Haya Alfarhan on Affleck and Harris: Dangerous discourse (major whine)

A few weeks ago, a video of Ben Affleck and Bill Maher debating radical Islam went viral. After watching it the first time, I knew that I had to write about it. Not because I thought it was particularly interesting, but because I’m still unable to comprehend how it even happened in the first place…

…[Harris says] “We have to be able to criticize bad ideas. Islam at this moment is the motherload of bad ideas”…

Yes, let’s talk about bad ideas. A bad idea is making generalizations about a billion people. There are certain buzzwords that are invoked when Islam is covered; they generally begin with Muslim women, followed by LGBTQ, followed by apostasy, followed by the mother of all buzzwords: jihad.

Herein lies the root of my discomfort. Maher is not the only member of the mainstream media that invokes this type of discourse when it comes to Islam. This discourse operates under the presumption that the Muslim world is homogenous. It denies the simple idea that Muslims live complex lives. The examples are never nuanced; there is never a mention of intersectionality. Nobody attempts to contextualize the discussion.

Muslims are often denied the right to be present in the conversation. We’re rarely invited to the table, to the panel, to the conference. An educated discussion on Muslim women and their rights is welcome…

…By leaving Muslims out of the conversation you limit their ability to claim their reality. To quote Edward Said, you can control the East/Orient by “making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient.”

Maher practices neo-orientalism, a reincarnation of orientalism that pits Islam against the West. The ideology is harmful. It compromises the safety of Muslims in the West and claims authority over Muslims everywhere. It creates a hierarchy on who gets to speak on the topic. Nobody asked Maher or Harris or Affleck or Kristof to present their credentials…

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