A week after sparking controversy over his anti-Islam comments, HBO host Bill Maher doubled down in a debate over Islam that pushed Ben Affleck's Islamophobia button on Friday.
"It's the only religion that acts like the mafia," he said of Islam on his program, Real Time with Bill Maher, "that will f--king kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture, or write the wrong book."
Earlier in the heated discussion, Maher and author Sam Harris were agreeing with each other that liberals do not hold up liberal standards when it comes to Islam.
"You and I have been trying to make the case I think that liberals need to stand up for liberal principles. This is what I said on last week's show," said Maher, referring to the previous installment when he stated, "If we're giving no quarter to intolerance, shouldn't we be starting with the mutilators and the honor killers?"
That debate drew fire from Islamic scholar Reza Aslan, who said on CNN on Monday, "The problem is that you're talking about a religion of one and a half billion people, and certainly it becomes very easy to just simply paint them all with a single brush."
On Friday, Maher said that liberals applaud for principles like "freedom of speech, freedom to practice any religion you want without fear of violence, freedom to leave a religion, equality for women, equality for minorities, including homosexuals but then when you say in the Muslim world this is what's lacking then they get upset."
"Liberals have rally failed on the topic of theocracy," responded Harris.
He asserted that liberals criticize "white theocracy" and "Christians" but have failed to be critical about "the treatment of women, and homosexuals and free thinkers and public intellectuals in the Muslim world."
He added," The crucial point of confusion is that we have been sold this meme of Islamaphobia, where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people, which is intellectually ridiculous."
Are you the person who understands the officially codified document of Islam?" Affleck queried Harris.
"Actually, I'm well educated on this topic," Harris responded.
"I'm not denying that certain people are bigoted against Muslim people, and that's a problem," added Harris, but Affleck did not allow him to finish his sentence.
The actor jumped in, describing Harris's generalizations about Islam as "gross" and "racist."
"It's so not," interjected Maher.
"It's like saying, 'you shifty Jew!'" said Affleck.
Harris shot back, "We have to be able to criticize bad ideas... and Islam is the motherload of bad ideas."
"That's just a fact," chimed in Maher.
"It's just an ugly thing to say," said Affleck.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof tried to bring in some balance, telling Maher that the picture he is painting is "to some extent true, but it is hugely incomplete," but his calm analysis was cut off by an agitated Affleck.
"It is certainly true that plenty of fanatics and jihadi are Muslim, but the people who are standing up to them – Malala, Mohammed Ali in Iran, in prison for 9 years for speaking up for Christians, a friend that I had in Pakistan who was shot this year, Rashid Rehman, for defending people accused of apostasy –," said Kristof before Affleck interjected, ending his contribution to the debate.
Affleck argued that the others were stereotyping 1.6 billion people for the beliefs of a handful of radicals. "That's just not true, Ben," countered Maher.
Harris then gave an analysis, in which he described 20% of the Muslim world as being Islamists, basing his assessment on various polls, and then described a wider circle of conservative Muslims "who can honestly look at ISIS and say that does not represent us, we're horrified by that, but they hold views about human rights, women and homosexuals that are deeply troubling."
He argued that liberal Muslims have to be empowered, adding, "Lying about the link between doctrine and behavior is not going to do that."
The debate carried on a little longer before Maher made his mafia comment. After that point, everyone agreed to disagree.
Aslan, commenting on Affleck's aggressiveness during the debate, tweeted on his account, "Watching @BenAffleck go after Sam Harris & Bill Maher with that TONE really made me scared of white New Englander."
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