Islam, Paris, and Polarization – with Michael Brooks

November 30, 2015

After the Paris attacks, tensions are running higher than they have in many years over the threat posed by Islamism, how we should talk about it, and how policy should respond to it. One of our most difficult cultural challenges is distinguishing the acts of violent Islamists from public attitudes towards Muslims in general, and specifically how heated and often ugly rhetoric impacts how we confront the massive refugee crisis.

To discuss this thorny and emotionally charged issue, Josh Zepps talks with Michael Brooks, a contributor for the award-winning daily political talk show The Majority Report. It is a lively discussion of a highly polarized issue, revealing just how complicated and nuanced Islam’s role in these crises truly is.

This is point of inquiry for Monday, November 30th, 2015. 

On Josh Zepps. Host of Huff Post Live and of the podcast hashtag We the People Live. And this is the podcast of the Center for Inquiry and was sponsored this week by Casper, the Mattress Factory. You can get fifty dollars toward any mattress purchase by visiting Casper dot com slash point and using promo code point. Now, since the Paris attacks, I’ve been getting ever more frustrated with the conversation around Islam. It is getting polarized by the media, by politicians, by probably people in your Facebook feed or at your Thanksgiving table last weekend. Perhaps on the one side are bigoted fear mongers. On the other is an infuriating refusal to admit that there’s even a problem at the fringes of Islam. And sadly, a lot of this has been focused now on our concerns about our local Muslim populations, about how many Syrians America should accept, that whether states should be able to refuse them, about whether refugees pose a security threat to Europe. And so I wanted to spend this week hashing it out once and for all with my favorite person, one of my favorite people, to have this argument with. Michael Brooks, a contributor and producer for the award winning daily political talk show, The Majority Report. He actually once worked for Rasor Aslam, a bet noires of the New Atheists. So I got him in a room and I began by asking him, does Paris change anything in how we think about local Muslim populations? 

Look, I think that. 

It should change how we think about local Muslim populations in the sense that we should start thinking about local Muslim populations and stop being fucking idiots. 

And in what in what way have we been being fucking idiots? 

Well, I think, look, if I was to make the the split in this conversation and I have once more sympathy with one of these sides and I’m an outline than the other, but I’m not that side, I would say that on one hand and Muslim discourse cutting from the new atheist crew to Donald Trump, there absolutely is blind, categorical, dumb, problematic statements about Islam and in fact, Muslims. I don’t buy that distinction. If you make categorical statements about the religion and what it represents and how people behave because of it, you are, in fact, making comments about Muslims. I would say, on the other hand, there is some people that rightly put more of a focus on foreign policy, on history, on context, on the geopolitical factors that set up the context for these problems. But they don’t always look deeply enough, because for me, like when you look at the rise of ISIS, it’s not just about the invasion of Iraq. It’s also about Sunni and Shia politics. It’s also about Saudi Arabia. So when I say geopolitics, I don’t just mean blame the United States and the West. I mean, literally what actually drives this stuff in the big picture. So I think that if there’s one group of people that is categorical and bigoted, there’s another group of people that only wants to focus blame on the West. And I 10 and I agree with those people more on policy. And I like the impulse not to be bigoted, but I think that it’s not a very integrated and holistic conversation. So what I would say is that let this be an opportunity to really start drawing distinctions. There is a big difference between Saudi Arabia and Iran. There’s a big difference between the Kurdish fighters that are battling ISIS and ISIS. Obviously, there’s a big difference between Wahhabi Islam and Sufi Islam and the different brands of Islam and how they’re funded and why. 

I would argue that the biggest problem in Islam today, quote unquote, is Wahhabism, which is an 18th century revivalist movement that is funded by Saudi Arabia. That’s a geopolitical question, even more than ideological one. But it is an ideological one. 

I have no problem making that very specific and sustained case that that is a problem. 

So let’s start managing not just a political problem or an ideological problem. It’s a theological problem. Sure. Because what the Saudis have used Wahhabism to do and what they’ve done in their deal and the House of Saud in its deal with the religious fundamentalists who guarantee their power. 

Right, is to encourage them and enable them and fund them to support the most extreme Salafist version of Islam around the world and to spread that into places where not only was it non-indigenous, it wasn’t even existence in Asia, around Southeast Asia. 

I mean, I wrote there are madrassas there that are preaching where people speak Arabic first and Tagalog. You know, the Filipino language or the Bahasa Indonesia, the Indonesian language. Second, because they’ve been so indoctrinated by Saudi money. Exactly. I don’t wanna get you away. I don’t know that you get away with a couple of other distinctions that you that you just made, really, because they were all really stiff. They sound astute. 

There’s a lot of the sound I have, you know, that I’m style, not substance. But let’s see if you could disrupt my substance. I doubt it. This is it. Yeah. 

This is this is one of the problems with the Islamist apologist left, which I’m not counting you as part of. But there is a really should. There is. I shouldn’t. But there. 

But, you know, in the battle between the the the new atheist movement and the Raisa Aslan’s and the and the Glenn Greenwald’s and the Mutasa Hussein’s and even the Dean Obeidallah, who is a friend of mine but who I disagree with on this point, it’s so much easier to sound sophisticated and intellectual and nuanced when what you’re doing is talking about complexity and complicating things and potentially obfuscating things. Then when you’re calling a spade a spade and stating things clearly. So I think you’re right that we need a lot of nuance and we should be careful not to demonize Muslims. We should be careful to specify exactly what the problem is that we’re identifying. 

But one can also end up finding oneself playing a kind of a game of three dimensional linguistic chess where all you’re actually doing is fun. We’re all you’re actually doing is kind of throwing up a bunch of different colored smoke screens so that look at all that, look at my command of Salafism and Wahhabism. My understanding of things is so much greater than yours that we end that we end up getting to a point at which we’re actually missing the fundamental question, which is I think for me. 

The other distinction that you just touched on, which is, is it possible to criticize the doctrines of Islam without being Islamophobic, without criticizing Muslims? 

I think it is. I mean, you just implied that it wasn’t. But I think by analogy, for example, I think it’s entirely possible to criticize Marxism as an economic doctrine without saying that we should persecute Marxists without saying that Marxists. 

That’s not what you said last week while I was here, while I was holding the bash. All Marxist. Yeah. Rally really in Central Park. 

You were actually there and it was not a safe space for me. 

This idea that even you even you saying that deserved a trigger warning. 

Right. And I feel I feel like that was a microaggression. Yeah. Yes. I’m also a macro aggression. I think gone. Yeah. Well, I think it’s deeply. I think it’s deep. Well. Feel free to interrupt me. I think it’s important for us to be able to. For us to be able to criticize ideas without being accused of criticizing people. 

All right. You’re criticizing people. Stop it. The first time I heard three dimensional linguistic Tressel’s with one of my ex-girlfriend. She said I was doing that. 

So not true. 

I’m just kidding. I think I think here’s here’s my basic beef is is I think to the extent to which I know you and I have disagreements on this as well. But I think fundamentally that when it comes to the study of religion as a phenomenon across the board, religion manifests in any number of ways, whether it’s Buddhist or Christian or Muslim or Shinto, whatever. It doesn’t matter. So, you know, Desmond Tutu and Pat Robertson are practicing the same religion. You know, theoretically, the way they are expressing in the world is fundamentally different and has radically different implications. So my thing is, is that I’m interested in policy and I’m interested in outcomes. 

So if somebody comes to the United Kingdom or the United States or Denmark or whatever and says, I’m going to migrate from Morocco and I’m going to live in this open society and take advantage of some of these benefits, and my daughter is not going to go to school. That’s not like a theological question. That’s a human rights. And you’re in the system question. 

And in that situation, no fucking way. Like multiculturalism and tolerance goes both ways. And if you want to play certain games, you got to respond to those obligations. 

And those obligations include like your daughter’s going to school. 

That’s how we live. You can think whatever you want about gay people, but you’re not going to bother them. OK. So these are policy questions. 

Where in terms of criticizing the doctrine. 

I have no problem criticizing the doctrine. It’s just, first of all, on the level of criticizing doctrine. And this goes for all of it. What I find frustrating about particularly the new atheists is they’re speaking to an audience that they’re mostly going to have no effect on in the sense that if you literally believe that the Earth is 5000 years old and you have a fundamentalist worldview like that, whatever thing that Richard Dawkins is tweeting is not going to make any fucking difference to you. 

So the people that you’re most insulting and most bashing are not going to respond to, you have no interest in what you’re saying. The other people, they get swept under that umbrella when you make blanketed in stupid statements, which people like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris absolutely do. Are people who have much more new wants to use of their religion and express it in much more different ways. And that leads to the next problem I have, which is it’s a total performative contradiction. I’m on board with you guys. 

When you say, look, we should support the liberals and the progressives and the reformers in Muslim societies. I don’t know a single progressive person, including the people that you named as having a problem with. And I guess full disclosure, I used to work for Reza Aslan, though I think bluntly, my views are a bit different than those guys. 

But I don’t know anybody in this conversation, from Sam Harris to Reza Aslan, that doesn’t say we should support the liberal side of the equation in in the Muslim debate. 

The difference is, is that when you say, as people like Dawkins do or Harris do, particularly Harris, the most true and authentic representation of Islam is fanatical ISIS. 

Well, that’s a total performative contradiction if you come at it like I do, which is that this is an incredibly complex phenomenon. Not to sound sophisticated because that’s just what fuck it is. I’m sorry. It’s a slightly complicated thing. It’s practiced by over a billion people and a couple thousand years old. Fucking hate it or love it, but it’s not like Rupert Koran weekend. And I wrote numerous articles. OK, got it. Sorry, I say all right. It’s a complicated thing. There’s beautiful expressions of it. There’s expressions of it that I feel neutral about. There’s expressions of it that I profoundly disagree with, but are none of my fucking best. 

And when you say expressions about it, are you talking about things that are in the Koran and the Hadith and that are preached by preachers? Are you talking about expressions of it in terms of the way that it tends to to flourish in pockets around the world? 

Well, the way it tends to flourish in parks around the world still do from come from the Koran, Hadith. So even like if I read like The Heart of Islam by Nassir, who has Hussain Nasir. Yeah. Was one the most preeminent scholars, the Globe of Islam. You know, and there’s a real scholar. This is not like a dude who’s just trying to write like a Muslim is a nice book. Muslims are nice book. He’s a real scholar. 

So his understanding of justice and Sharia and what that means come from chronic meaning for somebody like that. It means like, you know, Islamic finance, not charging interest rates. It means justice. It means an emphasis on community over individuality. There’s a lot of things that you can pick apart in that. 

But I accept that that also comes from that tradition, just as ISIS comes to see I don’t write. So I don’t buy that argument. ISIS is absolutely Muslim. Of course, they’re Muslims. And of course, that’s connected with Islamic ideology, but it’s not reducible to that. 

And the major problem when you say that’s absolute true, and I don’t think that Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris say that all of the things that ISIS do is reducible exclusively to Islam. 

Really, Reino think when a guy like Sam Maris’s I would vote for Ben Carson for president over someone like Noam Chomsky, which is a ludicrous comparison. 

Well, neither of those are Islamists. So, I mean, no, he said that. Yeah, I know. But he. But neither of those candidates are Islamists. So what do and Carson understand? That’s a foreign policy question. Yes. And that’s really what this fundamentally. So it’s a little. 

It doesn’t. It doesn’t. Yes. You know, it comes down to a question about people’s motivations and about theology. 

So, you know, you said that. 

So you said the same says things like ISIS is more Muslim or more true than what they have, the true version of Islam. 

And I might just want to say really briefly not to interrupt you, but I realize that with his new book he’s done with Nawas. He might have marginal gross margin wise. He might have slightly refined some of the things he said. 

What do you say? What do I know? He always said his case. Here’s what he said. Here’s what he’s saying. 

And far be it from me to defend Saddam. So I won’t defend him. I’ll defend me, which is this is what I am saying, is that to the extent that any religious person of any faith is not a fanatical fundamentalist. And thank goodness the vast majority of Jews and Christians and Buddhists are not to the extent that people are extremists. It’s not because they read the text more closely and obey the word of the creator of the universe more closely. It’s not because they they hewed more carefully to what the Koran or the Hadith or the Old Testament or the New Testament really told them to do. It’s because some some religions have been through more pervasive revelations, which means that they are able to plausibly get further and further away from the actual doctrine of the text. And they’re able to cherry pick better. So. So Christians are able to and especially Jews. I mean, Jews are a perfect example. They’re their fundamental text is one the most bloodthirsty things that you could possibly read. I mean, I’m a secular Jew. 

Somehow when you read me Corrick at a Chinese restaurant, there’s a lot of flexibility. That’s right. 

You know, you you just have to look at the incredible barbarism of the Old Testament and the fact that the people who are currently settler settlers in the West Bank who are stoning Palestinian people or or worse, who are doing horrible things, they’re not doing them because they strayed from the text. The text is incredibly barbaric. It’s the Jews like me who are straying from the text in the same way that it’s moderate Muslims who are straying from the text. 

That doesn’t mean those words must work. 

What is the relevant upshot of that to anything? 

So the relevant upshot is that there’s a concern if you want to bring it back to politics. My concern is. 

That we’re straying into an era in which one segment of the population is preaching vitriolic hatred towards all Muslims. That the Donald Trump’s and the governors who are closing their and closing. 

Yes. Well, say that these are reasonable positions. If you if you win, do you want. Michael, if you want to talk. If you want to conflate those two. And the far right will win. 

OK. If you want to, Sara, I want to be there both. That’s fine. 

They can be whatever they want to you what. What matters is what it was. What it means to voters more broadly is what it means to people who don’t have your level of nuance, sophistication, who know the difference between Wahhabism and Salafism and who can hold court on a podcast like this. My concern is that low information voters. In other words, people who don’t spend spend their life. 

I would look, I would love it if I believed that we could convince everyone that there is no problem with Islam. Right. If we could do. If I thought that anyone would buy what Howard Dean said the morning after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, when I went on MSNBC on Morning Joe and he said those attackers are about as Muslim as I am. 

When you invert, if I thought there was any chance that the large majority of people were gonna be sophisticated enough to believe that frankly bullshit claim because they’re not as Muslim as he was. Sam’s point is my point is they were very, very Muslim. 

They weren’t Muslim in a way that you like Muslims. They weren’t. Were some of the way that most Muslims live here. So, OK. 

So I want to be able to at least acknowledge a status quo, which is that there is a cancer at the extreme fringe of Islam, let’s call it as it is, and let’s try to find a way to win over a farmer in the south of France who constantly sees his countrymen being shot by people screaming Allahu Akbar, because he’s not going to vote for anybody who says this has absolutely nothing to do with this fight. So three quick things. 

First of all. 

I look, I don’t think in my in my view, to be blunt, I don’t think what I’m saying requires some sort of extraordinary level of sophistication. 

I think when you start having more Muslims coming into a country, every American is not usually sophisticated alligators. There’s been a pisco, pelicans and a different queen Baptist. And there’s a difference between, you know, some guy asking for checks on TV and, you know, the priest in the neighborhood who does something for drug addiction. It’s not really that hard to wrap your head around. 

And then the second thing is, is that, look, a lot of these right wing voters that are drawn to messages of xenophobia, first of all, and I’m not saying this is you, because I’m not always clear what your policy agenda is. 

But when you have someone like, again, Sam Harris saying that Ted Cruz’s religious test for refugees from Syria is a legitimate policy position, that he would vote for Ben Carson over Noam Chomsky because Noam Chomsky doesn’t get this. 

Just let me clarify what he said about Ted Cruz. He what he said was that it’s a legitimate thing. 

What he what he said was Ted Cruz was getting hounded as being a religious bigot for saying that Christian Syrians have less of a threat than Muslims. No, no, no. He’s now threat. 

He defended the policy of having a religious screening. 

Now, again, I don’t think so. But again, I’m not going to I’m not gonna argue for that. 

But here’s here’s what I think Sam said, which is it is wrong. And here’s where I agree. I think that policy is loathsome. And I don’t think you would have any religious test for anyone coming into this country. Right. But I also think that it’s unreasonable to slander as a terrible bigot someone who points out that Christian Syrians are less likely to commit jihadist terrorism than Muslim cooler and died mostly in Syria in this conflict. 

Of course, he has is and Christians have been slaughtered and murdered. But first of all, most of the people dead are Muslims. 

It’s a majority Muslim country who is protected. 

You see these and Christians. What militias have protect them? 

I mean, Muslim militia. How many people are put on issues in Syria? Michael, Muslims? I mean, it’s a majority Muslim. Those are those are vital points. 

Those are vital points that, first of all, it’s mostly Muslims. 

Most people have to take place in Syria. I’m definitely. 

And secondly and there are different types of Muslims. 

There are Alawites. They’re Shia. They’re not the older one who just raised. How many people have been through? I and Hillary is any third. 

And the other vital point is, is that militias and Kurds and groups that are Muslims have been the ones doing their best to protect Christians in the 80s. And I think that message and that appeal of xenophobia is, look, if you’re in tune to vote that way and you want to vote that way, there’s no farmer in the south of France who’s like, you know, I really want to really measured, balanced liberal atheist opinion on Muslims. And if I don’t get that, I’m going to vote for a fascist party. That’s ridiculous. 

So when you’re really. 

So if you’re a Torah loving, I think you’re talking in the level of like because you keep saying people don’t have time for all these sophisticated messages and nuances, then I would say the least harm that you’re going to present to the public is with this one message is Islam is this incredibly dangerous thing because the religion in some ways is the mother lode of bad ideas and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. But of course, I don’t mean all Muslims, whatever. Use your caveats. Everybody has their caveats versus the other simple message of yes, there are terrorists who do these grotesque things. We’re gonna bomb them, which they aren’t. Fucking bombs. It seems never entered this conversation. We’re going to have serious can security policies. 

But most Muslims, including like the lady who does your laundry down the street or that I was friends with you, they are in college piled into each of these each of these perspectives, a whole bunch of perspective that don’t normally go along with them. 

No, those are Vaizey Reza Aslan. Glenn Greenwald is not normally we going to bomb them. You just you just slapped. 

I don’t know. Right. Like Reza Aslan has actually advocated bombing. So why do you think? Well, I mean, I but I don’t believe that an religious problem. But this is how crazy this conversation gets. 

Pardon this momentary break, but I want to tell you about our sponsor this week, Casper, the mattress company that is changing the world. Ordinary mattresses kind of cost a fortune. It’s a bit of a rort. It’s not because they’re worth that much money, but because they take up a lot of space in show rooms and they’ve got to pay salespeople and resellers and whatnot. And even then, it’s a bit of a crapshoot because how can you tell whether you’re going to have a good night’s sleep for the next 10 years on the basis of lying on a mattress for two minutes in a store? Well, Casper is changing everything, whether it’s one of a kind hybrid mattresses, they’re made of premium latex foam and memory foam. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry. It just means it’s comfortable. They’re made in America and they’re cheap because they operate only online. How do you know you’re going to like the product if they operate only online? I hear you ask wisely, for you are terribly clever. You listen to this podcast. Well, you don’t got to know whether you like them yet because there is absolutely no risk. Just go to Casper dot com slash point and enter promo code point to get 50 bucks off. And Casper will offer free delivery and free returns within hundred days. A hundred days you get to sleep on the mattress and get a free return. 500 bucks for a twin size mattress. It’s nine fifty for a king, 950 for a king. Get 50 bucks towards any of them by visiting Casper dot com slash point and using promo code point. You spend a third of your life in bed, make it worthwhile. You can help out the center for inquiry doing our work. You can save your own money at the same time and your back will. Thank you for it. Now back to the show. 

Yes, this is what I mean. Let’s go back to actual policy. I do support, so let’s let live air. Yes. 

Because I think that’s just one of ton of of sort of bad faith and misinformation on both sides in this broader debate. Yeah, right. 

So you said you don’t know what my policy is. So it’s a little bit confusing. So I’ll tell you what, I guess what my actual policy. What is your actual point? I am a strong, strong believer in very high levels of immigration. Always have been. I think it enriches societies. I think it makes it I think societies that have very high levels of multiculturalism are better to live in and just more floret easier to flourish in for everybody. I also think there’s a moral case to be made that if you live in a rich society, you should be welcoming and many, many people. So I favor extremely high levels of immigration, considerably higher than we currently have and certainly far higher than the Syrian refugee intake that is being proposed even on the Democratic side. I think we could easily I mean, we’ve got four million Syrian refugees in just three countries, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. 

The five big, rich secular countries, the U.S., Canada, Japan, Korea and Australia comprise between them, 554 million people. 

You could resettle those four million people in a heartbeat. Wouldn’t even notice. We could do all of it. Absolutely. Are we talking about 10000 people here or 65000 people? There is an absolute. 

So we’re on the same page. So we’re I’ll tell you. 

But also the other thing that you point out, just to be fair to you. I might have a more liberal policy on the immigration crisis in Europe and the refugee crisis than you do. But I totally agree with that distinction, that in Europe, there needs to obviously be some type of screening process that isn’t in place, I guess. 

So they’re basically on the same page. Yes. So I. 

So I basically believe that we have the ability to thoroughly screen people to make sure that we are only bringing in people who were university educated. They’re doctors, they’re lawyers, they’re secular people. They basically do. 

We’re trying to build a life for themselves a little in fruit stand. They don’t have to be doctors. 

Yeah, definitely. Grindhouse. Yeah, sure. That’s that’s fine. Yeah. 

But the difference comes in Europe, where you have Germany resettling a million people who come from the most violent region in the world. And this is where it gets difficult. Who come from a community that has a cancer at the edge of it. And it’s very difficult to know how susceptible they are to that cancer. 

And this is where we get into the conversation. 

So I think there are two parallel conversations. One is about policy and the other is about is about the conversation itself. Right. 

So every time that you hear me say, like, why can’t we talk honestly about the crisis of Islam? 

What you hear, I think, is a whole lot of baggage about bomb the Muslims and we got to keep them out. I hear some of them. 

I don’t know if it works the other way as well, which is that when I hear you go into a whole, you know, spiel about how there isn’t a problem, we shouldn’t regard being a Muslim problem. 

I regard as being a Wahhabi problem. And to me, like you said. 

Then then then then what I then what I see is a civilization in Europe sleepwalking towards its own self-destruction is why here melodrama. 

Because it’s such melodrama. 

Well, wait until a nuke goes off. But look. OK. 

I want to talk about the drama rama. 

There’s no suitcase nukes that are going. 

And again, a dirty bomb. And you’re saying might well. Dirty bombs or hold their cameras. Yes, I know. Well, I mean, I can see them as a whole. The technical question for this. But again, this is this is what I’m talking about. And just getting getting bogged down in the details of like what? This all is going to be a dirty nuke. What is it going to be that this is all happens in the details? 

If you talk to people who do, including like I you know, I know people who are like fucking Republican, you know, like counterterrorism hawk type people. Right. And they hate they’re not like the yahoos. They hate this dumb conversation about Muslims from every angle. 

And a big part of it is, is because really, look, there is a like all of this shit gets conflated, OK? There is a book that you don’t like, OK, that maybe has some bad ideas. Again, I would say. 

To the extent to which you’re just saying, like you want to have a debate with somebody that believes the Earth is 6000 years old, like go have that debate. I have no interest in that. I wouldn’t do that. What is this name? Bill Nye. I wouldn’t do this shit. If you think dinosaurs and people lived together, whatever, then go do your thing, man. 

I have other more fun things to do. Whatever. OK, as long as that doesn’t infect the teachings of public schools, I don’t give a fuck. Number two, there’s a social question of how people immigrate into society. 

And there is there is whether you like it or not. There is a lot of complexity there. If you go to a place like France, on one hand, there is a lot of racism. There is a lot of disenfranchisement. And then on the other hand, there’s clearly a platform where these ideas get infected and people. And I would actually be very confident in saying terrorist threats inside a place like France or Germany is more likely to come from a disenfranchized bored kid who grew up in France than from a refugee coming from Syria. Absolutely. And then the third area is the specific security and intelligence work of being like, who the fuck is going to come in here and try to set off a bomb? Those are three totally different questions that require totally different responses and totally different conversations. And people who want to be, quote unquote, honest about Islam always can fleet those things. And to me, operationally, you can’t conflate them because those are totally discrete tracks. I mean, one thing could be like, look, as I said earlier in the example earlier, if you want to live in Holland, you have to send your daughter to school. There’s a legal question there. There’s a social question there that’s that’s important. Then there’s another question about on the other hand. Yes, some people can build some mosques here. Don’t be a fucking asshole. Those are different. They’re connected to. But they’re very different from. We have to monitor this guy who might be coming on a Belgian power to plant a bomb. 

Of course, security question. But I mean, I not let it fall. I might be honest about Muslim. No, whatever the fundamentals. 

Look, David Cameron recently gave a speech in which he was talking to his credit about the 4000 plus female genital mutilation. Is that take place in the United Kingdom every year? That that’s akin to you saying that, of course, if you come into the country and send a girl and that’s wrong. And that’s totally but that’s not prosecuted because the moment they go into those communities, those communities tend to hold ranks, you know, to pull in together and let’s meet our social cohesion problem. 

I mean that. But that to me is more analogous to like, how did you have a process where people started being like, yo, I don’t want the Mafia running this neighborhood? 

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. 

Right. So that’s that’s my point, which is that you’re right that if we have a conflict. A dirty nuke going off in Manhattan with a person being genitally mutilated in Birmingham, then we’re just not thinking clearly. But it doesn’t mean that if you realize that a certain practice is symptomatic of a way of thinking that could lead to an even worse practice, that you need to start grappling with the original practice. I mean, if there are if there are communities that are, you know, terrorism doesn’t happen in isolation, it happens because the person who he is strange noises in the middle of the night, in the apartment next to them, who sits, who sees young men coming and going. Day after day and at strange hours who suspect that something might be happening, feels that they probably shouldn’t call the French police because they feel alienated from the country that they live in. 

They feel alienated from their community, alienated from them. 

They might be arrested. They might be put on a target list. I mean, that is true as well. 

But my my point my point is the rate when you say, like, why are we being so hysterical about dirty bombs and nukes? Because you need to know what the worst case scenario is in order to know whether it’s worth caring about things that might otherwise be inconsequential, like misogyny and homophobia in Muslim communities in the West. 

Now, you can’t connect. Like, look, I. And this is this is where it starts to get really frustrating for me. 

I’ve seen people look, make another couple of distinctions here, I guess. 

Where does this notion guys wrap it up and I come quick, real quick, real quick. 

I watched this talk once by a guy who said you can’t trust Iran to fulfill its obligations for for the nuclear agreement because of its internal human rights record. That’s bullshit. That’s it. 

That’s a totally get all shit strapped. It makes no sense. 

And then number two, the other problem with this conversation is that I agreed to just simply say it like ISIS is example. They’re not fucking anti imperialist anticolonial freedom fighters. They are imperialists and colonialists. They’re Muslim, Khmer Rouge that want to reinstate power structure and commit genocide. Absolutely. And then there’s other groups that are like a group like Hamas, which engages in disgusting, despicable terrorism and tactics that has its ideology. I disagree with fundamentally. Their prime complaints are rooted in the terrestrial realm and are legitimate. 

Yes. And this conversation, you can’t get away from acknowledging and seeing those differences. And my bet would be at the end of the day, that if where the left is right. If you started to kill us, Muslims address some of these injustices where the right in the left, the genuine right, left or right. 

If you totally transform a relationship with Saudi Arabia, that’s a major. 

Problem, you would start to see the spread of different ideologies and the toxicity that feed some of these ideas would lessen. 

And if Islam has a unique problem now, if I was going to accept that premise, I would say it clearly and have a unique problem. The 14th century or 13th century, the 15th century, it was probably more enlightened and more sophisticated at times. So it has any problem now. What’s the changing variable? It’s not the core on Earth. 

It is no answer how easy it is. It is geopolitics. And that’s where the real answers are going to come. 

Yeah, I agree. No one no one says that the way that we interpret faiths isn’t culturally and historically contingent. 

I would agree with everything you just said and I would add to it it’s intensely important at this point in time that we make allies in the moderate Muslim community and that we support and bolster people like, marginalize and so on. And and people who who are seeking a reformation within Islam. And then I would just add to that, in addition to everything that you just said, that we be honest and upfront and frank about the crisis at the fringe of Islam, that extremism, Islamist extremism is Islamist and try to bolster and help people who are moderates. I mean, remember, every single fucking day in throughout the Muslim world, there was just a calamity of horrors against women in terms of women, as they did in China, as are not not to draw an equivalency. 

It’s not a global human, but global human rights issues are another discrete threat. And I agree with working on them. But that’s another discrete threat. 

And it’s not it’s actually not it’s not it’s not a threat to you or me. It’s not just something that Muslims have to endure every day in and countries have to adhere to some extent. Who else keeps the list going? 

India has horrific social and cultural practices around women. And Muslims, in fact, are being killed, arguably with the instigation and support of the current prime minister. 

And is very WellDoc. 

Indian women are way better off than women and most of the Muslim world. 

That’s may or may not be the case. But regardless. Human rights and how you deal human rights policies is a whole other set of questions, which I agree are really important. But I don’t hear a lot of people with the Muslim hysteria who have a global argument about human rights. 

I hear them having out about this. 

That’s what I’m talking about. I’m not saying people with anti-Muslim hysteria. I’m talking about people who have no animosity towards Muslims whatsoever like me. But just wish we could have a bullshit free conversation about it. 

Well, I would like to say two things. I agree with the bullshit free conversation. I think we’ve done a pretty good job of having that. And I would also just like that, will allow. 

Inshallah, Michael, inshallah. Shall I have a drink next week? Inshallah. Thanks. Good to talk to you, Michael. Thanks, Ben. Always a pleasure. 

Josh Zepps

Josh Zepps

An Australian media personality, political satirist, actor, and TV show host. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. He was a founding host for HuffPost Live.