Muslim journalist Rula Jebreal pushed back at Bill Maher’s negative view of Islam on Real Time on Friday, accusing him of sounding like al-Qaeda mouthpieces.
“You are actually doing the work for them,” she told Maher. “[Osama] bin Laden used to say, ‘This is not a war on terror, this is a war on Islam.’ My father was Muslim; he was Sufi. You don’t even know the difference between Sufi, Sunni, Shi’a, Mahdavi.”
“Yeah I do,” Maher responded.
“You don’t,” Jebreal said. “For you, we are all jihadists.”
“I know that in many places in the world, if you left your religion, what would happen?” Maher asked. “You can walk inside a door in Gaza and say, ‘You know what? I’m a Presbyterian today.'”
“Maybe not in Gaza, to be honest,” Jebreal responded. “But you can do it in Jordan, you can do it in Lebanon. You are blaming the majority for the criminal act of a minority.”
Following Maher’s statement defending his intentions to speak at the University of California-Berkeley next month, Jebreal expressed sympathy for the students protesting his appearance.
“When you talk about Islam in a certain way, I have to tell you: it’s offensive sometimes,” Jebreal told Maher. “And some people feel threatened.”
“But it’s okay to be offensive,” Sen. Angus King (I-ME) countered. “That’s what free speech is all about. If free speech is only speech you like, it’s not free speech.”
The show’s other panelist, retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, argued that the Berkeley dispute was about whether a school can invite speakers onto its campus.
“People will listen, maybe they’ll agree with it, maybe they won’t,” Clark argued. “But we don’t have a situation in Berkeley where people can’t give a speech. That’s the whole essence of the American system. Not everybody has to agree.”
“It’s ridiculous,” Jebreal shot back. “I’m sorry, General. The Muslim community in this country, you are treating them like Fifth Columnists, and they are not. The Muslim community feel threatened and feel offended, and they are under-represented in the media, and under-represented in political avenues. You never invite them here on these issues.”
“Never invite them here? You’re here,” Maher said. “Reza [Aslan] is here. They’re here all the time.”
“On these issues,” Jebreal repeated.
“What do you mean, on these issues?” Maher countered, saying he was the person wanting to stop talking about Muslim-related topics.
Watch the discussion, as posted online on Friday, below.