The “Islamophobia” Smear: Ben Affleck’s Failed Takedown of Sam Harris

In a way that Ben Affleck surely never intended, his appearance on Bill Maher’s show, Real Time, was luminously revealing. If you haven’t yet seen the segment, go to YouTube now and turn up the volume.

The object of Affleck’s anger: Sam Harris, the author of The End of Faith (among other works). Why? Harris has the courage to reject the conventional notion of “Islamophobia.” More than that, Harris is particularly eloquent in skewering “liberals” who profess to stand for rights, particularly of women and minorities, but in fact conspicuously fail to denounce the rampant, horrific violation of rights committed under the banner of Islam. Ditto for the Left’s supposed commitment to free speech; Harris has rightly decried the fact that many liberals turned their back on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the brave critic of Islam who now must live under round-the-clock security. During the segment, the argument heats up: Affleck comes off as hostile and dogmatic in his attacks on Harris, and thereby manages to illustrate one of the purposes of the “Islamophobia” trope. Through intimidation and smear tactics, it aims to shut down desperately needed analysis and discussion of the ideas that in fact animate the global jihadist movement. Despite hurling unjust accusations of bigotry, despite throwing a petulant hissy fit, Affleck failed to do that on Real Time. Harris put forward a well grounded position (which I largely agree with) that deserves to be heard. But Affleck did succeed in further discrediting his own viewpoint.

Postscript. Harris has since posted his reflections on the incident, which are well worth reading.