This exchange has already gone around the world and back while I’ve been too busy to give it sufficient attention, but I thought it still worth noting here because it may (may) represent more than just the awakening of Bill Maher to reality. It may represent the beginning of the end of the mainstream media and Leftist (redundant, I know) elites’ unanimous downplaying of the jihad threat and demonization of anyone and everyone who opposes it. Maher and his guest on this show, the atheist author Sam Harris, are now discovering what their erstwhile friends and allies on the Left do to all (all) those who dare to point out how Islamic jihadists use the texts and teachings of Islam to justify violence and supremacism: they’re being reviled as “bigots” and “racists” and “Islamophobes,” and not just on this show by Affleck.
One wonders if this will herald an opening up of mainstream media discourse. Maher only very rarely has anyone on his show who isn’t a doctrinaire Leftist (or clueless politically correct Republican operatives like Michael Steele), and people like him and Harris generally only engage in discussion and debate with others on the Left. The irony here is that critics of jihad terror and Islamic supremacism are branded as “right wing” solely because of their opposition to jihad terror, and then have duly been shunned and ignored (when not being vilified, of course) by those on the Left. Now that Maher and Harris have “succumbed to bigotry” and “veered to the Right,” will there be an opening-up of the public debate on these issues? I doubt it, actually, but the Maher/Affleck contretemps does at least show a crack in the edifice.
“Bill Maher vs. Ben Affleck On Islam: ‘Mafia That Will F**king Kill You If You Say The Wrong Thing,'” Real Clear Politics, October 3, 2014:
Bill Maher and Ben Affleck engaged in a heated debate over radical Islam and Islamophobia on Friday’s broadcast of Real Time on HBO.
Aided by author Sam Harris, Maher contended radical Islamists are essentially a “mafia” that will kill you if you say or draw the wrong thing. Affleck argued that condemning a whole religion based on jihadists that make up a small fraction of Islam isn’t fair.
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who was also on the panel, said the criticism of Islam has “a tinge of how white racists talk about African-American and define blacks.”
On last week’s broadcast of Real Time, Maher went after Islam and argued “if we’re giving no quarter to intolerance, shouldn’t we be starting the mutilators and the honor killers?”
BEN AFFLECK: How about more than a billion people who aren’t fanatical, who don’t punch women, who just want to go to school, have some sandwiches, pray 5 times a day, and don’t do any of the things you’re saying of all Muslims. It’s stereotyping.
Note how well Affleck has absorbed the standard Leftist talking points. Maher and Harris started the segment talking about bad ideas that need to be opposed. Affleck jumps in to say that not all Muslims are like that. No one said they were, of course, but Affleck is reflecting the fact that the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and its allies have insisted for years that to oppose jihad terror is to condemn all Muslims. The point of this is to intimidate people into being afraid to oppose jihad terror, and Affleck demonstrates how well it works. He also demonstrates that he, like so many others, hasn’t really given this a moment’s thought, because if he had, he’d be ashamed to say it. This becomes clear via a transposition. Say that in 1942, the grandfathers of Maher and Harris were condemning Nazism, and Affleck’s grandfather jumped in to say that not all Germans were like that. The proper response would be, “Yes, and so?” The Affleck argument is apparently that because not all Muslims are jihadis or wife-beaters, therefore it is wrong to speak out against jihad and the Qur’anic approval of woman-beating (4:34). Did the existence of good Germans make it wrong to stand against the Nazis? Did those good Germans rein in the Nazis and stop their atrocities?
HARRIS, AUTHOR: I’m not saying all Muslims —
AFFLECK: Some of them do bad things and you’re painting the whole religion with that broad brush.
Affleck here ignores, and probably doesn’t know, that these “bad things” have textual justification in the Qur’an and Hadith, as well as in Islamic law, and that thus it is not simply a matter of people doing bad things. Those bad things are being taught approvingly by all too many Muslim teachers and leaders, and thus there will continue to be more people doing bad things until the teachings themselves are addressed.
MAHER: Wait, let’s get down to who has the right answer here. A billion people, you say.
AFFLECK: A billion five.
MAHER: All these billion people don’t hold these pernicious beliefs?
AFFLECK: They don’t.
MAHER: That’s just not true, Ben. That’s just not true. 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
AFFLECK: That’s horrible.
MAHER: But you’re saying the idea that someone should be killed if they leave the Islamic religion is just a few bad apples?
AFFLECK: The people who would actually believe in that you murder someone if they leave Islam is not the majority of Muslims at all…
Affleck, of course, doesn’t know a thing about Islam. It is a shame that Maher and Harris themselves know very little, so that neither was able to respond here to Affleck by pointing out that this is not a minority view at all, but one that comes from Muhammad himself, when he commanded: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him” (Bukhari 9.84.57). This is still the position of all the schools of Islamic jurisprudence, both Sunni and Shi’ite. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the most renowned and prominent Muslim cleric in the world, has stated: “The Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-`ashriyyah, Al-Ja`fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed.”
Also, in recent years wherever we have seen Islamic law imposed, we see the death penalty for apostasy imposed. Where do Muslims all get this idea if not from the texts and teachings of Islam?
SAM HARRIS: Just imagine you have some concentric circles. You have at the center, you have jihadists, these are people who wake up wanting to kill apostates, wanting to die trying. They believe in paradise, they believe in martyrdom. Outside of them, we have Islamists, these are people who are just as convinced of martyrdom and paradise and wanting to foist their religion on the rest of humanity but they want to work within the system. They’re not going to blow themselves up on a bus. They want to change governments, they want to use democracy against itself. Those two circles arguably are 20% of the Muslim world.
BEN AFFLECK: What are you basing that research on?
HARRIS: There are a bunch of poll results that we can talk about. To give you one point of contact: 78% of British Muslims think that the Danish cartoonist should have been prosecuted. 78%. So, I’m being conservative when I roll this back to 20%. But outside of that circle you have 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, and about women, and about homosexuals that are deeply troubling. So, these are not Islamists, they are not jihadists, but they often keep women and homosexuals immiserated in these cultures and we have to empower the true reformers in the Muslim world to change it. And lying about doctrine and this behavior is not going to do that…
MICHAEL STEELE, FMR. RNC CHAIR: So having said that, even if that is true, statistically or otherwise, the key thing to recognize that I don’t think is part of the argument but I think should be is that there are voices that are oftentimes raised in opposition to these jihadists and to these extreme acts but, guess what, they don’t covered, they don’t get exposed. And they’re not on the same level platform that we see jihadists get.
This is another common Hamas-linked CAIR talking point: there are gazillions of moderates out there, but the Islamophobic mainstream media just won’t give them attention. This is, of course, absurd. The mainstream media is avid to find moderate Muslims, and gives lavish and loving attention to any Muslim who claims to oppose and condemn jihad terrorism, however insincere he or she may be. This is one principal reason for the fame of people like Reza Aslan and Zuhdi Jasser (not to compare them, as one is a jihad enabler with ties to the Iranian mullahs and the other appears sincere) is that people on all points of the political spectrum want to find and stand with moderate Muslims. They get immense coverage even for the smallest gesture — witness the recent 10-person anti-Islamic State rally in Houston, positively covered on the local news, compared to our 2010 rally against the Ground Zero Mosque, which drew upwards of 20,000 people and got hardly any coverage at all, and none that wasn’t negative.
BILL MAHER: 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 fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book. There’s a reason why Ayaan Hirsi Ali needs bodyguards 24/7…
All true, so Affleck leaps to caricature Maher’s point and change the subject back to Muslim victimhood:
AFFLECK: What is your solution? To condemn Islam? To do what? We’ve killed more Muslims than they’ve killed us by an awful lot. We’ve invaded more —
MAHER: I’m not for more dead Muslims.
AFFLECK: And somehow we’re exempt from these things because they’re not really a reflection of what we believe in. We did it by accident, that’s why we invaded Iraq.
Tu quoque fallacy: we’re bad too, with the unspoken corollary apparently being that because we are bad, we must not speak against jihad terror.
MAHER: We’re not convincing anybody here.
AFFLECK: I’m simply telling you that I disagree with you.
MAHER: I understand, and we’re obviously not convincing anybody here.
HARRIS: You don’t understand my argument.
AFFLECK: Your argument is, “You know, black people, they shoot each other” —
MAHER: It’s not! No, it’s not. It’s based on facts. I can show you a Pew poll of Egyptians. They are not outliers in the Muslims world. It’s like 90% of them believe death is the appropriate response to leaving the religion. If 90% of Brazilians thought that death was the appropriate response to leaving Catholicism you would think it was a bigger deal.
He would have done better to go into Islamic texts and teachings, but then, of course, Affleck would have said he was quoting them out of context, and ignoring all the wonderful teachings in the Qur’an.
AFFLECK: I would think it’s a big deal no matter what.
MAHER: Okay, well, that’s the facts.
AFFLECK: I wouldn’t say it’s all Brazilians, or I wouldn’t say, “Well, Ted Bundy did this. God damn these gays, they’re all trying to eat each other.”
HARRIS: Let me just give you what you want. There are hundreds of millions of Muslims who are nominal Muslims who don’t take the faith siresly [sic], who don’t want to kill apostates, who are horrified by ISIS and we need to defend these people, prop them up and let them reform their faith.
AFFLECK: ISIS couldn’t couldn’t full a AA ballpark in Charleston, West Virginia and you want to make a career out of ISIS, ISIS, ISIS.
The Islamic State has between 10,000 and 50,000 combat troops. Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, West Virginia holds 4,500 people.
MAHER: No we’re not. That’s the opposite.
HARRIS: No, it’s not just ISIS, it’s all jihadists. It’s a phenomenon of global jihad.
MAHER: I think that’s the opposite of what we’re doing.
AFFLECK: 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 of these people, I’m willing to flatly condemn those of you I don’t know and never met.
MAHER: They’re not willing. This is based on reality.
HARRIS: It’s not condemning people, it’s ideas.
That’s the key point, which Affleck never grasps or acknowledges, in part because Maher and Harris here argue it poorly, without reference to Islamic texts and teachings. How can you criticize ideas without being able to articulate what those ideas are? Most of this discussion was off-point, for Maher and Harris said they were criticizing ideas, but then instead of explaining how Islamic texts justify and promote these bad ideas, they started talking about survey numbers.
MAHER: It’s based on reality, Ben. We’re not take it up that in the Muslim world it is mainstream belief.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF: This is such a caricature of Indonesia, of Malaysia, of so much of the world. And this does have a tinge a little bit of how white racists talk about African-American and define blacks by —
Kristof must not know what is happening in Indonesia and Malaysia these days. In any case, note the racial analogy. Islamic terror is not a race, but because so many (but by no means all) Muslims are non-white, Leftist intellectuals like Kristof can’t see criticism of jihad terror in anything but racial terms.
MAHER: What you’re saying is because they are a minority, we shouldn’t criticize.
AFFLECK: It’s not a minority, it’s the second biggest religion in the world.
MAHER: Exactly, but you’re treating them like a minority. I mean if Filipinos were capturing teenagers and sending them into white slavery, we would criticize that. We wouldn’t say, oh, well, they’re Filipinos.
AFFLECK: You would criticize the people who are doing it, not the Philippines. A Filipino kid who lives on the streets has nothing to do with that. These are different things.
Again, out of focus. To say that one must not criticize Filipinos capturing teenagers and enslaving them because other Filipinos aren’t doing this would be absurd. Affleck constantly assumes that Maher and Harris are condemning all Muslims, just as Leftists constantly assume that all critics of jihad terror are condemning all Muslims. This false and unwarranted assumption continues to befog the public discourse on this issue, and make politically correct non-thinkers like Affleck assume that there is something wrong with standing against jihad terror.