Islamophobe of the Day: Bill Maher
To be fair, Bill Maher is not exactly a big fan of organized religion as a whole. The host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher happens to be so vehement about his atheism, that he calls out other atheists for not being “atheist enough.” An example would be when frequent guest and right-wing contributor S.E. Cupp came on his show, defending those who do actually have faith. Although Cupp is an atheist, Maher berated her, stating that her soft stance on religion means that “you’re not a real atheist then.” But that’s a discussion for a different day. Maher seems to have a special place in his heart for Muslims.
With the heated political climate post 9/11, Muslims have been an easy scapegoat for those who see organized religion as flawed. Maher has continuously made it a point to mock Islam and its adherents for what he sees as backward views. In reality, he is one of the first people to spread the misinformation about the “72 virgins” for suicide bombers, which now is frequently referenced as fodder in the Islamophobic world. Mr. Maher got a few disgusted laughs from this bit and decided to continuously run with it, even though he has taken the item that he references completely out of context, with regard to Hadiths (Prophetic traditions) regarding Heaven. In reality, there is nothing of a sexual nature that was mentioned in the referenced Hadith – which merely refers to the purity of all things in Heaven and the companions therein.
For all this success as a witty political commentator, it is also true that Maher has become increasingly bitter and decreasingly funny in the last half decade. He has thrown out objectivity, and has taken on the role of a crusading atheist, talking down to all those who do have faith. Although the self professed former-addict masquerades as a social liberal, with free love and drugs all around – Maher’s hawkishness mirrors that of his good friend Dennis Miller from the post 9/11 days. He is a fervent supporter of Israel, although he cannot really explain why. He also enjoys Muslim countries being humiliated, and basking from his bully pulpit.
On a recent show, Maher pulled up a picture of a ravaged, destitute neighborhood in a Muslim country and quipped: “To Muslims: If Allah (insert mocking voice) is so “Akbar” (Great in Arabic,) then why do all your countries look like this?” There is plenty to dissect from this one quote – the sheer arrogance in mocking those who are mired in destitution. Or the mockery of the name of God in Arabic – Christians in Arab countries refer to God as Allah as well. The real pathetic nugget from that one forgettable joke was the fact that in his warped mind, Maher equates the material wealth of this world to success in the theological realm. Muslims shouldn’t just have been offended by that quote; all persons of faith should have been.
Maher hasn’t let up on this personal quest to offend all-things Muslim. Within the last 6 months, we have seen anti-Muslim rhetoric reach an unprecedented high. Those under the News Corp umbrella of companies (Fox News, NY Post, to name a few) have had a field day in fanning the flames of hate against Islam and Muslims – basically painting the community as a fifth column within the U.S. On the “liberal” side of the coin, we have seen many voices stand up for the Muslim community such as John Stewart, Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. Those voices have been key in toning down the rhetoric and helping educate a mass audience on the realities of the Muslim community. Maher has chosen to run with the former crowd, as opposed to the latter – even though he appears to be a liberal on the surface. On his most recent episode, the wolf once again removed his liberal clothing.
I’m not sure if Ann Coulter passed on the Islamophobic gene from when they dated – but Maher’s rhetoric during his interview with Minnesota Rep Keith Ellison sounded oddly familiar. Ellison’s testimony in front of Peter King’s Islamic witch-hunt panel was truly an inspiration for the Muslim community. The Congressman spoke from the heart and was driven to tears defending his faith. It is hard to envision an individual with the weight of entire community on his back since the days of Malcolm X or MLK – however Ellison felt and lived up to the gravity of the situation.
He was brought on Real Time to discuss his testimony, which he so courageously obliged – as it turns out, he was safer during his earlier appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s show. When the cameras turned onto the host – he decided the time was once again appropriate to unleash another tirade against Islam and Muslims – calling the Quran a “hate filled holy book” in addition to vast sweeping characatures of all Muslims. Apparently in Maher’s world, everyone’s a suicide bomber in the making, and he can’t help but contain his thoughts. Smartly for Bill, he had 3 or 4 talking points that he spewed out one after the other, which made the response all that more difficult for Ellison.
Thankfully, Congressman Ellison responded thoughtfully and patiently – in the same manner as when Glenn Beck asked him to reassure the public that the Rep wasn’t “working for the enemy.” Keith kept his cool – and was able to explain to Maher that he has taken the Quran out of context and to avoid painting Muslims with a broad brush. The arrogance of Maher the theologian emerged once again, as he quipped “Yeah, there seem to be a lot of bad translations of the Quran floating around nowadays.” Since context is not of the essence Bill, wasn’t that you who praised the 9/11 hijackers as “brave”? Then again, you must have been high when you said that.
Sadly, it is virtually a guarantee that Maher won’t even apologize for his insensitive comments – he never does. This was likely a measuring stick, to see how far he can take his anti-Muslim schtick. Even though his show garners more “ooohs” and expressions of disbelief as opposed to actual laughs – Maher continues to bask in his anti-religious glow. And even though he does take shots at the other religious faiths – the fact that Islamophobia is now a seemingly acceptable social norm will continue to fuel his hateful commentary.