[The ten-minute video] encapsulates better than most how difficult it is to even discuss the threat of political Islam.
My opponent was Dean Obeidallah. As incredible as it may seem, the man has since claimed that he mopped the floor with me in this exchange. I would not have thought such a degree of self-deception possible, but then I recalled Obeidallah’s response to my and Bill Maher’s encounter with Ben Affleck last year…
...and realized that Obeidallah knows his audience. As I've said before, the most depressing thing about the episode with Affleck was seeing how many Muslims thought he had "exposed" my and Maher's bigotry — as though shouting "gross" and "racist" and similar epithets were an act of investigative journalism. Having witnessed this mindless display of tribalism, I have no doubt that most of Obeidallah's fans will think he performed admirably in our debate and will imagine, once again, that my bigotry against the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims has been “exposed.”
It would be tempting to despair for humanity at this point, were it not for the fact that many more people who watched this video thought Obeidallah came off as a mendacious buffoon. Unfortunately, a number of those who have taken my side have also written off Obeidallah as a know-nothing comedian who is of no consequence in the larger public conversation about Islam. But this disparagement of him is unfair. He is a former attorney and prominent enough in the American Muslim community to have gotten a meeting with President Obama. Along with Reza Aslan, Obeidallah is now on the short list of media personalities who can play the consoling role of "moderate Muslim" on demand. He is also a very public supporter (and beneficiary) of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) — a group that has worked tirelessly to blur the line between legitimate political interests and theocratic bullying. Consequently, what Obeidallah says about his religion and its critics on national television (and on social media) actually matters.
For a former attorney, Obeidallah is quite sloppy. For instance, when Bill Maher claimed on his show that “like 90 percent” of Egyptian Muslims favor the death penalty for apostasy, Obeidallah branded him a bigot who couldn’t keep his facts straight. According to Obeidallah, only 64 percent of Egyptian Muslims favor death for apostates. While even he conceded that this number is depressing, many people came away feeling that Maher can’t be trusted. Did Obeidallah even bother to read the Pew poll that he claimed Maher had misrepresented? The real figure was 88 percent. Is 88 percent rather 'like 90 percent"? I’ll let readers decide. (Judging from what I’ve seen online, I fear that most of Obeidallah’s fans would say no.)
Unfortunately, like Reza Aslan, Obeidallah seems almost compulsively dishonest. For instance, pay attention to the point in our exchange, beginning at 3:15, when I mention specific punishments under sharia — amputations for thieves and death for homosexuals. Obeidallah reflexively attempts to cloud the issue by denying that the Qur’an contains any mention of “throwing gays off of rooftops.” In response to this interruption, I can only insist that "it's in the hadith, and you know it." Is it possible that a Muslim who has been shilling for an organization like CAIR doesn’t actually understand the status of homosexuality under Islamic law? I don’t think so.
It is by no means an accident that members of the Islamic State are taking men suspected of being gay to rooftops and hurling them to their deaths. Nor is this specific punishment a grotesque innovation on the part of some sadist in their organization. This is a religious practice. Please watch my exchange with Obeidallah with the understanding that he knows this, and yet he feels that his moral energy is best spent charging me with bigotry for worrying about the way specific doctrines within the Islamic tradition are breeding intolerance and violence. One of my readers wrote after watching this exchange, "I find this behavior far more disconcerting than the rantings of jihadists." I agree. To stifle conversation in this way is to merely wave away the concerns of all those living under Islamic theocracy (or its creeping threat), while very likely prolonging their misery.
Read the rest and watch the video: Never Stop Lying.