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Bill Maher Gets His Comeuppance over His Attacks on Islam: 'What He Is Doing Is Un-American'

November 4, 2014 in Blogs

By Luke Brinker, Salon

The journalist Rula Jabreal explains her heated debate with Maher — and the “dangerous” impact of his ideas.

Last weekend witnessed yet another fierce debate over Islam on HBO’s “Real Time With Bill Maher,” just four weeks after the comedian tussled with actor Ben Affleck on the issue. This time, Maher’s interlocutor was the Italian-Palestinian journalist Rula Jebreal, who took Maher to task for what she called his “offensive” criticism of the religion.

The impetus for the latest debate was the controversy surrounding Maher’s upcoming commencement address at the University of California-Berkeley, where a group of students circulated a petition protesting the choice of Maher, whom the petition described as a “blatant bigot and racist.” The university ultimately stood by its decision to bring Maher to campus, and during his Friday show, he assailed the attempt to cancel his address as an illiberal effort to shut down free speech. Similarly, Maher has couched his criticism of Islam in liberal terms, arguing that true liberals have a duty to oppose Islamic “illiberalism.”

Jebreal would have none of it, objecting to Maher’s framing of the Berkeley controversy as a free speech issue and castigating his criticism of Islam as grossly simplistic. Now, in an interview with Salon, Jebreal sounds off on her “Real Time” appearance, the debate over liberalism and Islam, and whether she’ll ever be back on Maher’s show.

Your “Real Time” appearance came just a few weeks after Maher sparked a firestorm of controversy following his heated debate with Ben Affleck. Did you expect Islam to come up during your appearance on the show?

I was told, actually, that he wanted to discuss the Berkeley thing, and I was told that he wanted to discuss the connection between torture applied by the CIA in prisons like Camp Bucca and the rise of extremism, and also the fact that ISIS is utilizing the same techniques. So I knew that he wanted to discuss that.

I thought that Berkeley would open up the conversation about that issue. So I thought that he wanted to talk about Berkeley, and make it about free speech – and that was …read more


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