December 17, 2014
A few weeks ago, I was watching “Real Time with Bill Maher.” Normally, I find his topics and guests interesting, even if I don’t agree with everything the panel is saying. Additionally, I find Bill Maher’s sledgehammer atheism amusing at times. But that episode just gave me pause because it was the most reactionary I have ever seen him be. It was like watching white supremacists talk about “lazy black people” and “shifty Jews,” to quote Ben Affleck. It took me a long time to write this blog because unlike Bill Maher, I actually like to do thorough research before I send something out into the world.
In the beginning of this episode, Maher talked about “liberals not standing up for liberal principles” and how essentially, these principles do not exist in the Muslim World. Those of us who have studied Islam contextually know that the religion was founded on liberal and even feminist principles. The whole episode was one broad generalization after another asserted by Bill Maher and one of his other panelists, Sam Harris.
For my purposes, I will focus on Bill Maher. One of the many blissfully ignorant quotes about Islam: “It’s the only religion that acts like the mafia that will f**king kill you if you say the wrong thing, draw the wrong picture or write the wrong book.” Since when does a religion commit any action? So, was it Christianity that killed Muslims during the Crusades? Or was it brainwashed, overzealous, knights who had visions of Paradise in their eyes? Doesn’t that sound familiar?
Maher goes on to say that violence and extremism, “in the Muslim World is mainstream belief.” Yet, five Muslims since 2000 have won the Nobel Peace Prize. Most of the recipients were distinguished in their fields with the exception of Malala Yousafzai, who is only 17 and the youngest Nobel Prize winner. I would say these are leaders in the mainstream. I suppose Bill Maher and Sam Harris would say they are the exception and not the rule.
Let’s talk Malala. She was shot in the head by the Taliban for wanting education and justice. Yet, she continues her peaceful journey with her moving words in front of the United Nations and on television shows worldwide. How many more, brave, moderate Muslim voices echo throughout the world that just don’t get the media coverage?
Yet according to some and a Congressmen named John Bennett, we’re all bloodthirsty terrorists. He actually said Muslim Americans are the same as ISIS and seek “the destruction of Western Civilization from within.” Well, somebody better call Homeland Security because I’m Muslim American and especially dangerous because I have a brain and a public platform.
Actually, it is John Bennett who dangerous. He has supposedly researched Islam and drawn his conclusions. He decided that Shariah was dangerous enough to start a campaign to ban it in his home state of Oklahoma. How is Shariah even an issue when Muslims are in the minority in Oklahoma? Compounding the absurdity is in November, he ran unopposed and was reelected. Inflammatory elected officials are far more pernicious than any Muslim I know.
Taken together, these extremist groups don’t even make up 1 percent of the billion people who practice Islam. Most Muslims are appalled by the violence committed by fringe groups in the name of God and religion. We’re taken even further into the rabbit hole when we are lumped into those groups. Did anyone vilify Christianity after Waco, Texas and Oklahoma City?
The complexity of humanity is such that no group is just one thing. There isn’t one type of man, woman, Christian, Muslim, Jew, and every other group in the world. Diversity exists in every form. To label a billion for the actions of a few is ludicrous.
While certain sections of the media and others in the public sphere try to ensconce us in the dark corners of history, the moderates and progressives have to come forward and light the way. We need to float on full pages and not skulk in the margins.
Until next time… look behind and beyond the veil…
Sameena K. Mughal, Author, Freelance Writer