Affleck, Maher and Van Susteren argue ISIS and Islam

Affleck, Maher and Van Susteren argue ISIS and Islam

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CHARLOTTE, N.C., October 7, 2014 — Ben “Argo” Affleck and Bill “the old grey” Maher got into a verbal exchange that provided a rare moment of agreement between the liberal HBO host and foes of Islamic extremism.

It was mostly a shouting match in which Affleck took the traditional “Islamophobia” side of the argument and Maher countered that ISIS and Islam are one in the same.

Affleck attempted to incorporate the standard idea that all Muslims are not terrorists while only a handful of misguided nutcases are responsible for the present war against global terrorism. It’s the same argument the Obama administration continues to use, but, as with the president’s recent orations, that dialogue is tired and irrelevant.

During her “On the Record” program on Fox News Channel, Greta Van Susteren used Ben Affleck’s approach up to a point by challenging “moderate Muslims” to step up and renounce the horrendous deeds currently being perpetuated by ISIS in the Middle East.

Unfortunately, the problem with Van Susteren’s plea, and what Affleck and others will not get into their heads, is that “moderate Muslims”, in the sense they are using the term, simply do not exist.

Therefore, it is not possible for Muslim authorities to answer the Fox anchor’s challenge.

The person making the most sense in addressing Bill Maher’s analysis is a Swiss academic who is a Catholic priest teaching at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome. Speaking in an interview on Italian television, Martin Rhonheimer boldly stated that the Islamic State cannot be un-Islamic because “the model for ISIS is Muhammad himself.”

In a day and time when heads are being lopped off at the neck all over the Middle East, such a statement by a Christian is not only powerful but also extremely brave.

Rhonheimer’s university is endorsed by Pope Francis who took a similar stance as Affleck and Van Susteren when he said, “authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”

On this point, the Pope and Rhonheimer completely disagree. Like Van Susteren, Rhonheimer says there are few official Muslim voices who condemn the Islamic State.

That much is true, but it is there that the road forks when Rhonheimer states that when Muslim disapproval eventually does occur, it only decries the brutality of the crimes against humanity and not the religion itself. Says Rhonheimer, Islam is a “recurring pattern in the history of violent expansion. The model is Muhammad himself.”

As numerous other critics of Islam have done in the past, Rhonheimer cites dozens of Koranic verses which serve as a guidebook for all true Muslims. In that sense, the Islamic State is not un-Islamic, but rather, purely Islamic.

“Islamic State’s legitimation finds its basis in the Koran and Islamic law, the Sharia. You will find no arguments within Muslim theology that can be used to condemn Islamic State’s behavior as un-Islamic,” says Rhonheimer.

It is in that last sentence that Van Susteren’s plea becomes impossible to carry out and where Affleck’s argument comes up short.

Some say Islam is not a religion, that instead it is a way of life. Rhonheimer goes the other way when he states, “Islam is more than a religion. It is cult with political and social rules and unites religion and political and social order in one. And it has always been violent.”

The word “cult” is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. It carries strong connotations which, in many ways, are closer to the truth than Muslims and their apologists are willing to accept.

As for Islam always being violent, history cannot be denied and there are 14 centuries of documentation to back it up.

Indeed there are peaceful verses in the Koran, but everyone who uses those as part of their argument fails to mention that those verses were written in Mecca when Muhammad himself was a “peaceful” prophet.

Muhammad did not become a warrior until 622 when he left Mecca for Medina. It was there that he mustered his army and began to expand, much as ISIS is attempting to do today.

Rhonheimer mentions the difficulties for “moderate Muslim” scholars saying, “they are confronted with Islam’s central problem: when they return to Islam’s origin, they come across the warlike, expansionist Islam from Medina, the legitimacy of killing for Allah’s honor and a violent Muhammad.”

Meanwhile the Islamic State continues to expand. The Koran instructs them to do just that.

Martin Rhonheimer and Bill Maher have it exactly right, the Islamic State is Islam in its purest sense, and what makes ISIS so frightening is that so few people will admit it or understand it.


Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News. Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod


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