Sunday, February 20, 2011

What Bill Maher Is: A Muslim-Hating Bigot - Updated: Reel Bad Arabs

- UpdatedOne of the leading experts on culture, politics and religion in the Muslim world is University of Michigan Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History, Juan Cole. Prof. Cole led off an article Sunday at his blog, Informed Comment, with a scathing takedown of late night entertainer Bill Maher's latest anti-Muslim tirade. Although Maher directly attacked Muslim men (for being bad dating material), his lies about the status of women in most Muslim countries was this slimeball's real message.

Here's Ryan Witt's description of Maher's tirade:

Maher brought up the issue of women's rights in the Muslim world while discussing the Egyptian Revolution. Maher argued that democracy cannot work in the Middle East until a "sexual revolution" accompanies the current political revolutions. Maher received some pushback from one of his panel members, who argued that women are also not always treated fairly in America. Maher argued that this was a "false equivalency" as Muslim women are often not even allowed to vote or drive in many countries in the Middle East. In addition, many women face a huge legal burden if they want to divorce their husband, whereas men have the option of divorcing their wives simply by saying literally saying they want a divorce.

Maher went even further in describing the treatment of Arab women by saying,

“Talk to women who’ve ever dated an Arab man. The results are not good.”

At certain points in the discussion Maher actually sounded like he could fit in quite well in a Fox News panel discussing the same issue. He argued against the cultural relativist argument to defend the practices of Arab men. Maher went on to describe a gruesome beheading of one Muslim woman by her husband.

Prof. Cole's take on Maher's lies is this:

Dear right wing blogosphere and also Bill Maher: You can’t generalize about women’s position in Muslim countries based on a reprehensible mob attack on CBS reporter Lara Logan. Generalizing about a whole group of people based on a single incident is called “bigotry.” It is also a logical fallacy (for wingnuts challenged by six syllables in a row, that means, ‘when your brain doesn’t work right’) known as the ‘Hasty Generalization.’ Nobody seems to note that allegedly helpless Egyptian women were the ones who saved Logan, or that Anderson Cooper was also attacked.

Some other examples of reporters or celebrities being assaulted by crowds are here and here. Wingnuts, and also Bill Maher, who do not immediately make generalizations on these bases about large groups of Westerners are wusses.

Note to Muslim-hater Bill Maher, who should know better: It is not true that women cannot vote in 20 Muslim countries, and please stop generalizing about 1.5 billion Muslims based on the 22 million people in Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, the only place where women cannot drive and where men can vote (in municipal elections) but women cannot. It would be like generalizing from the Amish in Pennsylvania to all people of Christian heritage and wondering what is with Christianity and its fascination with horses and buggies.

Here's the Youtube clip of the entire episode of lies on Maher's entertainment program:

And here's an episode of his entertainment program from last June 10th. It was Maher's response to public reaction to the cold-blooded murder of eight Turks and an American on the high seas by uniformed Israeli thugs. Note how Rachel Maddow blandly and uncomfortably sits through the entire routine:

"Let's not shit a shitter," eh, Bill? Lets see if you have the balls to invite Prof. Cole onto your entertainment program.

Update: Time to re-post Reel Bad Arabs:

Part One:

Part Two:

Part Three:

Part Four:

Part Five:


Anonymous said...

The link you provide as "proof" that there are not "20 Muslim countries where women can't vote" doesn't really back you up. Right at the top is a disclaimer:

"Even countries listed may not have universal suffrage for women, and some may have regressed in women's rights since the initial granting of suffrage."

Belle said...

This is how women are treated in Egypt.

Anonymous said...

Where I take issue with Bill Maher is that he just indiscriminately says Muslims treat women badly. My son-in-law is Muslim and he treats my daughter like a queen and we love him dearly. If Bill wants to get specific and say governments of certain countries don't treat their women fairly, that's fine, but he shouldn't make such blanket statements about the 500 million or more Muslim men.

And thank you, Phil, for posting about this because it made me really angry, too, despite the fact that I generally enjoy Bill Maher's show.


Melanie said...

Thank you for writing this, because that part of Friday's show was disgusting and I'm going to stop watching because it was pure bigotry. Muslims are the last group of people (with the possible and distant exception of public sector employees) that it is socially acceptable to hate on in the US, and Bill took full advantage of that. He would NEVER have made such disdainful generalizations about Jewish people or African Americans or Hispanics. I lived in Cairo for two years and will say that women do get a lot of attention, but from a small number of men, and outright rape is much less frequent than it is in the US. To generalize about an entire society is to unfairly tarnish the majority of men who would not dream of treating women that way. And don't blame the non-offenders for not doing anything about it; they couldn't. Dictators like to keep large groups of people intimidated and subservient, and it was very convenient to the regime that women tended to not vote and not demonstrate partly because of a desire to avoid harassment. Friends who were in Tahrir said it was a harassment-free zone and what happened to Lara Logan had nothing to do with the brave young people who were there. Every society has criminals who take advantage of opportunities created by chaos and lack of law enforcement presence. What happened was a crime, not an expression of cultural values.

Philip Munger said...


Thanks for your informed comment on Cairo. When is Maher going to call out all Alaskans because our rape rate is the highest in the country, and higher than many Muslim countries. Want to see guys who are bum dates? - go to a Wasilla Chamber of Commerce meeting....

Anonymous said...

It is my understanding, as the link posted above, that women are regularly groped and harassed on the streets of Cairo and that the safety from harassment women felt during the protests was short-lived and the groping and cat-calling began again with the victory rally in Tahrir Square, not just toward Lara Logan, but many women who'd gathered there. It is well known that women are treated badly in Muslim countries. Genital mutilation, denied education, unable to move freely without being accompanied by men, covered from head to toe, not allowed to drive, treated like property, not fellow human beings. These things need to change. I hope, Phil, you're not suggesting this is not true.

Philip Munger said...

"I hope, Phil, you're not suggesting this is not true."

I am not. I am observing that Prof. Cole noted how false Maher's statement is. Are you asserting Prof. Cole is wrong?

Melanie said...

Me again. I would like to say, a la Tavis Smiley, that every society has its own shortcomings. Yes, in some Muslim countries women do not have the same rights and comforts that American women have and expect, but it is not possible to pick a single problem that Muslim women face and say that it is a problem of Islam and thus found in all Muslim societies. Covered from head to toe is a Saudi issue. Accompanied by men and not educated is Afghanistan. Genital mutilation is a pre-Islamic practice that is unfortunately found in several non-Muslim African countries too. Even wearing a hijab is an interpretation of language in the Koran that not all scholars agree with! On the other hand, Muslim women have outpaced American women in other ways. For example, when my husband graduated from medical school in Egypt in 1972, fully half the class was women. Guess what? The US was not there by the year 2000 according to HHS data. I know this may be hard to believe if you've never been there, but the harassment (which is mostly verbal by the way) is for the most past more annoying than dangerous, and most women look upon it as a sign of male weakness than as a sign that they are second-class citizens. I'm not excusing it by any means, and hope that the situation will improve now that people will, God willing, have more opportunities for productive self-expression and economic activity so they can afford to get married and have legitimate sex with their wife and leave random women alone, but the situation is too complex and nuanced and understandable (which is different than justifiable/excusable) for declarative sentences that women are treated badly in Muslim countries.

True, other women were harassed in Tahrir that night, not just Lara Logan. Everyone was in Tahrir that night, the freedom fighters, onlookers, criminals that Mubarak had ordered released from prison on Jan 30 to terrorize the populace into taking him back, and thugs that he pays (and continues to pay to this day) to intimidate people. The protesters did a great job keeping order until overwhelmed with crowds of 2+ million that night. No one could have guaranteed anyone's safety that night, and collective blame of the religion is unfair. Egyptians know this is a problem they need to address, but could we let them have a week or two to enjoy their accomplishment before we resume the drumbeat of you do this badly, you do that badly???? They just earned the chance to do something about it. New Rule: every blanket unnuanced criticism of the Muslim world should be accompanied by a blanket compliment.

Celia Harrison said...

Bill Maher has been turning me off with this talk as well. I am glad Tavis Smiley was there to speak up. Wherever there are few civil rights you will find abuse of particular groups of people. Countries that squelch human rights will have abuses against women. There are men in the U.S. who would like to take back a lot of the rights women have won (as well as some women, Bachman and Palin). We have seen recent examples, bills to force police to investigate miscarriages or redefine rape to prevent women from being allowed abortions. This comes from radical religious beliefs and remember Bill Maher is against religious wackery, Christian or Muslim. I believe just like so many other issues the radical religious influences are trying to drown out the voices of most of the men in the middle east who don't agree with rape and abuse of women and sociopaths use religion as an excuse for their behaviors. The person who sparked the protest in Egypt was a woman. The women in the middle east will eventually take their rights.

Anonymous said...

I think Professor Cole is a liar, and he's severely downplaying the violence and/or discrimination that Islamic women face on a daily basis, including in Egypt. Yes, there were women in the square who saved Lara, but those same women will tell you they've been harassed. The women bravely participated in the revolution at their own risk, because they know that gender discrimination MUST end, along with the dictatorship, otherwise it's a limited victory. This is their chance, there's a window of opportunity here for these Egyptian women and they are trying to take it. For Prof Cole and other apologists on here masquerading as progressives, to close the closet door so that THEY are not embarrassed and their pride is restored, is beyond reprehensible. Egyptian women should be applauded and supported, not lied about.

Progressive movements, democracy, racial equality, and cultural respect are NOT congruent with fundamentalism, in any form. So please stop pretending that it is.

Thank you Belle, for your link. Maybe the posters on here will read it.

Melanie said...

Rest assured, Anon at 4:35, I did read it. I had seen this same research some time ago and find it credible. I'm perplexed by your use of vehement words like "liar/lied" because I don't think anyone posting here has denied that women are harassed and I think all agree that there is now an opportunity for change that did not exist before. Honestly, and I'm reluctant to say this because I don't want to start a war of words the first time I comment on this august blog, I think that calling people with whom you disagree liars shows intolerance, which funnily enough is why we are all here reading and commenting in the first place.

P.S. In Egypt at least, men who can be visibly ID'ed as fundamentalists are almost never harassers. Interesting, no?

Anonymous said...

Please read Ayaan Hirsi Ali's book "Infidel" for some enlightenment.

Melanie said...

First insults and now condescension?? I hope I'm misunderstanding the tone.

I found Ayaan Hirsi Ali to be a provocateur but learned quite a bit from books by Nawal Saadawi and Leila Ahmed. Check 'em out!

Anonymous said...

Melanie, you responded to my anon post so I will reply. I'm glad you looked at her link and found the info "credible," but you don't need research. All you need is to believe your own eyes. I didn't need a link to tell me that Egyptian women suffer discrimination, because I heard Egyptian women explain it for themselves on NPR. Women suffer daily under Muslim culture. We all heard the most recent severe case of the 14yr old Bangladeshi girl. The fact is there are dozens of Muslim countries which employ some degree of Sharia law. Of course there are reforming women in many countries, and they need our support. But many find themselves in danger during this process, as in Iraq, or murdered outright. Benazir Bhutto herself is dead. This was a tragedy. But there was no interest, no conversation about that here. And if it takes a blonde American woman's rape to bring attention to all of this, then so be it.

How I feel, is that the denial employed in this matter is no less unacceptable than holocaust deniers, or slavery deniers. To downplay this for the sake of cultural and religious pride is a travesty.

No, calling someone a liar is not intolerance. And frankly I'm shocked this kind of article is on a progressive blog, because I thought we were better than that.

Bob Broughton said...

Alas, I can't play the Friday night clip; it says "HBO copyright issue". So, I don't know exactly what Maher said.

I have, however, seen his film "Religulous". The entire film can be viewed at
You don't need to watch the whole thing; Maher does a great job of summing up his points in the last 12 minutes or so.

The main thing that I want to get across here is Maher's point that "we have to stop enabling these people's behavior." I agree completely with this, and it has to appy as much to Grifty McQuitter and her ilk as it does to the Muslim world. Access to nuclear weapons just makes these people far too dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Ah, jeez. I don't like Bill Maher but I have to say that he is closer to reality on the Moslem world than many of these commenters.

Yes indeedy, I've lived in a couple of Moslem countries and you'll just have to trust me on this - you cannot compare their treatment of women to Europe, Israel, or the U.S. As far as "harrassing" women... LOL! I was "harrassed" in some sections of Rome and that is not the same thing that goes on Moslem countries.

It's nice to think well of people but you can't just make it up as you go along and then call it true.


Melanie said...

Phil, my last comment on this matter from last Sunday never got posted and I think it was just an oversight, it wasn't rude. If it could be found and posted, that would be great.

Reading comments since then makes me despondent. Complex reality cannot be expressed and confirmed by a single voice, a single film, a single book, a single angle on an issue. I'm not saying I'm the final authority either, but I think it is unwise to stereotype 1.3 billion individuals in 47 majority-Muslim countries into a culturally and religiously indistinguishable mass in order to come up with pronouncements that make us sound decisive. Why is it necessary to generalize? Don't we all have opinions, idea, characteristics or behaviors that distinguish us from the American mass? If so, why would we think that people in other countries don't?

I am neither Arab nor Muslim so there are no issues of cultural pride at stake for me here. Just reluctance to use mental shorthand and popular memes to try to shoehorn human beings into a dismissable category or one that we feel we can safely judge because "we're better than that." On a progressive blog, we should do better than just naming problems and making assertions.