- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 4, 2014

Late-night talk show host Bill Maher and “Gone Girl” actor Ben Affleck butted heads in a heated debate over radical Islam on Friday, with Mr. Maher comparing extreme Islamists to a “mafia.”

During a panel discussion on HBO’s “Real Time,” Mr. Affleck challenged Mr. Maher and Sam Harris, author of “Waking Up” when they argued that people who criticize the Islamic religion are not necessarily bigoted.

“Are you the person who understands the officially codified doctrine of Islam?” Mr. Affleck asked Mr. Harris sarcastically.

“Why are you so hostile about this concept?” Mr. Maher asked Mr. Affleck who became visibly upset.

“Because it’s gross, it’s racist,” Mr. Affleck said.

Mr. Affleck argued that Mr. Maher and Mr. Harris were painting 1.5 billion Muslim people with the same broad stroke based on a small group of radical Islamists, and said that was a form of Islamophobic stereotyping.

SEE ALSO: Bill Maher: ‘To claim Islam is like other religions is naive and plain wrong’

“That’s just not true, Ben. That’s just not true,” Mr. Maher said. “You’re trying to say that these few people, that’s all the problem is, these few bad apples. The idea that someone should be killed if they leave the Islamic — “

“That’s horrible,” Mr. Affleck interrupted.

“But you’re saying the idea that someone should be killed if they leave the Islamic religion is just a few bad apples?” Mr. Maher responded pointing to Pew research polls showing that 90 percent of Egyptians believe that death is the appropriate punishment for leaving the Islamic faith.

Former RNC chair Michael Steele argued that the media’s focus on the radical Islamists created an atmosphere of fear and said that more news outlets should lift up stories of moderate Muslims opposing jihadist groups.

But Mr. Maher said that opposing groups were too afraid of radical jihadists to speak out.

“One reason they don’t get exposed is because they’re afraid to speak out because it’s the only religion that acts like the mafia that will [expletive] kill you if you saw the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book,” Mr. Maher said.

An exasperated Mr. Affleck then asked, “What is your solution? To condemn Islam? To do what? We’ve killed more Muslims than they’ve killed us by an awful lot…”

“I’m not for more dead Muslims,” Mr. Maher responded.

As Mr. Maher and Mr. Harris tried to calm the situation and agree to disagree, Mr. Affleck continued to argue with them saying global jihadists do not make up a big enough portion of the Muslim world to categorize the entire faith.

“There is those things. There is ISIS, there is global jihadists. The question is the degree to which you’re willing to say, because I’ve witnessed this behavior, which we all object to on part these people, I’m willing to flatly condemn those of you I don’t know and never met,” Mr. Affleck said.

“They’re not willing. This is based on reality,” Mr. Maher said and Mr. Harris added, “It’s not condemning people. It’s ideas.”

• Kellan Howell can be reached at khowell@washingtontimes.com.

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