Saturday, January 10, 2015

I Wonder What Bill Maher Thinks Of It?

On Thursday, Digby reminded readers of an attack on 10-22-88 in which right-wing Christian fundamentalists injured 13 people, four of them seriously, when they launched Molotov cocktails inside a crowded theater in Paris to stop a film from being shown. She commented

For that matter, I wonder what Bill Maher thinks of it? After all, he's constantly insisting that in spite of abortion bombings and doctor killings for the past 30 years in America, that Islam is the only religions still killing people in the name of God. 

And apropos of the alleged attack on free speech by North Korea, that film was boycotted by homegrown Christian fundamentalists in the US resulting in a large theater chain refusing to play it. It doesn't take a foreign country or Muslim terrorists the threaten free speech.

As luck would have it, the previous night, Maher had appeared on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and remarked

I know most Muslim people would not have carried out an attack like thisBut here’s the important point: Hundreds of millions of them support an attack like this. They applaud an attack like this. What they say is, ‘We don’t approve of violence, but you know what? When you make fun of the Prophet, all bets are off....

When a skeptical Kimmel responded "hundreds of millions of Muslims?" the Real Time host maintained

Absolutely.  That is mainstream in the Muslim world. When you make fun of the Prophet, all bets are off. You get what’s coming to you. It’s also mainstream that if you leave the religion, you get what’s coming to you—which is death. Not in every Muslim country… but this is the problem in the world that we have to stand up to.

"Not in every Muslim country" says Maher, thereby acknowledging what precious few of the antagonists in this ongoing debate do, that views vary greatly from one Muslim nation to another. Two nights later, on Real Time, Maher added "Obviously, the vast majority of Muslims would never do anything like this. But they share bad ideas."

Seemingly consistent with the comedian's comments, Rupert Murdoch 51 minutes earlier had
tweeted "Maybe most Moslems peaceful, but until they recognize and destroy their growing jihadist cancer they must be held responsible" (disturbingly, shades of "black-on-black crime").

Maher, however, has stopped short of blaming all Muslims for the atrocities of terrorists.  "What we’ve said all along, and have been called bigots for it," he said last night on Real Time, "is when there’s this many bad apples, there’s something wrong with the orchard." That appears to be only a small difference from what the News Corp president said- but it's a significant difference.

"Maybe most Moslems peaceful," Murdoch concedes. But there is no question the vast majority of Muslims- as with Jews, Christians, and Buddhists- are peaceful.  Maher has tried to bring to the forefront two questions:  whether a great many Muslims believe in repulsive anti-democratic principles (they do); and whether Islamism affords a mere pretext or actual justification for terrorist attacks, a truly debatable proposition. Nonetheless, even if Islam does the latter, a Muslim man or woman cannot be held responsible for any "growing jihadist cancer"- except in the twisted minds of Murdoch and some conservatives.

Responsibility for terrorism lies with the terrorists and with the governments which encourage them. Salman Rushdie, a favorite of Maher and guest last night, recognized

This has been a mutation that a lot of work has been put into. Governments, from the Sunni side the Saudi government, on the Shia side the Iranian government, have been putting fortunes of money into making sure that extremist mullahs are preaching in mosques around the world, and in building and developing schools in which a whole generation is being educated in extremism — and trying to prevent other forms of education.

"Homegrown Christian fundamentalists," as Digby emphasized- and Maher frequently notes- also periodically exert their influence to tamp down on freedom of expression.  The AP wiped "Piss Christ" off its website Wednesday, evidently partly in response to a complaint from the conservative Washington Examiner about the 1989 photograph. The magazine- with no sense of irony- had complained that the highly controversial art was still on the AP website after the organization refused to publish Muhammad cartoons from Charlie Hebdo. And so it goes.

Digby did not refer to this incident, nor did Maher when he led (video below) his program on Friday night by rhetorically asking "Hey, who's ready for a little free speech in America?"Not enough people, as we learned this past week in the Arabian peninsula when

A car bomb tore through dozens of Yemenis lined up at a police academy in Sanaa on Wednesday, killing 37 in the latest attack highlighting the country's growing instability.

Police said another 66 people were wounded in what it described as a "terrorist bombing" targeting potential police recruits, in a statement cited by the official Saba news agency.

Unstable and impoverished Yemen has been hit by a wave of violence in recent months, with a powerful Shiite militia, known as Huthis, clashing with Sunni tribal forces and the country's branch of Al-Qaeda.

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