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This article was published 27/3/2017 (1194 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Since 9/11, liberals have consistently targeted conservatives as the main perpetrators of Islamophobia; however, what is often forgotten are the ways in which left-wing commentators contribute to the same fearmongering stereotypes.
No one personifies the anti-Muslim left more than comedian and television producer Bill Maher, the host of Real Time with Bill Maher. First, Maher is often guilty of making sweeping generalizations. For instance, he believes there is a "connecting tissue" of intolerance and brutality that binds 1.6 billion Muslims to terrorist groups such as the Islamic State group (IS). Empirical evidence, however, suggests otherwise.
Recent surveys found most people in countries that have significant Muslim populations have an unfavourable view of IS, including virtually all respondents in Lebanon, 94 per cent in Jordan and 84 per cent in the Palestinian territories.
Fond of depicting Muslims as inherently dangerous and uncivilized, Maher admitted during an interview with journalist Charlie Rose that "most Muslim people in the world do condone violence just for what you think." As political satirist Stephen Colbert would say, Maher is being "truthy" in this regard.
In a 2016 Environics poll, only one per cent of Canadian Muslims believe that "many" or "most" Muslims in Canada support violent extremism. Globally speaking, Muslims overwhelmingly reject suicide bombings and other forms of violence against civilians in the name of Islam. Studies conducted by the Pew Research Centre found that Muslims view such extremism as rarely or never justified, including 96 per cent in both Bosnia-Herzegovina and Azerbaijan, 92 per cent in Indonesia and 91 per cent in Iraq.
Maher’s lack of rigour was also apparent when he labelled female genital mutilation an "Islamic problem." Religious scholar Reza Aslan informed CNN news that not only was genital mutilation not an issue in Muslim-majority states outside of Africa, but that the African countries in question — Ethiopia and Eritrea — were predominantly Christian. When Aslan referred to the demographically challenged Maher as "not very sophisticated in the way that he thinks," he was being generous.
Maher even takes pride in resorting to polemics.
He consistently categorizes Islam as "different" from, and decidedly worse than, other religions. Although Islam, Judaism and Christianity are all rooted in a common ancestor — the patriarch Abraham — and even though all monotheistic religions subscribe to the core values of love, charity and compassion, Maher emphatically rejects these common bonds: "This idea that somehow we do share values that all religions are alike is bullshit, and we need to call it bullshit."
As well, Maher relies heavily on conspiracy theories, the kind of paranoia usually associated with the far right.
Worried over the "Islamization of Europe" and its effect on human rights, he senses the stealth takeover of the United States by Muslim newcomers: "Free speech, we see, is not something they always agree with. And often their attitude is, ‘We’re biding our time until you will do things our way.’ "
Maher keeps insisting he’s not prejudging Muslims, yet the more he defends the indefensible, the more he sounds like the "regressive leftists" he smugly looks down upon, "the people who don’t quite get it about being liberals in the world." As a matter fact, they do get it. It’s Maher who’s confused.
When a recent op-ed in Al Jazeera made reference to Maher and his ilk as those who talk with "fake authority and false familiarity," it was exposing the limitations of liberal ideologues. In other words, when it comes to revealing the "truth" about Islam, Maher and his enablers are "living in a bubble."
In his relentless crusade against the infidel, Maher continues to provide a platform for the anti-Muslim left, but he may want to take a long, hard look in the mirror. His worldview of Islam is a shiny reflection of the neoconservative mindset he so easily dismisses as close-minded, uninformed and arrogant.
Stuart Chambers teaches in the faculties of arts and social sciences at the University of Ottawa.
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