An Ex-Muslim’s Open Letter to Bill Maher and Ben Affleck


Editor’s Note: Recent news has prompted interest about Islam, and whether it’s a religion of war or peace. A prominent Muslim Shiek issued a Fatwa against ISIS, young British Muslims have taken a stand against ISIS with #notinmyname, and Muslim leaders have rebuked the ISIS interpretation of Islam. 

Hazem Farraj, a TV host and inspirational speaker who grew up Muslim and is a Palestinian, offers his interpretation of the recent news debate between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck. 

Bill Maher has done it again.

He has the news and social media world on overload because of more remarks on Islam. This time, Ben Affleck is making headlines along with him. The conversation between Bill Maher and Ben Affleck on Islam was ironic. Essentially, Affleck was saying all religions are good and fanatics are everywhere while Maher’s worldview is that all religions are bad. But, Maher, who disdains religion of any kind, is right in that Islam DOES teach that if any Muslim leaves his religion, Islam ITSELF – not fanatics- not radicals- not terrorist-demands that the “apostate” be killed.

When Maher quoted a poll saying that 80% of Egyptians believe a person who leaves Islam should be killed, I wasn’t surprised. I didn’t need a poll to tell me that. It seems we have so soon forgotten about Daniel Pearl who was beheaded in 2002, Nick Berg who was beheaded in 2004, and Lee Rigby who was killed in 2013 all because of some men, whom Ben Affleck doesn’t want to acknowledge are by-the-book Muslims.

Before you get angry and upset at me, consider this:

If a sincere person wants to study religion, one must go to the source. Why? Simply because the truth is found at the source. The correct way to study any religion is to historically get as close to the founder of that religion as possible. To study Judaism, study Moses and the things he taught in the Torah. To study Christianity, study Jesus and the things he taught. To study Islam, study the life of Mohammed. What were their traditions? What did they say? What did those closest to them say? Believe your pastor, but believe Jesus more. Listen to your Rabbi, but the Torah is higher then his opinion. And to my Muslim friends, listen to your Shaikh, but his opinions are not higher then that of his prophet.

When I get a glimpse into the historical founder of Islam, I don’t see the nice version of him that Ben Affleck sees or what the peace-loving Muslims see. I see a tribal warrior; a man who started out peaceful in his early days of prophethood but got more radical as his following grew. He had poets killed by his sword because they wrote against him with their pens. They were Asma Bint Marwan and Abu A’fk, a Jewish poet (Ibn Hisham, Ibn Ishaq, Alfred Guillaume-translator, The life of Muhammad: a translation of Isḥaq’s Sīrat Rasul Allāh, pp. 675-676).

Maher’s frustration with the liberals silence on women’s rights is very logical. He mentioned that Ayan Hirsi Ali needs bodyguards in her fight for women’s equality in her Islamic community. Is it culture or is it Islam that undervalues women’s rights? Mohammed established a bond of brotherhood by offering one of his wives- just giving her away, as if it she was an object (Sahih Bukhari 3:34:264). In fact, when an early Muslim was to be “given a woman, servant, or cattle,” that person should seize its forehead and pray to Allah (Sahih Bukhari 3:34:264). Men were and are still today permitted to beat their wives (Quran 4:34). Women are intellectually deficient (Sahih Bukhari 2:24:541). I do realize that the issue was whether killing and murder was warranted in Islam. Quran 4:89 speaks for itself: “Do not take from amongst them [Christians & Jews] friends until they flee forsaking their homes and kill them wherever you find them.”

These tribal 7th century killing verses exist in the Quran, but Islamic history shows us that Muslims began peaceful and tolerant and seemingly deteriorated for the worse with time. After the migration of Mohammed to Medinah, Mohammed’s messages from Allah became more radical, more blatant. This is different from Christianity, where we see a regression of the tribal culture [culminating theologically with all judgments happening on the Cross]. Another important principle to note within Islam is “the law of abrogation” (Arabic: nasikh wa mansookh), which calls for those latter radicalized Medinah revelations to supersede the former peace-loving verses of Mecca. The Quran 2:106 says these latter revelations are “better” then the previously revealed verses from Mecca. So apostates were condemned in the 600s AD, and they are STILL being condemned in our modern day.

So there you go, I said it. My first instincts in writing this is that I’m nervous because I know what happens in my culture when you criticize Islam. Islamic texts demand it, the highest Islamic scholars have proclaimed it, and ISIS is literally quoting it while doing the beheadings.

But here’s the good news:

I have an unshakeable faith in the youth of the Middle East. 70% of the Arab world is under the age of 30. This is absolutely amazing because as silly as it may sound, the social media craze has hit the Middle East and people who were once confined to their small-minded ways are expanding their perspectives and seeing that they don’t have to be isolated and exclusive. They are seeing what freedom has to offer and many of them want it.

My final though is this: We must never fear speaking the truth in love and calling things as they are. At some point, a line must be drawn in the sand by the Muslim community. They will either have to reform Islam or simply discard it themselves as many people have, including myself, who had 2 Sheikhs tell my family to kill me, and 1 Sheikh offer to pay anyone to kidnap and return me to Mecca for “treason.”


7 Responses to An Ex-Muslim’s Open Letter to Bill Maher and Ben Affleck

  1. David Fechter October 15, 2014 at 6:44 am #

    Be safe.

  2. credulousdolt October 15, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

    Bill Maher is a twerp, but he is unfortunately correct in the broad assertion– and I’m paraphrasing liberally– that the religion itself is inherently violent. (I once considered converting to Islam and read everything I could get my hands on, about 4 translations of the Koran, the Hadith, even Ibn Arabi. Ibn Arabi is beautiful; the rest is a real mess.) Mr. Farraj has it exactly right: doctrinal Islam starts out almost mystically and degenerates into tribal idiocy and thanatophilia.

    Moderate Muslims will have to throw out the canonical texts of their religion, or at least learn to ignore large swaths of them, if they want to become something more than tribal flunkies waging perpetual war against infidels and apostates. That’ll be a first, so it doesn’t seem likely. But, hell, even Catholicism outgrew Torquemada. It can happen. Unfortunately, it means the brutal eradication of that movement within Islam that lives to kill.

  3. Christopher Scott Thompson March 18, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    It is simply not the case that going to the oldest source is the best way to understand a religion. The best way to understand a religion is to look at what real people are doing with it right now in the real world, and that is not one single thing but a number of different things. That is why Maher’s comments are bigoted and foolish, because he insists on speaking of Islam as being a monolithic entity when it is not.

    • Kristoff December 6, 2015 at 6:53 am #

      Well then by using your standards we find muslims blowing up russian airplanes, beheading humans , punishing women for driving , forcing women to cover themselves , raping women, burning captured pow’s , taking entire embasies hostage, killing children for not converting to islam, murdering young ladies for attending school, sunnis killing shiats , shiats killing sunnis, sunnis and shiats killing jews , coptics, hindus, and pagans,

      No bill is right , ilam is not a religion of peace , infact a strong argument can be made that anyone who interprets islam as tolerant and peacefull is a apostate,

      Islam is the only religion in existence that can resonably be interpreted to mean that all other religions / non believers should be destroyed , as the west becomes more educated to this fact we no longer buy into muslim quoting the abrogated Meccan vrs that moderates tend to quote

      We are learning the truth which is that islam IS NOT a religion of peace

      Pss call me a bigot if you like , I hate islam, I hate its lies ,ei hate its intolerance , I hate its violence, I hate law, I do not hate muslims nor anyone else for that matter

  4. Dan April 26, 2017 at 12:32 am #

    Ben Affleck doesn’t understand Islam. The core tenets of islam are specifically incompatible with civilization. A muslim either holds true to these tenets (and follows islam), or he doesn’t hold true to them (and is deemed, by his own religious doctrine, to be an apostate).

    Even the so-called “moderate” muslims are at the very least sympathetic to these core tenets. Even that itself is a problem because as soon as the so-called “moderates” outnumber the apostates, there is nothing to stop them from changing society to match these tenets (and thus regress civilization severely).

    Nobody is seriously saying that ALL MUSLIMS = EVIL. They are saying that Islam is not compatible with civilization (and it isn’t). This is not opinion. This is not something that can be argued. The quran and hadith is plainly available for anyone to read.

    Furthermore, this talk about “reforming” Islam is mere lip-service. One of those core tenets I mentioned is that, so much as even harboring individual opinions about pretty much anything apart from blind obedience to Islamic doctrine is considered abominable. I mean, it flat out says this. That right there is a defense-mechanism which prevents reform.

    • Mimi June 13, 2018 at 8:57 pm #

      It’s my understanding that Ben Affleck is related to Michel Aflaq, an Arab nationalist and the founder of the Syrian Baath party.


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