Bill Maher · Islamophobia

Bill Maher’s horrible excuse: Why his defense of Islamophobia just doesn’t make any sense

Bill Maher's horrible excuse: Why his defense of Islamophobia just doesn't make any sense
Bill Maher (Credit: HBO/Janet Van Ham)


For all his odes to liberal ideals, Maher’s latest effort to demonize Muslims reveals a disturbing, illiberal truth

Indian author and activist Arundhati Roy once said, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”

Her words seem particularly apt this week in light of Bill Maher’s recent opening of the Islamophobic floodgates during his “Last Word” interview with Sam Harris and Ben Affleck. In the now infamous segment, Harris argues “Islam is the mother-lode of bad ideas” and that “We are misled to think the fundamentalists are the fringe.”

Muslim American academic Reza Aslan was subsequently called on by CNN to comment on Maher’s views, which he demurely dismissed, but what was most interesting was comparing the treatment of Aslan and Affleck, both voices arguing against anti-Muslim prejudice, by mainstream American TV anchors.

In his interview with CNN, Aslan, a professor of religion, was forced into an apologetic stance in which he sought to elicit a recognition that Muslims are diverse in their outlooks and beliefs, despite being persistently dismissed by both skeptical CNN interviewers.

The discussion subsequently continued without Aslan, his voice having largely been ignored until that point anyway, but what was telling was that his contribution was recast as a hostile and angry response by a third CNN presenter, Chris Cuomo: “His tone was angry. He wound up kind of demonstrating what people are fearful about when they think of the faith in the first place, which is the hostility of it.”

“Angry” is just another term used to invalidate someone’s position by attempting to root their arguments in emotion rather than rationality – it’s what men do to women in the “angry feminist” variation, and it’s what white people do to ethnic minorities (women especially, through the angry black woman stereotype). Cuomo was seeking to delegitimize Aslan’s perspective by making him appear as an extension of the irrational and angry faith the anchors had consistently upheld as the only valid perception of Islam.

Continued below the fold on Salon



Xenophobic Australian quits election race after Islam gaffe

Screencap of Stephanie Banister

The Raw Story

A candidate for Australia’s anti-immigration One Nation party dropped out of the election race Saturday after a blundering interview in which she referred to Islam as a country.

Stephanie Banister, 27, had been campaigning for just 48 hours when she gave the interview to the Seven Network which quickly went viral online and saw her labelled “Australia’s Sarah Palin”, who was pilloried for her gaffes as US vice-presidential candidate in 2008.

“I don’t oppose Islam as a country, but I do feel that their laws should not be welcome here in Australia,” Banister said in Wednesday’s taping.

She went on to say only two percent of Australians follow “haram” — actually meaning the Koran — and muddied matters further by voicing her support for kosher foods for Jewish people.

“Jews aren’t under haram. They have their own religion which follows Jesus Christ,” she said of Judaism, which in fact sees Jesus as an ordinary man and not the messiah.

Banister on Saturday withdrew her candidacy for the September 7 election, which she was contesting for anti-immigration firebrand Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party in Queensland.

Party leader Jim Savage denied that Banister had been dropped and said she continued to have the “full support of the One Nation executive”.

“However, due to the threats against Stephanie’s family, herself, her children, the abuse she’s copped and the enormous pressure she’s been put under, Stephanie has decided she wants to withdraw from the candidacy for the seat of Rankin,” Savage said.

“We have accepted it with regret.”

In brief remarks to the media as she confirmed her withdrawal from the race, Banister said the interview was edited to make her look “quite the fool”.

“I’d like to apologise to One Nation, to my friends and family, for any embarrassment this has brought to them,” she said.

One Nation was founded in 1997 by the divisive Hanson, who famously warned that Australia was being swamped by Asians.

She has made several failed bids to return to politics after losing her federal seat in 1998, including a 2007 run for a national Senate seat in which she campaigned for an end to immigration by Muslims to protect “Australian culture”.

Hanson has announced she is running for a Senate seat in the September elections with the One Nation party.

Ahead of Banister’s withdrawal Hanson reportedly told Seven that the mother of two was clearly “not ready” for national politics.



Investigation Looks For Muslim Bias In Texas Schools, Finds Christian Bias Instead

I meant to post this yesterday, but I got sidetracked.  I’ve often wondered if Right-Wingers ever get embarrassed when they are proven to be blatantly wrong on an issue.

Then again I doubt it, their embarrassment gene is non-existent.

Think Progress

A bizarre chain email sent to district and school board officials in the Dallas area this October titled “IRVING ISD INDOCTRINATING ISLAM” inspired a recent investigation of “Islamic bias” in the district’s curriculum. Despite the outlandish claims, the district requested that an official from the organization that created the curriculum to respond. The results of a 72-page investigation done by the organization were not surprising: there’s a Christian bias in schools, not a Muslim one.

The official told the board that a bias toward Islam didn’t exist, even mentioning that “she hired a ‘very socially and fiscally conservative’ former social studies teacher who ‘watches Glenn Beck on a regular basis’ to seek out any Islamic bias in CSCOPE [the curriculum].” She “asked her to look for anything she would consider the least bit controversial.” The Dallas Morning News has the details of an investigation that mentioned “every religious reference in the CSCOPE curriculum, from kindergarten to high school”:

– Christianity got twice as much attention in the curriculum as any other religion. Islam was a distant second.

– The Red Crescent and Boston Tea Party reference mentioned in the email were nowhere in CSCOPE’s curriculum, although they may have been in the past.

– If there was any Islamic bias in CSCOPE it was “bias against radical Islam.”

This isn’t the first time Texas has debated the perceived presence of too much Islam in its school books. In 2010, the Texas Board of Education banned any books that “paint Islam in too favorable of a light.” The reasoning was head-scratching: “the resolution adopted Friday cites ‘politically-correct whitewashes of Islamic culture and stigmas on Christian civilization’ in current textbooks and warns that ‘more such discriminatory treatment of religion may occur as Middle Easterners buy into the US public school textbook oligopoly.’” A Texas based civil liberties advocate said at the time that “the members who voted for this resolution were solely interested in playing on fear and bigotry in order to pit Christians against Muslims.”


GOP Congressman’s Restaurant Accused Of Turning Away Muslim Couple

Yet another GOP faux pas.  Assuming the Muslim couple’s version of events are true, how will they ever win another election again with this sort of behavior?

Think Progress

New Orleans residents Mohammed and Talat Husain claim they were refused service at Rep. John Fleming’s (R-LA) Subway franchise in Shreveport, Louisiana. According to Husain, an employee of the chain told them to leave because they are Muslim and threw them out after an altercation. Though Husain called the police, a report was never filed. He recounted the experience to TPM:

“She asked me point blank ‘Are you Muslim?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I’m Muslim,’ She said ‘We can’t serve you’ and locked the door from inside when my wife was still inside the store,” Husain said.

The situation quickly escalated and Husain ended up calling 911. So did a Subway employee. At some point before police arrived, however Husain said the employee unlocked the door and let his wife leave but also made it clear they should take their business elsewhere.

An officer with the Shreveport Police Department arrived after that. Both Husain and a department spokesman said the officer initially patted Husain down to check for weapons. But spokesman Cpl. Marcus Hines said the officer eventually determined the situation was much ado about nothing. Department records show the officer didn’t even file a report.

Fleming’s employees deny Husain’s version of events, and claim that security tapes prove that there was no discrimination against the couple. Still, the Shreveport police are ignoring a request for an investigation by the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Fleming, a devout Christian, warned in August that the election was a choice between “competing world views” of “a godless society” or “a Christian nation.”

Islamophobia · Nakoula Basseley Nakoula

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula Arrested

Nakoula Basseley Nakoula
An unoccupied Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department patrol car is parked across from the home, background, of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man who made the film “Innocence of Muslims” that has sparked violent protests, in Cerritos, Calif., Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

I recommend that “free speech advocates” (like myself)  read the entire article before crying foul…

The Huffington Post

A federal judge on Thursday ordered a California man behind a crudely produced anti-Islamic video that inflamed parts of the Middle East to be detained because he is a flight risk.

U.S. Central District Chief Magistrate Judge Suzanne Segal said Nakoula Basseley Nakoula should be held after officials said he violated his probation term for a 2010 check fraud conviction.

A federal prosecutor said Nakoula had eight probation violations, including lying to his probation officers and using aliases.

After his 2010 conviction, Nakoula was sentenced to 21 months in prison and was barred from using computers or the Internet for five years without approval from his probation officer.

A 14-minute trailer for the film “Innocence of Muslims” was posted on YouTube in July, leading to protests around the Middle East. The trailer depicts Muhammad as a womanizer, religious fraud and child molester.

The violence broke out Sept. 11 and has spread since, killing dozens. Nakoula, a Christian originally from Egypt, went into hiding after he was identified as the man behind the trailer.

In court Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Dugdale said Nakoula was flight risk based on a “lengthy pattern of deception.”

“He has every incentive to disappear,” Dugdale said.

Nakoula, 55, was handcuffed and shackled in court.

The full story about Nakoula and the video still isn’t known.

The movie was made last year by a man who called himself Sam Bacile. After the violence erupted, a man who identified himself as Bacile called media outlets including The Associated Press, took credit for the film and said it was meant to portray the truth about Muhammad and Islam, which he called a cancer.

The next day, the AP determined there was no Bacile and linked the identity to Nakoula, a former gas station owner with a drug conviction and a history of using aliases. Federal authorities later confirmed there was no Bacile and that Nakoula was behind the movie.

Before going into hiding, Nakoula acknowledged to the AP he was involved with the film, but said he only worked on logistics and management.

A film permit listed Media for Christ, a Los Angeles-area charity run by other Egyptian Christians, as the production company. Most of the film was made at the charity’s headquarters. Steve Klein, an insurance agent in Hemet and outspoken Muslim critic, has said he was a consultant and promoter for the film.

The trailer still can be found on YouTube. The Obama administration asked Google, YouTube’s parent, to take down the video. But the company has refused, saying it did not violate its content standards.

Meanwhile, a number of actors and workers on the film have come forward to say they were tricked. They say they were hired for a film titled “Desert Warrior” and there was no mention of Islam or Muhammad in the script. Those references were dubbed in after filming was completed.

Actress Cindy Lee Garcia has sued to get the trailer taken down, saying she was duped.

Islam In America · Islamophobia

10th Circuit Court Of Appeals Declares Oklahoma’s Sharia Ban Unconstitutional

There is absolutely no possibility that Sharia Law would ever be the “dominant religion” in The United States because:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression

It’s simply a strawman argument against Muslims freely practicing their religion in the United States under the guarantees of The Constitution, by those who want to discriminate against them.

Think Progress

The 10th Circuit Court Of Appeals struck down Oklahoma’s ban on Sharia law today, declaring that the Sooner State’s move violated the United States Constitution.

In November 2010, Oklahoma voters approved a ballot initiative to prevent Sharia law from being used in the state, something that even the measure’s defenders could not identify ever happening. (To learn more about what Sharia law actually is, read this brief primer.) Following Oklahoma’s lead, Sharia hysteria soon made its way to other states – including Arizona, Louisiana, and Tennessee – orchestrated by a small group of anti-Muslims misinformation experts we profiled in a report entitled Fear Inc.: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.

Before the Oklahoma law could take effect, however, a federal judge issued an injunction blocking the measure while courts considered its constitutionality. The 10th Circuit, which includes one George W. Bush appointee, a Carter appointee, and an Obama appointee, heard oral arguments in September 2011.

Today, the 10th Circuit unanimously affirmed the lower court’s permanent injunction. In a 37-page decision, the three-judge panel agreed that Oklahoma’s Sharia ban violated the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause and was therefore unconstitutional. On page 32, the 10th Circuit identified the heart of the matter, that Oklahoma’s move had no basis in reality but simply singled out Muslims for discrimination.

Continue reading here…

Islam · Islamophobia

‘My Fellow American’: New Online Project To Push Back On Islamophobia

So many Americans, like myself, don’t agree with the Islamophobia that’s so rampant in our country today.  We’ve been frustrated by the ineffectiveness of  small efforts like blog posts, and television pundits who publicly denounce Islamophobes, to no avail.

This project sounds promising…

Think Progress

One of the more unfortunate repercussions of the Islamophobia echo chamber is their ability to mainstream bigoted discourse towards American Muslims. As the Center for America Progress’ “Fear, Inc.” report documents, “some well-established conservative media outlets are a key part of this echo chamber, mixing coverage of alarmist threats posed by the mere existence of Muslims in America.”

This mainstreaming of hateful rhetoric gives fodder to respected community, political and civic leaders, radio talk show hosts, and Christian right preachers. Talking points that Obama is a Muslim, or that American mosques are places of stealth jihad, and other routine demonizing statements towards American Muslims have become the norm in our post 9/11 discourse on Islam in America.

But this relationship between mainstream media and the Islamophobia network is not surprising. What is more alarming is that voices of civility and sanity have not taken action to counter this reality. In an effort to push against the mainstreaming of hateful speech towards Muslims, Unity Productions Foundation has launched a new online project called “My Fellow American.” Centered on a short emotional video that juxtaposes voices of anti-Muslim hate with everyday American Muslims, it serves as a call to conscience to everyday Americans.

Watch the video:

Continue reading here…

Islamophobia · Rep. Allen West

Allen West (R-FL) Says the ‘Arab Spring’ Is Actually About Reestablishing the Caliphate

You can’t get farther right than this idiot…

Crooks & Liars

Extreme right-wing Florida Congressman Allen West, who recently declined to run for United States senate, said in his weekly address that the Arab Spring of democratization in the Middle East and surrounding areas is really about Muslims trying to re-establish the historical caliphate:

This so-called “Arab Spring” is less about a democratic movement, than it is about the early phase of the restoration of an Islamic Caliphate, the last being the Ottoman Empire.

We are witnessing secular Muslim leaders being deposed in very volatile and unstable nations. This growing Islamic Totalitarianism manifested in militant Islam has had a modus operand [sic] of capitalizing on unstable political situations (Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia).

Now we see these same types of instances occurring in Egypt, Libya, and Syria and the rose-colored glasses of some seek to portray this as a great awakening of liberty. History does not support this in the Middle East.

We must evaluate these occurrences through the prism of keen strategic and operational insight which looks out 10, 20, or 30 years.

If we had done so during the deposing of the Shah of Iran, we might have been able to prevent what arose. The Iran with which we must contend today is the major exporter of Islamic totalitarianism and state sponsored terrorism.

In the rest of the essay, he goes on to condemn Barack Obama, Palestine and the United Nations, while calling for militant support for Israel and its current borders.

The term “caliphate” refers to the historical unified Islamic government that dominated much of the Middle East and northern Africa through 1924. West and others seem to be suggesting the return of a caliphate would involve a anti-Western, anti-Israeli unified Muslim front that could threaten the United States and its allies. West’s remarks echo those of Glenn Beck who frequently warns of a coming caliphate.

West has a history of extreme rhetoric relating to Islam and the caliphate comments are far from the worst:

(h/t Saint Petersblog)


Islamophobia · Muslim Americans · Muslim Witch Hunt

Two Muslim Men Kicked Off Airplane, Were Going To Conference About Tolerance

No doubt the pilot’s fear stemmed from watching too much Beck, Hannity and O’Reilly on Fox News Network.

What have we become?

Think Progress

Last night, two Muslim men were removed from a plane departing from Tennessee and set to arrive in Charlotte, North Carolina. Both the men were dressed in traditional Muslim garb, which made the pilot uncomfortable and caused him to refuse to fly them to their destination:

Two Muslim men were removed from a plane headed to North Carolina…the Council on American-Islamic Relations said. The incident occurred Friday on a flight from Tennessee to North Carolina.

Masudur Rahman and Mohamed Zaghloul were wearing the traditional Muslim attire, CNN affiliate WCNC reported.

The irony is, both men, as a local news affiliate reported, were on their way to Charlotte to attend “a conference of imams, where they would be discussing ‘Islamophobia,’ the fear of Islam.”

Local station WBTV’s interviewed the men about their predicament. One of them compared his situation to African Americans who were refused seats on public buses. Watch the station’s report about the incident.

According to WBTV, the US Attorney’s office and the Department of Justice are both planning to get involved in the case, and both men have hired a local attorney to also investigate the event.

Islam · Islamophobia · Rep. Keith Ellison · Rep. Peter King

King Hearing Casts Muslim Americans as Clueless, ‘Not Intellectually Equipped’

The fact is, it is Rep. King who is clueless and not intellectually equipped!

The Nation

When Representative Keith Ellison, one of just two Muslim members of Congress, broke down during Representative Peter King’s hearing on “The Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response,” you could feel the entire room holding its breath. “He’s crying,” whispered Haris Tarin, director of the Washington, DC, office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), who was sitting next to me. Ellison began sobbing as he recounted the heroism and patriotism of Muhammad Salman Hamdani, a first responder and a Muslim, who died on 9/11 attempting to rescue his fellow Americans in the World Trade Center.

If King felt moved to weep or mourn or possibly salute, he neither said anything about it nor showed any reaction to his colleague. King has no problem with exploiting the emotional potency of 9/11; in fact the hearing room had been adorned with framed photographs, including a poster-sized photograph of the Twin Towers in flames. But King wasn’t going to let the heroism of a Muslim in the face of terrorism get in the way of a good witch hunt. He’s on a mission to establish that Muslims aren’t patriotic, that they don’t engage with law enforcement and that Muslim “radicalization” poses a risk to the homeland and our way of life.

Before his testimony, Ellison made his presence felt in the hearing room, greeting members of the public, grinning and saying “shalom” to Rabbi Marc Schneier of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding. Schneier is a member of the Shoulder-to-Shoulder Steering Committee, an interfaith group that has condemned the hearings, accusing King of “bearing false witness” against America’s Muslims by asserting “that Muslims as a broad group are not deeply devoted to America’s safety and the peaceful interaction of its entire citizenry.”      More…