A Muslim's open letter to Bill Maher

13 October 2014
Published in Blog

 

By Faryal Malik

October 13, 2014

Dear Bill (I hope you dont mind if I call you Bill because its the nicest word I can use to describe you at this point):

We get it. You are an aggressive atheist. You abhor religions. For you it is fashionable to be controversial. Being edgy is part of your job description. Congratulations, you are now so edgy that Bill OReilly of Fox News agrees with your views. Bill the Liberal and Bill the Conservative have now found common ground Islamophobic Bigotry.

Let me ask you, Bill, are you back-paddling out of the muddy creek you created on your HBO Show Real Time With Bill Maher last weekend with your recent remarks: Were liberals! Were liberals? Were not crazy tea-baggers, yknow.Your definition of a liberal and the responsibility of being one, is as ludicrous as ISISs distorted execution of Islam. You said: "Liberals need to stand up for liberal principlesthese are liberal principles that liberals applaud for [pointing to his audience], but then when you say in the Muslim world this is whats lacking, then they get upset."

When did principles like freedom of speech, freedom to practice any religion…” become principles defended only by liberals? Your guest on the show Sam Harris added, Liberals have really failed on the topic of theocracy…” Theocracy failed by liberals? Pandering much? These principlesyou throw around are U.S. constitutional rights championed by all liberals, non-liberals and anyone in between. Why must a liberal have a duty to criticizebad ideas where Islam is the mother lode of bad ideasaccording to Harris? Feel free to stereotype almost 1.6 billion people worldwide because this is your God-given liberal duty? Really?

Since you have been pushing the envelope of bigotry, increasingly so in the past few years, I am glad Ben Affleck called you on it, if only to open a door for fair discussion. Go ahead and instigate debate on the general uselessness of religions. You may think Muslims cant take a joke or two. Wecan. What upsets themis the persistent spin of Islamic views and utter lack of knowledge of the diverse 1.6 billion people so conveniently generalized and stereotyped. 

Bill, can I ask you a simple question: what does the Muslim Worldlook like to you? What is the color, race, age, or gender of the 1.6 billion people you casually label as they? Cant answer this question? Dont worry, there is no easy answer because we are not as homogeneous as you would make everyone believe usto be.

It seems that sometimes you are so in love with your own views that you argue to spread bigotry and not to understand the multitudes of varied Muslims who universally champion human rights and all the liberal principlesyou mentioned. What would you accomplish by asking liberals to criticize 1.6 billion people? Present the caricature of Islam and Muslims as one homogeneous evil and intolerant group of 1.6 billion people?

Stop propagating hate by equating a small subset of 1.6 billion people to the whole of 1.6 billion people. This concept is not rocket science. But let me simplify it even further. Would you say: All creatures of the sea are sharks? No, you wouldnt because it is false and presents an incomplete picture of all the creatures of the sea. You are being immensely unintelligent when you lump together what you perceive to be us. I suggest you do your research, use your writers to provide credible, fair and historically correct information.

Now, Bill, you said: the only religion that acts like the mafia, that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing. Do you even realize how unintellectual this statement is? A religion in itself cant act like a mafia only individual elements can. And no, I will not fucking kill you(as you hypothesized) because I think you said a wrong thing. But I will not laugh either because Islamophobic bigotry is not funny.

Lets address the white elephant in the room you so enjoy to beat to death. Yes, Muslims face an array of issues based on their region of residence and geo-economical factors. Yes, a radical element has taken a very sadistic turn, and unfortunately shaped up to be ISIS or the Taliban or the numerous other fundamental groups and regimes, the majority of Muslims also abhor and stand up against. Thank you for highlighting ad nauseum the horrors of the Muslim Worldbut for the sake of variety lets also talk about the majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims who are peaceful and tolerant. For example, talk about the fact that five out of the last twelve Nobel Prize winners have been Muslims, out of which 3 were Muslim women. Focus on these Nobel Prize winners who do not represent the horrendous minority segment you love to highlight to spread Islamophobic bigotry. 

Can you please stop making each and every Muslim accountable for the actions of the small unrepresentative minority. Stop stereotyping. And stop spinning what a Muslim may or may not believe. Understand, for example, I as a female Muslim, have not been brainwashed and I definitely dont need to be rescued by a liberallike yourself.

And please, do not act like I dont exist. Muslim women exist and excel in many shapes and forms all over the world. We do have grievances and issues just as women of any faith or set of beliefs, in any part of the world. But the issues we face are as diverse as the colors we are. In veils, in scarfs or in skirts (depending on which premium cable and satellite television you follow) we have arrived. And we are here to stay. So might as well acknowledge and embrace our diversity.

In closing Bill, I request you to invite scholars to engage in a calm conversation about Islam to present real and representative views from all sides, and most importantly without the predisposed Islamophobic bigotry.

What do you say, Bill?

Salaam,

Faryal Malik 

_______________________________

Faryal Malik is an Intellectual Property attorney by profession and an avid backpacker by passion. She aspires to be kind, humble and generous to attain peace in the journey of life. She tweets @desinewyorkers

 

                                                                                            


 

 


 

 

                                                                                            

 


The Islam You Don't Know

11 October 2014
Published in Blog

By David Peduto 

October 11, 2014

I can see where a man like Bill Maher is coming from when it comes to Islam. As he would have it, Islam is a violent religion that runs counter to all that we as Americans hold dear – freedom, justice, democracy. Of course, he is not alone in this assessment. Indeed, such a view is a majority opinion among non-Muslim Americans.

It’s an opinion that, as a child of 9/11, I grew up believing too.

But then I grew up.

My understanding of what Islam is and who Muslims are changed from being obscured by the gore of terrorism to one more rooted in reality. The slime of stereotype applied by those who touch topics in the most superficial of ways was replaced by revelations of actual experience. I took Arabic in college, took courses on the Middle East and Islam, and even studied abroad in Egypt. Then I lived in Pakistan. I worked in Islamabad which, translated, means the “Abode of Islam.”

Now, let me get something straight. I’m a Christian American, which are two things we’ve been taught that people like those Muslims in Pakistan just don’t like. In our current understanding of Islam, I’d fall into the category of the kuffar, or “the unbelievers.” As such, to all those who view Islam as evil, I should be put to death by all able-bodied Muslims. Anywhere. So how is it that a young kid like me could possibly survive even a day in the very den of this vile religion?

My answer: putting faith in people. This faith was backed by an effort to understand their state, their position, and their history so as to more aptly engage in what many would see to be a hostile environment. I did not go to Pakistan as some imperialistic, ignorant American. I went to learn and to represent my country by representing myself as best I could. That required me to live as a regular citizen. No bodyguards, no compound, no gun.

But in an effort to break my own stereotypes of this place and this religion, I had to work to show Pakistanis a different side of America than what they may be used to. Think about it: if you were a Muslim in Pakistan, what would you think when you think about America? Apple pies and the Fourth of July? Hardly. You’d think of soldiers, drones, ignorance, and probably a Big Mac. I worked hard to share a different side of the States, which I believe enabled me to see a different side of Pakistan and Islam than what I previously accepted as fact. As a result, I had an incredibly positive time in this “ally from hell” of ours. My experiences may well go beyond anything that those hung up on this hatred of Islam could comprehend.

Truly, my experience there was an introduction to an Islam that I never knew. It’s an Islam that, unfortunately, so many at home in the States seem too stubborn to ever want to know. But I have a few questions for these folks that might shed some light on the Islam that they never knew existed.

To those who believe that Islam is the antithesis of Christianity, I ask if you’ve ever heard the solemnity of the call to prayer. I wonder if you wish peace upon others (a common greeting among Muslims the world over) more than once a week in church. I yearn to know if you disown Terry Jones (the man who burned the Quran a few years ago) to the same extent that you ask Muslims the world over to speak against the self-proclaimed Muslims that all Islamist terrorists are.

To those who see Islam as anti-democratic, how is that we allow ourselves to define Islam by a few unelected individuals who no more represent someone’s faith than Donald Trump represents America? If we believe in democracy at home, surely we must apply it to our portrayal of others.

To those who see Islam as anything but tolerant, how is that we tolerate ourselves so carelessly referring to a “Muslim world,” as if all Muslims existed on another planet? Such convenient phrasing serves to externalize over a billion people in the one world in which we all live. When we use such intergalactic references, we’re not talking about Muslims anymore – we’re talking about Martians. We need to bring this conversation back to earth – this earth.

Islamophobia is real, it is a problem, and it’s a really big problem. The fact that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world should not be a concern to us; rather, it should serve as a reminder of the importance to understand it better. This necessary understanding need not involve going to Pakistan, but it absolutely requires another proud American trait of ours: courage.

We would do better to muster the mental courage to think beyond what the pundits and the pols might say about a certain place or a certain religion. When we assume this courage and are no longer beholden to stereotype, we can make our own determination of the world. We can change what we think we knew about Islam by allowing ourselves to seeing the reality so readily available to us.

_______________________________

David Peduto is a student of Islam, the Middle East, and Arabic. He lives in Boston where, when he's not working for a Big Data company, he enjoys paddle boarding on the Charles River and performing improv comedy.

Donald Trump's War on Comedy

04 February 2013
Published in Blog

Just when you thought Donald Trump couldn’t possibly slither to a lower level, he has done it. The paradoxically thin-skinned, yet leather-faced Trump announced Monday that he’s going to sue comedian Bill Maher for $5 million dollars in essence because of a joke Maher told mocking The Donald.

What led to Trump getting his hair all in a wad? It all started in January when Bill Maher was on “The Tonight Show” and joked that Trump was the, “spawn of his mother having sex with an orangutan.” Maher’s reasoning was that the only thing in nature that has the same orange-ish color hair as Trump is an orangutan, hence, Trump must be part orangutan. A split screen of Trump and orangutan did reveal an uncanny resemblance.

Maher, to the delight of “The Tonight Show” audience, then offered to donate $5 million dollars to charity if Trump produced his birth certificate. (This $5 million number was the same amount Trump had offered in October to donate to charity if President Obama would produce his passport and college records.)

Maher even suggested some appropriate charities that Trump could donate the millions to such as, “The Hair Club for Men or the Institute for incorrigible douche baggery.” (Pretty sure Lance Armstrong is also in that Institute.)

Trump, instead of simply ignoring this joke like all other billionaires would, actually responded by producing his birth certificate to prove that he was 100% human. (Call me a “Trumper,” but I’m still not buying it’s a real birth certificate.)

Trump then demanded Maher pay up on the “offer.” Since Maher has refused to pay, Trump is now filing a lawsuit versus Maher for $5 million dollars.

Who except a publicity craving, megalomaniac could think Maher’s joke was a valid offer to pay $5 million dollars?! I’m a former lawyer, I can tell you it’s highly unlikely that any judge would find that Maher’s joke was intended by him to be a binding offer to enter into a contract with Trump. When you look at the context of the “offer” and the place it was told- “The Tonight Show”- most rational people would understand it was a joke.

Obviously, Donald Trump’s goal here- as with most things - is to attract press. He’s like a vampire who needs publicity instead of blood to survive. (Clearly his hair has been dead for years.) If we collectively ignored Trump, he might actually wither away like a vampire exposed to sunlight. And, to be honest, I would usually encourage us all to just that.

But to me, Trump has a more sinister goal with this lawsuit: To send a message that if you tell jokes about The Donald that he doesn’t like, he may sue you. Like a dictator in a third world country, his majesty Donald Trump tells us all that if we mock him, we will be punished. 

Look, if you are a public figure who has thrust yourself into the spotlight like the publicity whore Trump has, you will be the subject of jokes. That comes with the territory. But Trump hates being mocked. Think back to the White House Correspondent’s Dinner in 2011 when SNL’s Seth Meyers crushed Trump in a sea of ridiculing jokes. Trump should have simply laughed and tipped his hair to Seth.

Instead, Trump didn't crack a smile.  As the audience laughed at Trump, he increasingly looked angry. The Donald later lashed out at Seth mocking his delivery of jokes. Trump even called Seth a “stutterer.” Not sure where he heard Seth stutter – maybe there’s an echo in Trump’s empty head.

The media should not dismiss this lawsuit by Trump as simply another pathetic and desperate attempt at publicity. It’s more dangerous than that. It’s an attack on comedy. It’s an attack on freedom of expression.

My hope is that comedians, and non-comedians alike, will not back down to Trump. Instead, I propose that we make it a daily ritual to mock Trump on Twitter. In fact lets have a “Ridicule Trump Day” later this week on Twitter-Trump’s Twitter handle is @realDonaldTrump.

We shouldn't cower from this orange haired, leather faced billionaire bully. Instead we should respond in the very way he hates most: By mocking him. He can’t sue all of us! (Right?)