Little has changed for Maher over the years. Anti-Muslim sentiment is a staple on Maher’s HBO show Real Time, as is easily evinced by looking at a list of his guests, which includes notables such as Ann Coulter, David Frum, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Jonah Goldberg, and Benjamin Netanyahu. Even though Maher’s Real Time panels include “liberal” and “progressive” guests to off-set the right-wing commentators, anti-Muslim rhetoric is rarely challenged, and is more often reinforced, especially when Maher’s guests include such notables as the Lebanese-born neoconservative Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz crony and Council of Foreign Relations board member Fouad Ajami, literary blowhard and ridiculous fatwa-victim Salman Rushdie, “Muslim refusenik” and author of “The Trouble with Islam Today” Irshad Manji, and Muslim-turned-atheist and fellow at the war-mongering, imperialist think tank the American Enterprise Institute Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
In early 2007, when Maher hosted Hirsi Ali, whom he introduced as his “hero,” he asked her the extremely leading question, “Is Islam a religion of peace? You are one of the brave people who say it’s not really a religion of peace.” Hirsi Ali eagerly responded, “It’s not a religion of peace. Immediately after 9/11, they should have said, ‘it’s not a religion of peace, we’re up against Islam.'”
Strangely enough, less than three months later, Maher was seen advocating the words of his “new hero,” Congressman Ron Paul, who had impressed Maher during the recent Republican presidential debates. Maher praised Paul, saying, that he “spoke real truth about the war on terror, about 9/11, about Iraq. He said, ‘y’know what? They hate us because we’re over there. They don’t hate because of our freedom or any of those stupid slogans the Bush people put out.” Regarding Paul’s analysis of 9/11, Maher continued, during a satellite interview with Senator Chris Dodd,
“He [Ron Paul] wasn’t saying ‘We were asking for it.’ He was saying was ‘Maybe we should listen to our enemies. And maybe the reason they’re mad at us is because we have been meddling in the Middle East. We were in Saudi Arabia, that’s what Bin Laden was mad at us for. Now we’re in Iraq, and we’re screwing up that country. Maybe if we listen to them instead of just saying ‘We’re always the good people,’ we would actually make ourselves safer.”
Later in the same show, Maher repeated his agreement with the assessment that “They hate us ’cause we’re over there, we’re meddling in their affairs.”
Later that same year, however, Maher seemed to step back from this view during a conversation with the former head of the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit, Michael Scheuer, who suggested,
“America is fighting a war that doesn’t exist. We’re fighting because our leaders tell us that the Muslims hate freedom and hate liberty and hate women in the workplace, and that’s got nothing to do with it. It has everything to do with what we do in the Islamic world, what our policies are, and what our impact is there…”
Whereas Maher replied by saying, “I believe what you say and I think it’s more about our policy than our way of life,” he continued,
“but, would you grant me this, as long as there is an Israel in the world, and I’m a big supporter of Israel, as long as America backs it, the kind of Muslims that take their religion that seriously that they would strap on a suicide belt are always gonna be out for us and always gonna be trying to kill us?”
When Scheuer stated that he didn’t think Israel was “worth an American life or an American dollar,” Maher was flummoxed and almost speechless at the prospect. Unable to fathom how anyone could not support Israel, he just barely managed to respond by repeating Scheuer’s proposal in the form of a question, “You don’t think the existence of Israel in the world is worth an American life or an American dollar?”
“Muslims do not ‘hate our freedom,’ but rather, they hate our policies. The overwhelming majority voice their objections to what they see as one-sided support in favor of Israel and against Palestinian rights, and the longstanding, even increasing support for what Muslims collectively see as tyrannies, most notably Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Pakistan, and the Gulf States.
“Thus, when American public diplomacy talks about bringing democracy to Islamic societies, this is seen as no more than self-serving hypocrisy.”
Nevertheless, Maher has long advocated the perspective that Judeo-Christian culture is superior to Islamic and Arabic culture and that Israel is a necessary “rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism.” As such, any violations of human rights, war crimes, or crimes against humanity committed by “Western” countries against Muslims are not only justified, but also encouraged.
In 2003, during his comedy special “Victory Begins at Home,” Maher unabashedly supported the treatment that Middle Eastern abductees were suffering at the hands of the US government in the gulag of Guantanamo Bay. “I don’t feel bad for those 300 killers we’ve got down in Guantanamo Bay, always crabbing about how we don’t respect their religious practices,” Maher declared, as he strutted around the stage. “Y’know what? You lost, eat what we eat! Here’s a cheese-filled snausage, enjoy!”
Maher seemed not to care that the overwhelming majority of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay were not, in fact, “killers,” had absolutely no connection to the Taliban, let alone al Qaeda, all were being held as combatants in the Bush-manufactured “war on terror,” and some were subject to, not only torture, but murder at the hands of their American captors.
In case Maher’s central thesis was lost on his audience, he stated plainly, “You have to understand, you have to embrace the values of Western civilization. They’re not just different, they are better.”
More recently, in the wake of the much-hyped controversy over an episode of Comedy Central’s cartoon South Park which depicted the prophet Mohammad in a bear costume (sort of) and resulted in the show’s creators receiving veiled death threats posted on the internet by a group called Revolution Muslim, Maher felt the need to restate his case. As part of the “New Rules” segment that closed his April 30th show, Maher stated that the South Park controversy “served, or should serve, as a reminder to all of us that our culture isn’t just different than one that makes death threats to cartoonists, it’s better.”
What followed was a vitriolic and humorless tirade against all Muslims, not just so-called “extremists,” wherein Maher suggested that as bad as some elements of Western culture may be, nothing compares to the myopia and violence inherent in Islam. When he was finished, Zionist Congressman Anthony Weiner, who was a Real Time guest that evening, leaned over to Maher with a broad grin and could be seen saying, “That was great. That was great.”