Target: Bill Maher
Goal: Stop promoting Islamophobic perspectives on talk show
Bill Maher has long been an advocate for liberal stances on political and social issues. Unfortunately, he has demonstrated that being a ‘liberal’ does not shield someone from making the same mistakes in logic that we see so often from others on the other side of the spectrum when it comes to Islam and Muslim communities. Maher must take responsibility for his statements and recognize the complexity he has been ignoring in his condemnation of Islam and the majority of Muslims around the world.
A monologue Maher gave on his program, Real Time with Bill Maher on September 26, and an exchange between Maher, author Sam Harris, actor Ben Affleck, political analyst Michael Steele, and journalist Nicholas Kristof on the program a week after have been garnering a lot of attention recently. Through these two exchanges, we see Maher succumb to the same problems of logic that Islamophobes so often do. Maher falls into the trap of conflating a few cases of Muslim/Muslim-majority states’ practices with the practices of all Muslim/Muslim-majority states, of conflating cultural practices with religious practices, and of conflating all Muslim communities around the world into some unified ‘Muslim world.’ All this leads Maher to conclude, as his colleague Sam Harris stated, “Islam at the moment is the mother-lode of bad ideas,” to which Maher voiced his agreement with “That’s just a fact!” With all this said, Maher effectively turns a deaf ear to any possible criticism by saying, “Well, [Islamophobia] is not a real thing when we do it. It truly isn’t.”
When did being a liberal exempt someone from bigotry? Add your name to the petition below, and encourage Maher to pursue a more nuanced, non-problematic position on Islam and Muslims around the world.
Dear Mr. Maher,
I am disappointed that you recently advocated on your show for the same Islamophobia that so often comes from conservatives. While you contend that your Islamophobia is somehow different because it is rooted in a defense of liberal principles, bigotry is still bigotry and it is no less damaging to the communities it is directed towards. I urge you to take responsibility for your beliefs and recognize the nuance that is missing from your reading of Islam and Muslim communities around the world.
Through your monologue on the problems with Islam in your September 26 episode and on to your conversation with your guests the following week, it became clear that you had fallen into the same traps that other Islamophobes do. You conflate cultural practices with religious practices, you conflate the practices and laws of select Muslim/Muslim-majority states with the practices and laws of all Muslim/Muslim-majority states, and you conflate the myriad Muslim communities around the world into some unified, cohesive ‘Muslim world’ that shares the same beliefs and practices. While it is understandable how one would come to think this way (many clearly do, given the rampant Islamophobia in the United States and Europe), it is unsophisticated and problematic. The issues you raise are more complex than a one-to-one relationship between “bad thing these people are doing” and “Islam”—there are cultural, political, social, economic, and historical contexts, in addition to religious ones, that come together to create these things, and clearly the unique combination of these contexts is going to vary from place to place all around the world. The equation is a lot more complicated that your line of thought allows.
I encourage you to acknowledge this and pursue a more nuanced line of thought toward issues that are much more complex than may meet the eye. Please take responsibility for your beliefs and the capacity you have to influence the beliefs of those who watch your show and abandon the Islamophobia.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Beao via Wikimedia Commons