A Project of the Council on American-Islamic Relations


Bill Maher

Bill Maher wikicommons copyrightDayman

Bill Maher is a commentator and comedian who hosts the political satire talk show Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO.

Maher stirred controversy on his October 3rd, 2014 broadcast when he claimed that “liberal” ideologies – like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, marriage equality, and gender equity – were incompatible with Islam. Maher and fellow panelist Sam Harris argued throughout the broadcast that, in Islam, women and gays are subjugated and Muslims lack the freedom to leave their religion.

Three individuals dissented: actor Ben Affleck, former Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele, and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Affleck questioned whether Maher was speaking of “the codified doctrine of Islam”, suggesting that Maher had usurped the voices of American Muslims with stereotypes.

Maher said during the same program:

  • “[Islam is] the only religion that acts like the mafia, that will f*****g kill you if you say the wrong thing.”
  • “It’s based on reality, Ben. We’re not [making] it up that in the Muslim world [extremism] is mainstream belief.”
  • “What you’re saying is because they’re a minority, we shouldn’t criticize.”

Maher agreed with Harris’ comments, which claimed:

  • “Islam is the mother-lode of bad ideas.”
  • “We are misled to think the fundamentalists are the fringe.”

A week prior, Maher stated on his show: “President Obama keeps insisting that ISIS is not Islamic. Well, maybe they don’t practice the Muslim faith in the same way he does.”

The 2014 broadcasts were not Maher’s first foray into bigotry.

During a 2011 CNN interview, Anderson Cooper asked Maher if fear caused Americans to censor their opinions on Islam. Maher responded “Absolutely. Because they’re violent. Because they threaten us. And they are threatening. They bring that desert stuff to our world… We don’t threaten each other, we sue each other. That’s the sign of civilized people”. Cooper noted the position of American Muslims who affirm Islam as a religion of peace; Maher said “Yeah, they blow you up. There’s a piece of you over there, there’s a piece of you over there, there’s a piece of you over there”.

MormonVoices, a non-religious group which monitors statements that “distort and belittle Mormon belief in order to marginalize Mormons”, labeled Maher with the most anti-Mormon quotation of 2011. Maher said: “By any standard, Mormonism is more ridiculous than any other religion”. Maher also expressed in 2012 that Israel “show[s] restraint” against Palestine by not launching nuclear weapons against them during the two countries’ extended conflict.

In a 2002 interview with CNN anchor Paula Zahn, Maher voiced his support for racial profiling at airports, stating “Yes, as a white guy, I’m not part of the fundamentalist Muslim problem that is attacking this country. That’s just a fact. I mean, I’m sorry I’m white, but I’m not the one who flew into the World Trade Center”.

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