Two of the most famous atheists in the world, HBO host Bill Maher and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, slammed liberals who they say are giving Islam a "free pass," despite the human rights abuses being committed in Muslim countries and by Islamic extremist groups around the world today.
Dawkins was a guest on Maher's "Real Time" on Friday, where Maher said it is "ridiculous" that some make out Muslims to be a "protected species."
Dawkins added that people sometimes believe that those criticizing Muslims are racists.
Maher and Dawkins both took aim at liberals they said would shoot down free speech in order to protect Muslim sensitivities. Dawkins pointed out the case of Warwick University's students' union declining atheist and critic of extremist Islam Maryam Namazie the opportunity to speak at the school in October, out of fear of offending the religion.
Maher has himself faced push-back for his own university appearances, with University of California at Berkeley students starting a petition last year seeking to bar the HBO host from speaking at 2014's fall commencement ceremony, due to his "racist" views on Muslims.
"If you can't speak your mind at a university campus, where can you? I mean that's what universities are about. It's about free speech," Dawkins said.
"So they think that if you you criticize Islam you're being racist and you're absolutely right that the regressive [liberals] give a free pass to Islam," the atheist author continued. "They're kind of right about everything else, I mean, they're right about misogyny and all of the other good things. But in the case of Islam, it just gets a free pass and I think it is because of the terror of being thought racist."
Maher added that those who criticize Islam are also called "Islamophobes," which he said was a "silly word that means nothing."
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Maher, Dawkins, and other atheist authors, such as Sam Harris, have been criticized by religious commentators, such as Reza Aslan, for blaming Islam for the rise of terrorism.
"New Atheists like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins are not atheists, they are anti-theists. They don't just not believe in God, they believe that religion is an insidious evil that has to be forcibly removed from society. And their views about religious people and religion in general are extreme and in no way representative of the majority or the mainstream view of atheists," Aslan said in an interview in June.
Aslan added that such anti-theists get their ideas "from the most simplistic, the most unsophisticated and the most knee-jerk reaction to the very real problem of religious violence around the world," and argued that it is "nothing less than idiotic to blame religion for religious violence without recognizing the multiple factors that are involved in violence of any sort."