This past Friday, neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris, and actor/director Ben Affleck appeared on Bill Maher's weekly show, Real Time. In addition, former RNC chair Michael Steele and journalist Nicholas Kristof participated in the panel. Soon after Harris was introduced, the subject of ISIS and radical Islam came up. Maher begins the discussion by pointing out 'liberal hypocrisy' when it comes to Islam:
"Liberals need to stand up for liberal principles. ... Liberal 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 -- these are liberal principles that liberals applaud for [pointing to his audience], but then when you say in the Muslim world this is what's lacking, then they get upset."
Harris quickly supports Maher:
"Liberals have really failed on the topic of theocracy. They'll criticize ... Christians; they'll still get agitated over the abortion clinic bombing that happened in 1984, but when you talk about the treatment of women and homosexuals and free thinkers and public intellectuals in the Muslim world, I would argue that liberals have failed us. And the crucial point of confusion is that we have been sold this meme of 'Islamophobia,' where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people. That's intellectually ridiculous."
However, Ben Affleck counters first by questioning Harris's expertise on Islam, then criticizing Maher and Harris' argument as "racist and bigoted". The direction of the discussion went south seemingly because of Affleck's initial misunderstanding of Maher and Harris' point. The full segment is below:
Despite the argument that ensued, Maher and Harris' initial question is worth discussing.
If you are a Liberal, and believe in Liberal principles, how can Islam escape your criticism?
Why does criticism of Islam often get conflated with Islamophobia?