“There’s no mention here of connecting this to the religion, which is always what I am seeking to do because I think that’s the elephant in the room. And that in the religion at large, women are seen as property, second-class at best, often property.”
These were the words uttered by television commentator Bill Maher on his HBO talk show Real Time last week.
He was discussing the kidnapping of nearly 300 Nigerian girls by terrorist group Boko Haram with guests Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, and comedian Baratunde Thurston.
While his take on extremist Muslims and how they treat women wasn’t really the problem, his umpteenth attempt to demonize Islam was in fact a huge one.
Everyone knows that there’s nothing really unusual about Maher’s anti-religion rhetoric.
“Religion to me is a bureaucracy between man and God that I don't need,” he said in a 2002 interview.
He even teamed up with director Larry Charles to make the movie Religulous, which is a 2008 documentary "that spoofs religious extremism across the world."
However, his tirade against Islam, in particular, is spiraling out of control and this is exactly what a former viewer of Real Time recently pointed out in an open letter to Maher, published by Time Magazine.
“Let’s say Islam has been a force of destruction for 50% of Muslims and a source of empowerment, peace and comfort for the other 50%. Where exactly does that leave us? Whose experience of Islam is legitimate?” asks Rabia Chaudry, a lawyer based in Washington D.C.
She made the case how, apart from militants, figures like Malala Yousafzai and the hundreds of Muslim Nigerian families were also a product of the very religion the host was condemning as a whole.
Maher talked about the status of women in Islam like right wing hate-mongers Pamella Geller and Glenn Beck who take acts of terrorism as opportunities to spread Islamophobia without reading or stating the facts.
Women in Islam are not seen as property – at least not according to the basic scriptures of the religion. Chaudry aptly stated the example of the first woman to accept Islam, Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, the wife of Prophet Muhammad. She was a successful businesswoman and was, in fact, her husband’s superior.
While many believe that Muslim women do not have a say in marriage, Khadijah not only wed to the Prophet willingly, she was the one who first put forward the proposal.
Therefore, the problem is the exact opposite of what Maher says. There is nothing wrong with the religion itself. It’s the interpretation of it by a certain group of its followers that is the main issue – a dilemma which is, by the way, not exclusive to Islam.
Coming towards terrorism, Chaudry stated that between 1970 and 2012, 97.5% of terror attacks in the United States were carried out by non-Muslims.
To add to that, the FBI’s official website has a chronological list of all terrorist attacks committed in the U.S. from the year 1980 all the way to 2005. According to its statistics, 42% attacks have been committed by Latinos, 7% by Jewish extremists and 6% by Islamic extremists.
If we were to tag religion and countries according to the data above, then Latinos not Saudis would be the most potential terrorists in the country and Judaism not Islam would be a more violent religion.
Adam Lanza killed innocent elementary school children two years ago. It was said that he had a troubled childhood. Anders Behring Breivik in Norway killed almost 70 people in 2011 and he was diagnosed with a personality disorder and sent to an asylum.
Loughner, a 22-year-old Tucson man who shot U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords and eighteen others during a constituent meeting in Arizona, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. When James Holmes killed more than 10 people in 2012 Aurora shooting he was also deemed to be a lunatic who wasn’t sure of what he had done.
If one follows Maher’s line of thought, all the people in the world with mental disorders must be put behind the bars and should never be allowed to mingle with other people.
But then again, the point here is to not create any stereotypes or terrorist labels but it is to destroy this detestable tradition once and for all.
There is a thin line between bigotry and liberalism and figures like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher should know better.
It is the responsibility of these "liberal" television pundits to take care of the fact that their opinions do not take the form of hate speech against any religion that can consequently affect the well-being of its followers in the society.