How long will Bill Maher get a pass on his racism and anti-Muslim Islamophobia? Is it acceptable because the targets are Arabs and Muslims and because Maher is a comedian from whom outrageous things are expected?
On his last show Bill Maher went on a speel undermining the Democratic character of Revolutions sweeping across the Arab world. Amongst his ludicrous statements he claimed “women can’t vote in 19 of 22 Arab countries,” that “women who have dated an Arab man, the results aren’t good,” that “Arab men have a sense of “entitlement,” etc. He also went onto forward the argument that “we are better than them,” justifying it by implying he is not a “cultural relativist.”
No, Bill might not be a “cultural relativist” but he sure sounds like a “cultural supremacist.” His factual accuracy about the Islamic and Arab world is akin to Robert Spencer’s. It is patently false that “19 of 22″ Arab states don’t allow for women to vote, a brief trip to Wikipidea would have disabused him of that false fact:
Women were granted the right to vote on a universal and equal basis in Lebanon in 1952, Syria (to vote) in 1949  (Restrictions or conditions lifted) in 1953 , Egypt in 1956, Tunisia in 1959 , Mauritania in 1961, Algeria in 1962 , Morocco in 1963 , Libya  and Sudan in 1964 ,Yemen (Partly)in 1967  (full right) in 1970 , Bahrain in 1973 , Jordan in 1974 , Iraq (Full right) 1980  Oman (Partly) in 1994 and (Fully granted) 2003 , and Kuwait in 2005 .
The reality, (what is lost on Maher) is that even though nearly all Arab states allow for voting for men and women, their votes didn’t matter in the autocratic kleptocracies that littered the Middle East, and this is what Arabs — men and women — have been fighting against these past few months. It seems Maher just can’t handle all the myths he’s been pushing being shattered.
Bill Maher goes onto talk about how Arab men are bad spouses and boyfriends, to buttress his points he brings up “anecdotal” evidence and his opinion that Arabs have a “sense of entitlement.” How does Bill know? Has he dated Arab men? This is one of those things that is so ridiculous and patently unsubstantiated that it is beyond being laughable, you almost cringe with embarrassment for how stupid it makes Maher look.
Maher also seemed to use “Arab” and “Muslim” interchangeably, perhaps not knowing that a significant number of Arabs are not Muslims. While there are certainly problems in the Middle East and the Muslim world regarding the treatment of women, Maher judges Arabs and Muslims by their lowest common denominator. Ignoring countries such as Turkey, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan and others that have progressive legislation regarding women and which have had women presidents, prime ministers, parliamentarians, business leaders, sports icons, journalists, etc.
At the end of the day Maher needs to have someone on his show who can push back against the myths that he indulges in and propagates. Someone of the caliber of As’ad Abu Khalil or Juan Cole might be a good start.
You can watch the segment at Mediaite:
Maher was having it out with Smiley over relative treatment of women in Muslim countries and American society – Smiley didn’t argue that Muslim countries often exhibit poor attitudes toward women, but argued treatment of women in America has a long way to go, too. Maher called it a “false equivalency,” and it went on from there. Maher read off a list of the ways women are oppressed in Arab countries – in 19 of 22, they can’t vote; in Saudi Arabia they aren’t allowed to drive; etc.
Then, he got into slightly weirder territory. He asserted that “civilization begins with civilizing the men,” and then, after saying, “I know this is anecdotal” (not an auspicious way to start when you’re trying to make a convincing argument), unleashed this line:
“Talk to women who’ve ever dated an Arab man. The results are not good.”
Maher added they have a “sense of entitlement,” indeed quite the anecdotal piece of “evidence,” and one to which guest Michelle Caruso-Cabrera shot back, “Every man I’ve ever dated has a sense of entitlement.” And Maher kept on having none of Smiley’s argument that Americans shouldn’t act superior about treatment of women and rejected the notion he was “demonizing” anyone by saying Americans’ treatment of women is better:
“They’re worse. What’s wrong with just saying that?”
And it continued on like that until a guy in the crowd started yelling about Hellfire missiles…and yelling, and yelling. He rattled off so much so quickly (though most of it was tough to hear) that Maher guessed it was a prepared speech…a guess buoyed by the fact that the rant, as Maher also pointed out, indeed didn’t have a whole lot to do with what the panel was talking about. Video of the segment below – the interruption begins at the 5:32 mark.