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Bill Maher, Islamophobia, and Political Correctness



Breaking News! Bill Maher, host of Real Time and the now defunct Politically Incorrect is politically incorrect!

So say students at UC Berkeley, who are petitioning the administration to rescind Maher’s invitation to speak at their December commencement, claiming Maher “is a blatant bigot and racist who has no respect for the values UC Berkeley students and administration stand for.”  Over 4000 have signed the petition. To sign a counter-petition, click here.

Maher has been accused of bigotry and racism elsewhere as well, for his jokes and comments on the Muslim religion, to wit: “Islam is the only religion that acts like the mafia that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing.” The students’ petition calls this “hate speech.” I call it the truth.

Bill Maher is one of the world’s most ardent atheists, and gives equal time to all religions. As noted on SF Gate, “Maher, along with Oxford professor Richard Dawkins and the late journalist Christopher Hitchens, are among a group of prominent atheists who have taken a no-holds-barred approach in their outspoken disdain for religious doctrine of all faiths.”

As Maher once said, were he alive during the Crusades he’d be raving primarily about Christianity—which he still does—but he’s living now, when ISIS is beheading people. “Islamophobia!” scream his critics.

Well, count me in as an Islamophobe: whether it’s coming straight from the Koran or a perversion of the religion, had I been born in one of many burka_2679987bpredominantly Muslim countries I’d have to go out covered from head to toe and could be stoned to death for adultery. As a Jew I wouldn’t have visited Germany during Hitler’s reign; as a woman I won’t visit Iran now.

Oh, but the politically correct cry self-righteously, we must respect religious customs! Why? Why should I respect any religion that treats women as pariahs? It’s time we stopped this hands-off bullshit of forgiving misogyny and oppression in the name of religious doctrine. For the record, I’m also critical of Orthodox Judaism for barring women from certain religious ceremonies, the morning prayer in which men “thank God I’m not a woman,” and the baffling, bizaare custom of making women shave their heads and wear wigs. As for the Catholic Church, it continues to ban abortion and even contraception, damaging millions of women (and men, and children) with outmoded, antisex edicts.

Ironically, it’s primarily liberals who toss around this term Islamophobia. “Liberals need to stand up for liberal principles,” Maher said during a round-table discussion. “But then when you say in the Muslim world, this is what’s lacking, then they get upset.”

Bill Maher might just end up with a fatwa on his head, like Salman Rushdie who lived in hiding for years, like the cartoonists who portrayed Allah unfavorably, like the filmmaker who was murdered for doing the same. If that isn’t intolerance in the name of religion, I don’t know what is. Why should we respect it?




4 responses »

  1. Keep up your standards. Maher is right.

  2. Posted on FB by Judith Simon:

    Hi Marcy, I read your blog. While I am not in agreement with silencing people or demanding that they be fired for a stupid remark, I take no position on whether Bill Maher should be allowed to speak at UCB. Giving a commencement address is not a right, after all.

    More importantly, I think that you missed a serious point. It is one thing to make seemingly racist jokes, it is another to make them about a minority (at least in the US) that is under attack. For example, Jews making fun of Jews, well that’s ordinary and acceptable, others making fun of Jews, it’s on a case by case basis at best. And maybe i’ve missed it but i have never heard a public or private joke about the Orthodox Jewish practice of women wearing wigs which is, IMO, more ridiculous than the Muslim headscarf.

    In the case of 1.4 billion Muslims worldwide, it is a tiny minority with an outlandish interpretation of religion that is responsible for the horrors. I don’t think that people believe that cultural misogyny is okay. And in many Muslim countries you would not be covered from head to toe or even wear a headscarf.

    I appreciate your taking a stand on this issue and your writing in general, so thanks.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts, Judith.

    Comedians make jokes about all religions, minority or not. Maher in particular is virulently anti-religion; the stuff he’s said about the Pope could make Jesus’ hair stand on end. And I’m not so sure Muslims even are a minority; it is after all the fastest-growing religion in the world.

    I agree that women shaving and wearing wigs is a ridiculous custom—and I’d guess some comic somewhere has joked about it. But that’s totally beside the point.

    I am sick of hearing that it’s just “a tiny minority” of Muslims perpetuating so much terror. The point is that it’s primarily Muslims. I do not hate everyone who practices the Muslim religion—that would be Islamophobia–athough, as stated above, I’m not going to Iran anytime soon. As also stated, in many Muslim countries I would have to be covered (key word is many.)

    I stand by my story, Judith, but I do appreciate your thoughts and your attention.

  4. The parallel with Orthodox Jews is striking. In Israel it is Orthodox Jews who commit atrocities and daily molestations against Palestinians and it is Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn who protect pedophiles in their midst. Yet Jews are not condemned for the behavior of that minority, which is, I would guess, a much larger percent of the world Jewish population than radical Muslims are of the world Muslim population. Perhaps any religious group at that end of the fanatic spectrum can (and does) behave abhorrently.

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