Some of My Best Friends Are Muslims: A Dangerous Argument

by Ed Brodow

Comedian and magician Penn Jillette has an intriguing post on YouTube in which he explains his attitude about Islamophobia. He leads off with this pronouncement: “You are allowed to hate ideas; you are not allowed to hate people for their ideas.” In other words, an ideology should be separated from the proponents of that ideology. We can criticize Islam, he argues, but we must not criticize Muslims as individuals. “Islamophobia is not racism,” says Jillette. “Saying anything against Muslims is.”

Following Jillette’s logic, we are justified in despising the ideology of Nazism but we ought not to condemn individual Nazis. Jillette would give Hitler a pass—he wasn’t such a bad fellow, it was only the Nazi ideology that stunk. No thank you, Mr. Gillette. When someone tells me that he is a Nazi, I must condemn that person because of his belief in a barbaric ideology. If a person advocates the ideology of Islam—which includes murder, intolerance, and misogyny—that person must be held to account. Calling these people out for their vile beliefs is not racism.

Jillette, obviously an intelligent and thoughtful person, has fallen into the trap that I call, “Some of my best friends are Muslims.” This is a trap because it excuses people who subscribe to the tenets of Islam from responsibility for their beliefs. No ideology exists in a vacuum. An ideology exists because people believe in it. Separating believers from their ideology is a logical fallacy. The example I give in two of my books is Thuggee, a 19th century Indian religious cult based on worship of the Hindu goddess Kali. Adherents of Thuggee were called upon to strangle as many victims as possible in the name of their ideology. Thuggee was responsible for 30,000 murders a year in India until the British finally put a stop to it. We cannot separate the individual “thug” from the ideology of his religion. Yet that is precisely what Jillette is suggesting.

In case you think comparing Islam to Thuggee is out of proportion, consider this quote from Healthy Magazine: “In just over 1,400 years, Muslims have slaughtered more than 270 million non-Muslims—and that’s just the low estimation. How many more people must be killed at the hands of Muslims before we recognize that their motivation comes from their religion’s commands to kill?”

Mr. Jillette believes that although the tenets of Islam may be reprehensible, his Muslim friends are peaceful and caring. “Muslims really need our help,” he says. “We must love them, we must embrace them, even if they believe things we know are wrong.” Jillette contradicts himself when he admits that Muslims believe “things we know are wrong.” When someone says he wants to kill me because I do not “submit” to Islam, I am not going to turn the other cheek. I don’t have the luxury of separating that person from his ideology. People who threaten to kill me are my enemies. When they try to deflect my justifiable ire by calling me an Islamophobe, that is a self-serving attempt to avoid taking responsibility for their obedience to a barbaric, seventh-century cult.

The argument usually given in support of “Some of my best friends are Muslims” is that millions of Muslims do not accept the hateful elements of Islam and are not terrorists. In response, I would suggest that any Muslim who disregards the basic tenets of the religion—killing non-believers, apostates, and homosexuals; subjugation of women; intolerance of other religions—is not a Muslim. Worldwide, we have millions who call themselves Muslims but who really are not Muslims. They may identify as Muslim only for ethnic or social reasons. Similarly, many self-described Catholics and Jews do not follow their religion, but think of themselves as Catholic or Jew because their family practiced that religion. Jillette cites the example of a Pakistani-American, raised as a Muslim, who is afraid to announce his atheism because there are Muslims out there who would without a doubt try to kill him for the sin of apostasy.

But regardless of whether they believe or don’t believe, the Muslims-in-name-only must be held accountable because their passive behavior enables the worst aspects of the Islamic ideology. Their silence is evidence of complicity. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough ex-Muslims—Ayaan Hirsi Ali, for example—who are outspoken in their rejection of Islam.

Jillette’s “Some of my best friends are Muslims” approach is dangerous because it inhibits our defense against the jihadists and their assault upon Western civilization. Giving a pass to Muslims promotes tolerance for an intolerant Stone Age political ideology that wants to replace the Bill of Rights and the Constitution with sharia. We have a right and a responsibility to demand that immigrants to this country accept the values that our ancestors fought and died for. Islamic values represent an absolute contradiction to ours. The two systems cannot coexist. Wherever Islam gains a following, Muslims—that’s right, individual Muslims—demand an end to human rights and the freedoms we take for granted. “Resist it while you still can,” warned Christopher Hitchens, “and before the right to complain is taken away from you.”

Ed Brodow is a political commentator, negotiation expert, and author of Tyranny of the Minority: How the Left is Destroying America.

Copyright © 2017 Ed Brodow. All rights reserved.

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