LOS ANGELES – It was one of the biggest television showdowns of the year: Ben Affleck vs. Bill Maher in a debate over Islam. The left-leaning Hollywood personalities got into a yelling match on Oct. 3. Maher called Islam “the only religion that acts like the mafia, that will [expletive] kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book.” Affleck responded angrily that Maher’s rhetoric was “gross, racist and disgusting.”
The argument was a microcosm of Hollywood’s larger challenge in portraying Islam, Muslims and the Middle East: How sensitive is too sensitive? How real is too real? And when does portraying Muslim extremists become stereotyping?