Ever since his controversial exchange with Ben Affleck a couple of months ago, liberal atheist comedian Bill Maher has become a lightning rod in the debate over Islam. He’s unique in that he’s anti-Islam and a far left-wing liberal.
In an interview Maher gave to Vanity Fair, he made an excellent point while pointing to the ridiculous NFL PSA’s about domestic abuse in which various players indignantly say, “no more”. The irony is that the impetus for the PSA’s in the first place was an NFL player named Ray Rice knocking his wife unconscious in an elevator so the fact that they’re preaching to the American people is a bit off-putting. It’s like an arsonist admonishing looters for burning businesses after they’ve been picked clean.
Nonetheless, Maher made an excellent point about why he thinks Islam is problematic, by pointing to those PSA’s:
Q: So here’s where I’m confused though. You say Islam is the religion now that needs a reformation and an enlightenment. They need help in that struggle, not blanket condemnations of Islam. Do you think you’re helping that reformation?
A: Yes, like the woman said, what we need to do is not close off the conversation. I’m just shining a light on the reality of the situation. I don’t even understand why this is so controversial. [Laughs] I see these ads on TV for example, on the football games against violence against women. Have you seen those? A bunch of celebrities go: “No more!” And that’s great. Because we need that in America. But what [would] the reaction be if you had an ad like that on in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or lots of Muslim countries?
Again, these are not things that I pulled out of my ass. These are facts. The World Economic Forum did a study of 134 countries around the world, on the subject [of the] treatment of women, 17 of the bottom 20 were Muslim countries. In 10 Muslim countries, you get the death penalty for just being gay.
As good as that was, Maher missed a great opportunity soon thereafter when he was asked about a complaint from a religious scholar that Maher’s criticism of Islam was comparable to talk that led to the Jewish holocaust in WWII.
Q: The religious scholar Karen Armstrong did an interview with Salon and talked about what you and Sam Harris said. And she said that your comments fill her with despair because this is “the sort of talk that led to the concentrations camps in Europe. The sorts of things that people were saying about Jews in the 30s and 40s.” That’s gotta sting, especially coming from her.
A: It doesn’t sting because it’s beyond stupid. Jews weren’t oppressing anybody. There weren’t 5,000 militant Jewish groups. They didn’t do a study of treatment of women around the world and find that the Jews were at the bottom of it. There weren’t 10 Jewish countries in the world that were putting gay people to death just for being gay. It’s idiotic.
While Maher was right to say the comparison was “beyond stupid”, he failed to point out that it was actually the Muslims who aligned with the Nazis to exterminate the Jews. If criticism of Islam is comparable to anything, it’s comparable to criticism of Nazism.