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Maher, Sam Harris Battle Affleck, Kristof on Radical Islam

Maher, Sam Harris Battle Affleck, Kristof on Radical Islam

Author Sam Harris and HBO’s “Real Time” anchor Bill Maher debated actor Ben Affleck and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof on Maher’s earlier comments on radical Islam on Friday.

Harris argued, “liberals have really failed on the topic of theocracy, they’ll criticize white theocracy, they’ll criticize Christians, they’ll still get agitated over the abortion clinic bombing that happen in 1984, but when you want to talk about the treatment of women and homosexuals and free thinkers and public intellectuals in the Muslim world, I would argue that liberals have failed us.”

He added “the crucial point of confusion is that we have been sold this meme of Islamophobia where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people, that’s intellectually ridiculous.”

Affleck then jumped in and accused Harris of denying the existence of Islamophobia and accused Maher and Harris of being racist, arguing that their comments on Islam were the equivalent of calling someone a “shifty Jew.”

Harris countered by saying that bad ideas should be criticized, and that “Islam, at the moment, is the motherload of bad ideas.”

Kristof argued that Maher and Harris were giving an “incomplete” picture of Islam and pointed to Muslims who have fought against extremism. Harris responded by pointing to polling data on the beliefs of Western Muslims, and argued people have been “misled to think that the fundamentalists are the fringe.”

Former RNC Chairman Michael Steele argued that moderate Muslims do not receive enough coverage, to which Maher responded that this is because Islam is the “only religion that acts like the Mafia that will f*cking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book.  There’s a reason why Ayaan Hirsi Ali needs bodyguards 24/7.”

After Affleck accused Maher and Harris of taking a similar mentality to those who stereotype people based on race, Maher responded “I can show you a Pew polls of Egyptians, they are not outliers in the Muslim world, that [says] 90% of them believe death is the appropriate response to leaving the religion.  If 90% of Brazilians thought that death was the appropriate response to leaving Catholicism, you would think it was a bigger deal.”

Kristoff then argued that Maher’s and Harris’ rhetoric “does have the tinge a little bit of the way white racists talk about African-Americans,” to which Maher stated “what you’re saying is ‘because they’re a minority, we shouldn’t criticize.’”

 Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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