Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Ben Affleck and the liberal failure on Islam

Sam Harris writes about this encounter (Can Liberalism Be Saved From Itself?):

...Although I was aware that I wasn’t getting much love from Affleck, I didn’t realize how unfriendly he had been on the show until I watched it on television the next day. This was by no means a normal encounter between strangers. For instance: I said that liberalism was failing us on the topic of Islamic theocracy, and Affleck snidely remarked, “Thank God you’re here!” (This was his second interruption of my interview.) I then said, “We have been sold this meme of Islamophobia, where every criticism of the doctrine of Islam gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people,” and Affleck jumped in for the third time, more or less declaring the mid-show interview over: “Now hold on—are you the person who understands the officially codified doctrine of Islam? You’re the interpreter of that?”

As many have since pointed out, Affleck and Nicholas Kristof then promptly demonstrated my thesis by mistaking everything Maher and I said about Islam for bigotry toward Muslims. Our statements were “gross,” “racist,” “ugly,” “like saying you’re a shifty Jew” (Affleck), and a “caricature” that has “the tinge (a little bit) of how white racists talk about African Americans” (Kristof)...

One of the most depressing things in the aftermath of this exchange is the way Affleck is now being lauded for having exposed my and Maher’s “racism,” “bigotry,” and “hatred of Muslims.” This is yet another sign that simply accusing someone of these sins, however illogically, is sufficient to establish them as facts in the minds of many viewers. It certainly does not help that unscrupulous people like Reza Aslan and Glenn Greenwald have been spinning the conversation this way...

...The important point is that a person’s CV is immaterial as long as he or she is making sense. Unfortunately, Affleck wasn’t—but neither was Kristof, who really is an expert in this area, particularly where the plight of women in the developing world is concerned. His failure to recognize and celebrate the heroism of my friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali remains a journalistic embarrassment and a moral scandal (and I told him so backstage).

Andrew Sullivan weighs in on The Dish. Later: Sullivan follows up with The Trouble with Islam.

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