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The Bill O'Reilly Fallacy

Author: Reuel Marc Gerecht
October 16, 2010


In this article published by the The New Republic, Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributing editor at The Weekly Standard, calls for a more nuanced view of Sharia law and examines the possibility that Sharia might actually drive opposition to Islamic extremism and terrorism.

After recent conversations with The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg and others who are of a more conservative bent, I started to reflect on Western scholarship and American conservative commentary on Islam. Western historiography of Islam provides a treasure-trove of sympathetic and hostile criticism of the Middle East's last-born, earth-shaking faith. A huge body of modern Western scholarship has sought, more often from curious sympathy than malice, to answer the quintessentially liberal question about Islam: “What went wrong?”

And things going astray is a good way to look at some prominent conservative commentary. Although liberals have been quick and careless in hurling accusations of Islamophobia at opponents of the Ground Zero/Park 51 cultural center, there is something historically and philosophically amiss in some conservative ruminations about the Islamic faith. It really shouldn't be so hard to oppose Islamic militancy, push back forcefully against those who downplay the threat of Al Qaeda as well as a nuclear Iran, and, at the same time, not suggest that all Muslims are, basically, nuts.


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