SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT

NEW YORK

A prominent Muslim-American journalist confronted the host of a popular late night comedy show over his frequent criticisms on Islam, telling him that he’s just doing it for “applause lines” and that won’t actually help reform the religion.

When comedian Bill Maher repeated his criticism, CNN's Fareed Zakaria, who is of Indian origin, told him that he’s not going to win hearts and minds of 1.6 billion people if he’s just insulting an entire religion and tell them their faith “sucks.” There needs to be, Zakaria said, “some sense of respect” in how the argument for reform is framed. “You’re going to make a lot of news for yourself, and get a lot of applause line and joke lines,” Zakaria scolded, telling Maher he will not help effect change by insulting an entire religion. Zakaria told Maher he needed “some sense of respect” in the discussion. Maher called Zakaria’s comment “insulting.” Zakaria responded that people “feel like their religion is being insulted,” while acknowledging the existence of extremism in the religion.

“The word I’ve used is there is a ‘cancer’ (of extremism) within Islam. Our difference is, how are you going to fix it?” asked Zakaria, pointing out the stark divide between his and Maher’s approaches. While Maher compared Muslim doctrine with ISIS dogma, Zakaria cited countries like Indonesia and India, where he said Muslim life doesn’t fall in line with the extremist and regressive views that Maher describes in his more insulting tirades against the religion.