As I'm sure most of you know, Ben Affleck was recently on Bill Maher's show and gave a spirited defense of Islam. My opinion of Bill Maher is that he is a gigantic douche who routinely spouts horseshit and uses the same old tired shtick. That anyone even bothers to watch his show for purposes other than derision, really boggles the mind.
In any case, I'm with Affleck on this one. I am not a Muslim (despite what some people tell me), and I'm pretty sure I never will be. But that doesn't mean I'm not disturbed by the alarming level of Islamophobia that exists in the world. It would be one thing if it came from Neocons like Dick Cheney or conservative heroes like Sam Huntington or Robert Spencer, but it comes from supposedly liberal progressives, libertarians, smart people, and dumb people. It's incredibly sad to hear the same people passionately defend the idea of judging people on who they are as an individual rather than who they are as a group, fail to extend that principle to Muslims.
Furthermore, I find it odd that these Islamophobes claim to be "experts on the true Islam" but when an actual Muslim disagrees with their description of the religion, they dismiss the person as either not a true Muslim, or of engaging in deception to lull people into a false sense of security. There is no way to have a conversation or meaningful debate with someone who regards people who disagree with their view of the world as liars or Uncle Toms. I remember when Reza Aslan came to my college back in 2007 and he said he found it ironic that the two people who want to depict Islam as inherently violent are Osama Bin Laden and televangelist Pat Robertson. That should tell you something.
Acts of terrorism committed by people claiming to speak for Islam represent a very small percentage of violent acts. In fact in the United States you are more likely to be killed by someone you know, or a police officer than you are a terrorist. Hell, I'm sure some of you know women are more likely to be raped than killed by a terrorist, yet I don't see any collective freak out over rape in our society, at least not anywhere near the same level as we do with regards to terrorism.
Really though, at the end of the day there really is no one who speaks for all of Islam. There are the Five Pillars (none of which is war or even the much misunderstood word "Jihad") and the Qur'an, but there are all kinds of nuance and tiny details outside of those things. You can choose to believe the worst of Muslims, or you can choose to accept that they are no different than anyone else in this world. And you don't have to be a Muslim to understand this either.