By William Sullivan
April 25, 2013
On Friday's Real Time program on HBO, Bill Maher hosted an interview with Brian Levin, the director of the Center for Study of Hate and Extremism. It became clear within thirty seconds that Levin was not attending the religious parity party he had expected.
One can understand why Levin might harbor such expectations. Maher has a pretty apparent disdain for religious adherents of all stripes. But in that first thirty seconds, Maher spoke, with a pointedly singular focus, of the hypocrisy we witness in such fanatical terrorists as the Tsarnaev brothers, who bombed the Boston Marathon last week. "If you read what the older brother wrote on his, uh, on the internet," Maher began, "it says his worldview: Islam. Personal priorities: career and money. And we see a lot of this; I mean, the 9/11 hijackers went to strip clubs the night before they got on the plane."
Two references to notorious acts of Islamic terrorism were enough for Levin. He interjected by saying that "it's not like people who are Muslims who do wacky things have a monopoly on it. We have hypocrites across faiths, Jewish, Christian, who say they're out for God and end up doing not-so-nice things."
Before he could even finish this rather boilerplate attempt to draw religious equivalency between the "not-so-nice things" religious people do and acts of murder and terror sanctified by Islamic groups, Maher had written him off, replying, "You know what, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That's liberal b------- right there."
Levin, seemingly blindsided, appealed to the fact that Maher's pointing out hypocrisy in all religion is how he makes his living, but Maher refused to relent.
There's only one faith that kills you, or wants to kill you, if you draw a bad cartoon of the prophet. There's only one faith that kills you, or wants to kill you, if you renounce the faith. An ex-Muslim is a very dangerous thing. Talk to Salman Rushdie after the show about Christian versus Islam. So I'm just saying, let's keep it real.
This is the moment where Levin's agenda was exposed, and anti-jihadists like Pamela Geller were thoroughly vindicated, even if not explicitly. "Well," Levin dawdled, "I guess I have a girl for you, Pam Geller, you could maybe meet," in an attempt to be funny. Maher, confusedly turning to the audience, replied, "Uh, I don't know what that means."
"Well, she's an Islamophobe," Levin said. There it is. To those in the in the audience who were paying attention, it became pretty apparent that when presented with these uncomfortable facts by someone who cannot readily be denounced as a hateful Islamophobe, the Islamic apologist can do nothing more than reach into his Islamophobia rolodex for an example to get his point across. And in this case, that example is a figure who is possibly obscure to Maher, and entirely abstract to the conversation.
If Maher could have readily recalled exactly who Pamela Geller is and reference her work, he would likely have explained to Levin that juxtaposing Islamists who would bless the murder of apostates with Pamela Geller, who has never advocated that her readers commit murder, is a silly, slanderous thing to do. But though Maher didn't specifically discuss Geller here, he did vindicate her in terms of the anti-jihad message she works to disseminate. And here's why.
Much of what leaves Bill Maher's mouth after this point encapsulates Geller's message in such a way that it will be understood by an audience that might otherwise write it off if a figure like Geller had said it. To the progressive audience members who know who Geller is, or maybe have watched the many propaganda charades disguised as documentaries against her, Geller has the letter I branded on her -- so her words would likely be immediately dismissed as hate.
So Maher gets to say what Geller does and would say, without having Levin immediately dismiss the truth as Islamophobia, which follows:
I am not an Islamophobe, that's wrong. I am a truth lover. [Approving applause] All religions are not alike. As many people have pointed out, The Book of Mormon, did you see the show? [Levin says no, as he's unable to get tickets.] Okay. Can you imagine if they did The Book of Islam? [Pause.] Could they do that? There is only one religion that threatens violence and carries it out for things like that. Could they do The Book of Islam on Broadway?
Levin replied with an unconvincing "Possibly so," looking to quickly change the subject. But before he could, Maher sardonically demanded, "Tell me what color the sky is in your world."
Visibly flustered, Levin continued, grasping the only arrow left in his quiver. He suggested that there are 1.4 billion Muslims in the world, and yes, a lot of them are extremists "who would slit your throats," but "there are also folks that are fine, upstanding people." So he's worried that this national audience might be being exposed to "hatred" of Muslims.
Unmoved, Maher simply said, "No, you're wrong about that. And you're wrong about your facts. Obviously, most Muslim people are not terrorists. But ask most Muslim people in the world -- if you insult the prophet, do you have what's coming to you? It's more than just a fringe element."
There it is. Truth, wrapped with a bow for the leftists who might otherwise reject it, which advances the national dialogue in a positive direction.
There is more to a message than its content -- delivery is essential. The problem with the debate regarding Islam is that the channels for dialogue, which should be open and honest, are closed and selectively directed by social engineers, like Brian Levin, who value political correctness over truth. Generally speaking, the right does not believe these social engineers at all, and the left far too blindly accepts their nonsense.
This is the reason for the profundity I found in the interview with Ruslav Tsarni, the Tsarnaev brothers' Muslim uncle who, convincingly, I believe, denounced armed jihad and expressed a genuine devotion to American values. Americans are free to view Tsarni's testimony as taqiyya (a religiously sanctified lie to advance Islam, as many commenters on the article apparently believe), but the point is, the message that there are Muslims who abhor Islamic violence and value freedom is much better-received by such an example than being told what to believe by a leftist opinion-maker.
Likewise, hearing a leftist opponent of religion denounce the notion of religious parity while speaking the truth about Islam's role as a uniquely malignant contributor to global terrorism is much better-received by leftists when heard from Bill Maher than from Pamela Geller, who, in my opinion, has been wrongfully ostracized from the discussion among leftists.
So, thanks to Bill Maher, the anti-jihadists' message may have found a new audience. And truth, when allowed to permeate any dialogue, is never a bad thing.
William Sullivan blogs at http://politicalpalaverblog.blogspot.com and can be followed on Twitter.
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