amount of weight Penn has lost because of his fruit-and-vegetable diet: 105 pounds! That came after he was hospitalized for high blood pressure. He looks good, but I’m not used to a lean Penn!)