HBO host Bill Maher and CNN host Fareed Zakaria sparred over radical Islam on Friday’s “Real Time.”
Maher, in a discussion on Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, re-iterated his prior argument that “Islam is the mother lode of bad ideas.” Zakaria did agree with Maher that there “problems in Islam,” but added “my problem with the way you approach it is, I don’t think you’re going to reform a religion by telling 1.6 billion people, most of whom are just devout people, who get some inspiration from that religion and go about their daily lives, I don’t think you’re going to change the religion by saying ‘your religion is the mother lode of bad ideas. It’s a terrible thing. Shape it up and change it.’ I think, frankly, you’re going to make a lot of news for yourself, and you’re going to get a lot of applause lines and jokes lines out of it, but if you really want to change those people, if you want to change that religion, then what you have to do is push for reform, but also with some sense of respect for what — the spiritual values that people take.”
Maher countered by asking Zakaria what he would do if there was a social club that believed women are second-class citizens and homosexuality should be punished by death, to which Zakaria argued that not all Muslims believe this.
Maher responded by citing public opinion surveys about attitudes within Islam, Zakaria said that he wasn’t disputing those numbers, Maher should look to Indonesia, where there is tolerance and pluralism and not a widespread problem with jihad.
Zakaria then declared “there is a cancer within Islam,” but again took issue with Maher’s rhetoric. Maher responded that honesty is the best way to reform Islam.
Maher then stated “let’s not pretend that the things that ISIS believes are not things that many millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions of Muslims believe around the world.” Zakaria disagreed with this point, and Maher quickly clarified that he wasn’t saying that millions of people believe everything that ISIS does, but that they hold some beliefs in common with ISIS. Zakaria still had a different opinion, and said “what people feel — they feel like their religion is being insulted and so if you ask them on a poll — the point is, do they go around burning people, do they go around stoning people, in Indonesia, in India? These are places where hundreds of millions of Muslims live.” Maher then stated that people who think that killing apostates or those who insult Islam is OK and the people who actually do it are “fellow travelers.” Zakaria concluded the discussion by stating that while people may respond one way on a survey, there isn’t an “operational reality” to those beliefs in countries like Indonesia and India.
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