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Balancing Passionate Debate With Facts


by Hashim Arain

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

The actor Ben Affleck made headlines in the past week when he made an appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. Affleck and Maher got into a pretty heated discussion about Islam on the show. According to the Los Angeles Times, Affleck took offense to Maher comparing Islam to “the mafia.” The LA Times also reports, that Affleck claimed that Maher comments about Islam were “gross and racist.” That seemed to be the heart of the debate between these two, and it garnered a lot of attention due to the recent violent actions of the Islamic extremist group ISIS.

This exchange between Affleck and Maher has sparked a discussion on how Islam is viewed in America today, and how Islam that a majority of Muslims practice around the world, shouldn’t be equated with the Islam that extremist groups like ISIS believe in. According to the Huffington Post, it seemed like Maher and an author who was on the show, Sam Harris, were making generalizations about Islam, that didn’t sit well with Affleck.

The Huffington Post goes on to say, that both Maher and Harris are wrong to make generalizations about Islam, and not put the extremist Muslims along with those who practice Islam peacefully. That’s the point that Affleck was trying to make in his debate with Maher and Harris. This debate between Maher and Affleck has gotten a lot of reaction from religious scholars and media figures, as the website Poynter notes, one notable Muslim religious scholar Reza Aslan criticized Maher for making controversial generalizations about Islam.

There has been some criticism to Affleck as well, from some conservative pundits and some liberal pundits too. According to reports, some have claimed that Affleck holds a naïve view of Islam. According to the Huffington Post, Maher was trying to make the point that fellow liberals like himself should stand up for liberal principals, such as equality for all and more specifically woman’s rights in the Muslim world.

Maher is right to some extent that some of the Muslim world needs reforming, but not all Muslims around the world believe in what a country like Saudi Arabia believes in; they are known for limiting woman’s rights and punish those who disagree with the government. This was the point that Affleck was trying to make. This passionate debate has sparked some discussion on how Americans view the Muslim world, and what kind of info do they get from the media about Islam.

I can see both of Maher and Affleck’s arguments here, the Muslim world has flaws in it, just like any other religion and it needs some reforming. However, it’s pretty unfair to put the group of Muslims with an extreme minority in the group as some think that was Maher was implying. It may seem obvious to a majority of Americans, but it’s really important for the American public to understand that a majority of Muslims is not like those who are in groups like ISIS. Maybe the debate between Maher and Affleck is the start of a new discussion about Islam, and how Muslims around the world are treated.