Eric D. Snider

Islam, You Slam, We All Slam

Snide Remarks #671

"Islam, You Slam, We All Slam"

by Eric D. Snider

Published on October 2, 2012

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You've probably heard about the movie on YouTube that says terrible things about Muslims and that inspired some Muslims to fight back against the slurs by proving them right. While it is far from the most loathsome thing on YouTube, it has certainly been the most lethal. So far the film has caused more than 50 deaths worldwide, an impressive figure that even "Ghost Rider" was unable to match.

Actually, I should say that the reaction to the film has caused these deaths. The movie didn't do it. The movie is barely capable of being a movie, let alone killing people. No, it has been the Muslim extremists' wildly disproportionate reaction to the movie that has been problematic. Murder is not a rational response to a movie, no matter how infuriating it is. (To someone talking during a movie, yes.) I mean, I'm hardly the picture of self-control, and I never detonated a bomb in a public place, not even after I saw "Mr. Popper's Penguins."

Yet we keep shifting the blame, sometimes subtly and sometimes not. It happened two years ago with that idiot pastor in Florida who was planning to burn a pile of Korans, and it happened again recently with this movie, "The Innocence of Muslims," which used the twin evils of lying and bad acting to defame Mohammed. In both instances, sane people pleaded with the antagonizers not to do it, because it would only make the terrorists more terrorist-y.

Now, most of us agree that making movies for no other reason than to insult someone's religion is a poor use of one's resources, and that burning Korans is a pointless waste of perfectly good Koran trees. But one of the great things about America is that we are free to do any moronic thing that pops into our heads, as long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of others (or occur in an airport, which of course is a police state). So assuming that the filmmaker had the proper permits and didn't break any laws while shooting, and assuming the pastor owned all those Korans he intended to burn and hadn't stolen them from a Koran store*, they were well within their rights. In America, everybody's free to make propaganda and set fire to holy books all the livelong day.

It all goes back to that famous quote about free speech: I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death my right to make fun of you for saying it.

The problem isn't that some bigot hates Muslims and made a crappy film to provoke them. The problem is that there are some Muslims who respond to insults BY KILLING PEOPLE. Trying to persuade people not to do dumb things out of fear that the dumb things will inspire crazy people to murder them is ridiculous. If you have a pet monkey that viciously attacks and kills anyone who taunts it, sure, you can advise people not to taunt the monkey. But you know what else you could do? Get rid of the monkey. At the very least, you can acknowledge that the monkey is the one with the problem here. Taunting a monkey is despicable and ignorant, but it doesn't warrant that kind of reaction.

By the same token, however, let us not forget that the vast majority of monkeys do not respond to tauntings with violence. Many people -- including, I'm ashamed to say, some of my fellow Christians -- don't give the same benefit of the doubt to Muslims (who, I hasten to add, are not monkeys. That was an analogy). Read any news article on the Internet about Muslim extremists and you'll find people in the comments asserting that Islam as a whole is a dangerous, bloodthirsty religion -- in other words, that the terrorists are the rule, not the exception. (The lesson here is that you should never read Internet comments.)

So is that true? Is it an article of Muslim faith that righteous Muslims must destroy America and all other infidels? One way to find the answer to this question might be to read the Koran and see what it says on the subject. But most Christians are reluctant to do this. Most Christians, let's be honest, hardly read their own scriptures, let alone someone else's. And even when they do read the Bible, they usually ignore 75 percent of it (i.e., the Old Testament) except for the parts that say it's OK to kill gay people. So we won't hold our breath waiting for non-Muslims to learn about Islam by reading the Koran.

But we don't need to read the Koran to determine whether all Muslims wish to murder us. All we need to do is employ a little common sense. (Don't worry! Just a little!) There are 1.7 billion Muslims in the world. If most of them were hell-bent on destroying America, America would already be destroyed. Heck, if even 10 percent of the world's Muslims passionately hated and actively sought the death of non-Muslims, that would be 170 million people. An army that large -- even an angry, disorganized mob with no money or sophisticated weapons, riding camels instead of tanks and wearing turbans instead of helmets -- could easily wipe us out.

You don't have to know anything about Islam to know that a religion doesn't gain 1.7 billion adherents by focusing on a message of hate, outrage, and murder. The old axiom about catching more flies with honey than vinegar applies just as well to religion as it does to fly-catching.

For example, the most hateful of all religious groups is the Westboro "Baptist" "Church," the douche-necks who protest at soldiers' funerals and behave like attention-starved sociopaths. That group has something like 50 followers, most of them related to the pastor, "Rev." Fred Phelps. Why the low membership numbers? True, it's partly because the church is located in an obscure, hard-to-find place (Kansas). But it's primarily because most human beings have little enthusiasm for ideologies that are centered on antagonism, on being against something rather than for something. That's why fringe groups like Westboro Baptists, Muslim extremists, white supremacists, and Ayn Rand proponents remain on the fringe. When your central tenets are cruel, uncompassionate, and violent, the only people you're going to attract are the lunatics. And as much as a visit to Wal-Mart or a small-town newspaper's letters to the editor page might suggest otherwise, lunatics still make up only a tiny fraction of the human population.

I should think that Christians, of all people, would be careful about judging an entire religion based on the actions of a few of its believers. Do Catholics like it when people assume all priests are pedophiles? Do Mormons like it when people assume all Mormons are polygamists? Do Southern Baptists like it when people assume all Southern Baptists are conservative racists? Do Methodists like it when people assume whatever it is that people assume about Methodists? That they all smoke meth, maybe? In every case, the faithful of those religions would insist that the bad apples do not reflect the values of the church as a whole, and that those people have perverted the church's teachings to suit their own agendas.

The same holds true for Muslims, as is obvious to anyone who gives 10 seconds of rational thought to the subject (which is to say, not Glenn Beck). There are 2.7 million Muslims in the United States. What, are they all secret sleeper agents, just waiting for the signal to attack from the inside? Or are maybe 99.9 percent of them perfectly ordinary, law-abiding Americans who love their country, and who shake their heads every time one of their fellow Muslims does something evil that gives the rest of them a bad name? You know -- the same as with every single other religion?

Here's what all of this boils down to: don't be a jerk. Don't go out of your way to aggravate people for no good reason -- and if someone aggravates you for no good reason, don't murder them. Don't go looking for things to be insulted by, and don't go looking for ways to insult people. You're offended? Get over it. You're being offensive? Cut it out. If you can't follow these basic guidelines, I'm afraid I'm going to have to make you watch "Ghost Rider" again.

*Possible names for Koran stores: Koranthropologie; Korann Taylor; The Islamporium; Allah Dollar; Let's Mecca Deal.

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This item has 23 comments

  1. Robert says:

    For me, the possible names for Koran stores made this article.

  2. Jason says:

    The Ghost Rider bit and the insight into Methodists were genius. Also impressive--logic, reason, research, basic math skills. But I'm still going to give the whole ball of wax (makes sense that these are given freely) to the Koran tree line. Nice one, Eric D.!

  3. Carrie says:

    I was bemused by this snide remarks...until I hit "Let's Mecca Deal." Then I started laughing a bit too loudly for work.

  4. TacoDave says:

    Great article. Your points are good and the humor had the right balance.

    I will say, though, that for Christians the Old Testament doesn't apply for a reason: Christ did away with the "letter of the law" to focus on the "spirit of the law." So Christians don't really need to follow all of those archaic laws.

    But you grew up Mormon, so I bet you knew that already.

  5. Andrea says:

    "or occur in an airport" - ohhhh yes.

    I think it's funny-sad that most of the people arguing with Glenn Beck about his "10%-of-Muslims-are-terrorists" guess think that it's too LOW.

  6. Brian Otterson says:

    Excellent as always, Eric. Given your "other job" though, I'm surprised you didn't spend more time insulting the so-called movie that inspired this column. Most of the world asserts that movies and music are among the only things left that Americans can produce of world-class quality. Thus abominations like that not only do NOT represent America, but verge on treason. Mr. Popper of course, inspired calls for a reinstatement of the HUAC.

  7. Eric the Non-Snider says:

    I am not reading the comments.

    But I will thank you for another dose of sanity and perspective.

  8. dddrum says:

    Dear Eric,

    That was, as usual, a fine, cogent,well-written and laugh-out-loud funny article. Your use of humor to excoriate hatred is admirable. Unfortunately, you may have inadvertantly furthered a myth that the media have been promulgating for the last four or five years, which is that Glenn Beck is an ignorant, hateful liar whose purpose is to stir up violent ill will amongst the masses. Anyone who saw his recent Restoring Love event, or who has taken the time to actually read one of his books or listen to his show will tell you that that is totally untrue. He is a practicing Mormon, like yourself, and the values he espouses are biblical, loving, and Godly. He is a political commentator, who voices his concerns about the state of the world, clearly labels them as his opinion, and urges his audience to think, do their own fact finding, and to act in specifically non-violent and totally constitutional ways to effect the changes that are our hope to heal this fractured American society. But we have been conditioned to froth-at-the-mouth salivate with rage at this man, at the mere mention of his name. I mean, Pavlov much? Come on, Eric. Don't help the haters. You're too smart for that. As the saying goes, "It's funny 'cause it's true." Slander, however, is too too lame.

  9. Unnamed source says:

    Several observations of mayhem and mischief including murder, bombs, killing gays, destroying America, white supremacists, yet no mention of Madonna anywhere in #671?

  10. Scotty P says:

    You had me at "burning Korans is a pointless waste of perfectly good Koran trees," Can't stop laughing. Thank you Eric D. Thank you.

  11. dddrum says:

    Oh, I hasten to add, the Mr. Popper's Penguins reference was hilariously accurate. I might have suspected it all along as an al-Qaida sponsored plot, but for the fact that it doesn't have much of one to speak of. Hee hee, oh hee.

  12. Lobo Oz says:

    Spot on Eric and way funny. The freedom to voice our opinions is what keeps this country great. As one who has shed is blood on foreign soil to protect that priviledge I applaud you.

    Ok, so I cut myself shaving while stationed in Panama, it was still blood and foreign soil.

  13. Azadeh says:

    Dear Eric,
    As a Muslim let me thank you for this article.
    It was exhilarating to read my own thoughts written by you. I always admired your sense of humor and this was a fantastic example of it.

    Personally, I hated the said "film" very much, but I just flagged the clip on Youtube and ignored it what so ever. As you mentioned its soul purpose was to insult and create this chaos in the middle east, and with all the attention it got, it succeeded!

    You know, these days with all the advances in communication technologies, ordinary people such as you in US and me in Iran, and so many others around the world, get to know each other more and more. And by each day we understand that we are not that different from one another after all. And all these propaganda is just a tool for politicians on both sides to sell their weapons or to use the fear of an enemy to rule us and take away our social freedoms.

    Forgive me if I said too much but I just wanted to express my feelings about this issue and it felt good.

    Again thank you Eric, and please say hello to Jeff for me.

    By the way we buy Qurans at a regular bookstore, but I loved your suggestions, maybe we should start calling them that ;)

  14. John Doe says:

    I loved the article because it was funny and logical.

    However, there are a few things that people see that makes them think less of Muslims: We have nations that have Islam as their national religion that execute you for being gay. Women in some of these countries are beaten for showing too much skin or wanting to drive. Leaders of some of these countries have made public announcements that they will punish anyone who insults the prophet Mohammed and do call for the destruction of Israel.

    While I'm sure these views do not reflect those of most or many Muslims, sometimes they don't do themselves any favors by electing leaders with nigh terrorist views and somewhat genocidal views (this is for more than one leader or country), and the aforementioned treatment of gays and women. I don't know anyone who'd look kindly on Catholics if the Pope literally said he approved of pedophiles, or Mormons if their leader said women should be beaten if they aren't submissive, nor would people look kindly on the US if President Obama declared, as a Christian, that he will imprison and punish anyone who insults Christ.

    I'm not disagreeing with Eric's statements which are both funny and wise, but there exists real evidence that people who don't have high opinions of Muslims are necessarily crazy wing-nuts who refuse to educate themselves.

  15. Laurie says:

    @Azadeh

    Thank you so much for your comment. It is generally much easier to look objectively at other groups taking the heat of criticism and/or negative propaganda and much harder to take when it is directed at our own. I'm personally very impressed with the maturity that you have handled this issue.

    So many otherwise 'well meaning people' in the USA have shown such a nasty, close-minded, biased attitude towards Muslims. I love to hear your voice of calm reason, especially when you can also accept that little touch of humor towards things sacred to you.

  16. Heidi says:

    I've been reading your articles since I was a BYU student in the 90s, and while this is not your funniest article to date(the store name possibilities did redeem you a bit), it is definitely one of my favorites. Thank you for your thoughts on this subject, that coincide so perfectly with mine, but are expressed so much better by you.

  17. Big Drew says:

    I normally love your stuff Eric, but the premise of this Snide Remarks is totally wrong.

    First, the murder of Americans in Benghazi was not a response to this stupid film (whose trailer has been on Youtube for months) but a "deliberate and organized terrorist attack carried out by extremists" per James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, in the NYT.

    Second, you (Eric) can't have it both ways. You cannot condemn filmmakers for making trash like "The Innocence of Muslims" then give muted praise for Bill Maher's anti-Christian "Religulous". In your own words: "(Religulous) is not even really anti-religion – it’s anti-Christianity. Judaism and Islam each get a scant few minutes of screen time, and no other faiths are even mentioned."

    While you largely ripped "Religulous", you also said Bill Maher was "funny and insightful" and "quick-witted and intelligent." You said some of the blatantly anti-Christian movie was at times "funny, even hilarious."

    I see what you are trying to do with this Snide Remarks, but it just doesn't work.

    Muslim terrorists murdered Americans in Libya out of hate, not because of "The Innocence of Muslims." I will also be waiting for your full review of "The Innocence of Muslims", curious to see if you will call writer/director as funny, insightful, quick-witted, and intelligent as Bill Maher.

  18. VDM says:

    You just broke your own horrible logic.

    1. We could check the Koran to see.
    2. Christians won't do that, they won't read their own book! LOL!
    3. I don't need to check it, just use common sense!

    If you're not willing to check for yourself, maybe you shouldn't even bring up the stupid point.

  19. Neil says:

    @John Doe - my understanding of democracy in that particular region of the world is that it is a more muted form of democracy. Part of the frustration on the part of folks there is the perception that beause we choose our leaders, they are an extension of our will. When they choose to attack civilians and torture people, it is our will. And so, we are all responsible. There, government is one that stand over and above the people - the decisions of government are not an extension of their will. You are ascribing to the populace a platform they may or may not agree with.

    As for the article, great as always Eric. A nicely moderate outlook that makes me all the more sad for the nutters.

  20. asm says:

    copy and paste from quran.com:

    Sura 9:29 Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture - [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled.

    If this is taken literally and as an important actionable tenet, is not violence the natural outcome?

    Even if only 1 percent of Muslims make this their priority, it's a problem. A super-majority of Muslims are peaceful, it's the radical minority that is worrisome.

  21. Taradon says:

    I loved this one. Especially the final summary in the last paragraph. Thanks.

  22. Artwaltz says:

    VDM I think the articulated statement has soared far above your bonce.

    They (the troublemakers) don't even have the *capacity* for common sense, perhaps the result of a tragic birth defect. They take one look at anything that might offend them and skip right to the part where they maim, kill and burn (at least that's what their justifications does to my ears).
    More often than not it's shouting loudly but that's the behavior that garners the media's attention and any commentator who enjoys recklessly voicing stupid opinion without a permit after curfew.

  23. Zina says:

    Just reading this a couple months later and saw that you made almost the identical argument to one I had made to a facebook friend who thought the moviemakers had as much blood on their hands as the terrorists--except my argument used dogs instead of monkeys, and was more earnest-toned:

    "I think to compare a scurrilous filmmaker to a hit-man employer is to give terrorists too little accountability for their choices. It's like saying that they're trained dogs that will kill if a person says, "kill." If terrorists are that robotic and devoid of accountability then maybe we had better outlaw the word "kill," but I don't think that's the case; I still think terrorists could choose to take a different path. They may have proven that they won't, but we shouldn't pander and create a different standard of accountability for them than for normal people like you or me who can be very offended and yet not kill anyone."

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