Bill Maher clashes with panelists after saying Obama ‘sounds a lot like the NRA’ on Islam
Bill Maher couldn’t get his Real Time panelists behind him in criticizing President Barack Obama’s remarks at a recent summit on violent extremism.
“Some of the things he said were, ‘No religion is responsible for violence and terrorism, people are responsible for violence and terrorism,'” Maher said. “That sounds a lot like the NRA slogan, by the way.”
Maher also cited Graeme Wood’s article, “What ISIS Really Wants” from the latest issue of The Atlantic in his argument. Woods states in the piece that the Islamic State terrorist group’s ideology “derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.”
However, Maher did not mention that Wood’s piece has come under criticism from not only the Council on American Relations, but Bernard Haykel, the Princeton University professor cited by Woods to bolster his argument.
“I think that ISIS is a product of a very contingent, contextual, historical factors,” Haykel told Think Progress. “There is nothing predetermined in Islam that would lead to ISIS.”
On Friday, Maher admitted to being surprised that actor and director Rob Reiner would not back Woods’ rationale. Reiner argued that groups like ISIS or al-Qaeda are “essentially Sunni groups” that saw their influence amplified after the removal of Middle Eastern strongmen like Saddam Hussein.
“It is a religious war,” Reiner said. “But it’s a religious sectarian war, and to paint it all as Islamic, I think, is a big mistake.”
Washington Post reporter Elahe Izadi pointed out that Obama’s lack of reliance on the term “Islamic terrorism” paralleled that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
“He also struggled with how to define this sort of terrorism,” Izadi explained. “At first, he began with the rhetoric of the Crusades, and he kind of backed off of that played into the whole clash of civilizations. He eventually settled on referring to ‘Islamic radicalism,’ but he always said as well that Islam is the religion of peace.”
“Science Guy” Bill Nye challenged Maher more directly, telling him, “If you say everybody who’s Islamic is a terrorist, you’re headed for trouble”
“No one is saying that,” Maher replied, to which Nye said, “We’re in agreement, then.”
“You need to bring the world together to decide, ‘What are we going to fight for?'” Reiner said. “I want to see some Sunni Arab states have a stake in this. Saudi Arabia needs to have a stake in this.”
“But this idea that we cannot even call it ‘Islamic terrorism’ seems Orwellian to me,” Maher countered. “It seems like we’re paying a very high price for this — which is, we can’t discuss it even rationally. Can’t we at least say that there are a number of factors that are involved, and the religion is certainly one of them?”
Watch the discussion, as posted online on Friday, below.