Last night, as the Paris Attacks were unfolding, comedian and social critic Bill Maher began his Real Time show on HBO with a tribute to France by singing part of the French national anthem, “La Marseillaise.”
“Now I’m not a very good singer, but that’s my way of saying: We’re with you.”
Bill Maher has been known for, and heavily criticized regarding, his stance against extreme interpretations of Islam. In fact, one of the most heated and memorable exchanges on his show came a number of months back when Ben Affleck angrily called Bill Maher a racist over his criticism of Islam.
Despite a heavy backlash towards his views, he has never backed down from his criticism of the religion and this has resulted him being in the center of several storms. One example is students demanding he be uninvited to speak at UC Berkley’s commencement ceremony. An online petition from some students laced into him over his views.
“Bill Maher is a blatant bigot and racist who has no respect for the values UC Berkeley students and administration stand for. In a time where climate is a priority for all on campus, we cannot invite an individual who himself perpetuates a dangerous learning environment.”
But, Maher continues, the Paris attacks gave him further reason to explore the topic of Islam on Real Time.
After his singing attempt, he welcomed “feminist, liberal Muslim” author and journalist Asra Q. Nomani for a one-on-one interview. After they both acknowledged their admiration for each other and the work they both do in raising awareness of issues within the religion of Islam, they began to get down to brass tacks.
And those brass tacks all revolved around Islam, including the fact that those who criticize the religion are labelled as bigots and Islamophobes, as he joked about later in the show.
“First of all, I’m not ‘demonizing,’ I’m characterizing. How did we get to this place where just describing something is demonizing, and I’m not so sure it’s a very small percentage. Maybe it’s a small percentage who carry out terrorist acts, but it’s not a small percentage who believe in some of the illiberal ideas that support terrorists.”
Later, in the panel portion of the show, the issue of the Paris attacks was brought up, and Maher asked a blunt question to the panelists.
“I’m going to ask you this question that people asked after 9/11, because I don’t think we still know the answer: Why do they hate us?”
Bill Maher’s own answer revolved around the idea that Western countries should rethink their foreign policies and actions. Bill Maher proposed that people should listen to one of the key demands of terrorists.
“When you capture one, or when they leave a note, you know what they say? Because you’re in Muslim lands. I have a crazy idea: Why don’t we get out of Muslim lands?”
Meanwhile, as Bill Maher tackled the issue on TV, the Independent reports that U.K. comedian Jason Manford went on a profanity laced tirade on Facebook over the Paris attacks that ended up with his Facebook account being suspended.
“F*****g cowards. Slaughtering innocent unarmed people for what? Families and children enjoying life, theatre, meals? Not an army vs army you f*****g cowards. For what? In whose name? Are you doing this in the name of your god? Cos I’ve got news for you, if you think your ‘god’ is gonna reward you for this type of atrocity then your good is a massive c**t. I hope you are all caught and murdered in a similar agonising way you f**king scumbags.”
Manford was accused of targeting Islam in his rant, but he pointed out on twitter that he would say the same thing about any religious extremists.
— JasonManford (@JasonManford) November 14, 2015
Between Bill Maher and Jason Manford, comedians taking on the Paris attacks made for interesting reading and watching on Friday night.
[Feature image by Andrew Renneisen / Getty Images]