CAIRO – Ben Affleck, a Hollywood star and director, has gone into an angry debate with anti-Islam TV host Bill Maher and author Sam Harris, attacking the negative, “incomplete” image they were painting for world Muslims.
“Hold on — are you the person who officially understands the codified doctrine of Islam?” Affleck interrupted Harris who was attacking Islam, Sydney Morning Herald reported on Monday, October 6.
The star was a guest in Friday’s TV show Real Time With Bill Maher to promote his new film, Gone Girl, when the panel discussed current affairs.
He became incensed when the host Bill Maher and author Sam Harris began talking about radical Islamists, feeling they were stereotyping all Muslims.
“We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where criticism of the religion gets conflated with bigotry towards Muslims as people,” Harris began.
“It’s intellectually ridiculous.”
He then told them their talk was “gross and racist”: “It’s like saying, ‘Oh, you shifty Jew!'”
Harris continued to argue that Islam was currently the “motherlode of bad ideas,” and Maher agreed, which led Affleck to counter, “It’s just an ugly thing to say”, before launching into a tirade.
“How about the more than a billion people who are not fanatical, who don’t punish women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches, pray five times a day and don’t do any of the things that ‘all Muslims do’? You’re stereotyping. You’re taking a few bad things and you’re painting the whole religion with that same brush,” Affleck said.
We Killed More
The heated debate went on when Harris, who has been criticized repeatedly for spreading negative views on Islam, claimed that millions of Muslims were fundamentalists.
“Because it’s the only religion that acts like the mafia that will f–king kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book,” Maher added.
Affleck, who was visibly angered by the discussion, added: “We’ve killed more Muslims than they’ve killed us, by an awful lot… yet we’re exempted from these things because they’re not really a reflection of what we believe in… I’m specifically telling you that I disagree with what you think.”
The exchange prompted analysis from journalists and on social media.
Mehdi Hasan, Huffington Post UK’s political director, praised Affleck on Twitter, then wrote: “Five people on a major US TV panel show discuss what Islam is or isn’t. But no space on panel for an actual Muslim.”
Aziz Hamza, an Arabic novelist, tweeted: “Respect to Ben Affleck”.
Maher had courted controversy with another rant about Islam earlier in the week, during which he called female genital mutilation an Islamic problem.
“You know, but this is the problem, is that these kinds of conversations that we’re having aren’t really being had in any kind of legitimate way,” Reza Aslan, a scholar of religions, a professor at University of California, Riverside, and the author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, responded to his claims on CNN.
“We’re not talking about women in the Muslim world. We’re using two or three examples to justify a generalization. That’s actually the definition of bigotry.”