Ben Affleck was on Friday’s broadcast of Real Time on HBO to promote his new film Gone Girl, but he ended up engaged in a passionate debate on Islam. The controversial topic came up during a discussion with host Bill Maher, author Sam Harris, Republican National Congress Chair Michael Steele, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof.
Maher and Harris criticized Islam, arguing that radical religious beliefs are not confined to just a “few bad apples” and that there is something inherently troubling about the religion itself. Harris stated that Islam is “the motherload of bad ideas,” while Maher compared the second largest religion in the world to “a mafia that will f**king kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book.” Harris argued that the majority of Muslims have troubling ideas about human rights, women, and homosexuality, which provide a breeding ground for radical elements like ISIS.
Affleck, whose Oscar-winning thriller Argo was filmed in Istanbul, was outraged at these depictions of Islam and Muslims, calling Maher and Harris’ perspectives “gross” and “racist. “It’s like saying, ‘Oh you shifty Jew!’” he argued. Affleck described Maher and Harris’ arguments as “stereotyping,” pointing out that there are “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.”
Kristof calmly supported Affleck’s position on Maher and Harris’ arguments, observing that “this is such a caricature of Indonesia, of Malaysia, of so much of the world” and that “this does have a tinge a little bit of how white racists talk about African-Americans and define blacks.” Harris used poll results to support his statements, prompting Steele to note that “even if that is true, statistically or otherwise, the key thing to recognize… is that there are voices that are oftentimes raised in opposition to these jihadists and to these extreme acts… [that] don’t covered, [that] don’t get exposed.”
At one point Maher resignedly observed “we’re not convincing anybody here.” Affleck firmly reminded him “I’m simply telling you that I disagree with you.”
Watch the heated debate below.