Political writer and social activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali responds to last year’s spat between actor Ben Affleck and neuroscientist Sam Harris on Real Time with Bill Maher. Affleck, who became quite heated during the discussion, called Harris a bigot and racist when the latter criticized the Muslim world and Islamic doctrine. “Every criticism of the doctrine of Islam,” said Harris, “gets conflated with bigotry toward Muslims as people.” In evaluating that conversation, Ayaan Hirsi Ali sides with Harris: “Islamic extremism is an assault on the ideas of liberalism, on the idea of innovation, on women, on gays, on tolerance, on civilization.” In her new book Heretic, she argues that Islam is in need of a major reformation.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali: I look at the Sam Harris and Ben Affleck discussion and I think there is a thinker and somebody who's not thinking. They both think of themselves as liberals. Sam Harris spends his days and hours and time thinking. So he's been following these things for a very, very long time. I do not know of Ben Affleck. I've seen very little of his work. I think he's a brilliant actor. And I think he is a leading figure in the United States of America, but it's absolutely clear he hadn't given thoughts to this.
And I will give him one point, which is this, so Mohammed, an individual who is influencing over one-fifth of humanity; he is the only really historical figure we cannot draw anymore; we can't discuss him without saying "peace be upon him." So a very powerful historic figure. A historical figure who's power comes into the 21st century and is upsetting geopolitical structures.
Would Ben Affleck play the part? He can play Batman, but would he play Mohammed? And the answer to that question tells me he needs a second chance to think these things through. Any actor in Hollywood who is very successful who is not willing to act that part should not go around making accusations of bigotry to others.
Let's go back to the time of Communism. There were people who went around making excuses for Communism because they didn't know about the Gulag. And when they found out about the Gulag they found out about what Communism actually lead to. They were saying we were right in our hearts, even though we were wrong with our heads. Is that where we are with Islam today and liberalism? Islamic extremism is an assault on the ideas of liberalism, on the idea of innovation, on women, on gays, on tolerance, on civilization.
You may choose not to see it and bury your head in the sand. It's a choice. You may choose not to say anything about it. It's a choice. When you attack the people who actually stick their heads out and accuse them of bigotry, again the scene of Ben Affleck accusing Sam Harris of bigotry, that tells me do you really know what you're saying? It's almost like giving a child a timeout, you know; it's like Ben you're a great guy; go and re-think this. Go and think.