In what was to be expected after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, there are those who once again have decided terrorists and religious fundamentalism are not the problem but rather the problem is the entire religion of Islam. Never mind that according to a December 2012 Pew Research Center report that puts the number of Muslims worldwide at 1.6 billion, according to some they are all to blame for a relative few but nasty adherents. One of the most prominent of those that blame Islam is “Real Time With Bill Maher” host, Bill Maher. On the show this past Friday night, Maher slammed Islam as being at fault for the terrorist attacks in Paris and elsewhere in the world. And once again, he is wrong for doing so.
On the show, Maher said, “What we’ve said all along, and have been called bigots for it, is when there’s this many bad apples, there’s something wrong with the orchard.” And while Maher acknowledged that the majority of Muslims would never commit a terrorist act he went on to say, “But they share bad ideas...unfortunately the terrorists and the mainstream share a lot of these bad ideas.”
The problem with Maher’s argument is that these days it is okay to publicly slight Islam without any real knowledge of the religion. To ignore the fact that the “bad apples” as he calls them are a tiny majority of the Muslim population and use them to taint the whole religion is ridiculous. It reminds me of those who blame all blacks for the fact that there are criminals within the black community, as if if it is the fault of the majority of a community if they cannot root out evil people within their ranks. The only people that can get away with that argument, and the ones usually making it, are part of the majority population. Imagine using Maher’s logic on white people or on Christianity. There have been countless atrocities committed by bad apple whites and Christians, from slavery in America to the near wiping out of Native Americans to the Inquisition in Europe, and yet the argument is not being made by Maher and those like him, that the orchard of whites or of Christianity is rotten. Of course not.
Maher’s argument, and that of many others who are part of the rise of Islamophobia is not only ignorant - it's dangerous. While that mindset may not lead to terrorists acts against Muslims, it can and does lead to acts of discrimination and a general belief that we should fear all Muslims.
CNN and other news outlets have reported that in the city of Dresden, Germany, even before the incidents in Paris, there have been weekly protests by a group calling itself Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West, or simply Pegida. The weekly rallies have drawn as many as 18,000 people, as the organizers and their supporters have rallied against too many Muslims and too much Islamic influence in Dresden and Germany as a whole. On the group's Facebook page they say, citizens "should wake from their slumber and recognize the danger in the Islamic ideology...Stop the radical Salfists' Islamization...As a society, we should give people the chance to integrate, but we should not allow ourselves to be Islamized thereby losing our freedom and democracy!"
Thankfully a counter rally was organized recently in Dresden, one that attracted 35,000 people, where participants made it clear they would not stand for such bigotry. Even the mayor of Dresden and the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, spoke out against the anti-Islamic rallies.
We must continue to speak out against this discrimination against Muslims and openly acknowledge the danger of Bill Maher’s rant. It gives public credence to what is essentially bigotry in the guise of intellectual and humorous discussion, which to me is much more dangerous than hooded Klansmen, who we all can easily dismiss. Hatred and bigotry from any source is just as bad, whether dressed in a suit and tie or in a hood.