Muslims are no Different, or why Bill Maher’s blood libel is Bigotry

Comedian Bill Maher puts himself in the company of “9/11 liberals” who believe that Islam as a religion is different and decidedly worse than all other religions. He said Friday that ‘at least half of all Muslims believe it is all right to kill someone who insults ‘the Prophet.’ His bad faith is immediately apparent in the reference to 9/11, not the work of mainstream Muslims but of a political cult whose members often spent their time in strip clubs.

Now, it may be objected that Maher has made a career of attacking all religions, and promoting irreverence toward them. So Islam is just one more target for him. But that tack wouldn’t entirely be true. He explicitly singles Islam out as more, much more homocidal than the other religions. He is personally unpleasant to his Muslim guests, such as Keith Ellison. His reaction to the youth of the Arab Spring gathering to try to overthrow their American-backed dictators was “the Arabs are revolting.” Try substituting “Jews” to see how objectionable that is.

Maher ironically has de facto joined an Islamophobic network that is funded by the Mellon Scaife Foundation and other philanthropies tied to the American Enterprise Institute, etc. which is mainly made up of evangelical Christians, bigoted American Jews who would vote for the Likud Party if they could, and cynical Republican businessmen and politicians casting about for something with which to frighten working class Americans into voting for them.

Maher is a consistent liberal and donated $1 million to the Obama campaign, so he is in odd company in targeting Muslims this way. So what explains this animus against Muslims in particular? The only thing he has in common with the Islamophobic Right is his somewhat bloodthirsty form of militant Zionism. He strongly supported the Israeli attack on helpless little Lebanon in 2006, in which the Israelis dropped a million cluster bombs on the farms of the south of that country. He talks about how the besieged Palestinians of Gaza deserve to be “nuked.” His interviews with Likudnik Israeli officials are typically fawning, unlike his combative style with other right wing guests.

In short, Maher is in part reacting as a nationalist to Muslims as a rival national group, and his palpable hatred for them is rooted not in religion but in national self-conception. It is a key tactic of militant Zionism to attempt to demonize and delegitimize Muslims; you don’t have to apologize for colonizing or imposing Apartheid on Palestinians, after all, if they aren’t really human beings. In addition, like many Americans, Maher sees the United States, Europe and Israel as ‘the West’ locked in a rivalry with an alien, Islamic civilization that is intrinsically fanatical and backward (his fellow-traveller on this issue, Pamela Geller, uses the word ‘savage.’) Maher is aware of the history of Christian bloodthirstiness, of course, but he often speaks of it as being in the past. He seems to see contemporary Muslims as having the same sorts of flaws (Inquisition, Crusades) as medieval Christianity.

Maher is not important, but his thesis is widely put forward, and it matters in real people’s lives. There is a nation-wide campaign by religious bigots (most of them sadly evangelical Christians) to prevent American Muslims from building mosques in their communities, and one of the reasons often given is ‘fear’ that the Muslims are homicidal and so the mosque is a conspiracy to commit murder waiting to happen. Maher’s singling out of Muslim as different willy-nilly encourages people to treat them as different, i.e., to discriminate against them.

It is significant that Maher tries to pin the label ‘murderer’ on the Muslims (or half of them?) Because one of the centerpieces of classical Western hatred of Jews was the blood libel, the allegation that they stole the babies of Christians and sacrificed them in secret rituals. It is hard to see what the difference is between that and arguing that some 3 million American Muslims are walking around like a grenade with the pin pulled out. Both blood libels configure a non-Christian group as homicidal, and locate the impulse for their alleged killing sprees in secret religious beliefs opaque to the normal Christian.

Refuting Maher would be tedious and, as others have noted, like nailing jello to the wall, since he doesn’t have a cogent set of testable theses about Muslims, he just despises them. For what it is worth, It is fairly easy to show that Maher’s specific assertions about Muslims, and more especially about American Muslims, are simply not true. Most reject militant groups, and nearly 80% want a two-state solution on Israel and Palestine, i.e. they accept Israel assuming Palestinian statelessness is ended.

Crowd politics is different in various parts of the world and it is certainly true that riots can be provoked in each culture by different things. It is a straw man to say Muslims “would” kill people for insulting Muhammad. How many such killings happen each year? where? And it stacks the deck against them to single out their motive from other possible impetuses to violence. Is the complaint that they are more violent than other people (not in evidence)? Or that their motives for violence are peculiar (depends on how you classify them)? In the United States, the police beating of Rodney King resulted in 3000 shops being burned down in Los Angeles. Race seems to be the thing that sets off riots in the US. Rioting over race relations is so common that major such incidents, as in Cincinnati, often do not even get national press.

The touchiness of Muslims about assaults on the Prophet Muhammad is in part rooted in centuries of Western colonialism and neo-colonialism during which their religion was routinely denounced as barbaric by the people ruling and lording it over them. That is, defending the Prophet and defending the post-colonial nation are for the most part indistinguishable, and being touchy over slights to national identity (and yes, Muslimness is a kind of national identity in today’s world) is hardly confined to Muslims.

In India, dozens of Christians have sometimes been killed by rioting Hindus angry over allegations of missionary work. Killing people because you think they tried to convert members of your religion to another religion? Isn’t it because such a conversion is an insult to your gods?

In Myanmar, angry Buddhists have attacked the hapless Muslim minority, sometimes alleging they were avenging an instance of the rape of a Buddhist girl (i.e. these are like lynchings in the Jim Crow South).

Or then there have been Sri Lanka Buddhist attacks on Tamil Christians. In fact, Sri Lanka Buddhists have erected a nasty police state and shown a propensity for violence against the Tamil minority, some elements of which have had revolutionary or separatist aspirations (not everybody in the group deserves to be punished for that).

And, militant Israeli Jews have set fire to Muslim mosques in Palestine and recently tried to “lynch” three Palestinians in Jerusalem. If Maher thinks only Muslims are thin-skinned, he should try publicly criticizing Israeli policy in America and see what happens to him.

Since Iraq didn’t have ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and wasn’t connected to 9/11, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that 300 million Americans brutally attacked and militarily occupied that country for 8 1/2 years, resulting in the deaths of perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the wounding of millions, and the displacement of millions more, mainly because Iraq’s leader had talked dirty about America. Now that is touchy.

Americans tut-tutting over riots in the Arab world appear to have led sheltered lives. In most of the world, crowd actions are common over all kinds of issues, beyond the ones of race, class and college sports teams that routinely provoke them here. When I was living in India there were always items in the newspaper about a bus driver accidentally running over a pedestrian, and then an angry mob forming that killed the bus driver. Neighborhood nationalism. The same sort of crowds gather when a blaspheming author drives his discourse into the sanctity of their neighborhood. It is appalling, but I’m not sure what exactly you would do about that sort of thing. It certainly isn’t confined to Muslims.

In fact, the crowd that attacked the US embassy in Cairo was just 2000 or so people, tiny by Egyptian standards. A demonstration that only attracted 2000 people would usually be considered a dismal failure in Cairo. Likewise, for all its horror and destructiveness, the crowd that assaulted the US consulate in Benghazi was very small, a few hundred people. Many of them have now been chased out of town by outraged Libyans disturbed at this affront to their city’s reputation as a cradle of a revolution made for the sake of human rights. A careful comparison in percentage terms of the size of the crowds that protested Mubarak’s rule in Cairo (hundreds of thousands) with the size of those who protested the so-called film attacking the Prophet Muhammad, shows that the latter is hardly worth mentioning.

Maher is using his position as a comedic gadfly to promote hatred of one-sixth of humankind, and that is wrong, any way you look at it.

77 Responses

  1. Maher never ever makes fun of Judaism. Never. Did you see his stupid and racist film Religulous? Filled with Islamophobic leanings. Did you ever hear his interview with former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden unit Micheal Scheuer? Telling

    • “Maher never ever makes fun of Judaism. Never. Did you see his stupid and racist film Religulous?”

      Have you even seen the film yourself? Here is Bill Maher making fun of Judaism:

      link to youtube.com

      • I remember Maher referring negatively one time in that movie about something having to do with Judaism. But light and airy no real poking fun. Or as sharp of criticism as he applied to Catholicism, other Christian fundamentalist or Islam. Not even close comparisons. So obviously disproportionate. If you are going to criticize, poke fun all should be on the table. Even his now precious Judaism

    • I agree with you Kathleen, I watched the movie closely to see if Maher was able to see the irony of some aspects of Judaism and treat it as irreverently as the other religions and indeed it was not. It is strange that he has such innate loyalty since he was raised Catholic and didn’t realize his mother was Jewish until his teen years or later maybe.

      He seems fervently loyal to the state of Israel. And gets passionately bothered when Jeanine Garafulo states her opinion. Here’s the clip.
      link to liveleak.com

      • I’m suspicious about Maher being very loyal to Judaism. He has only dated African American and Hispanic Women, who are by and large not in the faith.

        • Zionism and Judaism are two different things. Maher is a Zionist. Not sure if he follows his faith.

  2. In the USA, we don’t need to riot when our national identity is insulted because we know that when our collective blood-lust gets to a certain level, our leaders will calm us by blowing to pieces a lot of people in some country 3000 miles away. Our military does the rioting over there, so we don’t have to do it here.

    • Check out the flag burning university protests in Montana last year I believe it was, cops had to usher the students out because all those ‘civilized’ people were about to beat them to death. It’s not something beneath any of us

  3. Maher is a bigot and was never funny anyway. Americans in wonder over touchy Arabs forget why Sambo’s Restaurant had to change their racist menus. Amos ‘n’ Andy and Grey Ghost were taken off TV due to racist stereotypes, with the latter mainly for “Glorifying the South” and Mosby. Let’s run a “cartoon” of Obama as Little Black Sambo and see what happens. Go ahead, Maher, I dare you.

    • Speaking as a disinterested (read non-religious) person, it seems to me that Islam demands fewer leaps if faith (credulity) than either Judaism or Christianity. Attacks on the faith probable stem from insecurity about Judaism’s exceptionalism, or Christianity’s “believe on me” easy road to salvation.

    • I actually think Maher is funny. But his prejudices towards Islam were so apparent in his movie Religulous and his unwillingness to criticize Judaism was loud and clear. Jon Stewart and his team have come along way the last few years. Israel, Israeli leaders, the I lobby and Judaism were way off limits for Stewart and his team for as long as he has been on up until the last few years.

      Hope Maher turns his index finger back on himself and looks at his own racism and unwillingness to criticize Judaism, Israel, the I lobby.

      • kathleen,

        c’mon, get real.

        you can criticize maher if you disagree with his political statements. but your repeated references to his “judaism” – his “precious judaism” was the winner – strike me as rancid racism. first off, he was brought up catholic and had no knowledge of his mother’s ethnicity until he was an adult. but that’s an aside. attacking jews as jews simply is despicable, no matter how you try and dress it up as part of some enlightened political critique of us mideast policy.

    • Maher has never ever been funny. Here in England – where we are somewhat known for our humour – we have a truism: if a comedian needs to pause before his laugh line/response, he is not funny.

      Keep that in mind next time you watch him pause, wait for his adulation, and continue in his racist rants.

      And shame on all so-called liberal guests (Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell, Michael Moore, etc.) who appear on his programme. It’s tacit support of – as David Moore points out – 21st century ‘Sambo’ mockery.

  4. I am still waiting for a historian to write about the reason(s) the Bush administration rushed to war in Iraq. We already know that WMB was not on the short list; except in the marketing department.

    Likud Zionism creates odd bedfellows in American policy circles.

    Mitch McConnel hasn’t devoted four years to getting rid of President Obama because of his center left and center right policies.

    • James clearly the oil, neo, theo cons merged to push (lie) this nation into the immoral and illegal invasion of Iraq

      • “James clearly the oil…”

        It was not “clearly the oil” at all. Had it only been about oil, all we had to do would have been to change our policy toward Saddam Hussein, embrace him, challenge the Russians for oil field contracts, and let the oil flow.

        • An addendum to my post above. We also could have challenged both the Russians and the French for arms sales to Iraq, had we decided to make peace with Saddam. The important point, though, is that had it been “clearly the oil,” as Kathleen suggests, there was no need to go to war.

        • You’re looking at oil the way a sane person would. Research Dick Cheney’s “Project for a New American Century.” The goal was to overrun both Iraq and Iran, and then use their combined oil reserves to dictate to the world. This clearly could not have been done by restoring the alliance with Saddam Hussein.

          Furthermore, the neocons still had to aggregate support for the invasion within the GOP itself, a GOP already being indoctrinated in Islamophobia by the Likud. 9/11 bloodlust meant that some Moslems were going to have to be slaughtered, more than Afghanistan then seemed to require. And slaughtering Arabs would be best of all.

          For the people really in charge, it was about oil. But they needed to fill up their bandwagon with bigots, Christian expansionists, and, well, a lot of normal people who wanted to beat the Kunta Kinte out of Arabs.

        • “embrace Saddam.”

          Yeah, that’s all it would have taken. Change that little 52-card-pickup policy. Years of runup to getting enough “patriotic,” war-fever, fear-of-the-Other smoke in the air to cover the PNAC mission of proving US hegemony, absolute and arbitrary, over the whole world. The Iraqis will greet us with flowers, and then we will TAKE all their frippin’ oil. And the “oil field contracts” would be between some critter like Bremer, the unlamented Viceroy of Iraq, and a Cheney affiliate, with the Russians and Chinese and other Woglands debarred from even bidding.. And all those weapon sales, stuff that got sold to Saudi Arabia and other “hot spots,” and gifted to Israel, instead…

          I guess when the idea is to get people to believe that it’s as simple as that, and the Grown.Ups are in command, all just part of a Great Game that’s as simple as the board and rules of RISK!, except when it suits to hint at complexities that only the speaker can appreciate, one can come up with an explanation for What Might Have Been and that we are supposed to accept that it was all about more than oil, really other Terribly Important Stuff That Ordinary People Are Too Dull To Understand.

          Which it was, of course — all about a bunch of clumsy dumbf__ks, claiming “expertise,” as idiotic as the nationalist war lovers who ran the planet into the wall called WW I, our Really Smart People who clearly “don’t know what they don’t know” even today, who were going to finish the whole war and invasion thing off in a couple of “Mission Accomplished” weeks. All as one part of a Grand Global Strategy that Surprise! foundered on the sharp rocks of ridiculous logistics, populace divisions, the tenacity and inventiveness of supposed tribal backwardspeople, insuperable asymmetry, and a bunch of other out-of-mind, out-of-their-everlovin’-minds idiocies and elements of True Belief in Manifest Destiny by the Double Secret Invisible Neocon People who drove the “policy.”

          There was obviously no changing that “policy” of invasion and conquest, and taking to one of embrace, as Bill says. If that was just “all we had to do,” which of course it was not. And what “we” actually did didn’t work out all that well, either, did it? Except for the people who Hoovered up a couple of trillion dollars, largely tax-free and without personal consequences, despite massive acknowledged theft and fraud. And who were those people, again? Halliburton? General Atomic? Lockheed Martin? Krupp? (Whoops, sorry about that last one, wrong exercise in futility.)

          But maybe Bill knows, and would care to add to the sum of actual public transparent wisdom, what else the whole US set of behaviors, large, medium, small, and invisible, in and relating to the Mideast (and Africa and now PivotAsia and Central and South America) includes, what we all pay taxes and mortgage our collective future to underwrite actually is, what those games are all about, and what, other than short-term benefit and long-term apparently ignorant futility, all the motions and strategies and doctrines actually are. Why did “we” start that OIF-OEF thing, again, if you know? (Note that the original mission name and acronym were “Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL),” likely thanks to some wag in the Pentagram, until the PR guys woke up to the snickering irony…) Just what was the “need to go to war”?

        • Bill who said it was only about oil? Please do not put words in my mouth. “oil, neo, theo cons merged”

      • It is comforting to know that Mr. McPhee has maintained his 3″ x 5″ cards, as it helps overcome insomnia: “Grown-Ups,” “Great Game,” “True Belief in Manifest Destiny by the Double Secret Invisible Neocon People…” (Yawn, ZZZZZZZZ.)

      • “Bill who said it was only about oil? Please do not put words in my mouth. “oil, neo, theo cons merged”

        Kathleen, when you state, “Clearly the oil, neo, theo cons merged,” the only actual reason you give is “clearly the Oil.” The rest of your sentence, “neo, theo cons merged” suggests that the reason they merged was in response to the antecedent in your sentence, “Clearly the oil.” Perhaps greater attention to syntax would prevent confusion in the future.

  5. The problem with Maher (and some of the vocal atheist groups) is that they are religious in their anti religious beliefs.

    • I agree that Maher is religious in his anti-religious beliefs. His atheism is aggressive. But it almost seems passe, something that may have been hip 20-30 years ago.

  6. Excellent point Professor Cole. People like Mr. Maher are more dangerous than straight forward bigots, as they are amazingly talented to in putting out a different facade and wrap their biases and bigotry in a nice humorous package.
    Having said that it is not very difficult to see the true bigoted person.
    This is the same Bill Maher who on many occasions professed that he is not a “democrat” but he donates a million dollar to Obama campaign!!!! So why is it any surprise that a self professed non-believer Bill Maher has now joined an Islamophobic network?!!!

  7. I’m curious to know how American Muslims are disposed towards the 2012 election. There are sizeable numbers of them, and I would guess they participate in elections at fairly high rates, but they seem to be totally overlooked as a voting bloc. Of course, how any Muslim could vote for Romney or any other Republican would be beyond me.

    • my father in law is a fervent liberal and would never vote for Romney. I find most Muslims in America to be liberals that are conservative on social issues (marriage, abortion, etc)

    • I think they used to be mostly Republican because they are conservative on social issues, but this changed,after George W. Bush.

      • That is incorrect, IrisD. Muslim-Americans, like most other immigrant groups, have tended to vote Democratic. W. Bush was the only Republican presidential candidate in recent memory to ever win more Muslim-American voters than a Democrat and that was because of his debate comment about sympathizing with Muslims at airports.

    • I don’t know the answer to that one. I think politicians are scared to death to be seen courting the Islamic vote, so we see neither side making any visible effort to do so.

  8. With all this denunciation being spread in the US about the supposed evils associated with the prophet Mohamed, how come we hear nothing in the national media about the corrupt “prophet” Joseph Smith founder of the Mormon Church? His debauchery is well documented but do you hear the
    right wing Christians mounting any campaigns to denounce him? Bill Maher is a jackass and should be ignored for his brand of bigotry results from stupidity.

  9. James, there are some signs of why Bush lead us to war in the book “Clinton’s Secret Wars”. In a nut shell there was a firm belief in the CIA and other “intelligent” communites at Iraq did have WMD’s and that intel that contraindicated that fact was surpressed from reaching the decision makers at the top.

  10. Be careful with surveys of oppressed people, you may not understand their priorities. For example; it you had surveyed African Americans in 1950 about their concerns. It is likely that lynching and fair treatment under the law would be their top issues. Well down on the list would be voting rights. At the bottom of the list would be sitting at the back of the bus and separate lunch counters. Sitting at the back of the bus doesn’t count for much if you might be lynched at the next bus stop.

    The genius of martin Luther King was in realizing that they were all the same thing. White people might have said that we will fix the worst excesses of segregation and thereby save segregation. King knew segregation cannot be fixed and must not be saved but rather it must be eliminated.

    We are recycling these same arguments with the “two state solution” which is just separate but equal by another name. Do most Palestinians want the two state solution? Sure, if it means an end of Israeli oppression in the occupied territory. They also want and end to oppression within Israel and they want to go home.

    The only solution is to fix Israel. Israel must become a country of equal rights. We must not accept separate but equal now anymore than we did back them. We must not see ghettoizing the problem as the solution. We hear people say “the Israel will never accept equal rights”; clearly an echo from our past. Our past civil rights struggles should be a guide to Israel’s future.

    • Good point. The “two state solution,” to be taken at its word, would have meant a genuinely viable Palestinian state. Any way you cut it that is certainly not going to happen now. One way or the other, sooner or later, Israel stands to be “fixed,” and it’ll only have itself to blame for that fate.

    • That IS an interesting point, but of course Israel has never made any pretence that separate meant equal in any sense. You need look no further than the per student expenditure on Arab v. Jewish schools, etc.

      These so called liberals think it’s only fair, but that’s just because they haven’t given the matter a moment’s serious thought. Many who support partition of Palestine would be appalled at the suggestion of partitioning, say Canada or Australia or the US into an Indigenous state and a colonist state. When push comes to shove, the reason they support partition is that they firmly believe that a Jewish ethnocracy has A Right To Exist®, while of course maintaining their in principle opposition to sectarian states in general…

      link to bureauofcounterpropaganda.blogspot.com.au

  11. I’m not defending Maher, but he did get in hot water, and lost his show, ‘Politically Incorrect’ for giving the hi-jackers props for at least having courage.

    Perhaps we should remember Ghandi’s response to the question of what did he think of Western Civilization?

    To which he replied something like “It sounds like a good idea, somebody should try sometime!”

  12. There approx three million Muslims living in the United States. Do they pose any threat? Do they hate their neighbors? Do they secretly plot an overthrow of their local governments? On the other hand there is an anti Islamic cultural movement in the US which is national in nature. American Muslims do not protest the construction of new churches, while many Christians, in their majority, protest the construction of mosques. Often in the most ignorant and bigoted of terms.

    When we (non Muslims) think about Muslims it might help if we think of our peace loving neighbors……

  13. For an even more in-depth evisceration of Maher’s appalling anti-Muslim rhetoric, clear historical ignorance and fawning Zionist apologia, check out this extensive article from May 2010 on “Wide Asleep in America” –

    The Ridiculest: Bill Maher’s Cultural Supremacy and Religious Hierarchy

    link to wideasleepinamerica.com

    • Thanks for that link, Devlin. What a great article. Beat up Bill maher quite a bit but the US took some shrapnel too, deservingly.

  14. Juan:

    Good job to call out Bill Maher the way you have. I like his work in many ways and think he is very funny often, but strongly recall his disgusting “Israel — right or wrong” defense of the bombing of Lebanon in 2006. The guy has a real blind spot in terms of being objective regarding Israel and the Muslim world, and his words can encourage a good deal of hatred and misdeeds. Well done Juan! Best, John

  15. This bigotry and double-standard is found amongst a number of commentators who decry fundamentalism and intolerance but always manage to give Likud Zionism a special pass inspite of its blut und boden nationalim. A good example would be the atheist Sam Harris who hates Islamic fundamentalism and even Christian fundamentalism but is a staunch advocate for Jewish fundamentalism and ethnic cleansing in Palestine.

  16. Is Maher that far off? Zoroastrians were not responsible for killing 4,000 Americans on 9-11. Just go to Pakistan and stand on a street corner of Karachi and denounce Mahomet. See how long you live.

    • You know that we are bombing Pakistan on a regular basis right now, don’t you? If I were Pakistani I’d be ready to be violent about that.

      If you had denounced Mahomet on a street corner in Karachi before decades of right-wing juntas, usually bankrolled by the USA and Saudi Arabia, indoctrinating their population on the need for holy war against India and the evils of secular socialism, you would not have to worry about being killed. Pakistan was re-engineered by right-wing extremists, backed for far too long by Washington, to convert it from blaming every problem on Western colonial capitalism to blaming every problem on insufficient piety.

      • So much non-sensical congnitive dissonance about this.
        The irate protesters claim this is about a movie that no one is watching, and only some guy in California is responsible for. This is their reason for burning Obama in effigy and calling for the death of people who insult Islam.

        Perhaps, this has nothing to do with Maher’s supposed jewishness. He’s an agnostic raised as a catholic, so I don’t really see what his race has to do with this.
        But he, like the rest of us, know that you can ridicule Judaisism and Christianity, and he has in his work, and it doesn’t result in angry mobs and death threats. And calls that the streets run red with the blood of the infidels.

        The tennents of Mormonisms are just as silly as Islam, as someone above has remarked. But compare the reaction to the Southpark episode on Mormons, to these derainged protests. Many Mormons were amused by the episode.

  17. The Zion Square attempted lynchings referenced above were far more heavily covered in Israeli than the American news media.

    The Jewish crowd of hundreds watched Jamal Julani beaten after he was already unconscious and some even attacked Magen David ambulance workers trying to rescue the Arab youths.

    Attacks by settlers against Arabs in the West Bank are commonplace however an attempted lynching of Arab youths in downtown Jerusalem while hundreds of Jewish Israelis insouciantly witness the violence is shocking. It is a wake-up call to decent Israelis of all faiths to stand up and denounce such hate crimes.

      • If you google “jamal julani” you get a whole bunch of links, most of which refer to “lynching” and “deplore” what nine Israeli teens did to an inoffensive young Arab man in Jerusalem. Links enough?

        According to the indictments, the suspects specifically planned to target Arabs that evening. At around 10 P.M. on August 16, some 60 young people gathered at Jerusalem’s Zion Square. One of the female suspects called the attention of the other teenagers to some Arabs sitting nearby, adding “They can’t sit there.”

        “She and the others decided to beat them. One of them told the others: ‘Whoever is a man will hit Arabs,’” the indictment read. To incite the crowd, one of the teenage girls started shouting racist curses, such as “Mohammed is dead” and “A Jew is a soul, an Arab is a son of a bitch.” As the incident progressed, they drove away some Arabs that were sitting nearby.

        The end game for these inspired ‘teenagers” was the beating and near murder of Jamal Julani. One wonders which part of the fractured Israeli polity they “belong to.” And there’s more in just this little story, illustrative of a few of the many reasons that humans are not likely to keep their pinnacle-species status much longer. link to haaretz.com

        Or try this one: link to ottomansandzionists.wordpress.com Still more reason for optimism [not].

  18. When I was young I occasionally got stuck sitting through a Sunday sermon at my upstate New York Aunt’s tiny bible church. My most vivid memory is hearing the preacherman exhort the crowd, Thou shalt not kill, unless it’s the Russians/Commies. She didn’t leave that church until twenty years later, when the same preacherman told her he’d have to pray for her son’s death because her son wouldn’t rejoin his estranged wife. Manipulative ba$tard.

    Right Wing Religionistas would happily undo every millimeter of scientific progress we’ve made in the last two centuries. In this the major godbothering religions are unwitting co conspirators.

  19. I agree with a lot of the critiques of Maher’s attack on “islam” (painting with a ridiculously large brush, to say the least).

    One point no one has raised:

    If the majority of a religious faction or group was biggoted on the basis of the tenets of the religion, the religious holy book, the claims/interpretations of the religious leaders, etc., then it would be reasonable to condemn the religion (to the degree that this biggotry was common and caused harm, sufferring, oppression, etc.,).

    What percentage of people who self-identify as Muslim are “bigotted” (given some plausible definition of bigottry) against homosexuals? What portion of this group are bigotted because of the religious beleifs (as opposed to some other source)? Does anyone have data on this?

    –Tim Christie

    • The problem with that is that such bigotry against blacks and homosexuals was the norm among American Christians, and certainly Jews and agnostics too, for a long time. If we believe these things have changed, then it happened in only a few decades. Yet does that mean the tenets of the religion have changed?

  20. One think I agree with Maher is that western culture is way better than muslim culture:

    separtion between church and state,
    gender equality,
    freedom to mock religion
    including the freedom to insult prophets,
    freedom to ignore old books, traditions and religios authorities.

    • You may only be describing Western culture as understood by 50% of Americans. There’s a whole other American out there where you can get beaten up for all kinds of things, and a lot of people whisper against the government only because it impedes them from going even further against dissidents.

    • UMDECON, what country do you live in. I hope not the U.S. as I must tell you that you have been asleep for most of your live. “Separation between Church and State” ? At the beginning of every city or county commisssion meeting there is the obligatory invocation by a religionist, followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. “Gender Equality”? Why do women in this country still don’t get paid the same as men in comparable positions? “Freedom to mock religion”? I was expelled from a UU congregation because I insisted the junior pastor of Jewish heritage must share with the congregation her position on the Israeli-Palestion conflict and I called her a Zionist because she was silent about the Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people (one of the Seven Principles of UU is Justice). Give me a break, UMDECON, some of you Americans appear blind, deaf and cognitively impaired when it comes to fair critique of your own country.

  21. Great article.
    Thanks for voicing the same issues I have been ranting about for years. I am a Muslim who watches Bill Maher’s show “religously”, and am sensitively aware of his inherent pro-Israel/ Anti-Muslim bias, reflected in his choice of guests, his misinformation/disinformation about the statements he makes about Islam and Arabs, and his lack of any criticism of Israel, no matter what his liberal/ environmental buff label would seem to warrant. He is anti religion only as a vague, grouped entity of ills, but hates Islam specifically, as if the evils of Islam, singularly, weigh equally or more than the evils of all the other religion combined.
    He loves to have guests who demonize Islam as a retarded and violent religion, especially Hirsi Ali and Irshad manji. One of such guests was Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, who was allowed to frame the Israeli/Palestinian issues and the then ongoing annexing of more Palestinian land, the way the republicans may frame annexing and drilling in the Alaskan wildlife reserve, in terms of, yes, there are concerns, but we need it, have right to it and would do it responsibly. In front of such guests, he loses his ability to question anything, fawning.
    The dangerous part about this is that the people on the left see him as a de facto good guy, one of the prominent/preeminent representant of our movement, and therefore take his stuff at face value, including his biases.
    Finally, I, a previous democrat, am not voting for Obama this year, principally (and principly) over the hijacking of our constitution to give himself the right and leisure to kill American citizens at will.

    • not voting for obama? oh, that’s brilliant. then here’s to mitt and the GOP. you think things will be oh so much better under the republicans? think again. it’s like the runup to bush v gore. we can thank all the precious perfectionists who threw away their votes on nader. anyone not happy with what we did in iraq? too bad; you helped put that crowd into power by not voting for gore. now some want to repeat that mistake with obama.

      amateurs.

      • You have a point, John, but there is no reason to be optimistic about Obama and the oligarchs in the Democrat party unless you think the lesser evils are a good deal. Our democracy, what’s left of it, will likely come to a quicker end under the right wing of the Republican party, but don’t look to Obama and the Democrats to rescue it. Just a couple of many reasons: The Obama administration is letting the banksters off the hook for their activities that nearly brought the economy to collapse and is also engaged in restoring to the military the right to arrest and detain citizens indefinitely without charges after a courageous New York judge threw out part of the NDAA’s provisions. (You’re wrong on Nader, but that is another story.)

  22. I was intrigued by Maher when I first saw him on Larry King, but when he said he admired Colin Powell he lost me at that point and has confirmed my skepticism of him repeatedly since. His comment about Powell came after Powell’s day of infamy on February 5, 2003 at the UN when he greased the way for the immoral and illegal war on Iraq.

  23. The problem is, that Maher is at least partially right. Jews don’t riot when someone shows the Protocols of the Elders of Zion (as Jon Stewart said, they do what any civilized people would do, give it a bad rating in the NYT). The Onion put up a cartoon with at least 4 different holy characters without anyone rioting. The people only seem thin-skinned in the Muslim world. Yes, there are issues between Christians and Hindus and other religious groups, but they are not nearly as frequent. And those groups aren’t trying to get the UN to have a blasphemy law (blasphemy is a victimless crime).

    I’m sorry that Muslims in Muslim-governed nations cannot separate anti-anti-colonialism from insults to Islam, but I don’t believe they ought to be able to limit anyone’s free speech and, frankly, using violence as an intimidation tactic is not good optics on the worldwide stage.

    Also, it seems to me that the anti-mosque business started prior to this latest tantrum. I had thought that the anti-mosque business was almost entirely Christian based as they don’t want the competition.

    Atheists are calling out Islam right now, because they’re not being affected by Hindus, or Buddhists, or anyone else.

  24. In a big nut shell:

    The main reason for the corrupt stirring up of religious anger and bigotry, for the corrupt and illegal wars, for the existence of phony terrorists, for the corrupt US government, the corrupt Military Industrial Complex (MIC), for the corrupt Federal Reserve, for the corrupt Banking industry is to make the corrupt politicians and the corrupt Billionaires and Millionaires richer.

    Half of Congress are millionaires and the other half are working on becoming millionaires. Congress will never approve increased taxes on the rich and their corporations.

    Will the Bush Era Tax Cuts ever end?
    Can money be taken out of politics?
    Will white collar criminals be taken out of government and punished?
    Will the court system ever be honest and legal?
    Will America ever have democracy?

    • And really, if Maher understands those things, why can he not see that those villians have a huge vested interest in scapegoating Moslems? It seems all his other problems with America in one way or another are caused by special interests that happen to require the war on Islam.

      • Excellent point, SUPER390. I am non-American, living in America; I have never encountered a people steeped as deeply in denial as the collective of the American people. The world will never be in peace with you, dear friends, as long as you don’t open up your mind to broader reality.

  25. ‘Maher is a consistent liberal and donated $1 million to the Obama campaign, so he is in odd company in targeting Muslims this way. So what explains this animus against Muslims in particular? The only thing he has in common with the Islamophobic Right is his somewhat bloodthirsty form of militant Zionism. He strongly supported the Israeli attack on helpless little Lebanon in 2006, in which the Israelis dropped a million cluster bombs on the farms of the south of that country. He talks about how the besieged Palestinians of Gaza deserve to be “nuked.” His interviews with Likudnik Israeli officials are typically fawning, unlike his combative style with other right wing guests.’

    What point are you trying to make here, Juan? Surely you can only support Obama if you favour large scale attacks on Muslims? Surely small-L ‘liberals’ have been virtually univocal in endorsing Israel’s 2006 ‘war’ against Lebanon and the 2008-09 attack on Gaza…?

  26. Amateurs!? I was one of those dissuaded from voting for Nader because “a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush”. Well, guess what? bush “won” anyway and it was not because more people voted for him.
    The lesson? Anything you do out of fear is cheating the process it is supposed to address, especially voting.
    I voted for Obama in 2008, because it was the obvious thing to do, comparing him to McCain. This time around, it isn’t as obvious for me, based simply on the fact that I cannot vote for a man who sees nothing wrong with ordering the killing of an American citizen without due process, when I was one of those who was horrified when Bush started the march towards this. Voting for Romney is certainly not an option.

    The best favor we can do ourselves and our children is to refuse to participate in this kidnapping of our democracy by these 2 parties, whose intent each, is less to govern successfully, but more to stop the other from governing.

    Change only happens when people are galvanized in reaction to some pressure. It is for Bill Maher as it is for Obama, we like them, we support them, to some extent they do speak for us, therefore we give them a pass about things we would be raging about coming from anyone across the aisle. Mitt Romney as president may thus be better for the US than Obama, not because Romney would be a better president, far from it, but because the dissenting forces to his presidency might then be galvanized enough to push back and pressure for changes, and not relent until those happen for good.

  27. Thanks for calling a spade a spade Juan!

    You could write a similar article by changing the words ‘Bill Maher’ to ‘Sam Harris’.

  28. Ok, Juan, yes people of all religions or groupings will assault each other, sometimes in a impulsive way that is shocking. So, since Hindus commit acts of violence, and so do Prussians, and Japanese nationalists, and Bloods, and high school jocks, and my next-door neighbor when he drinks too much, that means any joke about Islamic violence or overreaction to, *gulp*, cartoons is phobia of Islam? Okay sure. But that doesn’t mean that the claims of Islam — or any other religious group — aren’t absurd, and that that fact shouldn’t be pointed out.

    For the religious among us, remember what you’re claiming: you say you know exactly how the universe began (was is 6,000 or 10,000 years ago?), what the essential qualities of the good life are today — and that anyone who doesn’t follow your faith WILL NOT have them, and you say you know exactly how the universe will end, usually in fire and judgment from a merciful God. Yes, I will trust such humble, rational people to not get violent if you mock their God. Yes, indeed, let’s have faith in unreason.

    • The interesting part about non-religious people, such as Bill Maher, and you Frank, is the obvious ignorance about the religion they rail against. What do you really know about Islam that you haven’t gleaned out of headlines and/ or misinformed/ ignorant sources?
      You people love to equate religion with ignorance, and to deem all religious claims as absurd? What Islamic claim do you think is absurd? Is it the one which says that all life evolved out of water? The one describing how mountains are anchored in the earth, how clouds and rain form, how the fetus is formed?
      Or are you talking about the ones which say that women and men are equal, or it is urged for men to be private, discreet, generous and respectful when divorcing their women? You must be referring to the ones strictly prohibiting killing or maiming anyone unless out of self defense,erecting humanity as protector and steward of the environment?
      Which claims?

  29. I enjoy this website so much, but this post really got me down.

    If I can follow your reasoning:

    1) Bill Maher unfairly singles out Muslim mobs, when lots of cultures commit mob violence or did, or might, or would, given half a chance.

    And

    2) Muslim “crowd politics” are a perfectly understandable reaction to a unique injustice — colonialism.

    In other words, stop saying I do the thing that I (mostly) don’t do; I’m doing it for a perfectly good reason.

    This isn’t the kind of knot you want to twist yourself in, if you really don’t have to, especially in the defense of murderers. It’s worse than slippery; it’s lazy. It feels like you’re not really trying.

    By the way, I work with Bill Maher. I don’t pretend to speak for him; I just thought I should say that, by way of disclosure.

    • Hi, Chris. All of us like Bill for his irreverence and sharp wit But anyone can tell he goes off the deep end on the Arab-Israeli stuff.

      My point was that 1/2 of Muslims do not actually think it is all right to murder people for criticizing the Prophet Muhammad, which is what Bill alleged, and moreover that it is even hard to identify instances of any such murder actually taking place.

      If there are 6 million Muslims in the US, Bill just accused 3 million of them of being would-be murderers or of giving material support to murderers.

      My point about the mobs is that all religious communities have them. It is not at all clear that Muslim societies have more of them; for that we’d need a lot of data-entry and a database and a good solid study. Buddhist mobs almost never get reported on in the US. Bill has repeatedly alleged that Muslims are peculiarly violent, which is certainly not true.

  30. Since Bill Maher’s mother was Jewish, even though he wasn’t raised Jewish, it does make him Jewish himself (by descent).

    Whether this is tied to his pro-Zionist, pro-Israeli, and Islamophobic diatribes, I don’t know.

  31. I love Bill Maher and am grateful we have him. I love his show, and it’s the only reason I have HBO. I find him frequently very funny. I do, however, find his anti-religiousness tiresome and offensive. It’s the one thing I really dislike about him.

    I wrote him once about some anti-Catholic comments he made on his show one night. He absolutely takes no prisoners in his criticism of the Catholic Church and priests. He’s not the only Catholic who now hates the Church, and I find this syndrome to be kind of pathological, but that’s just my opinion.

    I do notice that he goes easy on the Jews compared to other religions, as people have noted above. I’m not sure why. He seems very pro-Israel as well.

    As for Maher being anti-Muslim, I think he is guilty of lumping all Muslims in with fundamentalists or radical Muslims. And, I think he ridicules Muslims like he ridicules the Christian Right in this country and people like Michele Bachmann.

    He’s also been accused of being misogynistic, notably by his buddy, Ann Coulter.

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