Yesterday, Brian Lehrer, the popular liberal talkshow host on New York’s public radio station, had religious scholar Karen Armstrong on to talk about different religious traditions. At the end of the segment, Lehrer said, in so many words, But doesn’t Islam have to deal with the issue of violence? Isn’t violent jihad sanctioned by a large percentage of Muslims worldwide? In a word: Isn’t violence inherent to the practice of Islam?
I am not a religious adherent, myself, seeing religious institutions as real-world vessels of ideology. And I find the patriarchal aspect of the Islamic cultures I’ve visited troubling. But why the selective focus on Lehrer’s part? If we know anything about Why they hate us, it is that we have occupied their lands and have been killing Muslims in abundance for a long time. Rachel, commenting on the WNYC site, had the same reaction to Lehrer:
Brian’s typical even-handedness is in danger of failing when he talks about Islam. I have no interest in Islam, but I am sorry to hear routine slamming of one religion as more extremist — and this is what happens on this show. Jews and Christians — and Confucians and Buddhists historically — have plenty of sanctioned violence in their policies. Religious belief is malleable and as such given to extremism. Please, Brian, examine your reasons for singling out the world’s largest religion and stop referring to Islam as uniquely bad.
What are his reasons? I believe there is some ethnocentrism at work. Just today Lerher described the Nakba as one version of history, as if there were some dispute over the slaughter at Deir Yassin and the uprooting of 750,000 people. Israeli aggression has angered the Arab world. And as we reported, from B’Tselem the other day, Israelis kill a Palestinian non-combatant every other day in the Occupied Territories. That is real violence, with a religious flavor to it.