It was thrilling to finally see, on this week’s HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher, an articulate guest answering Maher’s frequent screeds that Islam is overwhelmingly the most violent and dangerous religion. Glenn Greenwald was well prepared and answered so swiftly, brilliantly and efficiently we had to replay it several times to fully enjoy it.
The clip shows that, despite Bill’s repeated attempts to marginalize and mock Glenn’s views, Glenn presses on with the truth, winning multiple rounds of applause from Bill’s audience and – a rarity with Bill – the last word. My son’s reaction: “Suddenly Bill Maher looked kind of old.”
With his usual surgical precision Greenwald disproves Maher’s smug insistence that Americans, Christians and Jews no longer make deadly attacks on innocent people of other faiths – when in fact, We’re Number One. In Glenn’s compact comments you may catch a reference to our General Boykin’s military, whose pep talks included: “…My God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”
(I happen to know both Bill and Glenn a bit: I attended a party at Bill’s house years ago, introduced my mom to him at a taping of Politically Incorrect in NYC, and I’ve spoken with him briefly after shows in Santa Rosa. I met Glenn at a Salon event in 2011; he’s my favorite columnist and was quite proud when earlier this year he praised my political courage in a comment at his Guardian column.)
I have tremendous respect for Bill’s intelligence and humor, but he has been uniquely scarred: as he puts it, “I was the only American to lose his job over the 9-11 attacks.” While unequivocally condemning the attacks in September 2001, Bill dared to point out that, since those who attacked us gave their lives for their beliefs, “cowards” might not be the right word when comparing them to an American who fires deadly cruise missiles from complete safety. In today’s age of death by drone, his comment is more timely than ever. Back then, Politically Incorrect was quickly cancelled.
Of course, HBO turns out to be a much better home for Maher than his former ABC/Disney could be. But it feels like he’s spent a decade trying to prove his disrespect for terrorists by attacking a billion Muslims and Islam generally.
Glenn was well prepared since he recently dealt with Sam Harris, whose efforts to become a leader of New Atheists have been marred (or Mahered) by even more stunning open bigotry aimed directly at Muslims and Islam, thinly disguised as skepticism about religion generally. I was eager to read Harris’s work, but his alarming comments quickly spoke for themselves. His eagerness to treat every Muslim as a terrorist just doesn’t make logical or moral sense. Amid such blind, foaming Islamophobia, I’m sad to say Atheism hasn’t had a more embarrassing champion since Stalin.
Glenn nails it: if they could stop cheering their own superiority for a moment and actually compare the history of deadly attacks – without automatically excluding terror against Muslims and attacks on them – they might see the kinds of patterns that a more honest scientist like Noam Chomsky would notice.
It’s maddeningly damaging to ordinary atheist scientists when a self-appointed Leader like Harris or Richard Dawkins slides from logical and scientific arguments into hate speech and jingoism, with so few facts and so little insight. By being as irrational and tribal as he claims most Muslims are, under the pretense of science, Harris and his kin smear all of us until we vocally object.
So let’s honor the brave Bill Maher who lost Politically Incorrect for daring to share an unpleasant truth. Let’s ask a few tough questions today, and actually count things – as if we were curious, rational, objective scientists rather than cheerleaders for our team.
Though of course they’re different categories, let’s at least roughly compare muslims with US citizens:
Who supports overseas attacks that kill innocent civilians and create terror?
Muslims approving jihad attacks: 1 in a million (roughly 1 thousand out of 1 billion)
US citizens approving drones: More than half
Provides Material Support
Muslims – 1 in a million
US Citizens – 100% of taxpayers
Provides Political Support
9-11 was condemned by every muslim government, including the Taliban, which called for Bin Laden prosecution
US drone strikes that have killed thousands, though long secret, are our popular president’s policy
Risks Own Life
Muslims: many or most participants
US Citizens: 1%
Respect for Innocent Victims
9-11: attacks condemned universally, every innocent victim was recognized, name made known, death mourned; funerals attended by survivors without fear
US: drone victims who don’t have posthumous proof of their innocence are treated as dead combatants; rescuers and mourners are targeted by more bombs; identities of civilian victims don’t matter and are kept secret by the US, so even the murdered children must be counted by third parties
Number of Innocent Civilians Killed
Muslims: About 3000, mainly on 9-11
US: Amid intense secrecy we’ve now learned of over 4700 drone deaths that include fewer than 100 high level targets, multiple wedding party massacres, and over 178 children in Pakistan alone
An outsider looking at even the roughest numbers can’t help but ask:
Why do most Americans embrace killing and terror thousands of times more eagerly than most Muslims?