Thoughtful commentary from one person unafraid to stand up
for what he believes about another such person


Bill Maher is a friend of mine. He stood up for me when I was attacked after my 
Oscar speech (given on the fourth night of the Iraq War, a war Bill 
publicly opposed while 70% of the country, including the majority of 
Democrats in the U.S. Senate, supported it), and I stood up for him when ABC 
fired him and cancelled his show when he attempted to stop the 
hysteria and fear-mongering after 9-11 -- resulting in the Bush White 
House publicly ordering him to watch what he says -- or else. When Bill 
got his HBO show, he went on a 7-year tear against the Bush 
administration and became one of our most unapologetic and unrelenting 
voices against the insanity being shoved down our throats. 


I, 
for one, am glad there's at least one top comedian who isn't afraid to 
say the word "capitalism" or give credence to the good of socialism.

You may not agree with Bill on everything. Yet I'm guessing you love it
 when he goes after the Uterine Police/Protectors of Child Rapists (also 
known as The Vatican), or when he brilliantly satirizes the crazy 
Christian Right which has controlled much of our politics for the past 
33 years. I certainly do. 


But when Bill goes after Islam, or 
crazy people professing to be Muslim, we grow uncomfortable. Why is 
that? Because when he bravely ridicules and attacks Christian assassins 
of abortion doctors who cite the Bible as justification for their evil 
acts, we heartily applaud him. But when he mercilessly stomps on Islamic 
assassins who cite the Koran, we grow uneasy. Why the switch on our 
part? Is it because Bill doesn't just stop with the Islamic assassins -- he 
thinks anyone who follows the Koran is a bit nuts? Or the Bible or 
the Talmud or the... you name it. He thinks it's all coo coo for cocoa 
puffs. 


I have, when I'm on Bill's show, told him there are far 
more examples historically of the death and destruction that Christians 
have brought to the planet, from the Crusades to the Inquisition to the 
wiping out of Native Americans to the Holocaust. But he points out that, in 
truth, the Jesus followers seem to have taken a break lately in 
their genocidal lust -- and that the debate should be about the 
present; i.e., which religion is now doing most of the terrorizing?

Though I would maintain that it is still the Judeo-Christian West whose armies 
and banks and institutions keep much of the third world under a 
heavy economic boot, resulting in a lot of hunger, suffering and death, 
Bill asks, "If I draw a cartoon of Jesus in a dress, will Christian 
leaders issue a call to assassinate me?" 


I can't speak to 
Bill's drawing skills, but it's safe to say that in the USA he can draw 
whatever he wants. In fact, other than those murdered abortion doctors, a 
hundred bombed or ransacked Planned Parenthood clinics and a few people like 
me, there are not many activists or artists who have to worry 
about Baptists blowing up their homes. Sinead O'Connor was not beheaded 
for beheading a photo of the Pope on NBC. Your middle name can be 
'Hussein' and you can still win the state of Virginia if you're running 
for President. 


Sure, I can make a daily list of all the horrible things so-called Christians 
still do in this country. Rarely, though, 
do their actions involve decapitation.

But if you're a Dutch 
filmmaker who makes a movie about violence against women in some Islamic 
countries, or if you're a Danish cartoonist who draws an image making 
fun of the Prophet -- well, you are then either shot to death or you are now in 
hiding.

So if Bill is taking the same exact position 
liberals usually take whenever we see free speech being threatened, or 
women being abused or people forced to submit to fundamentalist 
dictates, why then is he facing any criticism for speaking out against 
these wrongs? When Christians do these things we speak up -- loudly. So 
why not speak out when Muslims do it? 'Cause it's none of our business? 
Isn't it?

I think I may have a couple answers as to why some liberals are uncomfortable 
with Bill's humor when it comes to Islam:

1. We have witnessed, since 9/11, Arabs and Muslims in this country 
undergoing huge amounts of prejudice, bigotry and sometimes outright 
violence. This sickens us (as I know it does Bill). So we are extra 
sensitive to what sounds like, as it goes through the liberal filter in 
our ears, any "anti-Arab" comments. We don't want to hear anything even 
remotely anti-Muslim. But we have to be careful that this doesn't stop 
us from listening to legitimate criticisms about things that go on in 
the Muslim world. I just think that, due to our illegal actions 
(invasions) of the past decade, our government lacks any moral authority on 
this and should be forbidden from any attempts to "fix" those 
problems. 


2. Liberals are intensely fed up with these two wars 
against mostly Muslim populations (not to mention the indiscriminate 
drone strikes on at least four other nations). And now the party that 
won the elections last Tuesday would like a war with Iran. An ignorant 
American public was manipulated with fear and lies to start and maintain the 
Afghanistan and Iraq Wars -- and that manipulation continues today 
in order to justify things like the mass spying by the NSA on our entire 
citizenry. When the Cold War ended (25 years ago today in Berlin), the 
defense industry went berserk with worry that their salad days were 
over. A new enemy was needed. Arab terrorists fit the bill perfectly! 
Not only has the defense industry since thrived, a whole new fake 
industry has arisen -- the Homeland Security behemoth. As our 
infrastructure, our freedoms and our middle class vaporize, billions are spent 
as a grossly out-of-proportion response to a few shitty 
disasters. 


So we liberals don't want to hear another word about 
an "Islamic threat" or some non-existent Iranian nukes or... or 
whatever! We know we're being set up to get behind another war effort, 
another arms race, another diversion intended to make the 
point-one-percenters even filthier rich -- and the rest of us distracted with 
false fears and hatreds. 


I don't even know if I want to 
see Jon Stewart's new film about the Iranian who was unjustly 
imprisoned. WHY not? It's a true story! It happened! But the liberal 
panic button says this film will be used in ways to pump up fear of 
Muslims. At the very least, it will be the first thing Jon Stewart has 
done that the Republicans will like. So does that mean he shouldn't have made 
it? 


Two weeks ago on Bill's HBO show, he had on the 
wonderful Palestinian writer Rula Jebreal. They had a good and testy 
back and forth (Bill often has Muslims who disagree with him on his 
show, like the great Ben al-Afleck). Rula was giving it to Bill pretty 
hard, but when he paused and asked her if he were a Muslim, living in 
certain Muslim countries, and he walked into the Men's Club one day and 
announced he was now a Presbyterian, would that be ok? She paused, and 
then said "No."

Comedy is and should be a dangerous business. 
Those comedians who play it safe are far less interesting, less funny 
and, frankly, are often boring. Those who are willing to take their 
comedy to the Line That Shall Not Be Crossed -- and maybe step over it 
from time to time -- are the ones we are drawn to. But in order to 
encourage them to take those chances, we have to give them some leeway, 
give them a break when, in our mind, they've crossed that line. To not 
do so is to encourage them to go toward the bland, the passe and to the 
non-offensive. Those comedians like Bill Maher who are willing to take 
the risk of being the court jester -- saying the things that the rest of us are 
often thinking (or wish we were thinking) but are afraid to say 
-- should be supported, not silenced. 


(Also: Here's an open letter to Ben Affleck from a Pakistani woman published in 
a Pakistan newspaper 


http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2014/10/25/comment/an-open-letter-to-ben-affleck/
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