January 9th, 2015
Episode 98 of 250 episodes
We’ve all been watching events unfold in Paris with sinking horror. Another terrorist attack, turning police, civilians, writers and satirists into blood and meat. Another man-hunt broadcast on TV; mugshots of terrorists with Muslim names. And now the chattering class is once again embroiled in the divisive argument we’ve witnessed for the last couple of decades; the argument over terrorism and Islam. To one side it seems obvious that Muslims condone violence, that Islam is the problem, or part of it anyway. To the other, it’s blasphemy to even consider the idea, wrong to even ask the question, ‘is there something about Islam that leads its followers to violent tactics?’ The two sides are deeply entrenched and totally sure of their points of view -- with mostly anecdotes to back them up. Well today we talked to a guy who does have data, a political science professor at U.C. Berkeley named M. Steven Fish. His research lead to a book with this title: Are Muslims Distinctive? A Look at the Evidence. Here’s a passage from the introduction: This book provides no definitive answers and addresses only a portion of the large issues. But it does take on a substantial chunk of the big questions and it examines them using hard evidence.Unbiased by prejudice and unconstrained by political correctness, this book treats the assumptions about Muslims that rattle around public debate as hypotheses, rather than as unassailable truths or as unconscionable falsehoods. The book aims to shift the grounds of the debate from hot and wispy rhetoric to fact-finding and hypothesis testing. It occurred to us that Fish’s work is exactly what we need right now: Data. Evidence. Someone to decode these questions, and Steve Fish has answers. No matter what you think now about Islam and terrorism, we guarantee that this conversation between DecodeDC host Andrea Seabrook and M. Steven Fish will change your mind -- or at least add nuance to your thinking.