October 11th, 2014
10:46 PM ET

Let's be honest: Islam has a problem today

Watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS," Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN

By Fareed Zakaria

When television host Bill Maher declares on his weekly show that "the Muslim world...has too much in common with ISIS," and the author, Sam Harris (a guest on his show) concurs, arguing that "Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas," I understand why people get upset. Maher and Harris made crude simplifications and exaggerations.

And yet, they were also talking about something real. I know all the arguments against speaking of Islam as violent and reactionary. It is a vast world of 1.6 billion people. Places such as Indonesia and India have hundreds of millions of Muslims who don't fit these caricatures. That's why Maher and Harris are guilty of simplification and exaggeration.

But let's be honest: Islam has a problem today...There is a cancer of extremism within Islam today. A small minority of Muslims celebrate violence and intolerance, and harbor deeply reactionary attitudes towards women and minorities. And while some moderates confront these extremists, not enough do so and the protests are not loud enough. How many mass rallies have been held against ISIS in the Arab world today?

But now the caveat, Islam today, is important.

Watch the video for the full Take or read the WaPo column.

Post by:
Topics: Fareed's Take • GPS Show

soundoff (1,656 Responses)
  1. Blue Saffron

    Modern day genocide was invented by Americans and implemented by NATO In Iraq and in Afghanistan. Their leaders Bush/s and Obama are complicit. To date hundreds of thousands of folks have been murdered. Slaughtered in cold blood. Moslem holocaust.
    The world watches. UN plays the fiddle. Hindoos celebrate. THERE WILL BE PAYBACK. WATCH !!! HISTORY IS A GREAT TEACHER !!!

    October 12, 2014 at 9:21 am | Reply
    • Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

      Wrong. "Modern day" genocide was invented in the early 20th century by the Germans in Namibia (then SW Africa) and the Turks in Armenia. The Bush-Cheney version of genocide is more accurately described as "Post-Modern," and perpetrated as Israel's proxy war against its neighbors.

      If you believe that stuff.

      October 12, 2014 at 10:01 am | Reply
  2. Cristobal

    It appears to me that Muslims are the fastest growing segment of world society today. As others are withering away the Muslims seem to be rising again with their contributions as was the case historically when they ruled India and Europe and left behind a legacy of science, art, architecture, culinary et al.

    October 12, 2014 at 9:26 am | Reply
    • Big Bob

      The only thing they contribute is a violent book and more muslims. Nothing of any real value.
      It's true you ruled India and most of Europe by the sword though. What happened? Did you just get bored? Or did you run out of infidel money? (jizya)

      October 12, 2014 at 9:34 am | Reply
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        Seems like you are having a bad day. You are getting discredited in every comment you make. Did you not i dulge in incest last night as mandated by your hindu Rg Veda book... Errrr p ornography.

        October 12, 2014 at 9:38 am |
    • TheNextLastProphet

      Is that why all Muslim nations are so scientifically advanced, peaceful, and have the best quality of life?

      October 12, 2014 at 9:55 am | Reply
  3. joe

    Maher basically said that vast numbers of Muslims believe things that are totally incongruent with Western beliefs. He used the statement that vast numbers of Muslims believe a person who leaves Islam should be put to death. Many apologists here have disputed that statement. Here are the laws of various Islamic Nations on the penalty for leaving Islam: When nearly every Islamic nation has severe penalties for leaving Islam, you cannot claim most Muslims do nto have extreme beliefs. Mahre is looking at reality, not wishes.

    Afghanistan – Death
    Alegeria – 2 to 5 years + 10000 euros
    Brunei – Death
    Indonesia – Prison for anyone committing blasphemy (used against those who leave)
    Iran – Death
    Jordan – prison
    Kuwait – prison
    Malaysia – punishment up to individual states. some death, some prison
    Mauritania – Death
    Morocco – leaves it up to religious authorities who have issued a fatwa – Death
    Oman – loss of inheritance. Can be put to death under blasphemy law.
    Pakistan – Death under blasphemy law
    Saudi Arabia – Death
    Somalia – Death
    Sudan – Death
    United Arab Emirates – Death
    Yemen – Death

    October 12, 2014 at 9:29 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

      Funny. Looks like a grocery list. LOL

      October 12, 2014 at 9:34 am | Reply
    • tom LI

      Do the majority of those nations citizenry believe in these penalties? Or are they subjects, literally, of their Governments? Its really a Q that needs to be addressed, and somehow answered by the citizenry, not the Govts of these nations.

      October 12, 2014 at 9:39 am | Reply
      • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

        Put that question to the manager of your local grocery store. Hilarious !!!

        October 12, 2014 at 9:43 am |
      • vancouverron

        As Sam Harris explained (and many surveys have supported), a substantial majority of muslims in these countries support these laws. So in fact the question is answered. And if even 5 or 10% support these laws (which is a VERY conservative estimate) do the math.: 5 or 10% of 1.6 billion = ?

        So you don't think Islam has a problem? Harris has the best acid test–burn a Koran publically, and then see what happens.

        October 12, 2014 at 9:48 am |
      • joe

        A pew survey found that 65% of Egyptian Muslims agreed with death for leaving. Only 5% of Turkish muslims did. Egypt is probably more representative of most of Islam than Turkey. Note Indonesia and Malaysia are functioning democracies. Pakistan and others are semi functioning. If the policy was not believed in by vast numbers, it would have been removed in these places.

        October 12, 2014 at 9:50 am |
      • Zane Abdulla

        95% of hindus say spraying kerosene on brides and burning alive for lack of dowry is acceptable in India.

        October 12, 2014 at 9:58 am |
      • Sean NYC

        @ Zane Abdulla. They are not talking about India, they are speaking about Islam in general. India is one country, Muslims have, as put in tom Li's list, 17 countries where they all have "penalties." That is sickening and barbaric. Muslims who think it's 700 A.D., need to wake up and realize that the Qu'ran applied to Muslims of that era (pre-technology, pre-TV, pre-scientific facts, pre-ammunition). Isn't it funny how Radical Muslims think 700 A.D., but when it serves their purpose, it does not apply? For example, think guns, ammunition, social media, oil, etc.

        At least India had a woman Prime Minister (Indira Gandhi), and is the largest democracy in the world. Here in the U.S.A., Indian women are very active and very participative in the workforce and the family life. Pakistan, the only Muslim country to do so, had a woman Prime Minister (Benazir Bhutto), what happened to her? She ended up getting exiled for a false reason, and when she was allowed back into her country, she was assassinated while running again for Prime Minister. Mind you, this was after 9/11/01, where the radical Islamist Taliban were crossing the border into Pakistan.

        October 12, 2014 at 10:30 am |
      • Vivek

        @Zane Abdullah: Are you inventing your own BS facts now to malign a country like India which is a vibrant democracy with a rule of law? How many Islamic countries can say that. No indian condones burning brides. Numerous people torturing brides for dowry have gone to jail in India and some have served death sentence for murder. Your assertions are lridiculous to the extreme.

        October 12, 2014 at 10:48 am |
    • dlma1

      Thanks for posting this. Fareed conveniently skips over these FACTS as did Affleck. For people impressed by Affleck: to me he reacted as an emotional knee jerk liberal. Maher and Harris presented facts such as polls, which Affleck chose to ignore.

      October 12, 2014 at 10:32 am | Reply
  4. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

    For all of us who watched the Maher show know how eloquently Ben Affleck expressed his opinions which were very balanced. He explained ISIS better than POTUS.

    October 12, 2014 at 9:39 am | Reply
    • Big Bob

      Useful relativist idiot....product of US education and pop culture

      October 12, 2014 at 10:11 am | Reply
      • vancouverron

        Absolutely. Harris was well-spoken, prepared, logical and polite. Affleck came off like a loud-mouth schnook.

        October 12, 2014 at 10:29 am |
  5. THORN

    Gee whiz Fareed, what I've read is that small minority (5%) of "reactionary" muslims amount to 50,000,000 men. That's the biggest most dangerous army the world has ever seen.

    October 12, 2014 at 9:39 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

      Does not seem you finished school nor learn arithmetic. 0 0=1 for ya. LOL

      Nevertheless, why don't you go fight them? Scared?

      October 12, 2014 at 9:42 am | Reply
      • THORN

        I was wondering if some genius would catch me on that but really, 50 million, 80 million, do I want to war with them at my age, not really. Do I think the world has a problem much different from any in the past? Not really. Just not used to being in the cross hairs. We are a nasty species and always have been. Just can't make out why with all the beauty that surrounds us, why?

        October 12, 2014 at 9:57 am |
    • Peter cottontail

      Its more like 35% not 5%

      October 12, 2014 at 10:15 am | Reply
      • Ted Striker

        Just think of how bad the US would be if we had 35%, or even 5%, of our population thinking like Timothy McVeigh. But we don't, we are not even remotely close to that. This is the difference. Fareed's "small minority" of Muslims is several orders of magnitude larger, in real numbers, than the extremists in other religions. This is a problem.

        October 12, 2014 at 10:46 am |
  6. tom LI

    Extremism, especially of two types (political and religious, often combined) is rampant in the US...how long before we see it turn really lethal right here...? How long before the lone gunmen become groups waging their ideological wars on the rest of us?

    October 12, 2014 at 9:43 am | Reply
    • Peter cottontail

      Oh you mean liberals? the largest extremist group in the USA

      October 12, 2014 at 10:05 am | Reply
      • Dennis

        Want extremism? Look no further than the Tea Party or the religious right masquerading as the GOP.

        October 12, 2014 at 10:32 am |
  7. MI

    I think we have to differentiate between Islam the doctrine as is and people who claim to be implementing what's written in it. If we look at the practices of these extremists, its a simple matter of twisting and misinterpreting the doctrine to justify their horrible actions. Saying that there is a problem with Islam based on what ISIS is doing in similar to saying there is a problem with Christianity by just looking at what David Korish or Timothy Mcvay did and viewing it as a representation of the Christian doctrine!

    October 12, 2014 at 9:43 am | Reply
  8. Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

    :::20% of women or 140 million women have been gang rayped in India

    :::60% of men or 420 million men in India think that gang rayping and burning the wife alive for dowry by spraying kerosene and lighting her up is acceptable.

    :::Only 1% of raypes in India are reported.

    :::There is a raype every 2 seconds in India

    ::: 85% of women in India have been groped, their breasts pulled like pork and a ss fingered

    ::80% of hinddoous track to rail tracks to defecate in India

    :: 95% of hinddoous in India don't have toilets

    October 12, 2014 at 9:45 am | Reply
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini ©

      Blame the above on Gita Bhagavad

      October 12, 2014 at 9:46 am | Reply
    • joe

      Sucks to be a woman in India. Sucks to be a woman in any Islamic country.

      It sucks to have brain cancer. Does not make liver cancer ok.

      October 12, 2014 at 9:56 am | Reply
    • dlma1

      First, learn how to spell. It may help your argument.

      October 12, 2014 at 10:30 am | Reply
  9. Big Bob

    Hee hee! You funny, Joey!

    October 12, 2014 at 9:46 am | Reply
  10. Zane Abdulla

    "So let us talk about the muslims in India since Fareed segway(ed) this into his post. The muslims in India have been massacred, suppressed, maimed and rayped by the hindu majority in India. They have been living in oppression. Suffocated. Genocides committed against them."

    October 12, 2014 at 9:48 am | Reply
    • Jeev

      A man /woman is judged by the company he/she keeps. If you are surrounded by your ilk, you will hear only what you want to hear. I am a proud Indian living in a muslim majority neighborhood. Fortunately my neighbors don't don your kind of shades.

      October 12, 2014 at 10:28 am | Reply
    • Dennis

      Now you know how Christians and other religious minorities feel and are treated in Islamic countries.Why are you in denial in regards to the content of Zakaria's article?

      October 12, 2014 at 10:51 am | Reply
  11. Zane Abdulla

    The time has come for Muslims in India to rise and demand a separate independent state for themselves. Where they can live in dignity, in peace, in a civilized culture and not under Hindu subjugation. We have seen the fear in your eyes and the quiver in your voices. From the ashes of India shall rise the Phoenix.

    The western world and Americans support a separate state for the Muslims in India. A state based on democratic principles , capitalism, a belief in the unity of god .

    October 12, 2014 at 9:49 am | Reply
    • Big Bob

      Oh? You mean like Pakistan? Keep trying. You might get it right eventually...

      October 12, 2014 at 10:01 am | Reply
    • THORN

      Wasn't that Pakistan and Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan)?

      October 12, 2014 at 10:03 am | Reply
    • BrianA

      There is such a place...it's a lovely place named PAKISTAN

      October 12, 2014 at 10:03 am | Reply
    • Susan

      I thought that Pakistan was the answer to Muslims in India!

      October 12, 2014 at 10:41 am | Reply
    • Jojo

      India is being flooded by Muslims who are so uneducated they are simply unemployable. They refuse to culturally integrate yet demand they be treated special while being supported on the dole. Most Indians are extremely tolerant of them despite having their already depressed local economies being heavily sapped by immigrants who return the favor by threatening to violently over throw their generous hosts. I saw this first hand all across India.

      October 12, 2014 at 10:41 am | Reply
  12. Gary Gallant

    Only those part of Islam can fix Islam's problems. As Spanish Inquisition happened, it was those who were devote Christians spoke against such terrorism. All Islam states must NOW stand up against ISIS or they are part of the problem.

    October 12, 2014 at 9:50 am | Reply
    • Zane Abdulla

      ISIS is a global movement not a sectarian movement. It is a philosophy not a movement. Almost every country is represented in ISIS. Source: NSA

      October 12, 2014 at 9:56 am | Reply
      • Jojo

        It is a movement that touts a literal interpretation of the Koran. The point is Christianity went through this phase and now Islam is going through it. Trouble is, this movement has a better chance of ending the world than any insane crusade ever did before.

        October 12, 2014 at 10:47 am |
      • Dennis

        ISIS is a violent Islamic movement.It is not a global representative movement as you wish to believe it is.

        October 12, 2014 at 10:57 am |
    • Peter cottontail

      The inquisition only killed 1000 – 3000 people, but nice try in using it as propaganda. You must be one who believes the atheist propaganda, but historians all agree that the inquisition saw 150k arrests and only 1 – 2% of those people put to death.

      October 12, 2014 at 10:10 am | Reply
  13. Lion Fish

    The basic fact is that people are all basically good.
    All gods are imaginary, They are created by people for cultural, political and economic purposes.
    There is no supernatural.
    No heaven, no hell. This world and this life is all we will ever have.
    Good people will do good things.
    Bad people will do bad things.
    It takes religion to convince good people that doing bad things is good.
    How can we support the good people while freeing them from the virtual enslavement of religion.

    October 12, 2014 at 9:50 am | Reply
    • Steve Work

      Well put. My feelings exactly.

      October 12, 2014 at 10:12 am | Reply
    • Kevin

      You stated your beliefs and observations rather well; the platform of your personal religion, and I dare say the religion of many good people in the world. My personal religion is much like yours, except that we simply do not KNOW much of anything in reality. The universe is an extraordinary thing of which we are inextricably connected, full of dimensions and depth that we can't possibly understand. To say that what we have is all we have is just a guess, a belief. To say that there is nothing that one might call God is a belief as well. We simply are something amazing,even if we can't define what that is.

      October 12, 2014 at 10:29 am | Reply
  14. Zane Abdulla

    MOSLEM STRONG!!!

    THE FUTURE BELONGS TO YOU!

    THE FINISH LINE IS YOURS !!

    INSHALLAH !! GOD WILLING !!!

    ISLAM STRONG !!!

    PROUD TO BE A MUSLIM !!

    October 12, 2014 at 9:52 am | Reply
    • Steve

      Why don't you try to say something intelligent and add to the conversation?

      October 12, 2014 at 10:19 am | Reply
      • vancouverron

        The answer to that question is implicit in his posting.

        October 12, 2014 at 10:32 am |
    • Human Earth

      There is no god. God is figment of imagination.

      October 12, 2014 at 11:04 am | Reply
  15. joe

    Sucks to be a woman in India. Sucks to be a woman in any Islamic country.

    It sucks to have brain cancer. Does not make liver cancer ok.

    October 12, 2014 at 9:55 am | Reply
  16. Greg Adamson

    We have to remember that christianity went through an horibly violent extreamism stage just like Islam. The crusaides and other periods of killing by the church and supported by political leaders. The christian church also did massive land-grabs just like ISIS. The only difference is that this behavior now is being carried out using weapons that kill in the thousands rather than kills here and there like the christian church did. And ALL in the name of religion, just like ISIS. No difference.

    As they say, when you point a finger, three fingers are pointed back to you.

    October 12, 2014 at 9:57 am | Reply
    • Big Bob

      The crusades were a defensive action. They ejected Islam from most of Europe. Islam came from what is now Saudi Arabia. Take a look at a modern map and have a look at Mo's land grabbing.

      October 12, 2014 at 10:04 am | Reply
    • Peter cottontail

      We need a new crusade, anyone who looks at the crusades as a bad thing is a liberal fool

      October 12, 2014 at 10:11 am | Reply
      • Big Bob

        Like the cut of your jib, Pete!

        October 12, 2014 at 10:14 am |
    • TheNextLastProphet

      There is a big difference between Islam & Christianity. Christianity allows for the separation of Church & State. Islam on the other hand does not. To separate Mosque and State would render Islam obsolete. Islam is caught between a rock and a hard place.

      October 12, 2014 at 10:15 am | Reply
  17. Miguel Caron

    Let's be honest: the world has a problem called religion.

    October 12, 2014 at 9:58 am | Reply
    • Peter cottontail

      Wrong, the world has a problem called atheism and Islam

      October 12, 2014 at 10:12 am | Reply
      • Steve

        I don't see too much trouble with atheists...

        October 12, 2014 at 10:21 am |
      • Kevin

        Actually, the world has a problem with human stupidity. Don't think that your ideas are not part of the problem.

        October 12, 2014 at 10:36 am |
    • Gdawg

      Exactly.

      October 12, 2014 at 10:13 am | Reply
  18. Zane Abdulla

    PROUD TO BE A MUSLIM !!!

    MOSLEM STRONG!!!

    THE FUTURE BELONGS TO YOU!

    THE FINISH LINE IS YOURS !!

    INSHALLAH !! GOD WILLING !!!

    October 12, 2014 at 9:59 am | Reply
    • Peter cottontail

      Islam has no place in the world

      October 12, 2014 at 10:12 am | Reply
      • Susan

        I agree! Islam has no place in the modern world as it exist today.

        October 12, 2014 at 10:45 am |
  19. wontonotnow

    Thanks Fareed! I've always been impressed with your realistic and balanced approach. Oversimplification is by nature used so people don't have to actually understand the nuanced situation. They can make a judgement then move on to the next topic. Television media personalities do this by default. Thanks again for being an exception to that rule.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:01 am | Reply
  20. Dan Tanner

    Let's really be honest. Look at the numbers. It is hardly a small minority.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:06 am | Reply
  21. tet1953

    People like to say that it is only a small, radical minority of Muslims that are the problem. But even 1% of 1.6B is 16 million. Plus it is fact that countries like Saudi Arabia teach curricula of death to non believers and hatred of the West, the U.S. specifically in some cases.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:10 am | Reply
  22. Peter cottontail

    The small minority is roughly 35% of Muslims, or 500 million or so. We need a new round of crusades.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:13 am | Reply
  23. Bresson Bresson

    Mahler's grossly exaggeration of an entire population is dangerous, inherently cowardly and ignorant. His position mirrors the exact characterization he has placed upon Islam: bigoted absolutism with absolutely no tolerance for differences or opposition.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:21 am | Reply
    • Dennis

      The difference is that you can speak out and denounce Maher if you so choose.You cannot speak out and denounce Islam,though.

      October 12, 2014 at 11:06 am | Reply
  24. Olepi

    Islam cannot have a problem, it doesn't exist. Only people have a problem, especially with dogmatic belief systems like Islam. All dogmatic belief systems cause division and violence, Islam is just the most obvious one today.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:24 am | Reply
  25. Raj K

    Islam was born in the Middle East while Zakaria is from the Indian subcontinent and should know the history of his birthplace and the rest of Asia. Islam spread to most of Asia, though extreme violence and brutality. The extent of this brutality can be gauged by the fact that 70% of Muslims are from this part of the world forced to convert or die. Whether or not today's average Muslims support the cruel aspects of the religion, they are happy to benefit from it, without complaining or protesting !!!

    October 12, 2014 at 10:24 am | Reply
  26. TrollFighter

    This comment section describes the problem with Muslims.

    LIke Fareed if they acknowledge the problem in Islam today, may be there wouldn't be a problem in Islam.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:25 am | Reply
  27. kk

    I usually respect and agree with many of your views, Fareed... but in this case, I think you are the one oversimplifying the issues.

    Your point about how Christians when about in reforming their religion was to "celebrate those elements of Christianity that were tolerant, liberal and modern and emphasize that; all the while giving devout Christians reasons to take pride in their fate".

    Which also implies "and ignore all the violence that it promotes as well as the other, more embarrassing passages those scriptures contain". THAT's what Harris means, by saying "not take their religion seriously". Because one cannot claim to be a TRUE follower, when only selecting the passages that that suit them and ignoring the ones that are embarrassing. The Koran is plagued with violent passages (like many other scriptures) and it's dishonest to imply otherwise.

    I also disagree that people should be able to "take pride in their religion", and continue to be shielded from any criticism. As it is often said on my side (Atheist), "people deserve respect, ideas do not".

    October 12, 2014 at 10:29 am | Reply
    • kk

      (I meant faith, not fate)

      October 12, 2014 at 10:31 am | Reply
      • kk

        Another point... your conclusions about how Islam isn't inherently violent because for long periods of time, Muslims were more tolerant. That COULD be one way of seeing it... the other way could also be that for long periods of time, Muslims weren't following the scriptures literally... but are doing more so now. Also, even if that were true and Muslims were more tolerant before... did they respect human rights and women's rights during those years?

        Yes... these are true for Christians as well... That's why Harris (and Maher) criticize ALL religions, which is another point you failed to mention in your comments.

        You suggested that Harris read some book. Did you even read one of Harris' books?

        October 12, 2014 at 10:40 am |
  28. Lisette for Tacoma

    Obama is letting Mexican Drug Cartels sell drugs to your kids , so the CIA can fund ISIS / Syrian rebels with weapons and ammo . For Obama , Syria is his Contra type scandal .

    October 12, 2014 at 10:30 am | Reply
  29. chri$$y

    There may be a difference in the religions but there is little difference in the people! Other than their color and race. And God intended for us all to live together on this planet, peacefully!!! Im pretty certain he is also none too pleased with the "pigfest of wit, or in this case NO wit" that has taken place with the nasty posts on this thread! Do you REALLY eat with that mouth? Your food must taste like total crap!

    October 12, 2014 at 10:32 am | Reply
  30. Zane Abdulla

    Folks, let me take you on a trip to reality.

    Modern day terrorism was invented by the likes of Mussolini and Hitler assisted by Gandhi. They were Christians and hindus. Millions were killed in the most vicious way.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:33 am | Reply
    • Buster Hymen

      We're talking about now, today.

      October 12, 2014 at 10:42 am | Reply
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