There’s No Such Thing as “Islamic Extremism.” There’s No “Islamic World,” Either.

November 10, 2014

During a recent episode of HBO’s “Real Time,” host Bill Maher mocked President Obama’s insistence that the Islamic State does not represent Islam, and lambasted Islam as “the only religion that acts like the mafia, that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book.” One of Maher’s guests, actor Ben Affleck, called his remarks “gross” and “racist.”

The testy exchange went viral, prompting an important debate about the relationship between religion and violence. Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria, for instance, lamented the “cancer of extremism within Islam today,” while the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristoff described the diversity of the “Islamic world” and a bygone era where “Islam was not particularly intolerant.” Author Reza Aslan emphasized that the Islamic State, like Al Qaeda, is a “jihadist” group, not an “Islamist” one. Read the rest here, where this piece was originally published, at The New Republic.