Round-up and summary of responses to Bill Maher

A collection of articles, blog posts and videos which responded to Sam Harris and Bill Maher’s bigotry about Islam.

Bill Maher vs Reza Aslan

بسم الله الرحمٰن الرحيم، وصلوات الله وسلامه على أشرف المرسلين

In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

The controversy over Bill Maher’s show seems to be dying down a bit. That being said, I’d like to organize a list of good responses to Maher and Sam Harris and the people that think like them in this post. This is mostly for reference, or to send to someone who might agree with their views.

Response 1: Muslim604’s blog.

My blog post, of course :). I argued that it is despotism that is causing the problems in the Muslim world, not Islam. Please read it, share, and let me know what you think.

Response 2: “Bill Maher, the Mother Lode of Lies” by Waleed Ahmed on MuslimMatters.

This article pointed out how Maher and Harris were twisting statistics to justify their bigotry. It also talked about how Muslims are working hard to solve many of the problems of the Islamic world, but Maher just ignores that completely.

Maher often states there are ‘polls’ and ‘research’ to support his view that large swaths of Muslims are a violent and intolerant people – it’s not just a few bad apples he argues. Actual research, however, has repeatedly shown that Muslims overwhelmingly reject violence; in fact they are more likely to oppose violence than other religious groups. As for religious freedom, Muslims yet again show near perfect support for it.

Response 3: Two videos by Ayman Mohyeldin (here and here).

In the first video, on Morning Joe on MSNBC, Ayman says that there are many issues in the Muslim world but to use that to argue that Islam, as a religion, is “the mother lode of bad ideas” is wrong. He said “it’s disappointing to hear that kind of discussion.”

In the second video, Ayman accused Maher and Harris of skewing numbers, making up numbers, and conflating societal problems with religion.

Note: Ayman Mohyeldin is a veteran journalist who most notably covered the Gaza massacres of 2008-2009 and 2014.

Response 4: “Bill Maher’s Muslim Problem” by Dean Obeidallah at CNN.

Flash forward to 2012, when Maher discussed how women are unfairly treated in certain Muslim countries, which is truly an issue deserving of discussion. But Maher chose not to rely on facts; instead, he offered anecdotal evidence to support his argument, saying things like, “Talk to women who’ve ever dated an Arab man. The results are not good.”

Well, my Sicilian mother not only dated an Arab man, she married him. And by all accounts, “the results” were great.

Response 5: “Bill Maher… is Just a Bigot” by Murtaza Hussein for The Intercept.

To anyone who has followed Maher’s career over the long-run, his bizarre unraveling over the past several years has been at times agonizing to watch. Maher’s favorite rhetorical targets now — women and minorities — are people who simply don’t have access to the same resources that he does to make their voices heard in society. This is how, improbably enough, Ben Affleck became an overnight hero to many Muslim people in America and around the world for using his voice to speak on their behalf during another one of Maher’s tirades. It was both a touching gesture and a sad reflection of what things have come to.

Response 6: “Islam as a Global Mafia” by waihak.

Both Aslan and Affleck appear to accept Maher’s assumption that “Western liberal culture” is indeed superior. Aslan, for example, argues that Turkey is, in essence, more liberal than the United States because the country has had several female heads of state. Aslan also opines that practices like female genital mutilation should be condemned because “they don’t belong in the twenty-first century.” While I find female genital mutilation reprehensible, I don’t accept the premise that the 21st century is somehow more “enlightened” than other epochs. It’s not my intention to expand my argument into a refutation of the theory of progress, so I’ll just note my deviation from that position and move on to the next point.

Response 7: “A History of Bill Maher’s ‘Not Bigoted’ Remarks on Islam” by Raya Jalabi for The Guardian.

His rabid defense of post-9/11 liberalism is what Maher brandishes as an excuse when accused of Islamophobia. He is consistently trumpeting a false dichotomy between the western “us” and the Muslim “them”, making points based on his notions of “Muslim countries” and “Muslim culture” – creating a false entity that could be opposed to western countries and culture, denying its religious singularity.

Response 8:Does Bill Maher Think I Might Kill Him” by Waleed Shahid for ColorLines.

When an exasperated Ben Affleck criticized Harris and Maher for racist stereotyping, Maher retorted: “You’re not listening to what we are saying.”

But I was listening. I was listening to an incessant ringing in my head. It was Bill Maher telling his viewers nationwide that I might one day snap and kill him for saying the wrong thing. And because he feels that way, Maher is one of those Americans who fits the definition of an Islamophobe. He is quite literally afraid of Muslims. He is afraid of me.

Response 9: “Bill Maher Isn’t the Only One Who Misunderstands Religion” by Reza Aslan for The New York Times.

As a form of identity, religion is inextricable from all the other factors that make up a person’s self-understanding, like culture, ethnicity, nationality, gender and sexual orientation.

Response 10: “Bill Maher’s Eurocentric Delusion” by Hakeem Muhammad.

Yet, in the 21st century, liberal theories have given rise to the military industrial complex in which war is profitable and often waged merely from for economic incentives. Yet, this violence is never covered by the media, and simplistic dialogues over Islam based upon fringe groups are essentialized in media depictions of Islam while the true essence of Islam, which is about mercy, tolerance, and justice, are ignored. While Muslims are portrayed as primitives stuck in the 7th century, advanced western armies in the 21st century invaded Iraq resulting in numerous civilian deaths; even today, drone strikes continue to take the lives of innocents, yet, this is glossed over, justified by the liberal concept of utilitarianism and deemed mere collateral damage, and entire populations live in poverty due to flawed liberal theories of economics. Maher and Harris need to take an honest look in the mirror. The narrative of “liberal values” as progressive and Muslim values as barbaric can only occur in the mind of a person experiencing a Eurocentric delusion.

Response 11: Interview of Reza Aslan by Elias Isquith of The Salon.

The criticism of Islam has really crossed the line into what can only be described as frank bigotry. When he starts decrying how many babies born in Europe are named Mohammad, says things about Muslims in America “bringing that desert stuff into our world” — that is no longer just simple criticism of religious doctrine or practice. That’s a very specifically targeted animosity towards a particular group of people.

These next two aren’t directly related to Bill Maher or Sam Harris, but are good reads nonetheless because of the current religious and political climate.

Response 12: “An Open Letter to Atheist Muslims” by Joe Bradford.

Great response to Ali A. Rizvi’s article in HuffPost Religion attacking Islam.

Response 13:”No Apology” by Mehreen Kasana.

About collective responsibility and whether Muslims should be made to condemn the actions of ISIS and other extremists.

If you see any more, just let me know in the comments and I’ll be sure to add them.


~ Yousuf

10 October 2014

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