This weekend social media blew up when comedian Bill Maher and actor Ben Affleck debated Maher’s views about Islam on his HBO show. Affleck makes the same mistake most liberals make when religion is involved in a debate, they conflate criticism with ‘racism’. Ideas like that lead us to blasphemy laws.
The heated portion of the debate started after comments from author Sam Harris:
“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.”
“Hold on — are you the person who officially understands the codified doctrine of Islam?” Affleck, on the show to promote his movie Gone Girl, interrupted, and argued that criticizing Islam, as Maher and Harris were doing it, was “gross and racist. It’s like saying, ‘Oh, you shifty Jew!'”
What follows is a few minutes of Affleck and Maher going at each other and yelling over each other, with the occasional interjection from Kristol and Steele providing intelligent perspective on reformers in the Muslim world, smart statistical analysis from Harris about the spectrum of fundamentalism, and then another few minutes of Affleck and Maher yelling at each other.
“Your argument is, ‘You know, black people, they shoot each other,'” said Affleck.
“No it’s not! It’s based on facts!” Maher retorted.
I may not see eye to eye on everything Sam Harris or Bill Maher say but on this point they are right.
It isn’t racism or bigotry to criticize religion. Although most Muslims don’t blow themselves up for their religion, they do believe women are 2nd class or that people who leave the faith should be killed.
I’m familiar with Affleck’s argument that it is “only a few bad apples” since that argument is used often in Christian apologetics.
I could write a tome on why Affleck is wrong but someone beat me to it. Muhammad Syed and Sarah Haider (below), co-founders of Ex-Muslims of North America, explain why the “only a few bad apples” defense of Islam (and religion in general) is a bad argument:
Maher stated (among other things) that “if vast numbers of Muslims across the world believe, and they do, that humans deserve to die for merely holding a different idea or drawing a cartoon or writing a book or eloping with the wrong person, not only does the Muslim world have something in common with ISIS, it has too much in common with ISIS.” Maher implied a connection between FGM and violence against women with the Islamic faith, to which the charming Aslan seems to be providing a nuanced counterbalance, calling Maher “unsophisticated” and his arguments “facile.” His comments were lauded by many media outlets, including Salon and the Huffington Post.
Only those who themselves aren’t very “schooled” in Islam and Muslim affairs would imply that Aslan does anything but misinform by cherry-picking and distorting facts.
Nearly everything Aslan stated during his segment was either wrong, or technically-correct-but-actually-wrong. We will explain by going through each of his statements in the hopes that Aslan was just misinformed (although it’s hard for us to imagine that a “scholar” such as Aslan wouldn’t be aware of all this).
It is also not racist because Islam is not a race.
If we take Ben Affleck’s idea to a logical conclusion then we get blasphemy laws.
That is not a good thing.