Bill Maher, Jingoist
Via Sullivan, here is Bill Maher pronouncing the superiority of American to Islamic culture:
Although America likes to think it’s number one, we have to admit that we are behind the developing world in at least one thing: their religious wackos are a lot more wacko than ours. You may applaud that. When South Park got threatened last week by Islamists incensed at their depiction of Muhammad it served — or should serve — as a reminder to all of us that our culture isn’t just different than one that makes death threats to cartoonists. It’s better: because when I make a joke about the pope, he doesn’t send one of his Swiss guards in their striped pantaloons to stick a pike in my ass; when I make a Jewish joke, the Rabbis make a vetsch about it, but they don’t pull out a scimitar and threaten an adult circumcision; and when I threatened scientology, the worst that happens is…[lights go out]
To some extent, sure: Islam should be held responsible for its wackos. When the child acts out, shame on the parent. But let’s not conflate the child with the parent. The fanatics who threatened Trey Parker and Matt Stone are not identical to Islamic culture any more than South Park is identical to American culture. Maher, in failing to make the distinction, simply inverts the error of Jihadists — who condemn all Americans on the basis of the haughtiness of George W. Bush and the trashiness of Baywatch.
Toward the end of the monologue, Maher comes close to acknowledging that the generalization doesn’t hold true for everyone:
Before I conclude, it should in fairness be noted that, in speaking of Muslims, we realize that, of course, the vast majority are law-abiding, loving people, who just want to be left alone to subjugate their women in peace.
Notice that the punchline (Muslims just want to “subjugate their women in peace”) undercuts the distinction Maher purports to make between the “vast majority” of Muslims and Muslim extremists. Not only are most Muslims are just as wacko as the violent fringe, Maher insinuates, it would be laughable to think otherwise.
Maher concludes with a condescending word of advice for Muslim immigrants:
I’m very glad that Obama is reaching out to the Muslim world, and I know that Muslims living in America and Europe want their way of life to be assimilated more, but the Western world needs to make it clear: some things are not negotiable and can’t change. And one of them is freedom of speech. Separation of church and state is another. Not negotiable. Women are allowed to work here and you can’t beat them. Not negotiable. This is how we roll, and this is why our system is better.
As a fellow Westerner, I share Maher’s commitment to these ideals. I also know from experience — I have worked with Somali immigrants for over seven years — that there is some truth to what Maher is saying. Islam does at times conflict with secular, Western values. At the same time, I recently helped a student write a paper contrasting the Quran’s teaching on the importance of respect for women with the cultural practices of many Islamic countries. Nor do immigrants reject free speech: an Imam recently told me that Islam “accepts disagreement” and teaches its adherents not to “force anyone to accept your religion.” (Admittedly, the Imam told me that he believes free speech should have limitations — but, then again, I believe that too.) Maher’s clash of civilizations rhetoric is, in short, a gross oversimplification that — ironically — recalls the very worst excesses of the Bush administration.