Chrystia Freeland, Bill Maher spar on HBO over Muslims
Trade minister tells U.S. comedian that now is the time to defend Muslims and promote diversity
Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland went toe-to-toe with U.S. comedian Bill Maher on his HBO talk show, debating the place of Islam in Western society and stressing her belief in the value of diversity.
Appearing on Real Time with Bill Maher Friday night, Freeland found herself mostly alone in her views, arguing with Maher, conservative writer Ben Domenech and independent Maine Senator Angus King.
Maher started by arguing that liberals don't want to recognize that the values held by Syrian refugees are at odds with American values.
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"This idea that somehow we do share values, that all religions are alike, is bullshit, and we need to call it bullshit," Maher said.
Freeland immediately objected.
"I think that it is incredibly important, particularly now after the Paris attacks, particularly now with [the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria] raging around the world, to stand up for real diversity and to say our diversity is our strength."
Maher countered that she was arguing for making women second-class citizens. "That is what you're saying. That's what it comes down to. You can't have it both ways."
'The ideas are worse'
"We in Canada are not going to say Muslims are worse than Christians or are worse than Jews or are worse than atheists," Freeland said.
Maher replied: "Not as people. The ideas are worse."
Freeland: "No, and their culture is not worse, and we also appreciate that [ISIS] does not represent Muslims, and it's now more important than ever to say that."
Domenech and Maher argued that polls show small minorities in Muslim countries support ISIS, which means they have millions of supporters worldwide.
"Six million people agree with ISIS, and you're telling me it's the same as our culture?" Maher said, referring to Turkey.
"Our culture is a very diverse one," Freeland said, "and I think now it is incredibly dangerous and very wrong to persecute Muslims and say there is something wrong with being a Muslim."
King said the challenge is to have the majority of Muslims quash the extremist minority.
"And you don't do it by saying to them, 'Muslims are bad,' " Freeland said.
Maher said that "killing women for being raped, I would say, is a bad idea. I do. Hang me for it."
"Bill, the Bible says an eye for an eye," Freeland said.
"Well, we don't listen to the Bible," Maher said.
"And very many Muslims don't listen to these extreme positions," Freeland said.
Freeland on Putin's next move
Freeland also spoke during a separate online-only segment with a different panel, fielding a question from the audience about Russian President Vladimir Putin.
She said she feared Putin could attempt a deeper invasion of Ukraine or attempt to annex Estonia or Latvia.
"You don't... invade with tanks. You send in agitators, you pay local people, you disguise it as a local separatist movement. And then when those local people vote for independence, you say to NATO, 'So what are you going to do now? Are you going to fight these people?' "
She also commented on a question about the frustrations of the U.S. middle class.
"That's new. It's different. It wasn't like that in the postwar era. This is a new thing since the late '70s, and that's why people are really horrified. Because they're like, 'You do everything right, and it's not working.' "