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 (1,666 Responses)
  1. chri$$y

    True @ Dennis, and yet we dont condone beheading of them nor should we!

    October 12, 2014 at 10:34 am | Reply
  2. BOb the Prairie Dog

    NO ONE knows what happens when we die, and ANYONE claiming such knowledge is a LIAR who probably wants your money.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:35 am | Reply
  3. Dave B

    Fareed writes "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?" Well, we are 13 years since 9/11 and this has not happened. It never will, either out of fear or support, which does not say much for the religion.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:36 am | Reply
    • Buster Hymen


      October 12, 2014 at 10:44 am | Reply
    • Sherri

      It has taken Fareed how many years to even say THIS much? He is in denial. As for it being a problem 'today', well, that's cr*p also. They are doing what they've always done. We just did not hear about it as much. But, this has been going on for years. I have been studying this for 13 years and what ISIS is doing is pretty much what they've always done. But everyone is afraid to 'offend' Muslims. As for moderates, there are not nearly as many as they want you to believe. I know for a fact, that in private, they celebrate 9/11 and other things like that. I know that in private, they approve of this stuff. There have been surveys, studies etc and the majority DO approve of death penalty for apostasy, suicide bombings etc. But some are SO naïve they will not believe it until it comes to their country.

      October 12, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Reply
    • Talston

      Well, of course, 13 years is not exactly a fair measure of a religions that has been around for more than 100 times that. I would argue that the ability for extremists to send young men to their deaths (while zealously guarding their own) is more an exercise in power and economics than religion. Poor, angry young men are easily persuaded that their lot in life is the fault of others than ones who see a bright future for themselves. So, lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater and ignore 1300 years for the sake of 13.

      October 12, 2014 at 12:34 pm | Reply
    • DP

      Fareed does not mentions the media's disservice in not highlighting Muslim protests . Most coverage about Middle East is always about how extremists are trying to kill America .

      The other situation that is worrisome is the increasing acceptance of hatred against Muslims. The people who hate cite how Christianity is so peaceful . Yes, it is peaceful now. But the way hate messages keep pouring in , a not so distant future will not be able to see Christians as peaceful as it currently is . And history has all possible examples of violence from Christians as brutal as Muslims .

      Like we definitely need moderate muslim voices, we also need a strong voice against Muslim hate propaganda currently taking root . Its not a time to start segregating base don religion, rather coming together with a common theme, that terrorism has no justification and affects all as one.

      October 12, 2014 at 12:45 pm | Reply
  4. mornelithe

    While I applaud you making a concerted effort to note the actual statistics regarding the State of Islam throughout the world, I think it's disingenuous to point out the hundreds of millions of Muslims who don't necessarily believe/carry out some of it's doctrine, without actually putting real numbers on the kind of support certain tenets of the faith get.

    Take Indonesia, as an example, Total population roughly 249.9 million, total Muslim population 205 million. These are the figures according to the Pew Poll released in April 2013 (http://www.pewforum.org/2013/04/30/the-worlds-muslims-religion-politics-society-beliefs-about-sharia/)

    54% believe Sharia is the Revealed Word of God or 110,700,000 people
    45% believe there is only one interpretation of Sharia or 92,2500,000 people
    72% favor making Sharia the law of the land or 147,600,000 people
    50% favor making Sharia law apply to non-Muslims or 102,500,000 people
    71% believe religious judges should settle family/property disputes or 145,550,000 people
    45% believe in Corporal Punishment (cut off hands) for theft or 92,225,000 people
    48% believe in Stoning Adulterer's to death, or 98,400,000 people
    18% believe Apostates should be killed or 36,900,000 people

    The above, are the issue. Not all the rest who simply live their lives and try to be good folks to themselves, their families and their neighbors. Even Harris and Maher made numerous attempts to say they weren't criticizing everyone. Though it was probably hard to hear over Affleck's kneejerk emotional responses.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:38 am | Reply
    • kk

      very well put, mornelithe... and as Harris points out, Indonesia is "the poster child of Islam".

      October 12, 2014 at 10:44 am | Reply
    • dlma1

      Good job. That is the point. People need to review the facts and take action rationally, not emotionally.

      October 12, 2014 at 11:35 am | Reply
    • JohnRJohnson

      Using the most peaceful, progressive Muslim country as an example of what all Muslims believe is simply dishonest. Sam Harris was right and so is Fareed. The Qur'an is a holy book filled with passages which call for violence as a solution to almost any problem. The focus on killing, when it is acceptable and how it should be carried out is deeply disturbing. That, combined with its many ambiguities, makes the Qur'an the perfect instrument for any extremist cleric who wants to incite young, angry followers to violence. But these things are not the only problem that Islam has. Islam's biggest problem is the unquestioning, almost pathological devotion to faith which renders this world and the people living in it without value or importance. It is an hysteria of devoutness to any religious belief that drives young people to commit the most grizzly murders. This phenomenon is evident in all religions.

      October 12, 2014 at 11:37 am | Reply
      • Zoe

        The problem with your viewpoint is that it is a double standard. The Old Testament, which the Jews believe in and the Christians also recognize as the "Word of God," has countless violent and genocidal passages. For example, in Joshua and other passages "God" tells the Hebrews to wipe out every man, woman, and child, even animals of Canaanite towns. And then to take their land. That's genocide.

        You may say that people don't believe in that anymore, but I personally have experienced fundamentalist Christians justify all of this by saying the following Hitler-esque argument: "The Canaanites were defiled and impure, and if they had been left alive would have defiled the pure bloodline of God's chosen people, the Jews, and the Jews also were given this land (Living space) by God. Therefore God wanted the Hebrews to wipe the land clean." Do you not see how this is as bad as any philosophy you can come up with in Islam? Just as violent? And remember, that the OT ALSO prescribes that people who turn away or convert can be stoned or killed. Islam just borrowed from many of these concepts.


        October 12, 2014 at 11:47 am |
      • Improv

        This is in response to Zoe:

        Your comparison is invalid. Yes, the Old Testament has many passages where the Jews were ordered to go to war, kill a bunch of people, etc. But the Qur'an has ongoing commands to continue to do so – to kill and/or subjugate (that is, tax mercilessly) everyone that doesn't follow Islam. In the old testament of the bible at least it's only on God's say-so and presumably he doesn't give that say-so anymore.

        October 12, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
    • Calvin

      Could you please ask the same set of questions from the Jews in Israel I believe 93% would say they like to have Sharia law and stone the adulators.
      The root cause of the problem is the capitalism, we used religion to fight communism, and this is the outcome of 80 years of promoting religion. All religions are against rationalism.

      October 12, 2014 at 11:41 am | Reply
      • Jon

        93%? Lol. Israel allows their citizens to be gay. I doubt Sharia would allow that.

        October 12, 2014 at 11:49 am |
  5. Sam

    I don't think ISLAM has a problem, the west should be open to debate which it is not, even a debate about morality.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:43 am | Reply
    • Buster Hymen

      LOL! Debate what? Death or conversion? Do a little research shill.

      October 12, 2014 at 10:45 am | Reply
      • Calvin

        Have you ever heard of the word "Imperialism". This is the reaction of middle east to 200 years of occupation, colonialism and barbaric corrupt regimes. If Islam is intolerant, then how come in Iraq before invasion hundreds of thousands christian were living peacefully, 20000 Jewish population were living in Iraq for thousands of years. How come in Iran they had Jewish minority highly educated and wealthy and successful, and in super rich state of Israel the Arabs hardly have food.
        It is interesting that west always is the root cause of problem and then will use the people such as Farid to justify 200 years of unjust barbaric relations with islamic world.
        West has treated Islamic world the worst it could, and this is the reaction of people who has been treated inhumanly. Just cool down, 67 years of humiliating occupation of a part of muslim world and no end in sight would not generate rationalism, will generate hate and this is what we are harvesting now. West have encaged muslim for the last 200 years and complains why they behave uncivilized? Behave civilized and expect something different, add one muslim country to permanent members of UN Security Council they may behave More civilized, lets try it.

        October 12, 2014 at 12:07 pm |
  6. Buster Hymen

    Fully 1/2 of this small article was appeasement to the "small minority" of violent muslims. Kind of tells you that small minority is actually close to 300 million.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:44 am | Reply
  7. Tom

    1.5 billion don't have to actually commit the atrocities, but to be successful they support it in some way.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:48 am | Reply
  8. onlymho

    you are correct – the infidels have been awakened and unless the ME countries solve this ISIS crisis it will result in reaction not good for anyone

    October 12, 2014 at 10:51 am | Reply
  9. Mimi

    Let's be honest about something else, Fareed, while we're at it. CNN LIED to us all about Iraq and WMD, and about Gulf War I, where we went in, ostensibly, to save Kuwaitees from a dictator. Later, we learned Kuwait was fighting Saddam over who was draining the most OIL from the largest reserve in the world. So, you want Musilms to be honest? I'll be honest with you! The media has become a tool in spreading absolute lies about Muslims, from FGM to Sharia, you've not let Moderates speak in our society. Every time I flip on the TV, I hear Bin Laden, or IS–views that are not espoused by most. America has the worst problem with Islamophobia of any country I've ever lived in. A Norweigen guy went in and shot up a bunch of Muslim kids and their supporters, and it got 50 second slots on your TV. If you allow Moderate Muslim to define Islam, they will define it, and that will be that. If you keep relegating me to a blog, where most will never see my comments–that's if you even POST my comments, you will see this all turn into 1939 Germany all over again.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:51 am | Reply
    • Raj

      If CNN alone is your sole source of information... well its your fault...
      Even the 'moderates' agree to the way women ought to be treated. .... whether its Hijab .... civil rights for women .... ease with which a husband can divorce his wife ( just utter the words Talak ... Talak ... Talak ... and he's done !)..... barbaric methods of delivering punishment.... just to name a few ...
      Most civilized Muslims are likely to be the ones that have moved to or were born into Western cultures.... one cannot see whats wrong with one's culture until they find a way to see it from the outside !
      As for the press ... don't kid yourself.... CNN FOX or whoever are a business ... and they will do what it takes to remain profitable ... if you make your foreign policy based on media reports... well ... suit yourself ...

      October 12, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Reply
    • jn

      The word islamophobia is nonsensical. It is like saying it is fascismophobia to oppose fascism or christianophobia to oppse christianity. Islam is a belief system and can be condemned and criticized like any other belief system. The problem is that there is so much to criticize in islam (more than most other religions including scientology) that this appears like a defensive strategy.

      October 12, 2014 at 4:06 pm | Reply
  10. sridhargp

    I completely disagree, a few individuals it is not whole Islam. 22.74% (nearly a fourth) of world population is Muslim, of that a minority who have been suppressed over generations are now fighting for their rights in a violent manner.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:52 am | Reply
    • ron

      Too bad they have been 'suppressed' over generations, but the people you speak of are Muslims, living in Muslim countries. The USA and most countries in the world allow Muslims live peacefully in their countries, just like their other citizens.
      The ones 'suppressing', or more correctly oppressing Muslims, are their fellow Muslims! I've heard it said Muslims don't kill Muslims, they kill infidels. What a crock full. The Sunni's & Shiites of Iraq killed more of each other than the coalition did in the entire war.
      Look, if you have a bad government, change it for the better.
      The rest of the world just wants to buy a countries excess goods or resources. It doesn't mean they are actively propping up your oppressive governments as a necessary game plan. It's as though I go to the grocery store for milk, and the employees want to kill ME, because they feel they have gotten the short end of the stick from their boss. What did I have to do with it? I wanted to buy milk. If your countries leaders want to buy military tech from the US, and decide to use it on their own people, it's nothing personal. It's their decision to misuse it. Tell you what, when you are running the show, we'll probably sell them to you instead. Happy?
      Change your own darn system, and then everyone can come to you. And don't pretend that it is all about religion. It is just a bunch of guys that want to be the king, and run the show themselves. For instance, in early recorded conversations with Osama & his crowd, they were all harping about how things would be run differently once THEY were in charge. How they would be wealthy and powerful, praise Allah. So there you go.

      October 12, 2014 at 11:30 am | Reply
  11. Ted Striker

    Burn a Bible in a public square in a US city and people walking by you will think "that guy's a bit weird, maybe I should steer clear." Burn a Koran in a public square in almost any country in the Middle East and people walking by you will think "should I disembowel him before I behead him?"

    October 12, 2014 at 10:56 am | Reply
    • haq

      Or the west will say lets kill few million of them say their crazy and take all their oil and fund our war machine!

      October 12, 2014 at 11:20 am | Reply
      • Shaun

        If it wasn't for oil you people would be poorer than you are, as you produce very little! And islam was born of violence it will die in violence!

        October 12, 2014 at 12:47 pm |
      • borisroberts

        That's how I feel. Want our money, wany us to save your country from your Muslims of a different sect that want to force you to join their sect? Want our tanks and men to come and defend your cities? Our soldiers come there and DIE for your freedoms, and then we are the hated ones. We spend Trillions of dollars in the middle east, FOR NO GOOD REASON, only to become a target for the next middle east organisation that wants to rule the region.

        Yes, I'd say you OWE us that oil, since it is what is keeping the terrorists/or currently someone that likes us (just for the moment), armed to the teeth. Maybe we should just become a paid mercenary force, where the highest bidder gets our services. Because, for the money we spend there, we ARE GETTING NOTHING in return, other than chants of DEATH TO AMERICA.

        October 12, 2014 at 12:50 pm |
  12. Galileo Darwin

    Finally the mainstream media, and no less CNN, is starting to talk about the fact that there is something fundamentally flawed about Islam. Kudos Fareed!

    October 12, 2014 at 10:58 am | Reply
  13. Blue Saffron

    Fareed is an incompetent plagiarist from third world India. His views do not reflect mine or other Americans. He is a CIA implant and a propaganda machine. We are back to fascist times of McCarthyism.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:58 am | Reply
  14. caritas62

    While I agree that one should not condemn a whole group of people by the actions of a few, right now I am not sure it is accurate to say Islam has a problem. I think the Western civilizations have a problem and Christianity (which teaches kindness and forgiveness even to enemies as a main tenet) has a problem on several fronts, and for both it is radical Islam. Let's be honest, indeed. Mr. Zakaria seems to be judging Islam by a western or Christian standard.

    October 12, 2014 at 10:59 am | Reply
  15. chri$$y

    I do not believe in organised religion however, i do believe in spirituality! And people should be treated how we wish to be treated! Always!

    October 12, 2014 at 11:09 am | Reply
  16. Lytta

    All religions are like weapons - a rod, a knife, a sword, a gun. Islam has become like a gun an Mk-47 that is used to control women and other minorities. And just like Americans will not give up their guns or make gun reformations neither will Muslims - specially the men. It is too convenient to control women. The Bible is a very complex book. And at the center of it is Jesus Christ. Who in a sense reformed the religion as it was practiced. Islam that I'm awarded doesn't have such a reformer. Anyway life is not about religion but about a relationship with God. His name is YHWH. Which is in every living creatures breath - Yah (inhale) weh (exhale). Try it.

    October 12, 2014 at 11:12 am | Reply
  17. Susan

    I am a proud Christian!

    October 12, 2014 at 11:15 am | Reply
    • Bob

      Okay...good for you. Let's look for comments that add value to this conversation now.

      October 12, 2014 at 12:27 pm | Reply
  18. Aveek

    I do agree with Fareed. Any body who read Koran written in 7th century and wants to follow line by line would have problem. There are bad ideas and good ideas in that book. Bad people focus on bad teachings (in reference to today's world). There should be enough people voice against those bad ideas and it should come from people within Islam. Non-Islam people are infidels and their ideas are more or less not acceptable to Islam world.

    October 12, 2014 at 11:18 am | Reply
    • kk

      And that's probably what Harris means when he says "not take the religion too seriously"... because choosing to ignore the "bad ides" and selectively choosing only the good ones, isn't exactly being a TRUE follower, is it?

      As for the non-Muslim infidels not having a word to say about Islam... So no Atheist should criticize any religion, since they don't belong to any religion? Makes perfect sense...

      October 12, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Reply
  19. joewhiteman

    Obama's fathers were radical America-hating Muslims. His mother was a radical progressive that only married abusive Muslim men. Obama is more than just sympathetic to all Muslim causes (including Caliphate). And people wonder how Barry ended up this way?

    October 12, 2014 at 11:18 am | Reply
  20. joewhiteman

    Has Barry O said even one word about Christians being killed all over the middle east and Africa? Of course not. Can any of you progressives explain why? Why is Islam the progressives favorite religion?

    October 12, 2014 at 11:22 am | Reply
    • Bob

      Grow up. It's no wonder that hardline conservatives are considered airheads by intelligent folks.

      October 12, 2014 at 12:29 pm | Reply
  21. Blue Saffron

    People, let me make it easy for you. Islam is here to stay. It is and will grow more any other religion. You don't like it, stay away from it. You want to fight it, take a flight to ISIS. They are waiting for you.

    Now, please keep on debating till the cows come home. My position is very clear. I stand with Ben Affleck on this issue.

    October 12, 2014 at 11:26 am | Reply
  22. Requiem for a Rebellion

    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 11:29 am | Reply
  23. Andulamb

    This idea that when a person belonging to any group does something bad, everyone else in that group needs to condemn that act - it's prejudice. It's also hypocritical. What did any white American do to protest the Oklahoma City bombing? Sure, we despised it, but what did we do that would show the world that we are not of the same mind as the bombers? Nothing. Because that's an absurd idea. People are not obligated to prove that they are not like others in their supposed group. YOU are obligated not to use such primitive simplistic thinking as a basis for judging people. Fareed Zakaria. I'm talking to you.

    October 12, 2014 at 11:39 am | Reply
  24. liquidcobra

    CNN won't report this.

    Racist Israelis Protest Against African Refugees! "N*s Go Home"

    youtube /watch?v=2ohJD7-zi7U

    October 12, 2014 at 11:47 am | Reply
    • bustertherocketcat

      Watched the video. Interesting to see that there were as many fantastically antisemitic comments posted to it as there were racist jews chanting in the video: about thirty. Say hello to the westboro baptist church of israel. That's the kind of awfulness you get with free speech. The israeli government even had to supply these rediculous protesters with protection to keep any indignant bystanders from taking it to a violent level(rediculous in their inabilty to see the irony in their actions). Whatcha gonna do?

      October 12, 2014 at 2:05 pm | Reply
  25. Nandan

    Mahathma Gandhi said " An Eye For An Eye will make everyone Blind". I am cofident that every Religion teaches only peace

    October 12, 2014 at 11:48 am | Reply
    • Blue Saffron

      No thanks. Gandhi was a pedophile. He even rayped his catetaker niece Manu.

      October 12, 2014 at 11:58 am | Reply
  26. rope a dope

    9-11 pretty much confirmed the statement.Shame it took a Muslim this long to say it.

    October 12, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Reply
  27. Blue Saffron

    Islam is a wonderful religion. A comprehensive way of life. So rich and blissfull. I have found the muslims to be great human beings and wonderful friends with family values.

    October 12, 2014 at 12:06 pm | Reply
  28. Sherri

    I worked with Muslim students on 9/11. One student said if that had happened in HIS (Muslim) country, many (non Muslims) would have been killed. Another was asked: what happens to unmarried women who get pregnant, in his (Muslim country)? He replied: "We kill them". Muslim students were happy about 9/11. I witnessed one event where they laid down their prayer rugs, and prayed facing a Saudi flag. They held events and segregated the gym – male-female. This was in a state supported school and should never have been allowed. Muslim students ran around tearing things off the Women's Center bulletin boards. Can you imagine if someone had done that to THEIR board? Muslims want tolerance, but only for THEM. In 10 years, you'll look back and be surprised that you didn't know what ISIS would do. It will be in the U.S. within 5 years, I believe. We already have those who want sharia.

    October 12, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Reply
    • Calvin

      Sherri, probably they were making fun of you. A fanatic muslim can not pray were there is a flag, and muslims hate the corrupt regime of saudi more than Satan. Take a look at what christianity were doing in 14 and 15 centuries. Christianity evolved with the evolution of societies.
      Islamic world was colonized for the last 300 years, that means no natural evolution, the interference of west is generating resistance to modernization there. If west stays away then they may find a natural way to get out of this western generated mess.

      October 12, 2014 at 12:35 pm | Reply
      • Al

        why always refer to things 500 years ago?
        Only because it supports your otherwise empty and week argument?

        100 million years ago dinosaurs ate each other, so islam is good in comparison to dinosaurs and as such holy?

        October 12, 2014 at 12:44 pm |
      • Calvin

        AL this is your Colonial Mind Set. I never heard any muslim is seeking help from you? How uncivilized is when there is an argument or debate in your neighbor's house that you interfere, it is the same.
        US embassy is the real ruler in middle east. They are who makes decisions about building a road or cutting a tree, yes this the fact. Remove your support of Jordan,Saudi ,Emirate or Bahrain, all these dinosaurs are gone in a 3 days. Yes this is a fact that when a human is caged forever when released will behave like an animal. The people of Middle East because of this damn oil have been in cage for the last 130 years, no social development was allowed. When old order breaks people behave uncivilized. Do to interfere let them to try and error for a while.

        October 12, 2014 at 2:48 pm |
    • Al

      ISIS claims success only in the destruction of other people's possessions and lives = lazy effect
      but real success can only come from construction = meaning hard work

      ISIS are lazy and willingly mentally retarded

      October 12, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Reply
  29. Zane Abdulla

    India mastered terrorism
    via raypes and beheadings and burning innocent people alive in Indian Occupied Kashmir and Gujarat, Assam, Tamil Nadu etc. These bad guys were hindus. Again, millions have been killed.

    Furthermore, terrorism, IEDs, self immolation and suicide belt technology was invented by Indian hinddoous in Sri Lanka. They trained Tamils as suicide bombers and terrorists. They were marketed as Tamil Tigers. The terrorism lasted 35 years. Hundreds of thousands were killed as a result. The hate towards India was so much in Sri Lanka that Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was slapped by a Sri Lankan soldier during an official visit. He was later blown up to smithereens by a hindoo suicide bomber in India.

    Millions continue to be killed.

    October 12, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Reply
    • dike

      Another Inzane Paaaki rant. do you really believe in what you say? Use google as a friend it will help you find some truth. Just because you rant you think people believe you, may be your Paaaki relatives.

      October 13, 2014 at 7:05 pm | Reply
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