It seems that Bill Maher likes to change his opinions on US foreign policy depending on who he has on the guest panel. Friday night (October 2nd, 2009) was a perfect example of his inconsistency when he started to engage in juvenile Bushspeak (clip embedded below).
Richard Dawkins appeared on the show to promote his new book, “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution,” and as usual, Maher and Dawkins took some playful jabs at the Christian Right and how “superstitious” the West is becoming. This wasn’t a surprise to me because both Dawkins and Maher aren’t shy when it comes to ridiculing religion.
I don’t argue against their points simply because they’re offensive, but also because they fuel a false notion that “religion” and “science” are “incompatible.” This is not to deny the fact that there is an actual debate between creationists and evolutionists. Rather, the point is that both sides of the argument tend to isolate the many who don’t believe religion and science are antithetical to one another. Instead, we see Dawkins and Maher use ad hominem fallacies to insult and discredit alternative arguments and perspectives. For instance, labeling people who believe in God as “superstitious,” “schizophrenic,” and/or “delusional” only dodges opportunities to engage in productive dialogue.
But this post isn’t about evolution or Dawkins’ new book. It’s about the discussion Maher, Dawkins, and the rest of the guest panel have about Muslims and Islam. Maher initiates the discussion with a recent report of two young Muslim men who had serious intentions to attack locations in the United States, and then makes an absolutely ridiculous assertion that they “don’t hate America, they Love America and feel guilty about it, I think.” During the day, he continues, “they’re eating at Chili’s, going to the titty bar, and then they get on the internet at night and want to atone for the guilt they feel for embracing the West in cyberspace.”
Maher, who has argued many times on his show that violence against the West occurs because of US foreign policy, suddenly transformed into George W. Bush. Like Bush, Maher is essentially arguing that “they hate us because of our values” or “because we’re a democracy” Muslims feeling guilty about enjoying American culture? What kind of “logic” is Maher using?
After Janeane Garofalo brilliantly exposed how irrational Maher was being and argued that US foreign policy was the main issue, Dawkins chimed in with a lazy and predictable remark, “Why don’t you just say it’s religion, it’s so obvious.” Once again, Dawkins uses religion (in this case, Islam) as a convenient scapegoat to simplify complex realities. Any honest scholar, especially historians who have dedicated their lives to studying so-called “religious wars” or “holy wars,” acknowledge the fact that religion is not the “one and only” cause of war. The fact that Crusaders, for instance, slaughtered and subjugated other Christians (namely the Greek Orthodox Christians and Arab Christians) is one of many examples on how flawed the argument of “holy war” is.
Thomas Friedman, an American journalist who supported the invasion of Iraq, entered the discussion with his sheer arrogance and pompous pseudo-intellectualism, behaving as if he had full credibility to discuss Islam, its theology, its history, and its people. His incredibly flawed and ethnocentric prejudices of Muslims reek in his colossally stupid remarks about the Muslim male psyche and how young Muslim men “hate America” because “their countries” (i.e. Muslim countries) are “behind” in economics and education. Shamelessly, Friedman relies on his own conjectures and then paints Muslims as the “Other.”
And that’s exactly what we get out of this episode: Otherizing Muslims and Islamophobia. Whether consciously or subconsciously, the panelists speak about Muslims as if Islam is not part of America. Although Barack Obama has defended Islam and Muslims on many occasions (and even went as far as saying Islam is part of America), it seems that this message is not resonating with many people. I get the feeling that Bill Maher was afraid to invite Reza Aslan, Naomi Klein, and Jeremy Scahill (who have all been on his show before) for this episode because either one of them would have blasted Maher, Friedman, and Dawkins on their ignorance and childish generalizations.
I’m hoping Reza Aslan appears on the show soon. Maybe he can help correct Maher’s Bushspeak and elementary school logic.