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

Some articles to remind us of Bill Maher:

Bill Maher Proves Why He is an Idiot Again: Defends Fascist Geert Wilders

Bill Maher and Keith Ellison Spar Over the Qur’an and Islam

It’s Official: Bill Maher is a Racist

Bill Maher: A Loon Among Liberals

Tell Bill Maher About a Mohammed You Know

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. Acareful comparison in percentage terms of the size of the crowdsthat 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.

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  • Abu Ibrahim al-Ash’ari

    Scumbag Bill, blames Islam for terrorism, doesn’t blame Judaism for religious Zionism, Israeli settlements, and Kahanism.

  • Kyler

    @ Chameleon

    There you go again. Insults. Seems to be what you’re best at. Just for the record. I had no idea the was an “Islamic” site when I stumbled upon it. I thought it was a leftist or liberal site. I was surprised by the hatred for Bill Maher. It wasn’t until after I posted did I realize the main content of the site. I’m sure if I would get the same response from a right wing “Christian” site too though.

    I’m guessing you’re wanting me to give you scientific evidence that morality evolved and proof that science will always beat out religious texts. There’s too many sources for this for me to post. Just search, it won’t be hard to find. What you seem to be doing is justifying religion with science. It doesn’t work that way.

    I’m guessing you’re not a big fan of Richard Dawkins either?

  • Chameleon

    @Kyler,

    I never claimed those were not your words — exactly the opposite, in fact. I was merely asserting that your words were clearly meant for another debate that had absolutely nothing to do with anything I said. A debate that you were desperately wishing to repeat, no doubt, about how evolution is relevant in proving that religion — Islam in particular, given what web site you are on — is irrelevant. You have utterly failed to prove your claim, and all you can do now is parrot your claim mindlessly like a howling idiot, hoping to bait someone else into your favorite debate based entirely on the false dichotomy between religion and evolution.

  • Kyler

    @ Ilisha

    This topic was about religion. The whole “Bill Maher is a bigot” was about religion. Am I right about that or did I miss something?

    @ AJ

    We all have the same ancestors whether you believe it or not. They were primates. They looked like apes of today. We’re primates. It’s as simple as that. Our brains have evolved over millions of years. Morality has evolved along with us. Spirituality is a part of that evolution.

  • Kyler

    @Chameleon

    I copied and pasted nothing. Those were my words.

  • Chameleon

    @Kyler,

    As I have said before on this site, I am very tolerant of honest ignorance and intellectual humility, but I am not tolerant of willful ignorance. When you make brash claims and then continue again and again to do so while refusing to support them with facts and logic — and on top of that openly admitting your complete ignorance of the knowledge required to make such claims — I will not hesitate to ridicule you until you defend your claims intelligently or you shut up in humiliation. For someone who exalts “real intellectual thought and learning” and an “open mind”, you have surprisingly shown neither. What you will eventually come to understand if you apply your mind rigorously is that your “common sense” perception represents nothing more than atheistic faith, as should be apparent to you now by your complete inability to argue your claim, let alone prove it.

    Contrary to your accusation that “stringent adherence to your faith is all that matters to you”, the reality is that all that matters to me in a debate are the facts and the logic, as I have said again and again on this site. You seem to want to make a claim without relevant facts or relevant logic. It is you who is therefore guilty of your own accusation.

    You finish with, “The difference between us is your looking to holy texts to prove scientific findings and I believe science does not need man made holy texts.” Did you copy and paste this from another debate with someone else that you were hoping to repeat here? As llisha asks, how are we trying to prove any scientific findings with holy texts, and where have we ever stated or implied that science needs holy texts? Are you delirious?

  • Michael Elwood

    @Ilisha

    “Nice post. It’s always great when you come out of semi-retirement and join a debate.”

    Thanks, Ilisha. I really am trying to get my self-imposed retirement on. But sometimes I still get sucked into these debates.

    “I feel like we go over the same stuff again and again. It wasn’t so long ago Jack Cope, HGG, you and I were talking about science and religion, and the folly of “Allah toast miracles.”

    Ah, yes. We always have high-quality discussions on various topics on Loon Watch, don’t we? 🙂

  • Solid Snake

    This is a very interesting conversation. Great posts Michael and Chameleon.
    Some atheists that I have met and spoken with seemed to be under the impression that somehow atheists hold a monopoly over science, facts, and logic. science is a tool. A tool that can be used by anyone to understand the physical world around them. That is all it is. Science can be used by believers and non believers alike.

  • Michael Elwood

    @Kyler

    “You and Michael having posted some interesting links here but that’s because you HAVE too.”

    I’ve tried to avoid getting into a drawn out debate about this, but I must point out that the onus is always on the person making the claims. I haven’t made any claims that necessitated posting those links. I posted them to give you an example of where Islamic philosophy was/is on a particular subject. On the other hand, you made numerous claims in previous posts without supporting them. Here is a sample:

    “I happen to agree with Maher. What he said isn’t hate, it’s just common sense. I’m sure I’ll get bashed by all on here but… whatever. With all of of scientific understanding that we have of the universe I would think that we should now agree that all religions are irrelevant.”

    “What’s ironic is that all the ‘so-called’ open minded people on this site don’t see that all religions are irrelevant and we should think of them as outdated and a means to hold civilization down with closed-minded teachings. Morality evolved within us through thousands of years. Religion stops the evolution of our minds. It impedes the progress of real intellectual thought and learning.”

    “Many religions are very similar. But we still see that they can keep man down because man refuses to open his mind and go beyond religious beliefs…..”

    “My ‘sweeping statement’ was about ALL religions. Not just Islam. I don’t have to be a scholar in all religions to believe in science OVER all religions or to know that religion and spirituality IS man made. That’s common sense.”

    What evidence did you give to support any of these claims? If religion is irrelevant, why do atheists have to work so hard to get rid of it? Why should we abandon religion in favor of secularism simply because the former is “outdated”? Wouldn’t doing so be to commit the ad novitatem fallacy? You said that religions “hold civilization down with closed-minded teachings.” Then you said “maybe you guys on this site are right after all… I’m closed minded… to religion.” How can being closed-minded be a vice for theists, but a virtue for atheists? The last quote seems to be a freudian slip. You said you “believe in science”. Science doesn’t require belief, but scientism and atheism does.

  • AJ

    Ilisha,

    Perfect Sura to quote for here!

    @Kyler, for the love of your ancestral primates or for the love of your non-existing God – LEAVE US ALONE! Thank you!

  • AJ

    @Kyler,

    I did not have a monkey or an ape or a gorilla or any other primate as my ancestor. It’s okay if you think that you did.

  • AJ

    @Kyler,

    “But we still see that they can keep man down because man refuses to open his mind and go beyond religious beliefs…..”

    My religion doesn’t keep me down. If it were not for the belief, that there is someone powerful that protects me, I would have felt unsafe. It’s rather easy to assess on the basis of this belief only that why the non-believers suffer from such deep paranoia of the believers – they don’t believe that they will be okay. They have to continuously hate the believers and spread hate about them – it’s the manner by which these haters think that they are protecting themselves.

    I do normal things like the people who don’t believe do, eat, drink, work, sleep, etc. except that I don’t fret about you as you do about me.

    I have a religion and a God. Seriously, get over it already!

  • Kyler

    @ Chameleon

    From the start you’ve thrown insulting barbs my way. Search for yourself. The science is out there. No need for me to do so as I’m seeing that stringent adherence to your faith is all that matters to you. You and Michael having posted some interesting links here but that’s because you HAVE too. And besides the fact that you like to call names, I do appreciate the info.

    The difference between us is your looking to holy texts to prove scientific findings and I believe science does not need man made holy texts.

    Good day.

  • Chameleon

    @Kyler,

    You say, “The evolutionary tree we came from has several branches. We’re not from the “modern ape.” We agree — if you can’t understand that, then there is clearly something blinding your understanding of what others are saying. Of course we are primates. When did I imply otherwise?

    You said, “And I thought we laid the “bigot” argument to rest.” So did I, which is why I did not bring it up in my last post. We agree again.

    Finally, you say, “I don’t have to be a scholar in all religions to believe in science OVER all religions or to know that religion and spirituality IS man made. That’s common sense.” Whoops, we still disagree. I am still waiting on your proof of this “common sense” based on knowledge you have already admitted you don’t have. When you cannot do so, you are just making ignorant claims, which makes you an ignoramus.

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