Reza Aslan: Media has pushed Islamophobia to ‘unprecedented levels’ in U.S.

Religious scholar Reza Aslan ripped comedian Bill Maher on Monday, saying Maher had “gotten away” with making Islamophobic statements in the past because people like him – but adding that the tide has turned.

“I like him,” Aslan told Fusion host Nando Villa. “I think at a certain point, though, there’s been a kind of ‘jump the shark’ moment, and I think that people who are smart, engaged are just not putting up with it any longer. And so a much-needed conversation is finally being had. Not just about the problem of religion and violence, but in how we talk about it.”

Aslan conceded that the ongoing conversation around Islam was precipitated by Maher’s argument with actor Ben Affleck on the Oct. 3 episode of Real Time, during which Maher said the religion was “like the mafia.”

“The problem is that anti-Muslim sentiment in this country is at unprecedented levels, thanks in great part to the media rhetoric,” Aslan said.

The debate spurred a war of words involving Aslan, who blasted Maher’s take in a New York Times op-ed, and neuroscientist Sam Harris, who subsequently called Aslan “a comical figure.”

Raw Story, 21 October 2014